God and I have been in deep, deep in discussion over the past few months… He has been revealing so much to me through His word, prayer, music, nature, books, and through sermons. I say ‘revealing’ because I’m realizing that God does not teach us anything, it is revealed because being ‘created in His image’ means that truth is already a part of our being, but has been ‘hidden’ from us because of sin. That’s why most people are born with a sense of justice, why we love , and why we are appalled by violence and hate. We WERE ALL created in the image of God with all of His/Their (Father, Son and Spirit) qualities. But we turned from it and the full glory of who and what we were created to be is gone. What is left is so evil, we can’t even be in the presence of our good and sovereign God apart from Jesus
There is one particular series of sermons that has made a great impact on me … the ‘Doctrine Series’ by Mark Driscoll. He really helped me to understand the concept of what being ‘created in the image of God’ means and its implications for our lives today. As image bearers of God, we were meant to live in a ‘shalom’ relationship in 4 areas: with God, with others, with the environment and with our selves. But, because of the fall, all those relationships were severed.
We suffer greatly from our separation from God and many don’t even realize that this is why they suffer. Most of our relationships with friends, peers and family are accompanied by problems and misunderstanding and often times, with heartbreak, bitterness and pain. When God made Eve from Adam’s rib, he sang about the joy of having Eve by his side… but when Eve sinned because of the lie she believed… that God was holding something, some pleasure from her – which is why we all, still to this day, try to control our lives rather than trust and rely on God with the leading and direction of our lives. Because of Eve’s sin, Adam immediately assumed the posture of a victim and pointed his finger first at Eve, then at God for giving her to him in the first place. Many of us are very guilty of blaming others for all the hardships, sin and pain in our lives, instead of accepting responsibility for our sin. They are ours and ours alone.
Instead of the Garden of Eden, we now live in an environment where people starve, there are tsunamis, accidents happen, tornadoes wreck havoc, and pollution destroys any semblance of the beauty God created in nature.
And above all, we suffer because of the glorification of very selves… we have come to worship the created rather than the creator. Instead of loving God and loving others like God has always loved us, we create idols of ourselves. Our desire now is to glorify ourselves rather than to glorify the image of God in us.
We talk a lot about hypocrisy. I agree that hypocrisy is a particularly painful sin for the person who continues to do the things that brings anything but glory and honor to God, as well as to those around him or her. At the same time, I’m finding that discussions on hypocrisy are futile because there is not a single person who is not a hypocrite, myself included. I was shown this in a very powerful way this summer when God revealed my own sin like never before. I was shown that every thought, every emotion, every gesture ultimately was about myself, no matter what I did. I realized that I was guilty of spiritual pride… I thought that God had done so much in my life and I was free from so many of the bigger, more obvious sins like my alcoholism. And He has done so much and my life has changed dramatically. I am so very grateful. But I realize, too, that God has only barely touched the surface of my sins. I understand that my sin is deep and all pervasive. This is what the fall has done to all of us. One sin isn’t greater than another… sin is sin. Whether one of us drowns our sorrows in drugs or alcohol, or spending, or porn, or whether we stay at home and glorify ourselves for being so ‘good’’, we are all guilty. When we get disappointed in ourselves or shamed by ourselves or proud of ourselves, it’s because we love ourselves so much. And I agree, guilt is a good thing if it turns us towards God, but it becomes a sin if we turn from God in shame because of it. So many feel like we’re not good enough to be with God… we think we have to wait until we become good… until our behavior is such that God will love us again. That’s so false. God does love us. He just wants us in relationship AT ALL TIMES. And we must remember that God’s unfailing love and Jesus’ gift of salvation is absolutely not a free ticket to sin… we are held even more accountable to our sin because this truth has been revealed to us… that’s why the gift of the Holy Spirit’s conviction can be so painful at times.
When faced this summer with the extent to which I sin on a daily basis, I was heartbroken and began to feel like it was hopeless… how could I contain my thoughts, my actions… how could I begin to love God, the environment and others more than myself? How could I find shalom in all the areas of relationship that God intended for us?? I saw it as insurmountable.
In the weeks since, I have been realizing that I was right… it IS insurmountable of my own devices. I cannot change my heart or my behavior. But, I can give it up to God to do that work in me. Only God can ENABLE me to love in that way, by the power of the Holy Spirit. I am coming to realize that I really do need to let go and let God have everything that is ‘me’… from every thought, every desire, every emotion… everything. My desires MUST be God’s desires. It’s not just the big, obvious sins that I must relinquish. No, I need to relinquish and surrender my very life. The words, ‘my life is not my own’ is becoming very real to me… slowly but surely.
In a sermon about God’s Image, Mark Driscoll referred to something Calvin said about how we are like a mirror intended to reflect the image of God… but that, with sin, the mirror is broken, reflecting a distorted image of God. And that it is only through Jesus that we are able to reflect a more genuine reflection because He Himself is the image of God. I love that.
Our reason for living, our reason for doing anything really is to love others more than self, as Jesus did, and to reflect Jesus. Apart from that, life is wrought with pain, and futility and is entirely unfulfilling. I had a friend who always used to say, ‘we are here for a purpose, with purpose.’ He’s so right. And our purpose truly is to reflect… to each other, to our friends, our families, and to our foes … a clear image of God, though Jesus Christ.
As we give our lives over to God, as we study His word and as we come to love Him more each day, He enables us to love like He loves us, which, in turn, affects our behavior. We tend to try to control our behavior, which, in my case often leads to a loss of control… in my actions, in my words, in my thoughts… Instead, we should allow God to work in us, returning the broken shards of our broken mirror into one of clarity and perfection. He alone gives us the capacity to love outside of ourselves. If we allow Him in, He fills us with love, which then overflows to those around us. But, we must, at all times, stay close… without being close to Him through prayer, worship, study and fellowship, we are not ‘softened’ enough to allow Him in to make the change in us.
We are responsible for this… it doesn’t just happen. It is a RELATIONSHIP… a relationship cannot happen without communication, discussion, love and caring… we must engage in the relationship in order to be changed!! And one of the more wonderful benefits that I am coming to appreciate and enjoy is that it makes the hard parts of life so much easier to bear… because, every once in a while, there is less of me and more of Him. And in those moments, when my heart is breaking, God finds a way to express His comfort and love and grace to me, and I am filled with hope and awe and wonder and joy. It’s a very different experience from the days when my relationship with God was pretty much non-existent…
I really believe our joy is rooted, not in the job or the spouse or the children we have or the ‘good works’ we accomplish, although these are blessings that God provides and loves to offer… he does love to give us presents… but real joy lies in our willingness to mirror Jesus, to be in relationship with God and to love others more than self.
Nothing else can even touch that!