This month sees the UK release of my new book, Pleased to Dwell: A Biblical Introduction to the Incarnation (Christian Focus). So over on biblicalpreaching.net – my blog for preachers – I am running a guest series. Great guest writers from the UK and USA will be offering brief posts on particular aspects of the Incarnation to stir our thoughts. Please take a look at the site and join us for what is shaping up to be a great series.
This week, for example, we will have guest posts from either side of the Atlantic, with John Hindley and Darrell Bock looking at one Gospel each.
(For more information on Pleased to Dwell, please take a look at TrinityTheology.net. Enough about the book, let’s ponder the Incarnation)
What does the Incarnation have to do with preaching when we are not in December? Everything. Unless, of course, we are talking about some kind of preaching that is neither biblical nor Christian. Biblical preaching preaches God, and we can only know God in the person of Christ.
Every Sunday of the year people need to hear from preachers who are captivated by Christ. As Mike Reeves puts it in his new book, Christ Our Life:
“No wonder the gospels record so many who were amazed and astonished by him, as if they were witnesses to a volcano: his presence was an apocalypse, a cataclysm, an earth-shaking upheaval of all things. God with us!” (22)
The Incarnation is not the whole story of the Christian faith, but it is critical to the whole good news that we get to preach each week in our churches. According to Robert Letham:
“The incarnation is the indispensable basis for union with Christ. Since Christ has united himself to us in the incarnation, we can be united to him by the Holy Spirit. In itself, the incarnation of the Son of God does not unite us to him, for by itself it does not accomplish salvation. . . . Christ’s union with us in the incarnation is the foundation for our union with him, both now and in the eternal future.” (Union With Christ, 40-41)
So whatever passage we may be preaching, or sharing with our friends in conversation, may our listeners always listen to a heart gripped by the good news of the God who has stepped into our world! We need to keep our hearts pointed toward Christ, and we need to point our listeners outside of themselves too.
It is too easy to reinforce the fallen tendency to fix our gaze navel-ward . . . top tips, great suggestions, keys to successful effort-based religion. But the Gospel is a call to each one of us to lift our eyes from the death of self-absorption, and to look to the One who fully reveals the Father’s heart to us:
“We get spiritually bored. But Jesus has satisfied the mind and heart of the infinite God for eternity. Our boredom is simple blindness. If the Father can be infinitely and eternally satisfied in him, then he must be overwhelmingly all-sufficient for us. In every situation, for eternity.” (Christ Our Life, 9)
Isn’t that a great thought? The Father has always been totally and completely satisfied in Christ. But somehow we find Jesus boring? Either there is something wrong with Christ, or with the Father, or maybe the problem is with me. Would it not be a great way to start the week: with our hearts crying out to God, that by His Spirit He would give us a greater glimpse of His Son this week?
Let’s be sure to keep our internal orientation appropriately pointed outside of ourselves. We will only ever find life, and love, and joy, and peace, and satisfaction, and rest, and meaning, when we look to Christ, who is our life. We might easily affirm that life is only to be found in God, since He created us. But that can still feel distant. Praise God that because of the Incarnation, we look outside of ourselves, but not into some speculative realm of darkness. God is not distant. We look toward the God who became one of us, to dwell with us, because he so wanted to reach us and draw us into a wonderful union with Him forever.
The Father shared the Son, and the Son came and shared his relationship with His Father. What more could we ask?
So as we think about Christ, it is not “that Christ is a model;” — he may be that, but more importantly, “first and foremost he is the Saviour of the helpless. And his salvation is not about God, from a distance, lobbing down some sort of help, some ‘grace’; here, God graciously gives us himself and his own life. God is the blessing of the gospel. God with us.” (Christ Our Life, 38)