Last week I wrote about the need many Christians have to make daily Bible reading a higher priority in their lives. Since then, in further research I discovered the neglect of this daily discipline by many believers might be more serious than it first appears.
It would therefore be easy for me to exhort with energy: “Grit your teeth and make daily Bible reading happen!” But responding to mere obligation often doesn’t work. So, Instead I’m going to come at the issue indirectly by laying out my thought in three parts.
First, we are made in the image of God.
That’s the climaxing point the story of creation makes in the first chapter of the Bible. After the fundamentals of the creation account were carefully laid out we read, “Then God said, let us make man in our image” (Genesis 1:26). The account adds, “So God created man in his own image” (Genesis 1:27).
So what does it mean that we are created in God’s image?
An image is a duplicate, a derived likeness, that which has a similarity of appearance. In Psalm 8 the psalmist praises God in wonderment at his elevation of mankind. He sings: “Yet you have made them a little lower than God” (Psalm 8:5 NRSV). The Scriptures tell us that when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, God came searching for them in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). He had created them for fellowship with him, but fellowship requires some fundamental commonality — thus, God’s image in mankind,
Second, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, this image of God in man was damaged but not destroyed.
Like our fallen first parents, we are afflicted with the sinful biases passed on from them. Our bent is to run from the very God who created us and who seeks our fellowship. In man’s fall we were first deprived of God’s holiness and as a result, then depraved in our inclinations.
The pictures the New Testament paints of pagan society amply illustrates where man’s disobedience has taken him (Ephesians 4:18,19; 1 Corinthians 6:9,10; Romans 1:18-32). We are all in that picture in some way — alienated from God, dead in trespasses and sins, prodigal.
Third, when we become Christians the process is put in place to restore the image of God and in doing so to restore our desire for communion with Him.
It is good to recall that with the launch of the Christian life remarkable things happen . Our sins are forgiven through faith in Christ (Romans 5:1-3). The life giving presence of the Spirit gives us a new quality of life (Titus 3:4-7). We are adopted into God’s family — we belong (Romans 8:15-17). In summary, we are “converted” – turning radically from self and sin to God.
Yet, in spite of all those beginning blessings conferred as a gift of God’s grace, the Apostle Paul exhorts Christians to seek the renewal of the Image of God. He calls the Colossian church to a fully amended life, as illustrated when he writes: “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:9-10).
A dramatic conversion is in itself not enough. As we walk in obedience, the Spirit-energized self “is being renewed in knowledge.” So, we ask, from whence must this renewing knowledge come?
The Bible, God’s Holy Book, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, must be its primary source. Read the Epistles carefully and you’ll see how incessantly and urgently Paul exhorts believers to be rid of every aspect of the old life and, in the Spirit’s energy, to surge toward a full renewal.
If that’s the urgency of God’s call upward, what light does it cast on the large percentage of church-going Christians who admittedly have little to do with the Bible on a daily basis? Have they settled for a quasi-experience of God without any provision for regular fellowship through his gift of Holy Scripture?
The full answer will only be given in that final day when, Paul urges, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
(For excellent daily Bible reading guides, the American Bible Society, 212-407-1200; or the Canadian Bible Society, 416-757-4171)
Photo credit: whologwhy (via flickr.com)