In His Image

“Adam called his wife’s name Eve because she was the mother of all living” Genesis 3:20

In the first chapter of Genesis we learn that God created man in His image, “Let Us make man in Our image” (v 26). Since God is a plurality of Persons yet one God He created mankind in that image, a plurality of persons yet one flesh (Genesis 2:23-24). Lest we fail to grasp this it is repeated in 1:27, “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” To be in the “image” of God means to be a physical expression of God. We read this of Jesus in Hebrews 1:3, “who being in the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person …”

As the Persons of the Godhead are equal in every respect except role, so are the man and the woman equal in every respect except role. As the Persons of the Godhead are complementary, so are the man and the woman (Genesis 2:18). Marriage and parenthood are God’s means of revealing this and other aspects of His glory in the world. It should not surprise us that Satan is doing his utmost to mar or destroy this revelation of God.

How sad it is that people who are the objects of God’s love serve Satan’s interests and hatred of God. No matter what people may try to do, they cannot change that part of the role that God has given them by His determining their sex. Eve had the unique position of being the first mother; she is the only mother without any precedent to follow. She had no mentor or role model, no mother or mother-in-law to comfort and help her – or to tell her she was doing it wrong!

Adam honoured her position and role by the name he gave her. She is the mother of all persons who live or have ever lived on earth (except for Adam and herself, of course). She is the ultimate mother of the second Adam, Jesus Christ. On Mothers’ Day we reflect on the special place and role that mothers have within the family and society. Mothers are God’s gift, and they share with fathers the joy and privilege of revealing the glory of God into the world. Since we are corrupted by sin that revelation is marred; but as we allow Christ to live in us God’s glory is revealed, even if a little dimly. Many men and women, who have achieved much, credit their mothers as being the primary earthly reason for their achievements.

Let us give glory to God for this wonderful expression of Himself in His creation revealed in our mothers.

The Glory of God

“And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Ephesians 2:1

This is the greatest and most desired miracle of all. It is the only miracle that is permanent into eternity. The forgiveness of sins and the destruction of the sin disposition that we inherited from Adam is the reason for Jesus being born into this world. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17).

In the eleventh chapter of John’s Gospel we can read of the restoration of life to Lazarus. Both Martha and Mary, Lazarus’ sisters, knew that Jesus is God incarnate (vv 27, 32) and that He could have healed him before he died. Neither of them, nor Jesus’ disciples, considered that He could restore Lazarus to life after he had died. Their faith was real and genuine but Jesus would stretch and strengthen their faith by revealing more of Himself. Notice that Jesus initiated the whole situation that allowed Mary, Martha and Lazarus to endure suffering and grief in the process.

Jesus had been telling His disciples that He would soon be taken and crucified. This experience with Lazarus being raised would help prepare them for that rapidly approaching day when they would need to accept that Jesus had been raised bodily from death.

We notice in the Gospels that miracles of themselves do not bring about belief in who Jesus is. Upon the resurrection of Lazarus many did believe in Jesus (v 45) but there were also many who did not even though they were well aware of the miracles Jesus had done (v 47). Indeed, it was the miracles that provoked them to want to kill Jesus (v 53). They would also try and kill Lazarus to conceal this miracle (12:10-11).

Lazarus suffered an illness until he died and after Jesus raised him to new life he was hunted in order to kill him again. All this was because Jesus desired to reveal Himself more fully to His friends and disciples. You can check with Lazarus when you see him but I am sure he has no complaint against Jesus.

Jesus came into this world to save sinners and give to them resurrection life. We can read the verse at the head of this article with immeasurable gratitude and praise. But His coming is not about us though we benefit beyond measure. Jesus said to Martha, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” (v 40). This whole event was about Jesus revealing the glory of God but only those who believed in Him would see it. Jesus making us alive from bondage to sin and death is so that those who believe may see the glory of God. At Christmas time it is only those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ who will see the glory of God.

The Secret Place

“The heavens declare the glory of God” Psalm 19:1

Returning to Perth by air this week I was again struck by the beauty of the upper surface of the clouds. From beneath, clouds are shades of grey and reasonably level. From above, where the sun is upon them, they are pure white and shaped like bundles of cotton balls. Off on to the horizon and beyond this beauty exists but for the most part it was unseen by any person and possibly even less recognised as God’s handiwork. Largely hidden from the eyes of people, day after day and for millennia, God has been expressing Himself in such beauty. It is only in the past hundred years that people have been able to see the clouds from above yet it has been unrelentingly showing off the glory of God.

For even less time we have been able to see the beauty and variety of creatures that live below the seas at depth. Some had been caught in nets or found dead on the shore but multitudes of new creatures of extraordinary appearance are now being discovered in the depths of the oceans. For millennia these creatures have been expressing the beauty and wisdom of God without any person observing them. Perhaps more than at any time since God brought “every beast of the field and every bird of the air … to Adam to see what he would call them” (Genesis 2:19) we are closer to discovering all the living creatures that God has created. All that time since the creation these creatures have expressed God’s glory even though many have not been seen by people until recently.

As we look up into the night sky we marvel at the majesty, beauty, wisdom and power that has created all that exists in the heavens. Mankind has discovered more distant heavenly bodies with each new telescope and marvelled at their beauty but they have all been present since the creation expressing the glory of God, whether seen by people or not.

We may be inclined to think that God is only glorified by things seen by people. However even the things unseen by people glorify God. Jesus told His disciples, “When you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6).

People who follow Jesus do reveal and express the glory of God publicly but perhaps the time we glorify God most is in the secret place for there we have no need to play the hypocrite. There we can be honest with God since nothing is hidden from Him. Like all the things of creation that are rarely if ever seen by people it is perhaps our time alone with Him that glorifies Him most. It is when we are alone with God that we worship Him from a pure heart. “Do all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Seeing the Eternal

“We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but things which are not seen are eternal” 2 Corinthians 4:18

In a world that has gone haywire and is governed by the spirit of antichrist (1 John 2:18) it is possible that we might get our eyes on wrong things which will cause us to lose heart. Paul is writing to a church living in an environment not that different to the one in which we live. The Roman world and the religious world of Israel were hostile to the Gospel of Christ. Paul had been the lead persecutor until he met the risen Jesus Christ.

In verse sixteen he writes, “Do not lose heart.” The Christians were suffering affliction at the hands of the ungodly but Paul writes encouraging them to keep their eyes on the things that really matter, on things eternal. The book of Ecclesiastes is written from the perspective of one who sought meaning in temporal things but concluded that such was futile. Only when he looked at eternal things did life have meaning and hope.

People who are trying to save this world will eventually be greatly disappointed. Because of sin the world will pass away. All the ambitions of men that drive them to labour and war with one another over wealth and power will prove futile. The very things they fight for are temporal and put them in opposition to God and make them blind to things eternal.

Paul does not shy away from the fact that it will appear that Jesus Christ and His people are on the losing end but that is only when we lose focus of the end. The Psalmist wrote it this way, “When I thought how to understand this it was too painful for me – until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end” (Psalm 73:16-17). The sanctuary is the place where we meet intimately with the Lord. Like the psalmist, when we are in the Lord’s presence we will understand the end of His enemies.

It may seem that we are enduring this ungodly world for too long but relatively speaking it is but a moment compared with the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” (v 17) that we will experience forever when we are with the Lord.

We remain in the world to be salt and light and to make disciples until He deems it time to bring us home. Let us keep our eyes on things eternal; keep our expectations on things eternal; keep our prayers and hopes for our loved ones on things eternal. All that is seen is passing away so let us not lose heart giving our affections to them. Paul wrote, “Seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind [affections] on things above not on things of the earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). If we do as Paul has written we will not lose heart but walk with Jesus full of joy and peace.

In the Potter’s Hand

“If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” 1 Peter 4:11

There is sometimes talk about spiritual gifts that goes beyond what Jesus and the New Testament writers intended. Peter sums up all the spiritual gifts into two categories – preaching/teaching God’s word and serving by ministering to other needs of His people. These two areas of gifting provide earthly and spiritual sustenance and care for God’s people. Peter writes that the purpose of exercising these gifts is that God will be glorified through Jesus Christ because His nature and some of His attributes will be seen in His people.

Our fallen nature is deceitful beyond our understanding and ability to discern without the Holy Spirit searching our hearts by way the God’s word. From time to time we will realise that we are using God’s gracious blessings to bring glory to ourselves and not to Him.

We want to feel good about ourselves so we will attribute the good that we have done to ourselves instead of to God’s working power in us. We want others to think well of us so we accept their praise as if the good they have noticed originated from ourselves and not from Christ (Colossians 1:27). We may even want to garner praise from God for some good that we have done but Jesus reminds us that without Him we can do nothing of value to God or His kingdom (John 15:5).

We may seek positions and roles that we think are likely to gain God’s or other people’s praise but none of that will glorify Jesus Christ if our motive is selfish. Even in public prayer we can be guilty of speaking to be heard by people or to gain God’s praise for what we think is a wonderful prayer rather than desiring that the name of Jesus be lifted up and glorified in the earth.

We pray to be used by God but we need to search our hearts to ensure that such prayers are not selfish; to be recognised as a ‘godly’ person, a rung in the ladder above others. We may seek to be one piece of pottery while the Potter would make us for another purpose and place. We can glorify Him best when we are where He wants us to be doing what He wants us to do.

The overriding principle is stated by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31: “Do all to the glory of God.” We will do well to keep checking our motive when praying, sharing the Gospel and serving other saints. Why we do what we do is more important that what we actually do.  Paul also wrote, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14).