- Phil Berquist
Our College and Young Singles' ministry (CYS) is going through a series called "God With Us" to parallel our church's Advent series. We're looking at a few of the major components of the Incarnation, and it's been really exciting to dig into these lessons.
It might be a little unconventional to emphasize suffering, temptation and penal substitution when most folks are feeling merry and bright at the thought of cuddly baby Jesus... but those are what the Incarnation points us toward! I think it's important that we consider why Christ had to become fully man. It makes cuddly baby Jesus that much more exciting!
Our first lesson focused on the Atonement. Christ had to become fully man in order to atone for sinful men (Hebrews 2:16). The punishment for the sins of man had to be endured by a man... so Christ took on flesh. Not only did Jesus take our place in receiving punishment, but He also stands in our place as righteous. This righteousness was earned as a man (Matthew 3:15 and Matthew 5:17). It's a righteousness we couldn't earn... so Christ took on flesh. He lived, as a man, in complete obedience to God's will. And all who trust in Christ by faith receive His righteousness, justifying us before God the Father!
The second lesson had us looking at Jesus' sympathy for mankind. Christ had to take on flesh so that He could gain experiential knowledge of human suffering and temptation. Crazy to insinuate that Christ lacked knowledge of something, given He's omniscient but Hebrews 2:18 tells us that Jesus' experiences in human suffering and temptation allow Him to sympathize with us. Consider how great His suffering was, knowing it truly was undeserved. Imagine how great the temptations were that He faced, considering that He never gave in. Wayne Grudem joins other theologians in suggesting that, "only he who successfully resists a temptation to the end most fully feels the force of that temptation." We think we know the magnitude of temptation, but try to grasp how immense it could be, if it were always resisted! To minister to mankind with sympathy, Christ took on flesh.
The next installment of our series will look ahead to our resurrection bodies! Christ took on flesh so that He could redeem humans. That means that everything that goes into being human will be redeemed! Christ is the firstfruits of the resurrection. He maintains a glorified, physical body and His people will be resurrected to glorified, physical bodies (1 Corinthians 15)! For man to ultimately be what God intended, Christ had to take on flesh and redeem it. Amazing stuff!
None of these things could have happened if Christ had not humbled Himself unto humanness. We celebrate baby Jesus because of the eternal and otherwise impossible implications His arrival led to! God didn't have to send Jesus. But He wanted to save and redeem us.
That's why our final "lesson" will be a day of praise to God for His loving plan to show us mercy and grace!
1 John 4:10 "In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
God with us! Merry Christmas!