Michael Key recently taught a Sunday School lesson, "In His Image". He began in Genesis, where the scripture tells us that mankind was created "in the image of God". I won't elaborate on his other points because I asked him to share his lesson for our Daily Devotions this week. Please join us this week as he sits at my computer and opens the Word of God to help us walk, talk, and live, "In His Image." Can others see Christ living through us?
1. Created In His Image
Genesis 1:27 says, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." Webster defines an image as "a physical likeness or representation of a person, animal, or thing, photographed, painted, sculptured, or otherwise made visible." If I showed you a photograph of Abraham Lincoln and asked, "Who is this?" you would probably answer that it was Lincoln. But it would not be Lincoln--it would be an image of Lincoln. That image could not speak or think. If you asked the image a question about the Civil War, you would get no answer. The image does however do something important: it shows partly what Lincoln looked like. You can see the famous beard in that image that was somewhat of the "trademark" or chief characteristic of our great President.
So think back to our verse from Genesis. You are the image of God! You and I were created to show others some "likeness" or "representation" of God Himself. This week let us think about that amazing fact. Let us see if others see an image of a loving, holy God when they look in our direction. That is indeed the challenge of Christianity: can we be "Christ-like"? Can we behave in such a way that people view us as a "visible" likeness of an "invisible" God?
2. A Distorted Image
Do you remember the strange mirrors at the fair or the arcades? They made you look truly weird. Some made you look long and tall, while others made you look short and wide. The Apple Ipads have an app called "Photo Booth" which does the same thing. You can take your picture with that app, but the result looks unlike your normal appearance. Mirrors and computer chips alter the image that you see, and the results are comical. However, what sin does in my life to alter my likeness to God is not funny. Instead of me being "in the image of of God", I see (and others see also) a life that is far from the standard that the Bible sets for me to follow. Romans 8:29 says that God's plan for my life is to be "conformed to the image of his Son." I am to act the way Jesus acted. (How do I react when others are cruel to me?) I am to have the same attitudes that Jesus had. (Do I put too much importance on money and worldly possessions, or do I appraise the spiritual over the material?) Philippians 2:5 says," Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:" (Do I have that servant attitude that Jesus had?) This has to do with our self-image. Do we see ourselves as "just as good or better" than others? Or are we like Jesus? I love the way John tells the story of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples. In John 13:3-5 John writes, "Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded." We should understand that we are "from God"--He made us. We also know that we are "to God"--Heaven will soon be our eternal home. So shouldn't we be willing to get our hands dirty by serving others? Do we live a life that makes our self-image conform to the image of God's Son?
3. "Show, Don't Tell"
When I teach creative writing to my students, I have several rules for them to remember. But the number one rule for their writing is "Show, Don't Tell." This means that they should not just come out and state that "Cindy was very worried." Instead, they should give details that show that Cindy was worried. They should describe how she was nervously twisting her hair with her fingers, or describe the worried look on her face. They should tell the reader Cindy's thoughts, or let Cindy say dialogue that lets the reader know her worried state of mind.
In much the same way, if I have a picture of a person in front of me, it is difficult to tell you in words alone what that person looks like. Merely telling you that the person has blue eyes and grey hair will not help much, but if I show you a picture of Paul Newman, many of you would recognize him immediately.
The same principle works in our Christian life. Yes, we should tell others about Jesus. We should try our best to describe what He has meant in our lives. But if we show Him--if they see Christ in our lives, it will be much clearer! In Exodus 34:35 the Bible says, "And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses' face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him." Moses did not have to tell anyone that he had been with God--it showed on his face to others. What a blessing it would be if others simply saw the image of God in our likeness!
4. "Reflecting His Image"
Christianity is not a religion of "do's and don'ts". Rather it is a relationship with a mighty and holy God through His Son, Jesus Christ. So how do we reflect the image of God to others? Think of how we use a mirror to reflect our own image, and several thoughts come to mind. First of all, think what happens if the mirror is facing away from us instead of towards us. There is no image to be seen. Only when the mirror is facing us and we are focused on that image can we see it. Likewise, only when we are focused on Christ can we see His image. When we are looking in other places, when we are not looking to God and trying to focus on Him, we can not possibly reflect His image to others. America has often been called a Christian nation, and this country was indeed founded on Christian principles. But when both our citizens and our government focus more on public opinion polls and surveys to determine what is right or wrong, the results will be far from Christian. Philippians 3:10 may be my favorite verse, because Paul shows us the focus of his life: "That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;" If we focus on knowing Jesus, and let His power change us, others will look at us and see the image of Christ. That is what happened in the town of Antioch. Paul and Barnabas spent a year teaching and discipling people in that city. Acts 11:26 ends with this statement: "And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." (My thanks to Katie Freeman for her comments on an image and a mirror.)
5. "Nothing Between"
Thinking of how we use a mirror to reflect our own image, we can see how we can better reflect the image of God to others. Yesterday we discussed how we must focus on the image. But secondly let's see what happens if something comes between our eyes and the mirror. If I hand you a mirror that is covered by wrapping paper, you will not be able to see your image at all. It doesn't matter how hard you focus, and it doesn't matter that you are looking on the correct side of the mirror. Anything that is opaque and is between your eyes and the mirror will block the image. Likewise, if anything comes between us and Christ, others will not see the image of our Saviour. Luke 14 contains some strong statements that show us that Christ must be first in our lives. Verse 33 says, "So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." Christ must be first. In Philippians 3: 8 Paul says, "Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord:" Do you count all other things other than Christ as unimportant things that you don't mind losing? Don't let anything between you and the Lord of your life. The chorus of C. A. Tindley's old hymn puts it this way: "Nothing between my soul and the Saviour, So that His blessed face may be seen; Nothing preventing the least of His favor, Keep the way clear! Let nothing between."
(My thanks again to Katie Freeman for her comments on an image and a mirror.)
6. "Be Still And Know That I Am God"
Thinking of how we use a mirror to reflect our own image, we can see how we can better reflect the image of God to others. First we said that we must focus on the image. Yesterday we discussed how we must keep nothing between our eyes and the image of Christ that we are trying to show to others.
Thirdly, I want you to think of how difficult it would be if you tried to look in a mirror that I kept in constant motion. You might get a glimpse of your image, but if I keep moving the mirror quickly, you will not see much at all. We must take time out to follow the directions given to us in Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God." In W.D. Longstaff's famous hymn, he says, "Take time to be holy, the world rushes on..." Like Elijah, we may get our attention on whirlwinds and fires, but God often speaks in that "still, small voice." What a shame it would be if we missed that voice because we were distracted or too busy. This metaphor of a mirror is not mine. Paul used it long ago.. "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (II Corinthians 3:18)
(My thanks again to Katie Freeman for her comments on an image and a mirror.)
7. A Family Resemblance
To finish these thoughts on "The Image of God", let's look at Colossians 3:10: "And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him..." Our goal is to be changed into the image of God, to look so much like God that people see a definite resemblance. So many times have we heard it said of a baby that "He looks just like his daddy." For a Christian that is the ultimate compliment--that we look just like our Heavenly Father and His Son. Do you bear that family resemblance to the Lord. In closing out these thoughts, I want to close with an illustration from David Riggs:
On a wall near the main entrance to the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas, is a portrait with the following inscription: "James Butler Bonham--no picture of him exists. This portrait is of his nephew, Major James Bonham, deceased, who greatly resembled his uncle. It is placed here by the family that people may know the appearance of the man who died for freedom." While no literal portrait of Jesus exists either, Romans tells us that God has redeemed us and predestined us to bear the likeness of Christ reflecting His holiness, His heart, and His glory. The likeness of the Son of God who has set us free from the slavery and penalty of sin is to be borne in the lives of His true believers.