Our sister, Hilary is in town on break from her missions work. Yesterday, she shared some of her experiences doing medical missions in the Indian Ocean region. Hilary is working with Y-WAM based out of Perth, Australia. After the message, we had a Q&A over a potluck luncheon. You can hear her message here. Hilary has answered the call of Jesus to use her gifts, talents, and abilities for the kingdom of heaven. Everyone who names the name of Christ has a similar mission. We may not be skilled in medicine and meet those kinds of needs in the Indian Ocean. Yet we have a call from God. When we answer the call, we become representatives of Jesus on earth. We go in his name. We are backed by his authority. We do what he has shown us through his example. Doing the work Jesus calls his church to as his representative means that on a personal level, at some points, we will represent Jesus to people. This is what we call “incarnational reality.” We become the physical presence of Jesus in the world now that he has ascended.
Doing the work Jesus calls his church to as his representative means that on a personal level, at some points, we will represent Jesus to people. This is what we call “Incarnational Reality.”
Today, I’d like to share 3 ways in which we can all be the hands and feet of Jesus (a.k.a. “Incarnational Reality.”
Help Meet Physical Needs
Jesus told his disciples, “On the day of the Lord, I will say to you, ‘I was hungry and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me water. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was in prison and you visited me.’ But many will say, ‘Lord, when did see you hungry, thirsty, in need of clothes or in prison?’ And I will say, whenever you do these to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.” (Matt. 25:34-40 paraphrased).
We very much have a place to help meet the physical needs of people, especially other Christians (Note vs. 40 “whenever you do these to the least of my brother and sisters…”). Many times we see in Scripture God’s heart for the underprivileged and needy. From Isaiah 61 to Matt. 25 to the parting command to Paul and Barnabas at the Jerusalem Council to the letter of James, remembering the poor is one of the dearest things to God’s heart.
Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, provided wine for a wedding, and gave an abundance of fish to fishermen. To say he only came with a spiritual mission is a false assertion. He came with a physical mission as well. So when we are sent into the world, we have far more to do than the spiritual. We have a command to get in the business of meeting physical needs too. Sometimes we’ll do that through supernatural miracles. Other times we’ll do that through good old fashioned conventional means. And we have to be ok doing both. We meet the needs of people like Jesus met the needs of people because we are his representatives. He did tell his disciples “Greater things [than what you’ve seen me do] will people who believe in me do (John 14:12 paraphrased).
We meet the needs of people like Jesus met the needs of people because we are his representatives.
Disciple Others To Grow in the Faith
When we read the Bible and get involved in Christian circles, there are some Bible verses that become part of the common lingo. These are those “Big” memorable verses: John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 13, Philippians 4:12, Matthew 5. (“For God so loved the World, The Love Chapter, Think on these things, the Beatitudes–respectively). One of those “Big” passages is Matthew 28:18-20 “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The church’s job is to develop people into mature followers of Jesus through what is called “discipleship.” Discipleship can only be done in the context of relationship.
This is one of those foundational passages that spell out the “mission” of Christianity. We don’t keep our faith personal and contained. We are to share it with others in an effort (yes effort) to make disciples everywhere. That means the church’s job is not to just make a bunch of converts then move on to another group. The church’s job is to develop people into mature followers of Jesus through what is called “discipleship.” Discipleship can only be done in the context of relationship (core of the Gospel). We work through the mess of helping people hammer out what it means to be a Christian. We work with longsuffering to help new believers come to greater understanding about a relationship with God, his people, about developing morality and character in line with the Bible. We teach them to hear the Lord’s voice–all the while gently guiding them when they fail miserably, helping them back up, then going at it again.
Curricula and programs can help guide the process. And at the end of the day, it is still a messy relational process full of excitement and joys and frustrations and awkward conversations.
This is “Incarnational Reality”. It is when believers and followers of Jesus buckle down and commit to really developing other believers and followers of Jesus. This is exactly what Jesus did with his disciples. He taught, he guided, he instructed, he sent them out to do it too. Discipleship is faith in practice in the context of relationship. What we do with younger believers is what Jesus did with his followers. We take on the things Jesus did in our own relationships, thus representing Jesus in the process. In a sense we are being a physical representation of Jesus fulfilling the mission.
Be Emotionally and Spiritually Supportive
This is probably one of the toughest arenas for many Christians. It is tough enough to manage our own lives, our own emotional development and spiritual health. For many it may feel like a Sisyphean task just to keep spiritual discipline in their lives. Yet we are called to so much more. First we are called to an “abundant” life, which includes a thriving spiritual and emotional life. Then we are called to be there for our brothers and sisters of the faith when they are in emotional and spiritual need. And vice versa.
It is true that in the area of relational connection, it is easy to go off balance and be tempted to do more than is our place on a spiritual and emotional level. That is where healthy boundaries are so important. In a sense, we represent Jesus to people with love, forgiveness, prayer, and listening support. One of the best things we can do to help people in emotional and spiritual need is to simply be. Presence speaks far more to where people are than any words we can muster. Presence means we care. This is one of the best ways in which we can represent Jesus to people with these kinds of needs–be present.
One of the best things we can do to help people in emotional and spiritual need is to simply be. Presence speaks far more to where people are than any words we can muster. Presence means we care.
What are some ways Christians have been “Incarnate” for you? How have they helped you out in any or all of these areas? Also, what are some ways you can be “incarnate” for other believers in their needs?
Thanks for reading this week’s pastor blog post. I hope it has helped you better experience our Lord’s