Today is supposed to be the busiest shipping day of the year in the US. This is a pretty good picture of many devoted followers of Christ. They’re like UPS drivers, frantically rushing around delivering packages from someone they don’t know. Their life in Christ is all about the delivery (evangelism, missions, ministry, theology, spiritual gifts, miracles, social justice, etc.), not the relationship.
At least the UPS drivers are doing what they’re supposed to be doing. But as I mentioned in part one, Jesus would call Christians doing this for Him being lawless (Matt.7:21-23). He defined “lawlessness” as faithfully serving Him without intimately knowing Him.
In other words, it’s about our participation in Christ, not our performance for Him.
It’s not that we don’t do anything, it’s that our doing comes out of this Divine participation.
The point I’ve been making in this series is that Christ’s birth is about our adoption. And our adoption is about the intimate relationship between a Father as His beloved sons and daughters.
A servant may work for a family with whom he or she is not related, but sons and daughters work from an intimate relationship with their family.
Intimacy or morality?
As I alluded to in part four, when Adam ate of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, his eyes were opened and he switched from a paradigm of love to one based in fear. He traded intimacy for morality.
We see this same fear/morality paradigm in Israel when they rejected God’s overture of intimacy on Mt. Sinai (see Exod.19:5-6; 20:18-19). Since they didn’t want Him, He gave them what they wanted–morality. This entailed an impossible list of do’s and don’ts, complicated sacrificial obligations, and threats of punishment for failure.
Thankfully, Christ fulfilled His Father’s original intent for us and broke this curse, wiping out the alien handwriting against us (Gal.3:10-13; Col.2:14). Thus, the way became open for us to live from a paradigm of love through intimacy as God always intended.
But, sadly, many Christians are still stuck in this legalistic nightmare, trading intimacy for morality, with their own list of right and wrong and punishment for failure.
It’s not that we should be immoral, but that when you live from His love paradigm, there is no need for a moralistic one (Matt.22:37-40; Rom.8:4; 13:8; Gal.5:14, 22-23).
And this brings me to my whole point for this series. The incarnation of Christ is for the incarnation of us.
The early church called this incarnation process Theosis. The Bible would simply call it having Christ formed in you (Gal.4:19). This is through our participation in the divine nature (see 2 Pet.1:4). In other words, we were saved for participation in the Life of the Trinity (Greek word “life”is zōé, God’s life, not simply bíos, our natural life)—which is everlasting life (John 17:3; 1 John 1:3)
Theosis is the understanding that human beings can have real union with God, and so become like God to such a degree that we participate in the divine nature. (Theopedia)
The early church fathers also understood the importance of this mystical union. Here are just a couple of quotes from them (emphasis mine):
Irenaeus (c. 115 – c. 202), “For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.”
Athanasius (c. 296 – 373) “He became what we are, so that He might make us what He is….”
Of course, with theosis, we’re talking about our experiential life—bringing the life of Christ into our experience—for we are already “complete in Him.” (Col.2:10).
Christmas is about Presence!
When God the Son was born on Christmas day, the divine nature was forever fused to the human nature. We talked about this “hypostatic union” in part three. And because of His life and perfect obedience to the Father, even unto death, Christ is now our mediator–He is forever the connecting union of the human and divine.
We can know for certain from Scripture that Jesus “tasted death for every man” (Heb.2:9), and all mankind died in His death (2 Cor.5:14). There is nothing that exists apart from Christ nor can be separated from Him; in fact, all things consist and are held together in Him (Col.1:16-17).
This doesn’t mean all participate in Christ. Only believers partake in His life by faith. But He has brought them to Himself, nonetheless; for “in Him we all live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
But it’s Christ’s birth and life that made it possible for humans to be in the family of God. This is why the gospel cannot be about God getting His pound of flesh, or even just about forgiveness of sin, for this doesn’t make us a new creation (2 Cor.5:14-17; Gal.2:20; Col.3:3).
If it was simply about forgiveness, or if Christ was only a perfect human, then we can only be pardoned criminals. We’re left outside the life of God. We’re still orphans.
Only being included in Christ’s life makes us a new creation and gives us eternal life…because we have been given His life in the Trinity.
A Savior was born to us, and lived with us, but He also lived for us. So when He died, He died as us. Now, He lives in us. He’s not only our vicarious life, He is our perfect obedience, faithfulness, holiness, and righteousness.
This is why we should say, “Merry Christmas.” For Peace has come, and is now living on the earth in men and women of good will. To modify Tiny Tim’s mantra…God has blessed us…everyone!