Monday, October 17, 2011

Sermon on Matthew 22:15-22, for Children's Sunday, "Minted In God's Image"

1. Intro: “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” Famous saying of Jesus, response to those who were trying to trap Him in His words about taxation. Paying taxes was never very popular. Often used to prove that Jesus supported the legal authority of governments to tax the citizens, and the citizens’ duty to pay their taxes (Minor point). Major point= render to God the things that are God’s.

2. Render means to pay, or to give back. What you owe, what is due. The reason Jesus gave for the government’s right to tax, was the inscription and likeness of Caesar, the emperor, on the coin. They had minted the coin. To ‘mint’ a coin is to stamp or press an image onto a piece of metal. The coin then has the “likeness” or picture of whatever person was used. Abraham Lincoln on a penny, George Washington on a quarter. On the back, it has the inscription of the United States of America. Image shows ownership.

3. On to the major point! Jesus “caught” His challengers not merely in their grumbling about taxes, but far more importantly, in the fact that they had failed to “render to God what is God’s.” His profound point was that we, as human beings, are MINTED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD. God has “stamped” His imprint, His image on us, so that we’re to be a reflection of God. And since we are MINTED IN THE IMAGE OF GOD, we should “render” or pay back ourselves to Him.

4. Far more important for Jesus’ hearers than their reluctance to pay taxes to Rome, was their reluctance to give themselves to God! And they had the image of God stamped on each one of them! Just like the realization that coins minted in the image of Caesar were ultimately due back to the Roman government, so also they should have realized that they—their very selves—their lives and their souls, were minted in the image of God, and were ultimately due back to Him.

5. Explore. How were we “minted” or created in the image of God? Gen. 1:26-27,
26 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.”
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

6. Man and woman’s highest glory and honor to be made in the image of God. Foundation of human dignity and equality—treat all human life as valuable, precious and equal in God’s sight. Was not a universally held value, but was spread throughout the world by Christian teaching. Our virtues of compassion and the dignity and worth of all human life are founded on this principle that we are made in God’s image. Basis for why it’s wrong to take innocent human life.

7. A rational, thinking soul, unlike the animals. God has given us the good gifts of reason, language, and wisdom to use and apply in ruling the world. Creative. Spiritual. All this was to be dedicated to God. Rendered to God by faithful use of His creation. Obedience, worship, prayer, attentiveness to God’s Word. A right relationship and fellowship with God. Love God with all our heart, mind, and soul. Original innocence. Didn’t last.

8. Losing the image of God in the Fall. No longer sinful, now guilty. Image corrupted and darkened. But still kept a “ruined glory.” Still capable of incredible learning, artistry, creativity, literature, compassion--but ruined in our sinfulness. When we forget that knowledge of the image of God in which we were made, we fail to realize that GOD MINTED US IN HIS IMAGE SO WE WOULD BECOME HIS AGENTS OF LOVE AND OBEDIENCE. We turn from serving God and acting as a reflection of His image in the world, to serving ourselves and our own self-interest. Sin against God and sin against each other. Misuse of mind and will in rebellion against God our Creator, the One who minted us with His image. When we don’t recognize the image of God in others, how do we treat them? (pause)

9. What can be the result when we forget that we were made in the image of God? (pause) The words of one dead rock star shows one sad result: “I belong to the Blank Generation. I have no beliefs. I belong to no community, tradition, or anything like that. I’m lost in this vast vast world. I belong nowhere. I have absolutely no identity.” (Mangalwadi, 74)....this is the voice of a despairing and empty soul—empty of any meaning, any identity, value, or dignity. When we try to erase the knowledge of God or forget His imprint on our soul, such despair and emptiness becomes possible, likely, and even inevitable. The opposite of the rich meaning and life with God that we are intended for, when He made us in His image.

10. We can deny it exists and live as though we were no different from the animals. We can dirty that image through sin. But even a coin deeply scratched and covered in dirt, still bears its image. But it needs to be cleaned off. God’s amazing “cleaning service:” free of charge—forgiveness. Jesus Christ was having this conversation just days before He was going to put that “cleaning plan” into effect. Days from cross, the awful penalty that He paid to wash away our sin, cleanse us from the “sin dirt” that covers us, and make us presentable to God. We can “render to God what is God’s” because we are simply giving back to God what He already made, and has cleansed and purified through Jesus’ forgiveness. We can render ourselves to God because He wants to take us back, even if we have been scratched and made dirty through sin. He lovingly cleanses and restores His image in us through Jesus Christ. He died on the cross so that His blood could wash away the most deeply ingrained sin. So that He could begin the work of restoring us to our original glory. That work will only be complete in heaven, but begins now with the transformation and new life that Jesus works in you.

11. This was the heart of Jesus’ conversation with those men that day. They were focused on taxation, but He used it as an opportunity to talk about something of far greater importance--that GOD HAD MINTED US IN HIS IMAGE SO WE WOULD BECOME HIS AGENTS OF LOVE AND OBEDIENCE. They had forgotten or ignored that fact. We forget or ignore or deny that fact. Yet Jesus wants to open our eyes to see that we are the bearers of God’s own image! What an incredible glory and honor! And He wants us to use our created gifts of reason, knowledge, work, and love in service of Him and of our neighbor.

12. God granted the greatest honor and dignity to us sinful human beings, when He descended to us, and became a human being! This one of the single most amazing facts of Christianity, that God became man. We worship Jesus as that God-man. That it is even possible for God to become man is because of the fact that God made us in His own image! He became “Emmanuel—God With Us.” So it was not beneath God’s dignity or honor to do this since He was entering the crowning work of His creation. Rather, God becoming man in Jesus elevates and raises our dignity as human beings. That God found us needy of saving, and entered into our lives and our humanity to do it. That He became one with us in our suffering and death, so that we might become one with Him in His innocence and in His life. Minted in His image, let us render or give ourselves completely to Him, in heart, soul, and mind. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Sermon Talking Points
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1. What was Jesus’ advice about paying taxes? Matthew 22:20-21; 17:24-27; Romans 13:6-7.

2. What was the bigger point that Jesus was making for His hearers? What was the analogy to the coin, for why they also were “due back” to God?

3. What does it mean that we are made in the “image of God?” Genesis 1:26-27; What qualities of God are reflected in humanity in a lesser degree? Creativity, reason, spirituality; name more.

4. How does this belief that we are made in God’s image provide the foundation for the belief in universal human dignity and equality, and the value of human life? Genesis 9:6; Acts 17:26-27

5. In the original perfection of creation, how did God plan for humans to live out that reality of being made in His image? What qualities would He have expected them to show?

6. What happened to that image of God in us, when Adam and Eve first sinned? Genesis 3. Describe how today, in the state of our “ruined glory” we can see both hints of the image of God in humanity and also see obvious evidence of the corruption of sin in humanity.

7. Sin obscures the image of God in us, and leaves scars behind, but what “cleansing” and restoration does God offer, and how? Ephesians 4:17-24; Colossians 3:9-10. 1 John 1:7; John 3:16

8. How does the fact that God became man in the person of Jesus Christ again give the greatest reaffirmation of human dignity and worth, and show God’s great love for us? Philippians 2:4-10; Colossians 1:19-20; 2:9-10; Romans 5:10

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