In the Garden, God told Adam and Eve they could partake of everything except for one tree: The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God supplied all they would ever need for life at its fullest. Yet, for love to truly be reciprocated there had to be an alternative; it was that one thing that robbed them of everything God created them to be. God instructed them that the day they ate the fruit of that particular tree would be the day they would “surely die.” We all know what happened, don’t we?
Did they fall over dead after eating the fruit? Of course not. Thankfully we don’t physically die immediately when sin rears its head in our lives. So, what died? We typically say, “They died spiritually.” And while that’s not the wrong answer, it’s not complete. Of course, we know they died spiritually and therefore sin entered the world; that’s why we must be “born again.”
So again, what died when they ate the fruit of the tree? Everything they were created to be died that day. The image of God in them died. The day they ate the fruit of the tree they lost their identity, namely the image and likeness of the Creator. They didn’t just fall short or miss the mark; they took on the nature of God’s enemy.
Remember what happened next? God questioned Adam, “Did you eat the fruit of the tree?” What did Adam do? He blamed Eve, “It was the woman you gave me, she told me to eat it. It’s all her fault.” Adam couldn’t even admit that he had sinned against God.
The image of God in Adam and Eve was reversed that day; it was turned inward. Adam couldn’t answer a simple question, “Did you eat of the tree?” He couldn’t say, “Yes, I did it…” All of a sudden it was all about Adam, not God. Adam and Eve instantly became self-defending, self-protecting, and self-justifying. What Adam basically said was, “God, if You hadn’t given me this woman none of this would’ve happened; it’s all Your fault for putting her here with me.”
Growing up did you ever live at the expense of another person? Did you ever blame it on someone else? Maybe you still do. My middle brother and I were always trying to live at the expense of one another. When we’d get caught doing something wrong, we always shifted the blame… “It’s his fault!”
Once I had my brother and one of his friends hemmed-up in a patch of bushes at the end of a cul-de-sac in our neighborhood. I was throwing rocks at them (I considered them pebbles, but he said they were rocks). I would pick up one rock after another and fling it into the bushes and hear a loud “OUCH!” I was having so much fun at their expense.
It wasn’t long until they mounted a comeback strategy. To my surprise, a large rock (more like a boulder) came flying out of the bushes and hit me square in the head. That thing was so big that to this day I don’t know how they lifted it. Blood started flowing, I started crying, and I ran home to tell dad. In the end, I got a trip to the hospital and ten stitches to boot, and my brother got a whipping (and he deserved it).
On the way home from the hospital, my brother told my dad the real story: that I was throwing rocks at him and his friend before he threw the rock that busted my head open. Guess what? When we got home, I got a whipping too. I got stitches and a whipping… and I’m still mad about it.
That’s human nature though, isn’t it? We’re born with it. It’s self-preserving. It doesn’t naturally look out for the betterment of the other. It doesn’t naturally love others more than itself. Human love isn’t instinctively sacrificial. It doesn’t want what’s best for the other person; it desires what’s best for itself.
Being born of God means being restored to His image. That’s why life in Christ is so important. When someone is “born again” they get the image of God reinstated in their life. They become a new creation in Christ Jesus. Being born again is more than a prayer that qualifies me to go to Heaven; being born again is about being restored to the truth about why I exist.
Too often we function out of the dysfunctional emotions we grew up with. The problem with that is God didn’t give us those emotions, Adam did. God didn’t teach us to be angry, and offended, and at odds with people all the time. Those things came naturally because we inherited Adam’s nature at birth. Thus, we instinctively live for ourselves.
When God’s image is restored He invites us to become “followers.” Being a follower includes the invitation to, “Deny yourself and take up your cross daily…” (Luke 9:23). The idea behind Jesus’ words here is that we were never created for ourselves; we were made to bear His image. When we understand this we become complete in Christ without any supplements. We don’t have to try to “fit in” or get people to “like us.” Truly following Him provides everything we could ever want for life at its fullest.
Nobody owes me anything because He’s already given me everything. If we could learn this one thing as we follow Jesus it would catapult us into the life we’ve always dreamt of. The only reason I’m on earth is to glorify God. His image is my life’s purpose. Grace woke me up this morning to give me one more opportunity to be like Jesus. It’s an adventure that lasts a lifetime and impacts more people than we could ever possibly imagine.
If we could learn to live by this principle alone we would alleviate fear, anxiety, insecurity, frustration, disappointment, and the likes. Life wouldn’t be about success or failure, which is killing the church by the way. It would be about experiencing God’s presence day-by-day as Jesus lives His life through us.
When I sincerely realize that the reason I exist is to reflect His Image, everything else rolls away like water off a duck’s back. In Christ, I am not defined by what people say, or the situation I find myself in, or the circumstances of my church or ministry, or my finances or career, or any other temporal thing. None of those things are why you were created. You were born to bear the image of Jesus. When you learn to do it you become as good as He is in you… and life doesn’t get any better than that!