by Loren Gjesdal
What do you think of when you read the word “incarnation”? A baby in a manger? Jesus walking the dusty roads of Israel?
How about when you read the word “resurrection”? An empty tomb? Jesus rising into the sky on a cloud?
Not to be blasphemous, but why don’t you picture you, today, at home, school, or work? One of the mind-boggling truths of the Christian faith is that followers of Jesus are to be the incarnation of Jesus, the Living Jesus in the world today!
Incarnation literally means “in the flesh,” and resurrection means “rising from the dead.” Paul tells us that as Christ followers we are the body (the flesh or physical presence) of Christ (1 Cor 12:27), and that through faith in Jesus we have been transported from death to life (John 5:24; Eph 2:4-6).
A Death and a Resurrection
Our baptism, therefore, pictures both a death and a resurrection:
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).
We die to our old self-serving sin nature, and we rise with Jesus to a new life. Salvation then is so much more than having our sins forgiven and our slate wiped clean. It is also entry into mission with Jesus. It is to live for the honor of the One who died to wipe our slate clean by continuing the work He lived and died for.
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:18-20).
A Life of Ongoing Transformation
When we realize what we are called to be and do, and as we assess who we are in comparison with who He is, we quickly realize the Christian life is to be a life of ongoing transformation. Our great ambition is to be like our Savior, but our starting point falls far short. Fortunately, God is not requiring us to be instantly like Jesus, but is invested in the process of transforming us daily, and He has provided everything needed to get the job done. He has provided His Word, His Spirit and His church.
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:11-13).
A New Incarnation of Jesus
Every Christian, having been born again, resurrected from death to life, filled with the Spirit, undergoing transformation, is a new incarnation of Jesus today. The church collectively, and each of us individually, are to be Living Jesus. This is a high and holy calling, a weighty responsibility, but a glorious privilege:
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit (2 Cor 3:18).
Through the indwelling, ongoing, transforming work of the Holy Spirit, we are to represent Jesus to the world, in flesh and blood, a new incarnation of His ministry. Of course, we are not literally Jesus, the Son of God, but as His ambassadors we should represent Him accurately.
We should live as He lived, do as He did, teach what He taught, and love like He loved. We should do this at home, at church, at school and at work—everywhere we are, Jesus should be seen in us! And we have this confidence, that when the world sees the Living Jesus in us, many will be drawn to us just like they were to Him.