I AM MADE IN GOD’S IMAGE
Who Am I? Seeing Our True Identity Through God’s Eyes ❧ Part 1
We’re going to begin a series this morning that, quite frankly, I think is long overdue. One of the greatest spiritual disabilities many believers struggle daily with is they don’t really know who they are or why they are here. They are suffering from a serious condition of what I would label A.C.I.D. Acute Crisis of Identity Disorder (This is not an actual clinical disorder, but maybe it should be!). Those who suffer from this disorder are stuck in spiritual quicksand. They may look put together on the outside, but on the inside, they’re coming apart. Something is missing.
For many the Christian life is little more than a self-improvement plan. We’re challenged to be committed, to change, to do better, to do more. And when we don’t, we’re made to feel guilty and ashamed. We tried but failed. We didn’t measure up. Determined to try harder, we muster our willpower, pick ourselves up, and try again only to find ourselves right back to where we started. We neither seeing lasting changes or compelling satisfaction in our walk with Christ. We are left feeling unchanged on the inside. Something is missing.
This morning we’re going to begin a journey of coming to grips with what is missing: our identity in Christ. God tells us in His Word that when we place our trust in Jesus Christ we’re made brand new; He gives us a new life. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come (2 Corinthians 5:17, NAS). This verse says we’re a new creation, literally a new species that never existed prior to trusting Christ. Jesus called this new life the abundant life. In John 10 Jesus tells us, I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10b). The abundant life is Jesus in us. Jesus said without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). Paul tells us the secret to the Christian life is Christ living in us (Galatians 2:20). If you ask most Christians, “Do you feel like a new creation? Do you feel changed on the inside? Are you living the abundant life Jesus offers?” They would tell you no.
Maybe that’s you this morning. You’re suffering from an severe case of ACID Acute Crisis of Identity Disorder. The symptoms are nagging feelings of guilt, shame, failure, emptiness, frustration, defeat. You feel the Christian life works for others, but not you. You feel as though God has abandoned or overlooked you. I want you to know you are not alone. There is hope.
I’m entitling this series: Who Am I? Seeing Our True Identity Through God’s Eyes. Over the course of ten or so messages, we’re going to hear God’s answer to our search for identity. I hope you’ll join me in this series. My prayer is that through the power of the Holy Spirit you’ll begin to experience the abundant life Jesus offers.
So, let’s get started. All of us are in search of our identity. We want to know who we are and why we’re here. Wrapped up in the word identity is significance. Knowing who we are gives us a sense of sense of value, significance, purpose. We want to know we matter. Where does this hunger to know who we are and why we matter come from? It comes from God and only He can satisfy it. Science can tell us a lot of things, but it cannot tell the most basic of all questions: Who am I and why am I here?
We’re going to begin with three foundational truths God tells us about our identity: 1) We were fashioned in God’s likeness. 2) We have fallen by Satan’s lie. 3) We are freed through Christ’s love.
I. We were fashioned in God’s likeness. God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Genesis 1:27, NAS). The same God who created universe to display His unrivaled glory, created man in His own image. God made us to share in His divine life (Gen. 2:7). Nothing in all the wonder of God’s creation shares this same distinct honor. Who are you? Well, for starters, you were uniquely created in the image of God. Nothing else in all the majesty of God’s creation comes close.
David wrote in Psalm 8, When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands (Psalm 8:3-6). It is interesting that three thousand years ago, David, as a young shepherd boy, gazed into the same sky we see today and felt the same feelings we have now. David makes a startling statement here. Who is man? He is a little lower than God and he is crowned with glory and honor. He’s the crown of God’s creation! David has Genesis 1:26 in mind – the creation account of man being made in the image of God. You and I are the visible expression of the invisible God. We are image bearers of the One who’s splendor reaches beyond the heavens.
Why is the answer to this question so important? Because man’s origin reveals his value. If we evolved from primordial ooze – then our value is trivial, if not irrelevant. We’re nothing more than an insignificant cog in this meaningless cosmic machine which grinds on to nothingness.
British philosopher Bertrand Russell, viewed by many as a “high priest of humanism,” put it this way: The life of man is a long march through the night surrounded by invisible foes, tortured by weariness and pain, toward a goal that few can hope to reach and where not may tarry long. One by one as they march our comrades vanish from our sight, seized by the silent orders of omnipotent death. Brief and powerless is man’s life. On him and all his race the slow sure doom falls pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its relentless way. For man condemned today to lose his dearest, tomorrow himself to pass through the gate of darkness, it remains only to cherish, ere yet the blow falls, the lofty thoughts that ennoble his little day.
This philosophy of despair is taking root in the hearts of many around the world today. We see it in our returning veterans. According to the 2020 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report and others, anywhere from 17-25 veterans take their lives each day. This same report said the suicide rate among US adults had increased a 47.1% from 2005 to 2018. About 130 people take their lives each day in the US. Suicide rates are even higher among those who identify as LGBTQ+ (https://www.newportacademy.com/ resources/mental-health/lgbt-suicide-statistics/).
Suicide makes sense for those who think this life is all there is. If you think you came from primordial ooze rather than having been being made in the image of God, it is easy to see why someone’s life has no value. The only good news with this kind of outlook is to live with gusto for as long as you can because this is all there is! George Burns argued that the way you make it to 100 or more, “is to be sure you make it to 99.” He suggests, “with a good positive attitude and a little bit of luck, there’s no reason you can’t make it to 100. Once you’ve done that you’ve really got it made, because very few people die over a 100.
The Bible says something radically and refreshingly different. It says we have inestimable value because we were made in the image of God. You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty! The thoughts of R.C. Sproul are helpful: Man’s dignity rests in God who assigns an inestimable worth to every person. Man’s origin is not an accident, but a profoundly intelligent act by One who has eternal value; by One who stamps His own image on each person. God creates men and moves heaven and earth to redeem when they fall. Our origin is in creation and or destiny is for redemption. Between these points every human heartbeat has value. Who am I? Believe it or not, you are of incredible value to God. He made you to love you and to have a relationship with you. Your life has intrinsic value because of who you are; you were fashioned in the image of God. Identity, value, purpose is not about what you do, but who you are. You were uniquely fashioned in the likeness of God. Nothing else in all creation shares that same honor or value.
II. We have fallen by Satan’s lie. As much as we may believe we’re made in the image of God, how do we explain living in a world where human life is thought to be no more valuable than a blade of grass? Nearly 63 million abortions have taken place since the Supreme Court created a “right” to abortion. People who take their lives ultimately believe human life does not matter, at least theirs doesn’t. Crime, murder, drugs, are all skyrocketing in our country and around the world. This is not new though. Recorded history tells us things have been really bad for thousands of years.
If this is so, then how did we get in the mess we’re in? The Bible tells us in Genesis 3 things went awry when our first parents, Adam and Eve, gave into the lie of Satan and lost their relationship with God through sin. Sin’s lethal effects were felt immediately. Like a fast-spreading disease it raced across creation at an alarming rate leaving nothing undamaged.
In order to understand the devastation of Adam and Eve’s sin, we need to know what the world was like before sin entered. Genesis 1 and 2 tell us before Adam and Eve lost their relationship with God through sin, they had never known guilt or shame or rejection or fear in their relationship with God. Up to this point, all they’d known was God’s complete acceptance. Guilt (feeling bad for doing something wrong), shame (feeling bad because there is something wrong with us), rejection (feeling unwanted) or fear (in this context, dread of punishment for doing something wrong) were not even a part of Adam and Eve’s vocabulary much less their experience. Prior to the fall, our first parents did not have a need to be accepted. They already had God’s complete acceptance. They did not have a need for innocence, that is to be restored from guilt or shame. They’d never known guilt or shame. They were completely innocent of sin. The did not have a fear of God’s punishment or rejection. Nor did they have a need for safety or security. In God’s presence they were completely at peace. They did not have a need for significance (significance is the, “why do I matter and why am I here?” question).
I appreciate the excellent work of Dr. Neil T. Anderson in his book: Victory Over the Darkness. He points out the acceptance, innocence, and significance (he uses the word dominion) were attributes not needs for Adam and Eve. Life for Adam and Eve was literally a perfect paradise. Could you imagine a life without shame, guilt, or fear? A life filled with an unbroken relationship with God? A life where you never feel insecure or afraid? That’s what Adam and Eve had before sin. And the great news is God offers that restored life and more in Christ! That’s the abundant life Jesus offers!
I want to take a moment and look more closely at the effects of Adam and Eve’s loss of relationship with God through sin. What Are the Effects of the Fall? (Neil T. Anderson, Victory Over the Darkness, Pp. 34-35).
A. Acceptance was replaced by rejection; therefore we have a need to belong. Adam and Eve were created for a need to belong, to be wanted. God met that need in their relationship with each other and with Him in the Garden. The only thing that was “not good” in the Garden of Eden was when Adam was alone (Gens. 2:18). God met both Adam and Eve’s need for belonging through their relationship with Him and by creating them for each other. There was only one condition, they were not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). The moment they ate of the forbidden tree they really died just as God said they would. Their relationship with God immediately died and they began to die physically. Satan wanted our first parents to believe God was holding back their true identity. All they needed to do was eat of the forbidden fruit and their eyes would be opened and they would be like God. By believing Satan’s lie they did not gain their identity, they lost it. Since that time people have been separated from God and on a search for significance.
Because we’re separated from God, we feel a need for acceptance in our lives. To make up for it, we pursue our acceptance and sense of worth from our own abilities and others, both of which are unable to satisfy our deep longing for true acceptance and significance. What happens when we look to others for unconditional acceptance and significance is we become performance junkies. We believe our significance and worth is based on our performance. Satan continues to deceive people today into believing the basis of their worth is their performance plus their ability to please others equals acceptance (SFS, McGee, p 21).
B. Innocence was replaced by guilt and shame; therefore there exists the need to fulfill a legitimate sense of worth. The swift and immediate effect of sin in Adam and Even became evident the moment they heard God walking in the garden. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Genesis 3:8). One of first effects of sin was fear, that is the dread of being punished for doing something wrong. Adam and Eve had never known fear up to this point. Another effect was a distorted view of God. They actually thought they could hide from God! People still believe they can hide their sin from God. You cannot hide from God. There is nothing about you that He does not already know. Nor can we hide from guilt and shame. Remember guilt is the result of having done something wrong. (There can false guilt as well – believing we’ve done something wrong but haven’t. That’s a topic for another time). Shame is the result of guilt. Shame says that because I’ve done something wrong, there must be something wrong with me. Jesus came to remove our guilt and shame, to wipe the record our record clean forever. He came to restore our innocence and worth. The Bible says when you turn from your sin and place your trust in Christ God makes you complete. …in Him you have been made complete (Col. 2:10). You can say with confidence, because of Christ my worth and innocence have been restored!
C. Dominion was replaced by weakness and helplessness; therefore we have the need for strength and self-control. The Bible says Satan is the ruler of this world (John 14:30). If Adam and Eve were created by God to have dominion, that is rule the world, then how did Satan become the ruler? Very simply, through a lie. They believed Satan’s lie that God was withholding something better than what they already had. They would find what they were missing by disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit. When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate (Genesis 3:6). The moment Adam and Eve believed Satan’s lie; he usurped their rightful place of dominion. Suddenly they were filled with fear and insecurity. They no longer walked in the garden with the regal strength and confidence of a king or queen. Instead, they trembled at sound of every rustling leaf. Their dominion was replaced by weakness and helplessness.
Anderson points out since that time, People attempt to meet their needs through personal disciplines, or by seeking to control or manipulate others. Nobody is more insecure or sick than a controller. They wrongly believe they can control and manipulate other people or circumstances in life. He reminds us that the fruit of the Spirit is not spouse control or staff control or environmental control, but self-control. Extreme efforts at self-discipline without the grace of God often lead to legalism or perfectionism resulting in self-destruction. The world would have us think we are the masters of our fates, and the captains of our souls, but we really aren’t. The human soul was not designed to function as a master (Anderson, p. 35).
How did we get in this mess? Adam & Eve believed the lie of Satan. Sin entered the world and thousands of years later, we are still reeling from sin’s effects. But the good news is there is hope. It came as no surprise to God when Adam and Even fell. We were fashioned in God’s likeness, and we fell by Satan’s lie. But God has a plan. And that plan is the Person Jesus Christ. We are freed through Christ’s love.
III. We are freed through Christ’s love. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed (John 8:36). How did Christ destroy the works of the devil? By going to the cross. You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross (Col. 2:13-14, NLT). What happens when God makes us alive with Christ? It means we that because of a restored relationship with God we know who we are and that we matter. We know why we’re here. God has removed our shame and guilt and has replaced it with His forgiveness and acceptance. He restores our identity of being made in His image. Our worth and our significance are not found in what we do, but who we are. We’re free from being performance junkies; trying to please God and others to gain their love and acceptance.
When we really begin to see our true identity through God’s eyes, everything changes. The freedom and the abundant life Jesus offers begins to resonate in every part of our lives. We realize our worth and our significance are not based on our looks or our body type. Our value is not found in our net-worth but our self-worth in Christ. We don’t need to live up to a cultural image in order to be fulfilled. It is in Christ we find our value and our purpose. Not only this, but God wants us to join Him in helping others see their true identity through His eyes as well.
Years ago, I met a lady in whom I was startled to see the image of God so clearly. I say this because it seemed to me, she little to offer in which we might consider important to reveal God’s image. In fact, her circumstances seemed to work completely against her displaying God’s likeness. Yet she did with stunning grace. Her name was Alethia. I first met her in a nursing home. All four of her limbs were completely paralyzed. She was dependent on others for all her needs. But there was an unmistakable glow of life and joy about her. I soon learned why – she was a follower of Jesus Christ. And anyone who knew her knew it. She was not only a vibrant testimony of Christ through her witness but she could paint as well. By holding the paintbrush in her teeth, she painted brilliant scenes of creation that decorated her room and the hall of the nursing home. Despite her debility, the image of God radiated from her. C.S. Lewis famously captured with words what many witnessed in Alethia. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.
Elsewhere Lewis remarked, It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror or corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one of these destinations (The Weight of Glory).
Lewis is right. There are no ordinary people, you’ve never talked to a mere mortal. The most uninteresting or dullest person you know is made in the image of God. I believe God has given each one of us the privilege both to know and to help others recognize the image of God in which we were made and our subsequent value in His eyes. God’s greatest demonstration of His image-restoring love for us was in His Son’s death on the cross. How do you find what’s missing in your walk with God? It’s not doing more, being more, trying more, it’s believing more. It is learning to see your true identity through God’s eyes. When you do, you’ll begin to understand and experience the incredible joy of the abundant life Jesus offers