Week 1: Who God Says You Are
Today’s truth: I am made in the image of God.
This one might blow your mind a little bit. In Genesis, when God created the earth, He created men and women “in His image.” This phrase changed John Osburn’s life. John is a church Worship Leader and on the creative team at WAY Nation. You’ll be glad John chose to lend his perspective to the World’s Biggest Small Group as he explains what it means to be made in the “image of God” in today’s video!
If you want to get a deeper understanding, John continues his thoughts below:
The first time humans are mentioned in the Bible, it tells of our creation in the “image of God”:
Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”
So God created human beings in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” Genesis 1:27-29 (NLT)
Since the Bible begins our story here, it’s safe to assume it’s a foundational truth to understanding our place and role in God’s creation. Just because it’s foundational does not mean it’s easy to understand, though. Over the last few years I’ve learned a lot about what it means be an image bearer of God, and I still have much to learn about it. Something that has helped me understand it more is to break it down into three different meanings: thinking of the “image of God” as an identity, as a vocation, and as a promise.
“Image of God” is an identity.
You know how when someone asks us who we are we usually say something like “I’m John, and this is what I do.” As unhealthy as it is to equate our identity with what we do, we are still so often tempted to do it. As Tauren told CJ & Joy on Day 1, it’s easy and unhealthy to get so caught up in our temporary assignment that we can lose our identity in it.
Tauren also said our identity is truly founded upon who God says we are, and the first thing God calls us is his image bearers. Before God called us his children or his beloved, he called us his partners, his ambassadors, his regents. Our identity from God is one of enormous responsibility and power. I think this is why we find it so easy to confuse our identity with our work: our work is supposed to be foundational to who we are, we’ve just confused what our work is meant to be.
“Image of God” is a vocation.
God gave us the authority to rule, reign, and subdue when he first made us. God did not need us or our help to finish his good world – in fact he could have done it more quickly without us. But, for some mysterious reason I still don’t understand, God chose to partner with us in fulfilling his vision for creation.
The creation work of God in Genesis described God creating order out of disorder, beauty out of chaos. He took a wild wasteland, full of danger and darkness, and made a garden full of life, beauty, and flourishing. Then he gave us the responsibility of expanding that Garden into the rest of creation.
As we know, we messed that up. We trusted the promise of the serpent, the promise of violence and selfishness, over the promise of God. Instead of trusting God’s definition of goodness and carrying that with us, we chose to define goodness for ourselves.
The result of our betrayal was that instead of expanding God’s Garden into the surrounding wilderness, we carried our own ideas of goodness, which included murder, adultery, war, fear, and hatred. Instead of growing a garden of abundance and sharing with our neighbors, we hoarded our land and food.
So now today, our identity easily becomes conflated with our income, influence, or some other measure of success. Instead of remembering that God has already given us worth and authority and trust by calling us his partners, we try to earn respect and worth by becoming powerful or envied.
Thankfully, that’s not where our story ended, though. God made a way for us to reclaim our identity in Him.
“Image of God” is a promise.
Understanding what it meant to be created in the image of God radically changed my understanding of the Gospel of Jesus. Instead of Jesus being only concerned about saving me from hell and getting me to heaven, as I so readily believed when I was younger, the Good News of Jesus is that we now have a way to step into our identity as image bearers.
As Rebekah Lyons reminded us on Day 2, we are now free in Christ. Once we have surrendered and submitted to Jesus, we become able to resume our original identity as image bearers that spread the goodness of God to all of those around us. Jesus modeled what that looks like in his own life: to be powerful is to serve others, to live is die to ourself, those of us that cry out for righteousness and justice will be satisfied.
I struggle every day to trust in the promises of God. I find it hard to believe that God would choose to partner with me. It feels impossible that he would so deeply want to partner with us that he would give up his throne in heaven to die a miserable death.
The truth is, though, the Bible begins and ends with us reigning as partners with God. In Genesis 1 he created us to subdue the earth. In Revelation 22, the Bible ends by reminding us of our identity:
No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever. Revelation 22:3-5 NLT (emphasis mine)
Gabe Lyons told Wally that we find a better identity when we understand God’s purpose for our life in Day 3, and it’s amazing that God wants to partner with us in that purpose! So, your identity is that of being a partner with God in expanding his Good Garden everywhere.
Some of us do that by baking the best bread in the best way. Others of us do that by making someone feel loved and important in a the check out line at the grocery store. Still others do that by healing people’s bodies. And others do that by literally growing a garden that feeds and provides for their community.
In Tauren’s words, we all have the opportunity to partner with God in our current assignment. As Rebekah reminded us, we’re free to remove our old selfish selves and step into our new identity. And Gabe pointed out the importance of understanding how our lives fit into the purpose of God.
Remember, the Bible begins and ends by calling us rulers. That is a foundational part of all our individual identities. The real question is whether we use that authority to spread love and goodness or to hoard in fear and to protect our friends at the expense of strangers.
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