This article is a guest post contributed by Ethan Maness. Ethan is currently working towards pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering. Currently he is part of a student group that meets weekly to discuss an expositional study of Romans and converse over theological doctrines, which inspired the following article. Enjoy this great piece!
Over the past week, I have had the opportunity to dive into the Doctrine of The Image of God, and as I continue to understand the doctrine, its relevance to global missions becomes more obvious. As the title of the doctrine implies, man was created in the image of God. A logical question to ask after this would be, “but why?” Throughout the Bible, scripture tells us that our purpose is to glorify God.
“…everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory…” Isaiah 43: 7
In saying this, there is often a part that people tend to forget when talking about our true purpose. As Zac reminded me just yesterday- at the time of typing this- we are to glorify God AND enjoy him forever. These purpose statements should allow us to realize two things:
- God expects humanity to glorify Him for all things and to enjoy His presence forever.
- Humanity does not fulfill God’s expectations and instead glorifies themselves.
I certainly do not think it would be much of a stretch for everyone to agree that humanity lost its true purpose quite some time ago. Of course, this all began with the first sin. Sin marred our Godly image and left us as a distorted reflection of God. There is, however, a solution. As the doctrine elaborates, it is possible for redeemed souls to progressively grow in their likeness to God. After all, a true Christian’s life is meant to be a gradual increase in their closeness to God, which shapes their future thoughts and actions to glorify God. This process of spiritual restoration cannot be seen more clearly than in Romans 5: 1-5. This passage shows us that through faith and perseverance we receive many things that were previously ours.
“…we have peace with God… access to faith… hope of glory… we rejoice in our sufferings…” Romans 5:1-5
Each of these attributes represents a step towards our former image, but it takes time and steadfastness to shape us into the image of God. As we become more akin to God’s image, we allow ourselves to become a representation of what Christ’s love is like. It is only in this way that we can hope to reach the lost and through the power of the Holy Spirit, bring them to Jesus. This process as a whole results in more glory to God and an overwhelming joyfulness to come into our lives. Now that we have established the importance of our transformation into God’s image, why should we care about others conforming to the image of God? While I hope this is an obvious answer, I would like to explore how God’s Image affects this topic.
The latter half of James 3:9 tells us that all of humanity, not just believers, are made in the image of God- albeit a warped one because of sin. This truth reaffirms the fact that everyone can accept Christ and eventually glorify and enjoy God forever. Unfortunately, people are not naturally inclined to trust in a lord over their life if they have never heard of Him. This is where we, as representatives of God, begin our mission. It is estimated that 7,000 people groups are unreached and of those 7,000 people groups, 42% of the global population resides inside these groups. While I am not an expert on the amount of glory a person can give to God, I can safely assume there are A LOT of people glorifying themselves- 3.189 billion people to get close. Reading this number is beyond humbling but, in the same sense, it is terrifying. How are we ever going to reach that many people? The answer seems odd at first, but we simply cannot. There are not enough days in our lives for us to reach that many people, but we can instead start with just one person.
I am rather fond of math because I have been graced with the ability to do it well, but there is one thing that almost everyone I have met has struggled with. Exponential numbers are the tool by which we can reach 3.189 billion people. As I have previously said, we can start with just one person. It is important, especially in these situations, that we depend entirely on the Holy Spirit for conversion and let ourselves only the initiation to the process. By the power of the Holy Spirit and much prayer, hopefully, another brother or sister has been added to the family of God. Now recall that we only started with one believer that was led to share because of his likeness to God’s image. At this point, the same process repeats itself, except this time it begins with two people. Here is where the power of exponential numbers come into play. The original one turned into two, the two turned into four, the four turned into 8, and so on. After 10 of these cycles, that one person is responsible for 1,000 people being reached. After 32 of these cycles, that one person is responsible for every unreached people group’s salvation. Finally, after 33 of these cycles, that one courageous person from the beginning is responsible for the whole planet’s salvation. As I said before, I am not an expert on the glory per person ratio, but if my math is correct, God is receiving all of the glory thanks to one person that decided to love like Christ.
Even with the help of exponential numbers, this is still not a remotely easy feat. We’re not a stranger to people refusing to live by the great commission, but this unfortunate fact should only push us harder to continue to grow more brilliant in God’s image. Missions can be seen as a daunting task that will never be completed or an opportunity that Jesus entrusted us to fulfill. Over the past year, I have developed a conviction that shows the importance of this mission. Without our pursuit of the lost, there will be no chance for them to ever know Jesus. That is why it is so important for us to give the lost a chance to know Him. Finally, I have a quote to leave you with. This quote encourages and reminds me that missions are not just for the lost, but it is also meant for us to grow even more into the likeness of God.
“Happy is the modern missionary who goes to another country and culture in the same spirit of receptivity, anxious to receive as well as to give, to learn as well as to teach, to be encouraged as well as to be encouraged.”
– Ethan Maness