Made in God’s Image or Making Him into Ours

“In the beginning God created man in His own image, and man has been trying to repay the favor ever since.” Voltaire

I was recently in a worship service in which we were singing the song by Keith Getty and Stewart Townend, “In Christ Alone.”  It is a tremendous song full of Biblical truth. It gained quite bit of popularity among Christian circles for which I am very glad.  What a joy to know Christians all over the world have worshiped Jesus as they sang such wonderful Biblical truths about Him.  I have worshiped many times with this song, cried, and been freshly filled with Holy Spirit as I sang those marvelous truths about Jesus.  

It is always good to appreciate and worship Him based on how He revealed Himself and what He has done through Jesus. There is a fallen nature in mankind and culture, however, that tries to make God the way we would like Him to be rather than worshiping Him for who He has revealed Himself to be.   During the creation of mankind God said, Let us make man in Our image and likeness (Gen 1:26-28).  It is great for God to make us in His image but bad when we try to make Him into ours.  

We have that tendency to ignore what we don’t like about how God revealed Himself in His word and only highlight what we do like.  This leaves us with a God made in our own image and likeness.

“God created man in His own image, and man, being a gentlemen, returned the compliment.”  Mark Twain

This was highlighted in a controversy I remembered as I was singing the aforementioned song.  A few years ago the Presbyterian Committee on Congregational Song decided to exclude it from its new hymnal.  The song was being sung in many of their churches and the committee wanted it included but a line from the third stanza: “Till on that cross as Jesus died/the wrath of God was satisfied” caused a problem.  For this they wanted to substitute: “…as Jesus died/the love of God was magnified.” The authors of the hymn insisted on the original wording, and the Committee voted nine to six that “In Christ Alone” would not be among the eight hundred or so items in their new hymnal.  I am sure it cost the authors financially but I am glad they didn’t bow to cultural or politically motivated heresy. http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/08/05/presbyterians-decision-to-drop-hymn-stirs-debate/2618833/

In Christ aloneMany Christians deal with unpopular aspects of God’s nature like His wrath the way Victorian Christians handled the idea of sex.  Treat it as something shameful, embarrassing, and best left in the closet.  God is perfectly just and His wrath is not unbridled anger based on capricious whims.  Neither is His love just sentimental love.  Jesus living a perfect life, bearing our sins, and facing the perfect judicial wrath of God is the foundation of His being our Savior.

We must be careful not to try to make God the way we want Him to be rather than seeing Him as He is.   Some people choose aspects of God like we choose items on a salad bar. I love salad bars, and I know very well how they work.  We pick out what we like, leave out what we don’t, get as much as we want, and still end up with salad.  God doesn’t work that way.  The Psalmist speaks of this tendency of making God the way we want Him with God’s reply, “you thought I was like you.”  In other words you tried to make Me the way you wanted Me to be.  

Psalms 50:16-22  But God said…(19)  “You are always ready to speak evil; you never hesitate to tell lies.  (20)  You are ready to accuse your own relatives and to find fault with them.  (21)  You have done all this, and I have said nothing, so you thought that I am like you. But now I reprimand you and make the matter plain to you.

The great church leader Tertullian, 160-225 AD from the Carthage in the Roman province of  Africa responded to some early heresies of a similar nature that were coming into the church.  He said that the heretics proposed,

“a better god has been discovered, one who is neither offended nor angry nor inflicts punishment, who has no fire warming up in hell, and no outer darkness wherein there is shuddering and gnashing of teeth: he is merely kind.” 

As the early Christians understood Isaiah 53:4-5, Christ was pierced for our transgressions, smitten by God and afflicted.  He bore the wrath of God for us.  The wrath of God is actually an aspect of the love of God. British scholar Tony Lane explains that “the love of God implies His wrath. Without His wrath God simply does not love in the sense that the Bible portrays His love.” God’s love is not sentimental; it is holy. It is tender, but not spineless.  It involves not only compassion, kindness, and mercy beyond measure (what the New Testament calls grace) but also indignation against injustice and unremitting opposition to all that is evil.

In his 1934 book, The Kingdom of God in America, H. Richard Niebuhr spoke of the salad bar approach to God, “A God without wrath brought man without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

How many other issues that Christians feel the press of culture to ignore or redefine have we succumbed to? We must be careful not to make God in the image we would like Him to be.  In doing so we may end up worshiping a god of our own making which the Bible calls an idol. 

 

 

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Tom and Doug speaking at the International Leader’s Conference

During the first part of April Tom Bedford and Doug Kreighbaum  spoke during the corporate sessions of the Salt and Light International Leadership Conference near London England.  The main leaders in the Salt and Light Family from the various nations gathered (24 nations). There were 10 corporate sessions that are available for free online at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLgP6-niVcMVM7xMnPz4INkMhIdGNQ3dtH.

Here are Doug and Tom’s sessions.

 

 

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Our main problem isn’t His love for us but our love for Him

keeping yourselves in Gods loveGod is love  (John 4:7-8).  We are thankful for His great love seen in sending Jesus. Through His sacrifice we can be forgiven and joined to God.  

Ephesians 2:4-5  But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us…

John 3:16  “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son…

There is another aspect of God’s love we must consider, our love for Him.    Mark Twain once said something that is a very true especially in the area of our love for God.

“It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” 

Not long ago I was in a worship service in which we were singing songs about God’s great love towards us.  I could really sense His presence. We had some prophetic words and exhortations aimed at helping people be reminded and have a deeper appreciation of God’s love towards us. Then out of the blue the Spirit said something very surprising. “The thing that causes most problems in the lives of My people isn’t about Me loving them but them loving Me.”   

This was a little surprising to hear in that tender moment.   Then He preceded to show me this in Scripture. This was the first question Jesus asked Peter  after the resurrection.

Joh 21:15-17 …Jesus *said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me…”Tend My lambs.”  16…”Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”…”Shepherd My sheep.”  17…”Simon, son of John, do you love Me?“…Jesus *said to him, “Tend My sheep.

Over and over Jesus said that the first (not second or third), and most important thing is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Mar 12:28-30…”What commandment is the foremost of all?”  29  Jesus answered, “The foremost is…30  AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH. (Dt 6:5, 7:9, 10:2, 11:1, 13, 22, Mt 22:37, Lk 10:27).

John (the apostle of love) outlived all the other apostles and was dealing with heresies that had crept into the church.  He continually showed us that the acid test of authentic faith was loving God which is clearly seen through loving others and obeying His commands.  

  • Joh 14:15  “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.  
  • 1Jn 4:11-24 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another…. We love, because He first loved us.  (20)  If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.  (21)  And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.  (Joh 8:42, Joh 15:10-14).
  • 1Jn 3:16 We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (Walking in Jn 3:16 should lead to walking in 1 Jn 3:16)
  • 1Jn 5:2…By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. 

Loving God in response to His love is a key that brings healing and restoration in our lives. It causes us to obey His commands which makes us better husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, and employees. Knowing God loves us should carry over into us loving and obeying Him. 

Loving God is also the foundation for local churches displaying the nature of Jesus the head of the church.  As John was recording Jesus’ messages to the 7 local churches in Asia Minor He challenged Ephesus about this very important issue.  Revelation 2:4 ‘But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.  If loving Jesus isn’t at the heart of a church it will be hard for Him to reveal Himself through it (Eph 3:10-11)

A most challenging scripture

Paul wrote probably one of the most shocking things about loving God to the Corinthian church.  He had stressed the importance of walking in God’s love in chapter 13.  No matter what we do in God’s kingdom if we don’t walk in love “it does not profit us.”  He finishes the letter with a crazy statement.

1 Cor 16:22-24 MSG If anyone won’t love the Master, throw him out. Make room for the Master! 23 Our Master Jesus has his arms wide open for you.

“Throw him out” for not loving God?  It sounds like a very unloving and unChristian thing to say.  Why was Paul so strong on this?  He knew that all the challenging things the Corinthians were going through could not be resolved without loving God.  If people stayed in the church who refused to love God things would only get worse. 

Keeping ourselves in the love of God 

How do we stay in and grow in our love for God? Jude 1:21 keep yourselves in the love of God.   Many things can help but one of the biggest is a constant gratitude for His love and forgiveness.  Like the immoral woman that Jesus used to show us what it means to love Him, we need to constantly be amazed by His great love.  This is what causes us, like her to “love much.”

Luk 7:30-50 …So which of them will love him more?”  (43)  Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.”(47)  “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.”

We tend to live in an entitlement culture that works against the idea of gratitude.  When we think we are owed things or deserve them we begin to lose a sense of gratitude. In order to abide in God’s love we need a deeper gratitude.  It is a constant gratitude for God Himself.   Psa 106:1, 107:1  O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; For His lovingkindness is everlasting (Psa 118:1, 136:1, etc.)  

This is a radical gratitude for who He is that causes us to lay our lives down in response. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; (15) and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

This is an essential trait if we are to keep ourselves in God’s love.

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