“When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God” (Genesis 5:1). When Adam sinned, he did not lose this likeness completely, but the image was completely bent. In Jesus, we not only see the image of God fully and perfectly, but through Jesus and the Spirit we are in the process of that image being restored.
We are being transformed into the image from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18). We are being transformed into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). Our lowly bodies are being transformed to be like his glorious body by the power that enables Him to subject all things to Himself (Philippians 3:21). We are to continue to put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator (Colossians 3:10).
We are His creations and His new creations. The process of salvation and sanctification is a restoration project. He is recreating us to be like He first made man. This work won’t be finished on earth but it has begun here.
Christian, don’t lose heart. Though your outer man is wearing away, your inner nature is being renewed day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16). His plan will not change, His providence will not break, His purpose will not reverse, His promises will not disappoint, and His power will not let you stay the same. You are not who you were and you can expect to see more results because He is faithful.
The early chapters of Genesis call for significant attention not only on God’s command to men to marry and multiply and make but also on our imitative nature as multipliers and makers. When we worship we see what God is like and what our reflections of Him should look like. From the beginning it has been so. We glorify God by consuming in thankfulness what He’s given and also by producing in reflectiveness. This is a more positive approach to the things of earth than most of us are familiar with. More than that we can enjoy and do things in the world, we must enjoy and make things if we want to glorify God.
That said, there is a reason why so many Christians are suspicious of the world. It’s because many who call themselves Christians have become idolators of the world. Jesus told a parable about some who are almost-Christians like the seed that grows until choked out by the cares of the world (Matthew 13:22). Jesus also offered this inerrant valuation: What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? (Matthew 16:26) The given is that the soul matters most and that your soul is a poor trade for temporary glory that is stuck in the world.
Which brings us back to true glory, eternal glory, God’s glory. How do we share in His glory? It isn’t by rejecting what He has made but by being able to keep it in the proper place. Many people have not done that. “Do not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2). “Demas, in love with this present world” deserted Paul and the gospel (2 Timothy 4:10). “If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15). These warnings are real and must not be minimized. The question should test us regularly: are we living in the world for God or are we living for the world as god? As image-bearers of God and disciples of Christ we need to get that right.
I had a roommate in college who loved to play SimCity. Even though I’ve never been a huge video game sort of guy, he let me play every so often and it was strangely fascinating. At that time, SimCity was a fairly new game without the niche variations available today.
“Sim” in SimCity stands for “simulation.” It means to imitate or make a computer model of something. The goal of the game is to build a thriving city, keeping digital citizens happy and maintaining a stable budget. You, as mayor, start with a given amount of capital and you choose where and what to build. You need transportation (roads, railroads, airports), power companies, stores, schools, and homes for all the people. As the population grows, you also need an adequate amount of police stations and hospitals to keep people safe and healthy. Even in the two-dimensional world, without the complexities of personalities, it gave a bit of appreciate for the challenges of setting up a society.
Unlike SimCity we live in the world where your thumb hurts if you hit it with a hammer, not because you smashed the controller buttons too many times. Here there are life and death consequences without a reset or reboot. Even more unlike SimCity, we are not the architects of humanity, we’re not city mayors or presidents, and certainly we are not God. We do not get to make all the decisions even if we thought we knew all the ways to guarantee a glorious future.
However, even though we don’t get to be the boss, we are all called to build. We don’t get to start with a full back account and open fields, but we do get to invent and design and fix and remodel and renovate. We are cultural construction workers. We’re not building in order to make it nice for Jesus when He returns. We’re building because this is what Jesus made us to do.
As we start our fourth year of Evangel Classical School, I want to remind us who we are, what we’re trying to do, what we’re up against, and why we work hard with humility and laughter.
You are the imago Dei, the image of God. Each one of you, students, parents, and teachers are mirrors of God Himself. God revealed our reflective nature in the story of creation. According to Genesis 1 He made a world for men and then He made men to be makers in the world. Dorothy Sayers wrote the following in her book, The Mind of the Maker:
[W]hen we turn back to see what he says about the original upon which the “image” of God was modeled, we find only the single assertion, “God created.” The characteristic common to God and man is apparently that: the desire and the ability to make things.
The reason you color, cut and paste, write and paint, sing and dance, is because the creative impulse beats in your chest. At some point drawings are not only art for the front of the refrigerator, they become blueprints for better refrigerators. You cut paper made from trees and later you cut trees to make paper. You sing tenor in the school choir and then someday you give your report on the city council; both are better when you contribute your part.
God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and take dominion. What He had made was great and yet He wanted them to make more great things. God made little makers with minds and hands. You bear God’s creative glory as you create.
ECS exists to equip and encourage culture creators, or at least culture contributors. It takes faith to see how a kindergartner chanting phonogram jingles could one day write a novel that shapes the thinking of generations better than Virgil’s Aeneid. But phonemes become graphemes via penmanship which turns into published books. You will learn names and dates and places, not only so that you can rule at Trivial Pursuit (which you could), or even so that you can be thankful for the good foundation we stand on (which you should), but also so that you would want to do your part in these days in this place.
Not only can we honor Christ in our work, we must work if we want to honor Him. We’re made to make.
Again, we don’t reign on earth as sovereign kings and queens, but we are poets and plumbers and pilots and parents. We do flavor and preserve and influence and shape the world. If you want to be a Christian doctor or nurse, we want you to know the skeletal, muscular, nervous, sensory, reproductive, digestive, circulatory, immune, respiratory, and endocrine systems. We also want you to know in your bones that God loves life. If you want to be a Christian lawyer–and why wouldn’t you?–we want you to know the true law, to love righteousness and hate evil. If you want to start a business or write books or build buildings, then believe that God is pleased with those who do such culture construction.
It is true, however, that all image-bearers are also the bearers of bad news. We are all mirrors of God’s glory, but we are also all broken mirrors due to sin. Sin is what ruins our plans and spoils our relationships. You will, at some point, prefer laziness to labor. You will choose to be angry with a classmate who disagrees with you, or a teacher who corrects you, rather than serve or learn. You will seek to grab rather than contribute. This happens because of sin. The reason the world is so messed up is because of sin.
But we have a Savior. It is of first importance that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. This is the evangel. He saves us and is sanctifying us to be like Him, which includes enjoying and using all the things He has made. Math? He created the problems. Logic? He is the Logos. Poetry? His invented language and lovers and flowers and rhyme and rhythm. Biology, history, Engrade, recess soccer? He is Lord over them all.
One more thing. ECS is a training ground for cultural contributors. You will (hopefully) bear much fruit after you graduate. But you are also creating now. Working hard is never wasted. Loving one another now is loving one another. Confessing rather than covering sin is building, not destroying. The stakes are high, the Savior is great, the new school year is here. It’s not a simulation game. Let’s get to work.
Jesus commanded His disciples to love one another. He told them that such love would identify them in the world and that He His life was the standard of love. Love for your brother is a distinctive of believers but was actually meant for every image bearer from the beginning.
For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. (1 John 3:11)
When is this “beginning”? Maybe John meant the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. But the biblical reports of Jesus’ early message were about calls to repent not calls to love. More likely John’s use of “beginning” refers to the beginning of beginnings, the beginning when the Word was with God and was God and then made all things. The message of brotherly love began in Genesis.
Further evidence for the historic nature of this message follows from John’s illustration in the next verse.
We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. (1 John 3:12a)
We’ll can consider why Cain killed Abel later. For now, let’s meditate on the fact that the call to love is as old as dirt made into man. From the beginning men were created in the image of the God of love and we are to love the people we can see (family, brothers, one another). We are to do it in deed and in truth, not just in word or talk.
According to John “we know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brothers” and “whoever does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14). How we treat one another, not merely how many Hebrew or Greek or English words we can list for love, is the behavior expected from the beginning.
When we partake of the cup and the bread we partake in the nature of the Lord. To share in the symbols of His sacrifice is to identify with the God who sacrifices.
This is one of the reasons why Paul forbids idolatry before he gives instructions about communion in 1 Corinthians 10. Many of the Jews were idolators and he warns the believers to “flee idolatry” (verse 14). Behind idols are demons and “you cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons” (verse 21). Be careful to choose the right table.
When we eat the bread we participate in the body of Christ. We worship one who gave His physical life for us and we learn how to do the same. When we drink the cup of blessing we participate in the blood of Christ. We identify with dying to bring life.
This is how it must be. We either serve demanding idols and become demanding of others or we serve the God who gives grace and become merciful. We either identify with false gods who consume or we identify with the true God who was crucified for others. “Those who eat the sacrifices [are] participants in the altar” (verse 18).
Our sacrifices are not original. We cannot save another man’s soul. But we can imitate the ultimate sacrifice. The lesson is on the Table before us.
Assumption One: Paradise was easy living. Incorrect. It was joyful and glorious, which is a very different thing. Adam and Eve were given an entire planet to tend. Every last creature to identify, name, and oversee. Or, in the case of the dragon, identify, name, and kill. All before the fall. All while the world was perfect. Adam and Eve were not in hammocks, relaxing in the light of a perma-sunset with even tans while sipping on honeysuckle bouquets proffered by miniature ponies. They were given a job so big that only Noah and the disciples who received the Great Commission saw anything like it.
Nails are forged for pounding. Man is born to trouble. Man is born for trouble. Man is born to battle trouble. Man is born for the fight, to be forged and molded— under torch and hammer and chisel— into a sharper, finer, stronger image of God.
There are two Adams that we need to know about. The first is Adam from Eden, the first man on earth, husband, father, gardener, and eater of forbidden fruit. The second Adam is Jesus, the eternally-beggoten Son of God the Father, carpenter, prophet, and sinless sacrifice. He is called Adam because He, too, stands at the headwaters of a people. Paul compares and contrasts the two in 1 Corinthians 15.
Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. (1 Corinthians 15:45)
The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:47–48)
God gave life to Adam from the ground. God gives life through the second Adam now risen from the grave. Not only do both Adams represent us, we reflect them.
Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:49)
The first Adam was brought to life in glory in a garden. The second Adam was buried in a garden and then raised to life in greater glory. The first Adam lost glory for all of us when he sinned. The second Adam secured glory for all of us when He rose again. We enjoy the blessings of both the natural body and the spiritual body; we follow and image both Adams. We were born and we were born again. We are humans and we are Christians, so we eat and drink on two levels, looking to our resurrection glory like the second Adam.
For more on how the spiritual man is still a material man read this post by Doug Wilson.
After God identified the man the woman as His image-bearers, He eagerly showed them all that He had made for them. All kinds of food were available to enjoy and to energize them in their work. They would constantly be recognizing God as they received all that He had given to them.
Likewise, after God identifies a believer in baptism, marking him as one who has died and risen in likeness to Christ, so God eagerly shows him all that He’s provided. All righteousness, wisdom, and redemption are available to enjoy and to energize our work. We constantly recognize God when we receive what He has given us in His Son.
This is simple, but it is a needed reminder of our need. Our lives orbit the Son; He is the gravity that holds us together. Our life cycle is given by Him; we wake and walk and work and wind down and worship week after week according to His watch. Our responsibilities and relationships are given by Him and for Him. Our joy in the process and strength to persevere are given by Him. So we keep coming to Him by faith, at least once a week to this Table that reminds us of His provision. Jesus is our Lord, our Savior, our food, our everything. Our declaration of dependence by eating and drinking honors Him.
We live in a society that places a lot of weight on appearance. Red carpet events devote extra attention to what the stars wear and, at the other end of the spectrum, even those who don’t wear anything are trying to make a statement by how they look. As usual, it is not whether or not you’re going to present an image, but which image are you presenting?
Christians ought to be the most image conscious of all. Our problem isn’t that we want to make a certain appearance too much, it’s that sometimes we want to make the wrong appearance. But for those who have “learned Christ,” we must “put off the old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
All of this is true: we were made in God’s image, we are created after the likeness of God in salvation, and we must put on the new self that God recreated. We can’t create ourselves or make ourselves new, but we can wear the new clothes He got for us.
The Lord’s Table is part of the put off/put on work. We leave our soiled garments of sin and self-righteousness at the cross and we take up the body of the Lord as our own. We identify with Him in His righteous sacrifice and learn to dress in imitation of Him.