We’re Created to Express God’s Character
We’re Created to Express God’s Character
John 17:20-26 Ephesians 2:4-10
Sermon Transcript by Rev. Ernest O’Neill
Would you take a Bible please, and turn to John 17:20-26. It’s one of those great prayers of Jesus, just conversations of him that take us into the infinite.
“I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me. Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known thee, but I have known thee; and these know that thou hast sent me. I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
They’re just amazing words. I was very clear, just by my own observation that there is nobody like you. There’s nobody like Martha. There’s nobody like Trish. There’s nobody like me. Even when you see those thousands of Chinese who “all look alike” to us dumb-dumbs as we all look alike to them. You see all the Indians. You see all the Thais. You know fine well, no two of them are alike. Even the identical twins are only alike outside. Inside they can be very different.
I got hold of that just by human observation. It was plain. Anybody could say that, if they believe in God or not. Just by observation you could say that. It’s remarkable. Nobody talks too much about it, but it really is a remarkable phenomenon — we all know that when it’s brought to our notice. We think this is crazy, ridiculous! It doesn’t make sense of a cookie-cutter world. We don’t really understand it, but we recognize that it’s true.
It almost seems to be true of the flowers. We just can’t prove that. But it does seem that there is remarkable individualisation throughout the universe, really – but certainly among us human beings. I got hold of that because that’s just common sense. I wondered why? In the light of a Creator, I had always wondered why? I mean, “Why? Why go to all that trouble? Why make everybody an individual?” You can think of all kinds of wonderful reasons like, “So they all might think they’re important.” But, that doesn’t make sense.
It was really a surprise – maybe it isn’t to you – but it was just a surprise when I thought … I went back a lot to what [Karl] Barth talks about. He brings up issues that you never think of yourself. One of the issues he brought up in one of his books — one of the later ones I read, but one of the earlier volumes — he brought up the point: “God at some stage had to decide he would make himself known.” Really what Barth meant was, he would make himself visible. We understand it better in that terminology. He’s right philosophically, “make himself known”. We would say, “make himself visible.” I never thought of that. I never thought, “There’s no question. Of course he’d make himself visible.” And then I thought, “No. He had no need to. God had no need to make himself known. He had no need to express himself.” That was, at some point – we can’t talk about God
making a decision – but at some point, he as it were, made a conscious decision that he would make himself known, he would express himself, he would make himself visible, he would communicate himself – to what?
So I think that is partly why I never thought of it. I thought, “Wait a minute! If God alone exists, who would he make himself known to? We are made in God’s image.” Very slowly it dawned on me — maybe I was just stupid – that he made Joanne different from every other person in this world because in her he expresses something of himself that is not expressed in anyone else.
Of course, I don’t know how you think about it, but at first I thought, “That’s ridiculous.” The more I thought about it, the more I read again pieces like this one [in the Bible], “Thou in me and I in them.” “Abide in me, abide in you.” “He that receives me, receives him that sent me.” It came home to me, “Of course that’s what this whole book is about.” I don’t know how you think, but it’s almost so inconceivable that we kind of don’t think about it any more. We think, “Well, I’m one of millions and millions he has made. And he’s made millions and millions of insects and flowers, millions and millions of human beings and I’m just one of them. That’s it and I must try to be like him as much as I can.”
But you think about it. Why would he make all of us individually different unless it is because he, himself, is so infinite and so many faceted that the only way he can make himself known, the only way he can fully express himself is through each one of us in a different way? All of us are necessary for his full expression of himself that all his glory can only be set forth and expressed fully if it is done through the many different sides that we all have.
God can express something of himself through you that he does not express through any one else. That’s how precisely we are made in his image. We are not all made the same. That is not what “in his image” means. It means that you are an expression of God, of Christ in you that no one else is. That is the purpose of your life and the purpose of my life – nothing less than that. And therefore, there is only one person that knows what he wants to do with each one of you and with me.
There is only one person that knows what your life is to be. You are the only one who can know that. You are the only one who can fulfil that. That is why you are here. That is why we do what we do. It’s not to save all the other people. It’s not even to express truth. It’s for you to allow God to be himself in you and to set himself forth in you and in your life both here and in the next life – to express himself as he really is. That is what you are called to do. That’s what I am called to do. That is what our whole lives are about.
You can see what a horror we are creating with our stupid little ideas of what we are. “We’re one of a vast army of God’s children who are out to make the world better.” Or, “We are here as little individual slaves to work hard and to do what God has given us to do”. It’s all so inadequate. We like it because it’s a lie that we can kind of control ourselves. So, there is something in us that would rather be a miserable poverty-stricken little animal that can do what it thinks it should do, rather than be what we have been made to be.
You think of all of our brothers and sisters. I always think of her because she’s so different than me, the little wizened Indian 93-year-old – imaginary, but she’s somewhere there in southern India, or in Delhi, or a little old wizened Japanese lady, or a little old Sudanese African lady starved in the desert. I think of her and I think that she is the same – and what a difference it would make
to her if she knew. I don’t know what it would be like to die of starvation, but I can imagine one could die happily if you knew the Maker of the world was living through you a life that no one else lived.
So, that came home to me. Of course, I was thinking of all of you and one of the wonders and beauty of that is that we are exactly what is described – what I think is one of the best summaries of the truth of reality that exists. It’s those verses, [Ephesians 2:4-10] “But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God – not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
It came home to me that God is living a life through you that he is not going to live through anybody else – and it’s a life that he already walked through himself and prepared the way for. The ways are prepared. The work is done. You have only to walk in them. And so, this coming week, there is not a thing that you will meet that God has not already overcome and solved. All we are called to do is to enjoy this life. The things that you will meet next week, the computer that has to be paid for – everything that we face, all the unknown things, all the things that we think aren’t fair, all the things that we’re going to face next week – all of those have already been sorted out by God.
He has already made you in his Son and has raised you up and made you sit with him in the heavenly places — the reason is so that in the coming ages he might show forth the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness towards you in Christ Jesus. That’s why we’re here! That’s why the problems are there next week. That’s why the unknown things that we’ll face the following month will be there – so that we may see, “Ah! He HAS kept his word. He is showing the exceeding riches of his grace and kindness towards me in Christ Jesus because here it is. The thing is over and done with, and it went ok – and so with the things that we haven’t come to yet because you’re not just a little human being doing your best here in this world.
You’re not just a soldier of Christ doing his work. You are part of Jesus himself. You are a part of him. You are part of his body. You are a finger that nobody else is. You’re not even a finger like everybody else. You’re a “one only”, a one-off. You’re not a stock item. You’re a custom production.
Everything in our lives is already prepared and solved. So really, we’re called just to “walk the walk”. Just walk it! You don’t’ even need to struggle or strive. We just need to walk it because it’s HIM living the life in you. You have the joy and the fun of it without the effort.
It certainly solved a lot of things for me. It shown me the foolishness of all the concern and the fret and the wrinkles and the agony and the wondering what will happen – and all the business of what mark we have made in the world or haven’t made in the world. It’s unimportant. We’re infinitely important because God himself has made each one of us to show part of himself that nobody else can show.
Let us pray. Dear Father, we’ve often looked at the flowers and thought they were beautiful. At
times, we’ve looked at the sunrise and the sunset and thought you have expressed your great beauty in these magnificent things, but we missed the dearest reality for us – that you made each one of us in your image so that you could express ALL of yourself and in us, a unique side of your own character and your own beauty that no one else expresses. Lord, thank you. Thank you for the great privilege. Thank you Lord for making us that important for you. Thank you, Father, for your kindness to us in allowing us to be part of your own dear Son, part of your very self. Lord, we thank you that in everything that we do, every word that we speak, every thought that we think you are looking to express yourself and to add to the beauty and order of this world in us and through us. We thank you, Lord. We would give ourselves anew to you now so that you can do what you want through our lives. Now the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and the love of God our Father be with each one of us now and ever more. Amen.