1 John 4:12-19
Living in the image of God means that we are living in God's heavenly will, where there is no pain or mourning or death, and bringing that heavenly will to earth as it is in heaven.
Just think about all the prophets of doom who led many Christians to lose their first love, and live in the fear of the "millenium bug" and other similar things throughout our recent history.
Thousands upon thousands of people lost their faith in God and began hoarding food, buying generators, and even arming themselves against some unknown enemy.
One of these false rumors was that President Clinton was planning to place this country under martial law and become a dictator, and that story came from a "Christian" source.
These Christians began acting as if God was no longer in control.
They were living in fear.
Y2K has come and gone and we are still here, and none of the forecasted disasters happened.
There weren't even any natural disasters.
It's as though God was saying, "I'm not going to let any of these false prophets have even the slightest bit of credibility. I want all to see them as they really are. Their word was not from Me."
But since nothing happened, these prophets of doom are now warning about February 29th.
We have leap years every 4 years and nothing happened in the past, and nothing will happen this time, either.
By comparison, let's look at what we are told in 1 John 4:12-19:
12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us.
13 We know that we live in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.
15 If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.
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.
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.
This is being in the Image of God.
And there is another extremely important aspect to living in this love image of God.
Note what we are told in the next verses.
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.
All the people who lived in fear of Y2K were not perfected in love.
They were not living in the image of God.
This wasn't even God's judgement, yet many people feared it even more so.
Why do I say this?
Because they did something about their fears, in a worldly sense, but they were unwilling to even have enough reverence for God to trust in Him.
They put mankind before God.
Think of just one aspect of this fear: there would be no food.
We had food before we had computers.
Farmers grew the food, people harvested it, trucks and trains delivered it and stores sold it, and we still do it this way to this very day.
Even if all the computers went down, the food was still there, the trucks and trains were still there and so were the stores.
But fear made people forget this and think that they would starve to death if they didn't store years' worth of food away in some safe location.
If you are one of these people who got caught in this Y2K fear fever, or you have family members who did, I'm sorry.
I don't want you to dwell upon these mistakes. I want you to learn from them.
I want us all to learn from these mistakes, that we won't fall into the same or similar traps next time.
Let's now turn and look at this season of the year and how this all ties together.
We celebrated Advent, Christmas, New Years, Epiphany, and today we celebrate another special Christian day.
Why do we celebrate the various Christian holidays and special Sundays, such as this one, when we celebrate the Baptism of the Lord?
It's so that we can focus upon these events and remember who we are before God, so that we can become more like Him, that we become more and more in the image of God.
We may have been created in the image of God, but when we fell from grace, we were no longer in that image.
It is only through our faith in Jesus Christ and being baptized with or in the Holy Spirit, that we become transformed back into the image of God.
And that image is perfect love.
Unfortunately, far too many of us fight against the unction of the Holy Spirit, and thus we tarnish or obscure God's image within us.
Let's look at the example that Jesus gave us through His baptism as recorded in Mark 1:1-11.
1 The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way"--
3 "a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'"
Such a person is one whose whole being is dedicated to the service of the Lord, for if it wasn't so, his message would not be believable.
And John the Baptist came forth in this image of God.
4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
The reason that the people came was he was believable because he lived what he preached.
6 John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
7 And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
John is here showing us a two fold step to salvation:
The first is our repentant attitude which comes through our faith in God's forgiveness, here being symbolized by the washing away of our sins in the waters of forgiveness.
The second is the empowerment through our baptism with the Holy Spirit which comes with our redemption.
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.
Why would Jesus, who was sinless, want to be baptized by John?
Because He wanted the people to witness the change that would come upon them through Him as part of their redemption.
As we discussed above, a person becomes a Christian when they become one with God and Jesus Christ through the empowerment of love by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
And this life change should be visible to others.
10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.
11 And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."
This same thing happens to all of us when we are born again.
We truly become a changed being for the Holy Spirit abides within us.
Our loving God showed us this example that we would have the faith to believe that He will do the same for us.
Just as the people visibly saw the Holy Spirit come upon Jesus, so they should see Him in the lives of all true believers, that is, if we are truly living in the image of God.
In our own hearts we know whether we are living in the image of God, or in the image of sinful mankind, and others come to see what we know about ourselves.
Even the most perfect person needs to set the example of obedience to God, and to be a witness of His presence to the world, and Jesus presented this example to us in a very dramatic way, a way that we should all desire to copy.
I presume that most of us have been baptized, and what I would like us to do right now is repeat that experience in our hearts and minds.
I want each of us to close our eyes and picture the Lord Himself baptizing us alone with Him in the River of Life.
Feel His hand on your hand and His other hand behind your head as you sink into the purifying waters.
And as we are enveloped in the waters, truly feel the pain and suffering our sins have caused the Lord, for each of our sins was a hammer-blow upon one of the nails that pierced Him.
Lord forgive me!
Forgive me for all the things I do that are not in your love.
Change me into the person you want me to be.
Renew a steadfast spirit within me, that I will truly live in your image.
Change my heart, my mind and my body, so that I no longer desire to do things against your will and that I will always be loving and compassionate to all of your creation.
And most of all, Lord, I thank you for forgiving me and filling me with your Holy Spirit. Amen.
Feel yourself rising back up out of the waters, as a renewed person in Christ, as a person reflecting the image of God, and go forth without any fear, making a loving and positive difference in this world.
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