What does it mean when the Bible says we are made in the image of God?
Someone asked this of me once, and frankly, I was not quite sure at the moment how to answer them. Does it mean that God the Father has two eyes, two ears and a human face like us, as does Jesus? That may be a small part of it. But there is likely a whole lot more to it, with a spiritual and an emotional dimension, as well.
We know that God is pure, holy, loving and patient, full of compassion, grace and forgiveness. A redeemed believer with the Holy Spirit living in their heart is being shaped by God to reflect this image, as described by the apostle Paul in the book of Colossians:
8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Colossians 3:8-10 (ESV)
Reflecting God’s nature means we are being freed from the ugliness exhibited by our own selfish and self-centered human behavior. When living life in God’s image instead of our own, we do the kinds of things that God approves of and avoid those behaviors, thoughts and actions that reflect poorly on Him. We begin to exhibit evidence of God’s holy character towards those around us. In an ideal world, they would see our character as innocent, pure, giving and genuinely loving, with caring and unselfish motives. They would see the image of God.
Unfortunately, living life this way is extremely difficult. In fact, without the help of the Holy Spirit, it is virtually impossible. The Ten Commandments show us plainly just how much of a contrast there is between God’s nature and our own. In desperation, we lean upon Him to help us overcome our sinful shortcomings and habits, and to gradually progress towards a more satisfying, holy life. No matter how far we have come, it is often all too easy slip back into our old ways and stray from God’s path of love. If we revert to walking down the road of sin, it will likely take us much farther and for much longer than we ever intended. It is only the loving Spirit and grace of God that can stop us, help us to repent and turn back to God, and to walk again in the light and love of His forgiveness. Having then forgiven us, God asks that we exhibit this same love and forgiveness towards those who have acted contrary to us.
The final of the Ten Commandments given by God to Moses at Mount Sinai show us how we should behave:
13 “You shall not murder. 14 “You shall not commit adultery. 15 “You shall not steal. 16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife … or anything that is your neighbor’s.” Exodus 20:13-17 (ESV)
These commandments themselves do not seem too hard to follow on many days. But Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), elevated these further to include even the thought or desire to violate them in our hearts. Jesus equated hatred to committing murder, lust to committing adultery, and judging others with bringing that same judgment on ourselves. No one is innocent when compared against these holy standards.
God’s commandments are not simply a pass/fail test. If they were, we would certainly all fail. Instead, these laws are an illustration of how much we need to reach out for the loving hand of God. If, with His help, we begin the process of reducing these undesired behaviors, we are being renewed in the image of our Creator.
A simple axiom of faith is this: if we are willing to open the door even a bit for God, He will help us to walk through that door and begin to experience healing and blessings beyond our greatest hopes and dreams.
In my own life, one door I personally needed to go through was to obtain freedom from my abuse of alcohol. I had tried everything in my own power to get through that door, but ultimately failed every time. Then one day, God provided an opportunity for me to take a small step with Him. I took that step of willingness, choosing to follow Him and the path he put before me. Starting with just a mustard seed of willingness, I sought Him, and he lifted the alcohol obsession, allowing me to live for over thirty years without it, not missing it a bit from my life.
The grace and forgiveness of God is available to us because of the loving sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross and His victorious resurrection from the dead. His grace is limitless, as limitless as God himself. We are made worthy by Him to enter the throne room of God to express our deepest needs, failures and hurts. He is right here for us.
The word of God confirms His gift of his love and forgiveness, over and over. One of my favorite verses is in the Bible is found in 1 John 1:9.
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9 (ESV)
Notice that this does not say that God forgives “some” of our sin, but He forgives “all” of it. We are being remade in His image through grace. As the apostle Paul writes:
8 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Romans 8:1-2 (ESV)
The Ten Commandments are guideposts that help highlight areas in our life where we can focus on becoming closer to God.
What areas needing restoration or improvement are God placing on your heart? (I certainly have mine).
Success lies ahead once we demonstrate a willingness towards God. This small step can be the turning point in our lives.
Lord we come to You, willing to encounter the areas in our life that are contrary to Your image. Help us to overcome the behaviors, habits, and addictions that draw us away from You. Root out and remove all of the buried shames, burdens and hurts from our past, and help us to restore any broken relationships with both loved ones and former foes alike. Lift us up to walk in Your light, full of the joy of your presence. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Have a very blessed day today!