Though we are God's children, like children we sometimes disobey. Let us confess our sins to God who loves us.
Abba, God, we confess that sometimes we live in fear rather than in your love. We may forget that we are your children, and live as if we were orphans. We may take your love for granted, and go our own way tarnishing your name and squandering our inheritance. We rebel against the boundaries you set for our well-being, rather than live as you intended. We deny our brothers and sisters thinking in arrogance that we are your only children. We may behave like spoiled children at times, but you invite us to live with dignity and integrity as heirs to your kingdom. Forgive us and guide us to ever better lives lived in your name. Amen.
God sent his Son to teach us, forgive us, and to claim us. In the name of Jesus we are redeemed and set aside for God's own glory. Thanks be to God!
God as we hear your Word today, may we know deep in our hearts that we are indeed your childen by the work of your Holy Spirit within us, and may we long to share that inheritance with the world. Amen.
THEME VERSE FOR TODAY Genesis 1:27, CEB
God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them.
NEW TESTAMENT READINGS John 17:21-23, NLT
21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.
22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.
Romans 8:14-17, CEB
14 All who are led by God’s Spirit are God’s sons and daughters. 15 You didn’t receive a spirit of slavery to lead you back again into fear, but you received a Spirit that shows you are adopted as his children. With this Spirit, we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The same Spirit agrees with our spirit, that we are God’s children. 17 But if we are children, we are also heirs. We are God’s heirs and fellow heirs with Christ, if we really suffer with him so that we can also be glorified with him.
SERMON In God's Image as God's Heirs
Several conversations at the wedding last weekend related to traits my daughters have inherited from their father and I.
- They each take their coloring from one of us and their facial structure from the other.
- They are both left handed as were our fathers.
- As I met their step brother's wife for the first time, she said she could see some of their traits in me.
But what does it mean to be created in the image of God?
- John MacArthur says it indicates personhood and relationship. The Godhead is three persons in relationship with one another, yet all are One God. In the same way God made us for a relationship with God, with each other and with creation. We were created in God's image of relationship.
- Eugene Petersen paraphrases our theme verse as reflecting God's nature, God's attributes incorporate both male and female aspects, so both are available to us as men and women, and both genders reflect something of God's nature. God also gave us responsibility for creation, and this too reflects God's nature, to care for all of creation.
- Max Lucado emphasizes our uniqueness, that nothing else in all creation was made in God's image, only humanity. We share then in these attributes: "wisdom, love, grace, kindness, longing for eternity." (Max Lucado, Unshakeable Hope, p.18) We are made to reflect God's glory, not our own, but to let God's glory shine through us.
To be made in God's image is to be a good representation of God. This reminds me of an elephant joke I liked in fourth grade. It's not a great joke, but it does fit this concept. The joke asked, "How do you carve an elephant?" The answer is, "You take a block of wood and chip away everything that doesn't look like an elephant." While humankind was created in God's image, we haven't always lived up to it; we're like beautiful silver, but we become tarnished. Just like polishing silver, or the joke about chipping away everything that doesn't look like an elephant, God works to transform us and "rubs away" whatever is not Godlike.
This is the process of sanctification; the Spirit works in us to perfect us. In 2 Cor. 3:18,CEB we read, "All of us are looking with unveiled faces at the glory of the Lord as if we were looking in a mirror. We are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to the next degree of glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." Max Lucado writes, "I was made for God's glory and am being made into his image." (p. 20) When someone disses you or puts you down, when you feel unworthy, remember this! You are not perfect, but God is working to perfect you, to restore you to the image of God in which you were created.
We can agree this means we carry some god like attributes, but we are not divine ourselves. As I reflected in high school on this verse from Genesis (that we are created in God's image),
- I first thought it relates to creativity. Artists, musicians, inventors, etc. have something in them that reflects the Creator of the universe, as we use the resources God has given to create beauty and express ourselves.
- I also related this verse to dignity. Because we are God's creation and God's children, we all have worth and reflect God's dignity. We deserve to be treated with respect as God's children.
As I think about it now,
- I see God's intelligence giving potential to us. The capacity and power of our brain reflects the great intelligence of our God. Our brain is as vast as the universe with so much yet to explore.
- I see God's compassion reflected in our capacity to love God, love ourselves and others. Part of the message of a favorite group of mine is that we must learn to love ourselves in order to truly love others. (RM from BTS) I see that in the second greatest commandment identified by Jesus, to love others as we love ourselves.
- I see in the God of relationships our capacity for intimacy and interconnectedness.
Some of our family attributes cross multiple generations:
- In my family we frequently say, "you came by that honestly" or "guess you got that from?"
- I see in my mom, myself and my daughters organizational skills we each use in different ways. Jessika and I have shared our love of spread sheets only to discover mom does, too.
- Some of the attributes we inherit are not the best. In my family I would identify perfectionism and worrying as family traits we need to overcome and not hand on to the next generation.
- I can identify being the gentle middle ground as coming from my mom or to be the controlling force as coming from my grandmother.
In our faith we are heirs to many promises.
- We inherit the relationship expressed in Romans 8 and in John 17 read earlier. Because God claims us as God's children, we are destined to be one with God and Christ through the Spirit. As Richard Rohr puts it, when the Trinity sits at the table, we are invited into that circle. (paraphrased from The Divine Dance)
- Romans 8 reminds us that part of that inheritance is suffering. Jesus came not a conquering hero in terms of military or political power, though that's what many in his day expected. Instead, Jesus the Messiah came as a suffering servant. As Jesus suffered for us, we also will suffer in this life.
- But the counterpart to our suffering on earth is sharing in future glory. Glory refers to dwelling in God's presence forever, seeing God's glory face to face., living in that glorious light as described in Rev 21-22 where we no longer need sun or moon or lamp, because our light comes from God.
- We are joint heirs with Christ, and Jesus will ultimately bring us with him into God's presence.
Regarding our inheritance, Lucado also stresses that:
- Our God is a God of abundance; our resources may be limited, but God's are infinite.
- When pessimism kicks in as it does too often with individuals and even churches, ask yourself as Max Lucado's wife, Denalyn, often asks him, "Where is God in all this?" That pessimism may mean you are looking only at your human limits and not at God who is not bound by these.
Max tells Joshua and Caleb's story. When Moses early in the exodus sent spies into the promised land, Joshua and Caleb came back with huge fruit and grains, excitedly showing the goodness of the land God was giving them. But other teams came back saying, "They are giants, we look like ants compared to them. Let's not go there; it's too scary!" The consequences of listening to that negative report, was that God let them wander in that wilderness for 40 years, until every member of that generation, except Joshua and Caleb had passed away. Even Moses died before they crossed into the Promised Land. Joshua led them into that inherited land of promise, because he trusted God's promise. They did not take the land in their own power; God gave it to them, and they lived out that inheritance.
Don't give in to your fears, instead choose God's blessings. In spite of the hard times, trust in your inheritance. Lucado says, as God's children we inherit the promises and the availability of what we need spiritually. That includes the gifts of patience, joy, hope, peace, and wisdom. God's supply of these virtues never runs out, so turn to God to draw on it when needed. These things are also our spiritual inheritance.
As you choose your inheritance, you also choose how to live. Our inheritance comes with responsibility, assurances, and hope. It comes with spiritual blessings, promises and glory. Joshua 24:15 is a favorite verse, telling us, "Choose you this day, whom you will serve...As for me and my house we will serve the Lord." As you choose to serve God, remember that you do so not as a slave, but as God's beloved child, bearing God's image, inheriting God's promise, glory and likeness. So live fully into that relationship p of love and trust and hope offered by God.