The statistics are daunting. More and more young people raised in Christian homes abandon the faith when they leave for college. Growing up, they quoted Bible verses, worshiped every Sunday, and knew all the right things to say. So what went wrong? It’s because they’ve been living on a borrowed faith instead of making it their own. They had religion, but they never had a relationship with Christ. What about you? Is your faith your faith, or is it a borrowed faith?
We Are God’s Image Bearers
God created all the animals, birds, fish and plants after their own kind, but He made human beings in the image and likeness of God. Every day, in every situation, wherever we go, whatever we’re doing, whatever we’re saying, always remember that we are bearing the image of God! We are His representatives to the world, reflecting His image to others. Are they seeing the best possible picture of God in us? Is the image of God in us so beautiful that it draws people to Him, or drives them away? This is a wonderful privilege we’ve been given, and also a great responsibility.
If you would, take your Bibles and turn back to Genesis chapter 1 and go down to verse 26. We’re going to pick up where we left off last week as we continue our series studying through the entire Bible. And I’ll just tell you what, we come to something today that, frankly, is so much bigger than me. I’m not even sure how to try to get this out. Not that everything in the Bible isn’t bigger than me, it is, but there are some topics that are just so vast that you just stand and look at it in awe. It’s like years ago when I talked about the wonder and majesty of God. I didn’t even know what to do. Some of you may remember, I got up and and I said, “I’m not going to say anything of myself today. All I’m going to do for 30 minutes is read Scripture.” And that’s what I did, because I didn’t have any words to describe the wonder of God. I just turned to the Scripture. I feel that way today. I feel totally inadequate. I’m such a dummy. Why didn’t I ask David to cover this Sunday? I’m thinking of that now, but it’s too late.
Today, we’re going to look into God’s Word, and we’re going to try to at least approach this matter of us being made in the image of God. I’m hardly at all today going to talk about the technicalities of that and what that means. There’s a lot that could be said about that to try and define specifically, theologically what it means to be made in the image of God. That stuff’s all good, it’s all right, and it has its place, but this morning is not the time and place for that, I just know that. I want us to try to consider this morning for a few minutes what that means in our lives. I’m asking you, and every Sunday I want us to do this, but this morning I’m asking you to just make an extra effort to put all the other stuff aside, to push all the things that are yelling for your attention right now and just enter into this together and see what God will do as we consider what it means that we have been made, that we’ve been created in the image of God.
Did you ever order a product that you saw advertised, and they made this product look like the greatest thing that has ever been invented? And so you said, “I gotta have one of those.” I mean, how can we live without a Chop-O-Matic or a Slice-and-Dice or the Ginsu knives or whatever it is? So you order it, and it’s just built up in your mind, and you can’t wait to use this thing or to have fun with this, whatever it is, and it arrives and you use it for the first time and you know right away you’ve been jipped, right? You’ve been conned. This product was—and here’s the word we use—it was misrepresented. It just makes you feel lousy, doesn’t it? It’s a lousy feeling to be cheated, to be duped. You and I have been created in the image and likeness of God, and we have been called to represent him to the world. That in itself ought to bring us to our knees. I have to wonder, when the world looks at my life, and they know that I’m supposed to be representing the God of the universe, I wonder if they ever feel cheated. Do they ever feel duped? I wonder if God ever feels misrepresented. This is a heavy, huge, important issue for us today as we constantly grapple with what it means to live the Christian life. Frankly, I don’t know. I’m still learning. I think I mess up more than not, but we’re growing in this together, and that’s a wonderful process there in itself.
In chapter 1 of Genesis, we read all of that last week because I wanted us to get the full picture of what takes place in the creation process there. I told you that there are a lot of repeated words and phrases throughout Genesis chapter 1. I would encourage you this week to take some time to crack open the Bible for yourself and maybe read Genesis 1 several times and mark with different colors in your Bible. Yes, it’s a good thing to mark in your Bible. It’ll pay dividends years from now when you’re studying something, you’ll look at a verse and you’ll go, “Wow, look at that. I put the date right there that God ministered to me through that.” Go through and find these repeated phrases. We looked at some of them last week. There’s another one we didn’t talk about last week that leads us into the topic today, and it is such an important phrase. You’ll see it again and again. It says that God created things according to their kind. Yours may say after its own kind.
There are 31 verses in chapter 1, and 10 times in this chapter this bizarre little phrase is repeated: that God created things according to their kind. Vegetation and plants according to their kind. Fruit trees according to their kind. Creatures in the sea, cattle, beasts of the field, things that creep and crawl along the ground each created according to their kind. But then in verse 26 something changes. It says this: God says, “Let Us make man,” and by the way, if the word “Us” doesn’t grab your attention, it ought to. I haven’t even spoken about that yet. I’m already annoyed with this series, because I can’t say everything I want to say, and I can’t cover everything I want to cover. But there’s something if you want a topic to pursue: who’s God talking to? “Let Us make man in Our image.” Well, that’s for another day. But watch this: He says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” Verse 27: “So God created man in His image; He created him in the image of God.”
Nowhere else in the Genesis account, nowhere else in Scripture do we see the Bible telling us that anything else was created in the image of God. This is a unique privilege that you and I as human beings have. We are the only things that God created in His image. This truth here in the very first chapter of Genesis is so important that it runs throughout the Bible. The rest of the Bible brings this up. It either reminds us that we were made in the image of God, or it tells us the value of being made in the image of God, or it urges us to grow more and more into His image and the image of His Son, or it instructs us how to live out, how to display the image of God. As I said, this topic can be discussed for hours, but I want us to see what it means that we were made in His image and what the outcome of that should be for us tomorrow morning in the office, with the boss who’s frankly a jerk, at home tonight with your family, when you’re cheated in a business deal, when you have a huge opportunity open up before you but there may be one thing about it that isn’t right. On and on we could go with the highs and the lows of life and all the choices of daily life. What does this mean for us in those moments?
Here’s the first thing I jotted down, and I mentioned it a moment ago. It means that we are representatives of God Himself. We’re God’s representatives. When you represent someone, everything you do reflects on them. Ambassadors are sent to represent the people or the country who sent them. God created humanity. He created us to represent Him and to declare His glory. Do we realize that God doesn’t need us to do this? Every day, He could explode His glory across the skies in dramatic, terrifying ways. He could do it fine on His own, but He chose us to represent Him in this world.
There are many reasons for that, but again, throughout the Bible, we see one of the main reasons for that is that God wants His glory to be known throughout the earth. There’s a phrase that’s repeated again and again, “to the ends of the earth” or “to all nations.” God wants His name, His glory, to be carried by us, to be displayed by us to the ends of the earth so that all the earth will praise Him. When someone has asked us to represent them, and then we turn around and we disgrace them, that’s a bad thing.
As I was thinking of this, I thought back to 2006. Michael Vick was the first quarterback ever to rush for a thousand yards in a single season. A quarterback, to rush for 1000 yards. He had the world at his feet at that moment. He was rising in popularity, very famous, he was worth millions of dollars in addition to his NFL salary. He had companies scrambling to get him to promote their brand. Nike, Rawlings, and other companies did so. Well, by the end of 2007, he was broke and in prison. He reportedly lost $142 million. I lost a quarter this week, and it made me feel bad.
Apparently, Nike and Rawlings and those other companies don’t want someone representing them who is known for being cruel to animals, so they terminated their relationship because to continue using Michael Vick as their spokesman was tantamount to saying “we support cruelty to animals.” Sadly, because of sin, this high calling that you and I have been given by God has been tainted. We, in some measure, have all brought shame to the image of God. But thankfully, and we’ll see this more and more as we go through the Scripture, that’s not the end of the story. God wrote another chapter, so to speak. Through the work of His Son, God is in the process of restoring what man has ruined. And as part of that process, the Bible instructs us again and again to be continually conformed into His image and His likeness.
A couple of examples…Colossians 3:10 says, “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” That’s our job: to put on the new self each day, even though we’ve been made new spiritually and we’re 100% righteous spiritually, we still got this stuff to fight every day. It fights me big time. Does it fight you too, or am I just missing something? It’s a battle every day. Ephesians 4:24 says the same thing: “put on the new self, which was created to be like God.” That’s a phrase we shouldn’t be able to read casually. “…created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” It’s vital that this transformation process is continually taking place in each of our lives. 2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “we, who with unveiled faces”—in other words, the blinders have been taken off; the veil has been taken off—we “all reflect the glory of the Lord, and are being transformed into His image from glory to glory.” There’s a lot of verses we could share there, but here’s what we need to know, and I think we know this. In this life, because of sin, we will never be able to perfectly reflect the image of God. I was having a discussion with a brother this morning before the service about that very thing. But folks, a day is coming when we will reflect the image of God perfectly. One of the verses that tells us that is 1 John 3:2. John writes and he says, “Little children, now we are the children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” What a moment that is going to be when this old shell falls off and the real us is united with the real Him forever, and we will be like Him.
There’s a lot to say about that point. I’ve talked extensively about that in the past, about our daily walk. I try to help us all figure out what that looks like. I alluded to this last week briefly in the message. I think this really needs to be heard again, because in different ways, in a hundred different ways, I hear this in conversations with people. And that is that we must know, we’ve got to nail this one down at some point sooner rather than later. We need to understand and know once and for all what it is that defines us, what defines who we are. I said last week that we’re not defined by our job. Some of you go, “Thank the Lord for that,” right? We’re not defined by our achievements. We’re not defined by our looks, although for me that would be okay. I gotta check once in a while and make sure you’re still listening. We’re not defined by our level of education. We’re not defined by our economic status or our race. And here’s the thing…we live in a world that separates all of us into those categories. Then it assigns different values to those categories. It’s a heartbreaking thing. The older I get, I meet people who are just glorious representatives of God in every respect, and they never even graduated high school, for example. You meet this person and you just want to spend your life with them because their presence is so powerful. Their love is so vivid and deep. They don’t have money, they don’t have an education, they don’t have a big title on their business card. I was gonna go naming some people, but I don’t want to do that. We have got to come to the point where we decide once and for all that our identity is not found in those things, but rather, our identity comes from the fact that we were made in the image of Almighty God. That is the genesis, that is the foundation, the birthplace of our very existence, and our very identity. That is what defines us.
That is what ought to define us. It ought to provide for us identity and purpose in life and a reason for even being on this planet. Don’t ever allow yourself to be defined by your accomplishments or your failures. This is where many people struggle. We allow our past failures to define us and to rob us of future potential for God. Because we hear that whisper, “You’re not worthy to do this. Remember what you did 10 years ago? Don’t ever forget that, buster.” It comes up and it haunts us and it pulls us back from what God is calling us to do. We must not allow that to define us. There are three main areas, I think, where we get accused of our failures in the past. One is from Satan himself. The Bible tells us that he is the accuser of the brethren. Did you know that Revelation says that Satan accuses you and me before the throne of God night and day? Satan reminds us of our past.
Secondly, people remind us of our past. I’ve talked some about that as well. We’ve got to ask God to help us rise above being wounded and held down by other peoples’ view of us. Listen, there will be at least one person in your life until the day you die who will never let you forget your past. You ought not hang out with that person. Satan accuses us of our past failures. People accuse us of our past failures. Do you want to know the third one? Ourselves. This may be the biggest one of all—and the most overlooked. We beat ourselves up. I have this problem of, I don’t know what it is, since I was a kid, everything I do I want to do it well. I had a job one time when I lost my business and we were in between. I was scrubbing toilets in restaurants. Even doing that, I wanted those things to sparkle, man. I wanted people to walk in and go, “Whoa, this place has never been this clean.” That’s a good thing to want to do everything well, to go above and beyond, but there’s also a danger in that. It creates perfectionism, and you’re never good enough in your own eyes. You’ve never done a good enough job in your own eyes. It’s a deadly thing. I’m still working through that with God. Sandy will tell you how many Sundays I’ve said to her, “I don’t know why I’m doing this. I don’t know why I’m teaching. I don’t know why I’m leading a church. I am the last person in the world who needs to be doing this. I think I’m going to quit.” It’s a massive struggle for us sometimes. Satan, other people, and ourselves. If you’ve been saved, your identity is in Him. It’s in Him and Him alone.
Even Paul had a terrible past, dragging Christians out of their homes, throwing them in prison, having them put to death. He was standing at the stoning of Stephen and the Bible says “giving his consent.” In other words, he was nodding and going, “Yeah, lay it on him.” God chose this guy to be His representative. But Paul, no doubt, never forgot his past, because he alluded to it throughout his writings. Here’s what he said. He had to learn to find his new identity in the fact that he had been made a new creation. In 1 Corinthians 15:9-10, he said, “I am the least of the apostles.” Do you hear the Phil Pike coming out in that? It’s like, man, I’m not worthy to do this at all. Paul says, “I’m the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” Now, if he had stopped there, that would have been heartbreaking, but there’s a verse 10. He says, “Yet, by the grace of God I am what I am.” He says, “I worked harder than all of them; yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”
In 2 Corinthians 3:5 he says, “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim that anything comes from us, but our competence”—our sufficiency—”comes from God.” Paul was on this journey, but he got it. He says, there are going to be people who will accuse me the rest of my life of the horrible things I did, but my identity now is found in the fact that I am a new creation in Jesus Christ. Can I just ask you, is that where your identity comes from? Or are you constantly striving every day to achieve more, to acquire more, or maybe to prove to someone else that you have worth? I’ll tell you folks, that is an exhausting game. Our identity, our purpose, our meaning in life is found in Him and remembering that we were created in the image of God.
There’s another thing that came to mind as I was thinking about this, and this is a huge issue in probably every generation, but it’s certainly true now. That is we must not only know where our identity comes from, but we must know what gives us value as human beings. People are being taught today that they are no more significant than a mosquito or a bacteria because all of this was just a cosmic accident. It all is coming about by random chance, and there’s no real reason that you exist. Folks, that lie has cheapened the value and the preciousness and the sanctity of human life, but it has also sent people scrambling to try and find significance and meaning and purpose and hope in a thousand different things other than God, and that search always leaves a person disillusioned and discouraged. There’s a reason for that. There’s a reason we will never find value and significance and meaning and purpose and hope in anything other than in our Creator. I think Blaise Pascal summed this up more beautifully than I’ve ever heard. Back in the 1600s he wrote this: “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are.” Did you hear what he said? He tries in vain to fill his life “with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help,” he says, “since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words, by God himself.”
People often sum up what Pascal said there by simply saying there is a God-shaped hole inside all of us that can only be filled by God. It’s like a key that has to fit into the lock it was made for. A key is useless on any other lock except for the one that it was made for. There’s a match, there’s a pairing there. Maybe no one has ever shared this with you. I don’t know why God burdened my heart so much to talk about this on this issue of the image of God when there were so many other things we could have talked about. Maybe no one has ever shared this truth with you, the fact that the longing and the sense of homesickness within you, that ache within you, that crying out from within you, that you feel once in a while, and you can’t explain, but it’s there, that all of that is in you because you were made in the image of God. And since the image of God has been shattered by sin, it longs to be made whole again. Your restless soul will not be silenced. It will not be silenced, ever. It cries out night and day.
There’s more to this life than living. I know that deep within. There’s more than just trying to get ahead. I know that I was made for more than this. There’s that longing that cries out. You want to know why atheists spend so much time trying to convince people that a God who they say doesn’t exist, doesn’t exist? Think about that for a while. That’s a remarkable pursuit in life. Something that you are convinced doesn’t exist, yet you’ve got to go around convincing people it doesn’t exist. If it doesn’t exist, you don’t have to convince anybody. I guarantee you—I’ve talked to some atheists who’ve been converted, so I know this—even atheists lay their head on their pillow at night when all the fuss and the noise and the debating has ceased, and they lay there in the darkness and they wonder. They hear that pinging from down inside of them like a homing beacon, pinging to some place they’ve never been, but they know it’s there. The reason we know that is Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “God has put eternity in the hearts of men.”
It’s in there. It’s in there. Inside every human being is an awareness of purpose, no matter how severely that purpose may have been damaged, or suppressed, or silenced over time. It’s there and it’s crying out. That purpose, that indescribable longing, is a God-given passion to worship our Creator. It’s calling us back to what we used to be, what we ought to be. It is a God-given passion to worship our Creator, and it is inside every human being. I’ve been able to travel the world as a missionary kid, so I’ve had experiences all over this planet. I will tell you this, you can travel to the most remote parts of the earth and crawl through jungles and discover the most primitive, remote people who are alive today. They may have never seen a Bible, they may have never heard the gospel truth, but you know what they’re doing? They’re worshipping something. All those tribes out there who’ve never heard what we’re talking about today, they’re so different from us in so many ways, so disconnected from society, and yet they all worship something. Because man can’t not worship something. That’s the reason we were created, to worship God, to fellowship with Him, and to bring Him glory through that. When that truth is removed from people’s hearts, they will forever struggle to understand why they’re here.
I need to wrap this up, but when God is removed from people’s conscience, it is one of the cruelest things that could ever be done to a person, because it leaves them searching for the one part that they can never find, apart from God. Removing God from man’s conscience has also plunged not just individuals but entire cultures into a state of depravity and immorality and hatred and violence and bloodshed. When a society rejects the truth that all people were created in the image of God and that every person has incalculable value in the eyes of God, and instead they believe and they teach that we’re nothing more than just random molecules that bumped into each other and we were formed by chance, when a society is taught that, then there’s no stopping the evil that one man will bring against another man and never think twice about it. Because there’s no value in their eyes. When you throw God out of the picture, then what is the distinction between a human being and a gnat? There can be none if there is no original foundation and measurement and benchmark by which to gauge what has value and what doesn’t have value, what is right and what is wrong.
The irony of all this, when man chooses to live without God, he gives up human dignity because there’s no value system outside of God that can define all of this for us. Folks, you and I were created by God. We were created to bear His image, and the bearing of His image is what brings us value. It’s what defines us, it’s what brings us value, and that should make all the difference in your life. We were created not only to be worshipers of God, but to be friends of God. Just think about that, to be friends of God. Walking and talking with Him each day, that’s what we were created for. We were created to serve as His ambassadors and reflect His glory to the ends of the earth. What an amazing privilege we’ve been given. How are we carrying that privilege?
You and I were created in the image of God. The subject that I said at the beginning is so vast, it’s so overwhelming to think about, but we were created in the image of God and because of that we bear not only the wonder of what that means, not only the value that that bestows upon us, but we also bear the responsibility to carry it well and to live it out.
As we wrap up this morning, we’re going to sing a song. Guys, is it still on the list? “So Will I?” We’re going to do that song? All right. It’s a song I had never heard before until this week. I gotta tell you, it’s rare that you hear me say this because I’m not impressed by shallow stuff, books or songs or lectures or anything else, and every once in a rare while something comes along that just takes my breath away. And it’s rare. I saw this song on the schedule, and I went and looked up the words, first of all, and I read the words, and I was weeping when I read the words. Then I played the video, and I just couldn’t stop weeping. You won’t hear me say this often, but this song we’re going to learn today is a rare gem. It is profoundly deep and moving. Whoever wrote this song knows their Creator and understands why they’re here. Before I close and we sing this song, I want to read the words to you. Is that ok guys? I’ll just read it.
Listen to this. In most songs the chorus is the same. You just repeat the chorus after each verse. In this song, the chorus is just slightly different enough to make you go, “Wow.” I want you all to just pause and really lean in right now and hear this. This, to me, encapsulates everything I’ve tried to say this morning. It’s called “So Will I (100 Billion X),” and I read the title and right away I’m doing the eye roll. “Oh, another new song that’s full of fluff.” Just listen to these words. It says…
“God of creation, There at the start, Before the beginning of time, With no point of reference, You spoke to the dark, And fleshed out the wonder of light”
“And as you speak”—remember we talked last week about God created things just by His spoken word—”And as you speak, A hundred billion galaxies are born, In the vapor of Your breath the planets form, If the stars were made to worship so will I, I can see your heart in everything You’ve made, Every burning star, A signal fire of grace, If creation sings Your praises so will I”
Second verse says, “God of Your promise, You don’t speak in vain, No syllable empty or void, For once You have spoken, All nature and science, Follow the sound of Your voice”
“And as You speak, A hundred billion creatures catch Your breath, Evolving in pursuit of what You said, If it all reveals Your nature so will I, I can see your heart in everything You say, Every painted sky, A canvas of Your grace, If creation still obeys You so will I”
“If the stars were made to worship so will I, If the mountains bow in reverence so will I, If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I, For if everything exists to lift You high so will I, If the wind goes where You send it so will I. If the rocks cry out in silence so will I. If the sum of all our praises still fall shy, Then we’ll sing again a hundred billion times.”
Last verse says, “God of salvation, You chase down my heart, Through all of my failure and pride, On a hill You created, The light of the world, Abandoned in darkness to die”
“And as You speak, A hundred billion failures disappear, Where You lost Your life so I could find it here, If You left the grave behind You so will I, I can see Your heart in everything You’ve done, Every part designed in a work of art called love, If You gladly chose surrender so will I, I can see Your heart, Eight billion different ways, Every precious one, A child You died to save, If You gave Your life to love them so will I”
“Like You would again a hundred billion times, But what measure could amount to Your desire, You’re the One who never leaves the one behind.” I want to end with that and just leave us in the wonder of who God is and the fact that He has made us to bear His image. What a privilege. What a responsibility. Let’s pray.