John the Baptist preached a message of new life in Christ exemplified by compassion, fairness in public service, and fairness in commercial interactions. The new life begins with repentance from the old way of living characterized by predatory human interactions and relationships. The old way focused on serving self and exploiting others for self-enrichment, not minding any cost to them. His message raised awareness for a lifetime commitment to Living in the Image of God and the promise of Christ ministry, for which he was the Forerunner.
Our program on Living in the Image of God continues this year (2022) with studies focused on understanding Christ teaching on Living in the Image of God based on the gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In today’s session, we discuss the message of John the Baptist.
The bible provides a brief account of John the Baptist work as the Forerunner for Christ, describing his message of repentance for forgiveness of sins as he baptized people that came to him in the country around the river Jordan. He urged them to prepare for the Messiah by repenting from their current life of predatory human interactions and relationships and committing to a new life in Christ. He described the new life using examples from their community.
His message reflects the essence of his role as the Forerunner for Christ by drawing attention to Living in the Image of God. Christ would subsequently explain the new life in detail through formal teaching, parables, and real-life illustrations during his ministry. Therefore, our study of Living in the Image of God from the gospel begins with a discussion of John the Baptist message.
Through interactions with a man freed from demons, Christ conveys a message that a recipient of favor is called to testify publicly to share appreciation with others. The man showed appreciation by requesting to follow Jesus physically. However, Jesus sent him home instead, with instruction to testify among his people regarding what God had done for him. Public testimony conveys appreciation to the benefactor and shares positive message to others regarding favor and appreciation, thus inspiring them to do more likewise and initiating the long-term benefits of human service.
We discuss Christ interactions with a man freed from demons (Mark 5:1–20) to understand that public testimony regarding appreciation is important to God. He wants a recipient of favor to testify publicly to share his or her appreciation with others. The man freed from demons regained control of himself and wanted to follow Jesus physically. However, Jesus sent him home instead, with instruction to testify among his people regarding what God had done for him.
Testifying among his people was an opportunity to share the message of what God had done for him and present himself as an example of God’s favor provided to a human being through his son Jesus. As we discuss previously in Understanding Appreciation, a favor by another human person is a favor from God because he positions and empowers others to represent him in human interactions: whereby every person could function as the channel for God’s favor to another. Therefore, lessons learned from Christ interactions with a recipient of direct favor from God provide a basis for understanding God’s expectations of recipients of human favor.
Furthermore, as we discuss in Understanding Appreciation, a public testimony regarding appreciation conveys gratitude to the benefactor and shares positive message to others regarding a benefit received, the human provider of the benefit, and an understanding that God positioned and empowered the benefactor to perform the favor. Such a message inspires the benefactor and others to do more likewise, thus initiating and propagating the long-term benefits of human service. Therefore, testimony regarding appreciation is important to God as a key aspect of his purpose for human interactions and relationships.
The invitation to earn blessing through human service is open to every person irrespective of sin or righteousness. A person can earn blessing despite existing promise of punishment. Also, a person can incur punishment despite existing promise of blessing. Thus, one does not need to be perfect to earn blessing. Blessing and punishment are parallel promises of God, may coexist for a person, and will be fulfilled separately by God’s schedule as if for different people, excepting the forgiveness of punishment through repentance.
This bible study seeks further understanding of God’s invitation to every person to earn blessing by providing goods or services to benefit others. The invitation is open to all, irrespective of existing sin or righteousness. Further, God will fulfill every promise of blessing according to his schedule, irrespective of any incurred punishment. Consistent with his promise in the 2nd commandment, a promise of blessing can coexist with a promise of punishment and will endure through offspring generations.
Blessing and punishment are parallel promises of God and may coexist. A person can earn blessing despite an existing promise of punishment. Also, a person can incur punishment despite an existing promise of blessing. That means a person does not need to be perfect in order to earn blessing. Each promise will be fulfilled separately according to God’s schedule as if for a different person.
We discuss the 2nd commandment to link its promise with the coexistence of blessing and punishment. Also, we discuss several examples from the ancestral lineage of Jesus to understand the fulfillment of parallel promises.
God creates every person with opportunities to earn independent blessing by completing responsibilities as his representative in human interactions; based on conditional promise proclaimed in the Beatitudes and explained through parables. Additionally, a person can receive dependent blessing through prayers by others, inherit blessing from previous family generations, or be blessed in other ways as God chooses. Every blessing accumulates and will be fulfilled at its time. Furthermore, blessing and punishment can coexist as parallel promises of God and do not trade-off against each other.
Every person will have opportunities to receive independent blessing based on God’s conditional promise, dependent blessing that God grants to a person in response to prayers by others, inherited blessing from previous family generations, or other blessing that God grants as he chooses.
Every blessing is a promise to be fulfilled at its time, for the person directly or through offspring generations (e.g., “but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments” [Exodus 20:6]). As we discuss previously under Parallel Promises—in David-Bathsheba Relationship, blessing and punishment can coexist as parallel promises of God. They do not trade-off against each other. Each will be fulfilled separately when God chooses. A person that previously earned blessing could incur punishment. Also, a person can earn blessing even with a promise of punishment hanging on him or her.
For example, the Moabites displeased God by presenting themselves as a source of temptation for alternative worship among descendants of Israel. Furthermore, they presented enmity when their prior relationships with Israel called on them to be friendly (see more under Enduring Blessing—Lessons from Israelite-Moabite Interactions). God frowned on their behavior and prohibited descendants of Israel from intermingling with Moabites. Yet he chose Ruth, a Moabite daughter, as a parental link in the lineage of the Messiah.
We discuss the various opportunities to earn and accumulate blessing. Also, we discuss an example from David to illustrate coexistence and fulfillment of blessing and punishment as parallel promises of God.
A person may provide goods or services free or for-fee to alleviate a need. Preferably free to respond to a call to compassion, or for-fee if necessary to sustain the goods or services. In all cases, including commercial enterprise, adhere to fair fee for service and fair value for goods. God blesses the provider in a call to compassion. However, one motivated by commercial expansion could earn rewards through potential profit and blessing dependent on others, but no independent blessing.
We discuss differences and similarities between a call to compassion and a call to a commercial opportunity. In a call to compassion, a person is directed to an opportunity to develop goods and services to benefit others. In contrast, a commercial opportunity alerts a person to develop goods and services for personal commercial benefit. The two types of opportunities at times differ only by a thin line. In fact, the human attributes for recognizing and understanding a call to compassion are essentially the same as the attributes for recognizing and understanding a commercial opportunity.
Understanding the opportunity determines whether to provide goods or services free or for-fee to address the need. In a call to compassion, the motivation to address the need is driven by care of the needy (i.e., hunger and thirst for righteousness). In contrast, the motivation to address the need in a commercial opportunity is driven by care of the provider’s commercial interest (i.e., hunger and thirst for commercial expansion). In either case, the provider is driven by care to link the recognition of a need to commitment to address the need and perseverance in seeking to alleviate the need. Thus, a person disposed to recognize and respond to a call to compassion also will be disposed to recognize and respond to a commercial opportunity.
In previous studies such as under Responsibility in Call to Compassion, we discuss guidance for recognizing and responding to a call to compassion. This bible study focuses on the guidance, principles, and examples for developing a commercial opportunity in a way consistent with Living in the Image of God.
In a call to compassion, God directs a person to earn blessing by providing goods or service to benefit others in need. Recognize the need, care about the needy, commit to doing what you can, and persevere in seeking to alleviate the need. You will earn blessing for completing the responsibilities or incur punishment for declining. The beneficiary also has a responsibility: appreciation.
We begin a bible study series on Compassion—the second module of the Living in the Image of God program. Recall (from Human Responsibilities in Living in the Image of God) that compassion is one of four cardinal human responsibilities of Living in the Image of God. Each study in the series will be presented in a short description, a ten-minute video, and a downloadable discussion guide with notes.
Our understanding of compassion is based on Christ teaching in the Beatitudes and in parables. Also, we find the dictionary definition of compassion quite consistent with Christ teaching. Therefore, we examine the dictionary definition along with the bible information. We describe as call to compassion a situation whereby God alerts a person to a need, thereby inviting the person to provide goods or service to benefit others in need. We see that a call to compassion actually is an invitation to earn blessing. The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (Matthew 25:31–46) conveys an understanding that God judges a person favorably for completing responsibilities in a call to compassion or unfavorably for declining the call. That is, the call recipient does not have any option for a neutral response (see more in Call to Compassion: Parable of the Sheep and the Goats).
Also, as we discuss in a previous study under Created in the Image of God, we understand compassion in the context of a conceptual human interactions network that God establishes for distributing human service to points of need. Every person is potentially a provider of goods and service needed by others and receiver of goods and service provided by others. Both the provider (i.e., call recipient in a call to compassion) and receiver (i.e., beneficiary in a call to compassion) have responsibilities. The provider responsibility is to recognize the need, care about the needy, commit to doing what he or she can, and persevere in seeking to alleviate the need. The receiver responsibility is to receive the provided goods or service with appreciation. We discuss the provider and receiver responsibilities in this and subsequent studies in the series.
Building faith by Living in the Image of God arises from commitment to God’s purpose and recognizing that your every task or battle belongs to God and he will guide you to complete his tasks and accomplish his goals. Furthermore, “Living in the Image of God” makes you a beneficiary of God’s promise of blessing proclaimed in the Beatitudes and illustrated in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. Every blessing you earn is yours to keep until fulfilled.
Living in the Image of God begins with commitment to God’s purpose and living according to the commitment. A person builds and strengthens faith by Living in the Image of God—based on recognizing that every task or battle belongs to God and he will guide you to complete his tasks and accomplish his goals. Furthermore, in the Beatitudes, Christ proclaims God’s promise of blessing for every person that commits to the responsibilities of representing God in human interactions: through humility toward others, compassion, motivation for righteousness based on commitment to God’s purpose, and acceptance of individual responsibility for peace and righteousness irrespective of what others do or fail to do. Also, Christ describes the blessing further in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, using compassion as an example for Living in the Image of God.
The “salt of the earth” teaching conveys a message that God creates every person with an intrinsic capability to represent his presence and radiate his impact in human interactions. This capability represents the human value of a person before God, which he expects to be evident in interactions with others: to enhance and preserve the goodness of people, like salt enhances and preserves the goodness of food. Let your Godliness be evident to others and motivate them to appreciate God and seek to interact the same way with other people.
In the “salt of the earth” teaching (Matthew 5:13–16), Christ explains the role of a person in human interactions and conveys a message that God creates every person with an intrinsic capability to represent him in interactions with others. Godliness, i.e., the capability to convey the presence of God and radiate his impact in human interactions, is intrinsic to a person as saltiness is intrinsic to salt. Furthermore, every person can implement the capability by harnessing resources that God has provided to guide us in interactions with others. A person’s human value before God arises from the intrinsic capability to represent God in human interactions. Godliness is the intrinsic value of a person in human interactions as saltiness is the intrinsic value of salt in food.
We discuss the “salt of the earth” teaching to understand God’s purpose for every person to make positive impact in human interactions and motivate others to do the same.
The second part of the Beatitudes (third through eighth) identifies four cardinal responsibilities of Living in the Image of God: Humility toward others, compassion (care for others and sensitivity to the needs of others), motivation for righteousness based on commitment to God’s purpose, and individual responsibility for peace and righteousness. The Beatitudes proclaim God’s promise of blessing for a person that commits to these responsibilities and lives according to the commitment.
In the first part of the Sermon on the Mount, referred to as the Beatitudes, Christ proclaims God’s promise of blessing for every person that performs his/her responsibilities of representing God in interactions with others. As we discuss under Resources for Living in the Image of God, the first three Beatitudes describe resources that God provides to guide us whereas the last six (i.e., Beatitudes 3–8) describe the human responsibilities. There are four cardinal responsibilities.
Beatitude 3: Humility toward others.
Beatitudes 4 and 5: Compassion (i.e., care for others and sensitivity to the needs of others).
Beatitude 6: Motivation for righteousness based on commitment to God’s purpose.
Beatitudes 7 and 8: Individual responsibility for peace and righteousness.
We discuss each of the cardinal responsibilities briefly in this bible study and provide more detailed discussion in future studies.
The Beatitudes describe the responsibility of every person to represent God in interactions with others and resources to empower a person to perform the responsibility. The first three Beatitudes explain how to access the resources: commit to God’s purpose of representing him in human interactions; recognize and accept total dependence on him; seek him in recognition of total dependence; and humble yourself before him that he may provide, guide, and direct your human capabilities to accomplish tasks that he assigns to you. The Holy Spirit will lead you to receive and follow God’s guidance and direction every time in every situation.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ explains every person’s responsibility to represent God in interactions with others. The first part of the sermon, referred to as the Beatitudes, describes the responsibility, God’s promise of blessing for those that perform the responsibility, and resources that he provides to empower every person to perform the responsibility. The first three Beatitudes describe how to access the resources (more detail under Following God Schedule by Living in His Image 2of2). The last six (i.e., Beatitudes 3–8) describe the responsibility in terms of God’s purpose for human interactions and relationships. This bible study focusses on accessing the resources.