The Image of God
Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." 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)
As I was listening to the current Sabbath School lesson presented by a teacher who has been challenging me to think differently about God as of late, I heard something that riveted my attention and got me to thinking outside the box – again. As he reviewed a number of texts including the one above, my mind began to grasp a key concept in the bigger picture that I had never thought about before but that suddenly helps to make sense out of a lot of peripheral issues.
Some of the thoughts presented here are taken directly from that presentation that can be found here, while others are what I have felt led to directly connected with this theme.
The image of God in humankind is a fundamental truth that cannot be sidelined if we are to grasp the truth about what is really going on all around us. And although that image has been seriously defaced, distorted and almost obliterated in the lives and hearts of Adam's descendants, it is the primary purpose of the gospel to recover us to become reflectors once again of that Original – Love itself. Any other version of truth claiming to be the gospel is a fraud and should be viewed with great suspicion.
But here is where the real issue is often missed. If it is God's image and likeness that humanity was and is intended to reflect; and if the good news, the gospel, is a description of the God we are supposed to be reflecting, then the way we talk about God, believe about God and act toward others has a momentous and direct bearing on the effectiveness and credibility of the message we present. In other words, our version of what God is really like is at the core of whether our message of religion is actually the same thing as the gospel according to Jesus Christ who's primary purpose was to show us the real truth about God.
And I saw another angel flying in mid-heaven, having an eternal gospel to preach to those who live on the earth, and to every nation and tribe and tongue and people; and he said with a loud voice, "Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and sea and springs of waters." (Revelation 14:6-7)
The question is raised about this issue of giving God glory. As we can see here from Revelation in one of the core messages upon which our church is founded, giving God glory and worship are closely linked with each other. As such, it is obvious that Satan is going to do everything possible to divert us from even knowing how to glorify God or how to properly worship Him, especially at the heart level.
How might Satan take Revelation 14:7, the call to glorify God, and actually twist it to foster his agenda? I am now starting to see that one of Satan's most successful schemes has been to take God's answer early on in the Great War between truth and error – the creation of this earth and of a race of beings specifically designed to display the real truth about what God is like, and pervert His very answer in such a horrific way as to implicate God and reinforce Satan's accusations.
Consider the condition to which humans have sunk after sin entered our world and infected our deepest souls. Consider these descriptions of people as given in the Bible as an example.
When He came to the other side into the country of the Gadarenes, two men who were demon-possessed met Him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way. And they cried out, saying, "What business do we have with each other, Son of God? Have You come here to torment us before the time?" (Matthew 8:28-29)
And when He came out onto the land, He was met by a man from the city who was possessed with demons; and who had not put on any clothing for a long time, and was not living in a house, but in the tombs. Seeing Jesus, he cried out and fell before Him, and said in a loud voice, "What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg You, do not torment me." (Luke 8:27-28)
God originally imprinted His law into the hearts and minds of human beings for the purpose of having them reveal to the entire universe an ever-increasing, progressive revelation of His true character in the face of ongoing accusations about God from Satan. This spectacular revelation, of course, was seen as extremely dangerous to Satan's agenda to discredit God by exposing 'secret faultlines' in His character.
If Adam and Eve would have remained loyal to God and had kept free of the infection of sin and selfishness, Satan's accusations might have been quickly exposed as the groundless lies that they are. But in his cunning subtlety he turned the purpose of God for man's creation into the enemy's greatest coup by infusing his own demonic character into the DNA of humanity to reflect his fallen nature instead of their Creator's. (Talk about dangers of GMO! This was the first grand experiment.)
Consider the contrast between the description of the demoniacs and that of Jesus, the perfect example of humanity as God originally designed for us to look like. These humans were out of control, irrational, destructive, selfish, wild, animalistic, debased, vile, gross, disgusting, living in shame and filled with constant rage, dangerous, threatening, yet feeling hopeless and lost.
This is what Satan wants all of humanity to look and feel like. But why? This is something not talked about very much.
Who was humankind made in the image of to start with? Here is the crux of the surprise insight that hit me. If humans look like that, or any version of that, what does this say about our Creator? Remember that God placed us here to glorify Him as His reflection. So when we act in any way differently than what Jesus claims God to be like, then Satan can claim with convincing passion that what we are demonstrating is really what God is like hidden deep inside. Satan can exclaim to the watching universe, “I told you so! This is what God really looks like when He has His makeup stripped away. I am not to be blamed for this, because it is not me that has caused humans to be this way! What I have simply done is to strip away the veneer God has been maintaining and now you are starting to see His real self emerge in these human reflections of Him.”
Maybe I am just extremely dull or something. But I have never thought about the controversy from this direction before, have you? I have never heard the Great Controversy couched in quite these terms before, but it makes enormous sense to me.
Yet Christ has come and in effect has said, “No. That is not what God is really like. What you see in my life is what mankind was designed to be and is the only fully accurate image of God.” He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being.... (Hebrews 1:3 NRSV) The whole purpose of salvation is to restore into humanity the true image of God as revealed through Christ Jesus, the first perfected specimen of God's original purpose and design for humans correctly reflecting the true spirit and character of God.
When this starts to become clear to us, it also exposes light on false teachings of religions promoting the notion that we need little or no transformation of character since Jesus is our substitute. Others teach that humans can somehow elevate themselves or extricate themselves from the depraved state in which they find themselves. But all of these beliefs are only subtle traps designed by the enemy of our souls to prevent us from embracing the only true option that can actually save us – allowing the Spirit of Jesus to transform us from the inside back into a true reflection of God's character as outlined in the Law of God.
The people went out to see what had happened; and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they became frightened. (Luke 8:35)
As I read this last verse other passages started coming to mind.
You say, "I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing," and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. (Revelation 3:17)
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2)
What if we misconstrue God as a Deity who imposes law; and as an imposer of law and 'justice' He must sit in judgment over his subjects in order to mete 'just' punishments upon them? What does such a construct of God do? What impact does such a view have on psyche of thinking intelligences?
What methods does the beast system of revelation – Satan's system on this planet – utilize to achieve its end? Threats, coercion, shame, force, fear and punishment. What methods are attributed to God by typical interpretations of Revelation 14:6-12? Isn't it usually the very same methods as that of the beast? Shouldn't this alert us that there is something terribly wrong here?
As I contemplated about this and the story of these demoniacs and their wretched condition, I decided to look up Bible references relating to bondage and slavery and particularly as connected to the Law of God – a condensed description of His character. What I found was rather revealing, at least for me.
For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. (Romans 7:14)
I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. (Exodus 20:2-3)
You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out of there by a mighty hand and by an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to observe the sabbath day. (Deuteronomy 5:15)
I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. (Romans 7:21-23)
What is starting to become even more clear to me now is that one of the vital issues we must be more aware of is that of our perceptions about our true identity. I have caught glimpses of this for a number of years but it keeps emerging again and again more clearly. Not only must I contend against demonic influences striving to keep me ignorant of my true identity in Christ as the new Adam of all humanity and get me to believe myriads of lies, but my own beliefs and verbal statements about myself have a powerful influence on how my heart perceives my own true identity. This can expose and discredit much of what is commonly accepted as 'gospel truth' in most of religion today – a great emphasis on convincing people of the wickedness of their condition before telling them of the 'grace' of God who is willing to pardon them if they repent.
Given this argument that Satan has employed against God before the entire universe so compellingly for centuries, that he was only exposing hidden faults in God's character by exposing the reflections of those faults in humankind; when I talk about faults I see in myself as if they are my true identity, I am in effect seconding Satan's accusations against God! In reality what I need to be doing is immersing myself in the real truth about my identity that Jesus has revealed in His life and death and to allow those revelations to so renew my own mind and thinking and so transform my own heart that my life will begin to more and more reflect the same kind of God that Jesus reflected so eloquently.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin (not sinners) in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. (Romans 8:1-9)
Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? (Romans 6:16)
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are. (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, "THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH." But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body. (1 Corinthians 6:15-20)
I am beginning to realize that I need to be much more careful who I am parroting. The way I talk about myself and about others will either reflect what Satan asserts about our true identity, and by extension God's true identity; or my words and actions will begin to more and more reflect what Jesus says about my true identity and God's true identity. I can now see more clearly that it is not just my theology about what God is like that needs major revising, as important as that is; I must also discipline my heart and feelings and reactions to take into account the truth about God in how I talk about myself or those around me who are all dwelling places of the Godhead. For God in Christ longs to transform us back to our original purpose of revealing the truth about what God is like through and through to defeat the enemy's lies about Him in the hour of His judgment.
As I was thinking about these things, something happened within a few minutes that helped to confirm that this was indeed a revelation that God wanted me to take seriously. I opened up the devotional for today and found very similar language reinforcing what had already been circulating in my soul. I leave you with these encouraging words from Sarah Young.
Take time to be holy. The word holy does not mean goody-goody; it means set apart for sacred use. That is what these quiet moments in My Presence are accomplishing within you. As you focus your mind and heart on Me, you are being transformed; re-created into the one I designed you to be. This process requires blocks of time set aside for communion with Me.
The benefits of this practice are limitless. Emotional and physical healing are enhanced by your soaking in the Light of My Presence. You experience a nearness to Me that strengthens your faith and fills you with Peace. You open yourself up to receive many blessings that I have prepared for you. You become a cleansed temple of My Holy Spirit, who is able to do in and through you immeasurable more than you ask or imagine. These are just some of the benefits of being still in My Presence.
2 Thessalonians 1:10; Psalm 27:4; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 3:20
(Jesus Calling p. 364)