Tag: Image of God

Following God Schedule by Living in His Image 2of2

Sermon on the Mount

The Sermon on the Mount provides guiding principles (The Beatitudes) and explains the essence of Living in the Image of God. The first three Beatitudes describe commitment to following God’s direction through humility and repentance in order to perform the responsibilities of representing him in human interactions. The third through eighth describe the value of humility, care and sensitivity to the needs of others, motivation for being good, and individual responsibilities in the pursuit of peace and righteousness. Further, Christ explains in the second part of the sermon that God creates every person with an intrinsic capability to be good to others and motivate and preserve their goodness. Similar to the intrinsic quality of salt to enhance and preserve the goodness of food. He expects every person to radiate positive impact in human interactions, similar to a light source radiating light, so that people may benefit and glorify God for each other.

Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount wikipedia.org

The Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5–7] was Christ’s formal teaching to explain God’s purpose for human interactions. He declared the guiding principles in The Beatitudes; described the essence of God’s purpose for human interactions using the Salt of the Earth imagery; and discussed several examples to explain God’s expectations in interactions among people.

Boy offers fish and bread
Boy offers fish and bread
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As we discuss previously in Part 1 of this study (Following God Schedule by Living in His Image 1of2), God creates every person to represent him in interactions with others: to convey his presence and impact as if he was there physically in human form. Through formal teaching in the Sermon on the Mount and parables, physical examples, and interactions with his disciples and others during his human ministry, Christ provides guiding principles and describes the essence of Living in the Image of God—to fulfill God’s purpose for every person to be his representative (aka ambassador) in interactions with others. Those that live according to the principles will follow God’s Schedule and receive fulfillment of his promise. In contrast, those that depart from the principles will depart from the schedule.

We discuss the Sermon on the Mount to understand Living in the Image of God based on Christ teaching of the guiding principles in The Beatitudes and the essence in the Salt of the Earth teaching.

Continue reading “Following God Schedule by Living in His Image 2of2”

Following God Schedule by Living in His Image 1of2

Living in the Image of God

Every person is created to represent God in interactions among people: to convey his presence and impact as if he was there physically in human form. Those that live according to this purpose will follow God’s schedule and receive fulfillment of his promise. In contrast, those that depart from the purpose will depart from God’s schedule. Examples from David illustrate his approach in interactions with Saul satisfy God’s mandate of keeping “the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.” The approach contributed to his success on a path to kingship that lasted over ten years and included transition from Saul, training for David, and preparing Israel to accept David as king. Two encounters with Saul presented opportunities for David that could have been misinterpreted. Saul conceded the kingship to David on both occasions as David’s commitment to “right and just” prevailed over the temptation to clear his way to the kingship by killing Saul. The concession contributed to preparing Israel to accept David as king.

The Beatitudes. wikipedia.org

GOD’S AMBASSADOR God creates every person to represent him among others and wants us to fulfill the purpose in interactions among people and between people and other creations. To understand the biblical basis for this statement, we note that God is supernatural, created the universe (including the earth and its inhabitants) to work naturally, and wants to interact seamlessly with the universe and its constituents. Let’s focus on people and the earth. God creates people and other inhabitants of the earth to work naturally and wants to interact seamlessly with them. He can interact with people through the Holy Spirit but the interaction is supernatural and doesn’t fill the need for natural interaction with people.

To understand the importance of working naturally, imagine a person’s bank account suddenly swells with a large amount of money that is not traceable to any natural source. How would other people, including the regulatory authorities, respond to the change? It would be unacceptable to say that God gave the money. That is a supernatural explanation. The natural system requires a natural explanation. As a second example, how would people respond to a full-grown tree appearing suddenly in the middle of a highway? Or a person showing up one day to claim the presidency of a country saying God appointed him/her president? God can do any of these but chooses the natural way to do them.

The natural way requires interactions among people following certain rules and processes while God channels his participation in the interactions through the people. For example, if he wants to provide money to a person, he works with the person and others to provide the money naturally. He works through people in every situation to implement changes naturally to fulfill his purpose. He creates every person to represent him in interactions among people to fulfill his purpose in every situation.

The biblical basis for this understanding is in God’s declaration of his purpose for humans: “Let Us make man in Our image…” [Genesis 1:26], which we paraphrase as: let us create every person to represent God (his presence, desire, approach, methods, sensitivity, compassion, etc.) in interactions among people and between people and other inhabitants of the earth. The paraphrase helps us understand the declaration to mean that God creates every person to be his channel for natural interactions with other people.

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Mentor Turns Mentee Enemy—in Saul vs David

David Avoids Saul—while Waiting for God’s Time

We discuss Saul-David interactions in the context of a mentor vs mentee relationship that deteriorates and turns deadly against mentee. David tried containment of the threat initially but later chose avoidance of Saul, established safe distance from him, and moved quickly and frequently to maintain the distance. To implement the avoidance strategy, he setup elaborate network for sending and gathering information to predict Saul’s next move and stay ahead of him. His strategy did not include standing his ground, because he revered Saul as the sitting God-anointed king.

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We discuss interactions between Saul and David in the context of a mentor vs mentee relationship that deteriorates and turns deadly against the mentee. Recall from our previous study under When Promising Path Terminates that David thrived as a high-ranking officer and commander in Saul’s army. He showed himself an effective leader and cherished the opportunities of his position as his positive reputation grew rapidly among the people. His service in Saul’s army appeared to define a clear path to kingship.

Saul counsels David
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Saul’s relationship with David could be viewed as mentor vs mentee because David was learning from Saul’s experience as he grew in the service. Saul was the king, supreme commander, and an experienced fighting man when David joined the service. Their relationship started with Saul convincing David’s father Jesse to release David into his service: “Allow David to remain in my service, for I am pleased with him” [1 Samuel 16:22]. However, after David triumphed over Goliath and led Israel to victory against Philistines, his relationship with Saul deteriorated and evolved later into Saul seeking desperately to kill him, e.g., by hauling the spear at him: “I’ll pin David to the wall” [1 Samuel 18:11]. Therefore, we can consider Saul a mentor to David initially that became less comfortable with his mentee and eventually turned predator against him.

David tries containment of threat
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Initially, David apparently believed he could contain the threat. He intended to remain in Saul’s service, loyal to Saul, but vigilant to protect himself from Saul. Containment was adequate initially. He eluded Saul’s spear attack three times. However, the third time was different for two reasons. First, Saul violated an oath to his son Jonathan by throwing the spear at David the third time: “As surely as the Lord lives, David will not be put to death” [1 Samuel 19:6]. Second, he threw the spear with decisive lethality such that it penetrated into the wall behind David. That night, David decided containment was inadequate and “made good his escape” [1 Samuel 19:10]. David’s strategy against the threat from Saul changed from containment to establishing and maintaining a safe distance from Saul.

The modern-day society presents several possibilities of a mentor vs mentee relationship deteriorating and turning deadly against the mentee. Examples could be found in business, politics, academia, or several other areas of living where a person (the mentee) tries to gain a foothold by learning from or understudying another (the mentor). The mentor often is accommodating initially and could remain so through the relationship. However, if the mentor is unable to accept potential competition from the mentee, the relationship could deteriorate and potentially turn deadly against the mentee. We seek better understanding of the mentee’s options through discussion of the example from David versus Saul after David became aware of Saul’s threat to his life. David survived because of his conduct of the relationship. Saul was determined to kill him and would have if given the opportunity. Similarly, a modern-day mentee faced with a deteriorating mentor-mentee relationship needs to assess the evolving behavior of the mentor and decide whether to contain the threat or pick up and run to save his/her life or career as the case may be.

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Union of Seamless Complements—Adam and Eve Purpose of Marriage

United and Inseparable Except in Judgment

The biblical account of Adam and Eve conveys an understanding that God created marriage to combine a man and woman into a union of fitting complements, well suited to fulfill the purpose of representing him among all creation. We learn from his judgment of their disobedience that God holds a man and wife in inseparable responsibility to obey him. Both will incur punishment for an act of disobedience. However, he judges them individually when they disobey and assigns each separate responsibility for his or her punishment.

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We study the account of Adam and Eve to understand God’s purpose for marriage as a union of fitting complements well suited to fulfill his purpose for human beings. He created Adam first to fill the purpose but decided that Adam alone was inadequate. He declared that Adam needed a comparable helper from within in order to fulfill the responsibilities of representing God among other creations. Therefore, he created Eve as Adam’s comparable helper so the two together will be adequate to fulfill God’s purpose for humans.

Husband accepts from wife
Husband accepts from wife
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The creation account includes their initial life in the Garden of Eden, disobedience to God in eating from the forbidden, and punishment and removal from the initial “Garden of Eden” environment to the current life that we know. He pronounced a specific punishment for each after they disobeyed him. We learn from his judgment of their disobedience that God holds a man and wife in inseparable responsibility to obey him. Both will incur punishment for an act of disobedience. However, he judges them individually when they disobey and assigns each separate responsibility for his or her punishment.

We discuss the account of creation to understand the broad but clear statement of God’s purpose for people, he created Adam to fill the purpose, and later created Eve as a fitting complement for Adam because he found Adam inadequate alone to fulfill the purpose. Further, we discuss the disobedience and punishment to understand he held them jointly and inseparably responsible for obedience but punished them individually so each can manage his or her punishment separately.

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Human Responsibility in Adversity—Example from Paul

Perseverance and Diligence through Faith of God

Having received God’s promise of a positive end to his persecution, Paul persevered through subsequent trials and presented his case diligently while showing respect for others, authority, and due process. His interactions during the period reinforce our understanding that faith of God’s intervention motivates human effort and should encourage us to have patience and work diligently while relating to others in accordance with our commitment to worship and serve God in every situation.

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Transferred to Caesarea under high security
Transferred to Caesarea under high security
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Our study series on Responding to Adversity continues with a discussion of Paul’s response to events in Jerusalem and Caesarea following Christ’s promise that the persecution will take him to a positive end in Rome. The events began with a conspiracy in Jerusalem against Paul’s life, his transfer to the governor’s custody in Caesarea, and subsequent trials before the governor. Paul persevered through the events with patience and showed respect for authority and due process through his interactions with Roman commander Claudius Lysias, Governor Felix, and Jewish representatives constituted to make a case against him in Caesarea. He responded to relentless persecution by defending himself diligently while respectful of other persons, authority, and due process (i.e., in a way to uphold the meaning of his commitment to worship and serve God in every situation).

Paul’s interactions in these events convey a special meaning because he had received a promise from God that the persecution will take him to a positive end in Rome: “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem, so you must also testify in Rome” [Acts 23:11]. His interactions following the promise show a motivation to do what he could to defend himself against his accusers, convince relevant authority that he did nothing wrong, and do these while showing respect for authority and due process. His actions provide a message that faith of God’s intervention motivates perseverance and diligence. That is, the promise of God’s intervention should make a person evaluate every situation to determine what needs to be done and apply best effort toward doing it, because God may often fulfill his promise through what we do.

Angel releases Peter from prison
Angel releases Peter from prison but leaves him to flee from Harod by himself
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As we discuss in a previous bible study under Peter Escapes from Herod’s Prison, God provides input to solving our problems but expects us to apply human effort in order to be prepared and positioned to accept his input. Because the nature and timing of his intervention are generally not known a priori, we have to seek solutions by doing what we can with faith of God intervening at his chosen time and in his chosen way.

Paul received God’s promise that his persecution will take him to a positive end in Rome, but did not know how or when he would go to Rome. However, he knew he had a promise from God and will get to its fulfillment by applying his human effort and relating to people with humility and respect.

In jail despite postponed judgment
In jail despite postponed judgment
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Therefore, he persevered through the crisis, worked diligently through the trials, and did so while respectful of others in a way to uphold the meaning of his commitment to worship and serve God in every situation. Also, we have encountered similar response in adversity through previous bible studies such as under Living to Receive God’s Intervention and Mordecai Triumphs Over Adversity. Each of the examples illustrate a person persevering through adversity by working diligently to resolve problems, relating to others in accordance with the principles of living in the image of God, and arriving at a glorious fulfillment of God’s promise.

We discuss the relentless persecution of Paul and his interactions with the authorities and his accusers during the period following his encounter with Christ while in detention in Jerusalem.

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Comfort in Adversity—Jesus Appears to Paul in Jerusalem Jail

Message of Comfort through Courage in Adversity

The Lord Jesus appeared to Paul with a message of comfort during persecution in Jerusalem. He encouraged Paul to proceed through the persecution in good spirit knowing that God was with him and will guide him to extend his gospel mission to Rome. The encounter provides a message to all through Paul to recognize a “Rome” at the end of every adversity and proceed through with courage and faith based on living in the image of God.

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We continue the study series on Responding to Adversity with a discussion of Paul’s interaction with Christ in Jerusalem following a day that showed him potentially vulnerable to the on-going persecution. During the day, Paul faced a council of chief priests and the Sanhedrin in a judicial hearing to determine why he was being accused. The hearing showed him as maybe anxious to end the persecution as he engaged in an angry altercation with the high priest and apparently sought to exploit doctrinal differences between Pharisees and Sadducees.

Be of good cheer, Paul
Be of good cheer, Paul
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God appeared to Paul that night, physically as the Lord Jesus. He encouraged Paul and revealed to him a purpose of the persecution [Acts 23:11]: “… Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” This was a message of comfort through courage in adversity, not only to Paul, but also through Paul to every Christian. God is aware and with you as you confront adversity. Look beyond the circumstantial details of the adversity and focus on believing that God has a purpose for your experience and will intervene as he chooses to lift you beyond the current bitterness and onto greater and pleasant fulfillment. Jesus did not discuss the persecution with Paul except that he should respond with “good cheer” knowing he will go to Rome on his mission of testifying to the gospel. The message was an assurance that the persecution will not get the better of him: he should focus on the ultimate purpose as he confronts the day to day occurrences of the persecution. He gives the same message to every Christian today.

To understand the message better, we examine Paul’s interactions at the judicial hearing, first with the high priest and second, the Sanhedrin.

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Divine Favor—Mordecai Triumphs Over Adversity

Mordecai and Esther Win Deliverance for their People

Mordecai’s triumph over adversity started with King Xerxes recognizing that intense hatred by his second in command Haman resulted in a decree to annihilate Jews, including Esther, his queen. The king also recalled that Mordecai, a lowly attendant at his palace gate, foiled an assassination plot against him but was never rewarded for the courageous act. He ordered Haman executed, elevated Mordecai to second in command, and issued a decree that empowered Jews with the right of self defense. All these occurred in one evening, but started years earlier by Mordecai raising his orphaned cousin as his daughter, reporting an assassination plot against the king, and refusing to worship Haman—all because he lived according to his commitment to worship and serve God in all circumstances, even in adversity.

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Celebrating Mordecai: king's second in command
Celebrating Mordecai: 2nd to king
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Mordecai overcame adversity because of unwavering commitment to worship and serve God in all circumstances. He endured hardship due to living in captivity, modest economic conditions, and a conspiracy against him and his people that was hatched in reaction to his refusal to compromise worship. While living through the hardship, he raised his orphaned cousin as his own daughter and guided her to become the queen of the land; reported an assassination plot against the king and earned recorded credit for the report; and refused to worship Haman, an agent of the king that people honored in a way that connoted worship. Mordecai’s refusal to worship Haman triggered a sequence of events that initially increased the scope and intensity of his adversity but ultimately led him to overcoming the adversity.

As we discuss in a previous bible study under Finding the Bigger Picture in Adversity, Haman reacted to Mordecai’s “disobedience” by issuing a decree under the authority of the king to annihilate all Jews on a chosen date. The decree became law through all 127 provinces under King Xerxes. Jews protested and mourned everywhere. Mordecai protested at the king’s gate until he convinced his stepdaughter Queen Esther to appeal to the king against the annihilation order.

Concerned about going to king uninvited
Concerned about going to king uninvited
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Queen Esther initially was reluctant to appeal to the king because she was concerned about violating a law against visiting the king uninvited, which could attract punishment by death. However, Mordecai redirected her to see the request as an opportunity to use her royal access to appeal the annihilation order and maybe win deliverance for her people. Having thus seen the bigger picture, she called for prayer and fasting and vowed to appeal to the king even if it meant the ultimate punishment [Esther 4:16]: “And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

Esther’s appeal to the king was successful. The conspiracy against Jews was overturned. Another decree was published on the king’s authority that gave Jews the right to assemble, protect themselves, and destroy their enemy. Thus, Mordecai’s refusal to worship Haman triggered an event sequence whereby he triumphed over the conspiracy against him and his people, defeated his enemies, and overcame poverty. This study focuses on Queen Esther’s appeal and Mordecai’s triumph over adversity as a result.

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Living in the Image of God through Adversity

Example from Mordecai—
Worshiping and Serving God Even in Adversity

Mordecai’s interactions with others show he was committed to worship and serve God, determined what the commitment meant in every situation, and interacted in a way to uphold his commitment. He did this while facing severe adversity due to being the descendant of a captive exile in Babylon. In a subsequent study we show that living in the image of God in spite of his adversity propelled him to triumph over the adversity.

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We continue our study series on Responding to Adversity with a sub series on Mordecai, descendant of one of the Jews that fell captive to Nebuchadnezzar and lived in Babylon as exiles for several decades. We examine Mordecai’s life in captivity, focusing on adverse circumstances that befell him and three interactions with others as he lived through the adversity. We discuss the interactions to show how they relate to the meaning of a commitment to worship and serve God. Further, in subsequent studies under the sub series on Mordecai, we highlight how the interactions triggered event sequences that coalesced to lead him to triumph over his adversity.

The sub series helps us understand the life of Mordecai as an example of living in the image of God through adversity and lifting over the adversity as a result.

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Motivation for Worship—Choice, not Coercion

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego Defy Nebuchadnezzar

Interactions between King Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego illustrate two forms of motivation for worship. One is coercion; characterized by the use of force, intimidation, or any kind of threat of punishment to compel worship; and typified by King Nebuchadnezzar using threat of death in a fiery furnace to compel worship of an image of gold he set up. The other is choice, a personal decision to worship God based on understanding our relationship with him and illustrated by the action of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in defying Nebuchadnezzar’s threat. Worship by choice is based on God’s covenant—his conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him.

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We discuss interactions between King Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; regarding the image of gold that the king set up as god over Babylon. The interactions illustrate the contrast between two forms of motivation to worship. One is coercion, which is typified by Nebuchadnezzar using threat of death in a fiery furnace to compel worship of his image of gold. The other is choice based on understanding our relationship with God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego defied Nebuchadnezzar’s threat based on their choice to worship God.

Messiah for all people
Messiah for all people
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Worship by choice is based on God’s covenant—his conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him. Abraham received the covenant from God on behalf of himself, his descendants, and all that receive Christ as the Messiah. God promised the Messiah for all people when he called Abraham to a mission to establish homeland and ancestry for the Messiah: “… And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” [Genesis 12:3]. Thus, his covenant with Abraham confers on every person the right to choose to worship him based on understanding that he will be God to all that will worship and serve him.

We discuss Nebuchadnezzar’s example to illustrate worship by coercion. Thereafter, we discuss God’s covenant with Abraham as the Christian basis for worship by choice, using information from the gospel according to John to understand the promise of the Messiah extends God’s covenant to all people. Then, we discuss meanings of “worship and serve God” based on information from previous bible studies.

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Joseph Called to Mission—Messaging Child through Parent

Joseph’s father sent him on an errand to check on his brothers and the flock and report their conditions back to him. However, the errand happened to be God’s call to Joseph to undertake a special mission to Egypt: to prepare a sanctuary for the young nation of Israel to survive a severe famine, prosper, and multiply into a great nation. Neither Joseph nor his father recognized the call at the time. God delivered the message by prompting his father to send him on the fateful errand. Also, we learn that God may allow adversity as a channel for effecting a positive change for a person. The person will be in better position to realize the change by remaining steadfast in living in the image of God despite hurting from the adversity.

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We continue our study series on parent child relationships focused initially on understanding that God sends messages to children through their parents. In previous sessions, we looked at examples in which the message was clear to the parent. In the Call of Samuel, for example, Eli eventually understood that God wanted to speak to Samuel and instructed him on how to respond. Similarly, each of the examples under Instruction to Parent for Child looked at a clear instruction to a parent to implement something for a child. The current study, in contrast, looks at an example in which the message was delivered as part of normal parent-child interaction with neither the parent nor the child knowing at the time that this was a message from God. We recognize the message today because of the benefit of hindsight based on accounts in the bible.

The example is drawn from the life of Joseph, the eleventh son of Jacob (also known as Israel). His father sent him on what appeared like an ordinary errand to go and check on his senior brothers tending flock in the field.

Jacob family moves to Egypt
Jacob family moves to Egypt
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However, later events indicate that God used the errand to call Joseph to a mission to Egypt: to prepare a sanctuary for the young family of Israel to survive a severe famine and grow and prosper to become the nation that God promised their ancestors. The example provides opportunity to learn the importance of clarity of parental communication and a child listening to a parent with intent to understand and implement the parent’s information. Furthermore, we learn from Joseph’s interactions with his brothers and other people that God may allow adversity as a channel for effecting a positive change for a person. Also, Joseph’s behavior during the adversity help us understand that such person will be in better position to realize the change by remaining steadfast in living in the image of God despite hurting from the adversity.

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