In response to seeing a need to address the spiritual climate of young adults in Malaysia, four local churches namely, New Life Community Church (NLCC), C3 Subang, First Baptist Church, and Harvest Generation, got together and started the BUILD initiative.
The first of many events to take place in the future, the BUILD Conference 2015 was held this last weekend at First Baptist Church, Subang. Itinerant speaker and former Regional Director of Training at Ravi Zacharias Ministries, I’Ching Thomas was there to share the Word of God in the main sessions.
“I love the name of the conference, BUILD,” she said. “As I look at all of you, you are the people who will be building Malaysia. You are the ones that the Lord will use as light and salt to build this nation.”
That first night, I’Ching brought the audience back to the creation account in Genesis and gave three points about how knowing and understanding why and how we were created as human beings affects the way we relate to one another and to God.
26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
27 So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. 30 And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
“On the sixth day, the Creator’s activities suddenly come to a halt,” I’Ching described. God had been busy making the universe when there was a timeout, and a divine conference took place. The three divine persons of God get together and said, “Let us make man in our image after our likeness.”
“God’s creative work is climaxed by the creation of a being that is different from the other creatures because it was a creature that was made in the image of God,” I’Ching emphasized. “Not that we look like Him literally, but that we reflect Him in different ways. Humanity, male and female, is the peak of His creation, and we are destined to rule as His vice regents over the lower creation.”
We are personal creations of Yahweh, created uniquely to reflect God. We are creative because God is creative. We are moral beings because God is a moral God, and we are relational beings because God is a relational being.
“We have forgotten where we came from—we’ve forgotten our rightful status,” I’Ching said. “How often do you live as if you are made in the image of God? What does it mean to have been created by a personal God and in His image, and how would this help us know what our meaning and purpose is on this earth?”
1. It tells us something about our relationships.
Knowing our origins tells us something about our relationship with God, each other, and the rest of creation.
Scriptures reveal to us that our God is not a force. He is personal being who involves Himself with His creation. He is one divine substance who exists uniquely as 3 distinct persons.
This implies that before the creation of man, God was already in fellowship within Himself, because He is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They were together in perfect fellowship.
We do not just reflect our Creator by means of possessing intelligence, creativity, or morality. We reflect our Trinitarian God socially as well. Because we are created in the image of the Trinitarian God, we are social beings. As such, we only flourish when we are in relationship with God and each other.
We love because God loves. The 10 Commandments are all about how we ought to live in relationship. The first 4 are about our relationship with God, and 5 to 10 are about our relationships with one another.
We were also made male and female. “So God created man in his own image…male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). The use of the plural pronoun them, suggests that within the human race, there is a distinction of the sexes. The creation of the woman is portrayed as the completion of humanity’s creation.
Adam alone was insufficient to fulfill God’s purposes. God already knew that. Eve came as an after-act—not an afterthought. Adam was created from dust but Eve was created out of Adam. Male and female are same in kind, but not identical. Adam and Eve were created as complementary sexual beings who, together, reflected the creative image of God.
Since this sexual distinction is the outcome of divine creation, gender differentiation is not accidental. It’s not pragmatic. It’s not a matter of social convention. It suggests that gender differences in humankind parallels the distinction of God and Christ in the Trinity.
It is fascinating that the relationship between male and female is expressed in the term, “one flesh.” It is not referring just to the sexual union between man and woman, but it is also a powerful metaphor for the intrinsic complementarity of the sexes.
So in that sense, one flesh, as in male and female, makes up humanity. In the oneness of flesh and distinction of husband and wife within marriage, humanity reflects the Trinitarian God.
It is through the interrelationship of the sexes that humanity discovers its corporate identity. In other words, we only know what it means to be human when we look at both male and female. Males alone don’t make up humanity, and neither do females alone. They go together.
In man and woman, God did not create two different types of beings, but one—sexually differentiated into male and female, and because of this differentiation, we cannot fully understand the significance of being human without reference to it.
A proper understanding of our sexual identity and how that reflects the image of God is also fundamental in our reflection of sexual ethics. God is not a party pooper. When He prohibits any form of sexual relation that is outside His design of marriage, it is because it violates the sacred image that humanity bears. It goes against the very purpose that sex was intended for.
A right understanding of our divinely designed sexuality would reveal that though gender identity is grounded in our biological characteristics, it must not be reduced to that alone. Our sexuality is not merely about what is physical. Marriage functions to provide the needed restraints and discipline as a God-given place of healing for our sexual nature.
In learning the meaning of faithful love to one other person, we gradually become more able to devote ourselves to the good of the other person. Our self-serving impulses begin to be healed because it’s not about “you” or “me” anymore; it’s about “us.”
The relationship between man and woman also reflects how God relates to Himself. Jesus submitted to the will of the Father while He was on earth. But Jesus is no less divine than the Father. Jesus shows us an example that submission is a virtue. It’s not something that we should fear or try to avoid.
Therefore wives can submit to their husbands without feeling like any less of a person. Her dignity and integrity are not threatened when she submits to her husband. Likewise, a husband can serve his wife without violating his dignity.
That goes for every relationship we have—not just the marital relationship. Submission or service to another person does not make us any less of a person. This is the paradigm for us: How God relates with Himself affirms the essential equality between the sexes, the races, people of different economic statuses, and between members of a family.
2. Our existence has meaning and purpose.
Knowing where we came from and why we were created shows us our meaning and purpose here on earth: It’s not about us but God and His purposes.
After Adam was formed and placed in the garden, he was charged to watch over it. He was charged to care for the lower creation. Humanity was to have dominion over all creation because we’re different from the rest of creation. We bear God’s image.
We are visible representatives of God in creation. In fact, the command to be fruitful and multiply is not just about having babies, but to continue to creative activity of God by turning worthless things of the earth into valuable and useful inventions.
We are to carry on what God has begun in creation. We are to go on creating and producing from the resources that are available to us. Work is not a result of the fall. It was intended to be inspiring and meaningful, fulfilling and productive; just as God appreciated and enjoyed the work of His hands.
However, because many of us suffer from the anxiety of having no security, no significance, no meaning, and no purpose in the world, we work hard not as vice regents, but as slaves to things that often mask themselves as promises toward a better life.
We have lost our ultimate self because we have lost sight of our ultimate Creator and we have therefore forgotten our rightful place in creation. Significance is not found in what we do. Significance is only found in knowing what we were intended for here on earth.
3. Only God deserves exclusive worship.
Because we bear the divine image of God, we were created specifically for a personal relationship with God. We bear the privilege of relating to God in a way that differs from all the other animals. Because of that, we must recognize that it is entirely wrong to serve and worship images of lower creation.
For us to degrade our human position by setting material things and lower creation in a higher position than ourselves is a perversion of God’s design. Although many of us may not literally bow to idols, our desires, ambitions, false hopes, and false securities control us.
The first couple was deluded into believing they could be their own gods. We read about the entrance of sin when the humans chose to act against God’s command and believed in Satan’s deception. They rejected their nature as created, limited, finite beings and tried to be what they could not be: divine.
Sin is not just about the breaking of rules. It is the state of rebellion against God and His purposes. God created a world where every part of it is closely linked, dependent upon, and related to each other.
Sin came in and disrupted that harmony. When God created the universe, He said that everything was very good. Now it’s a mess! Everything is just not the way it ought to be.
In the Old Testament, there is a term we often use loosely: “Shalom.” We know shalom to mean “peace”—peace be unto you. But Shalom in the Old Testament has a much deeper and richer meaning. It basically means “the way that God has intended things to be”—God’s design for creation.
His desire for creation is to flourish. Instead, we have chosen to live in the order of the Kingdom of self. We have decided that we know how to live our lives better than the One who created us. That is why God hates sin.
It violates His law, and it violates Shalom. It breaks the peace and interferes with the way things are supposed to be. The world that we have before us now is nowhere near the world that God intended.
Thankfully, God did not leave us to decay and die in our sin. He sent His Son to die on the cross to redeem us and all of creation. Jesus’ mission was about setting things right again. About building a kingdom of people who would choose to do the right thing and work with the Holy Spirit to restore all aspects of life to their intended purposes.
The path toward that hope is still open to us through Christ. He said that He is the door, and anyone who enters through Him will be saved. He said that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Him. And He talks about freedom. In Him we can find life abundant.
This life abundant is when we know that we are where God wants us to be. The Christian Gospel about Jesus dying on the cross to save and redeem us is ultimately about God wanting to restore Shalom.
He sent His Son who humbled Himself to enter His creation so that He can show us how we can live in the way that He intended us to. And that is why Paul often talks about how we should be Christlike. Jesus first atoned for our sins so that we may be saved from them if we accept Him. And for those who accept Him, he also sends the Holy Spirit to help us live righteously.
In other words, the way to Shalom is open to us because Christ has opened that way. Consider this offer by Jesus to bring healing to your life—to bring reconciliation to your relationships, and to bring meaning to your existence.
Unless we receive and experience the salvation that Jesus offers, we will never be able to play a part in effectively bringing peace, healing, and hope to many in the world. We will not be able to be the salt and light if we ourselves have not gotten a taste of heaven.
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