I love discipleship and have taught disciples and disciple-makers internationally. Recently, one African pastor asked me this question on behalf of his youthful disciples: “What are the character traits that can keep our fellowship with God perfect (healthy), without which we cannot be in union with him?” That he asked about what can keep our relationship with God healthy reflects an excellent heart for Him! The key here is that we are responsible for partnering with, or separating ourselves from, God. Our direction depends on whether we reflect God’s characteristics as His imagers. I want to share with you my complete response to the pastor:
“To answer the question, we must first look at the traits that keep us perfect with God. Then, we can discuss what it looks like to be out of fellowship with Him. In the original language, perfection means ‘completion.’ So, a complement to God—whatever completes the relationship with Him and the Son—is what He desires. He loves, we love (e.g., 1 John 4:7-21). He is merciful and just (Micah 6:6-8); we are merciful and just. He is holy (set apart – e.g., 1 Peter 1:13-16), so we are set apart for purity and good works (e.g., Ephesians 2:10). Whatever He is, we are to be. To deviate is to be out of union with Him and, therefore, imperfect, useless, and unfruitful in His Kingdom.”
Although I plan to write more about God’s image another day, I should introduce the concept here. There’s a lot of confusion about our being made in it. Some of us think that the image is what we look like on the outside (hair, skin, and stuff). Not a chance. Others would say that the image is a template of God’s thought, spirit, and so forth. Not quite. Simply put, God created us to represent Him as partners on earth: He shared His attributes with us (gave us His image) so we can mimic Him. We are to reflect His characteristics as we do the job He assigned us from the beginning: manage His earthly stuff well (including ourselves!).
How does our job as imagers of God fit into the topic of perfect characteristics? When we are just, merciful, pure, and loving (actionably, not through emotions alone!), our relationship with God can be complete as we reflect perfect characteristics as His partners. When we mimic Him and His nature, His attributes, we reflect His image perfectly.
In summary, what can keep our fellowship with God healthy and our characteristics perfect as imagers of God almighty? Devote, stay, be charitable to others, and become spiritually mature. Anything else is vanity. What’s next? Well, we tend to put God into a box, something of a ‘religious constraints gone wild’ prison. What do you say we let Him out as we enjoy a three-part series about The God Box.
Blessings and peace,
Dr. Ron Braley