Monday, November 21, 2011

The Image of God - What Does it Look LIke to You?

The Image of God – What Does He Look Like To YOU?

It was a dark night in the souls of the Israelites.  God had brought them through the plague visited on Egypt.  He had brought them through the Red Sea on dry land.  The Egyptian task masters following after them were drowned in the sea.  They marched onward until their leader Moses left them alone for a while.  Then the foolishness in their hearts was shown in what they did.  They decided to make an image of god/God.  I don’t know who decided the God who saved them looked like a golden calf.  And, I also don’t know if they decided fully to dump God altogether and accept Baal as their god.  Anyway, for some rebellious reason, they decided to make an image of god/God so they could worship it.  I don’t know why they wanted an image of god, because they had the presence of God and the power of God with them.  But I do have a guess as to why they wanted an image of God.

An image such as a golden calf was the people’s way of going to God or replacing God with a god who required nothing of them.  It was limiting God’s power to tell them what to do.

 An image of a god is made by mankind.  It is made to suit mankind instead of God.  God made man in His image. When man makes an image of god, he is really promoting himself to god, and demoting God to the created being. 

 This behavior, this conforming God to one’s own image of God, loses God altogether.  The conformed image is not God at all.  It is just an image that cannot do anything.  It may be a mental image or a literal image, but it still can’t do anything for the individual or mankind as a whole.

 God is actually a very complex being to say the least.  He is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient.  That means the God of the Bible really does know everything, He is everywhere, and He is all powerful.   He is the God of love and mercy.  He is ALSO the God of judgment.  He really is continually perfect in every way.  And that is just to name a few of the attributes of God.  Now, how can all those qualities be put into an image?  They answer is they cannot!  The only thing an image might do is capture something like a one dimensional snapshot of God’s eyelash.

 There are many images of God today that are shaping the world as a whole.  Let’s take look at a few.

 Here is a very common image of god running rampant throughout Christianity.  It is the image of God as love.   That’s it.  In the mind of the individual God may be imagined as an elderly grandfather type, or a soft spoken shepherd walking about a mountain meadow playing with the animals.  Regardless, He is seen only as a God of love.  God IS love, but He is also much more.  An image of God without also seeing the God of judgment is incomplete.  It does not give the believer the necessary knowledge to make sound decisions.  Yes God loves His children, but that does not give them a free pass to ignore what the Bible has to say about Christian living.

 Another common image of God is that of judgment only.  God is seen as someone trailing you like a hungry grizzly bear.  He is just waiting for you to slip up so He can punish you.  How unfair is that?  The devil is the hungry lion wanting to destroy you.  God is the Good Shepherd wanting to keep you from harm.  Any parent knows it is far better to give a precious little hand a small spat to keep them from playing with light sockets than it is to let them actually stick their finger into the light socket.  Certainly God does the same for us.

 There is another image of God that shows Him to be a negotiator.  The Bible clearly states there is one way to God the Father and that is through Jesus Christ the Son.  Yet, from the very first family until now, there have been multitudes who try to go to God in a way that suits themselves.  Cain tried it.  He didn’t like the blood sacrifice, so he decided to negotiate with God instead of doing the thing God required.  Cain offered God the produce from his garden.  It wasn’t a case of Cain ‘just offering what he had’.  It was a case of Cain trying to negotiate his way into heaven by his own way. 

 Another image of God is that of a great collectivist.  In the end He is going to ‘collect’ all the souls of mankind and take them to heaven.  He is ultimately going to let everyone into heaven because everyone deserves it as much anyone else.  To the ‘everyone is going to the same place crowd’, God will finally cave in and let all the un-regenerated souls into heaven along with those who followed God’s instructions on how to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 

 There is also the image of God as the frazzled ineffective parent whose children are out of control.  The world is in a mess, and God is without power to deal with what is going on.  He can’t keep the world running by Himself.  He needs ‘co-saviors’ who come in the form of little children remembering to turn off light bulbs and signing petitions to stop global warming.  Co-saviors are those who preach a social and/or globalist gospel.  Those who get on the ‘save the earth’ bandwagon are little saviors of the world.  The God of their salvation just can’t do it by Himself anymore.

 There are those who have an image of God as ‘The Great Acceptor’.  They are sort of like Cain, in that they want to give to God the work of their own hands, or their own preferences.  You see them taking their music preference to church without regard to what God prefers.  You see them ignoring part of the Bible that cause them to feel uncomfortable, or passages that offend the ungodly.  They do what is right in their own eyes and just ‘know’ God will eventually accept it.  (An aside here to parents – don’t let you kids wear you down into letting them do something you know is not right.  Parents are the first image a child has of God.  If you set aside what you know is right because of their continual pressure, they get the idea that is all it takes to get their own way.  You are free to say no to wrong behaviors and stick to your right decision.)

 The truth is that there are many who would rather have an image of God than God because it is just easier.  God has standards by which His followers are to live.  If someone makes an image of God, they can put into what they want.  If they don’t like some of the boundaries God has set, then leave those out of the image.  If they don’t like the judgment aspect of God, then that can be left out as well. 

 Images always give a small view of a great God.  They also do not have the truth in them.  It is true that:

God loves you.

God is with you.

God has a plan to help you.

It is also true that:

The Lord chastises those He loves.

 Most believers begin their Christian life with an image of God.  He can’t be seen clearly to begin with.  God really can’t be seen clearly this side of heaven.  But, what begins to happen in true believers is that changes begin to occur in their view of the greatness of the God of the Bible.  As they hear the truth preached and as they personally study the Bible for themselves, they begin to get a glimpse of God that cannot be contained in any image the human mind can conceive.  They begin to realize their idea of God, the God of their salvation, is just too small.  And then they begin to dig deeper into the teachings of the Bible.  They begin to desire that be made over again in the image of God.  Their heart desires all that the Lord has to offer them.  They want to be more like God instead of making God more like them.  Transformation begins in the life of the believer when he or she sets out to be more like God. (This is NOT to become God, but to conform to His image.) The Holy Spirit begins to work in such believers and enable them to conform to the image of Christ.  They have stopped MAKING an image. They want to BECOME the image.  They want to no longer conform to the image of the world, but instead be transformed into someone whose life shows other Jesus Christ. 

 Changing one’s life to be more like Christ is hard work.  In fact, without the aid of the Holy Spirit, it is impossible.  Change requires the Holy Spirit’s help, and constant determination on the part of the believer.  Those who have changed the Gospel Message to a social gospel are impatient people, preferring that Christ work on their time table and produce the level of obvious fruit they want.  And, no matter how hard they work, they are ultimately lazy people because it is much harder to work at changing your own life than it is to work at changing the lives of others.

 Is the leading guiding light in your life the Holy Spirit?  You will not be led to create mental images of God that limit Him to one realm by the Holy Spirit.  Neither will the Holy Spirit lead you to try to do things that only God can do.  The Holy Spirit leads believers to be more like Christ.  Through Christian actions, impossible things can be done.