“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
The doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ is critical and foundational to the Gospel. It establishes that God became flesh. Not that He just became a spirit; but He took on physical human form. Christ was the physical manifestation of the Godhead.
The Bible says, that God took upon Himself the form of a man. Not the nature of man, but the physical form. And He subjected Himself to the same limitations that we have as men. As the hymn says, “mild he laid his glory by“.
We cannot fully realize the incredible implications of this. God allowed Himself to experience all the trials and temptations that man would face. The difference is, He never succumbed to them. He never chose to sin. Of course, God cannot sin. But He was still subjected to the same physical sufferings, terrible emotions and spiritual attacks that we undergo.
Christ Dependent on the Father
But there is another aspect of this we seldom see. That He limited all of His power. Making Himself entirely dependent on the Father for all the work He would do. Totally dependent. He set aside His power in order that the Father could fully express Himself through the Son.
Here are some verses showing His self-imposed limitation:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do; for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” (John 5:19).
“I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.” (John 5:30).
I do not pretend to understand this. How could Jesus be both God and man? And how He could be in two places at once? Look at this verse in John where it says that, while He was physically on earth, He was also in Heaven! “And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” (John 3:13). We will still be marveling at this a million years from today.
The implications of this “setting aside” of His power, are that we also are to live by the same process. We must be entirely dependent on the Spirit of Christ dwelling within us to live the life He desires to live through us. And that means that we must “set aside” dependence on our own strength to do His work. Even the very best of our dedicated Christian resolve and will.
The Imitation and the True
You see, this is the true difference between religion and life. One has to do with man’s attempts to imitate God. The other is God living through us. Even those who are born again can get this confused. We, too easily, tend live by the same process as the world’s religions do.
If we could live by our own dedicated will, we would never have needed to be born again. It would simply be a question of overcoming the will and re-routing it in a good spiritual direction. That is what Colossians calls “will-worship”. Worshipping the management of our own will power.
As they said to Christ, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John 6:28-29). Men have always been looking for ways to imitate the works of God. Ways to produce the same kind of fruit without dependence on Christ.
Consider what the scriptures mean when they say, “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:” (Colossians 2:6). In other words, we must now live in the same way in which we first received Christ as our Savior.
OK. But what does that mean?
“Nothing” Means Nothing
Paul warns believers, “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” Or “He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” (Galatians 3:3,5). The beginning of our walk is the key to how we must now live.
Or, “I am the vine, ye are the branches He that abideth in me, and I in him, bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5). We can do all kinds of things that look good. They may look good to everyone around us. But if they are not done out of an “abiding” in Christ, they will not last. The fruit will not remain.
Man’s single greatest problem has always been his confidence in his own ability to live independent of God. Adam made this choice in Eden. He believed the lie that he could be independent of Christ. Whether that independence expresses itself as good works, altruistic works, religious works, social-justice works, loving works, or whatever. It is still produced by the independent will of man.
“So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.” (Romans 9:16).
It is all of mercy. All of grace. It is God’s own will power that moves us and works in us. It is not our will nor strength. Our will must be subjected, in faith, to believe in His working within us to produce His fruit. A dependence on the activity of the Spirit of God within us.
Christ in You, the Hope of Glory
Christ has made it possible, again, that man, born anew with the Spirit indwelling him, could live as God had originally intended him to live. That Christ could be, in us, as the Father was in Him.
I like to think of something that Major Ian Thomas often said in his books and sermons. I am paraphrasing here. He said that the life Christ lived two thousand years ago qualified Him for the death that He died. So that now He is able to live His life again through us.
His life, if lived in His own power two thousand years ago, would be nothing more than a greater condemnation against us. IF He had done all He did by His own divine power. However, because He lived His life by the glory and power of the Father, then He has shown us the way we too can live for Him.
This is the incredible gift of Christmas. That we not only have forgiveness and cleansing from His blood and the death He died, but we also have His Resurrection life to live through us.
So that the Light of the world also becomes our Life. The power of His resurrection Life in us. Today. Right now. From moment to moment as we move from this life toward eternity to come.
Merry Christmas ! ! !