4) The incarnation goes beyond this life and points to future glory.
I already shared from Col 1:27, the mystery that has finally been disclosed–Christ in you. And Paul adds a phrase, Christ in you, the hope of glory.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t feel very glorious. But there is hope, which is future tense, I have hope for future glory.
John also talks about this future hope. Please turn with me to 1 John 3:1-3.
1 John 3
1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.
What is the hope? The hope is two fold: 1) we shall be like him and 2) we shall see him as he is. When he appears, when he comes back for us, remember the deposit, his return is guaranteed, when he appears, we shall be like him, FOR we shall see him as he is.
In other words, when we see him, we shall be like him. Being in the presence of Jesus changes us. When we see the full, unveiled glory of Christ, when we see him face to face, when faith becomes sight and we are standing before the glorified Christ, there is instant change. And we are conformed to His likeness.
No wonder Paul says in 1 Cor 15, our transformation happens in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. Instant transformation. Instant sanctification. Instant glorification.
In the meantime, there is slow, gradual change. 2 Cor 3:18 reads–
2 Cor 3 (NIV 1984)
18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Ever-increasing glory. The literal translation is that we are transformed into his likeness from glory to glory. And so the ESV picks up this nuance and translates it as we are transformed into the same image from ONE DEGREE of glory to the next.
I like that translation better because it gives the impression of slow, steady, gradual transformation prior to the huge jump in sanctification which happens when we see Christ face to face. But the principle is the same–you change whether gradually one degree at a time or a huge leap at the end–in proportion to our encounters with Christ.
Kids become influenced by their friends. Their peer group. This is called peer pressure. Married couples – what happens? You actually become like your spouse. I used to watch scary movies and now after close to 13 years of marriage, I watch boring movies. Actually, Jackie chooses the movies and I normally fall asleep.
When we go to restaurants, Jackie would order food for herself and I would order and it became a pattern that Jackie would eat the delicious dish I ordered and I would eat the unsavory dish that she ordered. Now, she lets me order for her. Because I actually know her tastes. I know what she wants to eat better than she knows herself. It’s because we have gotten to know one another.
You become like the person you spend the most time with. The same thing happens in relation to Jesus. If you spend time with Jesus, you will become like him. You change from one degree of glory to the next.
1) The incarnation starts with the love of God, not our love for him.
2) The incarnation demonstrates that everything in Scripture points to Christ.
3) The incarnation did not end with Christ’s resurrection and ascension, but now as believers, Christ dwells, tabernacles with us.
4) The incarnation goes beyond this life and points to future glory.
5) Lastly, because of #1-4, the incarnation produces in us a sense of longing.
Everything up until this point might have sounded theoretical. If you want to walk away with one thing, one way practically that we experience the incarnation in the trenches of daily life, one way we know that Christ loves us and our love for him is growing, then remember this. The incarnation produces in us a sense of longing.
Longing for what? For more of Jesus. 1 Cor 13 describes the longing to see Jesus in terms of seeing but a poor reflection as in a mirror. We can’t clearly see Jesus. He’s knows us fully, but we only know him in part. But one day the perfection will come, Jesus will come and we shall see him face to face. Until then, we only see Jesus in part and he’s out of focus.
Going back to what I said earlier about our engagement to Jesus and his promise to marry us in the future, this means we really don’t know Jesus all too well in the present. When you are dating, or even engaged, you don’t really know your future spouse that well. There is still a veil. You know the other only in part. It’s not until you get married and live with the person that you know the other person fully.
I think when we finally see Jesus face to face, we are going to be blown away by how much he loves us. We only know a small, tiny fraction of that love. But the key is we need to long for more. Longing to see more of Jesus in this life.
1 John 3:1-3 – when we shall see him as he is, in full glory, unveiled, we shall be like him. We will be changed in an instant. Until then, we long for more of Jesus. John refers to this as a hope that purifies. Just hoping in Jesus has a purifying effect on us.
What do you hope for? In other words, what do you long for? When you taste a delicious dish, you crave for it. You hope to enjoy it again. That’s longing. When you witness a majestic scene like the Grand Canyon and you are driving down Main Street in Alhambra with a row of Chinese restaurants, you long for the Grand Canyon. Or for some of us, we long for the Bay Area. The Berkeley Marina. The San Francisco Bay. That’s longing. When you get together with friends whom you haven’t seen in a while, you reminisce. You recall stories from the good old days. You relive those memories. That’s longing.
I wonder how much we long for Jesus. When is the last time you thought and meditated about seeing Jesus in full glory?
I would guess that we think about seeing Jesus face to face very, very little. There are many reasons why. It seems a long way off for starters. We think we have another 10, 20, 40 years left. Death is still distant. Christ’s return feels like it is a million years away. It’s an article of our faith that we recite like in the Apostle’s Creed, but really, we don’t expect to see His return in our lifetime.
Maybe you are afraid that if you are too heavenly minded, you will be of little earthly good. Maybe you are afraid of being labeled the F word – “fundamentalist.” Someone who only cares about saving souls, and so you don’t give a rip about culture, politics, the arts. There are too many earthly concerns, too many fires to put out, you got to take care of stuff here.
Or perhaps, you are too comfortable. It rained here recently and it reminded me that in some parts of the world, if there is no rain, there is no food on the tables. If we lived in a country like that, maybe we’d long for Jesus. But in this country, we don’t really long for Jesus too much because we have so many other things to long for.
If we feel like things are not going well in a certain part of our lives, we invest a lot of energy to fix it. Is it possible that we were meant to feel some discomfort, some dissatisfaction so that we would long for more than this?
My generation says, find your fulfillment here and now. Change majors, quit your job, find fulfillment right now, you have one life to live so make the most of it. I was fulfilled last Wednesday but now it’s Sunday and I don’t feel fulfilled. I gotta fix something. A little dissatisfaction, a little unfulfillment, these cause us to long for more.
Especially in light of the close of 2012, I’ve been asking myself, what do I long for in 2013? Do I long for the American dream? Do I long to have kids, a house, do I long to be healthy and and I need to try not to be too sick so that I can live a little bit longer and have grandkids? Do I long to fill up these chairs as a pastor? Do I long to pay down our debt, write a book or two, become famous, have a few vacations, travel, re-tile our kitchen floor, watch my Eagles win a Super Bowl next year?
Is that what I want out of life? Is that what you want out of life? Those desires are too small. God has put eternity in our hearts. We were created to enjoy a love relationship with Jesus that will last for billions and billions of years. Jesus loves you. He dwells with you. He has given you a deposit of the Holy Spirit to guarantee his return. He longs for us the same way that a husband longs for his bride. He is madly in love with you and me. Let’s long for more of Jesus in the new year.