Then God said, “Let Us (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) make man in Our image, according to Our likeness [not physical, but a spiritual personality and moral likeness]; and let them have complete authority over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the cattle, and over the entire earth, and over everything that creeps and crawls on the earth.”
When we were growing up, we got our sense of identity by receiving messages from our parents and later from our friends, teachers, and employers. But the most powerful message about who we are comes from God, our Heavenly Father, who crafted us with skill and love. No matter what anyone else says about us, we aren’t accidents of nature, and we aren’t mistakes. Almighty God has made us, and He has imprinted His image on us. To be sure, sin has tarnished that image, but we still possess a portion of the dignity God originally imparted to Adam and Eve in the Garden.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see someone who was created by God, who is a descendant of royalty and a person of infinite worth? If we see ourselves that way we instantly realize two things: We desperately need the grace of God to forgive us when we fail to live up to our identity, and we need to conform our lives to fit our status as the King’s kids. We should stop monkeying around and begin to act like the children of the King so we will be a reflection of all He desires us to be!
If God exists and we are made in His image we can have real meaning and we can have real knowledge through what He has communicated to us.
The story of the prodigal provides us a picture of how we may view ourselves while at the same time God sees us differently. We don’t know the motives behind the younger son leaving home. Perhaps he grew tired of living in his older brother’s shadow. Perhaps everyone was saying, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” Perhaps he believed his father loved his brother more than he loved him. I pose this question because I’ve heard these stories many times from those who felt unloved, unwanted and undesired. For what ever the reason, we find him leaving home to find his own way. In our modern language we would say, “to find himself.” We read that he connected with some friends who really weren’t friends at all. I’m sure they pumped his ego while he was able to pay for the parties but as soon as he ran out of funds, they quickly dropped him. How often does this happen in our world and how often has it happened to us. How many of us have a warped sense of who we are because of what other humans have said we were? Like the prodigal, we far too many times believe our identity something other that what our Father has defined it to be. Many people engage in destructive lifestyles because they believe they are worthless and useless unless they can provide something for someone else. I’ve watched young boys and girls dress, act and involve themselves in things they hate just so they can feel important and belong. I’ve seen people give up who they were to become what others pressured them to be only to live miserable lives.
We find that the prodigal, after being abandoned by his “friends” begins to starve and no one cares. This is a picture of the treatment of the world. As long as you are productive and as long as you can provide resources, you are part of the group. When you are no longer able to meet expectations, you are often set aside. This boy probably went to those “friends” for help and found they didn’t have time for him so he began seeking work. The only job he could find was to feed the hogs. So that you may see how his self image had sunk so low, you have to know that no Jewish boy would have ever had anything to do with pigs for they were considered unclean. Not only would he not have worked to feed them, he wouldn’t even been anywhere near them. So we find a Jewish boy having given up his identity as a member of his family now gives up his identity as a member of his faith and ethnicity. He takes on the identity of the “far country.” Scripture says that he sunk so low that he was ready to identify with the pigs he was feeding and to eat their food.
O beloved, how often does the devil so distort our image of who God designed us to be! I love the words, “and he came to himself.” I pray that every person reading this whose life has been a journey of mistakes, wrong choices and failures will “come to themselves.” When this boy came to himself, he decided to go home where the servants were treated well. Even though at this point he wasn’t sure he would be received even as a servant and certainly not as a son he started home. This may be you. Maybe you feel you messed up so bad that God won’t have you even as a servant much less a child, I pray you turn your heart toward home.
When this boy arrives, we find an amazing picture of the love of God. We see an old man running down the road toward a dirty smelly boy and embracing him only as a father who has lost a son can. Though the boy’s view of his identity was that of a miserable wretch hoping to find employment so he could eat, the father’s view was that underneath the filth was still his son. So he welcomes the boy not as a slave but as a beloved child. This is God. He always views us as His loved child. He sees past the filth of the world covering us. He doesn’t accept the identity thrust upon us by others. He sees the “wonderfully and fearfully made” child created in His image and He longs for that image to become our reality.
Who we are, like any masterpiece can only be truly identified by it creator and never by its critics. So go ahead, look in the mirror and say to yourself, “I am the workmanship of God. I am what He has made me to be. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the image of who God is and to pattern your life after that image.
Dr. John Thompson