*Pastor’s Note: This is one of the articles I wrote and posted for my very first website in the mid 90s soon after I got my first computer. I know, I was a slow up and comer! I thought it might interest my readers to read some of my first posted writings. I HAVE updated some of the Scripture references, but all in all, it is pretty much as I posted them on my very first website. The pictures were added for this posting, though.
Genesis 1:26a Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.“
Before I venture into the concept of God’s grace, I want you to first look at this Scripture in Genesis. The Lord says, “in Our image, according to Our likeness.” When I teach, I love to use both these concepts for so many stop at “in Our image,” alone. Image denotes appearance and since the Bible tells us that no one has seen God (John 1:18, 1 John 4:12), I like to teach from the concept of the Lord’s likeness.
We were created in His likeness. What is it that denotes the LIKENESS of God? First, we are created as spiritual beings. John 4:24, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Second, we have attributes that demonstrate themselves in personality. God is a Person. He is a Spiritual Person with a personality.
Personality exists where there is intelligence, mind, will, reason, individuality, self-consciousness, and self-determination. Now I want you to notice the self-consciousness and self-determination. These are only two of the attributes that separate us from the animal kingdom. But another important attribute that goes along with these other two self-awareness attributes is will. The ability to choose and use that self-determination and self-consciousness.
These are attributes that you will find in the character and personality of God, our Lord and Heavenly Father. Now, the reason I laid this basic foundation was to lead you to understand why God’s Grace is so important in a creation that can be willful and self-determined. You see, God will not drag you or anyone else, kicking and screaming into His heaven! God will not violate your will, because it is one of those characteristics and attributes that identify you “as in the likeness” of Him.
Some people feel that they have “one up” on God or have Him “over a barrel” so to speak. This is the root and seed of pride. These people are proud of what they perceive as their own self-sufficiency. But I have to ask this question; do we as created beings ever really have the “upper hand” on God?
Those that think they do and live their lives basking in this pride have a hard truth facing them. This is what the Apostle James tells us in James 4:6-8 “But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble. Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”
When Jesus was teaching His disciples, He relayed a very important principle, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.”— Matthew 10:28. He was talking about the Day of Judgment and what awaited every living creature. But still, God will not take people to heaven against their wills.
Thankfully though, one of the great attributes of the character of God is Wisdom. You see, He is Omniscience, which simply means, all-knowing. He is smart and coupled with that wisdom, He knows what it takes to help us “choose” the right decision. The Bible tells us, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.“— Titus 2:11. All men have seen or will see the salvation that God’s grace brings. All men will know. Yes, they can still choose, but now they can choose without ignorance.
Romans 5:15 says, “But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.” You see, God is in the business of changing people like you and me on the inside. God is in the business of giving people new hearts. He is in the business of changing how people think. He opens their minds to understand the Scriptures.
Paul also said this in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2, “We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: ‘In an acceptable time I have heard you, And in the day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” You see, the Lord calls those to remind and to plead with others of the truth of their ability to choose.
No, God’s hands are not tied and we don’t have Him “over a barrel” in truth. God is in the miracle working business even today. The great modern day miracle of grace is how people change their thinking so they freely choose to follow Him. His Wisdom, His Knowledge hasn’t changed nor will it ever change. Yes there are those still, who out of “willfulness” will continue on the path they freely choose, but for us there is what the Apostle John reminds us of, “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”— John 1:16-17.
1 Timothy 1:12-14 “And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” (Bold emphasis mine).
In closing, remember what the Apostle Paul stated in the verses in Romans chapter 5, this grace is free and it’s a gift. A gift is given to those that are loved. But just as any gift has to be received, so is it with God’s grace. No, my friends, He won’t force it on anyone, but it is there for the taking. It’s just a matter of being willing to reach out and take it. That my friends is what self-determination is! That is what it means to be in the LIKENESS of God! The ability to reason and the freedom to choose; what is your choice today?