Study Guide: God Look-Alikes

Sunday September 25, 2011 | Greg Boyd

Focus Scripture:

Brief Summary:

We were created in God’s image, to represent Him on Earth. In ancient times, people would make statues to represent their gods, but we were commanded to represent God, not make statues. In this sermon, Greg talks about our value as God’s image and the role we play in this world.

Extended Summary:

Last week, we talked about the “image of the invisible God” having two connotations. The first, which we talked more in-depth last week, was about Jesus revealing, perfectly, who God is. This week we will tackle the second connotation, which is how Jesus reveals, perfectly, us.

The concept of the image of God goes back to Genesis 1, where Adam and Eve were created in God’s image. They were to represent God on this earth, and they were to exercise their authority over the earth. However, we all know how that story ended. To understand the concept of the image of God, we need to take a look at how people treated images of gods in the ancient times.

In ancient times, people would make stone or wood images of their gods. They would then worship these images and would protect these images. This was done because people believed that whatever they did to the images, they did to their god. So, if a person worshipped the stone or wood carving, they worshipped the god. They believed that this physical representation of their god contained the divine spirit-being. This is why it was radical of God to say that he wanted no images made for him, because images were the norm of the day.

When Jesus came, he restored the image that we were meant to keep. By living his life, he lived in the image of God that we are supposed to represent. So, if we want to be God’s image again, we should follow the way that Jesus lived. There are three things that Jesus gave us when he showed us the true image we represent: how we can be fully alive, what domain of authority we have, and showed us our unending capacity for love.

Jesus came so that we could be fully alive. God created us to be his physical representatives on earth, and he created us to be fully alive in that reality. When Satan came and killed our image-bearing capacity, we became less alive by being entangled with sin and shame. But Jesus came to break those chains and give us back our image. If you are in Christ, you are a restored “God look-alike.”

Jesus also came to show us our domain of authority in him. As God’s physical representative, we’ve been given authority to act on his behalf in this world. Satan wants us to think we mean nothing, but nothing could be further from the truth. We are created to be God look-alikes, not God’s puppets. Every prayer we pray makes a difference.

Every choice we make leaves an imprint in this world. Every action has consequence. So, as image-bearers, we need to learn about how to live this new life under Jesus. We need to be in community, asking each other how to live out this authority everyday. We need to take stock of our “say-so” in all areas and assess whether or not we’re reflecting God’s will.

Finally, Jesus showed us that, as image-bearers, we have an unending capacity to love. Our God is perfect love, and as his image, we should represent that perfect love. Our most important responsibility and domain of authority is to love with this unending love. Remember, what we do to the image; we do to the god. When God created us in his image, he wanted us to love each other, and in so doing, we love God. Dorothy Day said, “We love God as much as the person whom we love the least.” For some people, it’s about how much they love themselves, and for others, it’s about how much they love others. When we give food to the hungry, we love God. When we give water to the thirsty, we love God. And when we clothe the naked, we love God. To not clothe or give water or food to someone is to neglect God. To not give ourselves the things we need is to neglect God. This thought isn’t meant to shame, but it is meant to show us how to refocus on what it means to be the image-bearer of God.

Jesus reveals what it means to be the true image-bearer of God. In his life, death and resurrection, he showed us the true way of living for God. He showed us how to be fully alive. He showed us how to exercise our authority on earth. And he showed us our unending capacity to love. When we start living out these three things, we bring a truer image of God to this world.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What additional questions and comments did you have about the sermon and supporting texts?
  2. Do you feel that we are true representatives of God? Why or why not?
  3. What stops us from fully living out the image of God?
  4. Think about those people that you don’t love. Does imagining them as “image-bearers” change your opinion of them at all?
  5. Think about the ways in which you are called to exercise authority in this world. Pick one of them that you feel is lacking and make a commitment to exercise God’s authority for a month in that area. Who in your life can walk alongside you to help you exercise this authority?