In the image of God

Romans 8:12-17

Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation – but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it.  For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.  Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

Old Testament Reading:  Isaiah 6:1-8

Pastor Noel Due  – Sunday 30th May, 2021   –  Transcript of message

(These notes relate to the message given at the 10.30 am worship.  If you are reading these, you will most likely want to watch the Worship Small clip to hear Pastor Noel’s other message too, based on  Isaiah 6:1-8 which was presented at the 8.30 am worship time)

“We are debtors to the flesh but not according to the flesh”

From Paul’s words we can draw the meaning … we are debtors to the Spirit to live according to the Spirit.

Today is Trinity Sunday and one of the great festivals of the Church and the doctrine of the Trinity is one of the greatest pillars of the Church, throughout the world the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Catholic Church, all of the Protestant churches and embedded in all of our creeds and confessions.

Part of the problem when thinking about the Trinity is that it sometimes becomes more of an intellectual conundrum. We are trying to work out this mysterious metaphysical, philosophical issue of how you can have one essence and three persons and all of that. It gets a bit complicated.

The doctrine of the Trinity actually emerges very strongly from the pages of scripture.  You have to derive it and sort of express it.  But nowhere does the scripture speak of the Trinity in those sort of metaphysical, philosophical, conundrum type terms.  The scriptures always talk about the persons of the Trinity relationally.  You don’t have a doctrine of the Trinity – you “know” the Father and the Son and the Spirit.  You don’t have a doctrine merely of the three persons, you actually experience the Father and the Son and the Spirit.  The passage that we read in Romans Chapter 8 today actually takes us toe heart of what the Apostle Paul and the new testament communities understood by the experience of knowing the persons of the trinity. They were held in a three-fold embrace.  This is the message to take away today – even as we come through suffering, particularly as we come through suffering we are held in a threefold embrace.

Two questions to start with:

1) When you look in a mirror, what do you see?  ( older you get, the more you see Grandpa/Grandma  looking back at you.)  You see yourself.  Do you agree?  You might only see you as you see yourself.  What you actually see is an image of yourself.

If it’s a good mirror, a magnifying mirror you might see a bit too much of yourself!

Do you remember going the Adelaide show and going through the hall of mirrors? With legs this tall and a body this short and all that sort of stuff.

If it’s a good mirror you see and actual exact representation/image of yourself.

2)  If I were to ask you what is God’s ultimate intention, His intention for you? For the whole universe? What would you say?

Do you think that a regular human being could know God’s ultimate intention?

Is the answer to restore all things to himself?  That implies that something is not quite in order at the moment and needs to be put in order.

That we all know him as God?  That we are his image bearers?

What happens when you look in a good mirror? It is that you see a good image of yourself and the story of the scriptures is that we were made in God’s image and there’s nothing wrong with God but something has gone wrong with us.  The analogy or image or picture breaks down a bit because the mirror has no moral power or agency.  It is just a flat pane of glass. But we who are his living image bearers something has gone badly wrong and the image has become twisted and distorted.  So all of the things which belong to the image of God now have been reversed. Righteousness has become self-righteousness.  Love has become self-love or selfishness.  Holiness has become holier-than-thou ness.  Everything that belongs to the image of God has become twisted and reversed.  So the image is not operating properly.  It’s operating in a way that has become destructive to relationships and certainly operating in a way that is destructive of a relationship with God.

When we think about God’s ultimate intention then and we think about being restored as his image bearers,  We can sometimes get a little bit stuck on the problem solving bit of that.  Sometimes we think about God’s work in Jesus Christ, as God has revealed himself in Christ as a very clever solution revealed itself as a devilishly difficult problem.  There are people who do crosswords and cryptic crosswords and Sudoku and people who play the extra hard problems.  You need someone with an enormous amount of intelligence to solve those problems.  Sometimes we can think about the wisdom of God like that.  That God’s plan of salvation is such a clever, clever thing that has got us out of a deep fix and he has saved us and we can all breathe a sigh of relief.  The ultimate intention is not just in the saving. The ultimate intention is what we have been saved for, and to be honest we wouldn’t have a clue of what God’s ultimate intention is unless God had revealed it to us and we are lucky – thank providence that luck was on our side, God has revealed his ultimate intention for us and he tells us in Romans 8 amongst other places just a little beyond the passage that we read this morning.  He talks about us being children of God and he tells us of the Spirit of God within us teaching us to cry “Abba Father” and that we are joint heirs with Christ.  Do you see the Trinity in there?  The Spirit has come in bearing witness with our spirit to say that we are children of God. The Spirit teaches us to call out to our Father “Abba Father’ and in that relationship the Spirit teaches us that we are the joint heirs, fellow heirs of Jesus Christ so you have a triune pattern. It is all expressed in relationship, it is not expressed in philosophy and a little bit on from that Paul has this magnificent golden chain that expresses God’s plan and purpose.

We know that all things work together (verse 28) for good, for those who love God – those who are called according to His purpose.

Called according to his purpose – called to his ultimate intention, his plan, his purpose.

Nothing wrong with having a purpose.  You have a purpose in life, you have a plan.  If you want to go driving on a holiday you need a GPS to get you there we have a plan and we get in a mess if our plans are scrambled.

So, God has a plan and a purpose and this is it for those whom he foreknew he pre-destined to be conformed to the image of his son so that he (Jesus) might be the firstborn of an enormous family.  So he has called us and planned for us to be conformed to the image of his Son.

Now just go back to the first of the two questions.  When God made us in our image he made us to be good reflections of himself. We screwed that up, no fault of God’s but unlike the pane of glass we have a moral agency and we went against all of God’s plan and purpose and that is called by various names in the Bible; sin, iniquity, evil, wickedness, unrighteousness – you know that.  We live with that every day, all day.

Where do you find the untrammelled perfect image of God today?  The answer is “in the face of Christ”.  As the writer of Hebrews puts it “He is the express image of the invisible God, the outshining of His glory, the exact representation of His character. He is, Jesus is the express image – but we were made in the image!

What that means is this – Jesus compared to us is not superman he is just what a normal human being is.  We are the ones who have gone away from the normal.  We are the ones who now have the destroyed, distorted, twisted, reversed image that is no longer operating properly.  In him you see what a human being is supposed to be.  He is not superman, he is just man.  He is not some super-hero, he is what a human being was designed to be.  And guess what, that is what you are going to be now because what God’s plan and purpose is that you will be conformed to be like the image of the Son.  So the image that you have scrambled, lost and erased and turned inside out doesn’t have the last say about who you are or what your future or destiny is about.  This image which is marred by death and decay and disease and loss and bereavement and sin and iniquity is not God’s ultimate intention for you.  God’s ultimate intention for you is that you will be conformed to the image of His Son which means he will be the first-born of a great family who will all be just like he is.  That is, everything that he is, our beloved Lord Jesus is, is what you will be.  All of his goodness, righteousness, all of His joy, all of His power and all that belongs to him as the perfect image is what you are going to be.  Like, is that good news or not?  Or, do you just want to stay like you are?

Well, that is the good news and there is no bad news attached to that!  We are so used to the “but”.

We enter that image only through suffering because these bodies are still subject to the death and decay that happened with the destruction of the old image.  So, these perishable bodies have to put on imperishable.  These old bodies have to put on new bodies.  These things that have born the image of the earthly as Paul says in another place must be transformed to bear the image of the heavenly.

But there is something more!!  This is not just you.  It effects the whole community. So you see that if the image is operating in the reverse in our situation and we are marked by greed and selfishness and dissatisfaction and jealousy and those sort of things.  When the image is turned around your greatest joy is seeing the joy of another.  Your greatest fullness is when the other comes to fullness – that’s why when Jesus as the “true image” comes amongst us, his greatest joy is to serve us.  And His greatest love in the world is to wash us clean from our sin.  He finds his joy in doing the Fathers will to lift us up.  When we are restored according to the promise of God, to that image – then we will find that everything that is a barrier to fellowship now – any bitterness, any resentment, anything that reeks of selfishness, anything that is self-interested.  It won’t exist anymore because our joy will be fully and completely as we see the other person exalted – we will rejoice!  And we just get little glimpses of that in the church when you see someone’s gifts coming up and being raised to the surface.  When you see someone else being blessed.  When you see someone else stepping into a role that God has called them into.  When you see the body building itself together to love as every gift and ministry works together – you get little glimpses as to what eternity is going to be like.

But, there’s more … because it is not just you as an individual, it is more the community which is transformed to the image of God.  But what happens to humanity effects the whole creation.  The word “Adam” the old Hebrew word for the first Adam comes from another Hebrew word “Adamah” which means the dirt.  Adam is a creature of the dust.  But, because Adam is made as the pinnacle of creation whatever the dust does in human form affects all of the dust of all of the cosmos.  So, the sin of Adam affects every blessed thing.  Everything is effected negatively.  Conversely, when the second Adam comes, Jesus Christ who bears the image of God – what he does to reverse the problem blesses every blessed thing.  So, the whole cosmos is put to right.  Everything that is dysfunctional in the whole universe is reversed so that this Adam, Jesus Christ gathers to himself a whole community of people who the Father has formed into the image of Adam by the power of the Holy Spirit and as one divine community we exist in a whole renewed universe!

Well, that is your destiny!

But there is still more!

What is the purpose of God doing this?  The purpose is that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit who have known through their own relationship, joy and love and peace and blessing that we can only begin to imagine have said to us “we don’t want to keep this to ourselves”.  They have opened the whole of their open triune love to us.  All of that identity that they have as the Father, Son and Spirit – all of their love and their joy – all of the fullness that each of them finds in the other – they open that up and say come here and join us … because you and we now, are one.

The mystery is great but as Peter says in 2 Peter 1, and you struggle to even express it we become partakers of the divine nature.  Who would have thought that!  That the whole of the triune God just opened themselves up and say “here come” in fact not just say but actually bring and actually sit us at the table and actually make us one with themselves so that we together with Jesus Christ as the new humanity are one whole peer community of people who share in the divine nature.

That is what Trinity Sunday is about and I reckon that is good news.








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