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Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Image of the Invisible God

“He is the image of the invisible God,” Colossians 1:15

I know that isn’t the whole verse, but I want to stop there, at least for now.
For those that are wondering, the Who being referred to is Jesus. So I ask, what does it mean by the image of the invisible God? There is another place where we have seen something referenced as being in the image of God, and that is in Genesis:

“Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Genesis 1:26

Again, I know I cut the verse off midway, however you have the context I am trying to connect you with, the rest is also important, but I will cover it in my next point, as it shadows the rest of Colossians 1:15, the connections are inspiring. Now, we have to references to the image of God. The image of God refers to God’s traits, so us being made in the image of God means we contain these traits, although sin has separated us from God and the traits are a poor reflection of our creator. However, Christ is not mentioned as in the image of God, He IS the image of God. Christ is no reflection, He is the real deal. When we read through the Gospels we get a window, a glimpse at God, and His very nature and character, in a form we can see and understand clearly. We see His mercy, love, kindness, power, and control. Before I go more into them though, I want to point out one more thing.

We are made in the image of God. Christ is the image of God. We are made in Christ. Now this may seem mind bogglingly simple, but let this sink in for just a second. Allow this thought to be more than just a thought, let the truth sink in.

Now, back to the image of God, Jesus portrays the characteristics and traits of God. First, he is all powerful. There are numerous instances where Jesus casts out demons, which is exerting His might over darkness. One of my favorites, that truly shows how the demons and devils fear our Lord, is found in Mark.

“And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. And crying out with a loud voice, he said, 'What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.' For he was saying to him, 'Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!' And Jesus asked him, 'What is your name?' He replied, 'My name is Legion, for we are many.' And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, 'Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.' So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the pigs, and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned in the sea." Mark 5: 2-13

That is power. The enemies of Jesus fall and worship at his feet. There is no struggle, no resistance; they know they have not the power to resist. We worship the God of all. He is the Most High. Next we take a look at another trait, which is control, turn back just one chapter in the book of Mark for an example of this.

“On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, 'Let us go across to the other side.' And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?' And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Peace! Be still!' And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them. 'Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?' And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, 'Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?'”  Mark 4: 35-41

Christ has been given dominion over all the earth, this includes every part of it, from the smallest of creatures, to the largest of mountains. He but needs to speak a word for the winds and the seas to obey Him. Christ is in complete control. There is no circumstance or situation that He is not both aware of, and prepared for. We have no reason to fear anything for our God is in control.

The next trait I wish to discuss is Christ’s mercy.

“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, 'Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?' This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, 'Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.' And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?' She said, 'No one, Lord.' And Jesus said, 'Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8: 3-11

Here we find how Jesus treated someone who was undoubtedly guilty, and who, according to the law, should have been killed. And yet Jesus does the unexpected, He displays mercy, rebukes her accusers, and allows her to walk free, saying nothing more than “sin no more”. Wow. This is something to praise God over. Despite the fact that we are all guilty of sin, without exception, Jesus is extending mercy to us, saving us from the death we deserve.

Last I want to show Christ’s love,

"Jesus wept. So the Jews said, 'See how he loved him!' But some of them said, 'Could not he who opened the yes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?' Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, 'Take away the stone.' Martha the sister of the dead man, said to him, 'Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.' Jesus said to her, 'Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?' So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, 'Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.' When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice. 'Lazarus, come out.' The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, 'Unbind him, and let him go.'” John 11:35-44

Here we see an example of Jesus’ love for others mixed with a show of his power to heal, and even bring the dead to live. Jesus was grieved for the loss of Lazarus, even to the point of tears. Jesus cares for every single one of us greatly, so much so that He died for us, that we may live in Him. There is no greater love. We should follow this example, and have true compassion for those around us. Jesus is the image of the invisible God, and we are made in His image. We need to surrender to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, allow the Spirit to move in us and make us more like Him.
I would like go back now to the verse in Colossians that I started with in the beginning, and the one in Genesis, and go into some more depth.
“He is the image of the invisible God,” Colossians 1:15

As I mentioned earlier, the Who mentioned at the start of this verse is Jesus. And image refers to the traits and character. So what this verse says is that Jesus is the very nature and character of God, only in a form we can see, touch, smell, and learn from. God came down in the form of Jesus and walked with us, talked with us, left us with lessons on how to live our lives, and, most importantly of all, redeemed us! earlier I went over some of the traits that Jesus portrayed, and I say some because I know I only scratched the surface, my writing isn’t meant to be all inclusive, only to cause a desire to dig deeper, only God’s Word truly teaches.

“Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Genesis 1:26

And here is the quote from the first half of that verse in Genesis that I also quoted earlier; where God is saying that He is going to make man “in our image”. This is powerful. We are made after the image of God. So yes, we are made in the image of God. Refer back to Colossians (or refer forward as the case may be) and look again at the image of God mentioned there. From the very beginning, Genesis chapter 1, we were made in Christ! God knew the very day we would fall away from him (yes, song reference, for those that know me try not to faint) and was preparing, even then for that eventuality. We belonged to Christ then, before the fall, and had His traits. Now this is where comparing these two verses starts to get really interesting, let us take a look at these two areas, include a few more verses surrounding each.

“Then 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 birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'" Genesis 1: 26-28

Wow, so when we were created we had control over everything on the earth? Every creature, “over all the earth”. That is amazing. We were created to lead, and to rule, under God, but over the earth. Suddenly the name “King of Kings” is more appropriate than ever before, in a way, all were given dominion here and all were kings, and He the King over us. And then sin enters the picture, we all know the story, serpent deceives Eve, Eve eats forbidden fruit, Eve gives unto Adam, Adam eats, God kicks us out of the garden and we find ourselves living in the curse, all of a sudden without that same dominion we had before, now we have to struggle and work to get results out of the earth. If the story ended here, I probably wouldn’t be writing this, but then something happens; Jesus comes. Let us look into Colossians and see what His description is.

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities -- all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1: 15-17

Well, this is getting exciting now. “firstborn of every creature”. This doesn’t mean that Christ was the first thing created by God. Biblically speaking firstborn always refers to not an order of birth, but a right. The firstborn received the largest portion of inheritance, the firstborn ruled after the father passed. Solomon, though not the firstborn son of David, is considered a firstborn in the rights that he received. You see that with Jacob and Esau as well, Jacob received the rights and blessings of firstborn, even though Esau was born first. Christ was not created, in fact He created us and we were created in Him. He is the firstborn of creation because He rules over creation. The next part of these verses goes into some examples of the things that He rules over, which is a list of, well, everything. The verses close out with a clear statement that Christ is the head of all, and the reason for our very existence. Now I said this was where it got exciting, and I know some of you are probably wondering what is so exciting about this, we all knew Jesus was God, where is the news? Where is the excitement? Whereas I do have more, I just want to assure you that this is exciting, I am thrilled with my Lord Jesus and even simple statements like this make me want to belt out praises (again, those that know me know I don’t sing well, so that would be to the detriment of all nearby). This is glorious when compared side by side with all that Christ taught. Because Christ did more than just cleanse our sins, he brought the kingdom of heaven back to us. He has returned what we lost in Eden.  If there be any doubt of this, let us take a look at some of Christ’s teachings.

I don’t want anybody panicking on me here, I am not about to get into one of those God will give you what ever you want messages. I am going to start off in Luke, chapter 11, after Christ teaches the Lord’s Prayer and the parable of the man who asked for three loaves. We start off in verse 9:

“And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!'” Luke 11: 9-13

This is powerful. If we ask we receive, if we seek, we find, if we knock, the door is opened. I realize that on the surface this might look like what I just told you I wasn’t going to do, so I encourage you too look a little farther, what does it say our heavenly Father will give us? That is right, the Holy Spirit. So wait, what does this mean? When we seek, ask, and knock. God answers, He fills us with His Spirit. The Spirit can then guide us in the ways of God, comfort us through our troubles, and truly teach us how to ask things of our Lord. You see, God doesn’t provide for us whatever we ask for before Christ. This is part of what Christ brought to us. When we surrender to Christ, live for Him, the Holy Spirit fills us with desires that are Godly, and a heart that seeks His face. It is when we ask through the Spirit that God grants us our desires, for then, the desires are truly His anyway. The real power of prayer comes not in praying for what you want, but in letting the Spirit pray for you, and accomplishing His perfect will. This is but the first step in finding what Christ brought back to us, there is more, so much more. Getting excited yet? Let’s move on.

“And he said to them, 'Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe; in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick and they will recover.'” Mark 16: 15-18

This is Jesus speaking to the disciples just before his ascension into heaven. When we believe and are baptized. This is critical. First we believe, our faith is a gift from God, granted by him, and then we surrender into baptism. We give up our old ways to follow Him, surrender ourselves and receive the Holy Spirit. At this point Christ describes what those who believe will look like, I don’t know about you, but that seems like a fairly powerful group of people. In the name of Christ we can do all of those things, if He but gives us the faith. The dominion that was given when man was created, and lost to the sin of Adam and Eve, has been restored through Christ. If we surrender to Christ, allow the Spirit to live within us. That dominion is given back. Through His name we regain what was lost, not of ourselves, but of Him that created us, died for us, and defeated death itself.

All praise and glory to God the Father, through our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.