Well today we come to the end of the 4 week series called Flesh as well as the 21 Days of Flesh devotional that I have been sending out via e-mail, blog, and facebook. And so we end our time together talking about living like Jesus an incarnational life and his call to live incarnationally. And we end the conversation on Flesh this week, the prayer is that this conversation never really ends, it just moves from here out into your neighborhood, work place, within this community as we seek to be a blessing to our wider community, etc…
The last 3 weeks we have been walking through this 5 step process of incarnating and enfleshing Jesus into the world and we will wrap up the 5th Step today. Three weeks ago we look at the first step in the process, that being incarnation. We looked at the fact that Jesus came to earth, took on flesh and blood and moved into our neighborhood. Became human. And that if we really want to walk as Jesus walked, we actually become more human not less. The more we begin to look and act and enflesh Jesus we become more human, the kind of human that Jesus was.
Two weeks ago we contrasted the difference in the street cred/reputation of Christians in our world today and the reputation/street cred of Jesus, even today. We talked about the 4 things that gave Jesus great street cred: being human, working a job, fighting for things that matter, and being a friend of sinners. And how if Christians today are to recover some of Jesus street cred we have to be: more human (ie normal), work a job/redeem the work that you do, fight for things that actually matter (unlike all the stupid things Christians get so riled up about), and take seriously the label that Jesus was a friend of sinners, and that we should be too….
Last week we covered the 3rd and 4th Step of the incarnational grid, that of conversation and confrontation. We looked at the woman caught in adultery and how Jesus didn’t condemn her, how he loved her, and that she knew he wanted her best. And through that relationship/conversation he was able to “confront” her in her sin and help her move beyond it.
But we aren’t done yet with this story. Today we talk about where we go from here. Which if you remember the 5 step grid, the last step on the grid following incarnation, street cred/reputation, conversation, confrontation is incarnational transformation. We will be talking about the transformation that happens when Jesus is enfleshed in the world. But possibly looking at the idea of incarnational transformation in a different way.
I don’t know about you but as we have been going through this 4 week series Flesh, I have been challenged and convicted that I need to incarnate Jesus better into the world. I have been convicted that I need to be better known like Jesus was known, especially in the area of friend of sinners. I feel like my world is a church bubble and I definitely need to pop it. And I need to learn better how to live a life that enfleshes Jesus out in the world. But let’s take time today to go in a different direction that we have been going these past 3 weeks. I know our flesh focus has oftentimes been about other people, the world, and a handful of friends, but really the transformation has mostly been about me and my family—and I hope you’ve sensed that something has come alive in your spirit.
So we are ending Flesh focusing on this, the fact that the incarnation ends up reforming all of our lives toward the way of Jesus. I actually think people are ultimately motivated internally by the desire to grow. I could encourage us toward those who have yet to come to know Jesus, tell you all sorts of things we ought to be doing, and even guilt us by exposing everything we’re not doing, but that simply doesn’t work. The reality of change happens because we want to grow ourselves, and that we begin to see people with a heart of love. And our heart begins to be transformed. And then, we like Jesus, begin to weep for our zip code.
And so our prayer is also the prayer of Paul in Galatians 4:19, “My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you.” Ultimately that is what Flesh is all about, that we become more and more formed in the ways and life of Jesus. And when Jesus is formed in you, you move from being a First-decision Christian to a second-decision follower of Jesus. And there’s a big difference. First-decision Christians primarily follow Jesus for what Jesus gives to them. They make the first decision to show up to church and be blessed. But second-decision Christ followers are those who have already made the first-decision and out of a heartfelt sense of thankfulness for all Jesus gave us, they make the second decision to live His life, even to the point of sacrifice.
But second decisions to have Jesus enfleshed through you can only happen as you are transformed from the inside out, from having Jesus formed in you, and also from having transforming experiences in the world. This as a call to let the actual physical/human life of Jesus be formed in us. It isn’t just about the knowledge of Christ or the inner working of Christ in our character, but Paul wanted the way Jesus lived to be lived out in every area of our lives.
I’ve often thought about what it really means to be a disciple, and I now believe disciples are people who watch what Jesus did, follow Him where He leads, and try to align every aspect of their lives to the life of Jesus as revealed in Scripture. As 1 John 2:6 says so succinctly, “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.”
I once heard, “Being a disciple is growing from unbelief to belief in every area of our lives.” I love that because it shows that none of us are ever totally conformed to the image of God. We are all trying to trust God with every part of us.
Some of us trust God with dying for our sins, but we can’t trust Him with our money, or we can’t trust Him to help us find a lifemate, or we struggle to believe He can heal us, guide us, and protect us. And this is the power of the incarnation. Jesus didn’t just come and drop sermons on us. He came and lived in the neighborhood. I suppose if you had lived around Jesus in Nazareth, His home would have been open and you would have gone over often just to bounce thoughts off Him, ask questions, get some good ol’ fashioned mentoring, etc. He would have been your “go to” friend for everything.
But Jesus did eventually leave, didn’t He. He wasn’t with His disciples in human form anymore. And they struggled—just like we struggle to believe He is still with us, guiding us. But here’s what Jesus taught, and it is going to be the reason we don’t end this campaign at 21 days. There was a 22nd day and a 255th day and 3001st day.
Jesus left us two things that keep the story going: 1. He left us the Holy Spirit. (Share any scripture on the Holy Spirit you like, but also include “he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:13). Jesus told His closest followers—and he now reminds us—that it’s good that he was leaving in human form because the Holy Spirit can guide us minute by minute into His mission and into His transformative way of life. 2. He also left us His community, His family, His church. I know we all struggle at times with the idea of church, but all church is, is the people of God living on mission and enjoying fellowship with one another and the Holy Spirit. Yes, if we just do the once-a-week church service thing, we miss a lot, but this church isn’t just about the Sunday service. We are about developing incarnational, second- decision Christ followers and transforming lives through incarnational communities around our city. And we are continuing to work to develop them. If you would be interested in at least learning more about where we want to go with missional communities, let me know.
And here is one of the main points of our Flesh series..You were never designed to be an incarnational person all by yourself. Incarnation is always about community and doing this together with others. And when you are a part of a family of followers of Jesus, all pulling the same direction, then slowly and surely you change, you transform, and you more and more look, act, talk, and walk like Jesus. You can’t be transformed into the image and likeness of Jesus by yourself. You need others (both followers of Jesus and those who aren’t) to rub up against you, reveal your idols, challenge you directly or indirectly, and to share life together with.
And so my prayer is that not only will each of us enflesh Jesus in the world, and in our own individual lives. But even more so that this community called Veritas will enflesh Jesus as a community into the world. That John 13:35, “they will know we are disciples if we love one another” will become a huge reality for us, a missional reality and people will be drawn to the community, so they will be transformed into the image and likeness of Jesus. And that by our missional interaction with people we will be transformed into the image of Jesus as well.
And so let’s talk about how Flesh has transformed you into the character and likeness of Jesus. Let’s talk about how this community called Veritas can be transformed together. Let’s talk about where we go from here in making this Flesh series a reality beyond the four weeks. And let’s share what God might be saying to each of us, and our community.
1. How has this series "Flesh" challenged you, convicted you, encouraged you, formed you, etc.... 2. What steps do you need to take personally to be better formed into the likeness of Jesus? What steps do we need to take corporately to be better formed into the likeness of Jesus? 3. Where do we go from here? How can we "enflesh" Jesus in the world as individuals and as a community? 4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what should we do about it?