Image-Bearers of God

June 11, 2023

Lead Pastor Dr. Timothy Melton

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Have you ever heard of Waldemar Cierpinski? He was from East Germany and was the 1980 Olympic gold medal winner in the marathon. How about Violeta Chamorro? Does it sound familiar? She was the President of Nicaragua from 1990-1997. Let’s try another. . .  Shirin Abadi. She was an Iranian human rights activist who was the winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize. Do you know the name Yoshiaki Tsutsumi? He was the richest man in the world in the 1980s. Lastly consider the name Ban Ki-moon. His name is more recent. He was from South Korea and was the 2016 Secretary General of the United Nations.

I share these names with you to make a point. The glory of man does not last. Life is fading. Here today and gone tomorrow. It is amazing how hard our world works to make a name for itself and how much energy we use to gain the praise of others, when any human glory will quickly fade and be forgotten. As Christians we have been given something much greater for which to live.

We give human glory to many achievers in our society but true glory can only be thought of rightly when referring to God. All glory belongs to Him.

Only He spoke and brought the universe into being. In His words to Job, 

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? Or who shut the sea with doors when it burst from the womb when I made clouds its garments? Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth? Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Can you lift up your voice to the clouds and send forth lightning? (Can you) Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor?”

The Glory of God is the essence of the Spirit of God, the beauty of God, the pure greatness of God. It is the ultimate value of God with which nothing else compares. 

No other thing or being in all of heaven or earth even begins to compare to the power, the purity, and the perfection that is found in God. In His love we see patience, holiness, and sacrifice. In His grace we see compassion, perseverance, and hope. The best accomplishments of man grow dim in the presence of the brilliance of God. There is no other name like His. He will not share credit with another. Long after this world is gone, when all the great names of history are long forgotten, the name of Yahweh will still be echoing throughout eternity from the lips of His people and the angels of heaven. His glory will endure forever. This is the end plan for our world. The kingdom of God will return and rule completely.

As is written in Habakkuk 2:14, “For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.”

That is the goal and the ultimate purpose of our lives. 

Isaiah 43:6-7 declares it clearly, “Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory.”

In l Corinthians 10:31 the Apostle Paul speaks of the same, ”So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”  

We were created for God’s glory.

In Genesis chapter One we see that God created the world. We read through the beginning verses and are amazed at how God created all that is in this world and in the universe out of nothing. The light and the dark, the earth and the heavens, the plants and the animals. These wonders of creation were to testify to the glory of God (Romans1). But He didn’t stop there. As if this were not enough He presented his final and ultimate creation.

We read about it in Genesis 1:27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

He created man and woman and honored them by making them in His image. While creation was to point to God, mankind was to be an image of God, a reflection of God. 

In those days Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, enjoyed perfect communion with God in the Garden of Eden. There was no shame, no worry, no fear, and no hate. It was life as it was intended to be. Made in God’s image, mankind was to be the ultimate creation that truly bore witness to the character and person of God. If you wanted a picture of what God was like you were to look at mankind to see a glimpse of the Creator. 

But then it happened. The man, the woman, a tree, a serpent / the devil, a lie, some fruit, and the first sin that changed the world forever (Genesis 3). This “fall of man” changed everything. Mankind's relationship with God had now been broken. Now pain, doubt, anger, death, bitterness and guilt would be a part of the human experience. Their guilt and the judgment of God that they had brought upon themselves now stalked mankind. Much like an old funhouse mirror or a photo app that takes your image and twists it almost beyond recognition, their tarnished image now would show little resemblance to that of their Creator. 

We were created in God’s image to “show-off” the glory of God. Because of our sin we have been tainted to the point where God’s image is hard to see, but that is the key of salvation. We are saved so that God can give life and reclaim us as full image bearers once again. We have been forgiven, made new, become a new creation so that once again our lives will give glory to God in an increasing measure. God is making us like Christ, the ultimate image-bearer of the Father. 

We are to seek excellence and to live as unto Christ. When we do this we are faced with a choice. Will we live for our glory or for God’s?

God alone is the origin of all that is glorious. That is why He is jealous of His glory. For a man or woman to claim glory does not even make sense in God’s reality. Anything that we have has been given us from God. 

As the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:7 – “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

Why do we seek our own glory? Why is our heart even drawn that direction? Insecurity. Competition. Pride. We were created for the glory of God. In Christ all of our needs are met. We can now turn our attention from our selfish agenda and to the glory of God. When we do not know Christ we are drawn away from our ultimate purpose and we default to a lower glorifying of self. Even those who do know Christ are drawn to self-glorification when we are not abiding in Him. We merely resort to trying to meet our own needs. When we walk near to God and are conscious of His presence our hearts and minds are fixed on Him and self-glorifying becomes unthinkable. In the presence of God we see our rightful place. 

We claim glory for ourselves which is not our glory. Just as the moon which has no light of its own, but merely reflects the light of the sun. So, do we merely reflect the glory of God. Practically speaking, when we choose the glory of man instead of the glory of God, we put our trust in ourselves. We put our trust in the things of this world. We walk in disobedience as proof that we have not given God glory in all things as He deserves. We ignore and reject the glory of God. 

Living for the glory of God is quite a dramatic change. We all are naturally drawn to live self-centered lives. Once we are in Christ we are to live with God in the center. If we live with this God-centered perspective of life we will realize that every situation is an opportunity to glorify God. In every situation He is present. In every situation He is working. In every situation He can empower us to bear the image of God to a watching world. Let’s look at a few examples in scripture. 

In John 9:2-3 Jesus is walking with his disciples when they bring Jesus’ attention to a blind man sitting near the road.

“His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 

“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.”

This man had been born blind so that he and those who would see his healing would experience the glory of God. From a man-centered perspective he could have been angry and questioned the goodness of God when “bad things happen to good people!” But then he would miss the fact that regardless of the situation of life, we each have been created to bring God glory. Will we trust the goodness of God, even when we cannot see what is truly happening? History shows us that through the temporary difficulties that life had brought this blind man, countless people have been drawn to an eternal relationship with Jesus Christ. His past difficulties are still bringing glory to God even in our day as people read his story.

We see the same idea in John chapter 11. Jesus hears that his good friend Lazarus is deathly ill.

“When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.  Yet when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.

When Jesus eventually made his way to the home of Lazarus, Lazarus had died. Why hadn’t Jesus come sooner? Because he understood the purposes of God in that situation. God intended to allow temporary difficulties in the life of his children for the sake of glorifying himself through Lazarus resurrection and bringing many others to faith in Jesus Christ.

A person with a God-centered mindset has no need to shake their fist at God. They understand that they have been bought with a price. They understand that if God never blesses them again they have already received so much more than they deserve. They count it a privilege to be part of what God is doing in the world. They still may cry, or suffer, but they have a confidence in God, giving Him the space to do what He must do for His glory even when they don’t understand. They are willing to be a tool in His hand. They are able to “be still and know that He is God,” confident that He is working in the midst of their situation. 

I remember once visiting a young woman from our church who was in the hospital. She shared the room with an elderly woman who was in a coma. In the evenings, when they were alone she would speak the truths of God to the elderly woman not even knowing if the woman could hear or understand. Night after night she would speak hoping that even in her unresponsiveness that the elderly woman could come to know the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Is it possible that a good God would allow difficulties in the young woman’s life so that she would end up in the hospital and share the love of Christ for the elderly woman in her time of desperate need? I believe so. We don’t know if the elderly woman ever heard, but are we willing to embrace the difficulties of our life like this young woman did? Instead of becoming bitter about her sickness the young woman looked for opportunity, trusted the goodness of God, and sought to make the most of her situation.

As we live for the glory of God, with Him in the center, we can accept hardship trusting that God is at work in us and in the world around us. 

I would like to introduce you to the phrase, “potential glory.” Potential Glory is the amount of glory that God is able to receive in any given situation. 

Imagine there is a Christian family who has a nice house, a nice car, a good job, and is free to worship God however and whenever they please. Imagine there is another Christian family who is very poor, and who lives in an anti-Christian country where they have been disowned by their families, have lost their jobs, and could possibly lose their lives because they have chosen to follow Jesus Christ. Both families faithfully continue to follow Christ, but whose lives show more clearly the worth and the glory of God?         

In the first family the world around them may say, “Of course you follow Christ. Look at all the things he's given you. But would you worship Him if life was difficult?” In the second family the world around them may say, “I don't know this Jesus Christ, but He must be someone infinitely valuable if you are willing to give up your comfort, safety, freedom and even your life for Him.”

Both families have the ability to give God glory in and through their lives, but the potential glory is much greater through the difficult times than the good times. Are we willing to let God change our perspective of our life situations so that we will be ready to turn the worst of situations into the best of opportunities to give God the most glory possible?

We see the idea of potential glory in the story of the Israelites. In chapters 13 and 14 of Exodus we see the story of the Israelites who had been freed from slavery. God had heard their cries and had delivered them from the power of the Egyptians. Moses is leading the 3 million Israelites out of Egypt, along the Red Sea and towards the Promised Land. It was an incredible journey that was led by God's pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night. They had physical proof that God was leading their way.

After several days of traveling, God led them to a “dead end.” The Red Sea is in front of them and mountains are on the sides. Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, hears about this “mistake” and decides that he should never have let them go. He calls out his best 600 chariots, along with all of the other chariots, his horsemen, his troops, and marches after the Israelites. 

As the Egyptian army gets nearer and nearer the Israelites can see them coming and they begin to panic. “They were terrified and cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” 

13 Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today.” (Exodus 14:10-13)

As the story continues, it appears that the Israelites are trapped. They have followed God and it has led them to a place where it appears that there is no hope. Was God not in control? Did God not care? Did God not know? God was in control and He did care and He did know. 

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.  Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground. I will harden the hearts of the Egyptians so that they will go in after them. And I will gain glory through Pharaoh and all his army, through his chariots and his horsemen.  The Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.” (Exodus 14:15-18)

God then parted the Red Sea and the Israelites walked across on dry ground. During this time the pillar of cloud came around behind the Israelites and hid them from the Egyptian army. To the Israelites it provided light and to the Egyptians it gave darkness. The Israelites crossed safely and once the Egyptians followed them God closed the Red Sea destroying the helpless Egyptian army. Because of this all the Egyptians and the surrounding nations heard about the glory of the one true God of the Israelites.

It could be today that God has brought you into a difficult situation where He has great plans. Like the Israelites at the Red Sea, He just needs you to pray, trust and obey.

With this mind, by the grace of God, may we “bear His image” to a watching world and in the words of the Apostle Paul, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”   

l Corinthians 10:31