Welcome to the week 2 of our summer study!
For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.
-Ephesians 2:10 (NLT)
This week we’re learning about what it means to be created in the Image of God, and how that changes the way we see ourselves, others, and the world around us.
When you were a child, did you ever hear that you looked just like another family member? For many kids, it’s a rite of passage to hear that they’re the “spitting image” of their dad, or their mom, or an older sibling. In the story of creation, we learn that we’re also made in the image of God. While it can be easy to physically see familial resemblances even if it’s just through old photos of lookalike family members, what kinds of similarities come with being made in what the Romans called the Imago Dei? How exactly do we look like God, and what does that mean to us in every day life?
Start this time of study with prayer, whether you’re studying alone or with a group. Ask God to step into this time and bring about wisdom and understanding. Later in the study you’ll have a time to offer specific prayer and praise, but turn first to God before turning to his Word.
Begin your time with the following questions.
• Do you resemble any family member either in look or in personality? How has that resemblance affected or shaped your relationship?
• Have you ever thought about other people being made in the image of God? How has that changed the way you’ve interacted with others?
• Psalm 139 describes us as “wonderfully made”. Do you feel like the world treats you as someone made in God’s image?
• What is part of God’s character you wish you had more of in your life?
Read Genesis 1:26-28 (NLT)
26Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” 27So God created human beings in his own image.In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
Read Romans 1:20-24 (NLT)
20For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God. 21Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles. 24So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired.
Read Colossians 1:13-20 (NLT)
13For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins. 15Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.Everything was created through him and for him. 17He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. 18Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body.He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead.So he is first in everything. 19For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, 20and through him God reconciled everything to himself.He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.
Read Colossians 3:1-14 (NIV)
1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. 5Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. 6Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. 7You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. 8But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. 9Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. 12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
• What are some of the roles, characteristics, or behavioral patterns we see in these Scriptures that are part of God’s intent for us as image bearers?
• How have our mistakes, failures, and sins distorted the reality of the image of God in which we’ve been created?
• Fortunately we can see God’s plan to restore us in Colossians 1:13-20. How did Jesus reflect the image of God? What did Jesus’ sacrifice accomplish for us?
Take some time to reflect on how this week’s scriptures has affect your life. Focus especially on practical steps you can take to live out what you’ve learned.
• We’re constantly curating a self-image, whether we’re aware of it or not. What are some things, good or bad, that you want people to believe about you? Where do those desires come from?
• The new self we can experience through Jesus is counter-cultural. How does reflecting God’s goodness towards others differ from protecting the self-image we build up on our own?
• The old self is shown to be selfish and self-absorbed. It’s as if sin has a way of sucking the life out of us and those we’re called to love. What’s one old-self practice that you need to surrender to God this week? What’s one new-self practice that you’d like to invite God to renew in you?
• What do you need to confess as you ask God to renew His image in your life?
• How do you need to look differently at the people around you? What kinds of burdens weigh them down, so that the image of God is distorted in them? How can compassion change the way we respond?
• Love is the key virtue of the new-self. It unifies and overcomes differences, and puts hostility to rest in the soil of forgiveness. Who is God inviting you to love and forgive? What are some practical ways you can love them?
• Jesus is the “image of the invisible God,” and yet he was totally dependent on his relationship to our heavenly Father for a clear sense of what he came to do, and he was led by the Holy Spirit in what he said and did. How can we be more intentional about our dependence on God, as we put on the new Christ-like self and are renewed in his image?
If you’re doing this study with others, take a moment to share prayer requests. If you’d like, you can write these down as a prayer and Praise report. Close your discussion with prayer.
Looking for next steps, and want to go a little deeper? Take a little more time and dive into these additional passages. Journal your thoughts and answers. If you’re working through a particular passage, try writing down the scripture and then paraphrasing it in your own words.
Life is intended to be so much more than survival. We were created to reflect God’s goodness and character to all of creation, including the people around us. Unfortunately, our sin keeps that from happening whenever we seek meaning and purpose apart from God. Fortunately, Jesus came to undo the power of sin and renew the image of God in us. He came to make all things new, including us. Knowing the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection, we get to invite our neighbors, friends, and communities into the liberating rule & reign of Jesus!
Read Luke 4:14-21 (NLT)
14Then Jesus returned to Galilee, filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region. 15He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 16When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written: 18“TheSpirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, 19and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.” 20He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21Then he began to speak to them.“The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”
• What keeps you from being free to reflect the image of God?
• Who around you might God be inviting to walk in the freedom that Jesus came to bring to everyone and everything in his creation?
• What opportunities do you have to offer compassion to those who are physically poor, oppressed, blind, or imprisoned? What about those who are spiritually burdened and weighed down by the reality of sin?
Read Ephesians 4:22-32 (NIV)
22You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. 25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold. 28Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need. 29Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
• True righteousness and holiness is a generous, creative, life-giving existence; it fills the earth with good things. As you put on the new-self, who is God inviting you to bless this week?
•Words are powerful—they can tear people down or build them up. What are some encouraging words that people around you might need to hear?
• Kindness, compassion, and forgiveness are the heart of the Gospel. We offer them to others, because God, in Christ, offered them to us. Who is God inviting you to forgive? To whom is he inviting you to show kindness or compassion?
•Reflecting on the “image of God” theme in Scripture, how should we respond to world around us when we see distorted versions of the created order? How can we, as people who are called to reflect God’s goodness and character, bring God’s Genesis 1 blessing to the world he created and fill the earth with good things? (See Romans 8:18-30 for further study.)