In the Image of God

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In the Image of God

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William Shakespeare wrote: “What a piece of work is a man! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action like an angel! In apprehension how like a god.” Scan the newspaper headlines and you get a different concept of humanity with war, murder, terrorism, despotism… If mankind is “in apprehension … like a god”; why can’t we solve our problems? Most people have a more cynical view of humanity than Shakespeare. On one hand, human beings are capable of artistic creativity, of brilliance in engineering and mathematics and of love, the outgoing concern for others that provides life so much of its richness and meaning. At the same time humanity is capable of hatred, destruction, prejudice and murder. All too often, it seems, people are driven by the darker side of their nature. The Bible contains a startling statement in Genesis 1:27 Genesis 1:27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
American King James Version×
where it says that man was made in the image of God. How are you made in the image of God? And if we are created in His image, why are so many people’s lives filled with difficulties, broken relationships, and a feeling that God is sort of an absentee landlord in the affairs of mankind? Dust of the ground Obviously, human beings are finite, restricted to physical limitations and terribly flawed. However, the Bible emphasizes humanity’s astounding potential. Each unique person has consciousness and awareness; the ability to reason; the capacity for a wealth of emotions such as empathy and love; creativity; and volition or will. These attributes give us the capacity to develop relationships with God and with other human beings. What happened? How do Christians answer the critics, who rightly ask, if humanity is made in the image of a good God then how can people be so evil? The answers are discovered in the first three chapters of Genesis. The first human beings experienced a nurturing, loving relationship with their Creator until they decided to choose for themselves the definitions of right and wrong. Through experience, human nature became a mixture of good and evil. We may be created in the image of God, but all of us have become terribly flawed images. It’s easy to view religion as a temporary emotional fix for the spiritual hunger that plagues our souls. We can then avoid facing our original purpose as image bearers of God and deny how marred we’ve become. All too often a bland, culturally correct Christianity allows us to continue the destructive mental processes that churns our spiritual hunger. True Christianity is more than a profession of faith in Jesus. It is the process of a person recognizing his or her corrupted nature, accepting Christ’s sacrifice and submitting to God’s guidance in creating a new nature. The roots and goals of behavior Psychologists point out that behavior patterns are rooted in our past, but all behaviors are moving towards a goal. The goal of the behavior determines its real purpose Here’s a made-up example. A girl is taught by her mother to brush her teeth after every meal. The girl forms a habit and carries the behavior into adulthood. It is a good behavior based on keeping her teeth clean so that she has good health and her breath isn’t offensive to others. This woman has to attend a meeting and doesn’t have a chance to brush her teeth after lunch. She might feel a little bad, even some guilt, but she knows that nobody can always brush their teeth so she attends the meeting where she is a productive participant. This woman’s behavior was formed in the past, it has a sound goal of good health, and it is based in the reality of sometimes you can’t brush your teeth. But what if this woman’s past, present and future are a mass of confused and conflicting emotions and goals? What if her mother berated her and told her that if she didn’t brush her teeth all her teeth would rot out and that she would even be uglier than she already is? For this woman brushing her teeth has an irrational emotional attachment. Her goal isn’t to have good health but to avoid overwhelming feelings of ugliness. The result is that she gets nothing out of the meeting, nor does she give to others, because she spends the entire time obsessing about her teeth. This is why it may be good to understand how the past formed our emotional and behavioral patterns. But changing behavior requires understanding its goal. The goal of our behavior determines how we deal with the past, live in the present and shape our futures. Human reasoning and emotional processes are complex. Because human beings are created in the image of God, at times we express very noble motivations of self-sacrifice and giving towards others. At other times we give in to the sordid side of human nature. Dr. Larry Crabb, in his remarkable book Understanding People, points out some core motivations possessed by all human beings. First, we are relationship beings created to have meaningful interaction with God and other human beings. At the deepest inner core of our being, all of us experience a hunger for a relationship with God. Secondly, we will do almost anything to exert independent self-determination. This drives us to protect self at all costs. This means that at the very center of our being every person is by nature hostile towards God and His solutions to our problems. The apostle Paul put it this way in Romans 8:7 Romans 8:7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
American King James Version×
“the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.” A third motivation is that we will do almost anything to avoid emotional pain and experience good feelings. This need isn’t necessarily evil, but coupled with our independent selfishness, it often motivates us to abuse others or avoid solutions that require work or pain. It doesn’t take much reasoning to comprehend that these three motivations are in conflict with each other. We have a longing for God, yet we want independence from Him. We want Him to solve the problems in our lives, but we are immediately hostile towards His solutions. We need close relationships with others, but meaningful relationships involve vulnerability that opens the self to emotional pain. The solutions to alcoholism, marriage problems, anxiety, nonorganic depression, addiction to pornography, unresolved anger are all in the Instruction Book. But we resist God’s instructions because we will do almost anything to maintain independent rulership over our own lives and avoid discomfort. The reality is that any authentic, positive change involves effort and pain. So we temporarily relieve our unfilled hunger for God with drugs, or an affair, or sexual fantasies, or gambling, by burning ourselves out doing good deeds, or by working hard at being religious. But in the end we still hunger for God while motivated by our desire for self-rule. The only solution Jesus Christ makes an extraordinary pronouncement in John 6:35 John 6:35And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life: he that comes to me shall never hunger; and he that believes on me shall never thirst.
American King James Version×
where He claims to be the “bread of life.” He goes on to say, “He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.” How can the hunger each of us feels, that empty need at the core of our being, be filled? First, we must become acutely aware of our hunger and thirst for God. Most of us spend our lives trying to fill that void with careers, or money, or selfish lifestyles. Secondly, we must face the ugly hostility we each have for God and His solutions to life’s problems. Nothing can be solved until we are willing to say to our Creator, “I don’t know how life works, but You do.” Thirdly, only by submitting to His rulership can we experience a deep relationship with our Creator. Here’s where many people find it easier to accept Jesus Christ as Savior, but find it more difficult to submit to Him as Lord. The Bible isn’t just a book on how to worship God, it gives us His instructions on how to live life. This isn’t a magic formula for instance success. God creates a new nature in a person through a lifetime of change and growth. The rewards are enormous …and eternal. This article is based on the transcript of a Good News radio broadcast. Good News Radio is heard on stations across the country. For an Internet listing of stations and times or to download radio programs, go to http://www.ucg.org/radio. You can also download or request the free booklet offered on this program, Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion.

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