Reflecting the Image of God

Rev. Daniel Fleischer

On the 5th day God had created the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air. On the 6th day He created “’the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind’; and it was so” (Genesis 1:24). After the Triune God had created every living creature upon the earth, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness’… “ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them”(Genesis 1:26-27).
Male and female, mankind, were the crowning glory of God’s creation. Not of the animals, but of the man was it said, “God breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being” (Genesis 2:7), a rational soul from whom He then created woman (Genesis 2:18). Only  man and woman —God’s own description and by any rational definition, male and female—were created in the image of God. Everything God created—the universe, the earth, the plants, the fish and fowl, the animals, and mankind—received the stamp of divine approval. “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). As the folksy saying goes, “God didn’t make no junk!”   
A presidential proclamation March 30, 2022, declared, “The First Lady, the Vice President, the Second Gentleman, and my entire Administration see you for who you are — made in the image of God and deserving of dignity, respect, and support.  On this day and every day, we recognize the resilience, strength, and joy of transgender, nonbinary, and gender nonconforming people.”  
The proclamation was signed “In the year of our Lord.” Who is the Lord, the God, in whose name it was made and signed? Since the Triune God is a Spirit, the image cannot be physical. What is the image of God? Hardly is it the one invoked in the proclamation, for the image of God in which man was created was “true righteousness and  holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24).  
The above proclamation is spoken in ignorance; further, it is the height of hypocrisy when people who otherwise have little respect, if any, for the Triune God, abuse Scripture to justify their godless agenda.
Whatever junk now exists in this world—be it material, physical, emotional, spiritual, political, moral—whatever is counter to God’s perfect creation and/or His perfect will—is both a consequence of sin and a manifestation of sin. In the blink of an eye, as Adam and Eve succumbed to the enticements of the devil, righteousness and holiness, the image in which they had been created, was lost. Through them, sin and evil, wickedness and rot, were introduced into the world. Since the fall into sin, no one born of woman is born in the image of God. While nature is neither the cause of evil nor is evil of itself, since the fall into sin man misuses and abuses it to serve his purpose. Consequently, all creation, nature included, now waits for deliverance from its bondage, as it groans and labors under the burden of man’s sin (Romans 8:22).
By the grace of God determined already in eternity, the Heavenly Father in Christ Jesus provided the solution to sin and death. We have just celebrated the birth of the sin bearer, Jesus Christ, Who assumed the human nature. Jesus had no sin in Himself but took the sins of the world upon Himself. Our sins were laid upon Him and as our substitute, He paid the full price demanded of God’s Law, which was death and eternal condemnation.
By His life and death in our place, and by His resurrection, Christ restored righteousness and holiness which is acknowledged by the Father in heaven. Baptized into Christ, we are reborn in His image. The Spirit reclothes the regenerate in the righteousness of Christ which is recognized and avails before God the Father. Christ took our unrighteousness and unholiness and freely gave us His righteousness—hardly a fair exchange. But that is grace. Nevertheless,  as we are still sin in the flesh, we are exhorted to “cleanse ourselves” by daily repentance “from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). As the sorrowful sinner in penitence and faith looks upon the Lord Jesus Christ, he is “being transformed into the same image from glory [blessed by the Spirit here] to glory [hereafter in heaven], just as by the spirit of our God” (2 Corinthians 3:18). To that end, we are called to put off the old man by  daily contrition and repentance and “put on the new man which was created according to God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24)
The image lost is restored through the Gospel Word by which the Spirit of God works faith and sanctification. This makes a lie of the unbelieving world’s definition and use of “the image of God” as it promotes what is expressly contrary to the image of “true righteousness and holiness.”
The presidential proclamation concentrates on what is deemed a “civil right.”   That society gives people the civil right to live in sin and in rebellion against God is its right. While Christians recognize the importance of civil rights in society, faithful children of God distinguish between what may be considered a civil right to the unbelieving world, and what is right and moral in the sight of God. As redeemed people of God, the Christ-believer’s concern is the souls which are lost in eternity unless they reject the devil and on judgment day are by faith clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Confessors of Christ are called by the Lord to witness to the truth through the warnings of the law of God, as well as the message of the Gospel. They cannot be silent when people are ensnared in sin, or when sinners in their misguided life seek to draw others into the vortex of sin and death.
Furthermore, a responsibility has been laid upon parents by the Lord to bring up their children, the next generation, in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). Jesus said, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea” (Matthew 18:6).
This passage directs us to another subject to which Christ-believers must be alert, particularly because it speaks to the training of our children. Government schools are being made instruments of what is called “grooming” children. We are not now speaking of all teachers, but the system under which many of them are being forced to work and teach. The system, as well as unions such as the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), are under no obligation, nor do they feel any, to bring up children in the ways of the Lord. Neither do caring parents want their children subjected to every wind of false doctrine and religious philosophy in our multireligious society.  That tells us that among us we should establish  schools in our congregations, or home school, and further educate our youth by utilizing Immanuel Lutheran High School where the foundation of teaching and instruction is the sure foundation of the Word of God.
One can hardly find a better reason for Christian education than to consider what the First Lady said to the AFT in a July 2022 convention: “You turn down the news on TV telling you about people who want to stop you from doing your job. And you put your shoulders back and you just go out and focus on your students. There is so much weight on all of you, but you carry it. Our schools are where policies become people.” ( AFT Video of speech).
Many parents object to schools assuming parental responsibilities by injecting immoral philosophies of society into education. They have been objecting to what is being taught in the public system, and perhaps what is not taught—history, grammar, math, science. They do not want their children “groomed” into accepting abortion or transgender transition as a normal way of life. They are voicing their opinion to school boards and politicians but are being told to be quiet. They are accused of being hateful, prejudiced, biased, or denying civil rights.
No Christian parent who respects the Word of God, and who takes seriously “put on the new man which was created according to God in true righteousness and holiness,” approves, much less promotes, that of which they are accused. Christian parents do care about their children who are under the influence of schools the First Lady said, “are where policies become people.” Policies that become people suggest children are being  trained to become mindless robots. Let that sink in! The Lord God desires and instructs that children be brought up in His Word that through the Spirit they are restored to a life of “true righteousness and holiness.” Government schools, with the influence of authority from the top, are promoting the idea that children should be  confirmed in the image that became the norm when sin  entered the world.
How better for those who are bent on establishing a godless anti-Christian, social, progressive way of life into society than by infiltrating minds of children with what offends God? How better to try to destroy Christianity? Those who would destroy Christianity are baying at the moon. Such efforts  have failed in the past, and will continue to fail, for the Lord God has said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church. Nevertheless, while they plot a “vain thing” (Psalm 2:1), and set themselves up for judgment, they will continue their efforts to drag as many souls as they can into hell. What better candidates are there to satisfy their nefarious intent than your children whom, as responsible parents, you teach to respect authority? Parents should be ready to respond, as necessary, when the child says, “But the teacher said.”
Thus we are told, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). Watchfulness means looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), Who “knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment” (2 Peter 3:9).
Only through immersion in the Word of Truth can we counter the influences of evil around us. Only through the Word can we grow in discernment of what is right and wrong. Only in that Word can we find the relief and comfort of forgiveness for our sins, and eternal life. Only through the Word are we restored to true righteousness and holiness which is of our Lord Jesus Christ, so that we can sing confidently with the hymnist:

“Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness My beauty are, my glorious dress.
 Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed, With joy shall I lift up my head.” (TLH-371:1)
 We pray, “Lord God, forgive us our sin, help us reflect Your image, and by Your Spirit bless us and keep us in Your Word until we stand among those of whom it is said on the grand and glorious day: ‘These are the ones who come out of great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb’” (Revelation 7:14).
Rev. Daniel Fleischer is a retired pastor, former CLC president, residing in Oakdale, MN.