Being Image Bearers In the Twenty-First Century

I recently saw a billboard that read, “Christianity: Boring, Untrue, or Irrelevant?” Unfortunately, many people in our culture would identify with one or more of these evaluations of Christ and Christianity. How is it possible that people of the Western Judeo-Christian tradition could come to such conclusions? How can our children demonstrate that Christianity is a rich adventure, true and relevant to their own generation?

To do so our children must be exhibiting to the culture the existence of God. This means that they will be demonstrating His character to those of the twenty-first century. One common thread in why families choose to homeschool is the hope that their children will have godly character. The question is often asked, “How do children develop godly character?”

True Christian character is the result of the resurrection life. “Christian character,” explains Lewis Sperry Chafer (writing in 1918), “is not developed, or built through human attention and energy. The method of attaining unto a character by attention and energy, which is now elaborately explained and constantly recommended by many, is the best the world can do; and that method may have some realization within the sphere of the shadows the world has chosen as its ideals. [But] true Christian character is the ‘fruit of the Spirit.’ It is no longer something for the human strength to attempt, nor is it to be done by the human strength plus the help of the Spirit. It is not something that man can do–even with help. It is ‘the fruit of the Spirit.’ True Christian character is produced in the believer, but not by the believer.”

Adam and Eve and their future children were created to bear to the world the image of God, – to demonstrate the character of the invisible God. God had clothed His deity in their humanity. As long as they continued to live their lives in dependence upon God, His Spirit would direct their thinking and empower their living. They were created to be the image bearers of the invisible God. This is what I call normal, supernatural living.

When Adam and Eve made their historic choice to believe the lie that they could be like God apart from God, the Bible says that they died. What did that mean? They did not die physically until many years later. So, what happened?  God, the Holy Spirit, departed from their lives, and they died spiritually. Adam and Eve, through their decision, thrust the world into an abnormal state. Man now living in his own strength apart from God can only present a distorted view of the image of God.

Throughout history various people through their lives have exhibited to their generation the existence of God. For example, it is said of Moses that his face shown with the glory of God because he spent time with God on the holy mountain. Though the glory of God was reflected on the countenance of Moses, that glory was described as a fading glory.

Jesus was described as the exact likeness and radiance of the unseen God.  John writes, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

At His first coming to earth, Jesus set aside His deity and came as the second Adam to be the image bearer of the invisible God. Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father. Jesus’ response was, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me; otherwise believe on account of the works themselves.” (John 14:9-11)

How did Jesus live his life as the image bearer of the unseen God? He tells us the answer: Apart from His Father He could do nothing (John 5:19, 30; 8:28; 14:10). He lived not as the Second Person of the Trinity (Philippians 2:5-13), but rather as the second Adam, in complete dependence upon the Father in the power of the Spirit. The words He spoke and the works He performed were not from Himself, but rather from the Father as He was empowered by the Spirit.

Most people of the twenty-first century will never pick up a Bible on their own. Many will consider Christianity as boring, untrue, or irrelevant unless they see the visible demonstration of the character of God. He has made provision for such people. Paul. writing to the Christians in Corinth, said, “You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts” (II Corinthians 3:2-3).

As letters of Christ to the culture, our children will be the image bearers of the invisible God to the twenty-first century. To be the image bearers of the invisible God does not mean that they simply determine to be like Christ.  Neither does it mean that they ask God for help to imitate Christ. As this letter, our children contain the truth of Christianity and the life of Christ.

The mystery of being the image bearer of the invisible God was unknown to previous generations. The mystery has now been revealed. Paul writes that the mystery is “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Just as Jesus said that He could do nothing apart from the Father, He said that we could do nothing apart from Him. (John 15:5)

Therefore, let us highly resolve to teach our children to present their lives to God–allowing Him to live His life in and through their lives so that they might be the true image bearers of the unseen God, changed from glory to glory and therefore demonstrating the existence of God, the truth of God, and the life of God to the men and women of the twenty-first century.