Sunday, August 2, 2015

His Image

I've mentioned to you before that wisdom is understanding God, understanding yourself and understanding other people. Today, we're going to look at the second item in that list. Who are you? What are you? Why are you? These are really important questions because the answers you come up with will determine how you will choose to live. The Bible has answers to these questions and the foundation for those answers is found in this first chapters of Genesis where God explains so much about how His creation works. Listen to what God has to say.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1.26-27

You are the image of God. This is true of each of you. This is how God made you. This is how He sees you. So, this how you should understand yourself.

It's all well and good for me to say that. You've heard the phrase before. But what does it mean? That's where we'll start.

Back in the day, there was a little phrase that people sometimes used to describe a child. 'He's the spitting image of his father.' In one way or other, that boy was so very like his father. The same is true of each of you. You are just like your heavenly Father. You are just like God. And because of that, you reflect something of who He is. You reveal God to the people around you. And you do that just by being yourself. To be sure, there are many ways that you and God are very different. The same would be true of that boy and his dad. But that does not take away from the fact of the similarities. This is true simply because you are God's image.

Let me explain that. The Scriptures talk about God's hands, His eyes and ears, His mouth and more. This does not mean that God has a physical body. But by talking about God's hands and such, the Bible is saying something about God. So, when the Bible talks about God's hands it is referring to His power. He does things. His eyes and ears are about His ability to know exactly what is going on. And talking about God's mouth points to the fact that God speaks. Now, as you use your hands, your eyes and ears, and your mouth you are saying something about God. You are a revelation of God. In this you are different from the rest of creation. Just by being you, you reveal God. You are His image.

This explains your importance. You are important not because of what you can accomplish, not because of what you know, not because you have lots of friends. You are important because of who you are, God's image. And unlike the ability to accomplish things and knowing lots and all the rest, this is something that will never leave you. It will never change.

That explains your purpose. Your greatest purpose is not to do something so very noteworthy. Your greatest purpose is to reveal God. You do this just by being you. Let me tell you one particular situation where this can be so very helpful. I'm thinking here about people who are old. They are unable to do the things they once did. They can no longer be creative with words or thread or food. They can't help friends with a casserole or a strong back. In their youth they could do so much, but no longer. As a result, so many of them are tempted to think that they are useless. But they are not. They can still reveal God to those around them. They are still God's image.

Let's consider something else from this idea of the image of God. Listen again.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Here, God is helping us to see that we do not all reveal Him in the same way. There are differences among us even as we are all His image. And here is one very critical difference. God has made some of you males and others of you females.

Because of how our culture thinks, the idea of male and female is limited to biology. There are male bodies and female bodies. We are told that we can make males into females and the other way around just by a little surgery. But the fact of the matter is that God is not talking about bodies when He describes us as His image. He's talking about persons. A man is a man in his body and in his soul. A woman is a woman in her body and in her soul. There are differences that go far beyond biology. So, a woman is the female variety of the image of God and a man is the male variety. And while they both are the image, they are, in certain ways, different in how they are the image. So, a man will express what it means to be God's image in a way that is somewhat different from the way that a woman will express it. This is not a matter of better and worse or higher and lower. Men and women are equally God's image. But they express that image differently.

Here's just one implication of that. When it comes to the fullest expression of the image, each sex needs the other. Each is incomplete in this without the other. Or to say it differently, the fullest expression of God's image is through marriage. Together, with each expressing what is unique to himself and to herself, a husband and wife are able to reveal God in a way that one person alone will not be able to do.

So, let me review. Both men and women are equally the image of God. Both are given the task of revealing God. There are aspects of that where they reveal Him in the same way. But there are other aspects of that task that they will do differently. They are not interchangeable. And both are needed for the fullest expression of the image. What I've just told you has so much to say about popular ideas concerning men and women, both in the culture and in the Church. And as you can see, just like my last sermon, I am building toward the future sermon when I will pull these things together to explain important aspects of marriage.

Now, all of that sounds great - and it is. But there is a problem. A large problem. The problem is sin. Sin wrecks everything. Here, it does its best to wreck our ability to reveal God as His image. As it does that, we become something that God hates: a false image. That's the problem with all those idols of the nations. They are images of God but they lie about Him; false images. Sin makes us into false images. So, instead of using our hands to make things of beauty that reveal God's creativity, we destroy the beauty of God's creation. Instead of using our eyes and ears to know what's going on and respond with wisdom and justice, just like God would, we buy into lies and respond with foolishness and corruption. Instead of using our mouths to speak the truth in love, revealing something of the nature of God, we gossip and slander and lie. Because of sin we become false images.

This applies to marriage, too. Husbands do not act as men and wives do not act as women. Because of ignorance and rebellion and confusion, husbands and wives reject their respective callings in marriage, to be male and to be female, as God defines that. So, instead of being a beautiful expression of the image of God marriages become expressions of a false image.

And sin has resulted in some not being married. For some it is something they have chosen for selfish reasons, but for many it is not because of their choice. What could be a part of a fuller expression of God's image in marriage is left solitary.

 Sin has entered the picture and made a mess of things

All of this helps to explain Jesus and His Gospel. He has come to deal with sin. And part of that dealing with sin is restoring in you the image of God. His first step was bringing about a decisive break with sin in your life. That's when the Spirit gave you new life, eternal life. That's where the process of restoring the image begins. From that point on, Jesus, by the Spirit, slowly but surely removes the sin that defaces God's image in you, and replaces it with what is good and holy and beautiful. Because of that you are all being transformed from the false images that sin had made you into a true and accurate revelation of God. And one day that work of restoring you will be completed. You will be a beautiful and perfect image of God. And on that day, we, the Church, the bride of Christ, will be joined to Jesus, our husband, to become the fullest expression of the image of God.

So, work with the Spirit as He restores the image in you. Work to understand how you can reveal God by being you. Listen as the Spirit points out to you the different ways in which you are being a false image by your sin. Repent of those sins and come again to Jesus to be forgiven and to be changed into a true image so that you can reveal God better to the saints as well as to the world. And work to build up your hope in the promise of the Gospel that one day your restoration will be completed. Doing these things will encourage you as you wait for that day.

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