But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
– Genesis 3:4-5 (ESV)
It seems that man has always wondered what it would be like to be like God. The ancient Greeks and Romans fantasized about men like Hercules who inherited super-human strength or other powers. Today it is no different. Movies about people with supernatural powers (X-men, The Hulk, Bruce Almighty, etc.) are very popular and entertaining. These kinds of movies and graphic novels fulfill a role similar to those of the ancient myths. We like to imagine what it would be like to exceed our human limitations.
But man’s quest for godhood sometimes goes beyond fantasy and science fiction…
“Who is the LORD, that I should obey his voice and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and moreover, I will not let Israel go.”
– Pharoah, king of Egypt (Exodus 5:2) (ESV)
“…no god of any nation or kingdom has been able to deliver his people from my hand or from the hand of my fathers. How much less will your God deliver you out of my hand!”
– Sennacherib, king of Assyria (2 Chronicles 32:15) (ESV)
“Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?”
– Nebuchadnessar, king of Babylon (Daniel 4:30) (ESV)
“I am a god, I sit in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas”
– Ithbaal II, king of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:2) (ESV)
What is it about us that sometimes causes us to aspire to heights of stupidity? We do all sorts of bad things, but the most wicked of all is when we strive for godhood: becoming seekers of our own glory and masters of our own destiny…
“Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves…”
– the builders of the tower of Babel (Genesis 11:4) (ESV)
“With our tongue we will prevail, our lips are with us; who is master over us?”
– the proud (Psalm 12:4) (ESV)
‘And the people were shouting, “The voice of a god, and not of a man!” Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.’
– the crowd speaking of Herod (Acts 12:22-23) (ESV)
…and the list goes on…
- Mormons believe they will become gods in the celestial kingdom. Lorenzo Snow, former president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints said “As man now is, God was once. As God is now, man may become”.
- Nietzsche promoted the concept of the “Übermensch”, the next stage in the evolutionary ladder that would have our future selves look on us today as an embarrassment, the way we look down on our supposed ancestors, the apes.
- And one day the anti-Christ will seat himself in the temple in Jerusalem and proclaim himself God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).
These examples may be extreme, but they’re not isolated, for we all subtly fall into the same category to some degree. We may not imagine what it would be like to be a god, but we unconsciously act as if we are. We assume our lives are our own, to do with as we please. We put our own well-being and happiness first. We amass wealth in an attempt to become financially independent and secure. We strive to have others look up to us. We seek the power to become masters of our own fate. Everything we do revolves around ourselves. We are our own source, means, and end.
The serpent’s lie continues to this day.
And yet… God did create us to be like Himself.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness… So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
– Genesis 1:26-27 (ESV)
God created us in His image. But He didn’t make us immortal. He didn’t make us independent, self-existing creatures. He didn’t endow us with unlimited power, sovereignty, or knowledge. Only He has those qualities (1 Timothy 6:15-16). Only He is self-existing. We need Him to exist – He doesn’t need anyone or anything.
So where does the “image” come in to play? Here’s where I believe it is: We were created to be like God, not in nature, but in character. We were created to reflect who God is, not what He is.
Sin is thinking and acting as if we are sovereign, all-powerful, all-knowing gods. We claim the right to do with our lives what we wish. We refuse to acknowledge God’s ownership of our lives, to do with however He sees fit. We feel it is acceptable to say “no” to God.
And while we act as if we have the nature of God, we ignore His intention that we be like Him in character. Its hard to think of a worse combination! Thankfully we aren’t all-powerful, otherwise there would be no limit to the evil we would unleash (something about “…absolute power corrupts absolutely”).
No, God wants us to be like Him in terms of character, which means we are to be models of His holiness and righteousness:
…it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy“
– 1 Peter 1:16 (ESV)
…put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
– Ephesians 4:24 (ESV)
Love, mercy and goodness are also character qualities of God. When Jesus commands us to love and do good to our enemies, to be merciful and compassionate, and to freely forgive those who wrong us, He is telling us to be like Himself and His Father. Jesus died for us while were were still enemies, and He interceded for those who killed Him.
But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
– Matthew 5:44-48 (ESV)
Humility is also a quality that we are to have that reflects the character of God. The Son of God came in the form of a servant and humbled Himself to the point of death. This is the same mind that we are called to have (Philippians 2:1-8).
Only Yahweh is holy, righteous, good, merciful and loving. No false god comes close, for they all arise from man’s art and imagination, and so reflect man’s fallen character. Just think about the immorality and jealously of the old Greek gods, as well as today’s superheros.
This is something that should stop me in my tracks whenever I decide to obey my will rather than God’s. Is He Lord in name only? It’s easy to say He is Lord, but too often I try to supplant Him. For this I must seek forgiveness through the blood of the Lamb. I must decrease so that He may increase.