We are close to that time of the year when hundreds of millions of people around the world will be celebrating Christmas. While the focus of Christmas should be the birth of the Messiah, for many today, the focus of Christmas is not the Incarnation of the Son of God, but trees, decorations, lights, Santa Clause, reindeer, elves, football and gifts.
If Christmas is going to be celebrated, let’s put Christ back in Christmas!
Although we don’t know when Yeshua was born, this morning I want to focus on the Incarnation. The Incarnation of the Son of God is one of the most amazing things that ever happened. Think about it:
The Limitless One limited Himself.
The One who fills all things emptied Himself.
The One who made the universe and everything in it – the billions of galaxies with their multiplied trillions of stars – became a man. The Son of God became incarnate. The Son of God enfleshed Himself and became a frail human being and subjected Himself to the indignities of living in a fallen world that is satanically controlled and in rebellion against God and under a curse, a world in which He could be ignored, insulted, hurt, tortured and killed.
Why? To save fallen human beings because we could not save ourselves. By becoming a man, the Son of God is able to rescue fallen men and women from the real and deadly forces of Satan and the demons, sin and the sin nature, and death and Hell.
Without the Incarnation we could not have been saved – but the Incarnation is more than just about salvation. It’s also about our incarnation. It’s about the Son of God incarnating Himself in us. Here’s what I mean:
Fifty days after Messiah died on Shavuot/Pentecost, the incarnated, crucified, resurrected and ascended Messiah sent His Spirit, His living, dwelling presence, into His first disciples, and those Messianic Jews were able to be become vessels in which the Spirit of God is able to incarnate Himself in human beings.
That’s why we are compared to earthen vessels, jars of clay who contain an amazing treasure.
That’s why Christians and Messianic Jews are compared to the Temple, the place where God manifested His presence on Earth. Do you not know that you are a Temple of God, Rabbi Paul asked the Corinthians, and that the Spirit of God lives in you? In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul adds: We are the Temple of the Living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them.”
At the moment of salvation, when we understand that Yeshua is the Son of God who left the glories of Heaven and took on a human body, lived a holy life, died a special, atoning death, then was raised from the dead and is alive now; and we make a commitment to follow this living Lord and Savior, His Spirit is given to us. The Spirit of Messiah takes up residence in us. The Holy Spirit incarnates Himself in us.
That presence of God enfleshing Himself in us does many wonderful things for us.
Incarnation produces a new ability to understand spiritual truths. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. No one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God and we have received the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.
Incarnation enables us to understand spiritual truths, like the reality of God our Father, and Messiah our Lord and Savior; the importance of the Community of God; the Gospel of God; the eternal kingdom of God.
Incarnation gives us the ability to understand the Word of God: Messiah promised: when the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth. The Spirit opens our understanding to understand the Word of God and apply it to our lives.
Incarnation changes our perspective. We begin to see the world the way God sees it: fallen, satanically controlled, dark, chaotic and in need of Messianic Salvation.
Incarnation produces power in us – power to serve God the way we need to; live for God the way we need to; resist temptation the way we need to.
Incarnation produces the fruit of the Spirit in us:
Love – not selfishness; love – not hatred. God is love, and when the Spirit of God is incarnating the life of God in us, we develop a desire to help others in practical ways and spiritual ways. That’s love.
Joy – a happiness not dependent on our circumstances, a deeper kind of inner happiness; not the happiness that comes from things going your way or worldly success or money or drugs or alcohol.
Peace – a sense that it is well, it is well with my soul; peace that is based on knowing that we are right with God and will live forever; peace, not a sense or restlessness or boredom or that something important is missing.
Patience – a great virtue, the ability to endure life’s challenges with grace; not with impatience, irritation and anger.
Kindness, goodness and gentleness; not harshness or a selfish callousness.
Faithfulness – loyalty to God and to the Word of God; loyalty to our word and to our commitments; not disloyalty to these things.
Self-control – the ability to control what we say and what we do and how we respond to various situations. Self-control is a great blessing; lack of self-control can be very damaging to ourselves and to others.
Incarnation changes us. Incarnation transforms us. Incarnation produces a new godly nature in us. We become more and more like Messiah: God-centered, wise, holy, loving, compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient.
Incarnation produces new values in us, God’s values, which are the opposite of the world’s values:
Not blessed are the self-assured, but blessed are the poor in spirit, who know how dependent they are on God.
Not blessed are the happy, but those who mourn.
Not blessed are the tough, but the gentle.
Not blessed are those who hunger and thirst for worldly success, but those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.
Not blessed are those who are part of the survival of the fittest, but blessed are the merciful.
Not blessed are those who win great battles, but blessed are the peacemakers.
Not blessed are those who are popular, but those who are persecuted and insulted because they belong to Messiah and are standing for what is right.
Incarnation produces hope. Without hope, something positive and real to look forward to, people can despair or fill their unhappy lives with foolish, meaningless or destructive things. Incarnation gives us the hope of a real and glorious eternity – as Rabbi Paul said, “Messiah in us, the hope of glory.”
Incarnation results in a successful, fruitful life. Messiah challenged us: I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit. And if we don’t remain in Him and He remains in us? Apart from Me you can do nothing.
Messiah is giving us a choice to have a blessed and fruitful life, or a non-productive, fruitless life. A productive life is the result of us remaining in Messiah and Messiah remaining in us – by His Spirit incarnating Himself in us to a greater degree.
An unproductive life is the result of us not remaining in Messiah, and Messiah not remaining in us – by His Spirit – as much as He could. The Spirit is not able to live in us as much as He wants to, fill us as much as He would like to, incarnate Himself in us to the degree He wants to.
So, if it is up to us to have to have a successful, blessed and fruitful life, or a non-productive, fruitless life – which one will we choose?
Let’s say we choose the fruitful life that is the result of Messiah remaining in us and us remaining in Messiah – how do we do that? Are there things we can do to facilitate the Spirit of God incarnating Himself in us to the highest degree possible? The answer is yes.
The first thing we must do is come to God on His terms, not our terms, and His terms require us to come to Him through Yeshua. Since God the Father sent Messiah into the world, and since God commands us to believe in Messiah, loyalty to Messiah is not optional.
Then, after we come to God on His terms, we become more incarnate by being obedient. Messiah promised: Anyone who loves Me will obey My teaching. My Father will love them, and We will come to them and make Our home with them. The Father and the Son make Their home with us, live in us, become enfleshed in us through the Holy Spirit they share.
So, the more we obey Messiah’s teaching, the more the Spirit of the Father and Son makes His home with us; the greater is the degree of incarnation in us. Does that make sense?
And when we become less incarnate than we should? When we sin, yield to temptation, or wander from God and He is no longer manifesting Himself in us to the degree He wants to?
We admit our failures. We acknowledge that we have missed the mark, and we confess that we have fallen short, and we turn to God with sorrow and ask Him to forgive us. And, we have His marvelous promise: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from everything that we have done wrong. Then God will fill us with His Spirit and live in us in a greater degree and we are able to serve Him the way we need to once again.
Obedience and repentance are essential to having and maintaining a high degree of incarnation.
What else can we do to facilitate the Spirit of God incarnating Himself in us to the highest degree possible?
We discipline ourselves to turn our minds to God throughout the day, to have a running conversation with the Creator. We thank God for the interesting things that come to our attention, for the good things He has done, is doing and will do for us. We praise Him for His amazing attributes. We pray for ourselves and others.
We pray for the growth and the purity of Messiah’s Community. We pray that the Good News about Messiah would advance. We pray for the salvation of our friends and family, neighbors and co-workers, and others whom God has place on our heart, and brought across our path. And we pray for the salvation of the Jewish people and people in the nations of the world.
We have times of silence and solitude, trying to hear the still, small voice of God speaking to us.
We spend time reading and studying the Bible – thoughtfully, meditatively.
We participate in the life of Messiah’s Community, in worship, in service. We share in the Lord’s supper, eating the bread and drinking the wine with the other members of Messiah’s Community.
This year, don’t think toys and gifts and Santa Clause and reindeer and trees and decorations. Think incarnation. Think about the incarnation of the Son of God. And think about the Son of God incarnating Himself in you, Messiah in you, the hope of glory – and what you can do to make that happen to the highest degree.
And, let’s be praying that the One who became flesh and forever joined Himself to humanity, becomes more and more incarnate in our lives, in the lives of our Christian and Messianic Jewish brothers and sisters everywhere, and in more and more people throughout the world.