The Incarnation of Christ

“Christ Jesus…being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:5-7)

“Great is the mystery of godliness,” Paul exclaimed as he summarized the incarnation (1 Timothy 3:16). No mere words, even those inspired by God Himself, can completely express what transpired when “the Word was made flesh” (John 1:14). There are, however, a few clues in this marvelous Philippians passage.

The choice of the Greek word morphê to express what Jesus possessed prior to His becoming the God-man is important. This “form” of God is not the Greek word that one would choose to express the visible or outward shape—that word would be schêmaMorphê emphasizes the character, the being, that makes the being what it is.

Interestingly, morphê is also used to tell us that Jesus took on the “form” of a servant: “[He] made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7). Jesus “voided” the morphê that He rightfully possessed as God and “received” (passive) the morphê of a servant or slave (doulos). Then, “in the likeness [homoiôma, similitude] of men” He came to be [ginomai, to come into existence].

We may never fully understand what transpired in the councils of Triune eternity. But this we can know and believe: Jesus became man for men, and He alone saved us from our sin and justly granted us eternal life. HMM III

The Unpardonable Sin

Mark 3:20-30

THREE of the Gospels (Matt. 12:22-45; Mark 3:20-30; Luke 11:14-36) relate the healing of the blind and dumb demoniac and the controversy that followed. While the people were much impressed, the Pharisees accused our Lord of being in league with the devil. His answer was withering: “If I am in league with Satan, then he is fighting himself. So then, by what power do your exorcists cast out demons?”

He then speaks of Himself as the “stronger man” who binds the devil. Either we are with Christ or against Him: “He that is not with Me is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth abroad.” There is no middle ground. Our Lord also gave the parable of the man who cleaned up his house, made a superficial reformation, but ended more demon-possessed than before. Christ, the stronger man, must take the devil’s place in our hearts. The Christian life is not a mere cleaning-up, it is the possessing and filling of the life by Christ Himself. Otherwise it ends worse than it began.

Jesus also declared that since words reveal the heart, they will justify or condemn us in the day of judgment. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. He gave them the sign of Jonah, signifying His death and resurrection. Remember that all depends upon His being raised from the dead. If He rose not, our preaching and faith are vain (1 Cor. 15:14-19).

But what has concerned readers most in this passage is our Lord’s statement about the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, which has no forgiveness. Since words reveal the inner state, the blasphemy of the Pharisees in attributing Christ’s work to the devil revealed their inner condition, and it is that inner state, rather than any act, that is beyond forgiveness. The spoken blasphemy is but the expression of the condition of a heart that has become impervious to good—has so long hardened itself against the light and resisted the truth that it regards good as evil. It is possible to reach such a condition in which one is so calloused to the good that it no longer makes any impression. It is not so much that they could not be saved if they wanted to be, or that God refuses to save them, as that they do not want to be saved and manifest no interest whatever. Unfortunately, many people have worried themselves sick thinking they had committed this sin, when the very fact that they are concerned shows they are not in such a condition! The very mark of the unpardonable sin is utter indifference to the light and the pleadings of the Spirit. Those who are guilty are not worrying about it.

But there is here a warning not to resist too long the gospel call. Just as every day one goes barefoot the feet become more toughened, so it is with the soul that tramples daily the grace of God.

There is a time I know not when, a place I know not where,

Which marks the destiny of men to heaven or despair;

There is a line by us not seen which crosses every path,

The hidden boundary between God’s patience and His wrath.

How long may man go on in sin, how long will God forbear,

Where does hope end and where begin the confines of despair?

One answer from the sky is sent, ye who from God depart,

While it is called “today” repent and harden not your heart.

Paul’s Breastplate

“I told you I am He,” Jesus replied.—John 18:8

A feeling, which Satan can arouse in a heart that is unprotected by a spiritual breastplate, is that of a subtle form of discouragement, in which he draws our attention to what other Christians may be saying or thinking about us.

The Apostle Paul was a particular target of Satan in this respect, but see how he used the breastplate of righteousness as his spiritual defense. Paul’s background was anti-Christian, and he could never get completely away from that. He had been the most hostile persecutor of the church, and he must therefore have constantly run across families whose loved ones he had put to death. Perhaps there were many who doubted his claim to be an apostle. Some commentators claim that in 1 Corinthians 15:10, he was replying to such an accusation.

How does Paul react to this criticism? Does he succumb to discouragement? Does he say: “What’s the use of working my fingers to the bone for these unappreciative people? They don’t do anything but hurl recriminations in my face!” This is what the Devil would have liked him to do. But look at what he does. He says: “By God’s grace I am what I am” (1Co 15:10). Can you see what he is doing? He is using the breastplate of righteousness. He is saying, in other words: “I don’t need to do anything to protect myself; what I am is what Christ has made me. I am not standing in my own righteousness, I am standing in His.”

What a lesson this is in how to use the spiritual breastplate. You and I need to learn this lesson, too.

Prayer

O God, day by day I am catching little glimpses of what You are trying to teach me—that the more I depend on Your righteousness and the less I depend on my own, the better off I will be. Help me to learn it—and learn it completely. Amen.

Further Study

Ps 73:1-28; 2Co 5:7-21

What brought discouragement to the psalmist?

How did Paul encourage the Corinthians?

The Best Possible Start

Psalm 118:24

During the football game I am glued to the television on an afternoon to see

how my favorite team is doing. But the editor in me can’t help editing

what the commentators say. I don’t consciously do it; it’s just that they say the most ridiculous things—regularly.

I appreciate that they don’t have time to think about what they’re saying, but they often come out with the same old cliches. One of the reporters will say that a team has gotten off to the “best possible” start. It may be a touchdown after just five minutes. But that does not make it the best possible start. A touchdown after two minutes would have been even better.

Or they might suggest that a team being down by two touchdowns after 10 minutes is off to the “worst possible” start. Well, it’s not. They could, however unlikely, be down by three touchdowns after 10 minutes.

Sometimes it just isn’t possible to find the right words to describe what’s happening, not only on the football field, but also when something spectacular happens, or something affects us deeply. A commentator who saw the Hindenburg in flames above him knew all about that as he ran for his life.

Poets and hymn writers through the years have grappled to find the right way of expressing all kinds of moods and feelings—and they have done it with varying degrees of success.

When it comes to describing what it’s like to discover the love of God, many people have found it hard to put into words. Some might say it has to be experienced to be believed. One songwriter expresses it this way:

But what to those who find? Ah! This

Nor tongue nor pen can show;

The love of Jesus, what it is

None but His loved ones know.

One last thing. To wake up knowing you are in God’s love and care—whatever happens—does really give you the best possible start, every day.

Robert Street, It’s A New Day!

VIDEO “The Crib Was Upended” – Can You Trust God’s Timing?

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven. Ecclesiastes 3:1

In an article in Australia’s Christian Today, Steven Huang described losing his job last year. “It was a moment that turned me upside-down,” he said. “The crib was upended and I came tumbling out.” 

After the initial shock, Steven realized this was an opportunity to put Christian faith into action. “I had no choice but to trust God,” he said. “Which was surely what God was trying to tell me all along.” Steven found comfort in Scripture, especially in Ecclesiastes 3, which reassured him that God has an appointed time for everything in our lives. Shortly afterward, Steven found a job that captured his heart, working for a Christian ministry.1

Faith is the foundation of our relationship with our Father, and with it we can conquer anything. God has an appointed time for every aspect of His will for us. On those occasions when we feel like a child tumbling from the crib, how wonderful to know we have no other choice but to trust Him. Beneath us are the everlasting arms.

I can see God working through the heartache, and I have learned many lessons from what I experienced. He needed to get my attention to show me where I needed to be. Steven Huang


Can You Trust God’s Timing? | Steven Furtick

Our Father’s Care

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. Matthew 10:29

Thwack! I looked up and craned my ear toward the sound. Spotting a smudge on the windowpane, I peered out onto the deck and discovered the still-beating body of a bird. My heart hurt. I longed to help the fragile feathered being.

In Matthew 10, Jesus described His Father’s care for sparrows in order to comfort the disciples as He warned of upcoming dangers. He offered instructions to the twelve as He “gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness” (v. 1). While the power to do such deeds might have seemed grand to the disciples, many would oppose them, including governing authorities, their own families, and the ensnaring grip of the evil one (vv. 16–28).

Then in 10:29–31, Jesus told them not to fear whatever they faced because they would never be out of their Father’s care. “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?” He asked. “Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. . . . So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

I checked on the bird throughout the day, each time finding it alive but unmoved. Then, late into the evening, it was gone. I prayed it had survived. Surely, if I cared this much about the bird, God cared even more. Imagine how much He cares for you and me!

By:  Elisa Morgan

Reflect & Pray

How have you seen God care for you in the past? How can you gain courage for all you face by understanding that you’re never outside your Father’s care?

Dear Father, thank You for always watching over and caring for me.

Moments of Weakness

2 Samuel 11:1-5

Temptations can come at any time, but they are especially dangerous in periods of weakness because that’s when we’re more prone to yield. The Scriptures are filled with descriptions of men and women who sinned against the Lord in moments of vulnerability. These true stories are given to us for our instruction so we can learn from the mistakes of others (1 Corinthians 10:11). 

While temptations come in a variety of forms, they follow a similar pattern. David’s sin is a good example of this. His eye looked, his mind desired, and his will acted. Resistance is difficult in the best of times, but it’s even more of a struggle during periods of anger, emptiness, idleness, or isolation—and that was the case for David, who should have been in battle instead of in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 11:1). At the end of the day, no matter what’s creating the vulnerability, each person is responsible for his or her own actions.

In times of weakness, remember the acronym “HALT.” Don’t let yourself become too hungryangrylonely, or tired. Most importantly, fix your attention on the Lord and draw strength from Him through prayer. Use Scripture to guard your mind, and the Lord will give you victory over temptation.

Jesus Christ Is Lord

“And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:11)

Throughout the New Testament, we find there are three names in primary usage for the Son of God: Jesus, Christ, and Lord. The name Jesus, meaning “Jehovah is the Savior,” is His human name, linking Him with humanity whom He came to save. Christ, meaning “anointed,” is His Messianic name, linking Him with the prophecy that He came to fulfill. The New Testament equivalent to the Hebrew word Jehovah is the word “Lord,” linking Him with deity whom He came to represent and reveal, and to whom is due homage.

These three names have a chronological emphasis, for until His crucifixion He was known primarily as “Jesus,” but after His resurrection and ascension He was preeminent as “Christ.” When He returns, it will be as “Lord” to reign. To be sure, there is overlap, for He is simultaneously all three and has been throughout history. But the general pattern is clear.

The three names also indicate His threefold office and work. “Jesus” suggests His career as a prophet, teaching men the truth, while “Christ” suggests His priesthood, atoning for sin, and “Lord” His Kingship, ruling over men. Mankind’s relationship and responsibility to Him follow this same pattern: obedience to Him as prophet, faith in Him as priest, surrender to Him as King.

There is no effort on the part of the Scripture writers to separate these names into different individuals, for on many if not most occasions two or three of the names are combined, showing that these three names reference one and the same person. “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36). JDM

Lord of the Sabbath

Mark 2:23-3:12

THREE of the Gospels (Matt. 12:1-14; Mark 2:23-3:12; Luke 6:1-11) record our Lord’s Sabbath-day experience in the barley fields, His conflict with the Pharisees on that point, and the healing of the withered hand. He and His disciples did not violate the Law in eating the grain, for it was expressly permitted in Deuteronomy 23:25, but they simply violated Jewish tradition imposed by the scribes and Pharisees.

Our Lord gave an unanswerable five-fold argument for His attitude toward the Sabbath. He cited the case of David and the shewbread, the fact that the priests were busy on the Sabbath, the reference in Hosea about God desiring mercy rather than sacrifice, the fact that the Sabbath was made for man rather than man for the Sabbath, and then, the climax of all, that He Himself was Lord of the Sabbath. There are those today who overlook the fact that the Sabbath was done away with in Christ, along with all Jewish ordinances. We observe the Lord’s Day not because of any definite New Testament command but because it was the day of our Lord’s resurrection, the meeting-day of the early Church, and because it meets the principle of one day of rest in seven. We are not to judge one another, however, in regard to days (Col. 2:16) unless false doctrine arises which would revert to legalism instead of the principle of grace. For Sunday is not a “Christian Sabbath.” The Sabbath was never changed but it was abolished, and we are not under law.

After His break with the Pharisees our Lord went into their synagogue—”their” synagogue, mind you—and healed the man with the withered hand. Mark tells us that He looked on His accusers with anger. He had nothing but anger for that religiousness which put a custom above human need. We talk much of the meek and lowly Jesus, but there were other aspects to His character. We need to recover His hatred of sin—His condemnation of whatever stood in the way of the will of God and the good of others.

The healing of the withered hand, far from bringing joy to those who witnessed it, only fanned the flames of opposition. What a depravity that can make of such a blessing an incentive to murder! But that is exactly what occurred here, for our Lord’s enemies took counsel how they might destroy Him. No wonder that it should be the unpardonable sin when men can become so impervious to good as that!

Jesus withdrew to the sea, followed by multitudes whom He healed. Matthew here shows the fulfillment of Isaiah 42:1-4 in our Lord, God’s chosen Servant, in whom He is well pleased; upon whom is His Spirit—showing mercy to the Gentiles, not striving nor crying. His voice was not heard in the streets. He turned meekly from Israel, arrayed against Him, because the time for judgment had not yet come. He will not break the bruised reed nor quench the smoking flax until His Second Advent. Meanwhile, the Gentiles in this present age trust in Him.

Not Just a “Father”

Holy Father, protect them by Your name.—John 17:11

John Calvin said: “That God’s name should be hallowed is to say that God should have His own honor of which He is so worthy, so that men should never think or speak of Him without the greatest veneration.”

One of the things that saddens me about the contemporary Christian church is the way that some believers refer to the Almighty in terms that drag Him down to a “good buddy” relationship. They refer to the great God of creation as “The Man Upstairs” or “My Partner in the Sky.” When people talk about God in such low-level terms, they do Him an injustice. And it’s not so much the terms but the image of God that lies behind those terms which is the real problem.

We must, of course, strike a balanced note on this issue, for Paul himself teaches us that the Holy Spirit in our hearts prompts us to call God not merely “Father,” but “Daddy” (Rm 8:15). Too much of the “Daddy,” however, can lead us, if we are not careful, into sloppy sentimentalism. I believe this is why, after the phrase “Our Father,” Jesus introduces us to another aspect of God—hallowed, holy, reverenced be His Name. It is right that we think of God in familiar terms such as “Daddy,” but it is right also that we remember that our heavenly Father is a God of majestic holiness and unsullied purity. A. W. Tozer was right when he said, “No religion has been greater than its idea of God.” Jesus put it into proper focus when He addressed God, not only as Father, but Holy Father.

Prayer

My Father and my God, help me gain a healthy and balanced view of Your person, so that while I enjoy the familiarity of Your Fatherhood, I am exceedingly conscious also of Your holiness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Further Study

Heb 12:1-14; Ex 15:11; 1Sm 6:20; Isa 6:3; Rv 15:4

Where are we to look?

How do we become holy?