In my last post on what it means to be an image-bearer, I referenced her book Made for More: An Invitation to Live in God’s Image. It answers the theological questions about being made in God’s image while helping us to practically live them out. If you’re wanting to learn more on the topic, or if you hear people talk about the imago Dei and have no idea what they mean, I’d recommend starting with her book. Here are a few of my favorite quotes.
“The glory of God is a human being fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God.” Irenaeus
“Thus humans may be said to have a reflexive identity. In some sense they find meaning outside themselves by virtue of what they reflect.” Richard Lints
There are few questions more significant than what it means to be an image-bearer of God. It’s at the heart of what it means to be human. It governs our ethics, calling us to see every person (not just those like us or those we like) as valuable and treat every individual with dignity, respect, and honor. It helps us answer questions like these:
- Why do we exist? What is our purpose?
- What makes human life valuable?
- Where does our worth, dignity, and value as human beings come from?
- How should I talk to, treat, interact with, and relate to this person or group?
Identity has (rightfully) received more attention in recent years. We all want to know who we are. Every human person’s identity question (Who am I?) is fundamentally answered by what it means to be created in God’s image. We must factor in how sin scars, mars, and wrecks the image of God in us without eliminating it, and then how in Christ we’re remade into God’s great design for us as his image-bearers, but we can start with some simple thoughts on what it means to be an image-bearer.
After rising earlier in the morning than we wanted, identity questions invade our mind as we look in the mirror, think about the upcoming day (or breakfast), and decide what to wear. Do I want my clothes to be the casual me, the dressed-up me, the outdoorsy-me, the stylish-me, or the “life beat me down so I didn’t care” me? We don’t realize we’re thinking in terms of identity, but the questions of “Who am I? Who do I want to be? How do others view me?” shape us all day long.
“If the gospel is not the ABC’s of the Christian life but the A to Z, we can expect that the gospel is for all of life, not just the moment of conversion. The gospel’s saving work is deep work. It is deep tissue massage, spiritual reparative therapy, and radical reconstructive surgery.” Jared Wilson in Gospel Deeps
My recent posts have highlighted the importance of renewing our mind. Our thinking is prone to get off track, believe lies, filter things through our faulty grid, and be swayed by competing voices. Unless we are active in the fight by taking every thought captive and renewing our mind with biblical truth, we’re doomed. Of all the things we then talk to ourself about or set our minds on, none top the gospel in importance. The gospel sets us straight about who God is, who we are now in Christ, and how we can and should live in light of these realities.
What is identity?
Our identity is who we are and what is most important about us. Our identity is how we define ourselves at our core and what makes an individual who they are. It’s not merely a reputation or our image—what we or others think about us—but it’s what we understand as basic and defining about us. Image comes out of identity, but identity is more fundamental.
Discipleship is essentially following Christ for the purpose of maturing in Christ-likeness. Disciples rediscover and then faithfully live in light of their identity in Christ. Or to say it differently, discipleship is the process whereby we’re remade and we regain who we were created to be as image-bearers of God by being transformed into the image of Christ.
If believers have a new identity in Christ why don’t we live it out? Obviously layers of answers could be offered here related to doctrines of sin, sanctification, and glorification so let me narrow the question. What are a few identity issues that keep Christians from understanding and living out the reality of who we are as a new creation in Christ?
As I’ve been studying Colossians the last few weeks I’ve been amazed by the glorious, sweeping statements about the supremacy and sole-sufficiency of Jesus Christ. Colossians is all about clarifying just who this Jesus is and why nothing and no one else needs added to him. Even when it seems like it’s not about him it is all about him. For example, the whole point of the vain and empty ascetic lifestyle that can’t stop the desires of the flesh (2:20-23) is to demonstrate the supremacy of Jesus who puts to death the flesh in us and resurrects as new people (2:11-14; 3:1-4). As our eyes are redirected towards him we see equally glorious, sweeping statements made about us in him. We’re told not only who we now are in Christ but what’s true of us and what belongs to us because we are in Christ. The book has a lot less than other NT books on how to live the Christian life but it more than makes up for this by showing us the blueprint of truly living (Jesus) and reminding us we are now being remade in him. When you can’t get him out of your mind he will show up in your life (your affections and actions). Here are some of those gigantic statements about Jesus and then about us in him I’ve found in Colossians.