How does being made in the image of God motivate us to live a holy life?
That is the motivation. The motivation for us to live a holy life is that Christ is in us and we are in Christ. There’s no higher motivation than that. If we’re motivated by anything other than the honor of Christ and the glory of God, that’s a secondary or tertiary motivation.
Everything should be for the love of the Lord. Everything should be for the honor of the Lord: “Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). All things are by Him, all things are for Him. It says in John and Romans that the end of all things, even evangelism, is the glory of the name of the Lord. We have to understand that God, in having justified us, transformed us, and begun the process of sanctification in us, is conforming us to the image of His Son by the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18).
As James would say, count it all joy when you fall into various trials because they have a perfecting work (James 1:2–4). For believers, everything that comes our way is all part of those conditions in life that maybe we wouldn’t choose, but that God uses as part of our perfection and our move toward Christlikeness. So, we embrace these things.
As I look back on my pastoral ministry, the most difficult times in my life personally (whether an illness, a disaster, or something else) have been the times when there is the most evident expression of the power and presence of the Lord. So, these are the best of times. I even tell pastors: “Embrace trouble, embrace tribulation, because this is God doing His best work in your heart and drawing you near to Him.”
Believers in this hour need to look at this as God perfecting them. God may be trimming off some unnecessary things. He may be lessening their preoccupation with what is temporal because it is so fragile and so temporary. The Lord is perfecting you if you’re His child. Embrace the trouble and find the hand of the Lord in that trouble moving you more toward the Lord Jesus Christ.
One of the things that is going to become very fresh to us is the idea that we’re not in control of all the elements of our lives. We can hold a lot of things much more lightly than we do. We sometimes hold a death grip on temporal things. This is a good time to reassess that.
This is a transcript of John MacArthur’s answer from The Gospel, the Church, and This Present Crisis from our Made in the Image of God event and has been lightly edited for readability. To ask Ligonier a biblical or theological question, just visit Ask.Ligonier.org or message us on Facebook or Twitter.