Knowing God As Incarnate

To know God in His incarnation is to talk about knowing Him as God who came down as man and lived among us. John writes about the Word becoming flesh and adds, “…we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The question that needs to be asked is what is the glory they saw? A careful study of the New testament leads us to understand that ‘they saw His glory’ at three levels.

1. They saw the glory of God as Man. We all understand this truth and celebrate it every year during the month of December. But we have sentimentalised His birth and death so much that the essential lesson of incarnation is lost. In fact the redemptive purpose of incarnation and the subsequent evangelism and missions have taken away our focus from the broader purpose of incarnation. And of course the commercialising of it as a festival is another aspect of it that saps it of its true significance. This is to our own loss.

J.I. Packer writes, “God became a man; the divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises, needing to be fed, and changed and taught to talk like any other child. And there was no illusion or deception in this: the babyhood of the Son of God was a reality. The more you think of it the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is as fantastic as is this truth of the Incarnation”

But what is the truth of the incarnation? And what are its implications for us apart from redemption through the atoning death of Christ upon the cross? What is the glory of God as revealed in His incarnation?

They saw the glory of God as man, The divine as human. The Infinite God as finite man. The Great one as simple. God who is Spirit has now come in a body. The One who is immortal has now come into that which is mortal. The rich One has come as poor. The invincible One made himself vulnerable. The One who is Almighty has made himself weak.

Does it not sound incredulous? Can we wrap our minds around those staggering thoughts? Truly ‘nothing in fiction is as fantastic’. Even the angels long to look into what God is up to with becoming man.

Oh, I wish I could marshal the hosts of heaven to sing,“O Lord, our Lord, How excellent is Your name in all the earth, You have set Your glory above the heavens!” Or let Apostle Paul use his pen to describe in his own cryptic way, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh…”

The truth is that this is the essential message of incarnation. In a world where everyone one wants to go higher, grow bigger, get richer, become larger, incarnation teaches us that small is beautiful, to be weak is to be strong, and to be poor is to be rich. While the world chooses the upward trajectory of living, Christ in His incarnation preferred the downward trajectory. Frankly, the Bible does not promote smallness or weakness or poverty as virtues in themselves. But that the small, the weak and the poor find it easier to trust in God. And therefore they are greater, bigger, stronger and richer in the Kingdom of God.

Is it any wonder that God chooses the weak and the foolish and the last shall be first and the first last in His Kingdom?

Friends, the desire and the drive to get richer, bigger and greater is from Babel and Babylon, not from Bethlehem! This is the meaning of knowing God in his incarnation. And this is the only way we can counter modernity and the lifestyles it fosters.

You cannot adopt lifestyles whose roots are in capitalism and claim to be the child of God! The call, therefore is to be imitators of God as His children.

2. They saw the glory of man as Man, in Christ.

I do not tire to say that according to the Bible, no man ever lived as man was meant to live. Christ is the only one to ever live as man was meant to live. ‘All have sinned and have fallen short of God’s glory’, says the Bible. Therefore the true glory of man can be seen in Christ alone. He was the only one who pleased God totally.

Jesus teaches us what it means to love God alone and to live by trusting and obeying Him always. He said that he can do nothing of himself, except what he sees the Father do. He affirmed that his food was to do the will of the Father. He claimed that he always pleased his Father and that the Father never left him alone. No man who ever graced this earth said such words. The Father was so pleased with Jesus that He opened the heavens and affirmed him. And Jesus lived in quietness and confidence in the shadow of the Father’s assurance and approval. He did not need any man or angel to affirm him. Nor did he seek anybody’s testimony of him. He did not seek the identities of the world nor did he do or work to find his security in anything of this world.

The scribes, Pharisees and the teachers of the law were left dumbfounded on several occasions by not only the depth of his understanding of the law, of life and righteousness but the ease with which he talked and lived suggested that it was his natural habitat. Many times both the people and the leaders marvelled at his sense of authority and confidence when he spoke and taught about God and the law. You do not find in Jesus any sense of insecurity either with regard to his physical needs or about life even when he stood before Pilate. He suffered no crisis of identity when he moved with the socially unacceptable nor when he bent down to wash the feet of his disciples. He had no throne, no crown no armies yet he ruled in life as a true king.

In the demonstration of His love, compassion and service there are few peers in the history of man. He was as involved with life as he was detached from its cares and pleasures. He was as engaged with the needs, the pains and sorrows of others as he was disengaged from their opinions and pursuits. Jesus was hardly concerned about His image or His looks. Isaiah in His prophecy probably gives us a glimpse into His physical appearance, “He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.”(Isaiah 53:2).

He accepted and affirmed the human, but he was not humanistic. He accepted and affirmed the material but he was not materialistic. He accepted and affirmed the physical and the temporal yet he was not secular. He overcame the physical often with the spiritual. He did not let the physical constrain or control him.

He did not treat the people around him with condescending disdain. He did not use power language nor power demeanour to show his superiority. He did not try to dominate or control people by word or by actions. If ever there was a human who could do it, it was him. Yet he did not. We miss all this when we read the gospels because we romanticised his life and look only at the sentimental aspects of it.

At the end he gave himself to the Father for us, willingly, totally and unhesitatingly.

Friends this is how man was meant to live. This is how you and I are meant to live. This is the glory of man! Oh, I wish I had a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer’s praise! You know, actually I will, when I see Him in His glory.

In fact we do not need a thousand tongues to sing his praise nor a thousand lives but just one life to live as he lived.

If you wish to know what it means to live agape lifestyle, look at Jesus. He is the prototype of it. We can only be his imitators. Come let us follow him and live as he lived. This is the best way we honour or worship him. The call, therefore is to be imitators of God, as His dear children.

3. John was also talking about seeing the continuing glory of God in the Church, His Body.

What is the Church? If our answer is, it is the body of Christ. Then the next question we must answer is, how should the church be? The simplest answer is, the church must be as Christ was when he was in the body. Period.

But down through centuries the answer to that question has taken so many forms and shapes that today church is a grotesque deformity. When I think of it my heart is filled with extreme grief and at the same time utmost anger at what we have done to and with the church. How sad, how blind, how deaf and how foolish we are?

We are the body of Christ when we live the way Christ lived, in the human body while on earth. Instead we tend to think that church is a system or a service or a programme or a meeting or a gathering. And then we began to call ourselves with different tags, often hilarious – Anglican, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Pentecostal, Charismatic or Brethren. Or names taken from Old testament as Hebron, Zion, Carmel or from the New Testament as Grace Church, Hope Church, Agape church and some very ingenious ones from the Bible as Burning bush church or Pillar of Fire church, so on and so forth.

When places, or programmes or people who founded it take precedence over the Person of Christ then you can be sure my friend, that the Holy Spirit of God is no where near such groups. God has not given us a programme to conduct nor an order of service to follow. Neither Christ nor Paul taught any of it. If anyone thinks that their pattern is the right one then they know nothing about the body of Christ nor the New Testament. It doesn’t matter how great a man of God the founder was or how big or large the building or the gathering went on to become, if they have not taught or teach people how to live as Christ lived then I am afraid, they have failed.

But since we began to focus on gathering therefore, we began to focus on the programme or the service that is conducted when we gather. And since we need a place to gather we began to spend millions on buildings. Then we spend millions on maintaining them. We then spend millions more on court cases to guard them. Instead, if the same drive and effort were put into living and teaching people to live as Christ lived, today we would be a ‘city set upon a hill’.

If you do not wish to accept what I say and wish to wait until you hear ‘I do not know you. Depart from me’, I cannot help it, my friend! I will only cry unto God that He will open our eyes to see.

In fact, church does meet and gathers but let it be firmly fixed in our brains that we do not represent Christ as his body by gathering or meeting. We represent him as his body by living as he lived. In this, Christ is our pattern for living. There is no other. Only then we are his body and only then we shall have the glory and the fullness of God dwell among us. Only then does the gospel become the gospel to the world. Only then we shall be his true witnesses. And only then, ‘the manifold wisdom of God will be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord’

But the irony is, none of us is worthy or able to live as Christ lived. It is he who wishes to live in us and reproduce himself in and through us by his Spirit who dwells in us. As we yield to his working in our lives to subdue all things in us to himself then we shall see God ‘able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us’ in transforming us to live as Christ lived.

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh…” God wills to manifest himself in the flesh again through us. Hence Christ says, “…a body have you prepared for me”… a body in which he reveals his glory by living in and through them! When the church, which is the body of Christ lets him live through them, then the ‘earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.’

Friends, they saw his glory, the continuing glory of God in the body of Christ, the church. Have you?

The call therefore, is to be imitators of God. Come, let us follow him. Let us let him work in us with his power to subdue us, to fill us and to reproduce himself in us. And then, “… to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”


Incarnation – The Divine Celebration of the Human

Incarnation – The Divine Celebration of the Human
Enoch Era

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1: 14.

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Ephesians 5:1.

I believe this is one the most breath-taking, mind-boggling, marvellously beautiful, and the most comforting of all statements anywhere in any sacred literature and any thing ever written by mortal man or inspired by God.

Let us think of the incarnation of God as the divine celebration of the human. By coming as man into the world, he was embracing humanity in a bear-hug. It is an affirmation of what we are as humans. I see the bear-hug embrace in the fact that he came to make his dwelling with man, permanently and eternally. On the face of it, this may sound scandalous but it is true that God came as man into the world. We do not read in the Bible of any hesitation on his part. It was in total willingness and pleasure. He was willing to die in order to deliver man from his fallenness and estrangement from God. ‘Nothing in fiction is as fantastic’ as J I Packer the well known theologian wrote. God became a man and made his dwelling with them, as them!

Unfortunately Christians have generally interpreted incarnation mostly in terms of cross-cultural missions and evangelism. Or to have the mind of Christ as humility, service and sacrifice. How sad, if we stopped just with that! It probably reveals the poverty of our thinking and the shallowness of our hearts!  There is more to incarnation than just missions and evangelism. Knowing God in his incarnation is crucial to understanding humans, their life as finite beings – how to handle time, space, knowledge, issues of identity, security and more. Man had lost the knowledge of how he should live because of his fall into sin. Christ shows us how. He lived it. He demonstrated it right here on earth for a little over 33 years, before giving his life for us upon the cross.

In the incarnation God was saying to man that being human was not bad at all. That he created us the way we are, finite, limited and frail. After creating he looked at what he created and said that it was good. And that he himself if he were to become anything other than the infinite he is, he would be like man. What does God look like, if he were to take on the physical and the finite? He would be like man minus the sinfulness, of course. The only thing that was wrong with man was his fallenness and this happened as a result of wanting to be more than or other than what he was made to be.

Man has always wanted to be other than or more than what God has made him to be. This is the story of humanity. It was the crux of the first temptation in the Garden of Eden. The serpent suggested that he could be more than what he was and by eating of the fruit he could attain to the divine. According to the Bible this was the undoing of humanity. It led to an inherent dissatisfaction and to a perennial search for his true identity and security.  It is this that made the people of Babel say, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves”. It was a search for identity, security and perpetuity. And it is the same spirit that imbues practically everything that man has done in history and continues to do even today.

The same spirit is behind the model of life that man has chosen. The model of the upwardly mobile! We all want to grow bigger, greater, richer and more powerful. We want to be more or other than what we are created to be, in everything we do from birth to death.  Both the man in the world and the man in the church follow the same model of life. The one who rejects Christ and the one who follows him have adopted the same trajectory of living. It is the trajectory of wanting to attain to the infinite!

But the irony is, this is exactly God’s purpose for us. His purpose is that we experience the divine and taste the infinite in fellowship with him. But in the first temptation, man was offered an alternative to God. The serpent offered the creature (fruit) as an alternative to the Creator.  That by our own efforts and independent of the Creator we can attain to the divine. Thus the creature became the source of humanity’s sustenance and living rather than the Creator. This not only constitutes idolatry but it led to prostituting of ourselves to something that is less than us. Man was thus making himself less than what he was meant to be and also became enslaved to that which is not God. This is the story of the human race.

How did Jesus do differently? First, the incarnation of God in Christ is an affirmation of His image in which we were created. If we did not bear the image of God, he would not have come as man and be born in this world. In all the universe, we were the only closest to God in likeness. As the psalmist sings, “You have made him (man) to be a little lower than God (Elohim).” The most seraphic of angles was not close to God in their image. Man was and is.

So friends during this advent let us celebrate the fact that we are human – in all our limitations and frailties we are the most God-like beings in all of creation. And that God has embraced and affirms our humanity. Hence the breath-taking statement that ‘God so loved the world’ that he came as man into the world to dwell among men.

Second Jesus’ way of thinking and living was not the upward trajectory. It was in the other direction, the downward, the emptying and humbling of himself. It was not even of holding on to his current position. It was of taking and affirming that which was less than him and making it his own. His incarnation is about the Great One who came as the simple one. The Almighty who made himself helpless and powerless. The Rich who made himself poor. The one who is infinite now living with limitations and being comfortable about it. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”

Friends, what is the gospel about? If it is just about forgiveness of sins and finding a way to heaven and does not affect the life we live, then we do not have a gospel to preach to the world. We cannot pursue the same things that the rest of the world runs after and expect people to come to Christ. The gospel has ceased to be the gospel for many primarily because we have chosen to live the same way the rest the world lives. By following the same trajectory of life as the rest of the world the church has lost her authority and her message and the Christian his witness. I believe this is the story of the Western church and unfortunately the church in the East is heading in the same direction. How tragic!

A strange thing has happened over the last two thousand years. Something that was neither demonstrated by Christ nor was taught by his apostles. Something that is not envisaged in the New Testament, if we understand it correctly. The unthinkable and the impossible has happened! Following Christ has become a religion! Christ is placed alongside the great men of the earth and his followers compared with other religions of the world! This has come about because, we have made following Christ a matter of conforming to certain forms, traditions and structures, rather than it being about a lifestyle that is totally antithetical and counter-cultural to the way the rest of the world lives. Worshipping God is about obeying him and living the way Christ lived. It is not about a form, a place or a system! Is it any wonder that the world sees our evangelism as a struggle for superiority?

The church and her leaders must learn and learn it soon that we cannot win the world for Christ by acquiring political clout nor by gaining economic power and not all through military might. Nor can we flaunt our big structures, projects and budgets and expect the world to be charmed to follow Christ. We can only regain our message and authority by taking the same trajectory of life as our Lord and Master in his incarnation. I hope we would take Apostle Paul’s advise and “Be imitators of God, as beloved children.” or risk being spewed out of his mouth!

Third, we find Jesus denying the creature the primacy of place in his life. In his own temptation in the wilderness he refused to make the created the source of his life. He depended on God for everything. He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.”

In fact, it was God’s plan that as finite beings, we were meant to live our lives in trust and dependence upon God. That in fellowship with God, by trusting and depending upon him for everything in life we can, not only experience the divine and but also the infinite. Christ points the way for us. Hence, he says, “Í am come that they may have life and have it more abundantly”. And again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do”.

What is the best way to celebrate the coming of Lord Jesus into the world? The best way is to celebrate our humanity. We can do it by trusting God for everything. And by denying and rejecting anything and everything that usurps his place and supplants him from our lives. There are so many things of the created that promise to satisfy us and give us identity and security. For some it is their education, family background, the salaries they earn or the social status they have attained. For some others it could be the ministries they do or the church affiliations they have! I have written earlier in my book, “When you are in the business of seeking security and identity from anything or anyone other than God, then anything and everything becomes a source for pride and none of them sufficient enough to satisfy. Even humility becomes a matter of pride! Simplicity becomes a matter of greatness! A little can become a lot to boast about!”

Anything that gives us pride other than what we are called to be, both in creation and redemption has to be renounced, repudiated and rejected. When we are able to say as Paul, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”, then we would have worthily celebrated his coming and also celebrate our own humanity. Only thus the strongholds of evil among humans would be demolished and vanquished.

May the Lord raise many such in each continent on this earth. Amen.

“We have seen his glory”
(A poem by Enoch Era)

We have seen his glory
The glory of God as Man

Great One as simple
Invisible as visible
Immortal as mortal
Almighty as helpless
Rich One as poor
Invincible as vulnerable
Infinite as finite
Sovereign as servant!

We have seen his glory
The glory of the Real Man
Real God as Real Man
Authentic God as authentic man
No more distant, no more far
Neither illusive nor obscure
No more invisible but now
Real, visible and vulnerable.

Visible and seeable
Physical and touchable
Vulnerable yet invincible
Humble yet strong
Beatable yet unbeaten
Killable yet never dying
Abusable yet not abused!
Small yet encompassing the universe!

He is God but now he is also man
They saw His glory. Have you?