What does it mean to be made in the image of God? Someone asked this of me once, and frankly, I was not quite sure how to answer. Does this mean that God the Father has two eyes, two ears and a human face like us (and like Jesus)? That may be a small part of it. But probably there is a whole lot more to it. It likely has a spiritual and an emotional dimension, as well.
We know that the true image of God is pure, holy, loving and patient. A redeemed believer with the Holy Spirit living in their heart seeks 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 selfwith 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 the image of God means we are free of the ugliness exhibited by our 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 the image of God. We begin to exhibit God’s holy nature and character towards those around us. In an ideal world, they will see our character as innocent, pure, giving and genuinely loving, with caring and unselfish motives. They will see the image of God.
Unfortunately, living life this way is extremely difficult. In fact, without the help of the Holy Spirit, it is 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 for much longer than we ever intended. It is only the loving Spirit and grace of God that can draw us back, to help us to repent, turn back to God and to walk again in the light and love of His forgiveness. Having forgiven us, God then asks that we exhibit that same love and forgiveness towards those who have walked contrary to us.
The last several 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 his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), elevated these commandments further to include even the thought or desire to violate these commandments in our hearts. Jesus equated hatred to committing murder, lust to committing adultery, and judging others and bringing that same judgement on ourselves. No one is innocent of sin when these are God’s 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 the drawing power of God’s Holy Spirit, we can reach out to begin the process of reducing or eliminating 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 crack for God, He will allow us to walk through that door and begin to experience healing and blessings beyond our greatest hopes and dreams.
In my 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. Starting with just a mustard seed of willingness, I sought Him, and he lifted the alcohol obsession, allowing me to live over thirty years without it, not missing it a bit from my life.
I would love to be able to tell you that all areas of my life have been lived reflecting God’s image during that time, but that is not true. I fail in my efforts to follow Him on a daily, if not an hourly, basis. In fact, we probably all do. That is why we need the Ten Commandments, to remind ourselves of our imperfections and shortcomings, so that we can turn back to God, confess to Him, and let Him quickly get us back on track. We can then experience the sense of joy, peace and serenity that walking in the light of God will brings to us.
The good news is that the grace and forgiveness of God is available to us because of the loving sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This grace is limitless, as limitless as God himself. We do not need to fear coming into the throne room of God to express our deepest needs, failures and hurts. He is there for us and wants us to approach and to seek Him and his aid. God is not holding back in order to punish us, but is reaching out to us in love, beckoning us to come to Him and lean on Him to help us and to bring us healing and forgiveness in our hour of need.
The word of God confirms this gift of his love and forgiveness for us, 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 “all” of it. It says that we are cleansed from all unrighteousness, and when God says all, He means all.
The Ten Commandments are not impossible hurdles meant to condemn us to hell. In fact, they are just the opposite. They are statements that help us recognize our need for God, to turn to Him, and let Him guide and empower us to live a life that is pleasing to Him, one that will bring us a harvest of true joy and peace in Him.
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
Living by the “flesh” rather than in God’s image is not a new phenomenon. One simple list of the character defects of mankind is known as the seven deadly sins. This list, compiled in early church times, notes the more common moral failures that have long tempted us all. These include pride, greed, wrath, envy, lust, gluttony and sloth. I believe all of us can relate to battling at least one, if not several, of these character flaws and temptations at one time or another.
The Ten Commandments are guideposts that help highlight areas where we can focus on becoming closer to God. What door of opportunity is God offering to you today? The first step on our part is willingness. Given that, God can lead us forward to victory.
What area of restoration or needed improvement is God placing on your heart? Success lies ahead once we begin to take a small step towards God. This can be a turning point in our lives.
Is there something buried deep in your past that you need to take to the throne room of God for forgiveness and healing? Perhaps it is another person that you need to forgive, or a resentment or regret that you need to be relieved of. Perhaps you do not even know where or how to begin. Now is an excellent time to make yourself available to your loving King, letting Him bring to you the healing, guidance, peace and forgiveness that you need.