The Incarnational Mission of God – Luke 4:16-21
Since 2004, Luke 4:16-21 is a passage I come to as the year ends and a new year ushers in. God reminds he of His heart and of what Jesus came to the world for. It helps me do some reflection as well as some resolutions.
Many of us make New Year’s resolutions, but we are not always able to keep them. God always keeps His promises. What was promised in the OT was fulfilled through Jesus in the NT. We may not be the best at keeping our own promises, but we can God as He is fulfilling His Promises, His Mission.
In the summer of 2004, I went on a missions trip to Guatemala. A local missionary introduced me to this Luke 4 passage. He helped us understand the difference between soul care and basic needs care. He challenged us to engage in incarnational partnership, not relief work.
Jesus became flesh (John 1:14), he incarnated. Our mission needs to be incarnational – intentionally engaging the culture around us with Jesus, so they can hear the Gospel in a way they understand. I can’t think of a better way to wrap up this year and our journey through the book of Acts that to be reminded about the mission of God.
The context of this passage is that Jesus returns to him hometown after being tempted for 40 days in the wilderness. In the power of the Spirit, he begins his earthly ministry. Jesus intentionally picks out Isaiah 61 to read. It would have taken a long time to unravel the scroll to get to this chapter. The Great Isaiah Scroll was one of the 7 Dead Sea Scrolls. The scroll is written on 17 sheets of parchment. It is particularly large, being about 24 feet long and 11 inches high. There are 54 columns of text.
So how can the Church continue the Mission of God? First, we need to be the hands and feet of Jesus (vv.18-19). Christ engaging everything; the Gospel affecting everything. Look at what the prophet Isaiah proclaims: Proclaim good news to the poor – for those in poverty, to know that their trust and dependence on God is not in vain; Proclaim liberty to the captives – the forgiveness of sins; And recovery of sight to the blind – physically and spiritually blind; To set at liberty those who are oppressed – healing the sick, casting out demons, forgiving sins, teachings about social justice; To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor – the Year of Jubilee. Jesus carries out the role of a prophet by proclaiming the “good news,” but he also carries out the role of Deliver or Savior as the one who saves his people.
Here are 3 practical aspects:1) Presence: The act of identification with a people group. Being ‘present’ to them; 2) Powerlessness: Actually this does not mean that we do not have power (we do in Gospel and Spirit) but rather that we take upon ourselves a servant form and be humble in our engagement with others; and 3) Proclamation: That having loved and cared for people we seek to reach, we lovingly, boldly, and verbally proclaim the Gospel in ways that make sense to the culture of the people we are reaching.
This requires contextualization. Tim Keller, in his book Center Church, defines contextualization as this:Contextualization is defined as “giving people the Bible’s answers, which they may not at all want to hear, to questions about life that people in their particular time and place are asking, in language and forms they can comprehend, and through appeals and arguments with force they can feel, even if they reject them.”I really like this balanced and careful definition – Keller makes it clear that the goal is not to make everyone to believe by any means necessary. Rather, the goal is clarity – remember, God saves people; we are the messengers. We saw plenty of this in the ministry of the Apostle Paul, such as in Romans 1-2, 1 Corinthians 9, and in the book of Acts.
What are the practical ways you can show the Gospel to people?There have been stories in the news of anonymous people doing acts of kindness this holidays season, such as paying for meals at restaurants, paying off layaway items at stores. Those acts of kindness are great, but what would be the reaction if it known that the love of Jesus motivated these kind deeds?
Let me suggest this be one of your resolutions to make this year: How can I be the hands and feet of Jesus to the world around me?How can I practically and tangibly show the love of Jesus?How can I live out the Gospel?
We can’t do this in our own strength, so to continue the Mission of God we need to keep our eyes on the Promise Keeper (vv.20-21). Jesus proclaimed, I am the anointed one, I am the fulfillment of this promise, and I am the messianic servant of the Lord. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him, but so quickly, they begin to doubt and question Jesus.
I’ve been doing some introspection, some self-reflection about this past year. I can honestly, without a doubt say that the times I have struggled with anger, impatience, selfishness, lust, envy, and many other sin issues are when my focus and attention are not on the Lord. I can be so angry when I’m driving because of the joys of commuting in Chicago and Moody is playing on the radio – my eyes are not fixed on Jesus. I can become so frustrated with a coworker and want to quit or them to be fired, but I forget that God has graciously given be a job and a mission field to be His ambassador – my eyes are not fixed on Jesus. I can be so selfish and lose my patience with my wife, but I forget that God has provided me a soul mate to help me in my walk and my sanctification – my eyes are not fixed on Jesus.
But I make excuses! – God, my circumstance and has changed, or, I’m in a very difficult position, or, I’m really stressed!When I realize I am looking at myself, and when I fix my eyes on Jesus, God gives me the proverbial kick in the butt! I want to share a story of a missionary friend of mine. 3 months after going to the mission field, he was kidnapped by the local mafia and held for ransom. He was complaining to God that he was in this situation. He gave up everything to follow Jesus and now he felt God had abandoned him. At that moment, God spoke to him, reminding him that even though he left his homeland to be a missionary in another land, Jesus left heaven and the Trinity to come to earth. Jesus gave up so much, endured so much, and yet kept his promise to God and to us. We can believe him when he says that He will never leave us or forsake us.
Let’s commit to continuing the Mission of God this New Year, a Promise that doesn’t depend on us, but on Jesus. As 2013 comes to an end and as 2014 enters in, lets submit ourselves once again to God. Let our prayer be, “Lord, take my life. Let be your hands and feet, and help me keep my eyes on you.”