…a body You prepared for Me

Body prepared

Sunday 12/18/22

Message – …a body You prepared for Me

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…a body You prepared for Me

Well it’s Christmas time again and as I have been reflecting on all this means to us, the most basic point of this season comes to the forefront.

  • God – the Living Word came not only to be with us, but one OF us.
  • God became flesh… Immanuel – God with us.

Easily two of my favorite passages in the whole bible regarding this are Hebrews 10:5 and John 1:14.

They are an announcement of THE fulfillment of the one promise which has the greatest significance in both testaments. 

It is the fulfillment of the very first promise as well as the most often stated promise – that Messiah would come!

Hebrews 10:5 says, “So when He came into the world, He said, “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You prepared for Me.”

and…

John 1:14,  “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

As I have looked back over these promises I can’t help but chuckle at the timing at which they are often mentioned. God is so brilliantly clever in His words and actions. Even in judgment and discipline, if you have eyes to see it, there is a winsomeness to God in His outlook and His predictions -even if they are to some degree immediately grave. 

Two which come to mind are the words of discipline He spoke to Eve in the garden and to a prophecy He spoke to King Ahaz through Isaiah after events which the scriptures tell us made God very angry at him.

In both cases God gives words to His judgments but in them He speaks of the final redemption of man.

In Eve, who rebelled against both God and Adam in supplanting her husband by taking the lead – its as if God said, 

“You want to act independent of your husband, then you will have pain in your childbearing, but one day also independent of a husband you will conceive and give birth to a Child, Who both AS a man and in part because He is a man will save the world.”

To Ahaz who was SO corrupt that he even offered his own sons to the pagan idol Molek, in the very Valley of Ben Hinnom that Jesus used as a metaphor for hell – God offered Ahaz a sign by saying in Isaiah 7:13-16,

13 Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? 14  Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.  15  Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16  For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings.”

Notice that both of these, as well as others, were at some of the times of God’s greatest consternation at people and events in human history.

So you might wonder – Why did God choose times such as these to prophecy of the coming of Messiah Jesus? You would think that the redemption of these rebellious people would be the farthest thing from His mind at that moment.

It’s as if God were saying, “ENOUGH!” 

You are My people , you belong to ME… but you act like men of this world who do not know Me.

I was unashamed to be called Abraham’s God, because he learned to draw his help and his hope from above but… 

  • you think your problem is that you have no control and that your answers will be found in grasping for it
  • you think your troubles are all horizontal 
  • You think your enemies are human
  • you think your issues are all political 
  • you think that amassing land and conquering enemies is your only protection
  • you think you’re problems are all natural and that you’re solutions will come from the flesh 

So that is precisely how it’s going to come… “Behold a Virgin will conceive…

Jesus’ incarnation is the single most significant event in all of human history. It was THE turning point!

Without this reality, the prophecies of old would have remained unfulfilled, and the redemption we now have and enjoy would never have happened.

The beauty and satisfaction of the incarnation

Have you ever had a meal placed before you that was decadent in the extreme, so much so that after the rich flavors of the first bite hit your tongue, you weren’t sure if you would be able to finish the meal. The flavors being so richly expressed that you thought a whole meal like this might be more than your palate could take. It might very well be too much of a good thing?

Well that is how the beginning of our study today hit me.

Today we are going to look at the incarnation of the Word of God.

As you know, the person of the Godhead Who we affectionately and with great respect call Jesus, was not always known by that name.  So far as the scriptures have chosen to reveal that part of His existence before the Creation, from eternity past He was called the Word

In fact, that is how John began his account of the life of Jesus earlier in this first chapter of his gospel.

John 1:1, “(1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

It is also how Jesus is portrayed in the book of Revelation chapter 19

“(11)  Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. (12)  His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. (13)  He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.” 

What John saw and was the basis of his GOOD NEWS account

Now, I love John’s account of these things, mostly because we are privy to his intentions in writing his gospel account AND because of his capacity to know and believe the love Christ had for him. 

His awareness and acceptance of that love was clearly exceptional.

John’s gospel account tells us in chapter 20:30-31,

“(30) Now Jesus performed many other miraculous signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  (31)  But these are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

Now John knew precisely what this meant!

John’s reason for his gospel was to point to Jesus’ purpose in redemption which was LIFE

He had heard Jesus say as much regarding the message the Father had sent Him to earth to preach.

“I tell you the solemn truth, the one who hears My message  and believes the One Who sent Me has ETERNAL LIFE and will not be condemned, but has crossed over from death to life. (25)  I tell you the solemn truth, a time is coming – and is now here – when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.  (26)  For just as the Father has life in Himself, thus He has granted the Son to have life in Himself,  (27)  and He has granted the Son authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.” ~ John 5:24-27  

AND…

“(49)  For I have not spoken from My Own authority, but the Father Himself Who sent Me has commanded Me what I should say and what I should speak.  (50)  And I know that His commandment is ETERNAL LIFE

Thus the things I say, I say just as the Father has told Me.” ~ John 12:49-50

In fact, eternal life is given its clearest definition here in this gospel, written perhaps by the one disciple who best had eyes to see it. 

John tells us in chapter 17 as he recounts the prayer Jesus breathed to the Father before entering the garden of Gethsemane, (I am reading from the Wuest)

“These things spoke Jesus, and having lifted up His eyes to heaven, He said, “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son in order that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave to Him authority over all flesh, in order that all that You have given Him as a permanent gift, He should give to them LIFE ETERNAL.

And this is the ETERNAL LIFE, namely, that they might  be having an experiential knowledge of You, the only genuine God, and of Him Whom You sent on a mission, Jesus Christ.” ~ John 17:1-3  

It is with all of this knowledge of Jesus and His stated mission on earth that John begins his account of the GOOD NEWS with the words,

John 1:1-3, “(1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  (2)  He was in the beginning with God.  (3)  All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”

So far as I can recall, for the first time ever I thought to look up the word “with” in these verses and was immediately glad I had done so.

In the Greek there is the preposition (pros) which when used in this way implies not just proximity to God the Father, but rather intimate personal relationship with Him. As such, the word “with”, would be better translated as ‘was in fellowship with’. 

Oh, this is just starting off too rich!

So far as I know, Wuest is the only translation that capitalizes on this word’s meaning. He translated it like this – 

John 1:1-2, “(1)In the beginning the Word was existing. And the Word was in fellowship with God the Father. And the Word was as to His essence absolute deity. (2) This Word was in the beginning in fellowship with God the Father.” 

Before the beginning there was fellowship. 

There was perichoresis. 

The interpenetration of the three persons of the Godhead. Each being an individual but having no separate existence from one another. They dwell with, in and through each other. 

In them is perfect union. 

There is no rivalry, no attempt to “be the other” but a complete acceptance and awe struck  admiration for Their individual perfections which work and flow in perfect concert with each other. 

They are a collective of admiration, yielding, preferring and honoring. They are LOVE.

THIS is life and once more it is the life we as beings made in their image and likeness have been invited into. 

Once more, it is the life we as beings made in Their image and likeness have been invited into.

Can you imagine an action which They would find any more offensive than the edifying of self above them? 

Self focus, self protection, self awareness, selfish ambition are as contrary and foreign to God as anything could ever be. 

The Good News

The message to the Shepherds that night was,

“… “Do not be afraid! Listen carefully, for I proclaim to you good news that brings great joy to all the people: (11) Today your Savior is born in the city of David. He is Christ the Lord. (12)  This will be a sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” (13)  Suddenly a vast, heavenly army appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,  (14)  “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!”

The word Gospel means “good news”. We know the Good News was Jesus, but in Jesus what was God saying? 

Well, let’s see what John says was the good news

John 1:1-5, 

“(1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God.  (2)  The Word was with God in the beginning. 

(3)  All things were created by Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. 

(4)  In Him was LIFE, and the LIFE was the LIGHT of mankind

(5)  And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it.”

Jesus said I was His high priestly prayer to the Father 

“(13)  But now I am coming to You, and I am saying these things in the world, so they may experience My joy completed in themselves.  (14)  I have given them Your word, and the world has hated them, because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 

(15)  I am not asking You to take them out of the world, but that you keep them safe from the evil one.  (16)  They do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world.  (17)  Set them apart in the truth; Your word is truth. 

(18)  Just as you sent Me into the world, so I sent them into the world.  (19) And I set Myself apart on their behalf, so that they too may be truly set apart.

(20)  “I am not praying only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who believe in Me through their testimony,  (21)  that they will all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You.

I pray that they will be in Us, so that the world will believe that You sent Me.  (22)  The glory You gave to Me I have given to them, that they may be one just as We are one –  (23)  I in them and You in Me – that they may be completely one, so that the world will know that You sent Me, and You have loved them just as you have loved Me. 

(24) “Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am, so that they can see My glory that You gave Me because You loved Me before the creation of the world. 

(25)  Righteous Father, even if the world does not know You, I know You, and these men know that You sent Me.  (26)  I made known Your name to them, and I will continue to make it known, so that the love you have loved Me with may be in them, and I may be in them.”

John 1…

” (6)  A man came, sent from God, whose name was John.  (7)  He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that everyone might believe through Him.  

(8)  He himself was not the light, but he came to testify about the light.  (9)  The true light, Who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  

(10)  He was in the world, and the world was created by Him, but the world did not recognize Him.  (11)  He came to what was His Own, but His Own people did not receive Him.  (12)  But to all who have received Him – those who believe in His name – He has given the right to become God’s children  (13)  – children not born by human parents or by human desire or a husband’s decision, but by God.  

(14)  Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw His glory – the glory of the One and only, full of grace and truth, Who came from the Father. “ 

Wuest says it this way – “And the Word, entering a new mode of existence, became flesh, and lived in a tent among us. And we gazed with attentive and careful regard and spiritual perception at His glory, a glory such as that of a uniquely-begotten Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” ~ John 1:14

“(15)  John testified about Him and shouted out, “This one was the one about Whom I said, ‘He Who comes after me is greater than I am, because He existed before me.’” (16)  For we have all received from His fullness one gracious gift after another. (17)  For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ. (18)  No one has ever seen God. The only One, Himself God, Who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known.”  

  • Jesus was and is God the Father’s self disclosure.
  • All of the self revealing of the old testament became flesh and lived among us.

“(19)  Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”  

(20)  He confessed – he did not deny but confessed – “I am not the Christ!”  

(21)  So they asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” 

He said, “I am not!” 

“Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No!”  

(22)  Then they said to him, “Who are you? Tell us so that we can give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”  

(23)  John said, “I am the voice of one shouting in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”  

(24)  (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.)  (25)  So they asked John, “Why then are you baptizing if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”  

(26)  John answered them, “I baptize with water. Among you stands One Whom you do not recognize,  (27)  Who is coming after me. I am not worthy to untie the strap of His sandal!”  

(28)  These things happened in Bethany across the Jordan River where John was baptizing.  

(29)  On the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, 

“Look, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!  (30)  This is the One about Whom I said, ‘After me comes a man Who is greater than I am, because He existed before me.’  (31)  I did not recognize Him, but I came baptizing with water so that He could be revealed to Israel.”  

(32)  Then John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending like a dove from heaven, and it remained on Him.  

(33)  And I did not recognize Him, but the One Who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 

‘The One on Whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining – this is the One Who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’  

Jesus was the patterned Son. His life was what ours is to be. The Spirit descended upon Him and REMAINED. 

This Is eternal life!

Arguably the most famous prediction of His arrival was in Isaiah 9 which says, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a child is given…”. Let’s read that prophecy…

Isaiah 9:1-7, “(1) Nevertheless, the gloom of the distressed land will not be like that of the former times when He humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali. But in the future He will bring honor to the Way of the Sea, to the land east of the Jordan, and to Galilee of the nations.  (2)  The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of darkness, a light has dawned.  (3)  You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy. The people have rejoiced before You as they rejoice at harvest time and as they rejoice when dividing spoils.  (4)  For You have shattered their burdensome yoke and the rod on their shoulders, the staff of their oppressor, just as You did on the day of Midian.  (5)  For the trampling boot of battle and the bloodied garments of war will be burned as fuel for the fire.  (6)  For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.  (7)  The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the LORD of Hosts will accomplish this.”

Now, let’s take a moment to consider what is being said here.

Jesus was given TO US!

As you no doubt predicted yourself, one of my favorite poetic accounts of the incarnation is from Michael Card’s song “The Final Word”. 

The lyrics actually capture the wonder and truths of the “For unto us” of the incarnation.

You and me we use so very many clumsy words.

The noise of what we often say is not worth being heard.

When the Father’s wisdom wanted to communicate His love,

He spoke it in one final perfect Word.

He spoke the incarnation, and then so was born a Son.

His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.

He Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine.       

And so was born a baby Who would die to make it mine.

And so the Father’s fondest thought became flesh and bone. 

He spoke the living luminous Word, at once His will was done. 

And so the transformation that in man had been unheard,

Took place in God the Father as He spoke that final Word.

And so the Light became alive and manna became Man.

Eternity stepped into time so we could understand.

He spoke the incarnation, and then so was born a Son.

His final word was Jesus, He needed no other one.

Spoke flesh and blood so He could bleed and make a way Divine.

And so was born a baby Who would die to make it mine.

So almighty God, the One Who alone was responsible for creating EVERYTHING that exists. That particular member of the Godhead – became one of His Own creations… He became a baby boy.

What were God’s intentions in the incarnation? 

Well salvation for sure, but more than salvation.

We have found that He stated intentions in John 1  – “In Him was LIFE and that Life was the LIGHT of men.” We learned also that the LIFE was in fact the Father Himself.

The perfect intimate union that existed between God the Father and Jesus the HUMAN BEING was the light or the revelation to the world – that God Loves mankind and desires to know and be known by us. 

Salvation is to KNOW the Father and Jesus Whom He sent.

This was and is the good news of the incarnation. That in flesh and blood can dwell the Spirit of God and that man, is able to join in the shared life of the Godhead. 

To know and be known, forever. 

In Him was LIFE, and THAT LIFE was the light, the Revelation to man. 

As I said before, Jesus was the pattern Son. Scripture says it this way Jesus was the firstborn among many brethren. 

He came to redeem mankind and to reveal two mankind what we were designed and created for – eternal and perfect union with God. That we might become a kind of first fruits of his kind of creatures. 

Jesus was living proof that God and humanity could stand forever united.

“Then Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.“ ~ John 8:12

Jesus HAD life in Him, and WAS in Himself the source of Life as the uncreated Lord, but as a human being – being incarnate and therefore part of this creation for the sake of His suffering, He drew His life from the Father. So it is the even though as God – Jesus needed no source of life since He is the source – as a human however, it had to be given Him. So we read in John 5:26, that the Father GRANTED to the Son to lave life in Himself.

John 5:26,

“(26) For just as the Father has life in Himself, so also He has granted to the Son to have life in Himself.”

That was the message. 

That was the fulfillment of the announcement the night of His birth. 

That is what all the prophecies pointed to. 

The incarnation was the proof – God and humanity can live forever united. John revealed it was true of Jesus in His incarnation. 

“(4)  In Him was life, and the life was the light of mankind.  

(5)  And the light shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it.”

“And the Word, entering a new mode of existence, became flesh, and lived in a tent among us. And we gazed with attentive and careful regard and spiritual perception at His glory, a glory such as that of a uniquely-begotten Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” 

(18)  No one has ever seen God. The only One, Himself God, Who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known.” ~ John 1:4,5,14 & 18

Blessings!

Hi my name is Mark and though I am opposed to titles, I am currently the only Pastor (shepherd/elder) serving our assembly right now.

I have been Pastoring in one capacity or another for nearly 30 years now, though never quite like I am today.

Early in 2009 the Lord revealed to me that the way we had structured our assembly (church) was not scriptural in that it was out of sync with what Paul modeled for us in the New Testament. In truth, I (like many pastors I am sure) never even gave this fundamental issue of church structure the first thought. I had always assumed that church structure was largely the same everywhere and had been so from the beginning. While I knew Paul had some very stringent things to say about the local assembly of believers, the point of our gatherings together and who may or may not lead, I never even considered studying these issues but assumed we were all pretty much doing it right...safety in numbers right?! Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong!

So needless to say, my discovery that we had been doing it wrong for nearly two decades was a bit of a shock to me! Now, this "revelation" that did not come about all at once but over the course of a few weeks. We were a traditional single pastor led congregation. It was a top-bottom model of ministry which is in part biblical, but not in the form of a monarchy.

The needed change did not come into focus until following 9 very intense months of study and discussions with those who were leaders in our church at the time.

We now understand and believe that the Bible teaches co-leadership with equal authority in each local assembly. Having multiple shepherds with God's heart and equal authority protects both Shepherds and sheep. Equal accountability keep authority and doctrine in check. Multiple shepherds also provides teaching with various styles and giftings with leadership skills which are both different and complementary.

For a while we had two co-pastors (elders) (myself and one other man) who led the church with equal authority, but different giftings. We both taught in our own ways and styles, and our leadership skills were quite different, but complimentary. We were in complete submission to each other and worked side-by-side in the labor of shepherding the flock.

Our other Pastor has since moved on to other ministry which has left us with just myself. While we currently only have one Pastor/Elder, it is our desire that God, in His faithfulness and timing, may bring us more as we grow in maturity and even in numbers.

As to my home, I have been married since 1995 to my wonderful wife Terissa Woodson who is my closest friend and most trusted ally.

As far as my education goes, I grew up in a Christian home, but questioned everything I was ever taught.

I graduated from Bible college in 1990 and continued to question everything I was ever taught (I do not mention my college in order to avoid being labeled).

Perhaps my greatest preparation for ministry has been life and ministry itself. To quote an author I have come to enjoy namely Fredrick Buechner in his writing entitled, Now and Then, "If God speaks to us at all other than through such official channels as the Bible and the church, then I think that He speaks to us largely through what happens to us...if we keep our hearts open as well as our ears, if we listen with patience and hope, if we remember at all deeply and honestly, then I think we come to recognize beyond all doubt, that, however faintly we may hear Him, He is indeed speaking to us, and that, however little we may understand of it, His word to each of us is both recoverable and precious beyond telling." ~ Fredrick Buechner

Well that is about all there is of interest to tell you about me.

I hope our ministry here is a blessing to you and your family. I also hope that it is only a supplement to a local church where you are committed to other believers in a community of grace.

~God Bless!