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The Christian faith is centered on the belief that in Jesus Christ God became a human being. This is commonly referred to as the doctrine of the incarnation. It means that in Jesus, God became embodied. God left the blessed domain of heaven, was born in Bethlehem, and took on our humanity that we might share in the blessedness of heaven. He took on our sin so that we might share in his righteousness. He entered the domain of Satan’s oppressive reign to free us and transform the world into a domain of his loving reign. Jesus is God’s loving embodiment in the world.
As the embodiment of God, Jesus perfectly manifested what God is like. This is why the New Testament authors refer to Jesus as the Word of God (John 1:1), the image of God (Col 1:15), and the perfect expression of God’s very essence (Heb 1:3). It’s why Jesus could say, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Because Jesus is the embodiment of God, all of our thinking about God must be centered upon him.
But the earliest Christians understood that the incarnation wasn’t just about what God did once upon a time in Jesus. Because Jesus reveals who God really is, the incarnation tells us something about what God is always doing. It’s also about the incarnation of God today. While there’s only one incarnate Son of God, God is always embodying himself in the world. He does this primarily by identifying with those who submit their lives to him.
This is why Jesus followers are collectively referred to as “the Body of Christ.” We are, in a very real sense, an extension of Jesus’ earthly body. We are God’s hands, feet, and mouth in the world.
This is illustrated by the two volumes written by Luke. The gospel of Luke is about the ministry of Jesus, and Acts is about the early church. Luke opens Acts by noting that in his “former book” he wrote about “all that Jesus began to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1). The second book then is about all that Jesus continues to do and to teach. The Gospel was about what God did through Jesus’ incarnate body, while Acts is about what God continues to do through Jesus’ second, corporate body.
The followers of Jesus are called to imitate God in all things (Eph 5:1-2). This includes imitating his incarnational love in the ways we fully enter into the life of others. We are called to live incarnationally. Jesus reveals that God is a God who is willing to set aside the blessedness of his own domain and become fully present to others. So too, we are called to be a people who are willing to set aside the comforts and conveniences of our own lives and become fully present to others. This is part of what it means to “be imitators of God” and “live in love as Christ loved us and gave his life for us” (Eph 5:1-2). As we live incarnationally, God himself is continuing to be embodied in the world.
—Adapted from Present Perfect, pages 118-120
Photo credit: paukrus via VisualHunt / CC BY
God’s Big Toes
Last weekend, Greg preached a sermon on what it means to function as the body of Christ. You can visit the Woodland Hills Church website to download audio or video as well as presentation slides. We hope you’ll enjoy this call to serve one another the way Christ has called us to serve.
Making Resolutions? Consider This!
So, this is the time of year when we all look back at the year that is passing and look ahead to the new year in front of us. If you’re considering a New Year’s resolution, we wanted to make a tiny suggestion for your consideration. Greg has been fleshing out the ReKnew Manifesto in his…
The Cross in the Manger, Part 2
While some shepherds were tending their flock, an angel appeared to them announcing “good news that will cause great joy for all the people,” for it news about “a Savior…the Messiah, the Lord” (Lk 2:10-11). Most Jews of this time expected a Messiah who would save them by vanquishing their Roman oppressors and liberating Israel…
Creating God in Our Own Image
How have we created God in our own image? In this short video produced by The Work of the People, Greg reflects on various ways that humans typically think about God in terms of power, and how Jesus reframes the nature of power. The Christian revelation of God is the opposite of what we most often imagine…
The Phinehas vs. Jesus Conundrum
I’ll be frank. This is not a blog that will be easy for some people to read. But it’s a blog I believe every follower of Jesus should read – even if you have to force yourself to press on. It’s about something we all wish was not true. It’s about the way the Bible…
What Jesus Revealed About Being Human
According to the creation story, when Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they essentially ceased being the wonderful, God-centered, God-dependent human beings the Creator intended them to be. They became less than fully human. Instead, they began using everything and everyone in the world as surrogate gods, trying to get from people, deeds, and things…