Some time around the year 10 A.D., in a carpenter shop in the small village of Nazareth, you could have peered in the shop and seen God with wood shavings or masonry dust in His hair! That's the amazing thing about God taking on human flesh in Jesus. We call this the incarnation (John 1:1-18;  1 John 1:1-4). This truth boggles our minds and dumbfounds scholars.

Each of the four Gospels (Bible books we call Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) speaks about this truth in different ways, but each embraces this incredible truth.

  • Matthew:
    The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel — which means "God with us" (Matthew 1:23 TNIV).
  • Mark:
    The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:1).
    And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, "Surely this man was the Son of God!" (Mark 15:39).
  • Luke:
    They were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people" (Luke 7:16).
  • John:
    No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known (John 1:18).

God choosing to be one of us, sharing our human skin with all of its mortal frailties, is the ultimate testimony of His great love for us (John 3:16-17)!

So when we come to Jesus' LifeWORDS this week, we are brought back to this incredible truth: God-styled ministry is incarnational. Jesus' words resonate with a different power when we hear them as a call to cross our cultural boundaries and live alongside people to see Jesus formed in them. This is not a call to evangelism, this is something much more. This is Jesus' commission to us, to be His ongoing incarnation: a people with a mission to live with people till Christ is formed in them (Galatians 4:19;  Colossians 1:28-29). We call it the Great Commission:

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20).

Jesus called these disciples, flawed and broken as they were, to enter a broken world and change it by sharing His message, lifestyle, and character. That they were "the eleven" - not the perfect number of apostles, which was twelve - spoke of their brokenness. That some struggled with doubt made them part of the real world where faith is sometimes hard. But, these human realities, brokenness and doubt, enabled them to enter the world of brokenness and doubt and make a difference. They had Jesus stories to tell. They had Jesus-powered transformation to share. They had real life human struggles where Jesus led them through storms, inadequacies, and failures. They were the perfect flawed vessels for Jesus to use to share His message (2 Corinthians 4:6-11)! They could enter the world knowing its wounds while also knowing the source of healing.

Jesus' LifeWORDS are a call for something more than evangelism - the declaration of the Good News of the Kingdom of God. Jesus is calling us to be the incarnation of that Good News of the Kingdom. If we are going to touch others with the grace of God, we have to be among them, as one of them, to lead them home to the Father. Notice how the Holy Spirit said this even about Jesus:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death ... For this reason he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way ... Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:14-18).

Jesus' words are far more than a call to be evangelistic: they are a call to be incarnational - people who proclaim, train, and live the Good News of Jesus alongside those they want to reach!

When we live this way, Immanuel is real because He is present in our lives and ministry. People can say, "Immanuel. God is with us!" because they have experienced His presence, through us, in their world.

Please check out a video related to this message and leave comments to the following questions on my blog:
The following questions can also be used in small groups and house church gatherings.

What is the difference between evangelism and incarnational ministry?

Do you think a good definition of incarnational ministry is "people who proclaim, train, and live the Good News of Jesus alongside those they want to reach"?

Which of the three is most important — proclaim, train, or live the Good News? Can we fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus and leave out any of these three elements?

How can such an approach make your life more purposeful?
What do you need to do to incorporate an incarnational approach of Good News Kingdom living into your daily life?

How can such an approach make your life more purposeful?

Where can you incorporate this incarnational approach to Good News Kingdom living into your daily life?

  • How does it work in your family? (Deuteronomy 6:1-9)
  • How does it work in your workplace or school? (1 Peter 3:15)
  • How does it work in your public life? (Matthew 5:13-16)

Who is someone with whom you can partner in an accountability commitment to fulfill the Great Commission in your world?

Our Summer Series on the Post Resurrection Sayings of Jesus