The Image of God
So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27 NLT)
Image (im-ij) – noun: form, likeness, appearance, semblance
We were created to be like God; to reflect Him in the earth. I didn’t write that we were created to be gods and/or godlike. Some Bible scholars translate the word, image, which is used in this verse as reflection. We are to reflect the glory of our heavenly Father in the world; mirroring His will, His ways and showing all of creation what He is like.
This is God’s design for our lives. This is who we are supposed to be. The next verse of Genesis, chapter one unveils more of God’s design:
Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” (Genesis 1:28 NLT)
We were created to know God and to reign over the earth; reflecting the glory and person of God to all of creation. It is into this place of fellowship with God and into this place where His person is reflected in humanity that sin came and caused great destruction. Sin separated us from our Father in heaven and made it impossible for us to reflect His image. It is for this reason that God sent His Son to redeem us.
We were created fully alive; spirit, soul and body. The entrance of sin into humanity brought death to our human spirit. It is for this reason that Jesus proclaimed, “You must be born again” (John 3:3). When we place our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior the Holy Spirit comes into our lives and recreates our dead human spirit into the image of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:4-10). It is at this point where we exchange our lives for His. When we accept God’s grace we have accepted the blood of Jesus as payment for our sins. We are redeemed. In more simple terms, our debt has been paid and we have been purchased by God. We sign the title deed of our lives over to Jesus and He becomes our God.
It is an awesome thought to contemplate, but it is the essence of the New Testament. As believers we surrender our lives so that we might receive His life.
The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45 NLT)
The Christ-like Life
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV)
Christ-like (ˈkraɪstˌlaɪk) –adj.: resembling or showing the spirit of Jesus Christ
As believers in Jesus we are called to follow the example of our Lord and become a Christ-like person. This is a radical transformation that the Holy Spirit works in our lives as we submit ourselves to His will; study and learn His word and die to our flesh.
The Bible teaches us that this is a process that we will go through during our walk of faith with the Lord. As we mature in faith, grow in grace and knowledge we will become more like Jesus. As our minds are renewed by the Word of the Lord and our hearts commune with Him through worship and prayer we are changed. This change we are going through is a consistent progressive change; from the person we were before we received Christ to truly become like our Lord.
All of us, with no covering on our faces, show the shining-greatness of the Lord as in a mirror. All the time we are being changed to look like Him, with more and more of His shining-greatness. This change is from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLV)
Grace is the foundation of everything that happens in our lives as followers of Jesus. We can’t just wake up one morning and make a decision that we are going to be like Jesus any more than we could have made a decision to be perfect.
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. (Philippians 2:13 NLT)
Jesus paid the sacrificial price of His life to redeem humanity from its fallen state of sin so that each of us could experience life in the way that it was intended to be. We are forgiven and cleansed of sins because of the blood of Jesus, but redemption goes far beyond atonement. The redemption we have in Jesus turns us as believers into the temple of the Holy Spirit; God makes His home in each of us. It is the restoration of our relationship with God that allows us to be changed by His Spirit.
We are the ambassadors of heaven; the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12). If people are going to see Jesus in the earth today it will be through the lives of those in whom His Spirit lives (i.e., you and me). The imperative for holiness, consecration and a life of purity is driven in our lives by the Spirit of God who resides within us. Our life is no longer our own. As believers in Christ we represent the Lord Jesus – we are His image and reflection. Through grace and the power of the Holy Spirit the world should be able to see us and know what Jesus is like (Read Romans chapter 8).
So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. (John 13:35 NLT)
The command to be like Jesus is one of the greatest challenges in the New Testament. Please remember that this is impossible outside of the Holy Spirit. The Bible doesn’t ask for us to discipline our lives and train ourselves to be like Jesus in the strength of our flesh. The surrender of our will to His Word and His purpose combined with our wholehearted love and passion for God allows the Holy Spirit to change us from glory to glory. None of us are there yet, but we are all following after the prize – Jesus is the prize.
The Example of Jesus
The Kingdom of God does not operate like the kingdom of this world that we were saved out of. Power, position, pride, preeminence, popularity, talent and wealth are not the keys to success in the Kingdom of God.
Some of you reading this have become disenchanted with the church because in many cases all of the things listed above do come into play inside of the church. This, of course, is not the biblical model. Our churches are filled with believers, unbelievers and those who say they believe and do not live what they believe. This makes for a combination of Christ-likeness, carnality, and carnality dressed in religious clothing.
I want to look at the leadership model that Jesus set out for us in the next few paragraphs. If the attitude and position of the heart that Jesus lays out for us in these verses is applied in each of our lives we will see a great change in our witness, our families, our businesses and our churches. The greatest goal each of us can aspire to is to be like our Lord. “The servant is not greater than the master.” (John 15:20)
Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do us a favor.”
“What is your request?” he asked.
They replied, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” (Mark 10:35-37 NLT)
When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:41-45 NLT)
Please don’t take this the wrong way – but your life is not about you. My life is not about me. We are not the main character in the drama of our existence; Jesus is. The apex of achievement for our lives is not found in position, possessions, or accomplishments but in relationship.
Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ (Philippians 3:8 NLT)
The example of Christ is to serve. The example of Christ is to give. The example of Christ is to love unconditionally. The example of Christ is to preach the gospel, feed the hungry, to care for sinners, to heal the sick, to cast out demons and to preach truth.
The example of Christ is what you and I are to follow. It is a challenging message in the 21st century to preach Christ-likeness but yet it is a biblical message. I doubt that there has ever been a time when the message of self-denial has been popular. Jesus is the King of all kings and yet He was the servant of all. Jesus is the Great I AM and yet He became the Lamb of God who took away the sin of the world.
You and I were lost; separated from God by our sins and yet we found grace, forgiveness, redemption and adoption in the family of God through Jesus Christ. He has given us all that He is and in return He asks us to give Him all that we are.
Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24 NLT)