Images of God 6



Images of God 6

“It is Christ whom we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone in all wisdom, so that we might present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil and struggle, with all the energy that he powerfully inspires within me”*

We have established thus far that the way we think about God is determined by our culture, our personality, our reluctance to change and our level of spiritual maturity. The very good news is that none of this is set in stone if we can learn to think and behave like good Hebrews.

According to Paul, God’s goal for humanity is maturity in Christ and, if this comes about as we conform to the image of God we carry with us under the direction of the Spirit, the end result is fulness of life. This is defined, not as a private inner experience similar to the warming qualities of Ready-Brek, but a growing ability to participate in the active, world-transforming Life of Christ.

Holiness is therefore not best understood as a state of sinlessness but as a doorway to an abundant life. And “being personally spiritual is only truly personal when it becomes public”.* Sin, therefore, is not just thinking and doing things that sully me and harm others but a deliberate and persistent choice to be rather than to become. Or, to put it another way, sin is a refusal to change – the one thing God is constantly doing and inviting us to share.

Embarking on a journey of change begins with a willingness to leave certain things behind in order to journey to new destinations. But sin refuses to move on. The path to maturity involves being taught to see people and things as they really are, embarking on fresh challenges that need hitherto untested resources held within the whole community. Fullness of life is seen as co-operating with others in Godly adventure – often the exact opposite of any traditional understanding of the normal Christian life. The truly horrific thing about sin defined in this way is that it results in a total blindness to what might  yet be, and a closed mindedness to partnering with God and others in adventurous mission.

If sin is best defined as a refusal to change, this makes certain definitions of holiness woefully inadequate since we are not human beings on an inward journey to becoming more ‘spiritual‘ but are spiritual beings who are being drawn in ways that could teach us to become more fully human. Jesus is more interested in equipping us to engage with an unredeemed world than with giving us private experiences of serenity or elation. What is more, since God is community within himself and is calling us to become increasingly like him, the Image of God is only fully possessed by us when it is lived relationally – in the same way as ‘Christ among us’ becomes a lived-out reality whenever we meet with other human beings (including those who possess the Image but do not yet know the giver of that Image).

To be even more explicit, this means sin is a resistance to every move of God and to our own best interests. “Without personal change none of us can become more Christ-like”.* I have just one life and my determination to continue to be rather than to become closes down every adventurous and faith-filled use of that life. Our flesh nature, it seems, prefers a quiet, often solitary, life with its own familiar baggage intact, whilst the call of God is to ‘follow’, to ‘obey’, to exercise the “spontaneous inclination to seek to harmonise the self with Christ and others in the process of positive change,… to be more authentically human,… to be in a permanent state of becoming.”*

*1  Colossians 1.28-29.

*2  Peter R. Holmes: Becoming More Human – Exploring the Interface of Spirituality, Discipleship and Therapeutic Faith Community. 57.

*3  Peter R. Holmes: Becoming More Human. 60.

*4  Peter R. Holmes: Becoming More Human. 61.

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About the Author

Craig Millward has been a Baptist minister for over 30 years and has extensive experience of the joys and challenges of church leadership.

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