How many of you wish that God were visible? How many of you wish that you could just have a little miracle of Jesus showing up at your doorstep to give you some reassurance that he is right there? How many of you look back at some of the miracles recorded in the Bible and think to yourself, “What I wouldn’t give to be there and see that?” Or even better, you read about the disciples who got to walk and talk with Jesus, see the miracles and hear him teach, and you think to yourself, “That would be awesome. That would help me so much.”
In our private times, perhaps in the shelter of our own hearts and minds, we wonder sometimes about the existence of God. His invisibility can cause us great concern can’t it? If we’re all honest, we’ve would admit that we have these thoughts.
And yet, as John will report to us in John 20:29, Jesus said to Thomas who doubted his resurrection, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believed.” So there is a blessing to not seeing, yet we want so badly to see and touch Jesus. John in his letter of 1st John, takes this idea of the longing for seeing God and finds an amazing solution.
We’ve been learning in our study this week of John 1:1-18 that Jesus is God in the flesh. The concept of Jesus as God in the flesh, we learned in the previous post, is called The Incarnation. Surprisingly, Jesus taught his disciples to incarnate him to the rest of the world. We are to be like Jesus in the skin, to the rest of the world. Because Jesus is God to us, we must become Jesus to the people in our sphere of influence: neighbors, co-workers, classmates, friends, and family, just as we studied recently in our Relationships series.
In his letter called 1st John there is a section where John explains how this works so powerfully. Turn to 1st John 4:12. There John says that no one has seen God. He is invisible, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. Now scan over to verse 16 where he explains this even further: “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.”
In this passage, two verbs are repeated numerous times. Loves and Lives. What John is trying to communicate here is the amazing idea that though we can’t physically walk and talk with Jesus, Jesus’ spirit, God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit lives in us. Remember how in John 1:14 John writes that Jesus made his dwelling among us, tabernacled with us? Dwell on that thought for a moment. The Holy Spirit is with you. He isn’t pushy or forceful. You choose to remember, to interact with Jesus, with the Spirit, with God. You choose to allow him to fill your life and grow his fruit in your life.
We now examine how John describes this in 1st John 4:13, “We know that we live in him and he in us because he has given us of his Spirit.” God lives in us. And when we live in love, we live in God. Whenever we live in love, we live in God. The word John uses for living is about abiding, residing. It is a fixed state of remaining together. And when we love one another, God resides in us. When we love one another we show that God is actually in us. When we love one another we show that God is real. When we love one another we are incarnating God. We are making God appear in the flesh all over again, by showing love to one another.
This teaching is very similar to the Fruit of the Spirit that we studied a couple months ago. When we walk in step with the Spirit, the Spirit grows his fruit in us. We overflow with the love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, goodness, kindness, faithfulness and self-control of the Spirit; we incarnate God to the people around us. We are not God. But God is at work in us. Not in the same way as Jesus was God in the skin, of course. But God is at work in us, and through us.
Is it possible that people long for an appearance of God or a miracle because so many Christians have not practiced this principle of loving one another? What are we evangelical Christians are known for? We are anti-abortion, we are anti-homosexuality, we are anti-same sex marriage, etc. But are we known for our love? In the early church, one historian noted that “Oh how they loved one another.” Are we known for sacrificial life-giving care for those we interact with?
In Jesus, God shows his great love for humanity by becoming human. What a vulnerable, humble, sacrificial, beautiful act. That reminds us of our mandate to give that same love to all humanity. What we call the incarnation, God in the skin, must continue through us to the people around us!