There was a time I looked in the mirror and was disappointed in what I saw. It was 1990 and Pam and I were working for Doulos Ministries in Lawrence, Kansas, ministering to local junior high, high school, and college students. Our time was consumed in ministering, fundraising, and recruiting college graduates to join us in full-time ministry. The hours were long, but the commute wasn’t bad, because the office was in our basement! Oh, and did I mention we had three children under six years old at the time? Even though the work was meaningful, the stress of that season was overwhelming
One evening, we had a large group of people coming over for dinner. As we were getting ready for their arrival, Pam and I got into an argument. At the same time, the kids were having a meltdown. I was stressed and impatient, and I lost my cool with Pam and yelled at the kids. I retreated into our bedroom and looked in the mirror. As I looked at the reflection staring back at me, my mind was flooded with questions: Am I becoming the husband and father I swore I would never be? Am I making any progress at all as a follower of Jesus?
That mirror provided a moment of reckoning, a reminder of how dependent I am on Christ. In that dimly lit bathroom, a resounding truth penetrated my heart: my need for Christ is anchored to my need for transformation.
Romans 8:29 reminds us, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (NIV, emphasis added).
God’s purpose for humankind is that we reflect His image, that we be imago dei—the image of God. Anthony Hoekema, in his book Created in God’s Image, says that humanity is to mirror God: “When one looks at a human being, one ought to see in him or her a certain reflection of God.”
After sin entered the world (see Genesis 3), God set in motion a plan to restore us and enable us to once again reflect His image, the image of Jesus Christ (see Romans 8:29, 2 Cor 3:18). Though we are imperfect models of a perfect God, we inch closer to His image each day as we surrender to the instructive work of the Holy Spirit. As disciples of Christ, our identity becomes wrapped up in His likeness.
Jesus modeled this image-bearing principle in His ministry on Earth. He understood His own identity through the One who sent Him. Because Jesus was sent by His Father, He represented Him and mirrored His purposes in our world. Similarly, we find our ultimate identity and purpose through Christ, because He is the One who sends us. When Jesus sent out the twelve disciples, he reminded them, “It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters…” (Matthew 10:25, NIV). In these words Jesus is saying, it is enough for us to be like Him, our teacher, our Master.
Not only did God create each of us as mirrors to reflect His character, He orders the generational production of more and more mirrors to reflect His perfect goodness, justice, mercy, and holiness. The transformational power of Christ is displayed on human outposts, children of God who now radiate a better image and elevate a higher name, in the midst of a broken world. This is the ‘why’ of disciplemaking: radical and redemptive transformation.