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Developing God’s Image and Likeness
This morning I’d like to share exactly how we’ve been created, and how much God thinks of us, and why God wants and desires a relationship with us. Look at what the Lord says,
“‘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.” (Genesis 1:26-27)
We’ve been made in the image and likeness of God. Our problem is that we don’t believe it.
We say, “If I were truly in the image and likeness of God, then God is one messed up God, because I’m one messed up person. I smoke and drink. I’m filled with lustful thoughts and desires. I lie and cheat, and I’m filled with hypocrisy and jealousy. I’m messed up, no good, and there’s nothing good inside of me.”
This is the way we think.
But please understand God is not like that. This is not God. So what happened? Where’s the disconnect? Well, sin happened. Sin came in and messed us all up.
It started with Adam and Eve. Satan came distorting God’s word making Eve question, “Did God really say I couldn’t?” “Did God really say this is what I must do?” And when Eve saw the fruit was good and pleasant she said, “Why not? What will it hurt? And by the way, I’ll be my own god.”
Today we say much the same thing but we also add this caveat, “I can always ask for forgiveness, and what do they say, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is for permission.”
This sin, however, didn’t stop with Adam and Eve; instead it got passed down from generation to generation all the way to you and me. You might say that the sin nature is a part of our DNA.
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12 NKJV)
And know this, Satan’s tactics haven’t changed. He comes at us the same way he came at Eve. First he gets us to question God’s word and intent, and then comes the temptation that makes sin sound good and look even better. But the end result is disastrous.
Because of their sin Adam and Eve was cursed with death and kicked out of the Garden, that is, outside of God’s presence because God is too pure to look upon and behold evil.
That is what sin does.
But God is not like us. Just because we’ve been made in God’s image and likeness, and we’re all messed up because of sin, doesn’t mean that God is messed up as well.
The Bible says, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good.” (Numbers 23:19 NKJV)
The Apostle James said, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God;’ for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” (James 1:13 NKJV)
God isn’t like us, He cannot sin and He cannot be tempted with evil, and at the same time neither does He tempt anyone with evil.
But more than anything else what this is saying is that we cannot put God into our mold of thinking. We cannot say, “This is what God is like,” because if we do, then we’re limiting God who is limitless.
God is beyond what we know or what we can even imagine Him to be. How in our limited minds can we describe a God who is limitless? Even God makes this point crystal clear.
“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8-9 NKJV)
God’s thoughts and ways are far beyond our own, and therefore we can never equate ourselves to God, nor equate our ways to God.
Yet, even though our sins separate us from God and we’re cursed with the curse of death, and even though God is too holy and pure look upon sin and that our sins have separated us from Him, God has not left us, nor does He leave us to our own devises to go this life alone, to live life the best way we know how.
Instead God is always with us. God will never leave us nor will He forsake us, Hebrews 13:5.
And so God gives us certain things to help us along this journey of faith, and so what are some of the things God gives to us?
God Gives Us Gifts
The gifts that God gives us are not like a toaster oven or a new IPhone. Instead God gives us the best gifts possible.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” (James 1:17 NKJV)
These gifts are what we know as the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
“There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit…for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:4-10 NKJV)
And when you come right down and think about it, what’s an IPhone compared to the wisdom and knowledge of God? Technology may make life easier, but it doesn’t make us any smarter.
God Gives Us Life
God also gives to us everything we need to live.
“His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3a NKJV)
God has given us everything we need to live this life, everything physical, that is, life, and everything spiritually, which he describes as godliness.
But even beyond this, God has given us something greater, and that is a life forgiven and redeemed, a new life where we’re brought into a relationship with God. But even more than that, He has given to us eternal life in His presence, which humanity lost back in the Garden with Adam and Eve.
Along with gifts and a new life.
God Gives Us Righteousness
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV)
We cannot fully understand the second part in how we have become the righteousness of God without understanding the first part, that is, Jesus who knew no sin became sin for us.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us.” (2 Corinthians 5:21a NIV)
It says that Jesus was made sin, not a sinner mind you, but sin itself so He could become that sin offering, that sacrifice for sin. He paid the penalty due, as Paul says, “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23)
What this says is that Jesus was sinless to begin with. Jesus was perfectly holy and pure.
This reality of Jesus is expressed in 1 Peter 2:22; “who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth;” and in Hebrews 7:26, it says He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.”
God dealt with Christ, not as though He were a sinner, but as though He were sin itself. Galatians 3:13 says that Christ was made “a curse for us,” and in Romans 8:3 as “being made in the likeness of sinful flesh.”
And so all our sins were transferred unto Him, and as He hung upon the cross all for the purpose of transferring His righteousness to us. He took our sins and gave us back His righteousness in return. Now that’s a deal.
And so in the first part of 2 Corinthians 5:21 it says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us.” And then Paul went on to say,
“So that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21b NIV)
By identifying with Christ as believers we have been made sharers in His righteousness. Peter says that we have been made partakers of the divine nature, 2 Peter 1:3.
All who believe in Jesus have been made righteous in the sight of God, that is, God now accepts us as righteous. But our righteousness is not in ourselves, rather our righteousness is in Christ, so we now have the righteousness of Christ.
As we’ve seen so far God gives us the gifts of the Holy Spirit, a new life, and the righteousness of Christ. But also
God Makes Us Family
We are a part of God’s family
“Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Ephesians 2:19 NKJV)
As believers in Christ we are a part of God’s family, and children in God’s house.
The word “strangers,” means foreigners to a state or city as opposed to being citizens, and “foreigners,” means guests of a household as opposed to being family members.
No longer are we considered as outcasts and aliens. As sinners we were strangers and foreigners to God, that is, not a part of His kingdom or a part of His family. But now as believers in Christ we are not only citizens of God’s kingdom, but we are also children and members of God’s own family.
To the church in Rome the Apostle Paul said, “And if children, then heirs–heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” (Romans 8:17 NKJV)
God is now our Father, and we are His children under His protection and care.
God Gives Us Grace
“But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (James 4:6 NKJV)
God gives us His grace at the very beginning when by faith we come into the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NKJV)
Grace is God’s unmerited favor, in other words, there’s nothing that we can do to earn God’s grace, and in this instance salvation. It’s totally a gift of God. Grace is God’s gift.
And what James tells us is that God just keeps on giving His grace, more grace, grace upon grace. God gives us His grace to match and overcome the evil and sin that is present, not only in the world around us, but in our lives as well.
In short, all the blessings of God, His gifts, grace, righteousness, and inheritance are all available through relationship with Jesus Christ. And so if you want God’s gifts, grace, righteousness, and inheritance, they all come through a relationship with Christ.
And so if we have been created in the image and likeness of God, and since sin has separated us from God, is there anything we can do so we can regain that image and likeness and live in God’s presence?
This is what I’d like to explore with you as we look at three things. The first is the most obvious of them all.
Remember the Scripture of how Adam passed on the sin nature to the rest of us, Romans 5:12. Look at how it ends
“But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.” (Romans 5:15 NKJV)
Here we see the gift of grace abounds to everyone through faith.
In his first letter to the church in Corinth Paul says,
“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22 NKJV)
And again remember when Paul said that the wages of sin is death? He goes on to say, “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23b NKJV)
And so to regain that image and likeness and enter into God’s presence we have come to Jesus Christ and believe what He did there upon the cross, how He took our place and died the death that we all deserve. And then we need to ask Jesus to forgive our sins and to enter into our hearts to be our Savior and our Lord.
And when we do this, He’ll make us a brand new creation in Him, where the old person we used to be is dead and gone and a brand new person in Christ has now taken his place, 2 Corinthians 5:17.
This is where it begins but it isn’t where it ends. It is a process the Bible calls sanctification, or the process of becoming less like the world and more like Jesus, or what we call being more Christ like.
This leads me to the second thing we can do to regain that image and likeness
John the Baptist probably said it best
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 NKJV)
This should be our prayer every day, and more than once a day. You see, to be more in the image and likeness of God we need to be more like Jesus, more Christ like in our everyday lives. But we can’t be more like Christ when we’re full of ourselves.
Remember our verse in James, “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’” (James 4:6 NKJV)
So we need to stop trying to run our lives, because that makes us into our own gods, which is what which tripped up Adam and Eve in the beginning. Instead we need to allow the Lord to have His way and increase in our lives.
But what I’ve found is that this is impossible for us to do on our own or in our own power. We need the power of God. And God gives us this power through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
When we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, Jesus comes in and sets up His throne in our hearts, and then out from Him flows the Holy Spirit. In fact, God says that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit.
“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own.” (1 Corinthians 6:19 NIV)
But there’s more power that awaits us through the Holy Spirit if we just ask.
Jesus said, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49 NIV)
Jesus went on to say, “For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:5 NIV)
And so the power to decrease in ourselves and to allow Jesus to increase comes from the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. And every day we can ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit, because when we’re filled to the brim with God, there’s no room for self to dwell.
It’s in God’s Word, the Bible that we find out what that image and likeness of God is, and as we study the Gospels and see the life Jesus lived, and therefore we can see what it is to be Christ like.
It’s God’s word that reveals that we’re not only sinners, but also we see in God’s word of our need to come to Christ.
“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24 NKJV)
And it’s God’s word helps with our run away sin nature.
“Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:11 NKJV)
And so we need to live in God’s word and allow God to live within us.
Just because we’re messed up doesn’t mean that God’s messed up. We’re messed up because of the sin nature that resides within us. But God is holy and righteous.
To help us then regain that image and likeness, God has given to us gifts, righteousness, grace, and life, and in so doing has made it now possible to live our lives in His image and likeness.
And so today, if you have never asked Jesus Christ into your heart, accepting Him as your Savior and Lord, then do so, there’s no greater gift of God’s grace than your salvation and eternal life in His presence.
Next, ask God for the further empowerment of the Holy Spirit so that you can be filled and empowered to be more like Christ and less like yourself.
And finally determine live your life in God’s word, allow His word to direct your life rather than allow the world and Satan temptations to rule it.
We’ve all been created in the image and likeness of God, therefore it’s time we regain it and start living in it.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study