May 24, 2017 • Life for Leaders
I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.
In Isaiah 14, the Lord rebukes the king of Babylon for his pride and ambition. The king had said: “I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (14:14). This is the classic human sin… wanting to be great, just like God (see Genesis 3, for example). This is an attitude to be avoided.
But, there are other passages of Scripture that call us to be like God. Ephesians 5:1 reads, for example: “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children.” The Greek of this verse reads more literally, “Become imitators of God.”
So, are we to be like God? Yes! And no! Yes and no!
Scripture isn’t confused here. Rather, we’re to be like God in some ways, but not in others. We’re to imitate God’s love and forgiveness (Eph 4:32-5:2). But we’re not to aspire to his sovereignty or glory. If we seek to run our own lives, rather than submitting to God’s will, we’re taking his rightful place of authority. We’re trying to be like God in a way we should avoid. Or, if we live for our glory, rather than for God’s glory, we’re being like God in the wrong way. We rightfully imitate God only as we submit to his sovereignty and seek his glory above all.
Yet, God created us in his image so that we might be like him in many ways. We are like God when we work, being productive according to God’s command (see Gen 1:28). We are like God when we seek justice, again, following God’s call that we “act justly” (Mic 6:8). We are like God in holiness when we follow God’s instruction to us: “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy” (Lev 19:2). And we are like God when we love sacrificially. Notice how Ephesians 5 continues beyond verse 1: “[Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children] and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph 5:2).
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Do you seek to be like God in good ways? In bad ways?
Is your imitation of God a mixed reality?
Today, how might you be like God in ways that honor him?
Gracious God, you have made human beings in your image. In many ways, we are like you. Thanks for this amazing honor. And thanks too for calling us to imitate you in our work, in love and justice, even in creativity and generosity.
But you know how tempting it is for us to be like you in ways reserved for you alone. We try to run our own lives or even the lives of others. We seek glory and honor. We want to control all things, guaranteeing our safety and success. We can be like the king of Babylon, even if our boasting is not quite as audacious. So forgive us, Lord, for trying to be like you in ways we should not.
By your Spirit, teach us to be like you in grace, mercy, and love. May we think your thoughts after you and have our hearts moved by that which moves your heart. But let us leave sovereignty and glory to you, dear Lord. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online commentary: Genesis 3 and the Birth of Sin
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.