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IN THE IMAGE AND LIKENESS OF GOD

A SERMON DELIVERED AT
FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
1 FEBRUARY 1998

Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
<flh@all-creatures.org>

SCRIPTURE REFERENCES:

Genesis 1:26-27, 5:1-3
John 4:23-24

Romans 8:18-19, 29-30
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
1 John 4:7-8, 16-21


What does it mean for us to be in the image and likeness of God?

Does it mean that we have the same physical appearance as God?

Does He look like a man, or is it that in our attempt to understand what it means to be created in the image of God, we have actually imagined God to be in our image?

Let's begin by taking a look at what we are told in Genesis 1:26-27.

26    Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground."

27    So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
(NIV)

Does this mean that God looks like both a man and a woman?

No, it doesn't.  God is not physical, as we are.

Being in the image and likeness of God is beyond the physical nature of this world.  It is in the spiritual realm that we were created in His image and likeness.

And it is this image and likeness that has been implanted in our physical bodies.

Listen to how Jesus explained this to the Samaritan woman at the well in Sycar. (John 4:23-24)

23    Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

24    God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."
(NIV)

Since God is spirit, without the physical substance of a body, then we, who are in His image and likeness, must also relate to Him in the spiritual realm.

We cannot write a letter to God, or call him on the telephone, in order to communicate with Him.  We must commune through prayer, which is our spiritual form of communication.

But we also live upon this earth, and upon this earth we are to present ourselves in such a way that others see the image and likeness of God within us.

Let's take a look at an example of this type of living as John expresses it in 1 John 4:7-8.

7    Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.

8    Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.
(NIV)

If there is any part of our nature that is not totally loving, then that part of us is not in the image and likeness of God.

But God made us in His image and likeness, didn't He?

Absolutely!

Then why is His created image and likeness flawed?

It isn't, but we have contaminated it with the sins and fears in our lives.

Look at 1 John 4:16-21.

16    And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.

This is the key.

Since God is love, then the image and likeness that should be evident in our lives is love:  total, absolute, and unconditional love.

Anything else builds walls between us and God, but love demolishes the walls we have built in the past.

So, we are to live in love.


17    In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him.

18    There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.


19    We love because he first loved us.


20    If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.


21    And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.
(NIV)

And we can and should extend this love way beyond our brothers and sisters; we must extend it to God, and in so doing to His whole creation.

But what about the sin in our lives?  Isn't that what caused us not to fully love, and thus not to be in the total image and likeness of God?

Yes, it is!

Then how do we change, that we once again return to being in the full image and likeness of God?

The simple, theological answer is to repent, but that's not completely addressing the problem, for as often as we repent, we also sin again.

We solve this dilemma by changing our outlook on life.

We solve this problem by resensitizing ourselves to the Holy Spirit, and by walking each and every moment of every day with the Lord.

This means that we are to ask ourselves and the Holy Spirit, "What would the Lord do in this situation?"  Would the Lord be happy with the way I'm thinking, with the way I'm living, with everything I do and say?"

And the answers we get to these questions will go a long way in telling us whether or not we're in the image and likeness of God.

Let's go back to the Book of Genesis, and take a look at 5:1-3, which gives us an example of being in the image and likeness of God.

1    This is the written account of Adam's line. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.

2    He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them "man."


3    When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.
(NIV)

Note that we are told that Adam was made in the likeness of God, and that Seth was in the likeness and image of his father, Adam, who in turn must be in the image and likeness of God.

But prior to Seth being born, Adam and Eve had two other sons, Cain and Abel.

Cain killed Abel, so Abel is not present at this time, but Cain is still alive.

But Cain was no longer in the image and likeness of God, because he didn't love his brother, and because he killed his brother.

This is what Genesis 5:3 is talking about; it is Seth who will carry on the Godly line of Adam, but Cain's line will all die in the Flood.

But what about us?

All of us have some form of sin in our lives.  How can we be restored back to the image and likeness of God?

As we said, by sensitizing ourselves to the inner voice of the Holy Spirit, and by responding to His promptings, just as we are told in Romans 8:29-30.

29    For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

30    And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
(NIV)

If we are conformed into the likeness of God's Son, Jesus Christ, then we have become sons and daughters of God: thus, creatures of love.

With this thought in mind, let's look at what we are told in Romans 8:18-19.

18    I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

19    The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed.
(NIV)

All the problems we have upon this earth, all the pain and suffering, all the destruction and death are because there are too few sons and daughters of God who have revealed themselves.

Not to reveal ourselves, not to speak out, not to do something to make this world a better place to live, not to spread God's love, is not being in the image and likeness of God.

It must really sadden God to have so many of his children know the truth, and still do nothing, and even worse, to actually support the evilness in this world by going along with the ways of the world.

To be in the image and likeness of God is to dare to be different, to dare to be like Jesus, and to dare to live in His love and openly express it.

Just in case some of us have forgotten some of the main characteristics of love, note how Paul explains it in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a.

4    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.

5    It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.


6    Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.


7    It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.


8    Love never fails...
(NIV)

So, if this kind of love never fails, and if this kind of love is part of our very nature, both inwardly and outwardly, then we cannot fail to be in the image and likeness of God.

Then all of creation will rejoice, for at least some of the sons and daughters of God will have been revealed.

Amen?

Amen.

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