What does it really mean to be made in the image of God? Our understanding of this concept will inevitably shape our view of God's commands to love one another, our view of God's sovereignty, and of evangelism, and ultimately our attitudes toward the sanctity of life.
The Lamb who Came is the Lion who is to Come: The Certainty of Christ's Return and Why it Matters
Fearfully Made for a Wonderful Purpose: Why You and Your Mission Matter (9 am service)
Fearfully Made for a Wonderful Purpose: Why You and Your Mission Matter (5:30 pm service)
Fearfully Made for a Wonderful Purpose: Why You and Your Mission Matter (11 am service)
Why it Matters that Eternal/Abundant Life Starts Now
The One Hope for You and for the World: Why it Matters that the Church is Healthy and Defined Correctly
The Person of the Holy Spirit: Understanding Who He is and Why That Matters
Salvation: Two Equal and Opposite Errors and Why Getting Them Straight Matters
Jesus: Who Do You Say He is and Why It Matters
Understanding Our Total Depravity and Why it Matters
The Image of God in Man and Why it Matters
The Character and Nature of God: Who He is and Why it Matters
Who Is the Trinity, and Why It Matters
The Truth About Truth: Where to Find it and Why it Matters
We are in the middle of a little series called The Big XII, and in this little series called The Big XII, what we're doing is we are taking 12 major ideas, ideas that it really matters what you think about them. If you get these things wrong, it has implications across your life in a way you can't even imagine. What I'm doing is I'm just saying, "Look, I want you to understand what the truth is, what the consequences are if you don't embrace this truth, and what you do with the truth if you hold to it."
We've already dove in a little bit with the fact that truth is knowable. That was the first week and where you can find truth and what you will do if you don't believe truth is knowable and is not found in a place you can study it, meditate on it, and be guided by it. Then we talked about the fact that God has revealed himself in a specific way, and we talk about why the Trinity matters.
I think a lot of folks, as much as any one that I've done, have been really surprised by our conversation about why the Trinitarian view of God had tremendous implications for their lives, why it's a really big deal that you believe that God has revealed himself in the person of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Then last week, we talked about the fact that what you think about God is the most important thing about you, and this week, what I want to talk about is who you think you are. I mean, we've already talked about who you think God is, but I want to talk about this week the big idea that is expressed in answering the question…Who is man?
Who are we? Well, what I'm going to tell you is that if you don't embrace the idea that man has infinite worth and dignity and value and care that is, in a sense, his inherent right in who he is, then we can't even imagine where that will lead us. We have seen some horrors around the world that people have adopted what's called a utilitarian worldview, that only if you provide value or usefulness to culture or society does that justify your existence.
Others would say, if you're not a part of a certain tribe or of a certain age and a certain strength or a certain value that we perceive in you, then what we need to do is move you through. If you don't think this issue has major implications for the current debate that is going on in the halls of our Congress about how we're going to pursue health care and who is worthy of what kind of health care, you have not been paying attention.
This issue of "Who is man?" has tremendous implications, and what I want to share with you this morning is that man is no mere mortal. He is not the evolution of time plus chance. We are not beings who are being used by the "selfish gene" as Richard Dawkins would say, that we're just bodies possessed by some evolutionary process that is using us in a utilitarian way to continue to develop and advance in some little form.
We are made in the image of God. Now what I want to do is just walk you through just, first of all, the Scripture that says this. It's in Genesis, chapter 1, in verses 26 and 27. It's a very familiar text, but let's just go ahead and read it together. It says this.
"Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them."
Now the reason I'm kind of doing these in a sequential way is because, if you don't believe there's a God, then it has tremendous implications on whether or not, obviously, anything could be created by him, and if we're not created by him, that means we're here for some other reason. We have evolved. We've come out of some other source of origin, and if we are just the products of time plus nothing plus chance, then it has implications on whether or not we have value and how we treat and view one another.
What I want to do is now walk through just about eight to 10 statements that you can derive from this basic idea about who you say God is. Here's the very first one. If man is made in the image of God, I'm going to tell you one of the major implications of that. It means you have never met a mere mortal. It means how you treat others is inseparable from how you view and whether or not you can even claim to love God.
This issue starts with the fact that, if you understand that man is made in the image of God, then you have to understand that how you view others says a lot about how you view God. If you've been with us in the mornings that we been studying stuff, you've seen this quote, but let me read it to you. It's from a book called The Weight of Glory by C.S. Lewis, and it says this.
"It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor's glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken.
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 and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare." Now that's just good writing, and he goes on. He says this.
"All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics.
There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—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."
In other words, what Lewis is saying is, "If you understand who we are, people made in the image of God, then we are headed to one of two destinations. We're going to continue to have the image of God in us defaced and almost to the point where it is erased, or we're going to be moving in repentance back toward him so God can restore in us that which he intended. What he intended is that when people see us they go, 'You are a thing of beauty.'"
I'm going to show you from Scripture a number of truths this morning about what God hopes happens in people who have been restored to him, who have moved away from the lie that God is not there and he is not good and have moved back to this understanding. Let me just say it to you again. It means you've never met a mere mortal.
You've never met somebody who God didn't believe was worth the sacrifice of his infinitely perfect Son, so we're commanded to think about how we treat them when we talk to them, when we watch them go hungry, when we watch them go fatherless. This is what it says in James, chapter 3. Now think about this the next time you lose your temper at your wife or your kids.
It says, in regard to our tongue, "With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God…" Now see, what God wants you to do is to speak truth about what you see in men. It's not wrong to judge actions others perform based on whether or not they give glory to God or whether or not they deface his image in man.
We don't speak to curse men. It's God's job to curse men. We speak to encourage men. "…day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today,' so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." We seek to spur each other on to love and good deeds. Look what it says in Genesis, chapter 9, verse 6.
It says, "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man." What God said is, "Look, you can't jack with humankind because when you kill my image in man, you are, in effect, saying, 'I don't matter to you,'" and God is going to say, "Look, thou shall not commit murder. You shouldn't view others as an annoyance that you rid yourself of."
Now I want to make note here because people right away run to the issue of capital punishment. That verse in Genesis, chapter 9, God gives to us as an individual command that we should not shed innocent blood, but what God instituted right there in Genesis 9 is he gave the authority to certain humans, specifically to human government… This is the beginning of government in Genesis 9.
Noah had just gotten off the boat, and what he's saying is, "Look, you need to know this now. If man corrupts his view of man and then murders man, then you need to eliminate those men from the face of the earth." Romans 13 picks up this idea and gives government the right to judge and, at times, terminate life that does not value life. This is how seriously God views the image of himself in us.
I love this little section, and this is key to really what Jesus is doing. In Matthew, chapter 22, verses 15-22, the enemies of Christ have come up alongside of him, and it says, "… [they] went and plotted together how they might trap Him…" One of the things they were going to use was they were going to try and get Jesus to be this rebel underneath the Roman authority, so they said, "Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any."
They knew they were about to ask him a question that was either getting him in trouble with the Jews who hated Rome and the fact that they had to pay tribute to Caesar, or he was going to get in trouble with Caesar because he was going to say that we don't owe Caesar anything. This very familiar question comes.
"'Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?' But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, 'Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.' And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, 'Whose likeness and inscription is this?' They said to Him, 'Caesar's.'" He said this famous line then. "Then He said to them, 'Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's…'" Then he comes back with this, and I want to explain how this has implications for us today. He says, "But you make sure you render to God the things that are God's."
I was recently at a gathering of just some of the brightest minds in the world, specifically people who embrace a biblical world view, and we were talking about our culture struggling with the issues of life and its dignity (which has direct implications, complete alliance with what I'm talking about this morning), marriage and the role of one man and one woman in the context of covenant relationship, and liberty in general.
We were working on crafting a statement we hope others will embrace and that the church of Jesus Christ will stand up and say, "Look, these are not trivial issues." Some things we're working on, Charles Colson and others, will hopefully be very public very soon. I was sitting next to Ravi Zacharias, if you know who Ravi Zacharias is. We were engaged in a conversation, and Ravi, in the midst of this conversation, said this.
He goes, "Really the question is not whose image is on the coin, not whether Caesar's image is on the coin, but the question that Jesus was driving at here is, 'Whose image is on Caesar?'" Do you understand the implication? The question is, "What should we do? Should we pay tribute to Caesar?" He goes, "'Look, if it's Caesar's, if it has his image on it and he wants it, give it to him. It belongs to him. He made it. He is sovereign over it, but let me ask you a question. 'Whose image is on Caesar and who should Caesar render himself to?'"
What are some basic truths about the fact that you are made in the image of God and that you are not God yourself and you are not an accident? You see, here's the first thing. I will just tell you. It means you are not God. Now you might kind of go, "Well, thanks, Todd," but I'm going to tell you what, our world has left the idea that there is a Creator over us and what Psalm 100, verse 3, says. Psalm 100, verse 3, says, "…that the Lord Himself is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture."
See, we didn't make God up. God is not man's idea. Man is God's idea. We owe him allegiance, and we owe him a stewardship of life. When you forget this, when you exalt yourself up, it puts you in a position to try and control things, to try and establish truth, to try and find meaning apart from the one who created you to give you meaning. Let me just read you from 1 Peter, chapter 5, verses 5-6. It says:
"You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time…"
Then he says this. "Because you're not God, don't act like you're God. Don't try and be a control freak. Don't try and worry your way to a different outcome. Do what you should do and then go to bed and realize that the Lord gives to his beloved, even in their sleep. Cast your anxiety on him. Know that he cares for you because you are his people. You are the sheep of his pasture." The issues of peace draw out of the fact that you are God's creation.
The issues of anxiety, the issues of morality don't flow out of human intellect and debate, they flow out of…What has God said about who we are and why we are here? When you trifle with the image of God and man, because man is made in God's image, that we have just come from nothing plus time plus chance as I said, then you have to figure how why we're here and what we're going to do with our being here.
I love the little Serenity Prayer that was written about 50 or 60 years ago by Reinhold Niebuhr. He says this. We all know it, right? "God grant me…" What? "…the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference." To paraphrase, it is what the priest said to young Rudy, when he went and said, "I want to go to Notre Dame. How do I get into Notre Dame?" He goes, "You're asking the wrong questions." He goes, "I'm not asking the wrong questions. How do I know that I've done everything I can?"
Then the priest looked at Rudy, and he said, "Look, in my lifelong study of theology, there are two things I've come to be certain about, Rudy. They are that I am not God and that God does exist." Based on that, he's telling Rudy, "Do what you can and go to bed, and if you don't get into Notre Dame, you have to go back to what I talked about last week. Is there a great and good God?" You see, I know this. I know that the hearts of kings are like channels of water to the hands of the Lord. He directs them whenever he pleases.
I know Psalm 100, verse 3, that I am one of the sheep of God, and he is a good and great shepherd, so if he doesn't move the hearts of the leaders of Notre Dame to get me in, he doesn't change the opinion of the little cheerleader I'm in love with, then I don't have to be better looking, funnier, or more suave in my speech. I have to keep seeking first God and knowing that no good thing does he withhold from those who love him, and it gives you peace.
How about this? It means that he intended everything we do to be a source of praise to him. Now what do I mean by that? If we're made in the image of God and God is a great and glorious God and he put his image on us, it means the way we live our lives should be a cause of praise and glory to him.
Let me just give you a couple of ideas about this. In Romans 3:23, when it says, "…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…" what that really is talking about in that little verse right there is that it's not so much why we are judged because we don't look like God wants us to look. We're judged because we've rejected God and we separated ourselves from him. I've told you that's the main sin God is concerned about. What Romans 3:23 is saying is just a fact.
When we don't live as God wants us to live and we don't act as God wants us to act, then we're not as loving and as kind and as glorious and as good as he made us to be, and the image of God in man is defaced in all of us. I am not the father God wants me to be because I don't completely submit to his Spirit in my life. I'm not the husband God wants me to be. I'm not the pastor he wants me to be. I'm not the friend he wants me to be. The image of God is defaced in Todd Wagner, but even in your most vile human, it's not completely erased.
What's going to happen, as Lewis observed, is you're going to move one of two directions, and people who move back to God and acknowledge we are not who we should be, that we are not a cause of praise to him but we are, as I'll show you a little bit later, a cause of cursing and reviling against him and even questioning whether or not he exists, God will one day deal with that finally and fully because…why?
He's concerned about his image because he's concerned about his glory, and I'll explain again why God is concerned about his glory. He wants us to be a source of praise to him. When you live as God wants you to live, you are what Matthew 5 says:
"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world." He's talking to the church, people reconciled to God.
"A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men…" Why? "…in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." So that God's image could be made known to you.
Let's go quickly through this. If you're made in the image of God, it means he intended others to be able to look specifically at our lives and recognize his goodness and greatness. The clearest image of God, in fact the exact representation of his nature, the visible image of the invisible God, is…who? It is Jesus.
When people look at Jesus and they watch the way he loved and they watch the way he cared and they watch the way he lived, they go, "That is a man. No greater love has a man than this, to do what Jesus did. If it's true that Jesus is God and he died for sinful humanity, though he knew not sin himself, you have to be kidding me! How glorious is that?"
It's why the angels sang when they saw that the Sovereign One had humbled himself to become found in the appearance of a man. The angels just couldn't believe it. As we discovered who he was, Peter fell before him, and he just said, "Lord, depart from me, for I'm a sinner. I have no business to be in a relationship with you. You are way too good and way too holy." Jesus is the perfect image of God. He is the exact representation of his nature.
Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." Now it's interesting when he said this that the Jews picked up the stones to throw them at him, and Jesus said, "Before you throw a stone at me, let me ask you a question. For which good work do you stone me? What have I done that is not glorious and true?"
They go, "We don't stone you because of anything you've done but because of what you said, that you being a man make yourself out to be God, because no man is God." Jesus says, "No man has ever been God before until now, but if you don't believe my words, then believe my works. Watch me. Is there anything inglorious in me?"
You go back two chapters from this in John, chapter 8. There was a time that Jesus just said, "Hey, who among you has seen me do anything wrong?" Can you believe that question? "Who among you has ever seen me do something wrong?" Now if I ask you that question today and I put this mic down there, we're going to be here a long time, especially when my wife shows up the second service, and those who know me better are going to have more to say, but not with Jesus. The best they could do is go, "You're saying things we've never heard a man say before."
Jesus says, "Great. Fair. By the way, you have heard men say that before. Pharaoh says that. Caesar says that, but we all know that they live inglorious lives. Where have you seen immorality or impurity or greed even be named among me?" "Well you hang out with sinners." "Okay. That's because I love sinners, and sinners need saviors, but I don't mingle with sin. Has anybody here ever seen me mingle with sin when I am ministering to sinners?" People start to go, "You know what? I don't know what to do with that."
I was speaking. We had a conference here with our friends at Igniter two years ago, and it was a media conference. I was talking to the guys who created the media that's used all around the country for churches, and the message I gave them… I didn't have a whole lot to offer them in terms of technical acumen. I couldn't do what Phil Vischer did this this year, which is talk about the development of VeggieTales in order to take the truth of the gospel in a creative way through media to kids and families.
What I sat up here and did is said, "Let me just tell you something. We have to reclaim the arts. We have to reclaim images for the glory of God. Let me just say this. Before we start to create art that others can watch and use, I don't care if you make the next VeggieTales. I don't care if you film and make the next The Passion of the Christ.
The greatest media that you can ever give yourself to is Christ in you, the hope of glory, and if you spend more time making great art than becoming an individual who surrenders to the great God, then you have missed his point for your life because God wants you to be a means through which others look at your life and they recognize his goodness and his greatness." Look at Ephesians, chapter 2, verses 4-10. It says,
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." Then there's this very familiar passage.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast." Then watch what he says. "For we are His workmanship…" You are God's masterpiece. You are "…created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."
If you're here and you know Christ and your life is not consumed with understanding what God created you for… First and foremost of that "…is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." We don't have to legislate against those things.
Romans 13 says, "You don't need a government if you have God followers, but when you have people who are not God followers who don't acknowledge God and don't believe we are here because we're made in the image of God to glorify him, you'd better have the sword because wickedness needs to be limited." God says he puts government in place now to limit the wickedness in man that has not returned to him until such a day that he ultimately deals with that which is in humankind which does not reflect his image.
I've already said this. I want to just bullet this out specifically. If we're made in the image of God, that means God hates sin. Why? I told you last week that the reason God hates sin is because he loves you and he wants your life to be glorious. Let me say that to you again. He loves you, and he wants your life to be the kind of life that others look at and go, "Look at that man. Look at that woman. That is a beautiful woman of God. That is a faithful man. That is a noble person." He hates when we don't reflect the nobility that he stewarded to us.
It means he hates sin because it makes us less than who he created us to be. It defaces his image in us. Look at a couple of verses. They're all through the Scripture. I'm just going to grab some. Isaiah 43 says, "Everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made [I care about] .""I've created them for my glory that people should look at humankind and see the way they operate and go, 'Look at the God of these people.'"
I want to show you this. Isaiah 48 says the same thing. "For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act; for how can My name be profaned?" It has been profaned because the world looks at humans and goes, "Look, if God created man, then I don't want anything to do with him because he is a Dr. Frankenstein, and he has made a monster."
Now the Bible explains that God didn't make the monster, that man became the monster when he did not believe that we are his people and the sheep of his pasture and believed he wasn't great and good so we needed to go be our own gods, and we forgot we were made in his image. Look at Ezekiel 36. Look at what God says. Look why God acts. It's because he hates sin and because he's concerned about his image in us.
"Then the word of the Lord came to me saying, 'Son of man, when the house of Israel was living in their own land, they defiled it by their ways and their deeds; their way before Me was like the uncleanness of a woman in her impurity." Rather descriptive. "Therefore I poured out My wrath on them for the blood which they had shed on the land, because they had defiled it with their idols."
Verse 19: "Also I scattered them among the nations and they were dispersed throughout the lands. According to their ways and their deeds I judged them.""If they're going to leave me and they're going make themselves gods, then let's just see how that works out for them." Verse 20: "When they came to the nations where they went, they profaned My holy name, because it was said of them, 'These are the people of the Lord…'"
Now think about this. The reason the world is not attracted to God today is because often they go, "These are the people of the Lord. Folks who stream into churches today are the same ones who are going to act in an inglorious way in the way they care for and love one another. They're going to say, 'I'm going to love my wife as Christ loved the church,' and that same tongue we use to sing praises today, they're going to use to curse their wives this week."
There are going to be guys all over churches in Dallas this morning who say that women are beautiful and have dignity because they're made in the image of God, yet they're going to go, "You know what? You're not here and glorious because God made you. You're here, and if your glorious enough, I will use you for my own pleasure."
The guys in the church are going to treat women in this world not a whole lot unlike the world treats women with a mindset toward, "What can you do for me? That's what gives you value," and it doesn't look very glorious, and God says, "I can't have that." Verse 21 says,
"But I had concern for My holy name [when this was happening] , which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations where they went. Therefore say to the house of Israel, 'Thus says the Lord God, "It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you went. I will vindicate the holiness of My great name which has been profaned among the nations…"'"
You go all the way down to the end of this passage. In verse 32, he summarizes, and he says, "I'm going to make you a new people, and I am doing this not for your sake but for mine so people might see I am a great and good God." It means that everything we do is either mocking his image or causing others to praise him as Creator.
Let me show you. This is Israel again before they went into that land God gave them, the land that flowed with milk and honey, because if God is a Creator and he is good, he puts his creation in a perfect place. This is why, at the very end of creation, God said, "It's very good," not because he was impressed with his work of art but because he said, "Anybody who walks into this garden and sees that man and that woman and sees the aquarium I put them in would go, 'I want to tell you something. These are two lucky fish because this is a perfect habitat for them.'"
It would mean that others would look… The angels would go, "God is very good. He has put Adam and Eve in what we would call Paradise. It is like a heaven on earth. It's like what we have up here in the very heaven of God. Eden is a picture of that. Everything they need is there. God is there. Relationship with God is there. Beauty is there. Love is there. Provision is there. It is very good."
Then when man left God and moved away, God sought humankind and began to work to redeem man through a nation, and he was going to put that nation in a fertile land that flowed with milk and honey. He said, "As long as you're there, I'll protect you. I'll give you peace with your enemies. It'll rain during the time of planting, and it will be appropriately dry during the time of harvest. Your vats will overflow with new wine, and your storehouses will be full. The people will say, 'This nation has it good.'"
God said, "When you don't live rightly, I can't let you represent me," so they were pulled out of that good and perfect land. That was Ezekiel. Before they went into that land, this is Deuteronomy, chapter 4. "Now, O Israel…" You're getting ready to go into it. You're coming out of bondage. You're coming out of death. You're coming out of slavery. You're coming out of the desert.
"Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I am teaching you to perform, so that you may live and go in and take possession of the land which the Lord, the God of your fathers, is giving you. You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you. Your eyes have seen what the Lord has done in the case of Baal-peor, for all the men who followed Baal-peor, the Lord your God has destroyed them…"
In other words, when they made their own god of their own image, God judged them. "But you who held fast to the Lord your God are alive today…" Life comes in being rightly related to God. "See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'"
That is exactly what should be said of us, people who are no longer moving away from God but are being restored into relationship with God so that they would say, "Who are these folks who work through conflict that way; that marry that way, the eagles among birds that mate for life and are majestic among fowl?" That's who we are.
To take the other meaning of that word foul, we are to be majestic among foul men. Why? It's because we've been restored into relationship with our Creator, and he gives us…what? Wings of eagles to soar above others and to live in a way that folks would see us and go, "…this is a great nation, a wise and understanding people." Look at verse 7 in Deuteronomy 4.
"For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him?" Verse 8: "Or what great nation is there that has statutes and judgments as righteous as this whole law which I am setting before you today?" If you're made in the image of God and you pursue the God whose image you're created in to give him praise and glory, then you become not a source of mocking but a source of praise to him.
It means that our lives (you'll see how all these are connected) will either be evidence that there is a God who is good or a God who is incompetent, unloving, and a monster. We have all seen individuals, and we just go, "Oh man, that god of that person is a monster," and God would say to you, "Yes, he is, but that is not the God for which he was created to be in relationship with.
He has left his true God and has created a god which is no god at all, and he's followed not a god but a fallen angel who is a liar. He makes men monsters, and he steals from them their glory. He deprives of them life, and he ultimately leads to their destruction." Look at this, Ephesians 4. I'm going to tell you, there is so much Scripture on this topic. Ephesians 4, verses 17-24, he says this.
"So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness." In other words, they live for inglorious reasons.
"But you did not learn Christ in this way…" You who have repented of following false gods and fallen angels of making yourselves out to be a god, you didn't learn him that way. "…if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit…"
In other words, the image of God is being corrupted. It is being defaced. "…and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." You see, when we begin to live as God wants us to live and restore ourselves in relationship to him, people start to say, "Who is the God of these people? This is a great and glorious people."
It means, since we're made in the image of God, that it should come as no surprise to us that, one day, he will forever remove from light all that is inconsistent with his image. In other words, there's going to be a day when God is going to say, "I'm going to make very clear what my image was to look like." This is what it means in Romans 8:29-30 where it says, "For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son…" In other words, God wants Christlikeness to be where we are headed.
"…so that [Christ] would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified," so that, one day, for every human who exists in the presence of God, people go, "Great is the Creator of these people. Great is the one whose image these folks bear."
The Scripture says, "…for a little while [you're] lower than the angels…" Do you know this? In all the glory the angels were created for, God when he glorifies us will make us greater than the angels. We'll never be God, but angels are not image bearers. Angels are ministers of image bearers, and he will perfect this work in you. It means that, one day, judgment is coming for those who reject the glory of God. These are some awful verses. Second Thessalonians 1:6-9:
"For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus."
Let me just tell you this. It's not just Hitlers who are going to meet this end. It is anybody who does not acknowledge that the standard is not what seems right to them and not human goodness. The standard is the perfection of God as evidenced in the person of Jesus Christ, and you can debate with me all day long whether or not that is true, but in love, I want to tell you something. That's the standard.
Your good is never good enough, and that is why, by grace, you are saved through faith and not of yourselves. It's a gift from God. Unless you run to that that provision of God, you need to meditate on 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 now so you don't live in it forever because God hates those who mock him, but he loves those who understand they have been mockers and come to him seeking mercy.
It means we should be relentless in our proclamation of his concern and love for all humanity. This is really important. If you believe in the image of God in man, then you cannot be silent about the dignity of man. It means, if you're slack in the day of distress, as it says in Proverbs 24:11…
It says you should, "…deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, Oh hold them back. If you say, 'See, we did not know this…'" Will he not hold you into account? "And will He not render to man according to his [deeds] ?" That's verse 12.
He's saying, "Look, if you know that men are marching to rebellion and you say they matter to God and that you've never met a mere mortal, then you cannot be silent when you watch men mock God. You have to be individuals who don't just care about children in the womb, but when they come out of the womb, you have to love them and care for them and teach them the gospel." It means that man is valuable even if he is not useful to fellow men.
I don't have time to read this story. I've read it in here before, but it's the story about a father of a disabled child in Upstate New York whose name was Shaya, and Shaya was not able to play baseball like other kids, but in effect, what happens is he said, "I never saw God's perfection in my son, Shaya, because I saw, as a result of sin in this world, as a result of brokenness in this world, as a result of this world spinning away from God, all of us have some element of the image of God in our physicality that is compromised."
God did not create things to die. I am dying. God did not create things with crooked noses. God didn't create things with stooped backs. God didn't create things with rheumatism. God didn't create things with minds that are unable to develop. That is the result of a broken creation. In the story, what he says is even in the brokenness of certain forms of creation, God uses them in his sovereignty to have his image brought out.
This dad talks about how, when he saw one day other boys on a playground include his son and allow his son to experience the joy of competition and success, even though he wasn't able to do it on his own, he said, "I saw in my son the perfection of God in the way others loved him." In other words, the way you love the least among you says a lot about your view of God and God's redemption of you.
It is the wicked people who only love beauty. It is a glorious people who redeem the least glorious among us and cares for them. The implications of this are immense, and you know, what happens is, when we value man only when he useful, we very quickly move a direction we never thought we would go.
I mean, Germany was the most civilized, educated people in all of Europe, and within a six-year period, somehow, they convinced themselves that certain humans were no longer worthy to exist. Why? That is the degradation of man. I want to tell you this great quote by Niemöller.
He says, "In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up."
You may not think it's a big thing to care about life in the womb or life near the grave, but when you start to say man has dignity because of how man defines worth or how our government defines worth, you're next. You're moving that direction, and what happens is, when you remove the image of God in man and his intrinsic value, the circle of value doesn't widen. It increasingly narrows.
I'm going to read you something I pulled off this little website called First Things. It was written in 1999, and I think it has incredible application to what I'm talking about today. It's dated January 2, 2023. This comes under the point of, if you mock the image of God, then you're going to begin to only make men useful when they're useful to you. This is where the culture of abortion and death and euthanasia is headed.
"Dear Mom, Gosh, can you believe it's 2023 already? I'm still writing '22' on nearly everything. Seems like just yesterday I was sitting in first grade celebrating the century change. I know we haven't really chatted since Christmas. Sorry. Anyway, I have some difficult news and I really didn't want to call and talk face-to-face.
Ted's had a promotion and I should be up for a hefty raise this year if I keep putting in those crazy hours. You know how I work at it. Yes, we're still struggling with the bills. Timmy's been 'okay' at kindergarten although he complains about going. But then, he wasn't happy about day care either, so what can I do? He's been a real problem, Mom. He's a good kid, but quite honestly, he's an unfair burden at this time in our lives.
Ted and I have talked this through and through and finally made a choice. Plenty of other families have made it and are much better off. Our pastor is supportive and says hard decisions are necessary. The family is a 'system' and the demands of one member shouldn't be allowed to ruin the whole. He told us to be prayerful, consider all the factors, and do what is right to make the family work. He says that even though he probably wouldn't do it himself, the decision is really ours. He was kind enough to refer us to a children's clinic near here, so at least that part's easy.
I'm not an uncaring mother. I do feel sorry for the little guy. I think he overheard Ted and me talking about 'it' the other night. I turned around and saw him standing at the bottom step in his PJs with the little bear you gave him under his arm and his eyes sort of welling up. Mom, the way he looked at me just about broke my heart. But I honestly believe this is better for Timmy, too.
It's not fair to force him to live in a family that can't give him the time and attention he deserves. And please don't give me the kind of grief Grandma gave you over your abortions. It is the same thing, you know. We've told him he's just going in for a vaccination. Anyway, they say it is painless. I guess it's just as well you haven't seen that much of him. Love to Dad…Jane."
It's kind of quiet, isn't it? Unspeakable, right? It's just logically where we're going. I have to tell you, I have stuff here I could read you from people in our society today who are saying these very things even in relationship right now to the health care bill that's being debated. It is unbelievable.
I want to leave you with a little video. When we start talking about people only having value if they're going to be born into a loving family and a dad who's going to be there to raise them and the burdens of it on society… In fact, I want to tell you something. You know, people don't like to talk about this, but the abortion industry had its roots in this kind of thinking.
You know, Margaret Sanger, who was the founder of Planned Parenthood… This is a quote from Margaret Sanger in 1920. She says that we need to eliminate inferior races through sterilization, that we need to get rid of "morons, misfits, and the maladjusted" because they cause most of the crime in society. I'll tell you what. Abortion is so racist. It's so elitist. "Hey, that kid's not going to be born into advantage. Hey, that kid's not going to be born into a good home. Let's spare him and society what that kid's going to become."
There's a recent study that was done by guys at the University of Chicago, and they went through, and they said, "Look, even before Roe v. Wade, in the five states that approved abortion before Roe v. Wade, crime went down in those states." Do you know what they're saying? "Hey, if it looks like you're going to be born into a family that won't raise up a contributor to society, it's better that we get rid of you."
You know, when you go to a doctor's office, and they want you to have you do your amniocentesis test and see if you have a Down's baby, did you know that eight out of 10 parents who find out they're having a Down's baby eliminate them? Eighty percent. What a loss to this world! What a loss to this world. I want to tell you, this stuff has tremendous implications. Here's a video I wish our president could see. Then mediate on the song we sing together.
If you understand you're made in the image of God, that it's the image of God on you, then render to God what is God's. Here's the application, right? I told you the truth. I told you why it matters, so what are you going to do if you embrace it? Love God and love others. Care for kids in the womb. Mentor kids in West Dallas. Love mothers who have killed their Timothys. Tell them someone still cares.
God is not angry at them because they've committed murder. He loves them because they weren't created to be murderers, and he wants to restore them as he did sweet Leslie last week. Speak up. Deliver those who are being led away to slaughter who are going to become increasingly monsters for the good of your country for the good of your God for the good of yourself as you stand before him and you give an account for what you did with his image. Love him and love his people. That is worship, and I pray you have a great week doing it. Take care.
"This series will cover twelve truths that if you don?t get exactly right, the ramifications and the impact on your life will be enormous. They matter today and eternally. If you want to call yourself an orthodox follower of Christ, these are truths that you cannot miss. These are twelve central, non-negotiable principles of theology and we will discuss what it means to embrace them, the alternatives to them, as well as the application of them. In other words, what it should look like when devoted, orthodox followers of Christ live them out." Todd Wagner