The Incarnated – We Become Like Jesus
Jesus took on flesh. Pretty incredible. What makes the process of God becoming like us even more incredible is that he did it so that we could become like him. Paul tells us our destiny is to be made in the image of Jesus (Romans 8.29). In 2 Peter 1.4, we read that God intends for us to participate in the divine nature through the promises of Christ wrought by his glory and goodness. In other words, Jesus purchased by his life, death, and resurrection, our ticket to being like Jesus.
Make no mistake, we do not become like God in every way. We will not create our own worlds or people – contrary to the claims of the Mormon church. We will not become omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent. But we will be like Jesus in two important ways.
- We will be holy.
- We will be sent to incarnate.
We Will Be Holy
One of the primary purposes of Jesus was to remove the stain of sin from his creation, humanity. Jesus died for our sins so that we could be dead to sin. This is what Romans 6 is all about. Jesus died and was raised again to new life. Through our baptism, we die with him and are raised to new life with him.
Among other things, our baptism is a symbol of being lowered into the pit of death. Just like our bodies are lowered into the grave at our funeral, in baptism we are lowered beneath the surface of the water to represent our joining with Jesus in his death. And just as Jesus was brought out of the grave, we are raised out of the water to new life. And if we have new life in Jesus, we are not longer beholden to our sinful ways but are free to live new lives wherein we are beholden to the righteousness of Christ Jesus.
This righteousness is both legally true and actually true. When God looks at us, he sees the holiness of Jesus. Our sins have been forgiven. We are righteous in the eyes of God our Father. We are declared righteous by the judge, and so there are no longer any legal claims over us to the contrary. But also, God works in us to conform us into the image of Jesus so that we increasingly live out our righteous state in the form of righteous acts. This is the fruit of Christ, the fruit of the Spirit, in us (Philippians 1.11; Galatians 5.22-25).
We Will Be Sent To Incarnate
Just as importantly, we are sent to incarnate like Jesus did. In the Gospel of John , Jesus tells us that he has called his disciples out of the world.
If you belonged to the world, it would have loved you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. ~John 15.19
Just as Jesus was outside of this world, he makes us outside of this world by our association with him. We are no longer natives. We are not longer citizens, but rather foreigners traversing through a foreign land. We are all immigrants on this earth. We are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3.20). In this sense, we are like Jesus, who came from heaven to earth. But just as we are no longer of this world (like Jesus), we are sent into the world (like Jesus). Just 2 chapters after Jesus tells his disciples that they are not of this world, he prays this to the Father about them;
I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. ~John 17.14-19
Do you see the parallels? Jesus had the Father’s word. He only spoke what the Father told him. Now, the disciples have that word. Jesus was not of this world, but rather from heaven. Now, his disciples are not of this world. Jesus was sent into the world, and now he sends his disciples into the world. He is sanctified so that we can be sanctified. Jesus became like us so that we could become like him.
The imagery could not be more powerful or direct. Just as we needed a savior from outside this world to proclaim the Good News of the God’s powerful act of restoration, the world still needs outsiders to get the job done. We do not sacrifice ourselves for others people’s sins, but we do sacrifice ourselves for their salvation. Our whole lives are living sacrifices (Romans 12.1) that we offer to God for his glory on earth. Paul claimed that the witness of his life spent preaching the Gospel was like a drink offering being poured out before the Lord (Phil 2.17). We become like Christ to others so that Christ can be known among them.
Now, we are the incarnated.