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TEXT: I John 3:8b
SUBJECT: Incarnation #3: Why the Incarnation?
Today, with God's blessing, we will move on in our Sunday afternoon series called Studies in the Incarnation. I chose the topic for four reasons: (1) It is an essential doctrine of the Christian faith, (2) it is misunderstood by many Christians, (3) it has practical implications for the way we live our lives, and (4) Christmas is coming soon, and when your unbelieving friends and neighbors give you a chance, you need to give them the true reason for the season, and not mix it up with childhood memories of--
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping at your nose.
Christmas is about the Incarnation of God, and this study is trying to answer the question--
Why did God become a man?
Thus far, we've looked at key ideas. Firstly, that it was and is God who became a man. It is very hard to dismiss the Lord Jesus Christ; anyone who has read the Gospels has felt deeply impressed by their portraits of Him.
Most of these people do not actually believe in Him, but they respect Him, admire Him, and think the world would be a better place if everyone tried to follow His teaching or live as He did.
This won't do! Nowhere does the Bible tell us to respect Jesus or admire His lifestyle. What the Bible teaches is to worship Him as God, and to repose the same trust in Him as we do in our Heavenly Father. Why should a mere man--even the best of men--receive such honors? Because Jesus is not a mere man! He is God in the most unqualified sense of the word. Christians have always called Him 'God', but not only Christians. In Hebrews 1:8, it is God who calls Him God--
He says, 'Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom'.
It is, therefore, God who became a man.
And when we say, 'God became a man', we mean, 'He became a real man, as human and you and I'. Back in the Early Church, there was a group called the 'Docetics' who very strongly affirmed the Divinity of Christ. But they couldn't see how God could also be a man, and so they denied His humanity. The word they used is 'apparition', that is, Jesus appeared to be a man, but was not.
The Early Church condemned these men as heretics, and rightly so!
Another group--not quite as bad as the Docetics--were the followers of Appolonaris, bishop of Laodicea, in the 4th Century. They very much believed the Word became flesh, that is, Jesus assumed a human body. They were right on this, of course. But they stopped with the human body and denied Him a human mind. The problem with this view is, to be a human is to have a human mind, and if Jesus didn't have that, He isn't human. It also runs into the brick wall of Jesus not knowing everything when He lived among us.
This view was also condemned, and thank God it was, because--without meaning to--it diminished our Lord's full humanity.
God became a man.
Today, we look at a third key word--
Why God became a man.
Or, the Reason for the Incarnation.
THE REASON--IN BRIEF
An event as significant as the Incarnation occurred for more than one reason, and if we wanted to hunt down all the reasons in the Bible, we'd be here for a very long time! Thankfully, we don't have to do that because today's text, I John 3:8b gives us the whole story in half a verse.
Why did God become a man?
For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
God joined the human race to undo all the devil had done to us; to unscramble the egg of sin; to unring the bell of death. Before we move on to the details, we ought to stand in wonder at His achievement!
The seraphim and other ranks of angels praise God in Heaven now, but I suspect their mighty voices will be drowned out in the Age to Come, as the Elect sing the praises of the One who--
Redeemed us to God
by your blood
out of every tribe and tongue
and people and nation.
THE WORKS OF THE DEVIL
To find out what John means by the works of the devil, all you've got to do is read the newspaper or review your own life. The evils we see all around us--and in us--are works of the devil, from lust to envy, the love of money, laziness, gluttony, murder, lying, racism, rape, war, human trafficking, strip mining, clear cutting, you name it: if its a human problem, it can be traced back to the devil. This includes things that are not, in and of themselves sinful, but are the indirect results of sin, such as birth defects, cancer, diabetes, schizophrenia, depression, and, of course, death.
These are the works of the devil, the works that Jesus Christ came to--
How's He going to do this? We have sincere people working on all the above, but with very little to whow for it. I admire these people, and thank God for what success they have, but, let's face it: no program, no protest, no candidate is going to fix the world. They might relieve some of the symptoms, but they'll never cure the disease.
They will not cure it because, most of them don't know what it is, and those who do, can't do anything about it. What's wrong with the world?
It is separated from God.
The devil's first trick was to alienate Adam and Eve from the Lord who made them. Once he did that--once he got them to listen to him instead of God--all the rest followed.
Karl Marx almost got it right: Man's fundamental problem is alienation. He said 'alienation from the fruit of his labor' (and there's truth in that), but the deeper and truer alienation is from God.
The only way to destroy the works of the devil, therefore, is to reconcile us to God.
This is precisely what Jesus came into the world to do--and what, in time, He did do. When we think of the effects of sin, what normally comes to mind is its horizontal effects, what yours sins do to me and what my sins do to you. We ought to think of sin in this way--but first, we ought to think of it in another way: We ought to remember the vertical effects of sin, that is the problem it causes God.
Here's a term you don't hear every day: 'God's problems'. We have problems, but being all mighty and all wise, we think God doesn't. This is wrong-headed in the extreme! Human sin presented God with a humungous problem!
God loves sinners and wants to save us, but...How can He do that without becoming unjust, without breaking His own rules, without being a crooked judge?
He has to find a way to justify the guilty without sacrificing His justice. How can He do this? If He metes out the justice we deserve, we will not be saved; if He saves us without meting out the justice, He will not be just.
...Unless an innocent man volunteers to bear God's justice in the place of the guilty. Only then can God be both--
Just and the justifier (of the unjust).
Jesus Christ came into the world to be that Innocent Man and to bear the penalty of our sins in His own body on the cross.
By thus satisfying the justice of God and taking His punishment for us, Jesus has reconciled us to God. We are no longer estranged from Him, no longer hiding, no longer trying to cover our shame with an apron of fig leaves! We are reconciled to God!
This sets in motion a chain of events that will undo all the devil has done to us. Being loved by God enables us to love Him and others. As we grow in love for God, we stop deforming ourselves by worshiping other gods, the gods of money or sex or popularity or recognition. We don't need these gods anymore, because we have the love of the One True God--
The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we grow in love for others, we lose the need to 'always be right', thus allowing us to listen to other people, take just criticism, and no be offended or resentful when people misunderstand or undervalue us!
This love for God and each other creates the Church, a community of love, a people reconciled to God and reconciling with each other.
The changes are real and deep, but, of course, they're not complete in this world. That awaits the Second Coming of Christ, when the final results of His Work on the Cross will be in.
On that day, all of God's people will be reconciled to Him, to each other, to themselves, and to the non-human parts of creation. On that day, the curse will be removed and--as the prophet promised and saints have always dreamed--
The desert shall blossom as a rose.
Why did God become a man? He became a man to--
Destroy the works of the devil.
The work has begun and it will not be stopped--
Till Heaven and Earth are one.
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