Last week I finally got to hold my precious nephew James. I have thought about him every day since he was born, and I am so thankful that has arrived. James is handsome and healthy, and best of all, he’s part of our family. All babies are wonderful—they are all equally precious and valuable—yet we have a deeply special love and affinity for the babies who come into our own families. Even before I met James, I loved and cherished him, because we have a very important link: James and I share a family, and therefore we have an inescapable bond.
James and I share DNA characteristics, and we both were gifted that DNA from people we share. Nothing that happens can ever alter the fact that we “bear the same image”—we both are linked inseparably through our family. As I held sweet James last week, I couldn’t help but think about this link we share with each other, and how similar it is to the link we share with the Maker of heaven and earth.
(1) We have an inescapable relationship with God.
In the very beginning, God linked Himself to mankind, giving us the special gift of His image.
God connected us to Himself with a link that is analogous to the link we share with our families. No human being can escape his Maker, because he bears His very image, implicating an inescapable relationship (Genesis 1:26-27).
Like babies born into a family, we are born into an inescapable relationship with God. As children grow, they have the opportunity to sever all positive relationships with their families, but not the most basic connection—they always bear their family’s image. In the same way, people can choose to sever all positive relationship with God. A New Testament word for this is “enmity” (James 4:4). However, even if they choose enmity with God, they never can totally erase their link to Him as His image-bearers.
(2) God wants our inescapable relationship to be positive.
While we can choose enmity with God, our Creator wants our relationship with Him to be more better, and more than inescapable. He wants it to be positive.
On this subject, Jack Cottrell writes:
“…He wants us to enter into a very specific kind of relationship with himself. The unchanging form of the image (personhood) means that every mentally mature human being does have some kind of relationship with God, but we do not all have the same relationship. In other words, the content of the image may differ from person to person, and it may change in any individual. Just as a balloon can be filled with either pure helium or poisonous carbon monoxide, so also can our relationship with God be positive of negative; but it will always be one or the other. God’s purpose for us is that we have the positive relationship; only then is the image of God complete” (The Faith Once Delivered, p.153, parenthetical item in orig.).
While bearing the image of God is inescapable, the degree to which we choose to embrace it is up to us (e.g., Matthew 11:28-30). This should give the non-Christian a deep sense of responsibility, but it should inspire in the faithful Christian gratefulness, awe, and comfort.
(3) God’s desire for relationship gives us confidence in our salvation.
The Christian is made confident in salvation when he realizes that God chose the relationship into which he was born, and provided the means for his reconciliation to God. While we cannot escape our link to God, God certainly could have avoided His relationship with us.
God chose to give us His image. Not only did He choose to give us an inescapable relationship, but when we rebelled and attempted to escape this relationship, God enacted a way to buy us back for Himself (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Though all of us bear the indelible image of God, each of us chooses the degree to which we exhibit His character. The choice to sin has damaged the perfect relationship God created (Isaiah 59:1-2), but God has given to His image-bearers a way to bear His perfect character, through the giving of His Son. Peter writes:
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust” (2 Peter 1:2-4)
Through Jesus Christ we have a special way to partake of the divine nature of God. When we escape the corruption of our character through Christ, we are able to become more and more like Christ, and are able to enjoy again perfect relationship with God (Romans 12:1-2). God adopts us into His family (Romans 8:15-17); He desires this familial bond with us (1 Peter 1:17), and urges us to fix our eyes on His Son so we can win the Christian race (Hebrews 12:1-2).
(4) We must focus on God’s desire to be in relationship with us.
Fixing our eyes on Jesus means focusing more on Him, and less on our own faults. Far too often, Christians focus on their own inadequacy far more than God’s desire for our hearts. As we learn to shift our focus from the flawed way in which we have related to Him in the past, to this perfect way in which He relates to us, we are able to enjoy the perfect love which casts out fear—and bear His character as well as His image. Knowing that He wants us to be in a positive relationship with Him more than He wanted His very life, we are able to come before His throne with confidence.
Romans 8 offers a sample of what God has done to bring us into a positive relationship with Him, aiding us in focusing on the desires of God. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit all have taken on monumental roles to bring us to salvation.
God the Father, in orchestrating the scheme of redemption:
- Gave His Son as an offering – 8:3
- Fulfilled what we are lacking – 8:4
- Allowed us to claim Him as Father through adoption – 8:15
- Will set us free from corruption – 8:21
- Causes all things to work together for our good – 8:28
- Foreknew Christians – 8:29
- Predestined those who choose to follow Christ to be conformed to the image of His Son – 8:29
- Justified us – 8:30
- Will glorify us – 8:30
- Is for us – 8:31
- Didn’t spare His Son, but delivered Him over for us all – 8:32
- Will give us all things – 8:32
God the Son, in providing the sacrifice for our sins:
- Gives life – 8:2
- Gives us belonging – 8:9
- Kills the body of Sin – 8:10
- Makes us alive because of righteousness – 8:10
- Dwells in us – 8:11
- Died for us – 8:34
- Is at the right hand of God, making intercession – 8:34
- Does not allow anything to separate us from Him – 8:35
- Causes us to overwhelmingly conquer – 8:37
- Keeps us from being separated from the love of God – 8:39
God the Holy Spirit, in revealing God’s will in the Scriptures:
- Sets us free – 8:2
- Gives us life and peace – 8:6
- Will give life to our mortal bodies – 8:11
- Helps us put to death the deeds of the body – 8:13
- Leads us – 8:14
- Allows us to be sons of God – 8:14
- Testifies that we are children of God – 8:16
- Helps us in our weakness – 8:26
- Intercedes according to the will of God – 8:26
The Creator’s initiative in saving us gives us confidence in our salvation. Focusing on God’s role as primary in comparison to our role does not diminish the necessity of our obedience, but instead it puts our hearts in their proper place. When I focus on my imperfection, I become overwhelmed and disheartened. On the other hand, when I focus on God’s perfection, I find the strength I need to strive to be His daughter—not just a daughter who bears His image, but a loving daughter who bears His character. I’m so thankful for the inescapable relationship I have been given with God, and I am even more thankful that God allows my inescapable relationship with Him to be a positive one!
What a beautiful gift inescapable relationships are! As my sweet little James grows, and I watch him bear the image of our family, I pray that I will be able to do my small part in pointing Him to the most important inescapable relationship. May I reflect to James the love that God has given so bountifully to me. Let us all resolve to focus on this love of God given in Christ Jesus our Lord, and be the confident, perfected image bearers He created us to be.