The Word Made Flesh
Was Jesus an inanimate set of truths? Was He a pro forma statement of faith? Or was He a living, breathing manifestation of the Invisible God with a rescue mission of redemption? When the Scriptures declare that the “Word was made flesh”, does that suggest that before He was flesh He was in written form on a heavenly wall? And when we are told that as followers we are “epistles, read of all men” does that mean we are to tattoo the New Testament on our bodies? Now if we can see the fallacies in some of these statements, then we are left with this question:
What is the Word of God and how is it manifested in us? When a sinner believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes to take up residence in his mortal being. Of course this is a great mystery, but it is a reality nonetheless. The Holy Spirit seals us until the day of our redemption becomes a reality in the life to come, but He also is sent to begin a metamorphosis within that believer which works its way out in observable behaviors that are far different than what had been practiced before. But to put is succinctly, the Spirit begins to mold us into a living, breathing facsimile of our Lord and Master, Jesus. But to take it a sacred step further, the Person of Christ lives within us, and the Spirit begins to crucify what is us in order to allow the resurrected Christ to come forth. Again, an eternal mystery.
But so often the evangelical church has defined itself in terms of what it believes at the expense of how it lives. Gather together 100 average evangelical believers and put them alongside 100 moral unbelievers and you will find precious little which distinguishes between the two groups, to say nothing of observing anything really remarkable in differentiating between them. That should be a shame to us, and in fact, calls into question what we really do believe. And in a subtle effort to soothe our consciences, we as evangelicals wear our statements of faith as a spiritual talisman designed to define us due to the lack of empirical evidence which should be found overwhelmingly in our lives.
We have used and abused the Bible for our own earthly benefit and spiritual self righteousness. The clarion call, “I believe the Bible!” has become a hubristic battle cry which usually exalts the evangelical choir and simultaneously assaults the lost world. But it cannot be ignored that we have to say it loud and clear because our lives are staggeringly insufficient to convey our Biblical adherence without our self serving commentary. Many church signs tout their Bible believing credentials with a spiritual pride that is contrary to the very Bible they profess to believe. In short, the church has become a sort of religious club which is revealed in doctrinal words far greater than it is revealed in remarkable lifestyles that run observably different than the darkness around them. Of course we can always cling to our pro-life stand and our traditional marriage convictions as proof that we “like Jesus”.
But the written Word of God was never meant to be a collection of doctrinal museum pieces that when neatly organized like a theological puzzle we can stand back and admire our work. Of course the Word is God’s truth, but it is not only in the abstract. The Word is powerful, and when allowed to be used by the Spirit it can both save a lost sinner, but also change a saved sinner. And so often when a believer is asked to give his testimony of how God changed his life, he speaks of changes made years ago experienced in the several years following his initial conversion experience. Rarely do we speak of how God changed our lives this year, or this month, or even this very day! How pathetic.
Paul warned the Corinthians against being of Apollos, or of Peter, or of Paul. To be identified with any man is not only unwise, it is unchristian. And yet we say we are Arminian, or Calvinists, or Wesleyan, and other monikers that do not exclusively mention Christ. Or we say we are conservative or fundamental or even evangelical which replace what we should be: Those who remind the world of our Master. And so often the Scriptures are treated as some spiritual algebra book that can only be understood by those with original language credentials. Some dissect the written scriptures down to the atomic level which appeals to the intellect but does little to change the lives of its readers. And many defend their inerrancy doctrine through words and Scriptural evidence without the foundation of a life which authenticates that same inerrancy.
But who among us can stand upon a platform and claim we have arrived? But if we have moved the destination, we then cannot even claim we are on the path which leads to Christlikeness. There is a vast difference between knowing the Word and eating it. A man shows you his pantry full of nutritious foods, well organized and with books that define and categorize all the different foods. He explains the different nutritious values associated with the different foods, and he even shows you how others have compromised their value by redefining the foods and by falsely attributing nutrition to those foods which have none. But since this man is sickly and gaunt, you can safely assume he understands nutrition and has a well organized pantry full of such foods, but he himself is not consuming them.
And such is a reflection of much of the “orthodox” community who have well organized pantries of doctrinal displays, but do not reflect the Christ about whom these pantries are supposed to speak. It is one thing to know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and the prophetic significance of that birth, but it is quite another to be resigned to exhibit that same profound humility in our daily lives. It is one thing to recite the golden rule, but it is quite another to actually practice it. It is one thing to believe that Jesus was crucified for the sins of the world, but it is quite another to walk daily in a personal crucifixion. It is one thing to have Louis Sperry Chafer’s systematic theology in your library, but it is quite another to live the demonstrative theology of Jesus.
Perhaps a fresh look at how we view God’s Word might help us to come into agreement with the Spirit’s ministry. And perhaps a fresh comparison between our lives and the life of the Lord Jesus might also break up the doctrinal fallow ground and plant a new and vibrant crop that when watered and nourished could bring a harvest of spiritual fruit that could be labeled, simply, Jesus.
Or we can remain as we are.