Restoring God’s Image and Likeness in Man

ELIJAH’S IMPACT ON JEWS AND ON CHRISTIANS

The prophet Elijah had an enormous impact on Hebrew thinking in his time and in the future. In fact, his entire period was dominated by “The spirit of Elijah,” rather than by the “Spirit of the Lord.” The Spirit of the Lord was merely the vehicle that moved Elijah out of reach for Ahab and Jezebel (I Kings 18:12; II Kings 2:16). The deplorable conditions and the needs energized the human spirit to confront Baalism very successfully. Elijah’s boldness led Elisha to ask for a double portion of his master’s spirit and so did others. Elisha’s students, bonded together into groups of fifties, gave the Baal prophets some of their own medicine. They repaid violence with violence. They had the new pretenders for the throne on their side, as well as Jehu; the replacement for Ahab’s family, was their main executioner.  

The renewal and bolstering of the human spirit has been one of the basic reasons why God kept sending messengers and His messages to man. God has had more confidence in man than man has had in himself. The Creation account tells man that God made man smart enough, skillful enough, and even strong enough to manage, subdue the earth, and everything in it (Genesis 1:26-31). When and how did man, who was made in the “Image of God,” become a “nincompoop?” It is easy to blame it on the fall! Only, it is the wrong answer! Because the fall awakened man’s consciousness to the presence of good and evil. Man became aware of the ability within him to make choices between right and wrong. After the fall and in spite of the unfriendly environment, man was put into the world, with the ability to choose between right and wrong, to manage the world, and to be productive. Man had the ability, and man still does has the ability, to face the curses, the thistles, the thorns, and whatever else the snake, which fooled Eve, sows into a person’s path. It is precisely at this point where the human spirit can be energized from within and not from without. And where the humans spirit can rise to the occasion to succeed in the world. I fully can identify with this concept because I was completely deleted in the spirit and in the mind. I experienced the resilience of the spirit’s gradual energizing, and the renewal, until I could function again and respond on my own. I was in a fire, which robbed me of all my physical resources to feed and to sustain my spirit as well as my mind. I especially was blessed by being placed in the hands of caretakers who fed me with the nourishment, which again put hope and purpose into my spirit. They helped me choose a path for my life, which kept my spirit active. I have lived now for eighty-six years. Not all of the information that I have let into my spirit and into my mind has been beneficial or educational. The spirit and the mind function as a filter. I can easily let it clutter my spirit and my mind and fill it up with worthless debris. I have to open the windows and the doors and let some fresh air in. The Apostle Paul called it “the renewal of the mind,” and Jesus referred to it, “the wind blows where it wills” (Romans 12:2; John 3:8).

I have arrived at a point that has stunned me all my life. And so have the endless answers man has come up with what it means to be born again? In other words, how could the spirit of Elijah end up in Elisha or the Spirit of God end up in me? For a long time, I was simply too busy to analyze myself. I accepted by faith that the Holy Spirit moved in and I moved out, just as the spirit of Elijah moved in and Elisha moved out. Now, that I had some time to glance over my eighty-six years of living with the same spirit, I am convinced that I still have the same spirit that my parents passed on to me at conception, and that I am going to take the same spirit with me when I leave this world. The spirit is the “Breath of God” and the life within me. The spirit is as eternal as God is Himself! The spirit simply does not change, but the spirit is the energy that can be renewed. The spirit also can be revived when it is depleted or when it is hurt. That is precisely what has happened to me, over and over again, during my eighty-six years here on earth. The spirit has been the same, but the amount my spirit and my mind had to filter, to accept, or to reject has been enormous. And what has happened to my spirit when I accepted the acceptable information?

Let us turn to the key that unlocks the mystery of the new birth, which is found in Romans 12:2. The only language which unlocks this mystery is found in the Greek text. The Greek word is “metamorphousthe,” and it is not the turning of a larva into a beautiful butterfly. The English translations, “be transformed” has left me hanging in the air. And hoping that someone would come and turn me into a prince in the Kingdom of Christ. The more I researched the topic, the more confused I became because most of the leading experts had God do all the work of transforming me, while my inner self remained unchanged. I definitely did not have a spirit like Jesus had or even like Elijah had. When I sought council, I was told that I lacked faith. I survived World War II and lost everything, including a brother and a sister, and a very close friend and even the country of my birth. I almost drowned and an enemy saved me. I almost died in a fire among total strangers. And cancer almost killed me and I had no faith? What was I doing wrong? Well, here it is! I was not doing anything wrong, but I was doing everything that was right. I was turning my life around and I was filling my mind and my spirit with the teachings of Jesus. The teachings of Jesus helped me face the world in my physically disabled condition. Do I have a basis for my argument? The best argument anyone can find is from Martin Luther who told his readers, “Veraendert Euch.” It means, “you make changes’ in your thinking, in your mind, and in your spirit! And not God! Once I realized that I was fixing myself up with some visible improvements, someone may have noticed the Will of God at work in a simple human life. May this not be what Romans 12:2 is all about? Jesus was not telling Nicodemus to become a baby, but Jesus was telling Nicodemus to get out of the rut he got himself into. He was a good man, but he was following the wrong law. He was one of the people who held on to the “traditions of the fathers,” instead to God’s Law (John 3:1-15; Matthew 15:1-19). The plain truth with me was that it was difficult to have clean hands without a clean heart.

Elijah grew with time on the minds of those who hoped for a return of a Davidic dynasty. It was believed that the Lord took Elijah away to heaven in a whirlwind and in a chariot of fire, and that he would come back before a son of David would restore Israel’s glory days (II Kings 2: 1-12; Matthew 11:14). Jesus saw Elijah in John the Baptist as the last and as the most important prophets of God. Jesus asked his audience about the Baptist, “Why did you go out to see? Was it to see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way before thee.’ Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and men of violence take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John; and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come” (Matthew 11:9-15).

The Elijah (the Baptist) of Jesus was distinctly different from the Elijah of Ahab in their use of their spirit. John, in spite of his vulgar language, was passing on a non-violent Spirit. Jesus did not encourage violence, but his followers did in Peter and in Paul. The death of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts five, and the blinding of Elymas the sorcerer in Acts thirteen occurred only once. No longer was God’s Spirit used as a “weapon of destruction.” Jesus did not allow his disciples to rain fire from heaven on the hostile Samaritans, but Jesus told them that they did know what spirit they were representing (Luke 9:54-56). Peter, in the Spirit of God identified Jesus as the Son of God. But then, in his own spirit, Peter hindered Jesus from completing His Redemptive Mission. It was that spirit Jesus addressed, “Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men” (Matthew 16:23). Peter had a difficult time to separate the Spirit of the Lord from the spirit of the devil. One of the last cautions Jesus issued was to Simon Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31-32). A little success, like winning some people over to our side, can play tricks with our ego. Luke 10:17-20, recorded an incident that should make us think before we take credit for a work that only the Spirit of God can do. The seventy returned from their mission with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And Jesus said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and overall power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” The Apostle John, who was close to Peter and to those that were sent out by Jesus to evangelize, and who himself aspired to sit on one of Jesus’ sides left us this message:

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come into the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already. Little children, you are of God, and have overcome them; for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world, therefore what they say is of the world, and the world listens to them. We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (I John 4:1-6).