What did Jesus do? Since incarnating the gospel is about being Jesus, believers have to be good followers of Jesus. They have to learn from Jesus. They have to imitate Him. To put it simply, incarnating the gospel is about doing what Jesus did.
To learn what Jesus did, we have to make the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) our primary text.
Alan Hirsch observes that Christians “so easily abandon Jesus. Our religion has become Paulism. We need to get back to Jesus. Jesus will teach about mission more than anyone else.” Michael Frost sees that Christians are essentially “a group of people who have oriented their lives around Jesus.” Therefore, they must focus on following Jesus. Jesus invested His life in His disciples day after day, developing them into authentic followers. Christians never stop being His disciples. There is no ‘next’ step. Following Jesus is every believer’s destiny.
As we follow Him, we seek to be like Him. If Christians follow really well, others in the surrounding culture will see Jesus. In simple terms, “if the heart of discipleship is to become like Jesus, then…we see that Jesus’s strategy is to get a whole lot of little versions of him, infiltrating every nook and cranny of society, by reproducing himself in and through his people in every place throughout the world.” (Alan Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, p 113) Christians are those who visibly express Jesus through their lives as they follow Him. That is why Paul could write to the Corinthian church, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Followers embody the message of Jesus. They “incarnate” Jesus in their daily lives. They practice Jesus.
So, what does it look like to practice Jesus? What practices should be embodied? How do you know when you are truly incarnational? You will look like Jesus. Love like Jesus. Serve like Jesus. Sacrifice like Jesus. Preach like Jesus. Endure. Care. Think. Lead. Submit. Pray. Bless. Give. And keep on doing it! Incarnating the gospel looks like Jesus!
Sent with the CROSS
(1 Corinthians 1:18, Ephesians 2:16, Colossians 2:14, 1 Peter 2:24, 2 Corinthians 5:17–24)
Jesus came to earth to seek and to save that which was lost. He accomplished salvation through the cross. By dying on the cross, He paid the penalty for sin and satisfied God’s wrath. Without the cross, there is no salvation, no forgiveness, and no hope. Because of the cross, there is eternal life! The mission and message of Jesus surrounds the cross. “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor 1:18).
(John 17:18; 20:21, Luke 9:2; Matthew 28:19–20; Acts 1:8)
Jesus sent His disciples on a mission! The Church does not exist to bring other Christians in; the Church is sent out into the culture with the gospel! The Missional Church defines itself in terms of it’s mission—by sending ones who take the gospel to and incarnate the gospel within a specific cultural context. The essence of missionality begins by looking outward.
(Acts 2:42–47; 5:42; John 13:34–35; 1 John 3:16–17)
Jesus loves the Church! He gave His life to redeem the Church! Fellowship and community together in Christ is important. “Life is Better in Community.” Yet the Church is not here on earth just to enjoy nurturing relationships with other Christians and to throw arms around each other and sing Kum-ba-ya. Community exists for Mission! Christians are to bring the gospel together to the culture. The Church exists for the sake of the world.
(John 1:14; Matthew 20:28; Acts 17:22–34; Luke 5:29)
George Peters notes, “If man is to be reached, he must be reached within his own culture.” This principle is certainly applied when God became a man in the form of Jesus to come to earth and incarnate the gospel. As missionaries sent by Jesus, every Christian must learn to exegete their surrounding culture, uncovering the language, values, and ideas of the culture. Using this information, they take steps to reach people with the gospel message in the context of the surrounding culture.
(Matthew 10:7; 25:34; Luke 4:43; Revelation 11:15–17; Jeremiah 10:7; John 18:36)
The kingdom was central to Jesus’ message and mission. The Book of Acts ends with Paul, under house arrest in Rome, “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance” (Acts 28:31). Christians are sent to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom everywhere so that others may enter the kingdom.