Friday, January 25, 2013

The Image of God

Gen 1:26  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." Gen 1:27  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 

One of the many interesting things of the Bible is its use of themes that come full circle.  For example the theme of fruitful gardens in which the Bible begins and ends speaking of a garden (Rev. 22:2); a theme of a temple culminating in a place in which we need no temple, etc.  These are not just interesting but are important in understanding the overall message of God’s Word. 

Another theme is begun in the first chapter of Genesis quoted above; it is one of bearing the image of God.  All men are to be image bearers of God not in the way we look but in the way we act.  We don’t have time to treat in detail the ways man was created in God’s image but we might list a few.  We are rational and moral creatures; we have personhood and so have self-consciousness, moral consciousness and a consciousness of others.  We can love. 

But that which most reflects God is to love him and all that honors him supremely.  Holiness is that part of God’s image that we fully lost in the fall of mankind into sin.  Since this is the first moral attribute mentioned and assigned to man it would be a safe bet that the restoration of this aspect of God’s image would be foremost in our redemption.  And this leads us to this continuing theme in Scriptures.   

After the fall man naturally demeaned the glory of God by creating God in his own image and that of creation.  We refused to bear God’s image and recreated him in our own image.  The essence of sin is to worship the creature rather than God by making a god out of creation.  This is one reason why the very first commandments to Israel addressed this very thing.  You are not to think of me as like unto yourselves or any other creature.  Honoring God properly is the main problem sin has caused us.  Paul taught the Athenians that our loss of being proper image bearers will result in judgment, Act 17:29  “Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. Act 17:30  The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, Act 17:31  because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead." 

But just to finish up this idea of a biblical theme let me quote some other NT verses.  Col 1:15  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. om 8:29  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.  2Co 3:18  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 

There are reasons why we are commanded to be conformed to the image of Christ.  We lost the ability to reflect the glory and holiness of God in the fall.  The purpose of redemption is not because God just won’t be happy without us in heaven but that his image might be restored in man and so we might glorify him as we were created to begin with.  By the power of God in us through the Holy Spirit we now can reflect his image with our new natures. 

But there is an inescapable conclusion from these NT texts as well.  Everywhere in the NT God tells us to be conformed to Christ’s image; we do not read that we are to be conformed to God’s image in a generic sense.  In Col 3:10 we read, “and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”  There we are said to be conforming to the image of our creator but John 1 and other places have made is clear that this also is a reference to Jesus Christ. 

My point then is Jesus must be God or God is telling us to commit idolatry by conforming to and worshipping a creature rather than the image of the true God.  The divinity of Christ is inescapable since God tells us to conform to his image and we were created in the image of God and by this we will be judged.  Will God accept those who honor his Son less than he does?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Loving As We Love Ourselves

Mat 22:37  And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. Mat 22:38  This is the great and first commandment. Mat 22:39  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Mat 22:40  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." 

Let me relate a few thoughts on the second great commandment; loving others as we love ourselves.  Normally we understand that the love for self is not sinful in itself but assumed for everyone.  And so we are being told that we should treat others as we want to be treated as the Golden Rule states.  This is certainly true but let’s dig a little deeper.   

How is the second like the first; what are the connections?  Well, we are to love in both cases and we are to love something other than ourselves for sure.  I also think there is a connection when it comes to how we are to love our neighbor.  In other words I don’t think it is merely that we are to love God first and foremost and also love those around us.  I think there is something here that speaks especially to the Christian heart. 

Jesus first says that the only love God accepts is a real, heart-felt love that puts supreme value on him above all else; that consumes our entire being.  This should be no surprise to us since this is what God has demanded from the beginning and why he created us to begin with.  Anything less than finding fulfillment in him is the essence of sin.  So when he tells us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we have to define that love by the way we are to love God. 

So the idea is certainly not that since I love to have my ego stroked, I will stroke yours or even merely since I love to eat and be clothed I will do so for you.  No doubt that is involved but it must go beyond only this.  At the heart of true love is this: since my greatest desire is to know and experience God and this is how I find fulfillment and life then I will love you in the same way I love this for myself.  This means that for me to express true love to someone I must do what I can to bring them to Christ or build them up in their faith so that they might experience what I see as the greatest joy. 

If I reduce love to others as merely making sure their physical needs are met, I am robbing them of what I claim to be the most important thing there is; experiencing God.  Thus while godly love should move us to compassion for the physical needs of mankind, we must be careful of thinking that the goal of the church is mainly charity work.  Many have fallen into the trap of thinking that the great goal of religion and the local church is to improve the physical condition of man and society.  But the great commission is to preach the gospel because without salvation charity work just makes people more comfortable before the Judgment.   

If we truly love God our greatest compassion will be to see sinners saved and Christians growing in the faith and social work will be to that end and will not become an end in itself. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Hidden Things

Job 39:1  "Do you know when the mountain goats give birth? Do you observe the calving of the does? Job 39:2  Can you number the months that they fulfill, and do you know the time when they give birth. 

Chapters 38-40 of Job are a marvelous look at our transcendent God who chides man for thinking too highly of himself.  He takes us through the natural universe and reminds us that we didn’t create it and for the most part don’t even understand it let alone are we able to control very much of it.  For all the thousands of years on earth man has only scratched the surface of the wisdom of God. 

I quoted the verses above for a particular reason.  One thing we see in these chapters is that a vast amount of what goes on in God’s creation is completely unobserved by man and some of it never will be seen at least in this present age.  My point is that God is pleased and glorified in his work because it reflects some aspect of his glory and this is true whether man has the opportunity to see it or not.  All his work points to his glory and he has made sure that every detail was done right and goes through its functions and whether anyone else sees it or not is not important.  Everything was created for his glory and will fulfill that purpose whether hidden or in the open; whether before us every day on earth or beyond the strongest telescopes of man and so completely unknown to man. 

 I think there is something important here for us to consider.  I recently heard the story of a man who took his watch to be cleaned by the original watchmaker back a couple of centuries ago.  As he looked on, the craftsman open the watch and began his work.  The man noticed an inscription on one of the tiny parts deep inside the watch.  He asked him what it said and why he had inscribed something that no one would ever see but himself.  The watchmaker replied that he had inscribed his name and that God saw it.  The inscription showed that he knew that God saw all that he did and all he did was for God first and the most important thing in all his work was that he did his best for God.  Whether anyone else saw or acknowledged his work was not as important as doing his best for the Lord. 

To the child of God this is a tremendous lesson to always keep in mind.  Just as God does all things perfectly and is pleased with his works even those that no one else sees and will never be seen by anyone else, we need to work in the same way.  In our case God sees everything we do even those hidden thoughts that will never be known by another human being and those acts of kindness that will never be acknowledged before men.  But that is okay because they are firstly done for the Lord anyway.  We are to always do our best not because we are looking for payment or praise but because we are to honor the Lord in everything we do because only in that do our actions have any eternal meaning and higher purpose than ourselves. 

How good is this for the child of God who might spend the last twenty years of his or her life on their death bed and never get outside of the house and not spend much time with other people and be unable to do much of anything outwardly for the cause of Christ.  Yet hidden away from the world they are joyful in Christ, patient in suffering, honoring him in their thoughts and prayers and content to submit to his providence and what enables them to do this is that he is pleased with them and will reward them someday.  1Co 4:5  Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.   

The wonderful thing is that those things done in secret for his honor will someday be brought to light before all.  He will receive glory from all we do.  And yet the warning is that he is equally aware when we do not do in secret those things that please him.  To me this is a great thing to keep in mind while I serve him in this life.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Properly Handling the Word of God

Mat 22:29  But Jesus answered them, "You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. Mat 22:30  For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. Mat 22:31  And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: Mat 22:32  'I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? He is not God of the dead, but of the living." 

While there are some interesting things taught here by our Lord concerning marriage and the heavenly state, I want to focus on what I believe to be the most important point he makes in this encounter.  What he teaches indirectly is how we are to view and use the Bible as we see how he uses the Scriptures.  What we learn is that the Bible is how we understand all that is.  It is what gives us the meaning of reality.  And specifically every detail is to be seen as authoritative.  Jesus says that the tense used in the very first book can be trusted in to base one’s world view.  Specifically he teaches that there is life after death and ultimately a resurrection because God uses the present mode when speaking to Moses.  He says that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were living even though they had been dead for a few hundred years. 

Liberal theology tells us that the Bible at best is men talking about their experience with God and religion in their own words and so you must keep that in mind when you read it.  This is how the first two chapters of Genesis can be denied.  Such books were written long ago by primitive, ignorant, unsophisticated men and so we cannot assume it to be accurate or reliable let along authoritative record from God of reality.  They deny the biblical statements on inspiration.   

But Jesus says something quite different.  Not only did he believe Genesis but he told these men that they erred; they were wrong because they did not know and believe it.   He holds them accountable to study and believe all of what the Bible says and even its verb tenses must be understood as there for a reason.  If we do not do so it will cause us to be unable to correctly understand reality and in turn cause us to be unprepared for judgment.  I always find it amazing for someone to call themselves a Christian, a follower of Christ’s teachings, and yet hold to different views from those that Jesus held.  One thing discernment does is to cause us to listen only to teachers who actually believe what Jesus taught and don’t pick and choose what they will believe.

But do you see what I am saying here?  When Jesus said that man shall live by every word that comes from God there is only one thing he could be speaking of and it is the book in your lap.  And we aren’t left up to trying to follow it in some vague way as if the details can’t be trusted and all we are responsible for are some vague main points.  Every word is given for a reason and we are responsible for it.  For a Christian to think that some general knowledge of the Bible is good enough and that we are free to listen to this world for life’s answers also is a contradiction to what Jesus is saying.  Jesus shows what it is to believe that the Bible is the very Word of God.  God isn’t confused about the universe he created and so he didn’t inspire something full of mistakes and confusion.

So we live by every word from God as our first and authoritative source for truth.  To base your life and eternity on anything else will bring the wrath of God because we don’t understand God as the ultimate source of wisdom.