For the next few months we will be discussing who we are. I believe that there is a lack of understanding as to who people are in our day and age. People think that they need to take a trip or a few years off to “find theirself”. People think so little of their identity that they identify themselves on the basis of who they want to sleep with or what gender that they want to be. How little do we think of ourselves? Do we honestly think so little of ourselves that our being is summed up by things so trivial?

We are going to spend about 3 months looking into who God says we are. I hope that by the time you are finished with this series of messages you will understand who God says you are. For this first week we will begin at the beginning, in the Book of Genesis and creation of human beings and begin answering the question, “Who are you?”

You Are An Image Bearer of God (Genesis 1:26-31)

Read Genesis 1:26-31 giving special attention to Genesis 1:26.

“Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and small animals that scurry along the ground. So God created human beings in His own image. In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.” – Genesis 1:26-27 NLT

For what purpose did God create people? He created people to reign over all creation. What did He create them to be like? God created people in His image.

It is easy to understand the meaning of the first part. The purpose of our being created was to rule over creation, but it has more to do with caring for all of creation than has to do with doing whatever we want. We represent God with how we do things in nature. Is it okay to hunt? I would argue, absolutely. We have government organizations that state how many animals need to be harvested and set limits based on those numbers. Is it okay to hunt illegally? No. It is not. Are we allowed to just kill as many animals as we want? No. If it’s not going to be eaten don’t kill it. This also delves into the idea of farming in a good way. Is it okay to slaughter animals in an inhumane manner? I don’t think so. Why? We are God’s representatives as we operate on Earth. We rule over Earth as God would have us to do.

The second part has been at times debated. What did God create people to be like? Likeness is the meaning of the Hebrew words used here. The word image carried the connotation of likeness. The word likeness doesn’t give us a ton of information but it does tell us something. It tells us that we are in some ways to mirror forth God to the rest of creation.

Answers to the question, “Who are you?” begin flying at you the moment that you put these two answers together. You reflect characteristics of God to the world as you rule over creation. Anthony Hoekema, a former professor of theology at Calvin Theological Seminary put it this way,

“When one looks at a human being, one ought to see in him or her a certain reflection of God. Another way of putting this is to say that in man God is to become visible on Earth….Man, then, was created in God’s image so that he or she might represent God, like an ambassador from a foreign country. As an ambassador represents his country’s authority, so man (both male and female) must represent the authority of God. As an ambassador is concerned to advance the best interests of his country, so man must seek to advance God’s program for this world. As God’s representatives, we should support and defend what God stands for, and should promote what God promotes. As God’s representatives we must not do what we like but what God desires. Through us God works out His purposes on this Earth. In us people should be able to encounter God, to hear His word, and to experience His love. Man is God’s representative.”—Anthony Hoekema, Created in God’s Image, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986 pp. 67-68

There is a lot here that we could spend a long time unpacking but let me put it to you this way. You are not the way you are by chance. Humans were not put on this Earth purposeless and void of meaning left to venture and see if you could figure out who you are on your own. You are created as an image bearer of God, you reflect God to the world. And your purpose here is to rule over creation as God’s representative.

You reflect things about God to the world. Are your creative? Then you reflect the creativity of God who designed a totally impressive and creative Universe. Are you caring and loving? Then you reflect the love and care of God. We are like God in many ways and reflect those characteristics to the world. There are some characteristics of God that we cannot imitate, such as His eternality, but we are still reflecting God’s image to the world.

The moon reflects the light of the sun to Earth. It is a lesser light. It has a good number of similarities to the sun in how it looks to us. But, it’s light is nowhere near as brilliant as the sun. It’s similar to the way you reflect the characteristics of God to the world. He is much brighter.  

So, what does this mean for you?

It means that you have inherent value or worth.

The first thing that we would say this means for you is that you have inherent value or worth. You are not worthless; your worth is great. God has bestowed a great honor upon you by making you an image bearer. No one is worthless. No one’s life is meaningless. Everyone is an image bearer of God.

It means that everyone around you has inherent value or worth.

I grew up in Harrison, Arkansas. There are lots of things that we should be known for, considering it’s a town of only about 20,000. Duncan Industries in Harrison produced a rather large percentage of the parking meters used in America. Claridge is another company in Arkansas, they produce whiteboards and markerboards that are shipped and purchased all over the United States. Wabash is a company that is going strong in Harrison, Arkansas. They produce the trailer bottoms to a lot of the tractor trailers that you see running up and down the road all over the country. A seasoning that is a favorite for a lot of people is produced in Harrison, Arkansas: Cavenders Greek Seasoning. Rather than that, do you know what Harrison is actually known for? Racism. Harrison has a past that it can’t completely shake.

The town I grew up in was predominantly white. The African American population was somewhere around 0 and it has a lot to do with the history of the town and its location. Harrison is about 15 minutes from the headquarters of the Ku Klux Klan in Zinc, Arkansas. Race riots from the early 1900’s still haunt the town. Almost every African American in 1905 and 1909 were forcibly driven out of Harrison and Harrison became a “Sundown Town”. A sundown town was a town in which an African American person would be beaten, kidnapped, or worse if they were seen in town after the sun went down.

America celebrated Martin Luther King Day on Monday. It is a day that honors the life and work of Martin Luther King due to what he stood for: the equality of all people. He is most remembered for his organization of the peaceful wing of the Civil Rights Movement as well as his speeches and a letter written from prison while being held for peacefully protesting. In his famous, “I Have A Dream Speech” he declared,

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

And because of his work as a preacher and organizer of the Civil Rights Movement the many rights, equal rights was fought for and won.

Suddenly it was against the law of the land to treat people of other races as if they were unequal. God had granted equality to all people, America had realized this long ago and said as our own Declaration of Independence said,

“We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…”

This statement, from our Declaration of Independence gets at the idea of the equality of all people. God created all people equal. Because of who you are, you are equal with all people.

I grew up in a city that historically has not understood this fact and definitely has not done this well. Harrison has attempted to do better and, I would argue has done a good job of improving on this in their city. There are pockets of people buying billboards in the city and other things that don’t allow everyone to see the improvement, but they are getting there. What our Declaration of Independence stated and the Civil Rights Movement achieved was what the Bible had said here in Genesis 1 all along. Every person is of equal value.

This means that there is no place for bullying in the world. There is no place for that kind of behavior toward other people. Everyone around you has inherent value and worth and we are to be people who act like they do. There is no superior or inferior race. There is no superior or inferior gender. We have worth because we are image bearers of God. All people are image bearers of God.

Know that you have value as a person and so do all the people that are around you.

You Are An Image Bearer Marred By Sin (Genesis 3)

Read Genesis 3. God said, do not eat of the fruit of that tree. Eat everything else, but not that one. And then the serpent approaches and coaxes Eve into sinning while Adam just stands there watching the whole thing unfold. Then Eve gives Adam the fruit and he ate it. And it is here that the image of God becomes marred by sin.

Within this text we see the entrance of labor that profits little due to hardships in the world, pain in pregnancy, hardships in marriage, and death. As Paul would later put it,

“When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.”—Romans 5:12 NLT

Why is it that you get sick? Because sin entered the world. Why have you seen death in your life? Because sin entered the world. Why is it that you sin? Because sin entered the world and you are now a sinner. Look at the text, sin entered the world through Adam and “everyone sinned”.

Sin Has Marred the Image of God in You

Are people inherently good? Well, not anymore. Adam and Eve were. Now we are born marred by the effects of sin. Do we still desire to do good things? Yes, sometimes. Definitely not all the time. Do we now desire to do evil? Yes, we do. Not all the time, but we do desire to do evil. Why do we have this range within us? Because humans were created good, bearing the image of God and now that is marred because we are born sinners.

Look around and you see a wide range of human activity. We live in an unprecedented era. The United Nations made it a goal to eliminate extreme poverty. In a matter of 30 years extreme poverty has been cut in half worldwide. What glorious news this is! People are working together to make a massive difference in the world and this is a very good thing. I see people of your generation helping each other more than mine ever did, or those who went before us. I see lots of good in the world. I see the image of God on display. But look around and see the reverse of this. I see lots of violent crime and riots in the streets. I say babies being slaughtered legally in the news. I see children being abandoned, which is an especially terrible problem in the area that we live in.

Why is their such a variety of human activity? Why is their such good and evil acting within the same person? Why is it that we can be so kind to the people around us, yet if we were to play your secret thoughts on the projector you would run out of here screaming in embarrassment? Because you were created in the image of God and this image remains in you, but this image has been marred and disfigured.

Imagine staring at a beautiful painting, one of the most famous is the Mona Lisa. You admire this painting that you have in your mind and a person comes from behind you and rushes toward the painting and throws a gallon of used motor oil on this painting. The black oil covers the painting for a second, and as the oil runs down the painting you begin to see something. You see the original painting. The beauty of the Mona Lisa still lies behind that motor oil. Does the image of the Mona Lisa remain? Yes, it does. Is it as glorious as it once was or should be? No, it is not.

We are image bearers of God, but we are also rebels against God due to the entrance of sin into the world (Romans 5:8).

This leaves us in some troubled waters. The value of humanity is universal and it is seen that way. The sinfulness of mankind is universal and is seen that way.

“Whenever we meet a man, no matter of what name or nation, we not only find that he has the same nature with ourselves; that he has the same organs, the same senses, the same instincts, the same feelings, the same faculties, the same understanding, will, and conscience, and the same capacity for religious culture, but that he has the same guilty and polluted nature, and needs the same redemption. Christ died for all men, and we are commanded to preach the gospel to every creature under heaven. Accordingly, nowhere on the face of the earth are men to be found who do not need the gospel or who are not capable of becoming partakers of the blessings which it offers. The spiritual relationship of men, their common apostacy, and their common interest in the redemption of Christ, demonstrates their common nature and their common origin beyond the possibility of reasonable or excusable doubt.”—Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Volume II, p. 90-91

We share both a common value with other humans and we share a common illness with all other humans. We share in the image of God and we share in the devastation of sin.

You Are A Marred Image Bearer Who Has Been Provided A Savior (Genesis 3:15)

At the same moment in which God declared the curse that would fall and the Earth because of Adam and Eve’s sin, He declared the coming of the Savior. Though these horrific things would befall them the Savior was coming. He would crush the head of the serpent, and though He would be bruised He would have the victory. Who was this coming Savior? The rest of the Scriptures bear out that it was Jesus Christ. God the Son came from Heaven and took on human flesh. He dwelt on Earth and lived a perfect life completely unfettered from sin. He was the exact imprint of the image of God (Hebrews 1:3). This one, who lived perfectly on Earth would die on a cross as the punishment for sin, as Peter would say,

“Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but He died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but He was raised to life in the Spirit.”—1 Peter 3:18 NLT

Jesus ascended into Heaven to rule and reign. The Holy Spirit came to apply salvation to us and the Holy Spirit transforms us radically at first, causing us to desire salvation. Then throughout our lives the Holy Spirit works in us causing us to look more and more like Jesus, growing us more and more into perfectly imaging forth God to the world until finally we reach our eternal home where we will image forth God as we should.

Closing Thoughts

You are valuable. You are an image bearer of God. You have been damaged by the effects of sin. That image that once shown brightly in humans is now marred, we are now sinners in need of a Savior. That Savior is Jesus Christ. Though we are now born rebels against God, Jesus came to save us. He came to give us a right relationship with God and to restore the image of God that has been so distorted within us.

R. Dwain Minor