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  • Writer's pictureLES HENSON

The Genuine Article

By Les Henson

We live in an extremely narcissistic world were many people not only think they can create their own identity but believe they can keep on recreating it. So, every few years or even every six months, people are seeking to reinvent themselves by taking on a new persona. In doing so, they believe they are true to themselves and genuinely authentic. The problem is they often end up looking like hundreds, if not thousands of others on the journey towards individual authenticity and self-identity. The reality is that in the end they, like many others, will end up in a quagmire of disillusionment, because they have made an idol of themselves, a cheap imitation of something or more correctly someone, who is the genuine article --- The Living God.

The truth is that we were made for God and made in God's image. Consequently, we, as human beings, can never be truly content until we fulfil our true potential. Accordingly, we were made for God as the Westminster Shorter Catechism points out, "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever." Or to put it another way 'we are what we love' as James K. A. Smith makes so abundantly clear in his book of the same name. Jesus affirmed this when he outlined the greatest commandment, "The most important one . . . is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbour as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:28-31). The reality is that we either love God with all our being, or we love someone or something else for we are what we love. And to love someone or something else other than God is idolatry. Consequently, the human heart without God becomes 'an idol factory' as Calvin suggested.

Likewise, you can only truly love yourself and your neighbour if you first learn to love "God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30). The love of God is intimately related to both love of yourself and love of your neighbour. Equally, St. Augustine, the fifth-century bishop and theologian from North Africa captured this understanding of the human person in his Confessions. He identified the core of human identity when he wrote, "You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."

Secondly, we were made in the image and likeness of God as the first chapter of Genesis recalls, "Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So, God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them" (1:26-27). Consequently, we can know and love God and partake of the life of God. This truth is at the heart of who we are as human beings. We have a hunger for a relationship with God who is transcendent and a desire in some mysterious way to reflect the nature and likeness of God. However, as a result of the Fall, we have been alienated from God, ourselves, our fellow human beings and indeed, the whole of the created order because of sin. And God's image in which we were made has been defaced, distorted and disfigured, yet there is still a trace of that image within each human being.

However, God's image and likeness can only be fully restored within us by the grace of God in Jesus Christ and through the renewing activity of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is the fullest expression of what God intended us, as human beings, to be. He is the "image of God" in all its fulness (2 Cor4:4; Col. 1:15), and our human destiny in him is conformity to God's image. Thus, the more Christlike we become, the more fully human we shall be. Then and only then will we stop trying to create our own identity for our true identity is bound up with God in Christ.

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