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In The Beginning, part 5
The Image of the Best
Mentone February 21, 2015
What difference can seven seconds make? On May 23, 2008, Joel Ifergan rushed to a nearby convenience store in Quebec, Canada. He wanted to get there before 9 p.m. in order to purchase two tickets for the Super Seven lottery, by that time valued at about $28 million. At 8:59 he plunked down his money in front of store owner Mehernosh Iranpur, and one at a time the tickets spilled from the machine. The first bore the time insignia of 8:59 p.m., but because the tickets are processed one at a time, the second was just a few seconds later and bore time mark of 9:00:07. That second ticket had all the winning numbers, and Joel thought that since he had, in his mind, made the purchase before the 9 p.m. cutoff, he would be declared the winner.
The lottery commission disagreed and refused to pay him, citing the fact that the ticket, since the machine had issued it after 9 p.m., witnessed by the time printed right on the ticket itself, pertained to the next week’s game, for which his numbers didn’t match. Joel sued, and now 7 years later the Supreme Court of Canada has decided against him. Seven seconds cost him becoming a millionaire! Here’s his picture, with the disappointment evident on his face. If he had gotten to the store just a minute earlier, how things would be different, and how his life would have changed!
We bring this up only because there will be countless people who will miss out on something much more important than the millions lost by Joel, because they will have procrastinated in making their decision to accept the gift of salvation offered by God. The devil is just fine with people thinking, “I’m going to make that decision. I know that I need to, but I’ll wait just a little longer before doing it.” Don’t be that person! Receive Christ into your life now, and become an heir to the biggest “prize” of all, eternal life! Don’t be “seven seconds too late.”
As we’ve seen, Genesis 1 is not only the story of creation, as vital as that is, but it is also the story of re-creation. We’ve noted 7 points of comparison between the two models, which are: 1) The final objective: the image of God. 2) The condition when God starts His work: darkness, without form and void. 3) God exercises creative power. 4) The Spirit Who “hovers.” 5) “Let there be light.” 6) The principle of “separate and divide.” 7) The “fruit” and the “seed” which produces “after his (His) kind.”
God starts with us when we are in “darkness,” and our lives are spiritually “without form and void,” and then He exercises His mighty and awesome creative power to make us new. We’ve talked about the immense energy of God’s power to bring matter into existence; remember the comparison of 2500 atomic blasts representing just the energy necessary to bring 5 pounds of matter into existence. We try to grapple with what that means as we think of the immensity of mass contained in the earth, our solar system, our galaxy and the entire universe. And that’s just talking about bringing into existence inanimate mass. God’s energy went way beyond that, because He turned much of that mass into living matter, with plants, animals and humans.
This huge reservoir of God’s limitless supply of energy is important to recognize, because in a sense, the project on which He is now at work, the restoration of the sinful soul, is even more difficult to accomplish. When God said, “Let there be” in Genesis 1, there was no stubborn, rebellious human will to resist His directive. Not only is all His power allocated toward this present project, but we know of no other undertaking that was more expensive. Nowhere do we read that another of His building enterprises cost Him His life blood, which this one has.
It is to His glory that He can restore sinners to saints. Talk to any builder and they will tell you that remodeling is always more challenging than new construction. You never know what surprises and mysteries lurk behind those walls! I can tell you that from personal experience! And so it is that today, in this sinful existence, God’s “mission statement” to “Let Us make man in Our image,” even after sin came in, within sinful flesh and a sinful nature, comprises a radical plan, an seemingly unimaginable attainment. Yet, through His power, He is able to do just that, for those who willingly submit to His Spirit.
“Out of nothing,” ex nihilo, which describes both His technique in creating the world as well as describing our spiritual condition before He comes into our lives, He makes something good. As long as I realize that I am “nothing” as for as righteousness goes, there is hope for me. Paul said, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” II Corinthians 12:10. Jesus said, “Without Me you can do nothing.” John 15:5. It is His unique gift, His special pleasure and delight to re-make us into His image, His icon. We noted that this is the same word (in the Greek Old Testament) that Revelation uses in warning against the “image of the beast.” So at the end of time there will be two “images,” two “icons” on display, the “image of God” reflected in the lives of His saints who have allowed His mission statement of Genesis 1:26 to be fulfilled in their lives, and those who have rejected His grace, and now devoid completely of His Spirit, have taken on the “image of the beast.”
Only Jesus is the absolutely perfect, “express image” of the Father, but we can become a reflection, a perfect reflection of that image through His grace. We’ve concentrated so far on the word “icon” when speaking of the “image” of God, because that’s the word in Genesis 1. But there’s another word we should look at, that’s also translated “image” in the Bible. In Hebrews 1:3 Paul uses a word translated “image” when He says, that Jesus is the “express image of His person.” That word is not “icon,” but it’s a word that like “icon” also came directly into our English language. It is the word character. Jesus is the express character of the Father, but we can be re-made into His likeness and reflect His character.
This word character has an interesting background that has lessons for us. It originally referred to the instrument that was used for engraving or carving. Then it became associated with the marks or letters that were burned in by the instrument. It’s not used much in the Bible, but we have one usage of it in the Old Testament to compare. In Leviticus 13:28 (LXX) which speaks about a priest examining a person formerly afflicted with leprosy and pronouncing him clean from it we read, “But if the bright spot stays in one place and has not spread on the skin, but has faded, it is a swelling from the burn. The priest shall pronounce him clean for it is the “scar” (or “mark” the character) from the burn.”
This word meant “impress, reproduction or representation” as in a coin that bore the impress of a king. Think of the spiritual lessons associated with that concept! The word character is closely related to another word in Greek, the word charagma which also means a “mark, or stamp, engraved, etched, branded, cut or imprinted.” Arndt and Gingrich, p. 884. It was used to refer to brands on horses, stamps on documents or impressions on coins.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. In Revelation 13 and 14 this word is used to describe the “mark” of the beast. Because it is so closely related to the other word, we could say that those who defy God at the very end will receive the character, the character of the beast. The thoughts and motives of Satan will have been “engraved, stamped, etched branded and imprinted” on their minds to the point that they have his character, his mark. We don’t want to be in that group! We want to be in the group that has the character, the icon, the image of God that He wants to etch and engrave into our minds! We want to be the “coin” that bears the “impress” of the “King,” the character of Jesus!
This matter of being made into the “image of God,” the molding of our characters into the reflection of Jesus, is the work of our lifetime. But in an instant, by fiat creation, we are given a restored standing in His sight, and given the light of the knowledge of His gracious love and Being. Purpose and meaning replace aimless wandering. He brings us into loving relationship with Him and inscribes on our hearts His image, His likeness, His character. Genesis 1:26, “Let Us make man in Our image,” is fulfilled in us, even in a sinful world.
This task of remolding us into God’s image is accomplished through the Holy Spirit, Who “hovers” over the sea of humanity waiting to do His work of restoration. God said, “Let there be light,” referring to the truth about God, His love, His kingdom, His law and His just requirements. God is still saying today, “Let there be light.”
Then we saw the principle of separation and division we see in Genesis 1. This also finds a parallel in our Christian walk. We saw the “separating” work evidenced in 4 phases, just as He “separated and divided” during the first four days of Creation week. First, it is His objective to separate from us sin. Then He is separating us from unholy alliances with those who would draw us away from Him. He is now separating the “waters from the waters.” Someday He will “sever” or “separate” those who are faithful to Him during the seven last plagues and protect their lives. Finally, He will separate sheep from goats, weeds from wheat when He comes.
Today we conclude with the principle of the fruit which has the “seed in itself,” that reproduces “after its kind.” Does anyone here like fruit? I love fruit! I think it’s awesome that God gave us fruits that are “seasonally adjusted.” Watermelon’s ripe just when you’d like it to be, in the summer, right?
There are deep spiritual truths taught in Genesis 1:11. “Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth;’ and it was so.” Did you know that there something like 10,000 varieties within the “grass” family? And, according to the World Resources Institute, there are at least 100,000 types of fruit trees in the world. One website states that there are 7,500 varieties of the apple tree alone! God gave an abundance, didn’t He!
The fruit in Genesis 1:11 is described as having its “seed in itself” and that it reproduces “after its kind.” Important genetic and spiritual truths are taught by these words. The “seed is in itself” refers to the fact that within the fruit, as made by God, there is the mechanism for propagation. The “after his kind” phrase tells us that that reproduction will be like its parentage.
There is an abundance of seed material for the propagation of more trees. We don’t think very much about it. We slide open an apple and there are many seeds in the core, each potentially in itself another apple tree bearing thousands of apples, each of which contains more seeds, and so on. Just try to think if it were not the case, that among 1,000 apples there would be just one seed. How tedious and careful the search would be to find that one seed so that apples wouldn’t become distinct. “Ah! I found it,” a shout would go up. Somebody would find that one seed and rejoice like they found a gold coin in a cracker-jack box. But that’s not what we find in nature, is it. There are thousands of seeds, and it’s not an issue. Each watermelon contains hundreds (unless it’s of the seedless variety) of seeds, each of which can become a watermelon vine, bearing many watermelons, and so on.
What does this mean for us spiritually? Aside from teaching that there are “abundant” resources for our spiritual needs, the Apostle John makes this inspired comment. “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” I John 3:9. Two thoughts we wish to emphasize in this text. Who is the “Seed,” and what is the significance of the phrase “His Seed remains in him”? Who is the “Seed” in this context? It is Jesus!
Referring to the promise made in Genesis 3 Paul writes, “He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ.” Galatians 3:16. Jesus is the “Seed” that remains in us. And when He is within us, He gives us His faith and His victory. “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.” I John 4:4. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27. What is the “glory” that Paul is speaking about here? Is it merely the mansions above, the majestic splendor of His kingdom? We’re hoping for that, aren’t we, and that’s not wrong to do so. But we must also recognize that this “glory” also includes the “glory” that is His character, written within our hearts by His Spirit, re-making us into His image. A lot of people what the “glory” that is the heavenly reward, but they’re not really interested in having the selfless character of Jesus, which is also His “glory.”
What does it mean that Christ is “in” us? It just means that we have given our lives to Him. We have asked Him into our hearts. Revelation 3:18 pictures Jesus standing at the door of our hearts, knocking. If we will simply allow Him entrance, He will enter and abide with us.
Let’s go back to Genesis 1:11. “Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth;’ and it was so.” The term “seed” describes what it was, and the phrase “after his kind” refers to what it did. Because it was a “seed” that contained the reproductive capabilities that God gave to it, it couldn’t help but fulfill this function and produce “after his kind.” The “nature” of the fruit is to do just that, and it’s still true today.
This text certainly refers to the fruit trees and all other living things that were given power to propagate, including human beings. Today we find that there are a number of words in our language that are based on the Latin word for “seed” that bear out that meaning, including the scholastic institution that pastors attend to learn about the “seed of truth.” We call that type of a school a “seminary.”
But there is also a spiritual application of this text as it applied to Adam and Eve and all their sons and daughters, including you and me. Adam and Eve were made with a perfectly intact and holy spiritual nature. Originally, just like the fruit that we’re reading about in Genesis 1:11, the “seed” of God’s character was within them. They fulfilled that verse in a spiritual way, and they “reproduced” the character of God by nature, “after His kind.” Holy thoughts and holy deeds came “naturally” to them, because it was their nature to love and obey God. They delighted to do His will.
Adam had to go “against his nature” when he chose to disobey God and sin. It didn’t come “naturally” him. But when sin came in, their natures became corrupted and weakened. The “seed” of righteousness, which would have continuously produced holiness “after His kind,” was no longer present. They became “without form and void’ and their minds were engulfed in spiritual “darkness,” incapable of understanding truth, incapable of resisting evil on their own. The “seed” of righteousness that had been implanted with them was gone. That which God had placed in them was now absent. Genesis 1:11 would now have a different meaning. Because they had sinful natures, the “after his kind” principle would result in the replication of unholy thoughts and unholy deeds. A “bad seed” came into humanity.
An outside Source would have to come to the rescue, which is exactly what God did. Now, the good “seed” must be replanted within us supernaturally, which God can do if we will let Him. Originally, it was Adam’s and Eve’s nature to do right, to love and obey God. But when sin came in, the holy “seed” was removed, and and a different principle was activated. They were now controlled by a selfish nature, just as we were born with. That built-in capacity to love and obey God was forfeited by sin. But through the Gospel, God can again put the “seed” of righteousness back in us, putting us on advantageous ground in the battle against evil. If we remain faithful to Him, uncorrupted by the world, we become His children and known to Him as the “holy seed.” Ezra 9:2.
God must plant the good Seed within us. Notice the imagery that James uses. “Receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” James 1:21. We’ll suggest that the term “word” there refers both to the Sacred Scriptures, the written word, as well as the “Word” that came, was made flesh and dwelt among us, the living “Word.” “Receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls.” What a Gospel promise! It’s an invitation to relive Genesis 1:11 in its spiritual application. Did you receive Christ into your heart today? Did you invite Jesus, the “Seed,” into your life today?
Now, through the generous provisions of the Gospel, Christ brings His power, His infinite power, through His Word into our lives and gives us victory over the evil one. The “Seed” of Christ and His righteousness can again be part of our experience. Here’s what the Apostle Peter tells us. “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him (the “light”) who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” II Peter 1:4.
The nature we were born with, the nature that Adam bequeathed to us, is defective and not equipped to resist evil. But God will give to us, if we ask Him, a new nature, one that “delights in His law” and loves to follow Him. This new nature, if nurtured and cultivated, will subdue the evil nature, through His grace and power, and we will be transformed into the character, “image” and “likeness” of the Lord.
What that means is that when we become Christians and give our lives to Him, there is a conflict inside of us, with two sides at war one with another; with our natural evil nature, with which we were born, battling against the God-given spiritual nature we’re given when we’re born again. This conflict will stay with us unto Jesus comes, because it’s then, at the Advent, that He completely removes the sinful nature from us and we will be completely free from any leanings or attractions to sin.
But in the meantime, Christ can give us victory and remold our characters to be in His image, even while we are living in sinful flesh (flesh weakened physically by the deterioration of 6,000 years) and a sinful nature (a nature that tends toward evil). Christ’s power can dominate the sinful nature so that it is “held under” and controlled by grace, resisting the promptings to go against God’s law.
The closer we come to Christ, the more the heavenly nature will take precedence, the more our thoughts and deeds will become a perfect reflection of His image.
But in order to progress in our spiritual walk, the “Seed,” as John tells us, must “remain” in us. “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.” I John 3:9. We have to invite Jesus into our lives every single day, every single moment, or we will succumb to the deceptions and delusions of the evil one and fall back. It’s something like plugging in your cell phone every night. If you don’t, you’ll run the risk of losing power and losing the ability to connect. So we have to be “plugged in” constantly to the Source of power that is made available to us, Jesus Christ, through His word and through the Holy Spirit. Then His “Seed” will “remain” in us and we will experience victory in Christian living, and progress toward the ultimate goal of being changed into the likeness of Jesus, the fulfillment of Genesis 1:26.
There is yet another lesson contained in the concept of the “seed,” and that is that, in our world after sin has come in, a seed becomes productive only when it dies. I’m sure that that was not God’s original plan, because nothing died in Eden before sin came in. That’s why it’s not mentioned in Genesis 1:11. But now that sin has come in, things have changed and the “death” of the seed has become a necessary requirement for the new life to take place.
Speaking primarily of His own death Jesus said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain (“seed”) of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it does, it produces much grain.” John 12:24. The “seed” has to “die” in order for it to bring “life.” Jesus became the Model of that Seed that died and then became productive in providing salvation. That is a very apt picture of what He did by dying on the cross to give us eternal life. But the “seed that dies” is also an illustration of our lives too. We also, like a seed, must “die” to self in order to become born again into His image. What did Paul say? “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which 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.
When that happens, then the second principle becomes applicable in our lives. The “after his kind” genetic law takes effect. There’s a genetic principle and a Gospel promise defined by these words, “after his kind,” which has literal as well as spiritual application. When I was in the 7th grade the teacher Mr. Lucas chose to use me as an example of how children partake of their parents’ traits. It embarrassed me to death! But I don’t hold it against him. The lesson he was trying to get across has stuck in my mind ever since. My dad was tall and thin, and so was I. To express the same idea sometimes we say things like, “The acorn didn’t fall far from the tree,” or “he is the spit and image (not “spitting image”!) of his dad.”
There’s a profound spiritual lesson here. The “Seed” produces “after His kind.” God’s children partake of His DNA. “Like Father, like son (or daughter)” is an adage that has a Gospel application. Fruit trees bear “after their kind.” An apple tree will never produce a cactus pear. Here’s a picture of one of our apple trees. It’s called an “Anna Apple,” because it is supposedly adapted to warmer climates like what we have in southern California. It doesn’t produce every single year, but when it does, it produces prodigiously. You know those 5-gallon plastic buckets, don’t you? Last year I brought in bucket after bucket of apples from that one tree. I washed them, cored, them, boiled them and made applesauce which we froze. I think we made about 20 gallons of applesauce, and it could have been another 20 but I ran out of time, energy and space in the freezer.
You might be thinking, “Thank you very much, Pastor, for telling us about your applesauce, but that doesn’t do my taste buds very much good.” Well, we brought some of it today, and you can test a sample of it at our fellowship meal if you like. That apple tree will never produce watermelons or tomatoes. It will produce apples, “after its kind.” The spiritual lesson for us, is that if Jesus is within us, if His “Seed” remains in us, then in a spiritual way the law of genetics will take effect that will result in our character traits becoming “after His kind.” The Lord will produce the “fruits of the Spirit,” which are God-like characteristics in our lives, according to Galatians 5:22, and we will be molded into the image, the likeness of our Creator. God’s mission statement of Genesis 1:26 will become our reality.
Now it may be that someone will say, “I hear what you’re saying, pastor, but I just don’t think that’s ever going to happen in my life. I’m always going to go on sinning and making mistakes.” We can’t think that way! We must never limit what God can do! God can do what He says! Someone might say, “What about you, Pastor Anderson? You’ve been on the ‘journey’ for a while now. Are you ‘there’ yet?” First of all, if anyone were to claim perfection, that would be clear evidence that they have not achieved it. Whenever a question like that comes up, I take refuge in remembering what the Apostle Paul said. “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14. In other words, we keep trusting in Jesus to do what He promised in us.
Remember, the vast, limitless resources of Heaven are standing by to help anyone who calls for assistance. “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.” Jude 24, 25. We need to trust in Jesus to complete His work us, just as He’s promised. “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6.
The world is getting more and more wicked every day, isn’t it. But what is God waiting for, before He brings this to an end? It’s the reflection of His character in the lives of His people. Earlier we took a look at a passage in which Paul developed a whole theology by emphasizing that a word, “seed,” was singular and because it was it referred to Christ. Remember that text in Galatians 3:16? Now, we’re going to look at a text and note that a word is in the plural and it makes a huge difference. In the plural it does not refer to Christ. It refers to us. Here’s the text. “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons (and daughters) of God.” Romans 8:19.
Notice that the word “sons” is in the plural. Now, it would certainly be true if that word were in the singular, wouldn’t it? It would be a true statement if the text read, “For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the Son of God.” That would be true, wouldn’t it? But that’s not what the text says. It says all creation is waiting for the revelation of the sons (and daughters) of God.
We could say that the “creation” (that would include angels and unfallen beings on other planets throughout God’s great universe) is eagerly waiting for the “revealing” of the Son of God. Do you see the word “revealing” in that text? It’s the same word (apocalypses) that in many other texts does indeed apply toward Jesus’ being revealed in the sky at His advent. See for example I Corinthians 1:7; II Thessalonians 1:7: I Peter 1:7; 13. Even though it is most certainly the “earnest expectation” of us who “eagerly wait” for the Son of God to be revealed, this passage is talking about something else. It is saying that the creation is waiting for the “revealing” of the sons (and daughters!) of God!
Who are these “sons” (and “daughters”) of God? If you read just a couple of verses ahead of this one we see that they are the ones who are guided by the Spirit. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons (and daughters) of God.” Romans 8:14. These are the ones who have been called from darkness, from a life that’s empty and void, and have received His light and the benefits of His re-creative power, and have been separated from sin and iniquity. These are the ones in whose hearts the “Spirit Who hovers” has found a home and are now bearing the fruits of the Spirit after His kind, and in whom His Seed remains and are shaped into the image of God. They are the ones in whom Genesis 1:26 has been fulfilled. You can be one of these “sons and daughters of God.”
The image, icon, of God will be restored in the lives of those who submit to God and allow His Spirit to re-make them, and at that last day there will be two images on display. Every single person on this planet at that time will have one or the other; either the image and likeness of God, or the image of the beast. Which do you choose?
On August 4, 1987 Joy White took her daughter, Carlina to the Harlem Hospital in Manhattan because she had a high fever of 104. She was just 19 days old. A woman in white comforted the parents, though it was later learned that she was not a hospital employee. Sometime near 2 a.m. the next morning, at the time of the changing of the shift, Carlina White disappeared. She had been abducted. The hospital had video cameras, but apparently they weren’t working at the time. Flyers were distributed, a $10,000 reward offered and a nationwide search was conducted without success. Months turned into years and then into decades, though the family continued to search and never gave up hope.
It turns out that she had been snatched by a woman named Ann Pettway, and raised only 45 miles from her home. As she grew up, Carlina, or Nejdra, the name given her by her abductor, sensed that she was not the birth daughter of Ann, and began her own “detective work,” resulting in her contacting agencies like the National Center for Missing and Abused Children. They put together the true story, as pictures of “Nejdra” as a baby closely resembled the ones of Carlina, the kidnapped infant.
Her parents were contacted and DNA tests were conducted, but according to her mother Joy, they weren’t needed. As soon as the joyful reunion took place in January of 2011, her mother said something like, “We really didn’t need any tests. I saw myself in her and knew she was mine.”
Oh friends! In its infancy the human family, like Carlina, was kidnapped by a cruel enemy. God has been on a “search and rescue” mission ever since. He has been in the process of restoring His likeness in His children ever since they were taken captive by Satan. One day He will come in the sky, and He will know the ones that are His, because He will see His likeness in their characters. He will know them as His own sons and daughters, the ones in whom His seed has remained and the ones whose character attributes have produced after “His kind.” You want to be among those, don’t you?