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By Thomas E. Durst

The scriptures use many metaphors, titles, and names for God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  All of them convey facets of the Ultimate Reality that most frequently we call God.  However, the apostle John gives three concise definitions for God that I would like for us to think about as well as their implications for our lives. 

John 4:24 (New International Version)
24God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

1 John 1:5 (The Message)
 5This, in essence, is the message we heard from Christ and are passing on to you: God is light, pure light; there's not a trace of darkness in him.

1 John 4:8 (English Standard Version)
8Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.

Along with the above definitions of God we need to remember this most basic truth about all of us:

Genesis 1:27 (New Living Translation)
27 So God created people in his own image;
       God patterned them after himself;
       male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27 (The Message)
27God created human beings;
    he created them godlike,
    Reflecting God's nature.
    He created them male and female.

The truth that we are created in the very image and likeness of God is so foundational to faith and yet to blatantly overlooked in most religious systems. We are essentially created in a state of oneness with God, not separation.  We are created to be godlike, reflecting His nature.  As a drop of the ocean contains all the elements of the ocean, the very essence of the ocean, and is one with it, so we contain all the attributes of God, the essence of His nature.  A drop of ocean water is not equal to the ocean nor can it do what the whole of the ocean can do.  Also a drop of ocean water by itself will soon dry up.  So, we will never be equal to God nor can we do all the mighty works of an Infinite God, but we still have the essence of God at the very center of our beings.  We must not forget this.

Matthew 5:48 (English Standard Version)
48You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

 Matthew 5:48 (The Message)

48"In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

Notice in the above translation the admonition to “live out your God-created identity.”  In other words, we are to live out, to reflect in our sphere, the attributes of the God-essence which has been given to us in creation.  That is the best any of us can ever do in this present life.

Now the three verses from the Apostle John give three very succinct “God is….” attributes of God and as created in His image and likeness we are these attributes at the very core of our being, despite any outward appearance to the contrary.  Notice the words of our Lord:

John 7:24 (New International Version)
24Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”

We need to stop looking at the outward appearances and begin to look inwardly at the real truth about others and about ourselves and that truth is that as God is spirit, we are spiritual beings, as God is light so we are beings of light, and as God is love so we are beings of love.  If we stick to this “right judgment” of who we really are and who others really are we are saved from the onerous burden of constantly judging others by their outward appearance.

Supposing the Protestant Reformers had announced the good news something like this:  Hey, we are all spiritual beings, having God’s light and love at the very center of our being and let us start acting like that. Let us all practice the fruits of the Spirit which we all share in common as spiritual beings.  Do you suppose that if this essential truth of human existence had been emphasized and lived out that the Reformers would have ended up persecuting and even putting to death those who disagreed with them? Supposing the Europeans who discovered the “new world” of the Americas had seen the natives as godlike beings instead of as “ignorant savages” who had to either convert to Christianity or be exterminated?  Could the Europeans have learned something from the native American spirituality?  There is much historical data indicating that in many cases peaceful coexistence and mutual cooperation for the good of everyone could have occurred between the new settlers and the natives.  Many of the natives wanted to relate peacefully with the strange white men who came from afar.

How could we ever have gotten so far off track as people who claim to take even half way seriously the teachings of Jesus Christ and to call ourselves Christians?  Did Jesus teach anywhere or even hint that having a correct doctrine about anything would be how people would know we were following Him?  Notice the simplicity of the whole thing as found in the gospels:

Matthew 7:12 (The Message)
12"Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God's Law and Prophets and this is what you get.

Luke 10:25-28 (New King James Version)
    25And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

    26He said to him, "What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?"

    27So he answered and said, ""You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and "your neighbor as yourself."'

    28And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live."

John 13:34, 35 (New King James Version)

34So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  35By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

John 15:17 (New American Standard Bible)
17"This I command you, that you love one another.

In the 17th century George Fox, founder of what came to be called the Society of Friends came up with a teaching that there is a little bit of God in all people.  He referred to this frequently as the “the inner light that we need to look for and discover as our primary concern.  He felt that people needed to look within to this “inner light” rather than depending upon human leaders. Obviously, this teaching was very threatening to those in power in both church and state so the early Quakers were bitterly persecuted from both quarters. 

In general Christianity does not give much recognition, if any at all, to what seems to me to be the most obvious facts of our human existence.  There are some metaphysical Christian groups who do but not mainstream churches.  I would like to summarize what I feel to be the very heart and core of our existence and submit that this must be the reference point of everything that we believe as well as that which determines how we live our daily lives.   

(1) God is spirit, love, and light;

(2) we are primarily spiritual beings, made in God’s image and likeness, with God’s light and love as the truth of who we really are;

(3) the entrance of sin (the ego principle) does not eliminate the image of God from us but rather blinds us to it;

(4) we need to discover for ourselves and help others to discover that precious “inner light”, this image of God, this spirituality,  that we all share, regardless of all the many labels that we human beings place upon one another. 

If we would begin to focus on teaching and living out in our everyday lives the most simple aspects of what it means to be fully human would we not indeed have peace on earth?

Perhaps I should say even more about this matter later but this will suffice for now.  Let me know what you think. 

[Written by Tom Durst on February 19, 2005.  All emphasis in the scripture quotes is supplied.  This is a continuing  series of articles sent to those who personally request them via email:   Your comments are especially invited.  Let me know if these articles are helpful in your walk with God.]  Journey 15