Imaging God

My wife and I are part of a small group right now that is going through the DVD presentation of The Family Project from Focus on the Family. This past Sunday we watched the fourth session, entitled “For This Reason.” One of the main thrusts of the session is that we are made in the image of God and that we are to image Him in our lives. In other words, the way that we live should demonstrate to those we interact with who God is and what He is like.

The next day, Joe Stowell’s daily devotional at Strength for the Journey was titled “Agents of God’s Glory.” In it, Stowell tells about a friend of his who is a sports agent. Some of the athletes the agent represents are “big names” and Stowell says he sometimes finds himself thinking, “Wow, you’re an agent for him? No way! That would be amazing.” Whether you are a sports fan or not, you can likely relate. No doubt most of us can think of some human being that impresses us through their position, accomplishments, talents, etc., that we would like to get close to or be friends with. There is nothing wrong with that, either, provided we maintain a proper perspective and do not allow ourselves to become inappropriately enamored with those individuals.

But Stowell goes on to make this point: “[W]hen I think about it, you and I have a far greater privilege and calling. We are agents of God—hired by the price He paid on the cross—to spread the “stats” of His glory everywhere we go.” Stowell has a pretty good point there. Anyone who has accepted Christ as Savior has a personal relationship with God–the Creator of the universe, the Almighty. Any athlete or celebrity pales in comparison. In fact, there is no comparison. Yet how often are we guilty of talking up the accomplishments of those humans we admire while failing to give any mention to the “accomplishments” of Almighty God, to tell others of the things He has done in our lives? Read some more of Stowell’s thoughts…

His “portfolio” of glory staggers the imagination. It encompasses His personal, unconditional love. It draws in His broad and limitless mercy—mercy that patiently holds back His hand of judgment. His credentials include perfect wisdom, undiminished holiness, unflinching faithfulness, perfect justice, and the realities that He is all-powerful and all-knowing. Simply put, His glory is all that He is in His all-surpassing, praiseworthy, stunning perfection.

I Peter 2:9 says that as a believer I have been chosen by God so that we “may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Psalm 92:1-2 says, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night.” Isaiah 43:21 says that God formed humans that they might declare His praise. These are but three examples among many we could find of the biblical imperative that God’s people are to declare His glory.

To repeat the question Tim Sisirich asks at the end of Session 4 of The Family Project, how did you image God today?

Get out of the way

I remember hearing Joe Stowell speak several years ago and him telling those of us in the audience that he wanted us to listen to God during the weekend’s sessions. “You can stop listening to me anytime you want,” he said, “but don’t stop listening to God!” He went on to share that sometimes people will come up to him after he has spoken and tell him how encouraged or challenged or blessed they were by something he said and, after they share what it was, he cannot remember even saying that. “So do I tell them, ‘I didn’t say that! Forget the blessing!”? he asked. Of course he does not do that. His point was that sometimes the Lord, through the Holy Spirit, pricks our hearts or our consciences and speaks to us beyond the actual words we are hearing.

I understood Stowell’s point when I heard it, and I probably even thought to myself that I had experienced that or could imagine experiencing that, but in the past few months two specific instances have brought Stowell’s point vividly to the forefront of my mind.

In the first instance someone told me after a church service in which I delivered the sermon that they found one particular phrase so neat and meaningful that they had written it down. Only the phrase was one I did not even remember saying! It got me to thinking, so later I went back and looked at my notes and it was indeed something I said; it was part of a quote I shared from someone else, actually.

Then, just this past Sunday, I had the experience that all speakers and preachers dread. In the very midst of my message I felt as if I was really struggling. Though I did not let it show (I hope) there were times in the back of my mind that I was literally thinking, “This is terrible. It isn’t making any sense. You’re just floundering up here. There’s no excuse for this!” Needless to say, when I sat down I was not feeling real good about the message. Interestingly, several people approached me afterwards to comment (positively) on the message and to discuss specific things that were meaningful to them. One of these individuals was a gentlemen who never says anything after my messages other than basic platitudes or polite comments–things like, “Thank you” or “That was a good message.” Funny, isn’t it, how the one message I felt did not go well at all was the one that was meaningful enough to prompt him to say something deeper than he usually does…

Stowell’s point, and mine in writing this post, is that we humans are the instruments through which the Lord chooses to work, and when we have that privilege we should be grateful for the opportunity. However, we must never allow ourselves to believe that anything we may have to say is particularly impressive or important. Never should we allow ourselves to get focused on or caught up in our own accomplishments or oratorical skills or pleasing turn of phrase. Instead, we must seek to remain true to God’s Word, to share it as accurately as we can and then, quite simply, to do our very best to just get out of the way.

As Joe Stowell said, you can stop listening to me anytime. After all, nothing I have to say is all that important anyway.