Fire in Your Bones:
Incarnational Living Changes Everything
By E. Glenn Wagner
Apart from me you can do nothing.1
Some Bible verses have been debated for millennia and have even triggered schisms within the church. However, it would be impossible to misunderstand this clear teaching of Jesus in any translation. So why is it so difficult to live out, both in our ministries and in our personal lives?
My ministry - and life - changed forever when I fully grasped the concept of "incarnational preaching." Simply put, incarnational preaching means we step out of the way, and God takes over. It is that distinct sense that more is happening than just the delivery of words. Rather, God is choosing to accompany the preaching with His special touch or, in the words of C.H. Spurgeon, "The sacred anointing."2 D. Martin Lloyd-Jones describes this special touch as sensing "the smile of God."3
I recently felt "God's smile". It was a Sunday like any other. As I reflect on this morning, nothing about it was extraordinary. But when I stood to preach, I quickly realized this was to be no ordinary Sunday. God began descending on us just 15 seconds into the sermon, one of my staff pastors later remarked. I felt an immediate freedom and authority to communicate God's message that transcended my normal experience. A power welled up from inside my soul that broke through many of the usual barriers of human communication. Fearlessness, conviction and urgency were coupled with love, brokenness and humility.
I realized God owned my heart -- and the congregation's heart -- that morning. It seemed that God energized every word I spoke. I could see, hear and feel the effect on the congregation. They were with me not only physically but spiritually and emotionally as well. Many were visibly broken and moved, while I was consumed with the response and testimony of God's work that morning.
That experience, which in many ways was beyond description, can be summed up in three short words: God showed up. All I did was place my life under God. What I want you to desperately understand is that this is not something that is reserved soley for the "act" of preaching. But rather, God has called us to "incarnational living." To get to the end of a day and know undeniably that God showed up. But it takes getting our lives down under God. I have discovered at least five paths to getting down under God. These are not in any way formulaic but are patterns to tune your heart and life into the centrality of God in living. They are:
- Live out of your core identity as a child of God
- Value dependence on God more than mechanics
- Pray for God's "sacred anointing"
- Seek to be filled with God
- Aim for God's pleasure in living
Getting under God requires a clear understanding of two simple words: "do" and "be". All too often, we define ourselves by what we have, what we do and to whom we are related. God cares far more about who we are.
If you are going to live out the power and passion of Christ, you have to get a firm grip on your true identity, because, quite frankly, even though the old one might get you an interview with a person of power and influence, only your identity in God's Son can empower you to speak Christ into another person and make an eternal difference.
So to get a handle on life and live out what God has intended, you've got to understand a couple of things. First, we were born into a screwed-up world
dominated by the most screwed up-character of all time - Satan. Second, you're not as good or as important as you may think. At the other end of the spectrum, there are individuals who need to get a grip because they think less of themselves than they ought to.
This is why both the ego-driven and the self-deprecating need to get a grip: each will fail miserably in the things of God unless they do. They don't need a
human or a positive-thinking grip, but one based on truth and infused by the power of the Holy Spirit until it sets the very marrow of their bones on fire! Your Heavenly Father provides the ultimate make-over!
Scripture declares, "For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who
live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.
Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!"4
A path leads from cold, lifeless religion to an experience that burns with zeal and fire. This path involves four words: Instruction, Inspiration, Transformation and Incarnation.
- Instruction - This is the receiving and taking in of truth and giving it mental assent and agreement. However, because instruction stops at this point, there is no spiritual power because there is no submission to truth.
- Inspiration - I am using this in the sense of a divine/human transaction that happens in the midst of worship.
- Transformation - This is where my life and identity become more and more conformed to that of Christ. I live with His strength and zeal.
- Incarnation - This is a walk that shows forth the power and passion of Christ - one where words are spoken, a cup of cold water is given and the person is ablaze with the Spirit of God.
When certain spiritual things occur, it initially scares me, because I know I couldn't have done it alone. This humbles me, fuels the fire in my bones and
explodes the ardor within me, because not only do I know I couldn't have produced this, I know without a shadow of doubt God Himself, reached down
through me to perform His will on earth.
It's only when you be who you are in Christ that you can do what He calls you to do.
Who Am I?5
Here are some powerful truths about your new identity in Christ:
- I am the salt of the earth (Matt. ).
- I am the light of the world (Matt. ).
- I am a child of God (John ).
- I am part of the true vine (John 15:1, 5).
- I am Christ's friend (John ).
- I am chosen and appointed by Christ to bear His fruit (John ).
- I am a slave of righteousness (Rom. ).
- I am enslaved to God (Rom. ).
- I am a son of God (Rom. -15; Gal.. ; 4:6).
- I am a joint heir with Christ sharing His inheritance (Rom. ).
- I am a temple, a dwelling place of God (1 Cor. , ).
- I am united to the Lord and one spirit with Him (1 Cor. ).
- I am a member of Christ's body (1 Cor.12:27; Eph. 5:30).
- I am a new creation (2 Cor. ).
- I am reconciled to God and a minister of reconciliation (2 Cor. -19).
- I am an heir of God since I am a son of God (Gal. 4:6-7).
- I am a saint (Eph. 1:1; 1 Cor. 1:2; Phil. 1:1, Col. 1:2).
- I am God's workmanship, in Christ to do His work (Eph. ).
- I am a fellow citizen with the rest of God's family (Eph. ).
- I am a prisoner of Christ (Eph. 3:1; 4:1).
- I am righteous and holy (Eph. ).
- I am a citizen of heaven, seated in heaven (Phil. ; Eph. 2:6).
- I am hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3).
- I am chosen of God, wholly and dearly loved(Col. 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4).
- I am a son of light and not of darkness (I Thessalonians 5:5).
- I am a holy partaker of a heavenly calling(Eph. 3:1).
- I am a partaker of Christ, I share in His life (Hebrews ).
- I am one of God's living stones being built up in Christ as a spiritual house (1 Peter 2:5).
- I am a member of a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession (1 Peter 2:9-10).
- I am an alien and stranger to this world (1 Peter ).
- I am an enemy of the devil (1 Peter 5:8).
- I am born of God and the evil one, can not have me (1 John ).
- I am not the Great "I AM," but by the grace of God I am what I am (1 Cor. ).
Surrender and commit to this incarnational life as God fills you with boldness and passion.
2C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students, in three volumes, first series, Passmore and Alabaster, 1881, Zondervan, 1980)
3 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Revival,
42 Corinthians 5:14-17.
5Anderson, Neil. Victory Over Darkness, pp. 45-47.