Summary: The incarnation of Jesus provides us with a model of how we are to interact with unbelievers in the world around us.

For the past four weeks, we’ve been focusing on the beginnings of the life of Jesus and seen how the foundations that were laid very early in His life were important throughout His earthly ministry. So let’s take a moment to quickly review where we’ve come so far. And I’m going to ask for your help on this.

We began by looking at the genealogy of Jesus that opened Matthew’s gospel account. Can anyone remember something that we learned from that passage? [Wait for answers]. Those are all great answers, but I think if I had to take just one thing from that message it would be this: God can use us regardless of our backgrounds.

We next focused on how God came into the lives of Mary and Joseph and interrupted their plans. What do you remember from that message? {Wait for answers]. Once again those are all really good answers. But if I were to summarize that message with just one sentence it would be this: God doesn’t call the qualified, he qualifies the called.

Our third focus was on the birth of Jesus and the worship of the shepherds and the magi. Would anyone like to share something that you learned from that message? [Wait for answers]. There were five essential elements of worship that we looked at in that message and it’s hard to pick out just one, but to me the one thing I would emphasize from that message is that we are not to come to worship God empty handed.

Finally, last week we looked at how Jesus grew throughout His childhood and up to the time He began his earthly ministry. What do you think was the main idea of that message? [Wait for answers.] I can’t argue with any of those, but I think for me the thing that I took away from that message was the need to have an unswerving commitment to the will of God.

You’ll notice that up to this point, we have looked at Jesus’ beginnings from the perspective of Matthew and Luke. But this morning as we look at how John’s gospel account begins, we’ll see that he takes an entirely different approach to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry.

So turn with me to John 1 and follow along as I read the first 18 verses of his gospel account:

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 was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.

John doesn’t begin like Matthew with the genealogy of Jesus or like Luke with the events surrounding the birth of John the Baptizer and Jesus. Instead, because John is focused on the divinity of Jesus, he begins with the preincarnate Jesus who existed from the very beginning, even before creation.

There is so much here in these 18 verses that we won’t be able to even scratch the surface this morning, In fact, about 2-1/2 years ago, I actually preached a series of seven sermons on this same passage, and even then, didn’t begin to exhaust all that God has for us here. So in order to make this time productive for us and provide us with a few practical principles that we can implement in our lives, I’m going to focus on just one verse – verse 14:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.


There are four noteworthy things that Jesus accomplished in His incarnation according to verse 14. Let’s look at the four significant words and phrases in that verse and see what we can learn about what Jesus did when He moved into our neighborhood, and, even more importantly, what that means for our lives.

The Word…

1. Jesus is the complete revelation of God

It is no accident that John chooses to describe Jesus as “the Word”. As many of you know, he uses the Greek word “logos” here – a word that is really difficult to translate into English and retain its full meaning. But as John writes his gospel account, perhaps 50 years or more after the resurrection of Jesus, that word would have conveyed the essence of what he was writing to his entire audience, both Jews and Greeks.

For the Jews, the “word of God” was a term that was used to refer to God Himself. It was by His word that God created the universe. It was by His word that He spoke to His people and directed their lives. It was by His word that He exercised His power here in this world. So the term “word of God” came to represent God’s revelation of Himself.

In the Greek philosophy of the day, the term “logos” was used to describe the intermediate agency by which God created material things and communicated with them - a bridge between God and the material universe. In the Greek mind, this was the force by which God revealed Himself to the material world.

So when John uses the term “logos”, both Jews and Greeks would have associated that term with God’s revelation of Himself to mankind. And when he applies that term to Jesus, He is making the point that Jesus is the fullest and most complete revelation of God. That is a principle that is confirmed by the other New Testament writers. Let’s look first at how Paul describes Jesus as the revelation of God:

For in him [Jesus] the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily

Colossians 2:9 (ESV)

This is really clear, isn’t it? In Jesus, we have a fleshly representation of God Himself. So when we look upon Jesus, God reveals Himself to us more completely that in any other method He uses to make Himself known to us.

The writer of Hebrews describes this same principle in even more detail:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power…

Hebrews 1:1-3 (ESV)

Before Jesus, God spoke to His people through the prophets, but that was only a partial revelation of Himself. But in Jesus, He has made a more complete and full revelation of who He is.

Jesus confirms this same principle with His own words:

…Whoever has seen me has seen the Father…

John 14:9 (ESV)

So if we want to see what God is really like, then all we need to do is to look at the “logos” – Jesus.

• Implication for us:

We are to reveal God to others through His Word

If God chose to reveal Himself fully to us through His Word – Jesus – then it seems to me that is the method we ought to use as well in the process of revealing God to others. And unlike the people of Jesus’ day, we have the advantage of being able to have a written copy of God’s Word in our hands. And it is on the pages of the Bible that we find the account of Jesus that provides us with God’s revelation of His character, His purposes, His plans and His ways.

That means that first of all, we need to be in God’s Word so that God can use it in our lives to reveal Himself to us. But it also means that the primary means that we must use in order to reveal God to others is His Word. And the only way we will be prepared to do that is by saturating our lives with God’s Word.

…became flesh…

2. Jesus identified with those He came to save

The writer of Hebrews describes how by becoming flesh, Jesus was able to identify with those He came to save:

Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

Hebrews 2:14-18 (ESV)

Often in our lives, we’re tempted to say things like “If God only knew what I am going through”, or “God can’t possibly understand what I’m feeling”, or “I don’t feel like God really cares about me”. And had Jesus not become flesh and experienced firsthand what it is like to live in a world that is polluted by sin and filth, then we might have a case. But Jesus did become flesh and suffered through all the same kinds of experiences that all of us go through every day.

And because of that, He was able to minister to everyone He came in contact with – political leaders, religious leaders and scholars, fishermen, tax collectors, men and women, rich and poor, Jews and Samaritans. And that often got Him in trouble with the Jewish religious leaders who often avoided any contact at all with those they considered to be unrighteous. But had Jesus refused to interact with those people, He would have missed the opportunity to identify with all those He came to save.

• Implication for us:

We are to identify with those we are trying to reach

Sometimes in our well-meaning efforts to reach others for Jesus, we resort to one of two extremes. At one end of the spectrum, we tend toward alienation. We view the world as evil and try to separate ourselves from it as much as possible. So our efforts to share the gospel often take on an “us vs. them” mentality.

At the other end of the spectrum is the idea of accommodation. In an attempt to reach others for Jesus, we become so much like the world around us that we lose our distinctiveness. And in the process the gospel message is often “watered down” to make it attractive to others.

In His earthly ministry Jesus modeled how it is possible to identify with those we are trying to reach without resorting to either extreme. It is possible to maintain our relationships with unbelievers while still maintaining our distinctiveness as Christ followers.

The apostle Paul describes how he attempted to identify with those he was trying to reach while avoiding both extremes:

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (ESV)

While Paul obviously maintained his distinctiveness as a Christ follower, he willingly gave up his rights in order to put himself in a position where he could identify with those he was attempting to reach for Jesus. He intentionally put himself in positions where he would have opportunities to share Jesus with those who may have been much different.

Let me share with you a real life example of a family in our church that exemplifies this principle. I don’t want to embarrass them in any way so I’m not going to share all the details. But this particular family is totally committed to Jesus and to this church and they rarely miss a Sunday here. But some unbelieving friends invited them to go camping one weekend, which would cause them to miss church. As much as they don’t want to miss church, they know this will be an opportunity to build relationships with this other family and to show them that they value them as people and not just as an evangelism project.

The question that all of us must ask each day is this: What can I do in my life, even if it isn’t comfortable to me, to be able to identify with someone who needs to know Jesus?

…and dwelt among us…

3. Jesus took the kingdom of God to the people

Before Jesus came to the earth, if someone wanted to worship God, they pretty much had to become a convert to the Jewish faith and then go to God’s house to worship properly. That meant, in part, making the journey to Jerusalem to the Temple at least three times a year.

But when Jesus came to dwell among man, He changed all that. Instead of asking man to come to God, God came to man. He took the kingdom of God to the people. It’s interesting to me that Jesus didn’t come as a priest or a religious leader. He came as a carpenter and later as an itinerant teacher. That allowed Him the opportunity to meet and interact with all kinds of people in all kinds of situations.

If Jesus were here on earth today, I think He would probably come to our churches – after all He went to the synagogues and to the Temple in Israel. But I think He would spend most of His time in the places where people tend to hang out – the workplace or the grocery store, or the restaurant or the athletic field.

The account of Jesus’ calling Matthew to be His disciple is very instructive here. The event is recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels, but we’ll read this morning from Luke’s account:

After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” And leaving everything, he rose and followed him. And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”

Luke 5:27-32 (ESV)

Jesus rarely called the sinners to come to Him and find the kingdom of God there. He took the kingdom of god to them right where they were.

• Implication for us:

We are to take the kingdom of God with us wherever we go

Sometimes the church is really guilty of saying to the world around us “Come to us on our terms.” We build buildings and establish programs and then we expect others to come to us.

But God’s plan is for us to take the kingdom of God with us wherever we go outside the walls of this building. There is a sense in which we are to be Jesus wherever we are. We are to put flesh on the gospel and take it into every area of our day-to-day, ordinary lives.

You know that I’m really careful about using paraphrases of Bible verses, but one that I am comfortable using because it very accurately captures the essence of the verse is the paraphrase of Romans 12:1 in The Message:

So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life - your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life - and place it before God as an offering.

Romans 12:1 (Message)

Many of you were here last week when Don and Shirley Williams shared with us how a waitress in a restaurant that they go to frequently came to commit her life to Jesus recently. Although she has not yet set foot here in this church, Don and Shirley have been taking the kingdom of God to her for many years.

Every time we enter our workplace, every time we go to the grocery store, and even every time we go out to eat at a restaurant, we have the opportunity to take the kingdom of God to the people that God has placed in our path.

…full of grace and truth

4. Jesus was full of grace and truth

We see this great balance in the life of Jesus. On one hand, He was full of grace – He rarely condemned anyone except the religious leaders. But on the other hand, He consistently pointed out the truth of sin and its consequences.

He breaks every social custom by speaking with a Samaritan woman of questionable character and a whole town hears about the Messiah. But He also requires her to deal with her sin.

He rescues an adulterous woman from an angry lynch mob, but not before calling her to leave her life of sin.

He gives a despised IRS agent the honor of hosting Him for a meal, but only after Zacchaeus promises to make restitution for his past fraudulent dealings.

Jesus never shied away from truth – He was not afraid to call sin, sin. But at the same time, He simultaneously offered hope for release from the bondage to sin through the grace that He offered.

• Implication for us:

We are to deal with unbelievers with both grace and truth

Like we saw when we talked earlier about identifying with the world around us, we often tend to gravitate toward either grace or truth. On one hand we can focus so much on grace that being a Christ follower becomes nothing more than license to whatever we want.

On the other hand, we can become so legalistic with the truth that we put people into more bondage rather than help them find release from the bondage that they are already in.

Paul warned about pursuing either extreme in our own lives:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Romans 6:1, 2 (ESV)

Although God’s grace abounds in our lives, that is not license for us to engage in a life of sin. We must live on the basis of both grace and truth.

And the same is true in our dealings with others. We must avoid the temptation to peddle “cheap grace” that doesn’t require people to deal with the truth of their sin. But we must also make sure that we are not quick to condemn the sin in others without also making available to them the grace that enables them to deal with that sin.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

When Jesus moved into the neighborhood, it was not only the culmination of God’s plan to provide us with a way to have an intimate relationship with Him, it was also our model of how to reach the world around us so that they might be able to experience that relationship for themselves.

So let’s follow Jesus’ example by:

• revealing God to others through His Word

• identifying with those we are trying to reach

• taking the kingdom of God with us wherever we go

• dealing with unbelievers with both grace and truth