The Image of God

Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong?

I grew up in Germany as a military brat—the youngest of four siblings. My siblings were all close in age and often did things together. I am five years younger than my closest sibling, so I often played alone.

I also have some very fond memories with my siblings from my childhood when we lived in Wiesbaden, Germany. I remember sledding down “suicide hill” on our wooden sled with us cheering each other on. I remember crossing the busy street outside my neighborhood with my brothers to walk to local shopping, bakeries, and candy stores. I remember the softball games in the big lot behind our complex, and so many other things we did and places we went.

Perhaps what makes those memories rich and vibrant still today is the atmosphere and attitudes we had toward each other. There was joy and cooperation. We treated each other kindly and showed respect for one another. We valued each other. And we are worth valuing!

With the cousins

Visiting the cousins. I’m the tag-along in the back.

Value is the key.

God values each of us. He created us each in His own image! He thought so highly of humanity that He formed us to directly and correctly represent Himself to all of creation. You are the very image of God! You were uniquely and perfectly made to perfectly reflect God.

God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them. Genesis 1:27 (CEB)

God created humanity to be in a collaborative relationship with His will and purposes. At the end of the first chapter of Genesis, God blessed humanity and commissioned us to fill the earth (be fruitful and multiply) and to extend God’s kingdom over the earth (subdue or master it). And once He had blessed us and established a plan to extend His glory over the face of the earth through us, He called it supremely good.

But something happened.

The crafty serpent, our enemy, the devil, sold Adam and Eve a half-truth. Of course, a half-truth is just as good as a lie. He told them that if they ate the fruit they would not die but would rather become like God knowing good from evil (Genesis 3:4-5). It’s true they wouldn’t die, and it’s true they would clearly see good and evil. But the big lie was that they would become like God. You see, they already were! They were like God—they were His image bearers. They were the very imago dei, tselem Elohim¸ or image/reflection of God!

So, Adam and Eve sold our birthright to rule over creation with God for a taste of something else—for a taste of forbidden fruit. Like Esau, humanity’s freely given birthright was sold to fill a fleeting appetite—a taste of stew, a bite of fruit. And like Esau, Adam and Eve discovered that what was sold couldn’t just be taken back by the Father!

Our birthright had to be purchased at a higher price. So, God made a way for us to be reborn (John 3) and reclaim the birthright that was bought and returned to the family through the sacrifice of Jesus. God did that for you because, no matter what happened or what Adam and Eve did, He still values each one of us as supreme reflections of His very image.

We have the opportunity through Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit to be restored to that divine relationship that God created from the beginning of time for us. By Christ, we once again have the right to become princes and princesses and to be called the children of God, the Almighty, the Ruler of Creation (1 John 3:1).

Ours is a relational assignment. In other words, everything we are commanded to do is based on a present-tense relationship with God. The partnership is to demonstrate relationship. This is so very valuable to Him. To say that God needs us would be incorrect, of course. He is self-contained. He needs nothing. But He passionately desires to share His rule with those He made in His image, who worship Him by choice. –Bill Johnson, The Essential Guide to Healing

God is a Good Father

God is a Good Father. We trust Him through all of life’s circumstances because God is good. This gives us faith for the miraculous and hope that the best is yet to come.

O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Psalm 34:8 (NASB)

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2 (NKJV)

The greatest pronouncement in history happened when the angels hailed Jesus’ birth to the shepherds. They proclaimed God’s ultimate intentions—peace on earth and goodwill toward all humanity (see Luke 2)! And this proclamation echoes through the ages. It shakes the earth and should shift the perspective we hold toward God Almighty, our Good Father and His purposes for us on this earth.

The Conflict of Believing in a Good God

In his book, God is Good, Bill Johnson writes:

There’s no question that God can turn any situation around for His glory and for our benefit—this of course includes the most evil conditions known to humanity around the world. But that is the testimony of His greatness and His redemptive purpose. It does not represent His design. To attribute evil to Him tragically undermines our purpose on the earth, as it cripples our ability to re-present Jesus as the manifestation of God’s goodwill toward men. Our boldness to declare and demonstrate who He is in a given situation is seriously impaired if we’re not confident of what He is like.

Many people struggle with the concept of a Good God allowing evil to exist in the world. As if He designed it and allowed it as part of His plan for humanity and the earth. We take up arms in anger against Him for allowing bad stuff, or we roll over and accept all the bad stuff as “God’s will” for our lives. Wrong answer.

Bill Johnson also writes that any parent doing to their children the things we attribute to God would be arrested! And the idea that He would “allow it” instead of “causing it” is still the same. If parents intentionally allow bad things to happen to their children, they are just as responsible as if they did it!

So, how do we change this twisted perspective of God? How do we truly begin to see Him as our Good Father? To answer these questions, we really must examine what we believe about God and look for the truth the Bible reveals about His nature. And the fullest, truest nature of God is expressed through Jesus Christ.

Romans 12:1-2 helps us have a godly perspective to consider the questions from the last paragraph. It teaches that we have a new, transformed mind, and we can have a changed perspective about the world, God, and His goodness.

A Changed Perspective

To many, the Old Testament is a record of God’s wrath and judgement on a fallen creation and a sinful and depraved humanity. We look at the story of the flood and say, “See! He wiped out everybody on the earth with a huge flood because He was angry!” We look at the children of Israel and God’s commands to them to wipe out nations because of His judgement and we interpret that to mean God judges us harshly for our failure to be perfect. We read of Job’s suffering and find ways to attribute the suffering and pain he experienced at God’s authorization as a reflection of God’s will to allow suffering and pain in our lives.

But this perspective is incomplete. At a word, God could remove all of humanity from the earth just as He demonstrated was possible in the flood. But He doesn’t, and He won’t! Truly understanding this requires a changed perspective on our part. We have to look at the biblical record differently. We must step back and see the bigger picture of eternity and the merciful and loving gift God gave through the sacrifice of His only Son (John 3:16). As Bill Johnson writes in his book, God is Good, “…[I]t would be a mistake to ignore eternity, as eternity is the cornerstone of all logic and reason.” It is eternity that sets the tone and determines the measure of God’s goodness and our understanding of His nature.

The amazing thing is that God wants eternity to break into our lives now. His intention is for us to experience the fullness of His goodness daily—starting now. He doesn’t want, or even need us to wait for eternity to experience the scope of His goodness.

Psalms 27 captures the idea of experiencing God’s goodness today so beautifully! The psalmist writes about his complete trust in God, his value for God’s presence, his commitment to obedience, and the secret of his strength—his trust in God’s goodness.

Acting on a New Belief

So, the writer of Psalms 27 expects to see God’s goodness today—right now! Not in some vague eternal future. His idea of experiencing and living with and in God’s goodness starts in the present and continues every day thereafter.

What does that mean for us? We can’t just stop with a changed belief. We have to work it out in our lives starting in the present. This new belief doesn’t become a new reality until we begin to act on what we believe. Just as the fruit on a tree will positively identify what kind of tree you see, how we behave will reflect the changed state of our hearts and minds. Our behavior reflects our belief.

Our first challenge then is to see God differently—as a Good Father who gives good gifts. It is our experience of Him, our ability to count the blessings He gives to every person on earth, that helps us to shift our focus of God and begin to see Him differently.

Psalm 34:8 and James 1:16-18 reveal that every person on earth, whether they believe in God or not, experiences blessings from God. God is a refuge that brings happiness and He gives good gifts (like sunlight, rain, and the very air we breathe)!

Our second challenge is then to begin living the reality of this changed perspective. We must live like God is truly good. We live accepting and believing that His very nature is one of goodness, and that the enemy of all is the one who brings troubles and trials. We live acting on the fact that God gives good gifts and blessings to the whole world and particularly to His children. We live like Jesus lived—fully alive to the reality of the goodness and greatness of a loving and merciful Father!

Matthew 7:7-12 and Matthew 22:34-40 display a picture of God’s goodness reflected in our very lives. And it is capped off by an observation on how to live the reality of God’s goodness expressed in our lives. Because of God’s goodness, you can reflect Him into the lives of those around you today. Perhaps you can think of someone in your life who could use a touch of God’s goodness—think about that person and imagine where and how you can bless them with a gift of godly goodness today!