We must beware of making God in our own image. We need to guard against rebellion, convenience, and shallowness in our faith.
When Jesus returned to the Temple and began teaching, the leading priests and elders came up to him. They demanded, “By what authority are you doing all these things? Who gave you the right?” (Matthew 21:23)
We read in the Bible that God created man in His own image (Genesis 1:27). This means humans were created in the image of God in a moral, spiritual, and intellectual likeness. This doesn’t make us equal to God; in making us this way, God made us able to have fellowship with Him.
But what happens when we recognize there is a God, but we don’t authentically live under Him? We wind up making God in our own image, which leads to a perverted form of living outside of God’s kingdom.
It is possible to be religious and not even realize we are not under God. We see this in today’s passage, where the religious leaders of the day were challenging Jesus’ authority. These leaders had been guilty of making God in their own image, with all their added-on laws and hypocritical living. Therefore, they struggled with recognizing Jesus as God incarnate.
But they aren’t the only example of this happening in the Bible.
Making a Religion of our Own Choosing
King Jeroboam ruled over Israel during the period of the divided kingdom. He was afraid of losing his power if he allowed his people to visit Jerusalem and Judah to make sacrifices. To counter this, Jeroboam set up his own altars more convenient to his people at the cities of Dan and Bethel.
But Jeroboam didn’t make these alters to God. Instead, he made 2 golden calves, and told the people these represented the gods that led the people out of Egypt.
We are told simply that this became a great sin because the people did as instructed (1 Kings 12:30).
Jeroboam went even further. He erected buildings at the shrines. Then he established a priesthood that consisted of anyone, ignoring the Levitical priesthood (1 Kings 12:31).
Jeroboam rejected the commandments of God regarding the priesthood of Israel and established a priesthood of his own liking.
Finally, Jeroboam arranged for a festival to be held, where he himself made sacrifices to the idols he made.
Much of the world today practices the religion of Jeroboam.
Not necessarily his particular expression of golden calves and high places, but a religion we have molded to suit ourselves.
One of the ways the world practices making God in our own image is by making a religion of convenience. Like Jeroboam, many people tailor their brand of faith so that it is easier to live with. And just like Jeroboam, one compromise leads to more.
Christ tells us to expect sacrifice, not comfort.
Making a Shallow Faith Based on Ourselves
Sometimes we can find ourselves making God in our own image by keeping God on the surface, never allowing Him to go deep enough to truly transform us. The problem is, people around us can see through this shallow faith and want no part of it.
One way we develop a shallow faith is to absorb our faith through traditions handed down by our parents or the church. If we practice a faith that says belonging to the right family or Christian group helps establish our faith, we are making God in our own image by creating a faith that requires no further self-examination.
Another way we develop a shallow faith is by projecting things onto God that actually are reflections of our own selves. This becomes another means of short-circuiting any serious examination of our faith.
There have been times in my career when I have attempted to help someone work through the process of accomplishing a task. Because they are already feeling defensive about the task, they project a critical attitude onto me. When in fact I am trying to help them.
When we are making God in our own image, sometimes we can get caught projecting our own false beliefs about God on Him. Just as this hindered communication in my example, this type of projection ensures that we keep God at arm’s length.
Worse, we can find ourselves twisting scripture passages to reinforce our beliefs, rather than allow God to transform us (Romans 12:1-2).
Underlying a shallow faith is the fear that if we really knew God, He would change who we are, but God is only interested in making us our best selves, as followers of Him.
Preventing Making God in Our Own Image
When we try to talk God into letting us do what we want, we are making God in our own image. Whether it be out of rebellion, convenience, or shallowness, making our own way is the path towards making God in our own image. We are instead to be giving up our own way, taking up our cross and following Christ.
I fear walking away from God more than anything else. Whenever I am not being led by the Spirit, I am in danger of changing my faith over to something of my own design.
What I find I have to do is put my own feelings aside and stop trying to convince God that my ways are acceptable. Instead, I seek to walk in the way of the Lord, even if I don’t feel like it.
The best strategy for preventing this is to walk with Christ every single day, acknowledging Him and allowing Him to direct your path (Proverbs 3:5-6). When we allow Christ’s love to have free reign in our lives, we become empowered to live for him, rather than making God in our own image.
More Bible verses about making God in our own image:
Judges 10:14; Isaiah 44:10-20; Jeremiah 10:3-5; Acts 17:29; Romans 1:25; Colossians 2:8; 1 Timothy 6:20-21