The Spittin’ Image of God

The other day I met someone who knows my son, but hadn’t met me yet. It went something like this: “Oh, I know whose dad you must be!” and “Wow, your son looks exactly like you!” My usual response: “Yeah, I know. Poor kid.”

Why does my kid look like me? Of course genetics has a lot to do with it. We’ve also spent 14 years together, so for better or worse, he’s picked up quite a few of my mannerisms, habits, phrases, and quirks, not to mention an outstanding sense of style. He is, as they say, my spittin’ image.

Did you know that YOU are made in God’s “spittin’ image”? In the first chapter of the first book of the Bible, you’ll find an astounding affirmation of the dignity and worth of every human being: “God created humankind in his own image…” (Genesis 1:27). Take a moment and think of the best of humanity and the ultimate in human achievement, and perhaps you’ll be approaching what it means to be made in the image of God. Who do you think of? Perhaps a humanitarian, an athlete, an artist, or perhaps someone unknown but beloved. That person was made in the image of God.

And yet take a moment to think of the worst of humanity, the depths of depravity and human evil. Who do you think of? Perhaps an infamous criminal, dictator, or terrorist, or perhaps someone obscure that has done unspeakable harm to you. That person too was made in the image of God. How can this be?

Genesis was originally written in the Ancient Near East. The ancient kings there laid claim to their far-flung territories by setting up large statues of themselves. These statues were made in the image of the king, there to remind everyone who was in charge. This is the same idea that Moses, the author of Genesis, apparently had in mind when he first wrote those inspired words: “God created humankind in his own image…” Human beings are here on earth as God’s royal representatives. We’re not just here by accident. We’re not created out of conflict and chaos, as all the other ancient creation stories claimed. We’re here on purpose: created to create, blessed to be a blessing, made good to do good.

Every person you’ve ever met, and every person in human history, is one of God’s royal representatives here on earth. This is why we affirm the unparalleled dignity and value of every single human life, whether she or he be the tiniest of babies in a mother’s womb, or the eldest of the elderly among us, or anyone in between. There will always be some who deny the inherent dignity of others, but the downtrodden and the marginalized are made in the image of God too.

It is often hard to fathom why, or how, someone made in the image of God can do the terrible things that we are all capable of. But then we turn the page to Genesis 3. Evil entered the world when human beings rebelled against God’s good grace, and we’ve been stained and twisted ever since. So we are all a bit of a paradox: made in the image of God, but broken and twisted. We’re still made “very good,” but things quickly go very bad.

But right on the heels of our rebellion, God promised to fix it (see Genesis 3:15). He didn’t want to leave his royal representatives stained and twisted. Fast-forward thousands of years as God’s rescue plan unfolds, and the true Image of God arrives on earth: baby Jesus. We wouldn’t have guessed it, but this Jesus “is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15). Jesus was and is the unstained and untwisted true Image of God: his true royal representative here on earth. He came to show us how to live as people made in the image of God. He came to undo the brokenness of humanity. And he came to sacrifice his perfect life to pay the penalty of our rebellion. Jesus ultimately came to restore you to the true image of God.

So I don’t know if you’re the spittin’ image of one of your parents, but I do know that you’re gloriously made in the image of God. That alone is worth celebrating. Yet it is even more glorious to be re-made into the image of God by Jesus himself, otherwise you’re stuck in your rebellion and eternally separated from God. You too can be made new by turning from your rebellion and trusting and following Jesus, the true Image of God.

Genesis Resources

We’re starting our journey through Genesis! Check out the resources below to help you read and understand.

Recommended Bibles
ESV Bible (many design options)
ESV Study Bible
ESV Student Study Bible

Genesis text online
ESV translation
NIV translation

Genesis Audio on YouTube
Genesis Audio – ESV simple reading
Genesis Audio – ESV dramatic reading
Genesis Audio – “Message” Paraphrase (part 1) (part 2)

Genesis Overview Videos HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
“Bible Project” overview (part 1) (part 2)
“Read Scripture” overview (part 1) (part 2)

Mobile Apps
Bible Gateway

New Sermon Series: Genesis

Coming soon: a sermon series on the book of Genesis. Who am I? What am I? How am I? Why am I? We’ll look into all this and more as we dig into the most ancient and vibrant stories of our faith. Come discover the good news of Jesus, which begins in the stories of Genesis.

Genesis Flier (1).jpg

A Movement of Hope

An open letter to the leaders and members of the Christian churches in and around Bennington

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

Ask anyone on the street, in the stores, or around the water cooler what they think our community’s biggest problem might be, and you’ll surely hear a lot about addiction. This is not a new problem, but it is clear that we have a crisis on our hands. Lives are being lost and destroyed, sometimes bit by bit, and sometimes suddenly. The demon of addiction is threatening and destroying our community like never before, and it is time for the followers of Jesus to respond all the more. The situation may seem hopeless at times, but as children of God, we are called to bring the light of Jesus into the darkness.

What does God think about our community’s addiction problem? And what should we, as God’s people, do about it? Some prefer to ignore the problem. Some feel powerless, so find it best to do nothing. Some are happy to pray for “those people” but don’t do anything beyond that. Some are active in loving folks in the midst of addiction. Some want to help but don’t know how. What should you do about it? What would God have you do?

If you look around an average church on an average Sunday morning you might see our nice clothes, our impressive buildings, and our fancy pipe organs (or guitars, if you like), and conclude that “church” and “religion” is only for those who’ve got their acts together.  But, as it turns out, that is the exact opposite of what God says: “God demonstrates his love for us in this: that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8). Jesus also said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” (Matthew 5:3). God’s heart is also revealed in the Psalms: “The Lord works righteousness and justice for all who are oppressed.” (Psalm 103:6).

Many of us believe something like this: “Those folks got themselves into their mess, so they can get themselves out.” But this perspective is missing out on God’s heart we find all through the scriptures and in our own experience. Yes, addiction often starts with a choice, but the life-destroying consequences of that choice often far exceed what is imaginable. Especially with opiates, the capacity to choose is quickly stolen away, and is only restored by a miracle of God’s grace. If we wait for folks to “get their act together” before we show them any love, we clearly forget that God didn’t wait for us to get our act together before he loved us.

Our secular friends are doing most of the work in the recovery community: 12-step programs, recovery centers, counselors, doctors, and the like. But if I may be so bold, God’s people have something they do not. We, as followers of Jesus, have the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us. We serve a God who can do far more than we can ask or imagine. We have a Savior whose love cannot be stopped by angels or demons or powers or anything else. The question before us now is: will we, as the Christian community, step up to make a difference? Or will we continue to largely ignore the biggest problem in our community?

I believe “the answer” to addiction ultimately comes down to one thing: relationships. We find hope, healing and wholeness in our relationship with God through saving faith in Jesus Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amazingly, God most often chooses us, his people, to express his love to others through our personal relationships. Our relationships are needed for folks to find hope, healing, and wholeness that can only come from God.

So a little while ago, here at First Baptist Church, we started a gathering we call Mercy Street. It is a simple monthly gathering of those affected by addiction: whether in recovery, in active use, family, friends, survivors, supporters, or whoever. Those of all faiths or no faith are welcome to come together for music, story, and prayer. We sing songs of hope and deliverance. We share stories of recovery. We pray hard for each other and our community. And we find relationships, which is where the real power is. Perhaps more will come from this simple beginning, but then again, perhaps it is enough to look someone in the eye and say: “You are loved.”

It is a humble beginning, a seed of a movement of love. Will you join us as we gather to share God’s love with anyone affected by addiction? Will you join us at 601 Main Street in Bennington on February 28 at 7pm?

Individually we can make a difference. Together we can make a movement.

Will you join us?

Let There Be Peace on Earth

You’ve probably heard the popular Christmas song that starts like this: “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me…” The song makes no mention of Christmas, but it is most often sung this time of year when our minds are looking for peace, our hearts our longing for peace, and our bodies are aching for peace. This is when we remember the angels proclaim: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward all…” (Luke 2:14).

While you may have heard sung by Vince Gill (among many others), it was actually written in 1955 by Jill Jackson, who said she wrote it after finding the “life-saving joy of God’s peace and unconditional love.” She was apparently suicidal before she wrote the song, and before God’s peace broke through to her. The song is powerful because it leads us to long for the true peace that God brings, and it also personalizes that peace. The song reminds us what is readily apparent: the only way we can have peace in our world is to start with peace in our selves.

But the problem is we’re constantly at war, both within and without. If I’m supposed to be a peace-maker, what good will I be doing if my personal anxiety is off the charts? If I’m supposed to “let it begin with me,” I better get my own act together (suddenly I’m anxious about messing up this whole peace-making gig). Maybe exercise will help, or a long walk in the woods, or a little something to take the edge off. Maybe prayer, meditation, or talking it out. Maybe helping others, or just tuning it all out. Maybe then I’ll be at peace enough with myself to have a shot at bringing peace to at least one other person? But then the kids are at each other’s throats again, and I’m flying off the handle again, and we’re back to square one.

I wonder if the shepherds thought about this kind of thing. After all, times may change, but people are still people. Shepherds in those days were considered filthy, thieving, low-lifes, which would probably lead to a mindset of me-against-the-world. Not exactly “Kumbaya” around the campfire while the sheep peacefully doze off. Maybe the shepherds could relate to the war within and without. Maybe they were dying for peace too.

And suddenly the sky exploded with terrifying light. A mysterious creature from another world appeared without warning, with the glory of God all around him, proclaiming joy, glory and peace. I’m guessing the sheep either died on the spot from fright, or fled for their lives, but the shepherds had more important matters now. The angels declared the good news of joy and peace: a gift from heaven to earth, “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11).

Notice that the shepherds didn’t respond by singing “Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with me.” No, first they received the word of peace that was given to them by God. They received it, and they believed it. They didn’t need to sing “Let there be peace on earth” because it was already here, in the form of Baby Jesus. And they didn’t need to sing “and let it begin with me” but rather: “and it has begun with Him!” They received it, they believed it, and they ran and saw the Prince of Peace with their own eyes. Whether they were looking for it or not, they became recipients and messengers of peace from that day forward: “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen…” (Luke 2:20)

The peace that they longed for, and that we all long for, had finally come, and he came as a baby. God’s plan for peace on earth is not to instantly wipe out all war and anxiety (if he did that, we’d all be instantly gone!). God’s plan for peace on earth is to enter into our sin and mess (messier than even a stable) and take it upon himself, ultimately on the cross. When we receive his gift of forgiveness by faith, we have eternal peace with God, and then we too can become agents of God’s peace. God’s plan for peace on earth began with Jesus, so we can have peace with God, peace with others, and even peace within ourselves. That’s how peace on earth is happening even now.

I don’t know about you, but I can already feel my anxiety calming, knowing that peace on earth doesn’t depend all on me. If you belong to the Prince of Peace, you too can receive and make peace on earth, because it has begun with Jesus.