Over the next few weeks, we’ll be previewing excerpts from Ballard Lead Pastor Bill Clem's new book, Disciple: Getting Your Identity from Jesus, to give you a taste of what the book—and discipleship—are all about. This adapted post from chapter 3 of Pastor Bill’s book, the second in our series, will examine how our image is a part of our discipleship.
I sat by the side of the bed and watched as my wife labored for breath, fading in and out of consciousness. In her moments of unconsciousness I asked God, "Show me the value of human life; show me how this unconscious woman glorifies you."
I realized how very me-centered
I was: unless this made sense to me, unless it was pleasing to me, unless it fit a purpose of my will, then my wife’s cancer was certainly not the best God could be doing.
My question to God has way more to do with "Why don’t you want to do more with her?" That was my struggle with God. "Isn’t there more
than imaging him or more than pleasing him?"
The answer is no.
Our value in God’s eyes is not determined by what we can do above and beyond his design for us but in the inherent nature of how we function in relationship to him, others, and his creation. It is our relationships that truly bear the image of God.
The Image of God Is Common to All Humans
The image of God is a quality, a characteristic, an attribute, a function, and a relational capacity that allows a human to image God in a way that pleases him and glorifies him. The capacity to bear his image in some distorted way survived the sinful fall of mankind, and we possess some value-giving vestige of God’s original design as image bearers.
Image Bearers Are Valuable
Expressions abound about useless things and inappropriate applications in which useful things would be useless. For example, a mirror in a world where everyone is blind. The reason mirrors are useful in our world is that there are sighted observers. Just so, the reason that image bearers are valued in God’s world is that he is pleased when imaged. God further uses his image bearers to reflect himself to other observers.
We Are a Mystery
As image bearers we are a mystery. I am constantly surprised by the people I meet who want to know the secret, the thing, or the magical technique that can turn their family or life around. I don't know why it surprises me. I have been on this Christian journey for over forty years and I still lapse into desiring a formula fix.
The point is that if someone is oriented toward imaging God, then the disciple-making process will be more transformational than an informational set of verses and lessons.
Not only are we a mystery, but every consideration of God on our behalf gets extrapolated to mystery as well. That God loves us, not for anything inherent within us, is a mystery. That God has a sovereign plan and holds us responsible for the life choices we make is a mystery. That God has the power to do whatever delights him, yet in his created world realities exist that grieve him, is a mystery. It is beyond us that God would consider us at all.
Interconnected Imagers of God
I have lived much of my life as a rescuer. I find myself connecting with someone in trouble in order to find my identity. To get out of rescuer mode has been a painful extraction for me. An even harder dimension has been to learn how to stay compassionate and helpful to someone without trying to be his or her functional savior.
Someone who projects a certain image, and then feels used for what that image seems to offer, suffers the great pain of emptiness. This tragedy is seen in many stories of people being used. Many Christians talk about God’s using them, and in one sense it truly is thrilling to sense God actually working through our words and resources to impact another.
Imaging God to a Broken World
Community—this word has recently made my list of overused and most misunderstood words. When I speak of community, I am speaking of relationships and the quality of those relationships. We all have a desire to belong so much so that is may even be a part of the image of God.
We started by saying everyone images God to one degree of distortion or another. If this is true, then being on mission may not be about what help you can offer as much as about partnering with unbelieving image bearers already imaging (although distorted) the God the don’t know.
The above post is excerpted from chapter 3 of Disciple
, published by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.org. Stay tuned for more Tuesday posts from Pastor Bill.
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