Parenting With Grace

A wise friend once said to me, “If you give your kids only what they deserve, you will rob them of a healthy life. Don’t give them what they deserve; give them what they need. Just like Jesus does for us!

Parenting With Grace

Jesus doesn’t respond to us based on what we deserve to get. He responds based on what we need. He provides for our needs even though we are undeserving. He died for us while we were still in rebellion against him. He allows us to grow. He doesn’t force us to clean up our act before he comes into our lives. He meets our needs and gives us the grace and the space to grow.

When I thought about how difficult it was to see my young daughter Madeline develop some troubling characteristics, even belligerence and rebellion, I suddenly saw the parallel with our Father God and all of his children. Every one of us is rebellious. We pout. We shout “No!” in our spirits. We sneak around doing what we know we ought not to do. And yet he accepts us wherever we are. He refuses to abandon us or give us what we so richly deserve; he pours great rivers of (amazing) grace into our lives. As David marveled,

He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him. (Psalm 103:10-13)

Thinking about the grace of God will help you become a grace giver to your children. Their imperfections help you to see your own. Accepting them as they are helps you to taste the wonder of how God accepts you as you are.

Excerpted from “More Jesus, Less Religion” by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton

See Also: Raising Great Kids

Contentment

contentment.newlife 

We often find it difficult to be content with what we’ve been given don’t we? How often do you compare yourself with others, whether it’s your job, your spouse, your child’s performance, your looks, or even your talent, and find yourself falling short? Comparison produces discontentment. It results in blaming God for not providing what He presumably should, and life becomes an ongoing struggle of the discontented heart. And friends, this isn’t the sort of struggle that lessens with age.

The truth is, contentment doesn’t come from what you have. It comes from a heart change, a change of mind-set, and a willing choice. Only a transformation of mind, emotions, and will can bring about real and lasting contentment in your heart. And only a personal encounter with the living God can bring about this kind of transformation.

When God gets hold of a person, that person becomes a new creature. He or she finds refuge in the Lord of all wisdom and kindness, and recognizes God’s provision is sufficient. That person learns to trust that the Lord knows exactly what His children need and cares about their every desire. That person comes to own by faith the magnificent message of Psalm 139: the One who knows you best, loves you most. Is this the direction you’re moving, friend? I pray it is.

But these are lessons that aren’t always learned easily. What new creature comes forth without a few birth pangs? What profound lessons are mastered without frustrations and setbacks?

Consider the patriarch Jacob. His life was an exercise in deception, disappointment, and discontentment, until he wrestled with the Lord one fateful night on the bank of the Jabbok River. Daybreak found Jacob a new person; a father to the nations; a man on a mission from the Lord. Jacob’s life took on purpose that transcended discontentment. Hebrews 11:21 comments, ‘By faith Jacob, when he was dying . . . worshipped as he leaned on the top of his staff.‘ In a foreign land, weak with age, and well acquainted with heartache, Jacob died content in the Lord.

In his book The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Jeremiah Burroughs said, “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.” You’re content when at peace with, submitted to, and happy in God. So please don’t shy away from struggling with God over the discontentment in your life. Your struggle may not look the same as Jacob’s, but each of us must walk the same path: discontentment, struggle, an encounter with God, a new identity, and contentment. Whatever shape your night on the Jabbok may take, being mastered by God is far sweeter than being ruled by worry and disappointment.

Excerpted from “Being God’s Man by Finding Contentment” by Stephen Arterburn

Necessity of Boundaries: 5 Ways to Develop Boundaries

Necessity of Boundaries: 5 Ways to Develop Boundaries

boundaries.newlife

No one has perfect boundaries. At times we all take on what’s not ours, or don’t take on what is ours. God has provided help in repairing and developing our broken boundary-setting abilities. Just as we need to exercise and work with an atrophied leg after it comes out of its cast, setting appropriate boundaries is an ability we must learn. Here are some ways to develop boundaries:

1. Ask God to help you become a truth-teller, even of hard truths. Proverbs 10:18 tells us ‘He who conceals hatred has lying lips.’ Often, people with shaky boundaries may feel resentful about the supposed power of others over them, not realizing they have surrendered that power to them. When people with shaky boundaries begin to feel like they don’t have choices, they will also feel angry and resentful. Often the first step to reclaiming their ‘brand’ is to admit the anger to themselves, God, and others.

2. Find people who celebrate your separateness. ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another’ (Proverbs 27:17). Separateness helps relationships. It isn’t possible to learn to develop boundaries in isolation with unsupportive people. When we try, we repeat our original boundary injury. That is, we find ourselves in a controlling relationship with an unsupportive person and attempt to set a limit on the relationship. The person rejects it, and we find ourselves alone. Most of us would choose being in a bad relationship rather than no relationship. We need to find maturing, caring people who will respect our boundaries just as much as they love our attachment.

3. Practice disagreement. Truth telling always involves differing opinions. You can’t find out who you really are without first knowing who you aren’t. A sign that you’re beginning to set boundaries is that you will rock some boats. There’s most likely a problem if no one ever reacts negatively to you.

Jesus said, ‘Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets’ (Luke 6:26). It’s a disconcerting thought that for us to recover spiritually, some people will probably get upset with us! Yet these are usually people who have a difficult time relating to adults with boundaries of their own.

4. Take responsibility for your mistakes. People with boundary problems sometimes see themselves as out of control of their lives. They feel helpless to change their own problems and others’ treatment of them. This can lead to a blaming or rationalizing attitude. ‘If I can’t control my life, then my problems aren’t my fault,’ might go the thinking. Taking stewardship over your life means learning to admit when your problems are the result of your irresponsibility rather than finding excuses. People who ‘own’ their problems tend to mature much faster than those who excuse or transfer blame. The excuser has nothing to fix, and consequently, no opportunity to grow.

5. Learn to respect others’ separateness. One indication of a boundary deficit is an inability to live with the ‘no’ of another.

I once worked with a couple that experienced this problem. Every time the wife disagreed with the husband, he would head toward the door exclaiming. ‘That’s it! ‘the marriage isn’t going to work out.’ Panicked, she would chase after him and apologize for the ‘sin’ of having an opinion. When we learn to accept another’s boundaries, we are saying, in effect, ‘If you don’t give me what I want, God and I will find another way to get my need met.’ It keeps the other person out of a position of indispensability, which is actually a form of idolatry. If our need to be understood, listened to, or loved can’t or won’t be met by the person we’d like, we are to find someone else to help meet that need. That’s why there is a multiplicity of believers in the Body of Christ: when one friend is busy, we are to call on another. This allows us to support the boundary-setting freedom of others in the way we’d like to. If we want others to accept our freedom, we must respect theirs.

Excerpted from “Hiding From Love” by John Townsend

Honor

God expects us to honor age:  Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom. Job 32:7

And he specifically instructs us to honor our parents:

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12

Honor your father and your mother, as the LORD your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the LORD your God is giving you. Deuteronomy 5:16

So what are some practical ways that you can show honor to the adult figures in your life?

1. Write a letter. Tell your mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, or another elderly person in your life how they have blessed and impacted you.

A letter is sometimes better than a call as the person can look back on your words and be honored again and again.

2. Make a list. One family made a list for their father and mother’s 60th birthdays, including 60 reasons why they loved and appreciated them. Mom’s list included gratitude for making their lunches, taking care of them when they were sick, and for her amazing multitasking qualities. Dad’s list includes thankfulness for his service in the war, for passing on a love for music, and for his financial faithfulness. This is a great project to include kids and grandkids (sometimes the grandkids have some of the best ideas.)

3. Teach your kids about the importance of age. Who gets served first for dinner in your house? In Asian cultures, the elderly are served first. Find little ways to teach your kids about the importance of respecting age.

4. Visit a nursing home with your kids. Far too often, elderly people are considered a burden. Ask the staff at a nearby nursing home if there is anyone in particular who could use some love and encouragement. ‘Adopt’ this person by bringing them cards, treats, by singing for them, or by simply listening to him or her.

5. Address disrespect in your home. A disrespectful tone or disrespectful actions should never be tolerated in your home. Dads especially need to communicate to their kids that mom is always to be addressed with respect and that he too must be addressed respectfully. If you notice a general lack of respect in your home, call the family together and discuss it. An un-teachable child, one who thinks he knows more than his mom or dad, is headed for a world of pain and disappointment. Encourage your kids today to show respect to all of the adults in their lives. (Note, sometimes disrespect in little ones is excused as ‘shyness.’ Make it clear to you children that when you are with them, they are safe, and you expect them to always answer an adult who says hello or asks them a question. Explain to them that you understand their tendency to be shy, but shyness is never a valid excuse for being rude).

For more on this subject please see our New Life Devotionals and Bibles. Also, if you are struggling to honor someone in your life due to some real hurt, we’d love to help. Please join us at our next New Life Weekend.

Horton's Character

From the book Being God’s Man by Standing Firm Under Pressure by Steve Arterburn, Kenny Luck, and Todd Wendorff

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king,

‘O, Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up’ (Daniel 3:16-18).

No one likes to stand out if it means being ridiculed. So what do we do? We blend in; we go with the flow; we don’t rock the boat. Majority opinion prevails most of the time, and democracy has trained us to swallow the results of elections when more than 50 percent of the vote carries. Thankfully, no one posts our photo on the six o’ clock news and announces that we voted against the majority. We aren’t branded a dissenter, either and therefore the threat of a political assassination never enters our mind. But Daniel and his three friends faced such perils in Babylon.

That empire was not a democracy; it was a monarchy. Votes were not cast; rather, edicts and decrees flowed from the king’s mouth right into the law books. And why not? The king was considered divine and could rule as he wished. For loyal subjects, life could change on a dime. Noncompliance to the king’s edicts meant being branded a dissenter, which resulted in a one-way ticket to the brick furnaces. No questions asked, no two hundred dollars for passing ‘Go,’ and certainly no appeals. Once a law was written, it was a done deal. Break the law, feel the pain.

Times may change, but God’s men and women face trials of courage in every age. Nero blamed the Christians for the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, and the slaughter that followed would have been a media bonanza. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor in Hitler’s Nazi Germany, stood strongly for
Christianity (which didn’t blend well with a master-race theology), and he was hanged from the gallows. In China today, being a committed Christian means being branded a counter-revolutionary. Christians constantly risk persecution or imprisonment, or they might even disappear.

Most believers in the Western world may never face this kind of test of their Christian commitment. But that doesn’t diminish the temptation to blend in, to not ruffle feathers, to go with the flow–living as God’s men and women, but incognito.

We have opportunities in our culture to stand out and stand up for our faith, to go against the grain, and we have thousands of choices in our lifetime to bring praise and glory to our Savior and Redeemer.

The question is: Will we choose to stand out? Or will we just get on board with the crowd and play it safe.

Set these three goals before you and pray God will help
you with them:

  • Reject the demands of men if it means sinning against God
  • Remember that God allows trials in your life to reveal His power
  • Allow God to use your trials to reveal Himself to others.

You made him [man] a little lower than the heavenly
beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
Psalm 84:11

For more help on this subject, please see: Being God’s Man’by standing firm under pressure.

Your Identity

New Life Ministries

 

Saint Augustine is without
doubt one of the most, if not the most, important thinkers in the history of
Christianity.  Yet before Augustine
became a Christian in his early thirties, he was, by his own estimation, a restless
wanderer who had made a shambles of his life. 
Aware of his inner sense of emptiness, Augustine looked to the popular
philosophies of his day to answer his deepest questions about the world and
himself.  Aching with loneliness, he
looked to illicit sex to meet his need for intimacy.  And possessed of towering intellectual gifts, he pursued career
advancement to provide him with a sense of power and purpose.

 

To be sure, his brilliance and
eloquence had taken him all the way from the small town in North Africa where
he was born to the magnificent Italian city of Milan’in that day, the center of
political power for the Western Roman Empire’where his job was to use those
skills to promote the Empire’s prominent people and their plans.  In order to solidify his standing, and his
potential for continued upward mobility in that society, he secured an
engagement for marriage to a young girl from a local family of great
wealth.  The problem, however, was that
Augustine was currently in a fifteen-year-long, out-of-wedlock relationship
with his concubine, who, to make matters even worse, was the mother of his
teenage son.  But this woman had become
an obstacle to Augustine’s career, so he sent her broke and brokenhearted back
to her native North Africa.  And because
the young girl to whom he was engaged was not yet old enough to marry him,
Augustine got himself yet another lover in the meantime’someone who he thought
could provide a ‘quick fix’ by driving away his lust, loneliness, and pain.

 

This was the situation
Augustine found himself in at the age of thirty-two.  Yet at that time, while going about the duties of his ostensibly
important and successful life, Augustine happened upon someone who, in God’s
providence, would help change the course of his life.  Ironically, that person was a lowly beggar, happily asking
passers by for coins.  Augustine was
undone.  Not by the beggar’s poverty,
and not by his request for money, but by
his mere happiness
.  Augustine
wondered how this beggar could possibly be happy in his impoverished state.  But more importantly, the beggar’s happiness
powerfully brought home to Augustine the fact that, though he had much going
for him by the world’s standards, he was internally confused, lonely, wounded,
and miserable!  He had set out to find
his identity in sex, money, knowledge, and power, but those things had not
delivered; they had instead shown themselves to be impotent and empty.  Looking back on this encounter years later
as a spiritually mature Christian, Augustine prayed: ‘I aspired to honours, money,
[socially advantageous] marriage, and you [God] laughed at me.  In those ambitions I suffered the bitterest
difficulties; that was by your mercy.’

 

Thankfully, the older,
spiritually-wiser Augustine came to realize that his youthful quest to
understand his identity was not wrong, but rather wrong-headed, or better,
wrong-hearted.  You see, a person’s core
identity is not something he or she manufactures; nor is it something
determined by the world.  Instead, a
person’s core identity comes from having been created in the image of God by
God himself.  And though that identity
has been marred by sin, it can be restored by Jesus Christ, who saves sinners
and graciously reconciles them to the One who made them, defines them, and thus
holds the key to the real fulfillment and satisfaction.  By God’s grace, Augustine came to realize
that he had been on a fool’s errand, and that God had used the severe mercy of
a chronically broken, restless heart to give Augustine ears for the
gospel. 

 

Augustine once prayed, ‘Our
heart is restless, until it finds rest in you.’  This prayer described not only the truth of Augustine’s own life,
but a fundamental truth for all human beings. 
We are made by God for God.  And
that means that we will never be fulfilled until we are at peace with him. 

 

I encourage you to spend some
time reflecting on this brief but profound prayer.  How do Augustine’s words describe your past, or perhaps your
present situation?  How do these words
speak to the problems and decisions that you are currently facing, and the
course that you believe your future should take?

 

        

For more help see please join us at our next New Life Weekend.
Also, see our New Life Devotionals and Bibles.

A Fatal Case of Mistaken Identity

Steve Arterburn

Much like the unfortunate humpback whale calf in Australia who mistook a large boat for his mother, each of us feels the need–and it’s a very real need–to be saved; that is, to be nourished, protected, comforted, and led both powerfully and safely through a life filled with the potential for peril. And again, just like the whale calf, each of us stands in danger of following the wrong savior; that is, someone or something that seems to possess the ability to deliver us, but in fact cannot. Just think about it for a moment.

Our world is full of competing voices, all clamoring for our trust and allegiance. ‘Invest here, vote for me, trust in this, here’s a hope you can really believe in,’ they all say.

But amidst this din, one voice distinguishes itself from the rest. It’s the voice of Jesus Christ. Listen to what he says: ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one’ (John 10:27-30).

My friends, the longing you feel deep within your heart–some
of you feel this need quite palpably, though others surely try to quell it–for a savior is a longing that only Jesus Christ can fulfill. Other voices call for your allegiance, but they make promises and create hopes that they cannot and will not deliver. It is Christ’s voice, and his voice alone, that you must tune your ear to. It is his voice that you can trust; it is his voice that you must hearken to and heed. Jesus Christ will lead you through the rough-and-tumble wilderness of this world, and he will never leave or forsake you. He is altogether worthy of your faith, your hope, and your love.


For more help see our Healing is a Choice resources. Also please prayerfully consider attending our next New Life Weekend.

A Lesson in Thanks

Steve Arterburn

Giving thanks is good for our souls.

Still, we all have the question: How can I give thanks in all circumstances?

The answer is: Only by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Immediately after commanding the Thessalonians to give thanks in all circumstances Paul says, “Don’t put out the Spirit’s fire.” (1 Thessalonians 5:19) You need the fire of the Holy Spirit in your soul if you are ever going to be able to give thanks in all circumstances. Perhaps we can learn this valuable lesson from a great man who went before us.

Abraham Lincoln’s life was marked with pain and
difficulty.

When he was nine, his mother died.

Though he loved books, he received little formal education.

His sister died in childbirth.

At age twenty-four he was left badly in debt when a store he invested in failed.

When he was twenty-five the woman he loved caught fever and died–he suffered deep depression.

Three years later he proposed to another woman and she turned him down.

At thirty-four he lost the nomination for U.S. Congress–one of many elections that he would lose.

Only one of his four sons lived to adulthood–one died just short of age four, one at age 11, one at 18.

Lincoln faced great obstacles and suffered deep depression. He would be remembered as one of the greatest presidents for his courage in ending slavery. And we owe to him gratitude
for his great Proclamation of Thanksgiving. Lincoln was not a man who grieved without hope. He knew the absolute necessity of giving thanks in all times. Consider these words’share them with your family this Thanksgiving:

Proclamation of Thanksgiving

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED
STATES OF AMERICA.

A PROCLAMATION.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and  harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theater of military conflict; while that theater has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battlefield; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed,

Done at the city of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth

Abraham Lincoln

For more insight on this topic see New Life Perspective: A Thankful Heart.

A New Year of Truth

Excerpted from the book Healing is a Choice by Steve Arterburn

You’ve heard the phrase ‘out with the old and in with the new.’ This year I hope you will pitch some old lies that have been keeping you from healing and growing as God intends all of his son’s and daughters to do. I pray you will replace these lies with the choices necessary to live in God’s transforming truth. It won’t be easy. But it will be so much better than living a lie.

LIE: “All I need to heal is God and me.”

CHOICE 1. The choice to connect your life.
TRUTH: So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. Romans 12:5

LIE: “Real Christians should have a real peace in all circumstances.”

CHOICE 2. The choice to feel your life.

TRUTH: Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that He may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6,7

LIE: “It does no good to look back or look inside.”

CHOICE 3. The choice to investigate your life in search of truth.

TRUTH: Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the Lord. Lamentations 3:40

LIE: “Time heals all wounds.”

CHOICE 4. The choice to heal your future.

TRUTH: For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

LIE: “I can figure this out for myself.”

CHOICE 5. The choice to help your life.

TRUTH: The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:4,5

LIE: “If I act like there is no problem it will finally go away.”

CHOICE 6. The choice to embrace your life.

TRUTH: Arise from the depression and prostration in which circumstances have kept you – rise to a new life! Shine, be radiant with the glory of the Lord, for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you! Isaiah 60:1

LIE: “Forgiveness is only for those who deserve it or earn it.”

CHOICE 7. The choice to experience forgiveness throughout your life.

TRUTH: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

LIE: “I must protect myself from any more pain.”
CHOICE 8. The choice to risk your life.
TRUTH: Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9

LIE: “Until I am completely healed and strong there is no place for me to serve God.”
CHOICE 9. The choice to serve others in your life.
TRUTH: Each of us should please his neighbor for his good to build him up. Romans 15:2

LIE: “There is no hope for me.”

CHOICE 10. The choice to persevere throughout your life.
TRUTH: And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ , after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 1 Peter 5:10

Are you ready to start anew? To make these life-transforming choices based on God’s truth? We’d love to help.
Call 1-800-NEW-LIFE to find a counselor or coach in your area. And please prayerfully consider joining us at our next New Life Weekend.

Animals or Image Bearers?

And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.’ And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth’ (Genesis 1:24-28).

Most Bible scholars and theologians do not equate the image of God with any one human attribute.To be sure, the image of God is evident in that humans are intelligent, rational beings, capable of complex thought and self-awareness, and of amazing ingenuity.We are also highly emotional creatures, at our best capable of great love, compassion, altruism, sympathy, and even empathy.Moreover, we are moral agents; again, at our best we know that right and wrong are realities, and that beauty is more desirable than ugliness.We are also the world’s only ‘language animals,’ able to communicate with each other with stunning precision and depth, but more importantly, able to understand and respond to God’s address (thus humans are ‘response-able’ creatures).All these attributes should be taken into consideration when pondering what it means that humans bear the image of God.

As this text from Genesis makes clear, however, the chief byproducts of being made in God’s image are dignity and dominion. That is to say, as God’s representatives, or vice-regents on earth, we are to exhibit responsible stewardship over his creation, cultivating and consuming the garden that is the world—including the animals within it—with a dignity that befits our exalted creaturely status, that reflects our Creator’s character, and that enhances his glory.

But as the biblical account of our origin fades from the collective memory, or at least from the collective worldview of Western civilization—having been replaced either explicitly or implicitly in the minds of many by Darwinian evolutionary theory—that civilization becomes increasingly
less civilized. That is because evolutionary theory denies both the human status of being responsible subjects under God, as well as the human status of being dignified stewards over animals.For the Bible acknowledges a ‘solidarity of the sixth day’ between humans and animals, whereas  evolutionary theory effectively removes any such distinction, equating rather than relating humans and animals.Is it any wonder, then, that the history of the twentieth-century Western world betrays the two-fold phenomenon of exalting animals and degrading humans?Can you not see such a process at work by considering radical animal-rights activists such as PETA, oppressive political systems such as those under Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, and popular agendas in American culture such as the sexual revolution, abortion on demand, and euthanasia?

My friends, the biblical worldview elevates humanity by affirming human responsibility, human dignity, and most of all, human life itself!Sadly, if you’ll look seriously and honestly at the recent history and present predicament of the Western world, I think you’ll find that alternatives to the biblical worldview have served to dehumanize humanity, and render civilization less civilized.

For more help on this subject see: Being Christian