“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.” Romans 8:29
Before the eyes of every child of God is the image of Christ. Once we meet the Living God through the person of Jesus, we are given the Spirit to dwell inside us as we work out what He works in - making us more like Himself. The light of this glorious, perfect image pierces every nook and cranny of the soul; cleansing, purifying, and transforming us into the likeness of the Messiah. The more fully we surrender ourselves to Him, the more His power transforms us and makes it impossible to NOT bear His own image in our flesh.
YHWH'S pinnacle of creation is mankind. He saw Himself in Adam... His very own creature made to be like Himself. And He was glad in His handiwork.
I imagine the feeling a human father or mother gets when they see their own likeness in their kid... "He is the spitting image of his dad!" Strangers might say. I don't have children yet, but that must be a beautiful thing to experience. Seeing a human you took part in creating... reflecting to the world your likeness through physical attributes, mannerisms, etc.
The paradox and mystery of the human race is found here: Creatures of the only God Himself are designed to be like the Creator. We were created to not only know Him, but to be like Him. To bear the image of the infinite as forms of the finite. Creation carrying the image of He who is UNCREATED. That is our destiny and purpose.
Within God's heart from the beginning was the desire to create mankind. Not only to simply create us and let us fend for ourselves while He sat entertained by our foolishness in the heavenlies. That is not our God. Our God graciously and generously lavished upon us His very image and likeness that we might exist in profound gratitude, love, and obedience toward Him; dwelling in unity and intimacy with Him in paradise. But the tragedy of the fall derailed us and we forfeited this glorious image. When Adam and Eve succumbed to the serpent's lie, they stood as mankind's representatives in the rejection of God's grace. We must now DO something in our own effort to become like God. "We can figure all of this out on our own! We can untangle this mess... we can discover the mystery of our being by ourselves!" Our prideful flesh shouts.
Mankind strives tirelessly on their own to become who God has already created them to be through His power and grace alone.
The fall of man: seeking to be like God without God.
After the fall, Adam and Eve experienced a type of woe that still paralyzes humanity today: the misplaced identity. Filled to the brim with shame and pride, we strive to become something, someone. Craving to reclaim the image of the divine in our own strength. The more intense and zealous our ambition to restore this image, the more believable our false achievements appear. We fall farther away from the true image of God and spend our days unknowingly "chasing after wind." The grand tragedy's encore.
Yet even in man's utter foolishness, God's compassion and affection overpowers. He is too kind and too in love to leave us in despair. He had a plan: to reestablish His image in mankind, the pinnacle of His creation. To accomplish the mission of His heart to renew the people who foolishly sought to make ourselves like Him, He made Himself like us!
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3-4
He took on our nasty, grimy image of dust to transform us back into His image of the beauty and wholeness of YHWH. This is insane, my friends. INSANE. Think about this! His compassion is outrageous. He is relentless. He gave us yet again what He had already given us. Who does that? Body, soul, and spirit: we are destined to carry His image on this planet. But we need a COMPLETE transformation. A caterpillar to a butterfly kind of transformation.
While we sat helpless in our blood, unable to get back to the beautiful God we rejected in the garden, the Son of God laid aside the form of the Father and adopted our form to adopt US. A Man comes to mankind. The eternal, divine image takes on the likeness of a slave.
“Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” Philippians 2:7-8
This world is stuffed full of millions of ideas, concepts, religions, ideals, but we didn't need more of that. God defied logic and sent His very SON. It's personal. The Maker of the galaxies disguised Himself as one of us and dwelt among us. His words brought life, His teachings were/are captivating, His friendship - treasured. His heart displayed through His every action pierced the darkness cloaking humanities' eyes. Once again, the opportunity to taste and see the goodness of God was offered to man. The friend of sinners, the man of sorrows, God incarnate. Jesus the Christ. He took upon Himself the sorrows of mankind and humbly walked the path to His brutal death; the wrath and judgement of God cast heavily on His innocent shoulders. Ah. What love.
“He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?” Isaiah 53:3-8
He did it. He didn't just drink the just wrath of God, but He stomped on death. He accomplished His mission to renew us. But like Adam and Eve, we still have a choice. The offer still stands! We can be conformed to the new image of God in the work of Christ, or we can choose to manufacture it ourselves. And be led down the path of destruction.
Even as believers, we can be persuaded by the enemy to manufacture godliness. We can believe we are lacking something... or that we have to work to earn His favor and pleasure. We CANNOT do this. It is the same lie in a more cunning/crafty form. May this be true of us: "My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it." -Brennan Manning
If we want to share in His glory and radiance, we must share in His sufferings, being 'conformed to His death'. That is the recipe to the "new man." (See Philippians 3:7-10). We are unable to transform ourselves into His image. To go along with my analogy from the beginning, to transform OURSELVES into Christ's image is as absurd as a human child forcing himself to look like his parent. That's not how it works!
"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." Romans 5:12-21
Through experiencing the Spirit of the living Christ, our lost identity is rediscovered. What was seemingly lost forever is graciously revealed to us again as we get closer to the Father's heart. We become who we were destined to be as we align with God's stunning design for creation. What an inexpressible gift. THIS IS AMAZING EVERYONE. It really changes EVERYTHING.
"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. glory to glory." 2 Corinthians 3:18
"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20