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Sermon Illustrations on being a child of God

Background

A Child Entering the Kingdom

Being childlike does not save us, nor is it meritorious in itself. One can be childlike and be very far from the kingdom. Jesus is telling us that in order to enter the kingdom we need to have the trusting disposition of a child in order to experience the fullness of the kingdom. If we insist on maintaining our power and our control, we cannot enter the kingdom. The kingdom requires submission.

James Bryan Smith. The Good and Beautiful Life: Putting on the Character of Christ.

 

The Importance of the Royal Image

Being made in God’s image is also about God’s purposes in the world (God through us). In order to understand how image is connected with purpose, we need to understand a common practice in the ancient world. Since the end of the Second World War in 1945, North Korea has been ruled by the Kim family.

Kim Il Sung and then his son Kim Jong Il ruled for over sixty-six years, demanding total loyalty and even veneration. To this day pictures of these leaders are hung in just about every home, office building, and school. There are over five hundred statues of Kim Il Sung all around North Korea. Kim Il Sung’s grandson, Kim Jong Un, assumed power in 2011 and is now building three enormous statues on the highest mountain in North Korea as a tribute to himself, his father, and his grandfather.

These pictures and statues are constant reminders to the people of North Korea that the Kim’s are in charge and demand their loyalty. In the same way, to show where they ruled and reigned, kings in the ancient world set up giant statues of themselves. The kings placed these images in the center of their cities and at the borders of their lands to remind people who was in charge. As we said in chapter three, an image isn’t something we look at on a screen, a reflection in a mirror, or picture seen with the eyes.

Image refers to a statue or a figure that can be touched—something we can’t ignore. In the ancient world it was understood that a god would have a living image of himself in the world. But the living image only applied to one person: the king! Egyptian and Babylonian kings—and they alone—were called the image of god. Because the king was the god’s image in the world, the king was also the rightful ruler of the kingdom, and he set up images of himself to remind everyone that he alone was in charge. Great for the king. Bad for everyone else. All of Humanity Rules!

Taken from Does God Really Like Me?: Discovering the God Who Wants to Be With Us  by Cyd and Geoff Holsclaw Copyright (c) 2020 by Cyd and Geoff Holsclaw. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

The Nightly Blessing

The whole concept of the “image of God ” is the idea that all men [and woman] have something within them that God injected. .. . And this gives [man] a uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him dignity. And we must never forget this. . . there are no gradations in the image of God. Every man [and woman] from a treble white to a bass black is significant on God’s keyboard., precisely because every man is made in the image of God. One day we will learn that. We will know one day that God made us to live together as brothers [and sisters] and to respect the dignity and worth of every man [andwoman].

Ever since they were little, I have pronounced a specific blessing over each of our daughters as I have tucked them into bed at night. The blessing usually starts with a promise or declaration of their human dignity and value straight out of the Bible—“You are fearfully and wonderfully made…Nothing can separate you from the love of God…God will not harm you, but will give you a hope and a future…God so loved you that he gave his only Son for you.” The blessing concludes every time with the words, “God made you beautiful and special, and he loves you so much. And so does your daddy. Don’t you ever forget that. Amen.”

The reason I pronounce this nightly blessing over our daughters is that their hearts, like all human hearts, are prone to forget their fundamental identities as image bearers. I want the last thing they hear before they nod off to be a reaffirmation of what is true.

I want them to hear a counter-voice to the shame triggers of our culture and the negative verdicts from within that try to convince them that they are worth less than they actually are. In short, I want them to remember and rest in what God says is true about them. Neither the culture nor their own hearts get to name them, because their Maker already has.

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God. (1 John 3:19 ESV)

Scott Sauls, Jesus Outside the Lines: A Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides, Tyndale House Publishers, 2015.

Remaining a Little Child Of God

It is recognizing one’s nothingness, expecting everything from the good God, just as a little child expects everything from its father; it is not getting anxious about anything, not trying to make one’s fortune. . . . 

Being little is also not attributing to oneself the virtues that one practices, as if one believed oneself capable of achieving something, but recognizing that the good God puts this treasure into the hands of his little child for it to make use of it whenever it needs to; but it is always the good God’s treasure. Finally it is never being disheartened by one’s faults, because children often fall, but they are too little to do themselves much harm.

Taken From Simon Tugwell, The Beatitudes: Soundings in Christian Traditions, Templegate Publishers, 1980, 138. 

Stories

Describe Your Daughter

As I was talking with my friend Robin one day, she told me of a good deed she had done, but then she stopped and said, “Of course, I know I’m just a sinner” I then asked Robin, who has a young-adult daughter, to describe her daughter to me in twenty-five words or less. I watched as my friend’s eyes lit up and her lips tilted into a smile.

“She’s beautiful. She’s fierce and wise. She’s a lover of Jesus, a friend to all, and a defender of the poor. She is my inspiration.”

(Robin is very good with words.)

“Why didn’t you describe your daughter as a black-hearted buzzard?” 1 asked. “Isn’t she ‘Yes, of course she is, but that’s not how I think of her,” Robin answered. “Why not?” I queried. “Because I love her” came the reply. “And why do you love her?” I pressed. “Because she’s my daughter,” came the quick answer from my friend, now wearing a puzzled look.

“If this is how you feel about your daughter, how do you suppose your Father in heaven feels about you?” I asked, knowing the answer.

Taken from Mythical Me: Finding Freedom from Constant Comparison  by Richella J. Parham Copyright (c) 2019, pp.15-16 by Richella J. Parham. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

How Transformation Happens

In The Good and Beautiful God, James Bryan Smith describes a new Christian he happened to know who came to him one day feeling dejected. He was so excited to be a follower of Jesus, but he just couldn’t shake an addiction that had developed prior to his becoming a Christian. 

Carey, you see, struggled with pornography. He was in sales and so part of his job was traveling from city to city, staying in hotel rooms. The temptation was always there. When Carey became a Christian, he thought this temptation would go away but it didn’t. When they met, “Carey’s face suddenly looked sad. I really need your help,” he said. “I will if I can” Smith replied. “Well, I’m really conflicted in my walk with God right now, it seems the harder I try the worse things get. My family is fine, and my work is going well, but in my relationship with God, I’m at the end of my rope. ‘Usually a good place to be, I said, but he gave only a puzzled glance.”

After a bit more talking, Smith interrupted, “who are you?” He asked. “Well, I’m a Christian.” “What does that mean? I asked”

“Well it means that I believe in Jesus and am trying to follow his commands. I go to church, study the Bible and have devotional times when I can find an hour here or there. I try not to sin, you know; I try to be a good person, but I know that deep down I’m still just a sinner.” “I have no doubt that you’re trying, Carey,” I said. “And I also sense that you’ve been trying quite a while, with all of your effort, but it isn’t helping.” “Exactly” he said.”

“So let me see if I have this right. You’re a Christian, but you’re also a sinner. Is that right? Yes. So if you’re a sinner, then what behavior would be normative for you? I asked “Well, I guess sinning. But that doesn’t seem right. “And it certainly doesn’t feel right, either, I suspect. The reason, Carey, that it doesn’t seem right or feel right is because it isn’t right. Your approach is consistently failing , right?” Right, he concurred.

Maybe there’s another way…and that other way is what I want to talk with you all about this morning. The focus, ultimately, is about the stories we tell ourselves about our identity. Are we, first and foremost sinners, or, as our scripture text told us, “new creations, where the old has gone and the new has come?” In order to get there, we need to continue to put to death the language of “I’m just a rotten sinner” and replace it with “I am a new creation”.

I think a part of the issue here is that we are so aware of our sinfulness, and if we’re not, it’s probably because we are a sociopath, that it feels better to refer to ourselves as just a “lousy sinner,” or even a “forgiven sinner”.

This way, we feel as though we are being honest about our shortcomings. But the problem is that when we use that language all the time, inside our heads, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and so we find ourselves like Carey, stuck in our sins.

As Smith has accurately put it: “the teaching that we are fundamentally sinners leads to failure.” And this is hard for us because many of us come out of traditions where pastors spend their entire sermon yelling at the church to get their acts together, that they sinners and that God is angry at them. The preacher who yells at his church may have a lot of remorseful Christians feeling guilty at the end of the service, but they don’t have any tools to change, so ultimately they will go back to the same struggles they started with.

Now don’t get me wrong, sin is a problem…in fact, it is most of the problem when it comes to our lives. There are churches that will gloss right over sin as though it doesn’t exist, and that is a problem too.

But when we start with our sin nature, when we focus on it incessantly, then it can become very difficult to avoid doing it. It’s kind of like if I tell you not to think of an apple. What’s the first thing you are going to do: think of an apple because I just put it in your mind.

So, we need to shift our perceptions. We need to shift our stories, and our scripture text gives us a good idea of how to do that. After spending a couple of months meeting with James Bryan Smith, his narratives, his story began to change. Instead of seeing himself primarily as a sinner, he saw himself as a child of God. A couple years later James ran into Carey and it was clear his life had been transformed. He told James “The day I got it was when I was preparing for a trip out of town. I used to get nervous, and I would pray, “Lord, I don’t want to fail you again. But this time I had no anxiety.

“When I got to the hotel room, I walked to the television, closed the doors of the console and smiled. I whispered to myself, “I know who I am. I am a child of God. I house the fullness of God. I was never tempted to turn the TV on, I’m not prideful, I know that sin remains, as you taught me. But it doesn’t reign anymore. I used my free time to read and rest. I knew I could sin, and I knew God would still love me. But I didn’t want to sin. That when I knew it had finally taken root in me. I never knew it could be this easy.

Brothers and Sisters, you too house the fullness of God. You are not defined by your sins but by your existence In Christ. Our job is to change the stories in our heads to match that reality.

Stuart Strachan Jr., Source material from James Bryan Smith, The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows (The Apprentice Series), InterVarsity Press.

The Nightly Blessing

The whole concept of the “image of God ” is the idea that all men [and woman] have something within them that God injected. .. . And this gives [man] a uniqueness, it gives him worth, it gives him dignity. And we must never forget this. . . there are no gradations in the image of God. Every man [and woman] from a treble white to a bass black is significant on God’s keyboard., precisely because every man is made in the image of God. One day we will learn that. We will know one day that God made us to live together as brothers [and sisters] and to respect the dignity and worth of every man [andwoman].

Ever since they were little, I have pronounced a specific blessing over each of our daughters as I have tucked them into bed at night. The blessing usually starts with a promise or declaration of their human dignity and value straight out of the Bible—“You are fearfully and wonderfully made…Nothing can separate you from the love of God…God will not harm you, but will give you a hope and a future…God so loved you that he gave his only Son for you.” The blessing concludes every time with the words, “God made you beautiful and special, and he loves you so much. And so does your daddy. Don’t you ever forget that. Amen.”

The reason I pronounce this nightly blessing over our daughters is that their hearts, like all human hearts, are prone to forget their fundamental identities as image bearers. I want the last thing they hear before they nod off to be a reaffirmation of what is true.

I want them to hear a counter-voice to the shame triggers of our culture and the negative verdicts from within that try to convince them that they are worth less than they actually are. In short, I want them to remember and rest in what God says is true about them. Neither the culture nor their own hearts get to name them, because their Maker already has.

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God. (1 John 3:19 ESV)

Scott Sauls, Jesus Outside the Lines: A Forward for Those Who Are Tired of Taking Sides, Tyndale House Publishers, 2015.

Analogies

The Importance of the Royal Image

Being made in God’s image is also about God’s purposes in the world (God through us). In order to understand how image is connected with purpose, we need to understand a common practice in the ancient world. Since the end of the Second World War in 1945, North Korea has been ruled by the Kim family.

Kim Il Sung and then his son Kim Jong Il ruled for over sixty-six years, demanding total loyalty and even veneration. To this day pictures of these leaders are hung in just about every home, office building, and school. There are over five hundred statues of Kim Il Sung all around North Korea. Kim Il Sung’s grandson, Kim Jong Un, assumed power in 2011 and is now building three enormous statues on the highest mountain in North Korea as a tribute to himself, his father, and his grandfather.

These pictures and statues are constant reminders to the people of North Korea that the Kim’s are in charge and demand their loyalty. In the same way, to show where they ruled and reigned, kings in the ancient world set up giant statues of themselves. The kings placed these images in the center of their cities and at the borders of their lands to remind people who was in charge…an image isn’t something we look at on a screen, a reflection in a mirror, or picture seen with the eyes.

Image refers to a statue or a figure that can be touched—something we can’t ignore. In the ancient world it was understood that a god would have a living image of himself in the world. But the living image only applied to one person: the king! Egyptian and Babylonian kings—and they alone—were called the image of god. Because the king was the god’s image in the world, the king was also the rightful ruler of the kingdom, and he set up images of himself to remind everyone that he alone was in charge. Great for the king. Bad for everyone else. All of Humanity Rules!

Taken from Does God Really Like Me?: Discovering the God Who Wants to Be With Us  by Cyd and Geoff Holsclaw Copyright (c) 2020 by Cyd and Geoff Holsclaw. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

The Value Comes from the Image

The value of a US hundred-dollar bill is not based on where it has been or how it has been used. Its value is not determined by its shape, size, or color. A one-dollar bill in American currency has the same shape, size, and color as a hundred-dollar bill. If you want to know what the bill is worth, what matters is whose image is on it. George Washington’s image tells us that it is a one-dollar bill we are holding. If we have a bill with the image of Benjamin Franklin, then we know we are holding a hundred-dollar bill. How do you determine what you are worth? You need to know whose image you bear.

…How much is a crisp, clean hundred-dollar bill worth? A hundred dollars. How much is a dirty, crumpled, hidden hundred-dollar bill worth? A hundred dollars. Why? The image might be in need of restoration and cleansing, but it is still there.

Tom Hughes, Down to Earth: How Jesus’ Stories Can Change Your Everyday Life, NavPress, 2019, p.5, 10.

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Related Themes

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Children

Christians

Grace

Identity

Image of God

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