Now the seed of God is in us.
The seed of a pear tree grows
into a pear tree;
the seed of a hazel tree grows into a h
azel tree. The seed of God grows into God .
Meister Eckhart, 14th C German
For He was made man that we might
be made God;
and He manifested Himself by a
that we might receive the idea
of the Unseen Father;
and He endured the insolence of me
n that we might inherit immortal ity.
St. Athanasius, 3rd C Bishop o
My wife is a big fan of two sp
ecial words. Other men have wives with spe cial words – I love you, you are my honeybear, my sexypants, etc…Carmel’s spe cial words are these: So what?
So what if we’re idols of God?
So what if we’re the prophetic
antithesis to corrupt Mesopot amian imperialism?
So what if we can dissect the
qualities of the imago dei? So what does this mean in real life?
In order for anyone to see God
’s idol – to know that they ar e in the Kingdom God has created, that they are in the Presence of God – we have to clear away all of the stuﬀ that keeps it hidden. That clearing away consists o f persistent repentance and spiritual attentiveness. We must always be asking the Spirit for insights as to the behaviors, judgments, and postures that cause us to ecli pse Christ instead of shadow him.
When we do clear away the stuﬀ
, however, we uncover our “new humanity,” as Paul calls it. That new humanity speaks t o the very heart of this issue of spiritual transformation, because, as th e saying goes, once out with t he old, back in with the new.
We need to purge ourselves of
sin and welcome the redemptive work of the Spirit. We need to get rid of our old selves so the Spirit can furth er the work of our new selves.
To be transformed means to be
less like the person you are now and more like the perfect image of God, every day be trading away tho se parts of you that aren’t humble or that don ’t have dignity, that have sold y our authority or outsourced yo ur responsibility, to be tradi ng those things away to live m ore and more and more like God designed and created you to b e.
We need examples to do this we
ll, not only the example of Je sus Christ, but also the example of people who have been faithfully shadowing God . We need present- day flesh and blood examples i n order to better understand w hat a shadow of God looks like.
For instance, when I think of
what it means to be a good fri end, I think about my friend Vince. He igno res my idiosyncrasies, but yet calls me on my sin. He laughs with me and celebra tes with me. I get to be a better and better friend, because I’v e got a great example of what a great friend looks like in Vince.
Or, take spirituality, I look
to my mom as my example for de votion to Jesus. As a little kid, I used to always walk into the kitchen and see my mom there with her hair in curlers, dressed in he r bathrobe, drinking coﬀee and chewing spearmint, w hile reading the Bible and jus t sobbing all over the pages. Tears smell when they hit the Bible. Her tears have waterlogged her Bible, because all she wants in the world is to make Jesus glad. So, I know what it’s like to love Jesus, because I’ve had i t modeled for me and I know what it’s li ke to love the Bible, because I see my mom love the Bible.
I know what it’s like to keep
short accounts when people hur t me because I share an oﬃce with the world -record-short-account holder. John Voelz, more than anyone else I’ve ever met, has a supe rnatural ability to forgive. Sometimes in our job there’s a little flack we take here and there. Typically when I take a little flack, I like to nurse that gr udge, feeding it little treats under the table and harboring my bitterness for many years, but not John. Working with John and seeing h im day-in and day-out forgive everybody is convicting.
I use those examples to echo t
he words of the Apostle Paul, who says, “[shadow]
me as I [shadow] Christ.”
So, I shadow Vince as he shado
ws Jesus and I know how to be a better friend. I shadow John as he shadows Je sus and I know how to be more gracious and more forgiving. I shadow Mom as she shadows Je sus and I know what it’s like to be more deeply in love with him and his word.
What’s more, is that we’re not
just given the example of Jesus, bu t we’re given Jesus himself as he invites us to sh are in his nature.
Through these he has given us
his very great and precious pr omises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
2 Peter 1.4
Being “participants in the div
ine nature” means more than si mply living a moral life or enjoying spiritual blessings i n heaven. It means, literally, that Chr ist has moved into our souls and into our bodies, into our mind and hearts, and into our dreams, loves, and hopes.
How is this done? Paul tells u
s in Colossians that we have t raded our old selves for new ones, renewed in knowl edge in the image of our Creat or. We are no longer the same people we were before we were reunited with Christ. Now we are participants with him, and he lives in us, with us, and thro ugh us. Christ casts us as his shadows, and the more w e stay in line with him, the mor e light we can shed in the world.
We are like franchises of Chri
st and his kingdom, for his kingdom is inside us ( Luke 17.21), and he, also, is inside us (Co lossians 1.27), and the lives we live now are new (Romans 6.4) and no longer under any of the old powers o f death or corruption or the s uicidal impulses of gloom and violence
This, of course, is what I’m referring to when I say that shadowing
God means we learn to follow God inside us. He is not out there somewhere . He resides with us, in us, and works through us to transform us and through us, transform the world.
To be a participant in the div
ine nature also means that we fully participate in our human nature – just like Chris t did – and involve ourselves in the concerns of everyday life, albeit with div ine authority and perspective.
The more holy we become, the m
ore humble, self-renouncing, s elf-abhorring, and the more sensitive to every sin we beco me, the more closely we cling to Christ and are transformed into his image .
When Paul speaks about the glo
ry of the children of God, he is talking about the restoration of this image with in us. He’s talking about us b ecoming better versions of our true selves.
This is what it means to be ho
ly—accepting the energy of the Spirit as it gives you power to change.
A sure warrant for looking for
ward with hope to the transfor mation of human nature is provided by th e incarnation of God, which makes man god to the same degree as God Himself became man.
For it is clear that He who be
came man without sin (see Hebrews 4:15) will divinize human nature wit hout changing it into the divi ne nature, and will raise it up for His own s ake to the same degree as He lowered Himself for man’s sake.
We should be constantly workin
g in cooperation with the Holy Spirit to ensure the light of Christ is on disp lay. We need to be in:God:ed:
Full of God,
full of God’s mission to heal
to save it,
to restore it to its original,
and to see ourselves restored
to full humanity in the process.
We are always looking for ways
to partner with God in His dr eams for us, for the world, for the other people of the world, and for the other i nhabitants of this world.
The good news is that the more
we shadow God,the closer we get to God,
the deeper we travel into him, the more in:god:ed we become,
the more we recognize our own
from the fixer-upper version o
f who we used to be into people who accept challen ges,
deal openly with others,
fight with integrity when conf
lict is required, and work tirelessly to heal th e world.
The more comprehensively the l
ight of Christ grows within us the more active we’ll become as his shadows wo rking to find out what He wants to have happen i n our church, in our relationshi ps, in our soul, and in the world at large.
And God is so incredibly busy
in the world right now. He’s feeding orphans in Haiti, South Africa, and Peru.
He’s orchestrating revivals in
South Korea, Columbia,and the Belgian Congo.
He’s healing the planet in the
Pacific Northwest, Japan, and
He’s putting marriages back to
gether,reuniting children with their parents,
and healing broken hearts and
giving hope to lonely outsider s.
He’s teaching people to read a
become competent in new and be
helping men and women towards
self-relianceand sustainable income.
He’s present with those who ar
listening to their sadness and
authenticating their pain,
reminding them again and again
that they’ll never be alone and that He will ultimately br ing reprieve.
God is using his people to acc
omplish his purposes. Everyone who shadows God does the work of God, and the more we shadow him the more wo rk we realize there is to do.
If we are committed to working alongside God in hi
s redemption of this world – shadowing him, as it were – th en we must ask him to fill our minds and our spirits with big dreams for a better w orld.
In order to accomplish this, w
e need a better understanding of the opening chapters of our Bible – the chapters that I’v e come to regard as God’s tran sformation manifesto. Because we tend to think of Genesis as simply a h istorical text, we miss the lessons that Genesis teaches u s about how to shadow God – ho w to emulate him, act as his stewards – and about how to countermand the false gods in our world.
So, now that we’re equipped wi
th a good understanding of wha t the imago dei is, we’ll take just a few moments and discover what the imago de i does.
Dr. David McDonald is the teaching pastor at Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, MI. The church, widely considered among the most innovative in America, has been featured on CNN.com and in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and Time Magazine. David weaves deep theological truths with sharp social analysis and peculiar observations on pop culture. He lives in Jackson with his wife, Carmel, and their two kids. Follow him on twitter (@fossores) or online at fossores.com