Beginning to think about how the Gospel shapes our life as a disciple can be, indeed should be, a transformative experience. Once we have understood how Jesus the King of Kings, High Priest of God, and final Prophet accomplished our salvation, emulation of Him should be the natural response of faith. However it does not always work out that way. Many of us spend years as Christian theoreticians. We affirm the historic doctrinal formulations of Christianity, these are very important mind you, but we can have a “form of godliness” while denying the Gospel’s full power. Before we leave “the elementary teaching about Christ” and “press on to maturity” (Hebrews 6:1) let me just affirm some things for the Evangelical’s peace of mind.
The Gospel of Jesus, meaning the incarnation of God the Son into humanity, His righteous life, His substitutionary death, His life giving resurrection, His High Priestly ascension, and His glorious second coming brings about peace between God and man and offers us assurance of our pardon. In other words, our cosmic legal problems with God have already ended with our acquittal because of the cross and we no longer have to fear our death for we shall never stand before God’s bar of justice as cosmic criminals. Jesus was punished as a criminal for us. The Gospel teaches us this, but it is more than this. The Gospel, the whole Gospel as laid out previously is also our pattern for all of life. Having this view in mind, let us ask the question, “What can we learn from the incarnation of Jesus Christ?”
First, there will need to be more than one article just for our discussion of the incarnation. There could possibly be as many as three or four posts related to this subject. But, however many parts there may be, one could not do this subject justice should he fill a library with books on the topic. I am just going to give a few brief things that I have come to think are extremely important.
What do we learn from the incarnation? We learn to be intentional. God spent thousands of years preparing a way, bringing about the fullness of time when His Son would come and accomplish the redemption of humanity. Reams of prophecies were recorded of His coming. Historical personal types are found in the patriarchs, prophets, and Kings. Jesus and His coming were continually foreshadowed in the sacrificial ceremonies, holy days, and the national organization of the people of Israel, etc, etc, etc. God the Father had clear intent and was meticulous in His detail. His intent was to manifest the Son, bring glory to the Godhead, and redeem His fallen creatures and the world they inhabited in the process. God the Father and God the Son made a plan before the foundation of the world was laid and the coming of Jesus fleshed it out bringing it to fruition.
The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of Your enemies.” Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power; In holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew. The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek.”
Then I said, “Behold, I come; In the scroll of the book it is written of me. I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.”
As examples, in both of these passages, King David, that song-writer and seer of the Old Testament is given glimpses of conversations between God the Father and God the Son. What He captures for us are clear recordings of the intention of the Godhead to send the Son according to a written plan, at a certain time, to redeem His people as priest. So let me ask you ……….how are you living intentionally in your role as a disciple of Jesus? Discipleship is not something that just happens. Ask anyone that you know and respect as a follower of Jesus if they got where they are in the Faith by accident. They will be humble and tell you it is all by God’s grace, and so it is, but God has ways of bringing grace to His people and I can guarantee you that those you love and respect as disciples of Christ have made ample use of those ways. My guess is you could find them up a just a little bit earlier than most, giving the first moments of the day to the Lord.
Give ear to my words, O LORD, Consider my groaning. Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God, for to You I pray. In the morning, O LORD, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.
If they are men, I would guess they watch a lot less football than most, they look for opportunities to serve others, and they are in involved in an all out battle with lust, and are willing to pluck out their eyes and cut off their hands. They most likely keep a prayer journal from time to time. They generally can talk to you about phases in their life where they have tried different spiritual schedules and engaged in different spiritual disciplines. Fasting, while a bizarre practice to the world, will have been fairly common at times in their life. In short, these men and women will be people of faith and practice. The Bible will not merely be a book of witty devotional phrase but will be a manual for faith and life. They will be accurate Christian theoreticians and avid practioners of their belief.
Jesus’ came to us in just the right time, and His life was not haphazard. When John the Baptist didn’t want to baptize Him this was Jesus’ response,
But Jesus answering said to him, “Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he *permitted Him.
Jesus came according to plan, His life was full of intentionality, He had a vision and an end game in mind. It was the joyous vision and intention of God that propelled Him through His assigned redemptive mission.
“for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
How are you intentional in you discipleship? Do you have a plan or are you like a pinball in a pinball machine bouncing off whatever happens to be in front of you at the moment. Following Jesus takes faith-filled intention. Here are some helpful hints that I have discovered through my seventeen years as a disciple.
Sit down and make a schedule of your life, locate your open spaces and fill them with faith-practices like Scripture reading, prayer, meditation and silence. If you have no open spaces then you need to make some Gospel subtractions from your life and making the schedule will help you find those things that need to go. (Like 8 hrs of football every weekend and endless idle time on facebook)
Find a person you deeply admire for their long-term commitment to faith-filled discipleship and start taking them to breakfast or coffee and asking them questions. You have to make the phone calls and pursue them because I can guarantee you will not be the only person asking their advice and seeking their time. Do not blame them for not calling you, they have a life beside you, and you need to remember to follow-up.
Be boring, forget the fads, they come and go. There is nothing new under the sun and that includes the latest prayer craze or the app you just downloaded that claims you can have a deep relationship with God in 15 minutes a day. You do not need innovation, what you need is repetition. Discipleship is a long-term project filled with spiritual mountains, valleys, and deserts. If you don’t feel it that’s ok, speaking from experience here, sometimes God hides His presence from you a bit to make you seek all the more. You know, like looking for hidden treasure……..sound familiar. Sometimes it is your sin that veils Him from you though, so be careful. And if you think a life of faith is all a bed of roses then I know you haven’t read the Bible all that closely. So read it more, which brings me to……….
Here it comes………read a book every now and then on a spiritual subject. There are a lot of guys, dead and alive that God has given to the church as teachers. As G. K. Chesterton said somewhere, “don’t be tyrannized by those who just happen to be walking around.” Honoring your father and mother includes those in the faith that have gone before you. So go get yourself some heroes that are more than legends on the court or in the theater. Plenty of folks gave their lives in out of the way places in the world or to people the world considers not worth the time, and you need to know who they are because in Heaven they are legends. Here is the important part about having spiritual heroes that are dead. You need to know when times are dark and your flesh is weak that a life of faith and love has been lived by other people who are not the Son of God but filled with Him by faith, just like you.
My next article in the Gospel-Shaped Discipleship series we will discuss how the incarnation teaches us generosity. Until then grace and peace to all.