“Developing our Image”
Text: Romans 8:29-30
Probably an hour ago most of you ladies were doing something very similar to this and hopefully the men were also paying attention to their grooming. Why? Because we want to look good or presentable when we go out in public – well, at least when we attend church services. We are concerned about our image – how others see us. Some of us need more time and work than others. Television shows have discovered extreme makeovers in houses as well as people to entertain their audiences. While we may spend a lot of time and effort developing our image – even going to extremes at times, I want to suggest this morning that there is a more important image we all need to work on. As we strive to be the leaven in 2011, we must be concerned about our image as Christians – as the Walter Hill church. This morning, I want us all to examine ourselves and decide if our image is what it is supposed to be. For the next few minutes, we will consider “Developing our Image” – the image of Christ as we read in Rom. 8:29. There the text tells us we are to be conformed to the image of God’s Son. The Greek word translated “conformed” appears only twice in scripture and literally means “having the same form” which means we are to look like Christ. Notice the only other time this Greek word is found in scripture – Phil. 3:20-21 – For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. All of us want to go to heaven – to have these mortal bodies transformed into glorious resurrected bodies – just as the body of Jesus came from the tomb and ascended back into heaven never to suffer pain or death again. But our lowly bodies will never be transformed to conform to our Lord’s glorious body unless we conform ourselves to His image while we walk upon the face of the earth. So please open your Bibles as we study together – “Developing our Image.”
I don’t want to insult your intelligence but I want us to begin with the reminder that we were created in God’s image – Gen. 1:26-27. After creation, it was not long before Adam and Eve sinned and with their sin came death. Thus we read in Rom. 5:12 – Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. We are still born in the image of God but our sins mar that image and move us away from God. It is only by God’s grace and mercy that we can be reconciled to Him and stand once again in His presence. We cannot accomplish this on our own. We are not able to restore that image on our own without God’s help. And, to illustrate that point, I’d like for us to turn to Jer. 18 – a passage most of us are familiar with. As Jeremiah records this prophecy, it is probably less than 20 years before Judah will go into Babylonian captivity. Let’s read the 1st six verses together: The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying: “Arise and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause you to hear My words.” Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the Lord. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel!” Of course, the Lord was warning His people of the power He had to destroy nations – even them. But we also can see a lesson of what God can do with us if we’ll just be pliable or obedient clay in the Master Potter’s hands. We come to Him marred by sin and selfishness but He can mold us into something new – something beautiful. While there is work for us to do in this process, we must rely on God, His Son Jesus and His Holy Spirit to complete this transformation. As we open and study God’s word, we can see what must happen. When Jesus began to teach the multitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, He outlined the 1st requirement for citizenship in His kingdom – “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3) We must always realize our need for God’s transforming power – whether we’re coming to the Lord for the 1st time or we’ve been a Christian for 50 years or more. We must recognize that we’re simply sinners in need of God’s saving grace. Then we can say with sinful but penitent David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me (Ps. 51:10).” Earlier I said that we were born in the image of God and then become marred with sin. I believe that’s why Jesus could plainly state the following in Mark 10:14-15 – “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” We need the innocent and trusting hearts of children to be citizens of the Lord’s kingdom – His church. Notice the words of 2 Cor. 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. In a few moments, I’ll explain how we can become new creatures. But now I want to talk to those of us who claim to be Christians. What kind of image do we have? Is it the one we like or is it the one God wants us to have? Chances are the two are different. In our text this morning, we read that God predetermined that those who are called by the gospel are to be conformed to the image of His Son. So that’s the image we must have! Now we don’t know what Jesus looked like physically but we do know spiritually and that’s the image we must develop. Recently, I read the words of an Irish blessing which expresses this very well: May the light of the Lord shine from your eyes like a candle in the window welcoming the weary traveler. There is an old saying that the eyes are the window to the soul. What can people see in our eyes? Do they see love and compassion? We sometimes sing a song – Jesus, Meek and Gentle – taken from our Lord’s description of Himself as gentle and lowly in heart – Matt. 11:29. Are we gentle in our treatment of others? Or, do we proudly say that we just tell it like it is? Are we humble? That’s one thing we can’t put on our resumes. Two weeks ago as we talked about being the leaven in 2011, we mentioned being the salt of the earth and letting our light shine before men – Matt. 5:13-16. We also talked about developing the fruit of the Spirit from Gal. 5:22-23 and adding the Christian graces found in 2 Pet. 1:5-7. All of these are part of developing the image of Christ. Perhaps the best description of the image of Christ is the description of love in 1 Cor. 13:4-7 – Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Now substitute yourself or the pronoun “I” for love in this passage and see how you fare. While conforming ourselves to the image of Christ is a life-long endeavor, most of us need to be making more progress. To be spiritually like Christ is not just an internal thing. It’s also an action thing. In John 9:4 Jesus said, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.” Jesus always had a sense of urgency to do His Father’s will. Even at the age of 12, he was adamant about being about His Father’s business - Luke 2:42-49. We also need a similar sense of urgency since we are created in Christ Jesus for good works – Eph. 2:10. Let me close with a final exhortation by the apostle Paul from 1 Cor. 15:58 – Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. If we were put on trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict us? Or would we be judged to be frauds because we didn’t bear the image of Christ?
Are you a Christian this morning? If you have never put on Christ in baptism, you are outside of Christ – Gal. 3:26-27. We mentioned 2 Cor. 5:17 – If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Turn with me to Rom. 6:3-4 and let’s read it because I don’t want anyone to miss the importance of what the apostle Paul says: Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Maybe you need an extreme makeover this morning – that’s what the powerful blood of Jesus can do for you. If you’ve never been immersed for the forgiveness of your sins or if you need God’s help in changing your image to look like His Son, won’t you come as we stand and sing?
(Walter Hill; Sunday A.M.; 1/16/2011)