Undergroundchurch Blog

Preparing the Church for the future

The Immanuel Project: Chapter 6: The Incarnation

Posted by undergroundchurch on June 25, 2009


Click here for Chapter 5

There is something about the Bible that I always found curious.  There are some doctrines we believe today that aren’t talked about in the Scriptures like we do today.  For example, the Trinity doctrine is based on many passages. But no single passage exists that says, “Jesus is the Son of God, the Father is God and the Holy Spirit is God, yet all three are one and yet they are different.  We call this the ‘Trinity’.”

From a theological point of view it would be great to point someone to that one scripture and say, “See, it says right here as plain as day.”

The Scriptures are not laid out in “doctrinal” fashion.  They are designed to make you read them and discover what God is saying.  In fact, God says, “search the scriptures”.  He wants you to read them, not as a doctrinal thesis, but as a living love letter from Him to you.  The Bible, unlike any book you will ever read, is alive.  God uses it to speak to His people.  If it was just doctrine, it would not have that personal touch.  It would come across more as a “rule book” and less as a book that shows God reaching out to man passionately.

Probably the greatest example of this is the doctrine of God.  You will not find in the pages of scripture any place where God sets out to prove His existence.  In fact, God is just “assumed”. 

Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God…”  He doesn’t waste any time talking about why He exists, what His purpose is for existence, how we know He really exists.  He just states unequivocally, “I exist”.

Later He takes that statement as His name.  When God first called Moses at the burning bush event,  Moses asks a great question, “Who do I tell them [Pharaoh and Israel] who sent me.”

God answers Moses, “Tell them the ‘I am’ sent you”.

Moses never proves that God exists; only that Egypt’s gods are no gods at all.  The Egyptians already knew there had to be some form of deity above man.  They just had it wrong when it came to who that deity was.

God is not the substance of his creation.  He is not divided up into multiple gods constantly warring. He is not the uncaring, uninvolved sovereign that just lets the world runs its course without His loving intervention.  He is, and He alone is God… period end of discussion.

The name “I am” became so closely associated with God, that Jesus was accused of being a blasphemous deceiver by the Jewish rulers because He used the “I am” phrase when referring to Himself.  He said, “Before Abraham was, ‘I am’.”

The incarnation was the single most significant event in human history.  It was talked about for centuries before, but when it actually occurred, man was somewhat disappointed.  They did not understand the purpose of the incarnation.  They wanted something substantially different.  This misunderstanding was due to the fact that they misinterpreted the Scriptures, and Jesus held them accountable for not understanding the Scriptures. 

To understand the incarnation better, you have to understand why it occurred. 

The prophets had foretold that the deliverer or “Messiah” would come.  I don’t think anybody had any real issue with that.  The problem was that nobody understood the purpose in His coming. 

The Scriptures give two main functions of the Messiah, and I think that the problem everyone ran into was because they blended the two together or they simply ignored all the bad parts and just wanted to believe the good stuff.

The two veins are as follows:  The Messiah would be a conquering king, and the Messiah would be a suffering servant.

Put yourself in the shoes of the typical Jewish leader in Jesus’ day.  You are preaching your messages on Saturday morning for generations about the Messiah who would come.  Do you think they concentrated on the parts that showed him suffering, dying and being rejected by the Jews, or do you think they preached about the conquering king that would come and deliver His people from the captors and rule the world putting all of Israel’s enemies under His feet?

They weren’t about to ruin their Saturday morning crowds with bad news. They only wanted to see the good news.

The problem is that they didn’t understand that the bad news of the Messiah’s suffering was their good news.  The words “good news” are translated “gospel” and that is defined by Paul as the following, “Jesus died, was buried and rose again.”  Yes that’s bad news, but it is also good news and even greater news when you receive the news with joy.

The Pharisees knew Jesus might be the Messiah. They were just waiting for Him to take out about a legion of Roman guards to prove it.  Jesus never took out a legion of Roman guards.  He did, however, take out a legion of demons because He was more interested in the condition of man’s souls that the comfort of His circumstances.

Sadly, the preachers of the Bible today aren’t too far from committing the same error in misinterpreting the Bible like the teachers in Jesus day.

For example, I listen to well intentioned teaching that attempts to convince the church in America that we won’t go through the time of tribulation.  Like everyone else, I wish that were true, but I don’t think that is a good way to approach the teaching about prophecy that has yet to be fulfilled.

I am going to let a little secret slip.  The easiest thing to preach about is the end times.  There are two reasons for it.  First, I could take the prophecies and make them say whatever I want and turn around and exempt the church from any of it. 

Second, It is a feel good message because if I exempt the church from going through the tribulation, then I don’t have to worry about what’s in the book of Revelation, but it sure is fun to talk about.

Have you ever noticed how much teaching is out there about the end times?  But the way it is presented, the church will never even go through it, so why teach it?

I don’t want you to get me wrong about what I believe the Bible teaches concerning the church and the End Times. I just think that you walk on very dangerous ground when you speak so matter-of-fact about future events found in prophecy. 

The popular approach to the end times is that the church is raptured and then the tribulation begins.  This would mean that about seventeen chapters in Revelation as well as about a half dozen other chapters throughout the Bible have nothing to do with the church.  Yet it is a favorite subject for Sunday morning service.  Isn’t that what the Jewish teachers were doing about the Messiah?  They only wanted to see the good parts, not the bad parts. 

The Bible says that there will be a great falling away in the last days.  People will believe the Lie.  

Remember, these are Christians that are falling away. Why do you think they will be deceived so easily?  It might be because they are sitting in the middle of the tribulation time having to make a decision about the whether they want the mark of the Beast or they want to die, and they are saying to themselves, “This is not what my pastor told me would happen.  He said I’d be rescued out of this.  How can God love me and allow me to go through this?”

I am saddened when our American interpretation of the end times makes it to a place like Africa.  I have heard the testimonies from Christians that already have fallen victim to that teaching while they are experiencing their tribulation time.  They fall away because they thought that they would be rescued from it.

The Christians of old never taught that.  They knew that tribulation would come. The church was born in a time of tribulation.  The world couldn’t kill Christians fast enough, yet the church grew.  They did not believe for one second that they would be rescued from tribulation.  They knew they would be preserved through any tribulation that came their way.

We have so convinced people that tribulation won’t happen in their lifetimes that they will be pouring out of the churches when it actually does happen.  Preachers today are no different than those early Jewish teachers.  The only hope is that we catch ourselves before it is too late and begin teaching the truth that we may very well go through tribulation.  We may very well find out who the anti-Christ is.  We may have to make a choice to take the mark of the Beast or die instead.  It may not be a “feel good” message now, but when the tribulation time comes, and it will come, those that are prepared will prevail.

The purpose of prophecy is not to tell you what will happen as much as it is designed to prepare you for what will happen.  If you teach that the church isn’t going to experience anything, then you aren’t preparing anybody for anything. 

The best interpretation for prophecy is to recognize its fulfillment when it occurs.  Jesus tells the Jewish leaders that they should have recognized the times and seasons they were in and they would have realized that the prophecies were coming true. In fact, Jesus holds them accountable for not knowing the time of His coming which is actually given to the precise day in Daniel 9:25.  We don’t have that kind of precision in Revelation, so we need to always be watchful, vigilant and prepared. 

I like what one person said, “Be ready as if Jesus is coming back today, prepare as if He isn’t coming back until the Millennium.”

I chased a little rabbit there, but I’m back now.

Jesus came as the “I am”.  He was God in flesh.  Believe it or not, that concept proved to be a bigger problem for the first century believer than the fact that Jesus was God.

You won’t find many Scriptures trying to convince you that Jesus is God.  Like God’s existence, Jesus is assumed to be God.  John 1, Philippians 2 and a smattering of other passages is all you have to tell you unequivocally, “Jesus is God”.

The most talked about subject concerning Jesus is, “How could God be in the flesh”.  You will see every writer in the New Testament spend time convincing their readers that God came in the flesh. 

The problem stemmed from the Greek influences of the day.  Essentially, they believed that matter was evil and spirit was good.  When applied to Christ, they could not conceive how God, being spirit, could become man and therefore evil.

They tried many different workarounds.  One teaching taught that God came and appeared in the form of man, but really wasn’t flesh and blood like man is.  Another taught that he was somewhat of an apparition or ghost.  You could see him, but you couldn’t touch him.  These teachings though nullify the sacrifice.  Jesus had to be like us to be our sacrifice and literally die.

The incarnation solved the issue of God in flesh.  He was fully God and fully man. He was the “I am” and He was the son of Mary. 

The incarnation took God from birth to death in the robes of man’s flesh.

It shocks you to think that God had to potty train, God had to learn to walk, learned to talk, God scraped His knee on the dirt roads, hit His thumb with a hammer.  But if you want to believe Jesus was man, you have to believe that He experience what man experiences.

He cried, He laughed, He joked, He smiled, and He felt hurt and pain and rejection.  When it came time for him to crucified on a cross, He felt every stroke of the whip, every fist across His face, every bone wrenching hit with a hammer on the nails that pierced His hands and feet, every thorn of the crown beat down on His head.  He felt the beard being pulled out. He felt the pain of the jeering crowd. He felt the insult of spittle running down His beaten face; He felt his love for man being violated to the highest degree. He felt his Father God turn His back on Him in His greatest moment of agony as His bore the weight of the world’s sin. He felt the pain in every breath He gasped for while hanging by His arms, and He felt his heart beat its last beat as He gave up His Spirit when He said, “It is finished”.

If He was not fully man, the suffering servant couldn’t have suffered that much.  But because He was one of us, He could be that ultimate sacrifice for our sin that we so desperately needed.

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