Image and Likeness

A New Nature - Prophetic Declaration

First in a series.

A number of years ago I attended a men’s conference on finding our “call”.  It stirred up hope and hunger for fellowship with others in our  common spiritual journey.  Like so many other stirrings of the Holy Spirit, there’s the ebb of the Spirit after such an awakening.    It seems the Spirit stirs our heart, whets our appetite, and then daily life attempts to suffocate our brief encounter with God.

Today we hear much about “story”.  The story of adventure, battle, and rescue.  The desperate cry of our heart to find meaning, risk, challenge, and fellowship in some grand adventure and undertaking.  To be a part of something that has impact, changes lives, and changes the course of history.  To wage war against the enemy and snatch victory from him and make it ours.  Is this not what Jesus offered to us, that we might have abundant life, and have it to the full?

The heart is a very complex thing.  There are a lot of moving parts to our story.  It takes time for God to move people and places into position, to arrange opportunities, to help us open our heart and be prepared for him, to hear his call and rightly discern, and to wisely respond.  There’s a confluence of emotions, feelings, history and expectations that all come into play in one form or another.  Then there are the current circumstances of our lives, health, relationships and even finances.  To stir the pot up a little further there is the enemy, the cravings of our fallen nature, the pull of the world, and many other magnets tempting us one way or the other.

As I wrestle with my story, and all that it entails, I am reminded there is a “master plan” at work in my life and I can find rest in Him.

In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea…”(NIV)   In Genesis 1:27, the account states “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”(NIV)

The Hebrew word for image is Strong’s Number 6754 to shade; a phantom, illusion, resemblance, figure, idol.  The Hebrew word for likeness is Strong’s Number 1823 resemblance, model, shape; fashion, manner, similitude.  It appears image has more to do with the “outward” form – what you see.  Likeness appears to have more to do with the “inward”, its’ nature.  Some have likened “image” to walking uprightly (authority), intellect, sight, hearing, speaking, touch, etc.  Likeness, in contrast, would be things like thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, words, mannerisms, motives, etc.

God creates man in his image, but what about likeness?  Why did he not mention likeness as well?  Is likeness something that can be created or is it a creative process?  And in verse 26 the account says “let us make…”  So not only does verse 27 exclude likeness, it also uses the word create, instead of make.

Perhaps, before the fall, there was not much difference between image and likeness.  Adam and Eve were naked and not afraid. As we say today, what you see is what you get.  It is probably safe to say Adam and Eve lived out of wholeness, complete at their level of maturity in the various aspects of their lives.  Sinless, the inward and outward form of their lives were in relative harmony.  Being created as adults (other than babies or young children), their “image” would be further along, as it were, than their “likeness”.  Just as 21 year old may have very little physical change over the next decade, his or her heart could have significant changes, to the better or the worse.

At the fall Adam and Eve’s inward nature changed for the worse, a progressive degradation.  Their outward formed changed as well, with physical death looming ahead.

One of the big differences between the Old and New Testaments is the possibility of transformation and sanctification.  In the Old Testament there were many sacrifices.  They were stuck in their old nature, having no hope of being transformed into the image and likeness of God as prophetically declared in Genesis.  The Old Testament men and women of God were anointed but not transformed.  There does appear to be a few exceptions, such as Moses, Elijah, and Enoch (and only because of Christ’s future sacrifice).  But overall, the Old Testament saint did not have the opportunity to be partakers of the divine nature through the new birth.

In the New Testament, there is only one sacrifice, Jesus Christ, who died once and for all.  His sacrifice, being perfect, without sin, rightly and justly satisfied all the legal requirements of the law.  His sacrifice made available to us the opportunity to be transformed into his image and likeness.(Romans 8:29, II Corinthians 3:18)  A significant part of our transformation is the healing of our wounds, the restoration of life and relationships.

Your story may seem pretty bland right now, maybe even a prison sentence.  But remember, great things come out of prison.  Joseph came out of prison and became second in charge in Egypt.  David came out of the wilderness and became King of Israel.  Paul wrote scripture in prison.  So your story may not be the one you would choose right now, yet the fruit of your story may produce the divine nature.  The same prophetic declaration that existed over Adam and Eve exists over us, in Christ.  We, like they, are created (born from above) and are being made into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ.

Woman Caught in Adultery, John 8

An Invitation to Journey

Many are familiar with the biblical account recorded in the Gospel of John, chapter 8, of the “woman caught in adultery”.  The story seems rather simple and straightforward.  A woman caught in the act of adultery is brought to Jesus as a trap, to corner him.   One can only imagine the fever pitch of emotions swirling among those intent on entrapping Christ.  Can you imagine what they might have felt toward her and toward Jesus.  It seems both of them were on trial for their lives.  The teachers of the law and the Pharisees were focused on her sin.  They saw the outward act of her fallen nature, the fruit of her wounds, poor choices and possible addictions.  It appears their offer to her is death – condemnation’s only fruit.

Jesus saw something vastly different.  He saw a woman trapped, trapped in sin.  Was it generational sin, lack of fathering and mothering, abusive relationships, etc., that brought her to this stage of her life?  Jesus did not ask.  Jesus has a better way for dealing with sin and its brokenness.

And this side of the story, not often told, is captivating.  Jesus says to her in verse 11 “…Go now and leave your life of sin.” (NIV)  The word “Go” is very interesting.  At the surface level it means to traverse, travel, remove, depart, journey, walk (“poreuomai” Greek Strong’s Number 4198).  This word is derived from another greek word which means attempt, test, experience, assaying, trial (“peira”  Greek Strong’s Number 3984).  And finally, another derivative in this word family is “peran” (Greek Strong’s Number 4008), which means through, across, side, over, beyond, farther.  The idea of piercing is implied in these words.

Jesus is inviting the woman caught in adultery to a life journey with him.  This journey will entail testings and trials.  Jesus will walk her through the piercing of her wounds that they may be healed.  The old structures she has used to find life will be removed.  In place of the old, Jesus will offer himself as her source of life.  As it were, he is offering her a way to cross over Jordan into Canaan’s land, the new birth and beyond.  She represents all of us who have been caught in adultery with this world and our fallen nature.  Jesus is offering us an invitation to find new life in him, and him alone, true joy, peace and rest.  No less than restoration.

Jesus response to her is the heart of the gospel, the commission of his Father.  He brings good news to her, inviting her to journey with him.  He offers to bind up the broken pieces of her heart, tests, trials and sacrifice being part of that process.  And he proclaims liberty and freedom to her captive soul, offering to pierce her wounds that she might be healed and restored to God’s original plan of making man and woman into his image and likeness.

What is also interesting about this account is Jesus had the opportunity to make the same offer to her accusers.  Certainly, his commission extends to her accusers as well, or we all would be lost.  What was it about the state of their hearts that precluded Christ from making the same offer to them – or did he when he wrote on the ground?

Jesus did not reject her.  He did not inquire about her history.  He did not consider her a failure, unfit for the kingdom.  On the contrary, he saw her broken places as an opportunity to plant the kingdom of God in her heart.  She did not have time to cover her brokenness and nakedness like Adam and Eve.  She was caught in the act.  She was exposed and naked.  What the teachers of the law and the Pharisees saw as a lost cause Jesus saw as an opportunity for a journey in God.  Did she accept his offer?  Do we?