Formed in God’s Image

April 14, 2024 ()

Bible Text: Gen. 1:26-31; 1 Cor. 15:45-49 |


Formed in God’s Image | Genesis 1:26-28, 31; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49
Brian Hedges | April 14, 2024

I want to invite us now to turn to God’s word. We’re going to be in Genesis 1 as well as 1 Corinthians 15, and we’ll look at a few other passages along the way.

While you’re turning there, let me tell you about something that hit the news cycle maybe ten years ago or so. There was a small church in a town in northeastern Spain that was the home to a nineteenth-century painting of Jesus, a fresco painted by Elías García Martínez called Ecce Homo, which means, “Behold the Man.” Now, you can see a picture of this on the screen, a painting of Jesus. This photo was taken in 2010.

Somehow there was damage done to this painting; you can see a second photo that was taken a few years later. The parish priest gave an elderly woman permission to work on that painting. Unfortunately, she did not have the necessary gifts or skills for the job, so—hold your breath now; this is actually tragic, even though it’s comical—you see the final product here. What was once a valuable piece of art depicting Jesus Christ now resembles, in the words of a BBC correspondent, “A crayon sketch of a very hairy monkey in an ill-fitting tunic.” It’s really tragic that this wonderful piece of art was made worse through the attempt at restoration.

When I came across that news story ten years ago or so, it made me think that that’s something of an illustration for the plight of humanity in the world in which we live. We are human beings who were created in the image of God. We were God’s masterpiece, right? But we have been defaced by sin, marred by sin, distorted by sin and the fall and the effects of the fall, so that now, even though we bear the vestiges, the remnants of the image of God, we don’t really image God perfectly as we should. Yet we’re always trying to fix things in our world. We try to fix things with education and with politics and with social reform and legislation and morality and religion. We try all these different ways to make ourselves better, but actually, what ends up happening is we just make a bigger mess of ourselves, of our lives, and of the world. We need restoration, but we need the kind of restoration that can only come through God himself and through his grace.

I share that illustration to open a new short series of messages called Imago Dei. That’s Latin for “the image of God.” Imago Dei: Restoring the Image of God. For the next four weeks I want us to just think about what it means to be a human being, an image-bearer of God, and I want to think about this within the four acts of the great story, the great drama of redemption. When we think about the Christian worldview, the story of redemption, we often talk about it in these four acts of creation, fall, redemption through Christ, and then restoration or new creation. So for each of the four weeks I want to focus on one part of that, even though every week we’ll touch on all of them to some degree.

You might think of it in terms of these four words, which are not original to me but I think perfectly summarize the Scriptural teaching on the image of God. The first word is “formed”; we were formed in the image of God, formed in God’s image and for his glory. That’s creation; that’s what we’re going to focus on today.

But we have been deformed by the fall, so the effects of the fall in our world and in our lives. We’re really thinking about human nature as it’s been affected by sin and suffering. That’ll be the focus next week.

But we are also being transformed. That’s the third word. Formed, deformed, transformed; and we are transformed through the Son of God and by the Spirit of God, as God in his grace intervenes in our lives to remake us and to restore the image of God in us. We’ll talk about that in the third week.

Finally, the Scriptures tell us that we are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ. We think about our great hope, the great hope of redemption and of glorification and of finally being perfected and made like Christ in every way. That will be the focus in our final week of this series.

So, this is more of a thematic series or topical series. Most of the time we’re working through books of the Bible together. But sometimes it’s helpful for us to step back, take a theme, and look at what the Scriptures teach about a theme more broadly, to ground ourselves in the basic doctrines of Scripture. Really what we’re looking at here is anthropology, the doctrine of humanity, and how God has created us in his image and what he intends for us as human beings, as his image bearers in the world.

This morning we’re going to ground this first message in two passages, Genesis 1:26-28, 31; and then also 1 Corinthians 15:45-49. Let me begin by reading those two passages to us. First of all, Genesis 1:26. For this message I’m using the NIV. Here’s God’s word.

“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, 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.

“God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.’”

Drop down to verse 31.

“God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.”

Alongside that passage in Genesis 1, let’s read 1 Corinthians 15:45-49. This, of course, is the great resurrection chapter, 1 Corinthians 15, with the apostle Paul writing. He says in verse 45,

“So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.”

This is God’s word.

My approach this morning is to sort of divide this message into two halves, two main points. I want us to think, first of all, about humanity in the image of God, human created in the image of God, or humanity as the imago Dei. Secondly, Christ as the imago Dei, how Christ bears and restores the image of God.

With each of these two points I want to look at three things—three things about humanity as the imago Dei and then three things about Christ as the imago Dei. So you can decide whether this is a two-point sermon or a six-point sermon. It’s one or the other, or maybe both.

1. Humanity as the Imago Dei

First of all, humanity as the imago Dei. We’re just asking a question here: What does it mean to be created in the divine image?

Now, there are lots of ways that this question has been answered throughout the history of the church, and there are lots of different pieces to it. I don’t want to get into the technicalities of this, but I want to summarize what I think the Scriptures teach and what the best theologians that I’ve read say.

I think we could summarize it with three Rs. We’re familiar, of course, with the three Rs of education—reading, writing, and ’rithmetic—so these are three Rs that relate to human beings as created in the image of God. Those Rs are, first of all, to reflect, then to relate, then to reign.

(1) First of all, to reflect. To be created in the image of God means that we are created in some way, in some capacity, to reflect something about God, to reflect his character. You can see this in the words that are used in Genesis. God has created us in his image and in his likeness.

You almost think of that word “image” not only as a noun but also as a verb. We are called to image forth the character of God and the glory of God. In fact, one of the old catechisms, the Westminster Shorter Catechism, asked this question: “What is the chief end of man?” and the answer to the question is, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

That’s a great answer. We don’t really have that language in Genesis 1, but the concept is there, in that God has created us in his image to reflect something about him. We are to reflect his character, we are to reflect his glory.

This also has to do with those basic structural parts of human nature that are constituted so as to reflect something distinct and unique about God. There’s something unique about human beings that separates them from the rest of animal creation. We have self-awareness. We have the ability to make choices and make decisions. We have volition. We have creativity. We have a unique ability for relationship and communication; we have conscience and moral awareness. These are things that separate us, that make us unique as the image-bearers of God.

You’ll note if you read through Genesis 1 that every part of creation, after everything that God creates, he says it is good, but it’s after he creates human beings that he says, “It is very good,” because there’s something so unique about being a human being made in the image of God.

Then, when you look in the New Testament, you see this language of the image of God in the New Testament. You see this as well through the language that is especially used of moral categories that reflect something about the character of God. Ephesians 4:24 tells us that we’ve been taught to put on the new self, created to be like God in righteousness and true holiness. The righteousness of God, the holiness of God, the distinct character of God—that’s part of his image, and it’s part of what we are called to reflect and what we were originally intended to reflect in creation.

This is first: to be an image-bearer of God is to reflect something about God’s nature, about God’s character.

(2) But it’s not only that. We are also called to relate. To be an image-bearer of God is to be created in relationship and for relationship with God and others.

We see this in several ways in the passage. We see not only that God creates the human beings, but he speaks to them. As soon as he creates, he gives them a command. This shows that God is in a communicative, dialogical relationship with human beings, where human beings are dependent on the word of God. They are meant to respond to God and to follow his guidance and his direction in their lives. We are made for this. We are made to be in communion with God, in relationship with God.

But not only that, relationship is implied in the plural pronouns that are used in Genesis 1:26-27. God says, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule.” Then in verse 27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” He didn’t just create a single person, he created a community. He created a human race. He created mankind, and he created them differentiated in the two sexes, male and female.

Then God gives this mandate to be fruitful and to increase or to multiply, showing that one of this intentions for human beings is that they will reproduce and that they will form families, that they will build society, that they will build communities, that they will reproduce in the world.

Brothers and sisters, right here we have the foundation in Scripture for all of the basic building blocks of human society: the marriage relationship, the familial and parental relationships, and then the social relationships—all these things that are building blocks for human civilization, and they’re all right here, and they’re all intended in God’s creation design and in his mandates to these first human beings.

(3) We were created to reflect, we were created to relate, and we were created, thirdly, to reign. You see this in God’s purpose that human beings should rule, stated in Genesis 1:26, and then his command to subdue the earth in verse 28, or to exercise dominion.

This also is part of what bearing the image of God entails. It means that God created human beings to extend his kingly rule in the world. Human beings, again, were created distinct from the rest of creation and were meant to rule that creation—not exploit it, but to exercise dominion as the loving and wise stewards of the created world, so as to manifest the glory of God in the world.

This is an important thing for us to understand, that this is part of what God intended, but something that has also been lost to some degree through the fall. We don’t exercise dominion fully in the world as we were originally intended to.

You get an inkling of what this maybe would look like in that best of all domestic animals, the dog. Have you ever noticed that when you have someone who is really good with his dog, he’s a really good master and he’s trained the dog well, there’s no greater pleasure that the dog has than to please its master, right? A well-trained dog. You can see this relationship; it’s clear who the master is and what role the animal has.

Can you imagine if the whole created world had been like that? If “lions and tigers and bears, oh my,” had also been subdued and domesticated and were at the beck and call of human beings, can you imagine that? I think that’s what the world I think would have been like if there had not been a fall.

You think about other domestic animals like the cat and it’s pretty clear that the fall has occurred, because the cat has no deference for its master, right?

We are created to reign and we’ve lost that to some degree. So, to reflect, to relate, to reign—these three things summarize at least some of what is meant by the imago Dei, what it means to be in the image of God.

Now, here’s where this becomes really practical. Right here you have the foundation in Scripture for all of our ethics and our moral responsibility. Here is the basis of human worth and dignity, of human rights, of moral responsibility. These are things we care about. These are things that are talked about a lot in the world. But right here you’ve got the biblical foundation for these things.

So, human dignity and worth. In fact, Martin Luther King, Jr., in leading the Civil Rights movement, one of the things he did is he grounded his understanding of human rights in this concept of the imago Dei, the image of God. Here’s a quote. He says,
“The whole concept of the imago Dei as it is expressed in Latin, the image of God, is the idea that all men have something within them that God injected. Not that they have substantial unity with God, but that every man has the capacity to have fellowship with God and that gives him a uniqueness; it gives him worth; it gives him dignity.”

That’s why racism is such a horrible sin in all of its forms, because it somehow denigrates the innate worth and dignity of a human being who bears the image of God. You think about human rights. Human rights are grounded in the image of God.

Now I know, people can claim things as rights that are not actually inalienable human rights, but there are human rights. The Scriptures speak of these rights in the book of Proverbs. John Stott has done a wonderful job of this—grounding human rights in Scripture in his book Issues Facing Christians Today. He shows that there are rights and freedoms of conscience and speech and the basic necessities of life and the right to life itself. It’s all grounded in the image of God. Here’s the basis for the sanctity of human life. This is why innocent life should never be taken. This is why we should never treat people with malice or with contempt.

And here’s the interesting thing—one of the commentators brings this out. Victor Hamilton, in his commentary on Genesis, points out that in Egypt and in the ancient Near East, this language of the image of God was actually used, but it was only used of kings. Only the royalty were called images of god. But in Genesis, in Scripture, it’s not just the kings, it’s every human being. It’s the man and the woman. It’s male and female as God created them. It’s all human beings who bear the image of God. And that language, Hamilton said, would never have been used of a canal digger, a mason who worked on a ziggurat, or a carpenter, someone who did ordinary work. It would never have been used of them. But in Scripture, the ordinary human being—not just the royalty, but the everyday person—is also an image-bearer of God.

The imago Dei is also the basis for moral responsibility in the world. You can see this in a couple places. In Genesis 9:6 after the flood, God gives instruction for the rebuilding of human civilization, and he says,

“Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed. For in the image of God has God made mankind.”

And you see right there that one of the reasons why life is so precious, and why the senseless taking of human life is so reprehensible and heinous in the sight of God, is because it is an assault on an image bearer of God. To take an innocent human life is to do sacrilege, to deface the image of God. This is why we oppose abortion. This is why we oppose euthanasia. This is why we oppose anything like genocide or ethnic cleansing, or anything that treats with reckless disregard the lives of human beings.

But brothers and sisters, this reaches even into our interpersonal behavior and relationships with one another and with every other person that we come into contact with, and how we should treat them.

Listen to James 3:9-10. He says,

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.”

Do you hear what he’s saying? He’s saying even to curse someone who is made in the image of God is a terrible sin, because, again, it is an assault on an image bearer, someone who has unique dignity and worth because of being created in God’s image.

Friends, this has deep implications for our lives and the way we treat one another. And you can extend this, not only to how we treat one another in our families, in how we treat one another in church, but also how we treat others in the world. And I might even say, people who disagree with us. It means that we should never be cruel or hateful in our speech. It means that we should always be respectful. Scripture says we should always treat everyone with courtesy. We should always bless and not curse. We should avoid all scornful and mocking speech. It’s why Christians should never use racial slurs or tell ethnic jokes or make fun of people because of economic status or physical features or intellectual capacities, because every single person you meet is made in the image of God.

Now that will change the way you treat people who mistreat you. It’ll change the way you treat people who disagree with you, or even those who insult you. There’s a mandate here that we are to treat others as the image-bearers of God.

Now here’s the problem, a problem that we’ll explore more fully next week. The problem is that as human beings who are made in the image of God and created for the glory of God, we have fallen short of the glory of God so that these masterpieces that God created, these masterpieces who were meant to show forth the character and goodness of God, have now been defaced by sin—distorted, disfigured, marred, deformed by sin. In Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words, “God’s image has been terribly scarred by our sin.”
We have failed to extend the reign of God, and instead of building the kingdom of God, we build our own little kingdoms. Instead of finding ourselves living for God and for others, worshiping God and loving others, instead of that, we pursue expressive individualism, where we are seeking self-realization by prioritizing whatever desire we find in our hearts, whether that honors God or honors other people, or not.

Sin has so deeply affected us that we no longer represent God as we should. We have the remnants of the image of God, there’s the vestige of the image of God, but we’re like an old, broken-down house that once was a beautiful home, but now the roof has caved in, the structure has been compromised, and it’s in danger of complete collapse. That’s kind of what we’re like. Our relationship with God has been broken off.

Scripture says that we are dead in our trespasses and sins. We are alienated from the life of God. We have lost that relationship. And we see the psychological breakdown and the relational breakdown in the problems we have in society and in family relationships and so on. This is why there’s so many problems in the world relationally and psychologically. It’s because of sin in the world, and so we have to ask the question: how then do we get restored? How does this house get renovated and built up so that it’s a fit habitation for God once again? How does the painting get restored so that it, once again, is a portrait of the good and the beautiful God?

The answer to that question is there’s another man. There’s not only the first man, Adam—not just the first human beings, Adam and Eve—but there is a second Adam, there’s a last Adam, the Scripture says.

And that leads us to the second point, the second half.

2. Christ as the Imago Dei

How does Jesus fulfill the imago Dei? I want to give you three things. Each of these words start with “I”.

(1) First of all, incarnation. The Scriptures present Jesus Christ as the true human and as the second or the last Adam. And you see that in the 1 Corinthians 15:45-49 passage. Let me read it again.

“So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man [that’s Adam] was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.”

Who is that? It’s Christ. Christ is the last Adam. And Paul, here talking about the glorified resurrection and the glorified humanity of Jesus Christ and looking forward to the resurrection of all human beings at the end of time, says that we will bear his image.

This is characteristic of the New Testament, where Jesus is called the one who’s in the image of God. 2 Corinthians 4:4 speaks of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ who is the image of God. Colossians 1:15 says that the Son is the image of the invisible God.

Then you think about all the passages that talk about us being conformed to the image of Christ. This is what we are predestined for. Romans 8:29, “To be conformed to the image of the Son.” And it underscores for us this centrality of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. In order for us to be saved and to be redeemed, Christ had to come down for us and for our salvation, as the creed says. He had to be incarnate among us. He had to take on human nature so that human nature could be restored, so that human nature could be redeemed. And it shows us, here, that God did not give up on creation and that salvation is not removal out of the material world, it’s, rather, restoration of creation. It's the restoration of what God created. To return it to goodness and then to raise it and elevate it in glorified humanity.

The church fathers, of course, emphasized this. And for many of the church fathers it was the incarnation of Jesus Christ which was the aspect of redemption they most focused on. You see this especially with the second century theologian, Irenaeus of Lyons. I’ve mentioned him many times here in this church, and I will just summarize this without reading it. Irenaeus essentially said that Jesus Christ had to come and he had to go through every stage of human life. As a baby, as a child, as a man, he had to live every stage of human life. He lived it perfectly so that he could defeat death and so that he could vivify, or bring life to, human beings. This was Irenaeus’s doctrine of recapitulation, and it was central to his understanding of salvation.

There’s a great but often forgotten verse from Charles Wesley’s Christmas carol “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” It goes like this:

“Come, Desire of nations, come!
Fix in us Thy humble home:
Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head;
Adam’s likeness now efface,
Stamp Thine image in its place:
Final Adam from above,
Reinstate us in Thy love.”

There it is. There’s Paul’s theology. Christ as the second Adam, the last Adam, is the true human being and he is the head of a new humanity, a new creation, so that our humanity gets restored and we get reinstated into God’s family through our union with Jesus Christ. So the incarnation, that’s first.

(2) Secondly, imitation. Not only is Christ the true human being, but being so he is also the model, or the pattern, that we are called to follow. This is the imitation of Jesus Christ. Listen to this Christian psychologist professor, Eric Johnson. He says,

“Because of Christ’s role as the archetypal human, in a multitude of ways, believers discover their humanity and their individual calling by learning from him, Matthew 11:29. His story is the story of humanity living in perfect face to face communion with God. So his story is the revelation of our story both as the gift of perfection that God gives believers in Christ, and as the goal of our lives.”

He’s the gift of perfection and he’s the goal of our lives. Think about that for just a minute. Christ is the goal. Christ is the pattern. Christ is the model. If you want to know what it looks like to be a true human being, how to live in your humanity in the fullest possible way as God intended, you see it exemplified in Jesus. And that’s why Scriptures call us to imitate him, to follow him, to be like him.

Now here’s a good devotional exercise for you this week. If you want a practical, take-home application, here’s something you can do in your devotional life this week. In your time alone with the Lord, spend at least one time thinking about and meditating on the character of Jesus Christ and then do some self examination, testing yourself against his character.

You could do this, for example, by looking at the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:22-23. That’s a description of the character of Jesus, these nine characteristics described as fruit of the Spirit. That’s the way Jesus lived—love, joy, peace, and so on.

You could look at Jesus’ fulfillment of the law. He said, “I came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill it.” He describes what the fulfillment of the law looks like in the Sermon on the Mount. Read that and see how Jesus applied the law to the deepest motivations of the heart. Test yourself against that.

Or you could look at Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Brad talked about this last week. Jesus is the perfect embodiment of love. And if you want to know what a loving human being looks like, you look at Jesus. You look at 1 Corinthians 13 and then test yourself against that.

Or you could think about all the different roles that we have in our lives and how does Jesus perfectly embody that role? Maybe you’re married. Well, Jesus is the bridegroom. Jesus is the husband who loved his bride, the church, and he laid down his life for the church. So husbands, this is the call. The way you love your spouse is through self-denial and through self-giving and setting aside your desires and your prerogatives in order to meet the needs of your spouse.

Or, maybe you are in a position of authority. Maybe you are a leader. Maybe you are an employer. Maybe you are a teacher or a professor or an elder or a director, somehow—in your work or in the church or both—in a position of authority. How does Jesus teach us to use authority? Look at what Jesus did with his disciples in the upper room in John 13. He’s the one who took the role of a servant and he washed the feet of his disciples. In the way of Jesus, we are never to use authority to lord it over others, but instead we take the role of a servant and we lead through servanthood and through example.

Think about your friendships. What does it mean to be a good friend? What Jesus showed us. He said, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” To be a friend is to be a self-giving person who privileges the needs of others ahead of our own.

Think about your enemies. If you have enemies, people you don’t get along with, people who antagonize you, who irritate you, who aggravate you—in our culture there’s not much persecution, but in some cultures there’s a lot of persecution of Christians. How are we to respond to those who persecute us or antagonize us? We look at Jesus hanging on the cross. He’s surrounded by the taunting soldiers and the very men who drove the nails through his hands, and Jesus prays for them. He says, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” He told us to love our enemies. That’s the call.

Jesus shows us what love for God and love for others looks like. He shows us what it looks like to reflect the character of God, to live in loving relationships with others, and, of course, Jesus ultimately has the rule. He reigns as well as the exalted, glorified human being. And we will someday reign with him. So Jesus, here, perfectly embodies the imago Dei and we’re called to imitate him and to follow in his steps.

But, there’s one more thing. Here’s the deal, folks. This is where the gospel comes in. We need more than an example to follow. If that’s all you have this would not be an encouraging sermon. It would ultimately discourage you, because in your present state and my present state, we cannot perfectly follow Jesus. We are in process, we can try, but we need more than an example to follow. We need a savior to deliver us.

(3) We need more than imitation, we need what the old reformers called imputation. That’s an old word that’s not used as often anymore but it essentially means that Christ’s perfection is credited as ours. There’s another place in the New Testament where Jesus is compared to Adam, and it’s in Romans 5. I read it earlier in our Assurance of Pardon; let me read it again, Romans 5:17-19,

“For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man [Adam], how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

“Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act [or, the righteousness of one] resulted in justification and life for all people. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

What is imputation? What’s the idea here? Let me give you a simple analogy. Let’s just say that you're flat broke, you’ve got zero in your account, but you desperately need a plane ticket because you need to travel somewhere, maybe to help out a family member, something like that. You have no money to do so. And then not only that, you commit a serious speeding violation and you get a speeding ticket. So you need a plane ticket in order to get where you want to go and that costs $250 or more. And now, you also have a speeding violation so you’ve got a speeding ticket for $250. That means you need $500. You need a positive amount of money in order to buy the ticket to get where you want to go, and you also need a certain amount of money to pay the debt that you now owe to the state because of your wrongdoing. Now that’s kind of an analogy.

So here’s the deal. You and I need forgiveness of sins. We need the sins to be covered. We need that debt to be paid. But that just gets us to zero. That just gets us back to where Adam was. We also need a positive righteousness. We need, somehow, to have a real obedience so that there’s real perfection in showing the image of God. Jesus does both. He paid the debt through his sin-atoning death on the cross where he paid for our sins. But through his whole life, Jesus was obeying the Father and he was loving God and loving others and he was living as the perfect, exemplary image of God. He was living the perfect, obedient, righteous life in every moment of that life. He was doing it for you so that his righteousness could be credited to you; so that his obedience could be counted as your obedience; so that you get not only your sins forgiven, you also get the record of Jesus credited, or imputed, to you.

This is the way Luther put it. He said, “Mine are Christ’s living and doing and speaking, his suffering and dying—mine as much as if I had lived, done, spoken, suffered, and died as he did.”

Now that’s good news. That’s the finished work of Jesus Christ through which we are restored to communion with God. And it’s not based on our record. It’s not based on our works. It’s based on what Christ has done on our behalf and in our place and that becomes the foundation out of which all spiritual growth and transformation and sanctification then follows. This is what we need.

Brothers and sisters, I don’t know where you are this week as you think about yourself as a human being. You think about your life; you think about your relationships; you think about your character; you think about what’s missing; what’s broken—you need some evaluation in that. But wherever you are in relationship to God and however imperfectly you image forth the glory and the character of God, the answer is found in Jesus Christ, the second Adam, the new man. If you are united to Christ by faith, his record counts as yours, his spirit will indwell your hearts, and he will begin or continue the process of change and transformation, restoring you to the image of God. That’s our hope. We’ll talk about that more in the coming weeks. Let’s pray together.

Our God and Father, we thank you this morning for the good news of the gospel that assures us that Christ has completely fulfilled the law. He has fully reflected your glory and your character. He has embodied the image of God in every way that was needed.

We thank you for this good news, that his obedience is counted as ours, and that Christ, now, is the head of a new humanity. And Lord, our prayer is that we would live in the freedom that comes from depending on Jesus Christ, and Christ alone, and that we would experience the transforming power of the Spirit of Christ indwelling our hearts, changing us, renewing us step by step into better image bearers of God.

Lord, we pray this week that you would work these things out in our hearts and in our lives and in our relationships as we think about ourselves, as we think about others, as we think about how we treat others and interact with others, as we think about our character and how we reflect, or fail to reflect, your character in certain ways. Lord, would you work in us. Use the word of the gospel through the power of the Holy Spirit, Lord. Bring the change and transformation that we need.

As we come to the Lord’s table now, let us come with our eyes fixed on Jesus, who has fully obeyed in our place and has died for our sins, and may we with confidence and with boldness come to the throne of grace to receive everything we need: forgiveness and renewal and hope. We ask you, Lord, to draw near to us in these moments as we draw near to you, and to be glorified in our worship. We pray this in Jesus’ name and for his sake. Amen.