The Imago Exchange

Pro. Jeremiah Shepherd

Intro

The church has grossly underestimated the effects of modern culture. To varying degrees, many have been lulled into the prideful presumption that their righteousness is beyond any significant threat of from the kingdom of darkness, and it shows in the level of passion with which they pursue Jesus. Rather than increase in fervor and diligent seeking, many have slacked in their commitment to continuous, godly growth. Scripture is clear that there is a certain attitude that we, as believers, must maintain when working out the salvation of our soul, and Paul’s words to the Philippians describe it best.

Philippians 3:8-14 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul sought after God as if He hadn’t yet reached his goal, because he hadn’t. His passion intensified as he matured, recognizing that his entire life was a demonstration of his desire to see Jesus and know Him in the fullness of His resurrection power. In this season,—and in all seasons for that matter—as a viral pandemic is threatening the entire world, God is calling for us, His children, to seek Him more intensely for discernment, insight and divine direction. This may sound like a cliche, oversimplified word from God, but it is precisely what is required from us.

Believers should never have the mindset to do less but more, especially when we recognize that the righteous are “scarcely saved.” Of the end times, Jesus says that the days must be cut short for the sake of the very elect (Matthew 24:22), meaning that even the most diligent believer will come dangerously close to falling under deceptive influence. The shallow messages that many of today’s Christians lean on will fail to be sufficient to deliver them from the entrapments of the world. Therefore, like Paul, we must press hard toward the mark of of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ.

How seriously should we take the Word when it says that Satan is “the god of this world” who blinds the minds of those who don’t believe? Very seriously. We should consider that every moment and area that we fail to believe even the simplest of God’s commands presents an opportunity for Satan to insert deception.

Recently, COVID-19 has captured the attention of all nations, and this is no coincidence. Every believer should immediately be reminded of scriptures which speak of pestilence and disease as precursory events to the manifestation of the antichrist and the end of the age, and every saint should be praying, observing and acting with great peace and discernment. Sadly, many are involved in the same blind panic as the rest of the world and failing to reveal any relationship with Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Still, in addition to the basic connection of global events to prophetic scriptures, there is a deeper revelation to be discovered which exposes a relationship between these observable developments and the underlying spiritual condition of our world.

Romans 1:16-23 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: 21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

Humanity is habitually quick to dismiss its own guiltiness and resistant to acknowledge it’s own guilt. Before Romans discusses how the wrath of God is revealed from heaven, it first states that the righteousness of God has already been provided. It continues to describe how people are judged by God, particularly because of their defiant behavior. First, it says the knew God but refused to glorify God, and this means something very specific. Note, it doesn’t say they refused to “give God glory.” It says they did not glorify Him, and the way this is worded does make a difference. To “give glory” and to “glorify” are not exactly the same.

Glory (noun): noun

  1. high renown or honor won by notable achievements. “to fight and die for the glory of one’s nation”
  2. magnificence or great beauty. “the train has been restored to all its former glory”

Glorify (verb): verb 1.praise and worship (God). “music is used to glorify God”

  1. describe or represent as admirable, especially unjustifiably.

For starters, glory is a noun and glorify is a verb. While glory is often thought of along with who receives, the verb “glorify” focuses on who is giving it. It is possible to acknowledge the presence of glory in something or someone without glorifying them yourself. Demons recognize the glory of God, but they don’t glorify God, themselves. To glorify something or someone else is to represent them as admirable through your own actions or behavior. In other words, it is to willfully promote or accentuate the admirable qualities of another by modeling them.

Now, notice the way the rest of Romans 1:23 reads. The wicked people described in the chapter not only refused to glorify God, but they chose to glorify sinful man and beast instead. They modeled themselves after the qualities and attributes of creation rather than the creator.

Romans 1:25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

Understanding these details of Romans 1 exposes a profound revelation about mankind.

There is a relationship between who or what we worship and the image we portray.

As human beings, we model ourselves after our gods and idols. We imitate their demeanors and simulate their routines. We study their mannerisms hopes of becoming like them, gaining their positive attributes and partaking in their success. When we deem that something or someone has righteousness or “value,” our actions become visible reflections of our esteem of them, and our image is shaped is formed as a result.

Strangely, for humanity, this type of behavior doesn’t stop at humans. Even animals are envied for the traits they possess, even above God, and people take extraordinary measures to acquire their attributes. In the end, this change of worship produces animalistic behaviors in humanity, and this refusal to glorify God causes men to take on the image of beasts rather than the image of God. If men honored God, they would model themselves after His character and ways. If they aspired to be like Jesus, as Paul, they would take on His nature and follow His path to glory. It is certain, our image is an outward and often involuntary sign of who or what we honor and worship. By it we visibly declare our gods and our idols.

We must also that our image is not how we appear in a mirror nor is it how we act in brief moments. It’s not how we behave on specific holy days and it’s not how project ourselves to be good in front of people we want to impress. Our image is a constantly rolling projection of our true character.

Our image is a constantly rolling projection of our true character.

Our lives are like movie reels, not still images, and its entirety will speak and illuminate a common theme at the conclusion. Our image is not stagnant but evolving, and it should be transforming into something that reflects the holiness that is God’s character. Our image should mimic the image of God, so it is important to understand what that is.

The Imago Dei

Genesis 1:26-31 26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. 29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. 30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. 31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Theologians debate the meaning of “the Imago Dei” or image of God, but the direct context of Genesis 1 provides ample evidence to understand what it means. As it explains, we are called to be fruitful, multiply, replenish and subdue the earth while having dominion over the creatures within it. We are called to represent God in the earth or “glorify” him through the administrative, leadership abilities that are His.

Secondly and most beautifully, we are to demonstrate the love that emanates from them. It is critical to recognize that God says, “let Us” rather than “let me.” This small recognition indicates that mankind is an earthly team created to represent the heavenly team of the Father, the son and Holy Spirit. Furthermore, scripture says “in the image of God created he him; male and female,” the most powerful team created to portray the image of God. God is one in unity, existing as three entities, and without the existence of this relationship dynamic, it isn’t possible to demonstrate perfect love.

Love is the essence of God’s image.

If we aren’t loving, then we aren’t Godly, and the hallmark of god’s definition of love is sacrificial giving. Love, which is the image of God, is a character type showcased by continuous action. Love can be given from one, but it is perfected with two or more as it reciprocates between them. This is why God exists in three and that is why the body of Christ is destined to become a single unit, transformed into the image of Jesus (Read Ephesians 4).

The Exchange of Glory

The image of God is our destiny, but the current state of humanity is a sign that we have not yet reached it. Since the beginning, mankind has been equipped to become the image of God that he may reveal the glory of God, but man failed to attain it. Because of this, it was of a necessity that Jesus come to reveal that glory.

Hebrews 2:6-10 6 But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? 7 Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: 8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. 10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

Jesus demonstrated the image of God through His obedience, and we are to follow His lead. We are to accept the path he chosen, totally surrendering His will to the will of His Father, our Father in heaven.

2 Corinthians 4:1-6 1Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; 2But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 5For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

When we obey the commandments of Christ, we show that we worship Him, and we take on His nature and His image. However, by choosing to worship idols and creatures, we take on their nature, their image and also their fate.

It is not by accident that most viruses come from animals. The very existence of harmful viruses in humans is only a result of sin, and it may very well be a specific type of sin—idolatry. COVID 19 has affected the world and humanity can only blame itself. The wet markets of China primarily serve the wealthy who believe its wild animals possess medicinal, transformative and spiritual efficacy to heal and improve life. All of these are thing for which we should place our faith in God, our loving Creator. It is no coincidence that the idols man chooses are the direct source of sicknesses that befalls him.

It is no coincidence that the idols man chooses are the direct source of sicknesses that befalls him.

But those who aren’t purchasing and/or consuming exotic animals aren’t without excuse. Beyond the direct relationship of viruses to the improper use of animals, there is also the relationship of a viral, spiritual sickness to the idolatry of man. The worship of beast manifests several ways, being seen in eastern religions, theories and philosophies of evolution, horoscopes, spirit animals and even movies and entertainment. The vast majority of Hollywood’s heroes depict men and women with names, attributes and characteristics of animals. In the bible, the ultimate slap in the face of God was His own children crafting beasts of earthly materials to worship instead of Him. Today things continue in different form, and as long as mankind defiantly idolizes beasts above a God who designed us to be like Him, he will continue to be plagued with the consequences.

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