In Genesis 1:26 we have one of the most important verses in the Bible telling us who we are. Listen: “Then God said, ÔLet us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”
What does this mean to be created in the image of God?
God does not have a body. Jesus said, “God is a spirit and his worshipers must worship him in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
I remember one of our Sunday school lessons had God depicted as a large man with a book and a pen in his hands. The lesson taught that God was righteous. Every time we sinned, God marked it down in his book. One day we would have to give an account for this sin. The depiction of God in human form was wrong, and yet so often this picture colors my view of God.
What does it mean to be created in the image of God?
That phrase, after our likeness, tells us a lot. We have some of the similarities of God.
1. God has a mind Ð we have a mind. We can think. Our minds are very small and very limited. Think about the mysteries of life, and we learn how little we know. However, we do have a mind.
2. God has a will Ð we have a will. What is the will? It is a mental power with the ability to choose. W e can even say no to God. Adam and Eve did, and so do we on a regular basis.
3. God is eternal Ð we are eternal. God has told us that we are different from any other part of his creation in that we have a soul which is eternal.
All is well. Humankind was created. They lived in a personal relationship with their Creator until they decided to exercise their will, and one day they said to God, No we are going our own way.
You remember the story of Adam and Eve in the garden. God had told them they could eat from any tree except the Tree of Knowledge, and if they ate of it, they would die. Along comes the tempter and assures our first parents that this was not true. The temptation was so appealing. Why not eat the fruit?
From that time on, all of us have been enslaved to sin. We are born in sin and live in a fallen world with all of its imperfections. Paul writes, “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. . . . For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:12, 19). This is spiritual enslavement.
Look around in our world, and you will see what it means to be enslaved to sin. We are captured by our fears.
The human being makes many attempts to escape this slavery. The Israelites in Jesus’ day refuted his teaching that they were slaves: “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we will be set free?”
Doesn’t that sound familiar? We are Americans and are free. Politically we are free, thank God. And yet everyone of us are spiritual slaves.
We can acquire wealth, purchase insurance policies, buy good medical care and all of the real estate and social amenities, but still there is a spiritual enslavement. Paul describes this helpless feeling when he writes, “What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do” (Romans 7:15).
How can I be set free? This is our question, and Jesus gives us the answer. If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
First, we have to be in a personal relationship with Christ. He has died for our sins, and through receiving him in faith as our Savior and Lord, we are forgiven from our sin. The relationship that was broken in the garden has been restored through a blood-stained cross and an empty tomb.
Second, we hold to His teachings. We read God’s Word faithfully, where we receive the answers to being set free from our enslavement and the power to make these teachings living truths in our lives.
How does it all work?
I visited with two women in our coffee shop one morning. Both women had lost their husbands and were acquainted with all of the complications that accompany widowhood. One was convalescing from major heart surgery. Over the coffee cup I asked, “How do you deal with these difficult times in your life? Do you worry? Do you have fears for the future?”
The woman recovering from heart surgery told me she left it all in God’s hands. “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). “Come unto me all you who labor, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
She had been set free from her enslavement of worry. Christ had said he would take care of it. Isn’t that enough? Or shall we walk through life enslaved because we are not adequate to deal with all of our sins?
This does not mean that we can live irresponsibly and expect God to take care of it all. I like what one man said, “If your car has a flat tire and you pray about it, but make no effort to fix it or have it fixed, the tire will be flat in the morning.”
Freedom, what a blessing! To lose your freedom is one of the greatest losses that can come to a person. If you doubt that statement, ask a person who has been in prison. One day, while talking with a person who operates a very successful retirement center, he told me that the secret to the success of the center is to give the guest as much freedom as possible. Limit the rules.
Because it is so easy to fall back into spiritual enslavement, I need this word from our Lord in my spiritual computer: “If you abide in my word, you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”