Humans are created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26). We are personal because He is personal. We are made for relationship (Gen. 2:18) because the three persons of the Godhead (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) have always been in relationship. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).
And yet there are obviously times when we look more like Him than other times. Christ has modeled for us godly living, and many of these attributes are communicable, that is, they’re things that we can do, too. Jesus’ sinlessness and His knowledge of men’s hearts are examples of things that He enjoyed as God that we cannot. But His love of others, His taking of loving initiative, kind boldness, and His resolve are attributes of His that can characterize us as well, to one degree or another.
But I want to touch briefly on three specific communicable attributes of God for your encouragement, namely, mercy, forgiveness and sacrifice.
God is merciful. All sin is against God (Ps. 51:4), so He is the one who is ultimately and infinitely offended when we mess up, intentionally or otherwise. He is the one who would be most justified in immediately exercising His wrath on the us the moment we first sin. Yet He doesn’t. If fact, God is so long-suffering regarding His fallen creatures that we take His mercy for granted. The fact that He didn’t stop my heart from beating this morning after my first sinful thought can actually cause me to become presumptuous, thinking that His mercy is something that I may presumptuously count on.
We are so accustomed to God’s mercy that we trample upon it expectantly. What we don’t typically do is follow God’s example and extend mercy to others.
In fact, we have a hard time even envisioning what this would look like! When God does is merciful, He (who is infinitely more offended than we will ever be) considers instead Christ’s payment for our sin and doesn’t require our payment for it. Yet when we are offended – particularly by Christians – we fail to remember that the offender’s sin has already been atoned for, and so God – who is more offended than we are, anyway – has forgiven the sin that offends us!
An awareness of the mercy we’ve been extended ought to cause us to more quickly extend mercy to others, and to be more like God in the process. Just try it today: Don’t give someone what he really deserves, and enjoy the blessing that will come to you as a result!
Hand in hand with God’s mercy is His forgiveness. Not only does He not give us what we deserve, but He actually forgives Christians. And He does so through the work of Jesus Christ, who has borne God’s wrath for sin on our behalf. When we forgive others, we more accurately bear the image of God.
This one doesn’t take a lot of explanation, just a lot of application. If you would like to be more like God immediately, try having a spirit of forgiveness.
In a sermon that Sean Higgins recently preached on John 8:21-30 entitled “The Nature of Sacrifice,” he suggested that one reason that the Jews would know who Jesus really was once He had been lifted up on the cross (8:28) was because they would see an embodiment of the very nature of God in Christ’s sacrifice. Jesus would look like God the Father in His behavior on the cross, and that would be when the Jews would better understand who He was.
As with mercy and forgiveness, we too can be characterized by sacrifice, and can more accurately reflect the image of God in the process. And even when the Father forsook the Son (Mt. 27:46), He could still delight in Christ’s work of sacrifice and for His powerful display of godliness in His sacrifice.
May God help us to apply what we know, striving with His help to look more like him in our mercy, forgiveness and sacrifice for others.