November 14, 2007

In His Image

I’ve often wondered if teaching the theory of evolution accounts for some of the behavior in the world today. If I fully believed that my ancestors swung from trees, grunted and screeched, and fought with one another over territory, would I act the same way?

Actually, I used to accept evolution because it seemed the logical thing. That was before Christ came into my life. At the time I didn’t think much about how the world began, mostly because I was so busy with the changes He was making in my world.

After a time, I began to notice the many references in the Bible about being made in God’s image. They began in Genesis 1:26-27: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. . . . So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Soon I found myself believing the creation story, not because I found evolution theories faulty but because God said He created the world and I knew He was not a liar. I’ve done some research on the topic, but it really does boil down to believing and trusting His Word rather than understanding the minutia of how, when and so on.

This morning I’m reading again in Recalling the Hope of Glory and am struck by a short bit about images. Author Allen P. Ross says, “All ancient temples and sanctuaries had images of the deities that had dominion over them. Likewise the garden sanctuary of the LORD (Eden) had images, but they were very different from what the pagan world later developed. These images were made by God, not by people. . . .”

He then states the reality from the verses I quoted, that the images of God were living, breathing, thinking human beings, not carvings made of stone and wood, but created beings with whom God shared the “breath of life” and His own distinctive characteristics.

He didn’t give them everything. People do not have omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, infinity or sovereignty, but we do have the ability to think, make plans, create things, love others, show mercy, be compassionate, and even be wise.

The Genesis story tells that these first people were given commands to multiply and fill the earth, but also to tend and keep the garden (Ross goes into great detail to show that the language used in Genesis shows that this is about worship and serving God, not tillage). They were also told to stay away from one tree, but they disobeyed God, and in doing that, His image was muddied by sin.

Humanity today still has those God-given capacities, yet they are sullied by selfishness. We create to make ourselves renown, not to glorify God. We make plans to serve ourselves, to promote our own popularity, to make ourselves feel good, look good, gain in some way. Our lives are not dedicated to loving and serving God and reflecting His image does not happen, just as it is no longer true that we live in a perfect Eden where all our needs are met.

When I first met Jesus, He impressed me with a couple of verses from Romans 8. They say, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. . . .”

I was astounded that God wants to restore me to what He began when He created Adam and Eve, even more astounded that He is able to use “all things” to do it. Since then, I’ve found the power of His Word and the work of His Spirit who lives in me to be ample tools in His hands. As He rids me of sin, He asks that I love and obey Him. As He does and I do, my life changes.

I look back and realize that when God told me I was made in His image and did not descend from an ape, my life took a different course. Part of that is my own efforts to obey God and purify myself, and part of that is simply gazing into His glory. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says when I look at Him, I become like Him. I look at Him through the spiritual disciplines of Bible study and intentional focus.

1 John 3:2-3 is His promise: “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

That hope is not “hope so” thing, but a sure and certain thing based on the Word of Almighty God. Because He tells me this is His goal for me, I am glad to cooperate. I want to be like Jesus.

Ross startled me by comparing the images of deities in pagan temples to the living images God puts in His places of worship, but I like what he said. This exalts God and fills my heart with worship. As His ‘temple decor’ I’m also motivated to greater cooperation with Him as He carves away all the junk that does not look like Jesus and blesses me in the process.

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