24/12/2006

God manifested in the flesh


I hadn't planned that I should use this blog to share my own sermons, but I have been urged that the message shared today needs to have a wider hearing than the congregation. Our church website doesn't yet have the facility for audio messages, so I will put it here. It is not a full transcript, but an outline from memory and from my rather scanty notes! I trust the Lord will use it to be a blessing.

God was manifested in the flesh (1 Tim 3v16)

This is a very important statement? Why? If Jesus were just a man:
  • We may have a messenger from God, but we have a very distant God.
  • We may have a messenger from God, but we have a weak God - One who can only send a messenger, but cannot come Himself.
Yet, the scripture tells us God was manifested in the flesh. We have both an intimate God and an Almighty God. Never can we say "God does not understand".

Now to explore the doctrine in more detail.

I) God became flesh
John 1v14 tells us that. "The Word became." He joined His deity 100% to humanity, while still being 100% God. He had a real, fully human body just like ours. He had real cells, real organs, a real brain. He had real emotions - He felt. He had a real nervous system - He really suffered, true pain, for us. He had a real heart, that stopped beating... and then started again 3 days later.

One has put it "manhood and deity, in perfect harmony, the Man who is God." There is no division, there are two natures but one Christ. The two natures can be seen by comparing John 8v58 and Mark 13v32. Yet there is no confusion, both are true in the One Person - the One Christ. One church council put it like this: one person yet two natures "without confusion, without change, without division, without separation."
Our lack of full understanding doesn't make this any less true. It is rather a cause for worship. I don't understand how He did it, but He did it. And we must believe it - we are sternly warned against the spirit behind any teaching that denies Jesus as God manifested in the flesh (2 John 7).

We see, too, supreme humility (Phil 2v5-8). Be amazed. The hymn-writer put it like this:

Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love's sake becamest poor;
Thrones for a manger didst surrender,
Sapphire-paved courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendour,
All for love's sake becamest poor
.
(Frank Houghton)

These things must surely move us to extravagant worship. He had every right to come storming down from heaven in a mighty chariot? Yet His glory was exchanged for being a baby, His throne for a manger, and those streets of gold for the dirt and dung of a stable floor. We sinners, Christ did this for us!

II) God fulfilled His promise
The promise was given back in Genesis 3v15 - the Seed of the woman will crush the serpent's head. A glorious promise. "Head", among other things, speaks of authority. The Seed of the woman - the second Adam, God manifest in the flesh, has stripped that ancient serpent, the devil of His authority.

The incarnation (God manifested in the flesh) fulfils this promise. He had every right to come on a mighty chariot from heaven, but instead He fulfilled His promise. He came as the woman's Seed, conceived perfectly, without sin, by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit upon Mary (Luke 1v35).

III) God's sacrifice was made
Heb 2v14-17. He had to be like us in every way to be our substitute. By man sin came into the world, so a Man must bear the punishment for our sin. He alone, God in the flesh, the true Man could "make propitiation for the sins of the people." No incarnation means no cross.

But God IS manifested in the flesh - the sacrifice is complete!

IV) God understands
The gospels are full of examples of Jesus Christ feeling - emotion. He was "moved with compassion" (Mark 1v41). He was not moved with duty. And He is moved with compassion now!

He was moved to rebuke sickness (Luke 4v39). This suggests He was grieved by it - and He still is! What confidence this should give us when we come to pray. Are you lonely - all forsook Him and fled, He endured the cross alone; are you weeping over a loved one - didn't He weep at the tomb of His friend Lazarus; are you sick - He is grieved by sickness (and has power to heal).

We cannot say "God doesn't care." We may feel it keenly sometimes, but these things are lies of the devil. The fact is - He knows! So let's run to Him for help. Which leads to the final point...

V) God intercedes
There is a Man at God's right hand - Hebrews 4v14-16. He is our great High Priest filled with compassion for us. Those same hands raised heavenwards while He walked this earth, those hands which were nailed to the cross, they are raised in intercession before the throne of glory.
This means:
  • What glorious encouragement! Every sin and failing, where we feel keenly the cloud of guilt and condemnation, He sympathises with our weakness. He is without sin, but He still welcomes us back. Are you holding the Lord at arm's length because of sin? Come back! Receive the welcome!
  • What a mighty challenge! There is mercy and grace to help in time of need! Jesus was tempted in every way yet without sin. He overcame, and He intercedes now for mercy and grace for you to overcome! Let us never say "I can't" or "I can't help it." There is a Man at the Father's right hand, and for you there is everything you need to overcome. We only have to come.
  • What a mighty hope! There is a Man at the heart of the universe. The same Man who died upon the cross, rose - the tomb was empty! The same man who rose was seen by His disciples bodily ascending into heaven. That same glorious body is in heaven right now. And the promise is this - He "will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body" (Phil 3v21). GLORY!!!
God was manifested in the flesh to bring us into the fulness of glorious humanity in God's presence forever!
So often Jesus can be clouded by tinsel and trappings at Christmas. Let us take the tinsel off and worship the One who is "God manifested in the flesh."

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