The Image of God and the Difference It Makes
The truth is, we were created to worship. We were born to worship. We are all religious beings because we all seek to worship. Writes Tripp: “In this way every human being is religious, because we all are made in God’s image and wired with Godward capacities, and we will either give ourselves in worship to God or we will worship something that God has made. Every human being is searching for God, though most don’t know it.”
One of the core doctrines of biblical faith is that of our creation in the image and likeness of God. This is such a vital core belief and one that distinguishes our faith from most other religions. It has ramifications for why we are here, how we live, how we treat others, and how we relate to our Creator.
Paul Tripp’s very helpful recent book Do You Believe? (Crossway, 2021) examines 12 key biblical doctrines. I have already written articles looking at some of them, and this is now my fourth in this informal series. As with the other doctrines, Tripp offers two chapters on each: one doctrinal and one application.
Early on in the first of his two chapters on this key biblical doctrine, he says this:
“Like God” is an amazing thing to declare. “Made in his image” is a profound announcement. But these are the things God immediately declares upon creating Adam and Eve. In those words he is defining their identity and the utter uniqueness of their relationship to him. Adam and Eve are not just part of the catalog of creatures that God made. They are above, they are special, and they are christened with a dignity that separates them from everything else. We must not ever forget this foundational definition of who human beings are. With these words God names the intrinsic worth of people. This worth is never earned and cannot be taken away. To be human is to have dignity and worth because you carry the image of God himself. 230-231
He reminds us that none of this has to do with our choices, accomplishments, successes, or actions. We have overwhelming value simply because of the fact that we are made in God’s image. He spends time looking at the usual list of things this entails, such as being relational creatures and moral creatures.
But we are also worshipping creatures, and what he says about this is worth spending a bit of time on. The truth is, we were created to worship. We were born to worship. We are all religious beings because we all seek to worship. Writes Tripp:
In this way every human being is religious, because we all are made in God’s image and wired with Godward capacities, and we will either give ourselves in worship to God or we will worship something that God has made. Every human being is searching for God, though most don’t know it. Much of human disappointment, despondency, anger and hopelessness exist because we ask something to do for us what only God can do. Because we are spiritual beings, we name things as ‘god’ that are not God. Because we are worshippers, we will always hook our hopes and dreams to something. Wired with imaginations, we envision what life will be like, calculating if this “god” will come through for us….
Detached from God, our spirituality drives us into various forms of functional insanity. Careening from god to god and from disappointment to disappointment, we attach ourselves to yet another created thing and hope once again it will do for us what it can never do. We put godlike expectations on one another, and we break under the burden. We keep hoping creation will do what it simply has no capacity to do for us, and that it will offer what God alone can. 237-238
All of the abilities we have as humans – the ability to think, feel, communicate, etc – are orientated toward the worship of God. But sin destroys and distorts all this. Tripp continues:
Divorced from God, these capacities can go dark and become dangerous. Sadly, in our sin, we often use these abilities to manipulate, seduce, and oppress others. 238