Last week, I asked you to imagine looking in a mirror. We saw that we are far from perfect as we look at ourselves in light of God’s Word, but God accepts us because of His grace. This morning, I invite you to get out that imaginary mirror once again and ask yourself another question: “Do I like the person in the mirror?” You have gotten to know that person over a long period of time; do you like him or her? Or is the person looking back at you someone that you really don’t like at all? But here is what is crucial: it is not what you think of that person in the mirror that is most important. It is what God thinks of that person that is most basic and most important. This morning, we look at how Christians should view themselves in light of God’s view of us. Let’s read Ephesians 4:17-24.
I. First, we need to understand that we are created in God’s image.
In Genesis 1:26-27, God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” God deliberately planned and created us so that we would be in his image. People are no accident that developed from evolution. But what does it mean to be in God’s image. Ephesians 4:24 describes people in the image of God as being righteous and holy. There is a part of us that is just like God who is righteous and holy. Now that is true, but that is not an easy thing to fully understand either. The image of God is best seen and understood in Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:15 calls Jesus the image of the invisible God. If we want a picture of what people created in the image of God are like, all we have to do is look at Jesus in the New Testament. Jesus was in fact born as a man, but also perfectly righteous and holy.
Thus, when we think of us being created in the image of God, we may legitimately look at the picture of Christ as found in the New Testament. On a wall near the main entrance to the Alamo in Texas is a portrait with the following inscription: “James Butler Bonham –no picture of him exists. This portrait is of his nephew, Major James Bonham, deceased, who greatly resembled his uncle. It is placed here by the family that people may know the appearance of the man who died for freedom.” We don’t have a literal portrait of Jesus either, but the likeness of the Son can be seen in the lives of us, his true followers.
The result is that Adam and Eve as first created by God were good and perfect. They were a beautiful and important part of God’s creation. Question Six asks: “Did God create people so wicked and perverse?” The Heidelberg Catechism’s answer is: “No. God created them good and in his own image, that is, in true righteousness and holiness, so that they might truly know God their creator, love him with all their heart, and live with God in eternal happiness, to praise and glorify him.” But as the question infers, something has gone terribly wrong with God’s image-bearers.
II. What happened to cause a problem with our image?
Shortly after God created Adam and Eve in his image, sin entered the picture. Adam challenged God’s authority over him and separated himself from God. He was not content to be what God created him to be. He rebelled against God and sin entered the world. And the Bible teaches that through Adam’s sin, all of us became sinful. Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” 1 Corinthians 15:21 says, “death came through a man; for in Adam all die.” Question 7 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks: “Then where does this corrupt human nature come from?” The answer: “The fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise. This fall has so poisoned our nature that we are all conceived and born in a sinful condition.” The result of Adam’s sin is that all of humanity is caught in a spiral of sin and death.
We are lost in this condition unless we are born again by the Spirit of God. Question 8 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks: “But are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?” The answer: “Yes, unless we are born again by the Spirit of God.” That is what Paul is getting at in the larger context in Ephesians 4:20-32. Paul is saying that by believing that Jesus’ death and resurrection are for you, you become a brand new person who is born again. In this process, God is restoring us to what we used to be when first created. That is the goal that God has in mind for each one of us. And now Paul says that we must live as the new people that we really are. And so we ask: Who are we? Sinners or saints? How does God view us?
III. What does God think of us?
Are we in fact saints or sinners? The answers vary considerably. Some Christians would say that we are very close to being perfect. But this attitude makes us very vulnerable to sin and temptation. This can also lead to an arrogant and holier-than-thou attitude. Other Christians would say that we are still most awful terrible persons. Even if we do believe in Jesus, we are still mired down in our sins. But if we are convinced that we are horrible sinners we may well begin acting like horrible sinners. Robert was a little boy in a church we once worked in for a summer. Everyone expected Robert to be bad; they had certain expectations of him and he often lived up to them because people expected him to be so bad. If we are convinced that we are going to be bad, we may well act badly.
We need to have a balanced view of ourselves spiritually. We are indeed sinners, but we are saved or redeemed sinners. Sin is still very powerful and still is part of our nature. We are still lured by motives of selfish pride and self-centeredness. But we must remember that the Holy Spirit is stronger. And the Spirit is making us more and more as God originally created us: perfect and in God’s image. We are sinners saved by God’s grace. And this means that God views us in a very special way.
IV. And so how should we view ourselves?
This is an issue that is very important and basic in many people’s lives. Many people today are not happy at all with who they are for many different reasons. They are convinced that they aren’t smart, pretty or handsome. They believe that they are either too fat or too thin. They think they can’t do anything right. Soon we end up believing that we are worth very little. But what we must remember is that when we look in the mirror, it is not our view of ourselves that is most important. In fact, imagine that when you are looking at yourself, God is also there looking at you over your shoulder at you. Only He doesn’t point out all the bad stuff, even though he is very much aware that the bad is there. If we believe in Christ, the bad stuff does not really matter to God.
We must change our perspective from the way we view ourselves to the way God views us. We were created good and perfect; created in God’s image. God created us with His own hands and with loving and deliberate care. That in itself means that you are very special. And even after we fell into sin, God claimed us again by sending Jesus to die for us. God claimed us not because of what we can or cannot do. God claimed us because we are very special to Him and He loves us. And not only did God claim us again in Christ, He loves us so much that He is now restoring us to what he intended us to be in the first place.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to view ourselves and others as God sees us. We are worth a great deal to God; we are not junk! Are we going to tell God that He is mistaken in His estimation of us? Or will we take Him at His word and accept His estimation of our worth? And let’s also view others around us in the same way God sees them. When we see a person who is hurting, let’s see a person who is in God’s image. Let’s treat that person, even if they seem to be despicable, with the respect that he or she deserves as an image-bearer of God.
Each Christian we meet a person in whom Christ actually dwells. But how often we sit next to other believers, eat with them, sing with them and yet fail to see we’ve been in the presence of Christ himself. Let’s treat each other as we would treat Christ himself. We have been created in God’s image. That means that each one of us is very special in God’s eyes. That also means that we should be very special in each other’s eyes as well. Let’s pray that we may see each other, and our own selves, more and more as image bearers of God.