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Genesis: Made in the Image of God

October 3, 2021

You all, have you ever had this moment where you’re having tacos at your house and you’ve got the tortilla laid out on your plate, and in your excitement you end up putting way too much stuff on your taco and in the end can’t even close the darn thing? That’s like every taco ever for me and in many ways describes how I feel about today’s message. I was so tempted to try to fit way too much in this one. Lord willing, I hope and pray I’ve found a way to make this one edible and not create too much of a mess as we look at this massive, incredible, life changing biblical truth that you and I as humans have been made in the image of God.

This morning we continue on in our sermon series on the book of Genesis. Last week we’re looked at how God created the world in 7 days, and today, as promised, we’re going to do a deep dive specifically into all that is said and done on the 6th day of Creation, And what is so unique and noteworthy about this creation day is that the narrative really slows down here where here on this 6th day, God gives humanity, he gives you and me a job to do, a mission to fulfill and even more we are told what it is that distinguishes us from the rest of the created order, that is, that you and I are made in the image of God.

So without further ado, let’s jump in. You’ll see this outline pieced out in your sermon notes. There are really just two main parts, two big parts, but nonetheless just two, and here they are:

As people made in the image of God, we reflect God through 1) who we are and 2) what we are called to do.

Being made in the image of God means we reflect God through who we are.

Genesis 1:27 says this:

27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Just as a mirror reflects back to us an image of ourselves, so to when creating us, God created us in a way that would image or reflect what He is like as well.

More specifically, image of God in us is evident in our unique spiritual, moral, mental, relational longings and capabilities, that ways in which we are at the same time both like God and unlike everything else God created.

As humans, we have the capacity to love and desire to make promises and commitments to one another and to God just as God does with us. Nothing else in creation is like that. You don’t hear stories of bears out there in the wilderness exchanging wedding vows with one another.

As humans, we create language and communicate with one another, just as God spoke creation into existence through his word. Sure, ducks quack at one another but they’re not expressing emotion through language.

As humans, we have this innate understanding of right and wrong and fairness and justice, a reflection of a God who gives us commands and calls us to obedience. Animals do not have this, in fact we even use a phrase from the animal kingdom to describe our own lack of morality and justice at times when we say things like, it’s a “dog-eat-dog world” out there.

As humans, we have this restlessness within us, we even think to ourselves, “What’s my purpose? What on earth am I doing here?” And our God has created this longing within us – that there is a God shaped hole in the human heart. Deer don’t prance around the rolling hills wondering to themselves about the meaning of life.

As humans, we use our mind and creativity and imagination to create amazing things, whether it be in the realm of art or science, technology or medicine. Sure beavers build dams, but humans, humans build civilizations.

Do you see it? Through our spiritual, moral, mental, relational longings and capabilities you and I have been created to be like God, to reflect God, we have been made in the image of God.

Now of course, let’s make this crystal clear: Though we are like God, we are not God. Just in case you were a little fuzzy on that one, you are not God and I am not God. Consider for example, a couple of the attributes of God that we do not have. God, we are told knows all things and exists in all places at all times, we as humans do not share those characteristics. We do not know everything and we are not everywhere, though if you’ve ever heard the term “helicopter parent” before, it’s not for a lack of trying.

All this said, we are like God, but we are not God. We have been made in the image of God.

Now consider one of the most significant implications of being made in the image of God. And that is, you and I have intrinsic value and worth, or what one author describes as “unconditional dignity.” From the moment we are conceived to the moment we die, as people made in the image of God we are equally and unequivocally worthy of protection and respect, regardless of age, disability, race, intellectual ability, gender, you name it.

And our worth and dignity isn’t something that’s created or earned. Rather it because of the one thing we together all share in common, we are made in the image of God.

In fact that seems to be the truth that the narrator is really trying to drive home in 1:27. Notice what’s repeated there three times: “God created … God created … God created.”

Our value isn’t created, rather it’s given because we have been created by God himself, on purpose, for a purpose.

And this core biblical truth ought to give us confidence and humility at the same time.

Confident because you and I have been made in the image of God. We have intrinsic value and dignity and worth. And we have been made like God, to reflect God before the world and others and to show the world what this God is like.

And yet at the same time, this biblical truth ought to humble us, because it means that not only are we created in the image of God, but so is everyone else on this earth:

The person you’re on the phone with from customer service

The Muslim exchange student

The person in front of you who is driving 5 miles an hour under the speed limit

The shut in that lives across the street

The migrant worker without proof of citizenship

The infant with down syndrome

Yes even the person who’s on the other side of the aisle from you politically or whom you disagree with on all things Covid.

All of them, yes, that’s right all of them, made in the image of God.

And this reality should humble us when we come to the sobering realization that maybe just maybe we haven’t always treated one another with the dignity and respect and basic humanity they deserve.

Friends, how would it changed the way you look at people, how would it change the way you interacted with one another, the words that you choose if we truly saw people for who they are, made in the image of God? Lord knows, if we truly believed this it would have massive, earth shattering ramifications on issues such as immigration and how we treat people trying to cross our borders, but at the very least, what about the cashier bagging your groceries at Safeway. How would you go about the checkout line differently if you saw that person as someone made in the image of God?

Now, contrast that against what the world often says about us or what others have believed about humans in the past:

Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche despaired over all Christians did to comfort sufferers, encourage the oppressed, and preserve the sick ... they were sustaining a population full of weak and poor people, he said, instead of letting nature weed them out. As a result, he believed, the humans in Europe were not evolving as they could have."

What a depressing and utterly disturbing view of humanity, a complete failure to see people as made in the image of God. In reality, we as Christians ought to comfort sinners, encourage the oppressed and preserve the sick because they are made in the image of God.

Friends, how would it change the way you look at the world around you if we truly saw people made in the image of God? How would it change your everyday interactions with strangers, your loved ones, the words that you use? Of course, there’s so much more that could be said, but we’ve got to move on. Let’s move on to the second part of what it means to be made in the image of God:

Being made in the image of God means we reflect God through what we are called to do.

After declaring that humanity has been made in the image of God, humanity is given this cultural mandate, this divine calling, this sacred charge …

Here’s what it says, 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.

And what we do is in fact tied to who we are. Notice the connection that was made earlier in verse 26:

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky

Part of what it means to be made in the image of God is to reflect God through this divine calling we are called to. That we would reflect God through the authority and rulership that’s been bestowed upon us, that we would be creators and cultivators, stewards and caretakers of what God created.

So let’s briefly reflect on a couple aspects of this sacred charge that we are given:

God says, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth

Last week we talked about how one of the things God in creation was that he formed and filled the earth. He formed the spaces and then filled it with inhabitants, animals and humans. And here he’s calling us reflection his work in creation by doing much of the same. To fill the earth he says.

So how do we do that? What does this mean to be fruitful and increase in number, to fill the earth?

Well one way yet not the only way we do this is through having children, by starting and raising a family! It’s as though God is looking upon Adam and Eve, the first two humans on this earth and saying, alright you two, together I want you to join forces here and make more humans, who will give birth to more children, who will then give birth to more children, by this you’ll increase in number and through which the earth will be filled with the image of God.

That’s one way in which we reflect God, we have fill the earth by welcoming tiny little image bearers into this world and then helping them to know and love God like we do.

But yet, that it is not the only way you and I can fulfill this sacred charge to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth:

Consider for example, Jesus himself. Jesus was never married and no biological children. Yet could we say that his life and ministry were characterized by fruitfulness and multiplication (which is another way to translate “increase in number”)? Well, yeah, absolutely we could. A single man with no biological descendants, Jesus’s ministry was incredibly fruitful as he invested in 12 men, 12 disciples, who then went on to share the good news of Jesus, start churches, growing in number, and now all across the globe the earth is filled with Christ followers.

You see, when you look at across the span of the entire storyline of scripture, being fruitful and increasing in number doesn’t only happen through filling the earth by having children who are image of bearers, but even more through filling the earth by raising up and nurturing a new generation of Christ followers.

And so with that in mind, you can play your part in this creation mandate as a child care provider, fun uncle, foster parent, Sunday school teacher, mentor, coaching youth sports, bible study leader, or really anytime or any way we are strengthening and encouraging more people to follow Jesus, you too are fulfilling this part of the creation mandate.

Certainly having children is commendable. Children are a gift from God. And if you’re in the deep end of the pool raising kids these days, know that you are fulfilling a divine and sacred calling. But it’s not the only way in which we live out this charge to be fruitful and multiply.

Friends, whether through child raising, disciple making or servant leading, whether you are having children and teaching them to put their faith in Christ or whether you are helping current image bearers become Christ followers, how can we continue to fill the earth with people who know and love God?

That’s one of the ways in which we reflect God through what we do, and yet here’s another, and that is through our work. That’s right, through our work.

Now, here, you might be thinking, where did that come from?

Well, it has to do with this word: Subdue the earth.

Part of God’s creation mandate, his creation task for you and me is to subdue the earth. Which is a word you and I rarely use, but in short, to subdue the earth means to use and develop the earth’s resources and make something useful or beautiful out of it. To subdue to earth means to take what is, to take what’s there, to take what God has given us through creation itself and to make something good or useful or beautiful out of it. And the primary way in which you and I do this is through our everyday work:

For example, consider Adam and Eve. They were put in the garden to work it and keep it. And the job of a gardener is to subdue to earth – they take what’s there, seed, soil, water and sun, and through their work and sweat make something good and useful or beautiful out of it – whether it be fruit or vegetables or beautiful flowers. That’s how a gardener subdues the earth.

And that’s what you and I do and I are called to do as well through our everyday work. We take what is there, and through our work and sweat, through our energy, imagination, intelligence and love, and we make something good out of it, for the good of others.

And so, for some it means taking a scalpel and stethoscope, X rays and CT scans, training and education and bringing healing and wholeness to another for the glory of God and the good of others.

For others it means taking a hammer and nails, a saw and measuring tape, wood and cement and building beautiful buildings and homes for the glory of God and the good of others.

For others it means taking spreadsheets and laptops, pens and papers, meetings and agendas and starting businesses that give people meaningful work for the glory of God and the good of others.

Whether you are white collar or blue collar, whether you work in a cubicle or in a field, whether you get paid a lot or a little or nothing at all, whether you’re in education or agriculture, business or medicine, finance or government, you are helping to fulfill the creation mandate, subduing the earth, through your God given work for the glory of God.

One of my favorite stories I’ve read recently is about an investment firm called Eventide. And Eventide was started by this guy Finny Kuruvilla, who, in the process of trying to invest his own money, struggled to find companies or mutual funds to invest in that weren’t supporting industries such as tobacco or gambling or pornography, industries that he believed that even by simply indirectly investing in, was in conflict with his Christian beliefs. And so he and some buddies started their own investment firm and at first were really just focused on finding for themselves and their clients invest opportunities that weren’t associated with any of those shady industries. But as they dug deeper into God’s intent and a biblical vision for their business, they began to invest in companies that created “compelling value for the global common good.” In other words, companies that prospered by providing quality goods and services, stewarding creation, and treating employees, customers and stockholders with integrity (or we could say, as people made in the image of God). So with that in mind, their investments included a pharmaceutical company working to cure intestinal diseases, a paper company with sustainable practices and a company supporting open-source software.

We can strategically allocate our dollars toward culture-making that is moving the world closer to God’s original intent. We’re expanding the beauty and provision of the garden across the world for human benefit and God’s glory.

Beautiful, right? Doing their work, subduing the earth by investing for the glory of God. That’s just one example of people doing their work in a way that glorifies God and reflects our responsibility as people made in the image God.

When we put it all together, here’s what we see: As people made in the image of God, we reflect God through who we are and what we do.

It’s stunning really. That God would call us to something so great and give us such a tremendous and sacred responsibility. As the Psalmist reflects in Psalm 8, What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands you put everything under their feet:

It’s a sacred calling, one that should humble us in its immensity. And yet here’s the sobering truth. We all have fallen so very short in terms of living it out. I know I have.

I confess I often fail to always see everyone around me as made in the image of God – whether through my words or my tone or my internal thoughts I forget that they are people who have unconditional dignity. When it comes to raising a family, I fear that my kids will end up reflecting me more than they do their Lord and Savior. And I don’t always view my work with the high calling and esteem that it was given – that is in fact, truly good.

I fall short of this sacred responsibility and my guess is on some level you would say you do too.

And that’s why I find it such wonderful timing that we’re sharing communion together this morning. As we partake in the bread and the cup, we are reminded of one of the names that was given of Jesus – that he is the image of the invisible God, that he is the only human who has ever lived that has truly and perfectly reflected God through who he was and what he did, and how he lived and went about his everyday life.

And as we take this communion meal may you be both comforted and strengthened, comforted as God extends his forgiveness towards us because of what Christ has done, the better life he lived, and also strengthened to live the life that God has been calling us to live from the very beginning, for the good of his people and for the glory of God.

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