Knowing that we were made in the image of God changes a lot about how we live our lives. In this article, Pastor Paolo Punzalan shares his thoughts on what it means to be created in God’s image and how we can find our real identity and purpose in the Lord.
What does it mean to be created in the image of God?
We were told in Genesis that we were created in His image and likeness. Human life has intrinsic value right from the beginning because we were created not in the image of the angels or any other created beings, but of God Himself.
God created everything else by His Word. But with man, He fashioned them with His very hands. He took mud from the ground with His bare hands and breathed life into man’s nostrils. That, in itself, shows how precious and valuable we are in His eyes.
How did the knowledge of God’s design change the way you live your life?
I was raised in a single-parent home. My parents separated before I turned one year old. I grew up without a father, and the first time I saw him was when I was sixteen years old. Because of this, I grew up with a lot of accusations, insecurities, and negative thoughts. I wondered if it was because of me that my parents separated; I questioned my value and worth. Wanting to make up for those feelings, I tried to gain people’s approval by performing well and excelling in athletics and academics. I had feared rejection so much that I became a people pleaser. I lived a life of performance.
But everything changed when I came to know Christ.
I was 17 when I encountered Him, but the understanding of His image in me was something that I had to learn over time. It was actually the growing knowledge of my salvation that helped me understand more who God created me to be. It was through Christ that I got to know God’s intent, purpose, and design for my life.
As God was redeeming and restoring me, I was also starting to find a greater sense of worth, value, and purpose—a greater sense of intentionality in living my life. I realized that I was called to demonstrate and express the glory of God because I was created in His image and likeness. As I live my life now, I make sure that I do it according to His design, purpose, and intent every single day.
How did you find God’s purpose for your life?
It all started with me wanting to get a sense of worth and value. When I was in college, my aim was to get a job that would give me a sense of significance in life, so I took up premedical studies. I wanted to be a neurosurgeon not because I wanted to help people, but because I wanted to get a greater sense of purpose. My identity was attached to that.
Since my late mother was in broadcast media, I grew up being referred to as “the son of Helen Vela.” Hoping to get away from that, I initially endeavored to find a job that would help me find my own niche—I wanted to make a name for myself.
But that wasn’t God’s plan; He was calling me to something else.
When my mom passed away, my sister and I had to take over our family’s production business. I could not go to medicine proper anymore. Somehow, I already knew at that time that I was being called to the ministry, but I still continued to help my sister run our business. I thought I would be happy and content to just serve and volunteer in church.
In 1997, however, I went to Russia as a volunteer missionary. God spoke to me during that trip and told me that my identity is not based on anything here on earth. Surprisingly, when I came back from Russia, I was asked to work full-time as a pastor. I could not say yes right away. There was a struggle because I was placing my purpose and identity in the wrong places. I then prayed to God and told myself that I would just try it for three months. Now, I have been a pastor for 11 years.
It has been more than a decade, but every day I make an effort to remind myself of the call and purpose that God has placed in my life—of my identity in the Lord.
We were all made in the image of God, by His design, and for a specific purpose. There is no need for us to look for our worth and value in other places. We can be secure in the knowledge that He fashioned us in His likeness and that we are His. Our identity can only be found in Him.
Pastor Paolo Punzalan serves as the senior pastor of Victory Fort. He is a former missionary to Russia and has been serving in full-time ministry as a Kids’ Church pastor and lead pastor for over a decade. He has been married to Jenn for 23 years. They have four children—Nathan, Janina, Ryan, and Joaquin.
Beyond the Series is a set of interviews with Victory pastors on topics related to our sermon series.