Man, who was created in the ‘image and likeness’ of God had to leave the Garden of Eden after his disobedience of God’s command and their body was covered with the garments of skin. This skin covered his real identity in God and he believed whatever image the devil placed in his mind. With this a life of make-believe started and man was governed by the rules laid down by the devil. The coming of the Son of God as our Savior changed all that and through knowing Him, man received a glimpse of his real self and started learning about the ways of God to live accordingly.
How could man change so much to be identified with the devil? – God sent His Son as a Man to be the Redeemer of His people from the clutches of slavery to sin and evil ways of the devil. This was done through the sacrifice of Lord Jesus on the cross and by His shed blood we also received freedom from sickness of the body and the soul. The temptation of Eve was to eat and become like God (Genesis 3:5). But with that the actual image and likeness of God that was actually there was lost, and the word of the devil did initiate a change after eating the fruit and gaining knowledge of good and evil.
Leonardo da Vinci painted the famous painting of the Last Supper that Lord Jesus had with the disciples and started the Holy Communion ritual. Da vinci first identified in his heart the image of each of the 12 disciples and then looked for a suitable person whom he found to meet the requirement. He found a person suitable to sit for Lord Jesus, in the choir in Milan church, and persons suitable as the 11 disciples. Despite his continuous search for days on end for a person to sit for Judas Iscariot, he found none that looked the way the painter had thought Judas would look like, a man with harshness in his face and eyes. The work on the painting stopped for a long time of 11 years and then suddenly on the street he met just the right man and asked him to sit for the painting. However, during the time that Da vinci was painting, suddenly this man started crying bitterly.Finally, after much persuasion, he told that at the start he was the man who had come to be painted as Lord Jesus. The life that the man had lived during these years had changed him so much that his soul and body altered his looks from that of the Savior into that of the deceiver. And that is what has happened to mankind in these four thousand years since creation to the time of birth of the Son of God and has been continuing in these two thousand years also. The original identity is nowhere visible and it is the distorted face of mankind that is seen.
God giving the Ten Commandments to Moses was His chart of what a man should follow as a pattern to be acceptable to God and to retain his original look (Exodus 20). Moses prayed to God to show him His Divine glory but God showed him His back while proclaiming, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty’ (Exodus 34:6-7). Since this is the revealed glory of God to mankind, this must also be the glory that was breathed into man at the time of creation. But man failed to live as per that and finally God put on humanity to show the real living style that a man must adopt and to realize what he was and is supposed to be.
Man was created to live a sin free life and have love and compassion for each other while following diligently the commands of God and not die, which is separation from God and also from each other. Adam and Eve hid themselves from the presence of God by covering themselves with tree leaves (Genesis 3:8). They had knowledge of good and bad before that but after eating the fruit they experienced that knowledge of evil which put fear in them of God and of each other. The woman was called ‘bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh’ and called Ishsha ‘because she was taken out of man (Ish)’ (Genesis 2:20-21). The two had become one earlier but with this they blamed each other and the serpent for their sin. Adam then changed her name also, renaming her as chavvah or life giver, as being different from him. The one who was ‘helpmeet’ to Adam then changed to one whose ‘desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you (Genesis 3:16). This brought about a sense of rivalry between the two and the relationship of dominance started. Thus while the inner being changed, that brought about change in the external appearance also in both man and woman and this was further aggravated by disease and physical weakness and reduced strength due to aging.
Moses was placed in the Nile river by his mother Jochebed to save his life from Pharaoh who had ordered the killing of all Jewish male children to check their increase in numbers. He was rescued and brought up by Pharaoh’s daughter as her own son. But Moses, when he grew up, by faith in God, ‘refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God (the Jews) than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin’ (Hebrews 11:24 -25). When we are not aware of our true identity, we live for other’s approval whereas God wants us to live in His true image and as per His will. Thus the closer we get to God, the more we get to know Him and with this the more we know and understand ourselves for we carry His image and likeness. In our fallen state we make the choice to live the life we want and refuse to be what God wants us to be.
Importance of the Messiah for understanding self – King David prayed to God, ‘I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made’ and each individual man or woman is separate from all others in body and soul (Psalm 139:14). God’s infinite power and wisdom is revealed in the body of man/woman and he/she is the greatest miracle in the world. We, as God’s image bearers, were created to Know God, love Him and rejoice in His love, serve Him and reflect Him before others (Genesis 1:27). We were born sinners (Romans 3:23) and thus we sin and we are loved by a gracious and merciful God, though we do not deserve that love (Romans 5:8). The same man after sin, turned into ‘a passing shadow’ with numbered days (Psalm 144:4).
To get back into that original state, the ‘mantra’ given by Lord Jesus is to know ‘the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You (God) have sent’ (John 17:3). Therefore, man can never have true self-knowledge without first looking into the ‘face of God’ and then look at himself. This is the only true starting point, for unless we know the Original how can we try and reflect His image. Looking at self we tend to see our strengths but looking upwards towards God we become aware of our shortcomings and our need of Him. The distorted image that we create of ourselves gets clear by trying to understand the nature of the One who became Man and suffered for us. Despite knowing the sin of Adam and Eve, God still came looking for them and His coming is always with a purpose, to transform us in our daily living. Lord Jesus ‘being the brightness of His (God’s) glory and the express image of His person’ (Hebrews 1:3) became flesh ‘and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten of the Father’ (John 1:14).
At God’s command light was revealed on the earth and its void and empty nature was changed into a productive source of creation. The same is true for us today as it was for the disciples who preached boldly to the Jewish leaders who then ‘perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men’ yet so eloquent (Acts 4:13). And ‘they (the Jewish leaders) realized that they (the disciples) had been with Jesus’. As believers we see Lord Jesus’ glory as in a mirror to compare ourselves with, and the indwelling Holy Spirit changes us into ‘the same image from glory to glory’ (2 Corinthians 3:18). But that is not enough as per Apostle Paul and we are to keep seeking this ‘to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man’ (Ephesians 3:16).
After sin by Adam the Holy Spirit no longer dwelt in man but all those who believe and receive Lord Jesus as Redeemer God ‘gave the right to become children of God’ (John 1:12). On the Day of Pentecost onwards, every believer is blessed with the indwelling Holy Spirit and we receive Him by faith as we received salvation by faith. The Holy Spirit is our Helper in all our spiritual battles, Teacher of all things – both spiritual and worldly and our Guide to remind us of all that Lord Jesus has taught (John 14:26). The Holy Spirit is of ‘power and of love and of a sound mind’ and we receive a new identity in Him (2 Timothy 1:7). With this special place in the spiritual and the worldly realm, every believer becomes part of ‘a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His (God’s) own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light’ (1 Peter 2:9). How does anyone fulfill any of these roles without developing a close personal relationship with ‘Him who has called you’ ?
To fully know oneself it is essential to know the One whose image we are. Lord Jesus, the Son of God, said, ‘the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does likewise’ (John 5:19). All believers, being ‘children of God’ must follow the same example but for that we must be able to see the Father in heaven. Satan tempted Lord Jesus about His identity by saying, ‘If You are the Son of God’ (Matthew 4:3 & 6). Both times Lord Jesus refused to answer him about this for He was absolutely clear about who He was and is, ‘the Light of the world’ bearing the true Light of God’s glory. Once we are sure of our true relationship with the LORD God, we need not bother about what others think for we have nothing to prove to such.
Before finally ascending into heaven Lord Jesus commanded the disciples to wait in ‘the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high’ (Luke 24:49). This promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost and now in each believer on baptism, giving us our true identity that Was given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The Holy Spirit in us is willing to help us to receive, know and enter into the holy presence of the LORD God and be filled with ‘power from on high’ to be able to be what we are supposed to be, if we are willing.
Hurdles in fulfilling our God assigned role – Satan, filled with pride, had decided to ‘ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High’ (Isaiah 14:14). He was the worship leader in heaven and tried to be his own god, disowning his creator and to set up his throne above everything and parallel to God.
The devil tempted Eve to ‘be like God’ by eating the only fruit in the whole Garden that they were not supposed to eat. They did fulfill what was told by the serpent but they became their own gods and thereafter man started creating god in his perceived image. With that the devil gained control of all of mankind and all else on the earth and man adopted his image and likeness, following his rules. Cain felt wronged by God for not liking his ‘fruit of the earth’ and set up his own rules by killing his brother Abel (Genesis 4:8). The people of Shinar plains started to build a ‘tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves’ (Genesis 11:4). In all this the effort is to honor self rather than give glory to God and in this, sinful pleasures have become god of the people.
Lord Jesus has commanded every follower to ‘deny himself, and take up his cross’ (Mathew 16:24). The cross was a one way move to death and denying self and death amounts to surrendering self will to the will of God. I can do this first by developing closeness and then following Him. Lord Jesus’ prayer in the Gethsemane Garden was His denial and death to self by surrendering His will (Luke 22:42). Unless we submit our will fully to god’s Divine will for our life, we are creating a hindrance in our life for God to fully work. In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve followed their own will and lost their identity and in Gethsemane the Son of God gave us our identity by surrendering of His will.
Lord Jesus neither blamed God nor the Jewish Chief Priests and elders for His suffering, but rather prayed for forgiveness for them. Apostle Peter had denied His Lord but despite the pain of desertion and the physical torture by the Jewish elders and their people, ‘The Lord turned and looked at Peter’ (Luke 22:61). This look of love from the Lord touched him to the heart and he wept bitterly and only then could he really know Himself fully. Apostle Paul preached in the Synagogue in Antioch about the plan of redemption of mankind and fulfillment of the prophecy of Psalm 16:10 ‘You (God) will not allow Your Holy One (Lord Jesus) to see corruption’ (Acts 13:35). The Son of God had first-hand knowledge of God the Father and was sure of fulfillment of this Word, though till then no one had ever entered heaven after death. Apostles Peter and John heard about the empty tomb from Mary Magdalene and ran there (John 20:6-8). They saw the linen cloth lying there and ‘the other disciple (Apostle John) went in also and he saw and believed’. Apostle John had experienced the love of His Lord and believed in His resurrection immediately. Judas Iscariot, on the other hand, felt the guilt of his wrong done to his Master and committed suicide, for he was not sure of his identity in the Lord. When we know the LORD God, we get to know our own self also in Him and there are no doubts thereafter, for our will is committed to His will and that is the way to live!!
In God’s book everything about a person and his life is recorded, much before he/she is born, but our thoughts do not match His thoughts. God’s plans are as per His character and ways only and these are holy and just but implemented with compassion and love. The only way for us to understand and know His plan for us is through His Word, The Scriptures. If we desire to live a contented life, we can do this only through a close and intimate relationship with God. In and with Him, then we also receive our true identity to be what He wants us to be!