Stop trying to create Jesus in your image!

Creating is in our DNA. It is built into us. God created the world and everything in it, including you and I — humans. We are created in His image — Male and Female alike. In Genesis 1:26-27 we read:

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…

Just a little bit later you read:

” …So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Ge 1:26–27)

As those who are made in God’s image, we are gifted towards creating. Some of us are more gifted than others, but we are all designed to create.

Not only is creating built into us, but we are tasked to create by God.

In Genesis 2:15 we read:

“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Ge 2:15)

To “work it” carries the meaning, the idea, of creating, of making. To take the raw materials of the garden and work it to make something glorious. Creating itself is not a bad thing. It’s more of a neutral thing. It is the why and what we create that matters.

Not only does man create in order to make a name for themselves, but man also creates in order to make gods for themselves.

Idolatry is one of the oldest forms of rebellion.

Since the beginning, man has been fashioning gods in their own image. But God abhors idolatry. We know because in the first and second commandments of the 10 commandments God says,

““You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.” (Ex 20:3–4)

God abhors idolatry!

Idols never provide us with that which we desire. Israel learned this through the prophets. One was Habakkuk, who asks:

““What profit is an idol when its maker has shaped it, a metal image, a teacher of lies? For its maker trusts in his own creation when he makes speechless idols! Woe to him who says to a wooden thing, Awake; to a silent stone, Arise! Can this teach? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all in it”” (Hab 2:18–19)

Other prophets such as Jeremiah and Isaiah, join with Habakkuk in condemning and pointing out the futility of creating and worshipping idols. But man continues to do it. Even those in Jesus’ day continued to manufacture idols.

More crooked than creating an idol from wood, hay, or straw was their desire to create Jesus in their own making.

We have a tendency to try to make Jesus into who we want Him to be.

Instead of believing and accepting Jesus’ message with joy, The religious and even the irreligious, they reject the Jesus of the Bible and seek to make Him into the god they want Him to be.

The religious seek to make Him into:

  • A rigid and hard figure whom we must work for in order to earn or keep our salvation.

The irreligious seek to make Jesus into:

  • A “woke Savior” or what you might refer to as “Hippie Jesus”. He would never say anything that hurts anyone’s feelings. No trigger words or actions come from Jesus. He is fully welcoming. Accepting everyone and anyone into the family no matter what they believe.
  • Or Jesus is made into: “A meek and mild figure”. One who doesn’t judge anyone. Hell is not a reality, except for the really bad people like Hitler. Everyone else is going to heaven. No one will suffer or experience judgment.
  • Still others seek to make Jesus into what I like to refer to as: “Genie in the bottle Jesus” He will give you whatever you want. Whatever your heart desires Jesus will provide. All you have to do is say the right thing and have enough faith and you can have whatever your heart desires.

The religious and even the irreligious, they reject the Jesus of the Bible and seek to make Him into the god they want Him to be.

Jesus doesn’t accept our image of Him. He is not an idol.

Jesus is not someone we can fashion and form any way that we like. He is not someone we can make in our own image. That is not who Jesus is. Instead, Jesus is the God sent Savior of the world.

Instead of becoming who we want Him to become, Jesus is who we need Him to be — a gracious God who calls us to repent of our sins and trust in His sacrifice on our behalf.

Idols can’t provide us salvation. They can’t provide us release from the bondage of sin, Satan and death. Idol’s can’t change us. Idols are what we make them to be.

If we make them, that means we make them in our image.

How do we know if we have made Jesus in our image?

I don’t know about you but I don’t make things that cause me to change. I make things that support me for who I am so that I can be who I want to be. That is how you know if you are worshipping an idol of Jesus or the true Jesus. The Jesus we make doesn’t disagree with us. He doesn’t hold us accountable because there is nothing we need to be held accountable for. We are good. We have it together. The Jesus of our own making affirms who we are. But that is not the real Jesus.

The real Jesus calls us to repentance.

He knows we are sinners who have rebelled against Him. He calls us to turn from our rebellion to follow Him.

The real Jesus also calls us to believe the joyous message of the gospel.

He offers us forgiveness, salvation, and a different way of life that reflects God’s wisdom.

That is who the real Jesus is. He is the God-sent Savior. He is not an idol. He is not someone we have fashioned. Instead, He is someone in whom we should find hope and salvation.

Stop trying to create Jesus in your image!

Why do we need others to live the Christian life?

Growing up I attended a small private school in Savannah, GA. When I was in fifth grade, we were given the option of taking choir. I say we were given the option of taking this class because you had to miss recess in order to attend. Since recess is kind of a big deal for a fifth-grader, they gave you the option. At first, I wasn’t going to take the class. Recess was way more important to me than singing in the choir. But all my friends were signing up. Recess is only fun if your friends are there, so I decided to sign up as well.

My stint in the choir didn’t last all that long. I wasn’t doing well in one of my other subjects, I can’t remember which one it was, but I wasn’t doing well, so I had to go to tutoring. To this day I distinctly remember the comment the choir director made when he heard I wouldn’t be coming back. He said, “Oh, that’s fine. It’s probably for the best anyways.” While hearing him say that hurt my ego a little, it was true. It was for the best because I was always out of step with the rest of the class. I’m tone-deaf. I can’t carry a tune to save my life.

While it hurt my ego to hear that from my choir teacher, I’m glad I learned early that I was out of step when it came to music, or else I might have ended up on American Idol or something like that as one of the blooper reels. I’m glad someone was honest with me.

We need people who are willing to be honest with us.

Not just when it comes to singing but when it comes to how we are living life. We all need others who are willing to come alongside us and speak the truth in love. If we don’t, we will end up going through life thinking we are great at everything. That is not only dangerous when it comes to our talents, but also the Christian life.

We must have others to whom we are accountable.

We must have others who are willing to speak the truth of God’s Word into our life. If we don’t, we won’t grow. Even worse, we might end up following a false teacher or living contrary to the gospel.

When we live contrary to the gospel and God’s Word, we not only hurt ourselves, but we hurt others as well.

It might not be our first instinct to believe our actions harm the community in which we run because we are conditioned by our culture to think of ourselves and ourselves alone. We are very individualistic in our outlook. While that is how our culture has conditioned us to think, that is not reality. Our actions affect the community in which we live, work, and play. That not only applies to other church members, but it also applies to those we are attempting to reach with the gospel.

If we are living out of step with the gospel, and we don’t have anyone who is willing to tell us we are out of step with the gospel, we are in trouble.

Refreshment is found in the Gospel

“But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled.” (Acts 3:18)

Jesus’ suffering was not God’s plan B. It was and always has been plan A. From before the foundations of the world God planned for Jesus to come and die for you. What an amazing plan! What love the Lord has for us!

Admittedly it is difficult to fathom how the Father would give His Son for a rebellious people. But the Father did. He didn’t do it on a whim, instead He did it as part of a plan so that we might be rescued from the kingdom of darkness and brought into the kingdom of light (Col. 1). He rescues us in order to win a people for His Son so that we might glorify Jesus for all eternity in the future kingdom to come. He did it so that we might be drawn up into the eternal love relationship the Trinity has with one another.

Understanding what Jesus has done for us, we are called to repent and enjoy fellowship with Jesus and to experience the hope of the future kingdom to come.

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago.” (Acts 3:19-21)

Those who repent, turning to Jesus as Lord and Savior, not only experience future hope, but they also experience present refreshment. Don’t we need refreshment from the grind of the world? Don’t we need relief? We can have it in a relationship with Jesus.

Turn to Jesus today. Trust in Him whether you would call yourself a non-believer or a believer. The gospel is for everyone. We never move past it. We only go deeper into it, experiencing salvation, hope, refreshment, even in the midst of a nation that is leaning more and more post-Christian.

Why do I have to join a church?

To relate to God, you must do it “covenantally.” He wants all of you; he wants every aspect of you; he wants every bit of you.” It’s silly, but it’s natural that American Christians will say to me, “I have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Why do I have to join a church?” I say, “What do you mean?”

“Where does it say in the Bible that I have to join a church?”

“On every page,” if you understand the covenant. All joining a church means is you’re willing to make a public vow that makes you accountable for your whole life. That’s what we don’t like because, “Who needs that? The most important thing is the personal and the spontaneous.”

No! The most important thing is every part of you has to go to him. You’re supposed to make yourself a whole burnt offering on the altar. That’s what it says in Romans 12 where it says, “Make yourself a living sacrifice, a whole burnt offering, to the Lord.”

 Keller, Timothy J., The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013)

Sunset over lake

How do we know if we have the Spirit?

In 2 Corinthians 5, Paul continues to tell the Corinthians why he presses on in gospel ministry despite his groaning because of the sinful world pushing in on him. From a thoroughly gospel-centered perspective, he tells them that he continues on because of the hope that awaits after death. Referring to the body as a tent, he looks to his heavenly home where he expects to receive a building from God, a home free from the burdens and vulnerabilities of this world, a home where mortality is swallowed up by eternal life. His hopeful expectation is one reason he continues to press on.

Same Hope

As Christians, we should have the same hope, and it should cause us to press on in ministry just as it did Paul. But how can we be sure that we have a heavenly home awaiting us? There are several reasons. I’ll offer two and expand on the second more thoroughly.

  • (1) We can be sure we have a heavenly home because the all-sovereign promising keeping God has “prepared us for this very thing” (2 Cor 5:5a). Having prepared us for it, we can be sure God will bring us to our heavenly home. God’s track record is flawless, and His ability to accomplish His purposes is unquestionable.
  • (2) We can also be sure we have a heavenly home awaiting us because God “has given us the Spirit as a guarantee” (2 Cor 5:5b).

The second idea – God has given us the Spirit as a guarantee – raises an interesting and important question, how do we know if we have the Spirit?

How do we know if we have the Spirit?

When you look through Scripture, you find several tests that can be administered to discover if you have the Spirit or not, and, therefore, assurance of eternal life.

(1) Do you believe God is your Father?

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,” (Ro 8:15–16)

(2) Do you look forward to your redemption and the return of Christ?

“And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Ro 8:23)

(3) Do you accept, believe and understand the things of God, which are written in His Word? 

“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Co 2:12–14)

(4) Do you confess that Jesus is not only your Savior but also the Lord of your life?

“Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” (1 Co 12:3)

(5) Do you seek to live in unity with other Christians? 

“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” (1 Co 12:13)

(6) Do you fight against what the sinful nature wants?

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God…And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Ga 5:16-21; 24)

(7) Are you growing in the fruit of the Spirit?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law… If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Ga 5:22-23; 25)

Your answers to the above questions will reveal whether you have the Spirit or not.

Question for Reflection

  1. Do you believe that you have the Spirit?

Resources

The Scriptures regarding the Holy Spirit are informed by leader questions over 2 Corinthians 5 in 2 Corinthians 1-7: True Discipleship by James Hughes