If it matters to you what brand your phone is, or what label is on the bottom of your shoes, keep reading because you have all the signs of being an ‘image conscious Christian!’ We are ALL victims - influenced by a constant stream of promotions and advertisements that tell us ‘you can’t do without it today’, yet knowing that it will be ‘out of date’ by tomorrow! Our world is dominated by updates, and upgrades - symptoms of a world driven by consumerism and dominated by mass media.
Wikipedia defines consumerism as ‘a social and economic order and ideology that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-greater amounts’.
Young Christians can easily get caught up in a ‘must have’ mentality, driven by a desire to be popular but, sadly, foreign to the teaching of God’s word. The Bible has much to say about our image, with clear guidance as to how ‘image conscious’ we should really be.
The Bible defines the meaning of image in Genesis chapter 1 verse 26, ‘And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’. Our image is our likeness. God created us with a likeness after Himself. That likeness was spiritual, giving us a God-consciousness with a moral and spiritual awareness distinct from animals. This image was distorted through the entrance of sin, but God, in his wondrous grace, has redeemed us through the precious blood of Christ, who was not made in the image of God, because He is the ‘express image’ of God. The purpose of God in saving us is highlighted in Romans chapter 8 verse 29, ‘to be conformed to the image of his Son’.
This begins the moment we are saved, and will only be complete only when we reach Heaven. In that day, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 verse 49, ‘As we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly’.
The word ‘conformed’ is the Greek word, symmorphos and means ‘to have the same form as another or to be similar to another’. The challenge for young believers is whether they allow their image to be conformed and molded by the world, or by the word of God. Buying the latest smartphone to make your life more efficient makes perfect sense, but if your motivation for what you buy is only because everyone else has one, you are conforming to the crowd and not to Christ. He made Himself of no reputation, and chose to live in a place that certainly was not high on the image stakes! The question was asked, ‘Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?’ John 1. 46.
If your image is based on current trends, you will never be content, for it must be continually updated in response to each new fad. In contrast, Paul tells us that, ‘godliness with contentment is great gain’, 1 Tim. 6. 6.
Your quest to achieve the image of reality TV stars, footballers, and WAGS, will lead to a carnal walk influenced by unbelievers. God expressly forbids us to be conformed to the image of the ungodly, ‘And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God’, Rom. 12. 2.
Today, many young people feel under pressure to alter their image on social networking sites. Perhaps the desire to have a following, to gain ‘friends’ and ‘likes’ can tempt you to create an online profile that is far from what you really are, and, more sinister, far from what you should be.
Daniel and his three Hebrew friends are an example of young people away from home who were pressurized to conform to the world of Babylon. Daniel’s three friends refused to bow down to the image of gold, despite being in the minority, and facing death. However, God was with them in the fiery furnace, and rewarded their courage to stand for God, and not to worship a pagan image.
Maybe the next time you are tempted to queue all night for the latest iPhone, or you feel under pressure to buy a Hollister hoody just to improve your image, remember that you are not your own, you are bought with a price! When Christ was on earth He did not fulfill the image the world expected of a king. Their rejection of Him proved that, when it comes to being ‘image conscious’, the world gets it badly wrong!