“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people - the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven and about which you have already heard in the true message of the gospel that has come to you. In the same way, the gospel is bearing fruit and growing throughout the whole world - just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and truly understood God’s grace.” (Col 1:3-6)
Thank you all for coming to our young adult worship service. We’ve been talking about the image of God and today is the last sermon on this subject.
Regarding the image of God, the Bible speaks about three things. First of all, human beings were created in the image of God. Second, human beings have lost the image of God because of sin. Third, God recovers His image through Jesus Christ, and He wants all His people to be conformed to the image of His Son.
So, we find three different types of humanity in the Bible—created humanity, fallen humanity, and new humanity in Christ. In the first sermon, we focused on the meaning of being created in the image of God.
To be created in the image of God means that we are essentially made to have relationships with God, with others, and with other creatures the way the triune God—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—have an intimate relationship with each other with mutual respect and love.
God created human beings to share His love with them and to have them take good care of each other and everything He made. That’s what the image of created humanity should look like. And we can find the perfect example of this image in Jesus’ life.
Last Sunday, we focused on fallen humanity. The Bible doesn’t only talk about the fact that human beings were created in the image of God—it also reveals that they lost that image because of their sin.
How the great fall came to all human beings is described in Genesis chapter 3, where Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil. They did so with the desire to make themselves “be like God,” and as a result of this one disobedience, all the relationships they had were broken.
The relationship with God was severed, which resulted in the brokenness of human relationships. The image of God became obscured and distorted by sin.
Sin doesn’t have just one face. Even though the essence of every kind of sin is the same, it has been revealed in many aspects of our lives. First of all, in our relationship with God, human beings start to resist their need for God and His grace.
This active resistance caused us to lose the kind of image we were created in. We’ve lost how worthily God created us and have started to despise ourselves according to worldly standards of being worthy. Because we’ve lost the identity of being children of God, we don’t know how to truly love ourselves.
This also affected our relationships with others. Because we’ve lost the ability to see others as God’s masterpieces, created in His image, we don’t love them but often harm, ignore, and become indifferent to them.
Out of the many faces of sin, I think the passive form of being indifferent to others is the most widely pervasive in Christian life nowadays. Sadly, it seems that many Christians aren’t interested in what God’s really interested in.
Rather than seeking God’s will, they only seek their own pleasure. We’ve lost the ability to see others in need the way God sees them and to reach out to them just as Jesus came to the world to save us.
Rather than trying to know where God’s eyes are, we only see what we want to see, following our own desires. This sin of indifference is the most powerful aspect of sin that severs our relationships with others. That’s what fallen humanly looks like.
New Humanity in Christ
Even though we can’t find any hope within ourselves, we can still find hope in Christ Jesus. He wasn’t indifferent to us, but actively came down to save us from our sins and renew us.
Paul said, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2Co 5:17)
Here, the new creation refers to the new self we come to have in Jesus. Jesus perfectly solved the problem of sin with His sacrifice on the cross and, by doing so, restored the image of God in us. We have been freed from the bondage of sin, and all our relationships with God and others that have been severed because of sin were recovered.
Now, in Jesus, we see the perfect example of how we should live as new creations. As I said before, Jesus is the image of the invisible God, in whose image we were created. So, the way Jesus had relationships with God and others shows us the kind of life we should also live with our new identity in Him.
In His total trust in God, Jesus always relied on God by praying in all circumstances. And in His life with all people, especially with the poor and the outcast, Jesus showed His unconditional love and compassion, which were revealed in His specific actions. And Jesus laid down His life even to the point of death to save us.
The Image of God: Faith and Love
So the life of Jesus, or the image of the Son, brings us into the new realm of faith and love we should have in our relationships with God and others.
Being created in the image of God means total dependence on God and living by His grace. Such a relationship was broken by sin. So, to recover the relationship with God as new creations in Jesus is to regain true faith in Him, because faith means simple trust and total confidence in God’s grace revealed to us by Jesus Christ.
Faith is not just agreeing with something with our minds. It is to completely accept what Jesus achieved on the cross as truth and to shift the lordship of our lives from ourselves to God.
Faith is a free and total act of entrusting ourselves to God, so faith is the end of all kinds of idolatry, whether the idolatry of self or the idolatry of others. In faith, we put God first and set His word as the absolute authority of our lives.
With faith, we gladly respond to the first and greatest commandment to love God with all our hearts, minds, and souls. With faith, we humbly accept the truth of who we are in Christ so that we’re no longer influenced by false ideas of worthiness in the world. We don’t despise or overlook ourselves but start to love ourselves just the way we are, proclaiming that we’re God’s beloved children bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.
Therefore, genuine faith in God must change our relationship with Him. If sin comes from the desire to be like God in terms of the lordship of our lives, true faith produces a pure, glad, willing desire to be conformed to the image of God. Through faith, and only through faith, can we know who God is and who we are in Him. That’s the first thing that’s recovered when we believe in Jesus.
Second, our lives as new creations being conformed to the image of the Son must also be shown in our loving relationships with others.
Being created in the image of God means living in mutual respect and love with others. This aspect of the image of God has been lost and distorted by despising others or being indifferent to them as a result of centering ourselves in our lives rather than God.
Then, to live with and love others is the new way of life that was clearly shown in Jesus Christ and that we’re to live out as new creations in Him.
Christian love is characterized by self-giving. The way we love is different from the way the world defines love because the love we’re called to live out is not our own definition of love, but the kind of love we find in Jesus’ life. We’re called to imitate Jesus’ love, which was shown in the most sacrificial way.
To seek us out, Jesus willingly laid down all His heavenly authority and chose to become like one of us. And He loved His people to the end, even to the point of sacrificing His own life to pay the ransom for our sin.
Jesus shows us what true love looks like. And now, it’s our turn to show how great and deep His love is for all people through our love for others.
Let’s read 1 John 3:16-19 together.
“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters… Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence” (1Jn 3:16-19)
The way Jesus loved us shows us how we should treat others. To be conformed to the image of the Son is to reflect His love in our relationships with others. And, the ‘others’ must include not only those with whom we get along, but also those who seem to be against us. Namely, we’re called to love our enemies.
And as John said, love is much more than just encouraging someone with words, which is important, but not enough. Jesus didn’t only love us with His words, but He proved His love in the most sacrificial way so that no one can doubt His love. That’s the love we’re to seek as we grow in our faith.
Christian love must be an act of freedom. According to the Bible, love is not a duty, but rather a joyful practice of what we’ve seen in and received from Christ, which means that we can truly love only when we’re filled with Jesus’ love.
The love we’re to show to others is not our love. Our love is always preceded by God’s surprising love for us. As John said, “We love because he first loved us.” (1 Jn 4:19)
So, what’s more important than deciding to love others is just trying to remain in Jesus’ love at all times. Our love has a clear limit, but there’s no limit to Jesus’ love.
If we try to love with our love, we can only love as much as we can, and we ourselves will be praised; but if we love others through Jesus’ love, which is without any limit or end, we can love others much more than we’re able to on our own, and Jesus’ name will be shown, praised, and glorified.
So, to love others is not an obligation or burden, but actually a great privilege that lets us experience Jesus’ love more deeply. Then, what we should do is dive deeply into His love and remain in it so that it can naturally overflow from our lives to those around us.
So, we just talked about how to live as new creations in Christ, especially in our relationships with God and with others. I believe faith and love are ways of living in the image of God.
God’s will for us is to be conformed to the image of His Son. Christians are those who live not by their own strength or abilities, but through Christ in them. The faith Jesus had in God and the love Jesus showed toward people must become ours. Then we’ll be able to glorify God through our lives.
Today, we started the sermon by reading Colossians chapter 1. Paul said that he always thanked God because he had heard of the Colossians’ faith in Christ and of the love they had for all God’s people. And their faith and love sprang from their hope for the coming of the kingdom of God and joining in Jesus’ resurrection.
The Colossians weren’t the only ones who had faith in God and love for others that resulted from this eternal hope.
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians,
“We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you” (1Th 1:3-4)
Paul knew that they were chosen through their faith, love, and hope. Their faith was shown as a form of hard work, their love as ‘labor,’ and their hope as endurance, which shows that Christian faith, love, and hope are not abstract concepts, but very practical aspects of our lives that we should all seek.
All right. Before we wrap up, I want to introduce one of Paul’s great prayers for God’s people. Let’s read Ephesians 3:16-19 together.
“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3:16-19)
This is also my prayer for you as well. I pray that all of us can experience Jesus’ amazing work of renewal in our lives so that we can have new faith, new love, and new hope until we are fully transformed into the image of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Heavenly Father, thank You for creating us in Your image and for sending Jesus Christ to restore the image of God that we’ve lost because of our sin.
Oh Lord, we want to be conformed to the image of Your Son, Jesus. Please have mercy on us and continue to work in us so that we can put on the new self, created to be like Jesus.
We want to reflect Jesus’ personality. Let us have complete trust in You just as Jesus fully surrendered to You on earth, and let us love others as Jesus loved us to the point of laying down His life.
Thank You for making us new creations through Jesus. Please continue to teach us how to live as Your people, being conformed to and reflecting Your image. We want to live a life that’s completely dependent on You.
Please let us learn what it means to live by faith in the Son of God so that our lives can be firmly established in Your love. Please continue to restore the image of Christ in us until our transformation is made complete on the last day.
We thank You Lord. We pray in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Today we talked about what new humanity in Christ looks like. It is depicted as faith in God in our relationship with Him and as love in our relationships with others. Here are the questions I want us to think about today.
1) What do you think it means for you to have faith in God? What would true faith look like? What kind of faith do you want to have or recover in your relationship with God?
2) What are some big obstacles that keep you from loving others as new creations in Christ? How do you think you can truly love others, including those who are against you, and overcome the sin of indifference?
“Now the LORD God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed… In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil… The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Gen 2:8-9, 15-17)
“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,
but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (Gn 3:1-6)
Thank you all for coming to our young adult worship service. Last Sunday, we started to talk about the image of God. This is a very important subject that we all must know about because it explains the kind of being we were created as and the kind of being God wants us to be in Christ. The Bible proclaims that we were created in the image of God. But we lost and distorted this image because of sin.
However, God gave us forgiveness and redemption through Christ. And Paul reveals that the reason God saved us through Christ is for us to be conformed to His image. So, Christians are essentially called to recover the image of God that we’ve lost until we are completely transformed into the glorious image of Christ on the last day.
In the Bible, there are three different types of humanity—created humanity, fallen humanity, and new humanity in Christ. We focused on the first one in the last sermon by learning about some interpretations of the image of God.
In Christian theology, the image of God has been interpreted in many different ways. It has been understood as physical resemblance, human reason, authority to dominate, and human freedom.
Each interpretation has its own merits, but the interpretation I said that I agree with the most is that the image of God refers to the ability to have relationships with God, others, and other creatures.
When creating human beings, God didn’t say, “I will make mankind in my image, in my likeness,” but “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness” (Gen 1:26). And God made both male and female in His image.
These verses imply that God Himself exists in communion, in intimate relationships, and that God wanted human beings, made in His image, to have the same kind of relationships with Him, with one another, and with other creatures in the world in mutual respect and love.
I believe that’s the image of God we were created in, lost, are to conform to, and be fully transformed into. And we find what the image of God really looks like in Jesus’ life. Jesus was fully responsive to God and the needs of others.
The way Jesus maintained His relationship with the heavenly Father and how He perfectly obeyed the Father shows us the kind of relationship we should have with God.
The way Jesus reached out to people, had compassion on them, and treated them also shows us the kind of relationships God wants us to have with others. So, Jesus is the perfect example of what God intended human beings to be.
Today, we’ll focus on the second subject—fallen humanity. The Bible doesn’t only say that we were created in the image of God. If Christian doctrine only talks about the bright sight of human beings, it would become mere idealism that’s unrealistic.
But the understanding of human beings in the Bible is realistic because it doesn’t only talk about the fact that we were created in the image of God but also reveals how human beings have lost and distorted it.
A famous theologian that I personally like is Reinhold Niebuhr. He once said,
“The Christian view of human nature is involved in the paradox of claiming a higher stature for [human beings] and of taking a more serious view of [their] evil than any other anthropology.”
The Bible not only affirms the good possibilities of human existence as created by God but, at the same time, it depicts the profound separation, alienation, disorder, and evil that characterize the actual human condition.
And this condition is described in one word: ‘fallen.’ The Scriptures clearly say that we are fallen, sinful beings. And this fall is portrayed vividly in Genesis chapter 3.
In the previous chapter, God created Adam in His image and put him in the garden of Eden. There were two special trees in the garden—the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
When putting Adam in the garden, God commanded him,
“You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Gn 2:16-17)
God gave Adam the right to take care of the world that He created. In the garden, Adam was like a king. But he had to remember that his authority was given to him by God, the true Lord and King of the universe who created everything in it.
I think that’s one of the reasons God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden despite the possibility of Adam eating from it and dying. God didn’t make Adam a robot.
By giving Adam the choice to obey or disobey, God gave him free will, hoping that Adam would keep choosing to obey God and remain in a close relationship with Him. In other words, obedience was the key to maintaining a proper relationship with God. By obeying God’s command, Adam continued to remind himself that even though he acted like the king in the garden, there was a true King that he was to surrender to.
The Great Fall
However, in the next chapter, the relationship was broken because Eve and Adam eventually disobeyed the command and ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
However, what’s more important than the action of eating is what motivated them to eat. The serpent said to the woman,
“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gn 3:5)
After hearing this, Eve looked at the tree. And being filled with the desire ‘to be like God,’ she ate from it and then gave some of its fruit to her husband to eat.
Here, the phrase “You will be like God” best describes the nature of sin. Sin is to drag God down from His position as King and for us ourselves to sit there. The nature of sin is to deny the God who created us—and who therefore must be the Lord of our lives—and to live as if we’re the lords.
Therefore, sin severs our relationship with God because we can only maintain an intimate, close relationship with Him when we’re in the right position in the relationship. God must be the Lord. Otherwise, if we try to take a higher position than God, the relationship is naturally cut off.
Sadly, driven by their desire to be like God, Adam and Eve ate from the tree and were banished from the Garden of Eden where God’s presence was. And the severance of the relationship with God affected every area of human life, especially in our relationships with others.
Our alienation was not only from God but also from ourselves and others. That’s how the great fall came to the whole world through Adam’s disobedience and human beings lost the image of God that they were created in. The image of God was obscured and distorted by sin.
The severance of our relationship with God was reflected in the brokenness of human relationships. The first act that took place outside the Garden was Cain’s murder of Abel. And the violence continued to grow and spread throughout the whole world.
In this sense, sin can be defined as the denial of our essential relatedness to others, including God. Fallen humanity denies our dependence on God and rejects our need for others around us.
Sin: Resistance to a Relationship with God
So, sin is much more than just a violation of law, or doing something that’s commonly considered bad. Instead, sin is primarily the disruption of our relationship with God. As David writes in Psalms, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Ps 51:4).
The disruption of our relationship with God, which is the essence of sin, appears in many different forms. First, sin takes the form of rejecting God and His grace.
If being human in the image of God means life in free response to God, then sin can be described as the resistance to our essential relationship with God and our need for God’s grace. It is to refuse to recognize the limits of our lives and our total dependence on God. Instead of living by God’s grace, whose source is beyond our selves, sin makes us seek to be our own God.
So, by this definition, sin is fundamentally opposed to grace. It is to say ‘No’ to receiving God’s grace, and ‘No’ to a life of joyful, complete obedience to God.
But the disruption of our relationship with God may take a very different form as well. In rejecting God’s grace, we may also despise ourselves for not meeting worldly standards of being ‘nice’ people.
Rather than seeing the beautiful image of God that He has put in us and being grateful for it, we often compare ourselves with others and think that we’re not good enough.
Because we fail to find who we truly are in God, we keep looking for other things on which we try to build ourselves. In other words, we allow other things to take the place of God in our lives. This is called the sin of self-rejection and self-hatred. This sin of self-loss is often ignored but it is also a very important aspect of the fall.
As a result of the severance of humanity’s relationship with God, we’ve lost who we truly are.
So sin can take both aggressive and passive forms. Judas’ act of betrayal was an active, aggressive form of sin. And the fear and denial of the other disciples in the face of Jesus’ trial was also sin in its passive form. We’re to guard against both.
The first change we experience in Jesus is how we see ourselves. Everyone loves themselves, but it seems that many people don’t know how to love themselves. And I think it’s impossible for us to love ourselves without God because only in God can we know how worthy we are.
The world suggests many standards of ‘worthiness,’ and many people spend all their lives striving to meet them, but God says that we don’t really need those standards because we’re worthy as we are. Those who acknowledge the fact that they have the image of God in them know how worthy they are in Him.
That’s the identity we’re to recover in God. And this change of perspective also affects our relationships with others because once we see ourselves as God’s masterpieces, we also see others as God’s valuable, precious children. That’s exactly what sin keeps us from seeing.
Sin: Resistance to Relationships with Others
If being human in the image of God means responding to God’s grace by living with others in mutual love and respect, sin is to resist loving others. This sin also has dual forms—active and passive.
Sin as domination and mastery over others is familiar to us. However, we should know that sin in our relationships with others is revealed not only in the active way of violating others’ rights, but also in passive indifference to others, which is more common. The problem is, the latter often isn’t recognized as sin even by many Christians.
But sin indeed has many faces. Sometimes, the passive form of sin is much more dangerous than the active one. In the Bible we read both ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’. We know that doing what God prohibits us from doing is sin. But at the same time, we should also know that not doing what God commands us to do is a passive form of sin, which is secretly pervasive in many Christians’ lives.
That’s what I’m struggling with most. I feel alarmed when I see that I don’t have compassion on others. As Christians, we’re to be interested in what God wants us to be interested in.
We are to know where God’s eyes are turning to. When we hear news of war, famine, disasters, persecution, oppression, and all kinds of evil things that are happening in this world right now, we shouldn’t be indifferent to them, thinking that they are none of our business, because they are actually relevant to us if we’re indeed God’s people.
We’re to know that indifference is one of the most powerful aspects of sin that severs our relationship with others. So whenever we find ourselves not being concerned about social problems, feeling thankful that we don’t have to deal with them, we need to know that that is a sign that there’s a problem in our relationship with God.
If God hadn’t been interested in us or had compassion on us, He wouldn’t have sent His Son to us and we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to be saved but would have died in our sin. Jesus didn’t have to come to the world because sin was our problem, not His.
But Jesus wasn’t indifferent to us. Rather, He actively loved us by becoming like us, bearing our sin in His body, shedding His precious blood, and dying on the cross.
And if we really receive the great love of Jesus, we shouldn’t be indifferent to others. We are to learn how to see others with His eyes and treat them as He treated us.
So today, we talked about what caused human beings to fall and what fallen humanity looks like. Just like how the central concept of the image of God lies in our relationship with Him, sin is also very closely related to how we treat our relationship with God.
Sin is to resist God, and it takes two forms—the active form of rejecting God’s grace by trying to be the god of our own lives, and the passive form of self-rejection and self-hatred.
And sin as resistance to relationships with others also takes two forms—the active form of hurting others and the passive form of being indifferent to others.
When we think about how we were created in the image of God to have loving, respectful relationships with Him and with others, we see how sin makes us live in opposition to that. These are the result of losing the image of God in us. That’s the reason the world we’re living in is filled with evil things right now.
However, we still find hope in Jesus, because Jesus came to the world to restore the image of God we lost and to make us new creations in Him. That’s what I want to talk about next Sunday. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, we repent of our sins. We repent of all the moments that we’ve lived without You and all decisions that we’ve made that were not in accordance with Your will.
Lord, we still see our sinful nature working powerfully in us.
And we don’t have the power within us to resist it. So we ask for Your forgiveness, mercy, and power. Please allow us to see Jesus Christ so that we can recover our relationship with you that has been cut off because of our sin.
Let us see how finite and weak we are so that we can continue to ask for Your grace and live by it. Please allow us to see how beautifully You’ve created us in Your image so that we can love ourselves the way You love us.
Please forgive us every sin that we’ve committed in our relationship with others, especially our sin of indifference to others’ difficulties. And give us Your heart and Your perspective so that we can see and love them the way You do.
We thank You for giving us new hope in Christ Jesus.
We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Today, we talked about fallen humanity and the results of sin. Here are the questions I want us to think about.
1) What active or passive form of sin do you find in your relationship with God? What is the main thing that keeps you from knowing who you are in God?
2) What active or passive form of sin can you find in the world? How are your relationships with others around you? Are you interested in or indifferent to the problems of those around you?
Thank you all for coming to our young adult worship service again. It’s been more than a week since the new year started. At the beginning of a new year, we normally make resolutions to do something positive and productive. And as Christians, we might decide to try to grow closer to God.
It’s a good idea. It’s important to restore what has fallen apart, especially in our relationship with God. But what has fallen apart? What does God really want us to restore as His people? When I thought about this subject, there was a theme that came to my mind. That’s the image of God.
The Bible starts with the statement that God created the whole world with His word. After that, God created human beings in His own image. That’s one thing that explains who we are. We are created in the image of God.
However, there are also verses about recovering the image of God. Paul said in Romans 8:29-30,
“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” (Rm 8:29-30)
Here, we find 5 steps of God’s salvation. God foreknew, predestined, called, justified, and glorified us. And we find the purpose of God’s salvation—it is to conform us to the image of his Son.
God’s will for us is to make us like His Son—Jesus Christ. That’s the image that God wants to restore in us. So salvation isn’t only about being forgiven or going to heaven, but about being transformed to be like the Son of God in everything we do.
Colossians 3:9-10 explains who we became in Christ.
“You have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” (Col 3:9-10)
Paul said that we took off our old selves and have put on the new selves. The old self refers to who we were without Jesus and the new self refers to our renewed selves in Christ. And the renewed self must reflect the image of God.
Paul also said that the last step in our salvation is to be transformed into the image of the Lord.
“And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2Co 3:18)
So the image of God, or the image of the Son of God, is what we were created in, what we should restore, and what we will be fully transformed into. You could even say that recovering the image of God is the reason God sent His Son to us.
I think, therefore, that restoring the image of God must be the goal of every believer of Christ. As Christians who were forgiven and saved by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, we must make every effort to be conformed to His good image by reflecting who He is in our everyday lives.
The fact that we must recover the image of God implies that we’ve lost it. In the Bible, we see three different types of humanity—created humanity, fallen humanity, and new humanity in Christ.
Even though human beings were created in God’s image, we lost it when the first man disobeyed God and sin entered the world through him. The great fall came to all human beings. They lost the image of God and began to fill their lives with their own images. But God sent His Son, Jesus, to break the barrier between Him and us and therefore restore His image in us through His Son.
That’s the story of the Bible. The Bible is filled with stories of how God reached out to His people who had abandoned Him and continued to show them His unconditional love and grace regardless of whether they understood it or not.
Again, God’s purpose is to make us new creations in Christ that are conformed to His image, and He will never stop until He accomplishes what He desires for us. And when the set time comes, we all will be fully transformed into His image that we were created in.
The Image of God
So, as Christians, it’s very important to understand what the image of God is.
I think human beings are the most mysterious and interesting creatures. We are rational and irrational. We are capable of deep friendship but at the same time we can be murderous. We love and hate people. We are selfless and selfish.
Throughout human history, there have been great leaders who sacrificed themselves for others, but at the same time we’ve seen many notorious leaders who committed genocide.
The Bible expresses the mystery of the good and evil within human beings through three declarations: we are created in the image of God; we are sinners who distort the image; and we are forgiven sinners who begin a new life in faith.
So, depending on how much we recognize and restore the image of God in ourselves, our lives can be very different. If we try to be conformed to the image of Jesus by remaining in Him, we’ll naturally bear good fruit. But if we intentionally deny Jesus and live in darkness without God, it’s clear what kind of fruit we will bear.
I think that’s why human beings have the capacity to do good like God yet at the same time do evil like Satan. So, recognizing the image of God is a very important matter that’s closely related to how we live in the world.
Then, what does it mean that human beings are created in the image of God?
God said in Genesis 1,
“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, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Gn 1:26-27)
Here, the phrase “the image of God” has been interpreted in a number of different ways throughout the history of Christian theology.
1) Physical Resemblance
Some have interpreted the phrase to mean that human beings have a ‘physical’ resemblance to God, which means that God also has a physical form like us. This opinion isn’t really supported by the rest of the Bible.
2) Human Reason
The dominant Western interpretation has been that “the image of God” refers to the rational nature of human beings. It says that the exercise of human reason is a reflection of divine reason.
It is true that one of the most distinctive qualities that differentiates human beings from other creatures is that human beings can use reason. However, even though human reason reflects one of God’s attributes, I don’t think it’s enough to explain the image of God.
3) Authority to Dominate
Another interpretation of God’s image focuses on the fact that God gave humans authority to rule over all the creatures that He had created. In this point of view, the image of God refers to humanity’s right to dominate. It says that humanity resembles God in its exercise of power and dominion over other creatures.
Sadly, this interpretation has often been used to legitimize the reckless exploitation of nature. It is true that God gave human beings the authority to rule over other creatures.
But the authority entrusted to humanity must involve respect, protection, and care for others rather than domination and exploitation.
4) Human Freedom
Still other interpretations have emphasized human freedom as the meaning of the image of God. They say that the free creative activities of human beings reflect the free creativity of God.
However, even though freedom is undeniably important, this interpretation has serious limitations, especially as the cultural idea of freedom has become associated with being disengaged or independent from others.
So, I’ve briefly introduced some interpretations of the image of God that have been suggested throughout the history of Christian theology. Some say it refers to the physical image of God, others say it refers to human reason or the authority to rule over other creatures, and still others believe that the image of God refers to human freedom.
The Image of God: Ability to Have Proper Relationships
Each of the interpretations has its own merits, and I agree with all of them to some degree, but the interpretation that I really agree with is that the image of God describes human life as being in relationships with God and with other creatures. Here, the important point of God’s image is the ability to have relationships with God and others.
In the first story of creation in Genesis, God didn’t say, “I will make mankind in my image, in my likeness,” but He said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness” (Gen 1:26), which reflects how God lives not in solitude but in communion with Himself.
Moreover, in the next verse, the statement “God created mankind in his own image” is followed by “male and female he created them.” (Gen 1:27), which implies that God created human beings to have relationships with one another from the beginning.
Just as the triune God—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit—have a deep and intimate relationship with one another in mutual respect and love, we were created to have a relationship with God, with others, and with every creature in the world.
Therefore, to be human is to live in relationships of mutual respect and love through the image of God within us. The image of God is not like an image permanently stamped on a coin. It is more like an image reflected in a mirror. That is to say, human beings are created for life in relationships that reflect God and His relationships.
Just as our Lord Jesus Christ lived with and for sinners, and just as the eternal life of the triune God is rooted in mutual respect and love, we were created to reflect the triune God’s relationships through our own relationships.
And we see the best example of how to live out our relationships with others in Jesus’ life. Jesus Christ is the fullest expression of what God intends humanity to be. As Paul said, “Christ is the image of God” (2 Co 4:4), and “The son is the image of the invisible God.” (Col 1:15)
So, being conformed to the image of the Son of God is no different from recovering the image of God. Therefore, the lifestyle we see in Jesus Christ must be the model of what it means for us to be genuinely human.
As human beings, created in God’s image, we must learn to respond to God in our relationship with Him. We are created for fellowship with God.
God values relationships, and He calls us to live in a loving relationship with Him. God gives us life, calls us, and creates a covenant with us. And God wants our willing response.
This essential element of human life in relation to God is seen most clearly in Jesus’ life. Jesus was fully responsive to God and the needs of others. His whole ministry was defined by total trust in and obedience to the One He called Father and to the Spirit who empowered Him for His ministry.
So, in light of the humanity of Jesus, it becomes clear that being truly human means living in response to God. God calls us out of isolation and into a life of relationship. What He wants from us is not a mere mechanical reflex, but a personal, glad response.
And, as human beings created in the image of God, we’re to learn how to have relationships with others as well. Studies about human beings emphasize that human existence is essentially communal, not individualistic. We can’t live alone. From the first time we came to exist in the world, we have all had relationships with others. We had to learn to trust others even before we took a single step on our own. So being truly human and living with others are inseparable. Again, that’s the reason God created human beings as male and female in His image, not as solitary beings.
So, because we’re created by God, we are essentially relational and social beings. We’re created for life in community with others. And the life of Jesus is the best example of how we live with others, especially with those who are poor, rejected, and marginalized. Therefore, to live as human beings in God’s image is to treat others the way Jesus would see them and reach out to them.
Today, we talked about the image of God that we were created in which we should recover in Christ, and that we will be fully transformed into on the last day.
We talked about the role of relationships in the image of God. As the triune God lives in mutual love and respect, we’re to live in a proper relationship with God, with others, and with God’s other creatures.
This interpretation of the image of God is based on a Christocentric and trinitarian understanding of God, which are essential to Christian faith.
To say that God is triune is to say that our lives must be built upon our relationships with God and others. The triune God’s love must be the source and power in our relationships with others. That’s how we can reflect who God is to those around us.
I hope and pray that our lives can be firmly built on the truth of who God is and who we are in Him so that His good image, love, and power will be revealed through our lives. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us this new year and letting us worship You and listen to Your word together.
We want to restore Your image in us. We want to continue to be conformed to the image of Your Son day by day. Please open our minds and hearts and reveal to us who You are and who we are in You so that we can continue to live out our faith in our relationship with You and with others.
We want to reflect who You are in our lives. We are so weak that we often fail to reflect Your image. But we profess that true power is not within us but in You. Please pour out Your love, compassion, and power so that we can show how great Your love is through our lives to those around us.
We pray that only Your name be lifted up and glorified through our lives.
We thank You Lord. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Today, we talked about the image of God. And here are the questions that I want us to think about today.
1) What do you think the image of God means? What aspects of the image of God do you want to recover this year? What are some practical ways to do so?
2) To recover the image of God is to be conformed to the image of His Son. Jesus’ life showed us what the perfect human being looks like. What area of your life do you think is least in line with Jesus’ life? What do you most want to change to take after Jesus this year?
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope - the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Ti 2:11-14)
Thank you again for joining in our young adult worship service today. Since next Sunday is Christmas, today is the last Sunday of Advent. In fact, today’s worship is the last young adult worship of the year since we’ll have a combined worship service for Christmas next Sunday.
So I want to thank you for having been with me and for joining in young adult worship this year.
This week, we’ll continue to talk about the coming of Jesus. Advent is an important time when we remember the coming of Jesus. During this time, we not only celebrate the first coming of Jesus Christ, but also prepare for the second.
When Jesus ascended to heaven after finishing all His ministries on earth, two angels said that He would come back the same way He went to heaven. In addition,His return is also written about and prophesied in many passages in the New Testament and even in the Old Testament.
And we must believe that God is the God of covenant. He never fails to keep His promises. As Jesus said,
“Until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.” (Mt 5:18)
And about the salvation God would bring through His Son and the kingdom of God, the prophet Isaiah said, “The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (Is 9:7)
I really like the expression, “the zeal of the Lord,” because it reminds me that our salvation and the kingdom of God ultimately belong to God. The God we believe in is not passive. He’s different from other gods who just wait for people to seek them.
Our God’s love for us is so great that He came to the world to find us and save us. He has zeal and passion for us. And He has a plan for us. It has never changed, but has been faithfully fulfilled according to His great plan for our salvation.
And to help us understand it better, God didn’t just do things for our salvation but foretold them through many prophecies and symbols. When we read all the promises about Jesus written in the Old Testament hundreds of years before His birth and how they were fulfilled in Jesus’ life, we can’t help but praise God’s goodness, faithfulness, and love that we can’t even imagine.
And, what makes me even more excited is the fact that the Bible doesn’t only talk about what happened in the past. Not all the promises written in the Scriptures have been fulfilled yet.
Even though the promises of the first coming of the Messiah, the Savior of the world, were fulfilled, we still have the promises of the second coming of Jesus Christ.
And we can firmly believe with 100% confidence that Jesus will come back because we know that God, who had promised the first coming of Jesus and fulfilled it in His time, will bring about His promised return.
We should respond to God’s promise by saying “Amen,” which basically means, “so be it.”
As Paul said,
“For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you…was not “Yes” and “No,” but in him it has always been “Yes.” For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” (2 Co 1:19-20)
Last Sunday, we read some passages about the promises of the return of Christ. It’s important for us to know about the second coming of Jesus, but it doesn’t mean anything until we actually accept it as truth and believe in it.
And that kind of belief must transform our minds, attitudes, perspectives, and lifestyles. How can people who look forward to eternity live just like those who only seek temporary comforts on earth?
So, just knowing about Jesus’ return is not enough. It should have a real impact on our individual lives. Therefore, we must continue to try to fix our eyes on Jesus so that our faith and our lives can be firmly built on God’s promises, eternal rewards and the kingdom of God.
We must believe that every promise about Christ is always answered with a ‘yes.’ It is so certain and so valuable that it’s worth investing everything we have. That’s what I want us to learn during this advent season.
Today, we’ll read some more passages about things that will happen with the second coming of Jesus. As I said last Sunday, everything we put our hope in as Christians—such as the last judgment, the completion of our salvation, resurrection, eternal life, the everlasting worship and the coming of the kingdom of God—is related to the return of Christ.
Each concept is important and there is a lot to learn about them. For today, we will read some passages about them and remind ourselves of the kind of hope we have as Christians regarding the second coming of Jesus Christ.
1. The Last Judgment
First, when Jesus returns, the Bible says that He will gather all people on earth and the last judgment will start.
Matthew 24:30-31 says,
“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.” (Mt 24:30-31)
And Matthew 16:27 says,
“For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.” (Mt 16:27)
Lastly, Paul said,
"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge… be prepared in season and out of season” (2 Tm 4:1-2)
When Jesus first came to the world, He came as a powerless baby, the suffering servant of God, and the lamb of God who took on the sin of the world. But His return will be much different from His first coming since He will come as the One who has all the power and glory of heaven and earth, and He will judge everyone on earth with His justice and righteousness.
When He comes back, all people will see Him coming with power and glory, and they will mourn. It will be a day of great joy for those who have prepared and looked forward to His coming, but it will be a day of great sorrow for those who have rejected Him.
As I said before, God’s forgiveness is not everlasting. There will come a time when everything we’ve done will be revealed before the judgment seat of Christ. On that day, there will be no forgiveness but dreadful judgment.
So before that day comes, when we still have a chance for our sins to be forgiven, we should repent and return to God. And since we don’t know when that day will come, we should keep watch by praying.
2. The Resurrection of the Body
Second, when Jesus comes back, all the dead will be raised.
John 6:39-40 says,
“And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (Jn 6:39-40)
But the resurrection will not only happen to those who believe in Jesus, but to everyone so that all people can be judged by Him.
John 5:27-29 says,
“And he [the Father] has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man. “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out - those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” (Jn 5:27-29)
Jesus’ resurrection gives us ultimate hope for the future because it shows us that we’ll be also resurrected like Him and join in His resurrection.
The apostle Paul said,
“But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep… In Christ all will be made alive… each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.” (1 Co 15:20, 22-23)
The fact that Christ is the firstfruit of resurrection implies that there will be more fruits who will join His resurrection later. Some might say that Jesus is not the firstfruit in that He raised Lazarus from his death.
But Jesus is indeed the firstfruit of true resurrection. His resurrected body was different from that of Lazarus’. Jesus raised Lazarus, but Lazarus still had the same body that he had had. So he came out with “his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.” (Jn 11:44)
But Jesus’ resurrected body was different from our earthly bodies. It was physical but also spiritual and glorious. In that sense, only Jesus experienced true resurrection as the firstfruit to let us know what we’ll be like in Him and so that we can put our hope in Him.
Paul said in Colossians, “When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Col 3:4)
And John said, “…We know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” (1Jn 3:2-3)
3. The Completion of Salvation
The resurrection of the body is closely related to our salvation because that is the last, complete step of salvation.
Paul said in Romans 5,
“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Rm 5:9-10)
As I said before, the Bible uses three tenses to describe our salvation. The past tense refers to what Jesus achieved on the cross—our justification. When we believed in Jesus, we became righteous in Him. But that’s only the start of a great journey toward the last step of salvation, namely glorification.
We were justified through the death of Jesus. That gives us confidence that we’ll be saved through His life, which refers to the resurrection of Christ.
We started our salvation when we believed in Jesus, but it hasn’t yet been completed. As the religious reformer Martin Luther said, we are “righteous and sinners at the same time.” We still see our sinful nature working powerfully within us, keeping us from following God’s good will in the world. That often makes us frustrated.
But there will come a time when this struggle will be over. When Jesus comes back, we’ll be resurrected and we’ll join in Jesus’ glorification and our salvation will be complete. Even though we’re weak and often stumble now, there will come a time when we will “be clothed with our heavenly dwelling” (2Co 5:2)
Even though “while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened,” we still have hope for the future and for perfect salvation because we know that “what is mortal may be swallowed up by life” (2Co 5:4)
4. The Kingdom of God
The last subject I want us to think about is the coming of the kingdom of God. When Jesus returns with His majesty, power, and glory, He will bring the perfect kingdom of God with Him.
When Jesus started His ministry on earth, the first thing He proclaimed was about the coming of the kingdom of God. He said,
“The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mk 1:15)
‘The kingdom of God has come near’ means that even though it started earnestly with the first coming of Jesus, it hasn’t yet been perfectly accomplished on earth.
There’s a phrase that refers to the nature of the kingdom of God: ‘Already, but not yet.’ The kingdom of God already started but it hasn’t yet been completed.
It’s the same way with our salvation. Our salvation already started through the death of Jesus, but it hasn’t yet been completed since it will be made perfect when we join in His resurrection on the last day.
Even though Jesus fulfilled the good news through His sacrifice and death on the cross, the good news hasn’t yet reached the ends of the earth. There are many people who still live in darkness without knowing that there’s a kingdom of light in Jesus.
So now, we see two kingdoms coexisting in the world—the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of God. We still see many horrible, evil things happening in the world, which sometimes makes us frustrated and causes us to doubt God’s goodness and His existence.
But we still know that there will come a time when everything is restored. When Jesus comes back, He will bring the kingdom of God with Him. All darkness will be defeated and only His kingdom will stand eternally.
That’s what Jesus showed the apostle John in his vision. John said,
“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.” (Rv 21:1-2)
“There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!”” (Rv 21:4-5)
That’s the kingdom of God that we must put our hope in. If we lose sight of this kingdom, we can become easily frustrated and disappointed by things happening in this world now.
But if we put our hope in the kingdom of God, we can trust Him and walk with Him no matter the situation with faith and confidence that He will restore everything in the end.
So, for two weeks, we’ve talked about the second coming of Jesus, which is the foundation of Christian hope for resurrection, eternal life, glorification, and the kingdom of God.
At the beginning of today’s sermon, we read a passage from Titus chapter 2, which says,
“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope - the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Ti 2:11-14)
Here, Paul talks about Jesus’ past and future appearances. The grace of God appeared through Christ in the past, offering salvation to all people and teaching and empowering us to live according to His will.
But we’re still waiting for “the appearing of the glory of our Savior Jesus Christ,” which refers to His return. This is the blessed hope we have as Christians. We’re living between His first and second appearances.
The first one gave us salvation, and the second one gives us hope for the future. Then, how should we live between these two comings? We are to be purified and eager to do what is good. That’s God’s will for us.
With the glorious future hope God is giving us in Christ Jesus, we’re to try to live as His holy people in this world, preparing and looking forward to the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Heavenly Father, thank You for giving us the blessed hope in Christ Jesus. Thank You for giving us hope for resurrection, eternal life, the completion of our salvation, and Your kingdom. Please continue to reveal to us what kind of hope You’ve given us in Christ so that we won’t be distracted or frustrated by worldly things but continue to fix our eyes on Jesus until He comes back.
Please open our eyes and restore our hope. Thank you for making every promise complete in Jesus. Let us prepare His way by discerning what’s good in Your eyes and carrying it out as Your holy people. When Jesus returns with power and glory, let us respond to Him, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.”
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Today, we talked about the second coming of Jesus. Here are the questions I want us to think about.
1) Out of the four subjects we talked about in relation to the second coming of Jesus (the last judgment, the resurrection of the body, the completion of salvation, and the kingdom of God), which one sticks out to you the most? What kind of hope do you find in this, and how can it be applied to your present life?