|December 4||Christ’s Equality with God|
“[Christ] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.”
Christ is equal with God but willingly yielded His divine privileges for our sake.
At the time Christ lived, even His worst enemies, the apostate religious leaders, knew what Jesus claimed about Himself. John 5:18 says, “The Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but was also calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” In Philippians 2:6 Paul affirms Christ’s claim of equality with God. The Greek word translated “equality” (isos) describes things that are exactly equal in size, quantity, quality, character, and number. Isomorph (equal form), isometric (equal measures), and isosceles triangle (a triangle with two sides of equal measure) are all English terms that describe equality. Christ is equal to God, and He exists in the form of God. A literal English rendering of the Greek text is: “He did not regard the being equal with God”—a tremendous affirmation of the deity of Christ.
The first step in the humiliation of Christ was that He did not hold on to equality with God. Though He had all the rights, privileges, and honors of Godhood, Christ didn’t grasp them. The word translated “grasp” originally meant “robbery” or “a thing seized by robbery.” It eventually came to mean anything clutched, embraced, held tightly, clung to, or prized. Paul meant that though He was always and forever God, Christ refused to cling to His favored position with all its rights and honors. He was willing to give them up for a season.
The Incarnation expresses the humility and unselfish nature of the Second Person of the Trinity. Christ looked down on wretched sinners who hated Him and willingly yielded His privileges to give Himself for their sake. Let us follow His example by being humble and living unselfishly for others.
Suggestions for Prayer: Thank the Lord for His example of humility and unselfishness.
For Further Study: Read John 10:38; 14:9. What did Christ say about His relationship with the Father? ✧ In John 20:28 how did Thomas address Christ?
A Prisoner for Christ
It has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ.
The apostle Paul always saw himself as a prisoner because of Christ—never because of crime. He was in chains because he believed in, preached, and represented Jesus Christ.
From the point of view of Rome, Paul was a captive chained to a Roman guard. But from Paul’s perspective, the Roman guards were captives chained to him! The result of such close confinement was that the cause of Christ had “become evident to the whole palace guard.” Far from being a burdensome condition, Paul had been given the opportunity to witness for Christ to each guard assigned to him, at six hours a stretch.
What did those soldiers see? They saw Paul’s godly character, graciousness, patience, love, wisdom, and conviction. As members of the palace guard were converted, salvation spread beyond them to “those who are of Caesar’s household” (Phil. 4:22). No matter how difficult it may appear on the surface, no one is too difficult to reach with the gospel.
PICK UP THE HARP
Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.
—1 Chronicles 16:29
Man was made to worship God. God gave to man a harp and said, “Here above all the creatures that I have made and created I have given you the largest harp. I put more strings on your instrument and I have given you a wider range than I have given to any other creature. You can worship Me in a manner that no other creature can.” …
The purpose of God in sending His Son to die and rise and live and be at the right hand of God the Father was that He might restore to us the missing jewel, the jewel of worship; that we might come back and learn to do again that which we were created to do in the first place—worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, to spend our time in awesome wonder and adoration of God, feeling and expressing it, and letting it get into our labors and doing nothing except as an act of worship to Almighty God through His Son Jesus Christ. I say that the greatest tragedy in the world today is that God has made man in His image and made him to worship Him, made him to play the harp of worship before the face of God day and night, but he has failed God and dropped the harp. It lies voiceless at his feet. WMJ007-008
Help me, Father, to pick up the harp and bring You the glory due to Your name. I’ve come to know You in a deeper way; may I respond with heartfelt worship. Amen. 
The Kingdom of Heaven
To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.—Matt. 13:11
In the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:10) we see two aspects of the kingdom of heaven. “On earth” refers to the present kingdom, mediated through God’s servants, and “in heaven” refers to God’s universal, direct reign.
Through the centuries the present kingdom has attracted both true and false citizens. Only God can infallibly distinguish true citizens (the redeemed) from false ones. Jesus shows that many branches that seem to belong to the vine actually do not. The spurious ones will be pruned away and thrown into the fire (John 15:2, 6). Such people only superficially identify with Christ but are never really citizens of the kingdom of heaven or part of the body of Christ. They appear to be true citizens only from an imperfect human perspective.
Paradoxically, Scripture uses terms such as Israel, God’s people, and disciples that can include both nominal and genuine believers. Paul does make it clear, however, that “he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart” (Rom. 2:29; cf. 9:6–7). Only at the very end of the age, when the eternal kingdom begins, will those who are true citizens of God’s kingdom be clear to everyone. (Even during the Millennium, when Christ directly rules on earth, there will be disloyal citizens; cf. Rev. 20:7–8.)
The only way now to ensure your kingdom citizenship is to repent, trust in Jesus Christ, and pursue the sanctification that new life in Him brings (cf. Mark 1:15).
|What should churches do to discern and encourage those who are Christians in name only to put their faith in Christ wholeheartedly? Why do we tend to avoid dealing in touchy matters like these? And what is the result of our reticence?
|December 4||Progressive Revelation|
“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son” (Heb. 1:1–2).
The Old Testament is but a sample of what is revealed in the New Testament.
When Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets [the Old Testament]; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17), He was affirming that Scripture progressed from promise to fulfillment, from partial to complete. We call that progressive revelation.
For example, the Old Testament anticipated Christ’s coming; the New Testament records His coming. The Old Testament writers didn’t understand everything they wrote because it didn’t always apply to their day. That’s why Peter said, “As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit” (1 Peter 1:10–12).
Progressive revelation doesn’t at all imply that the Old Testament is inaccurate. The distinction isn’t in the rightness or wrongness of the revelation but in its completeness. Just as a child progresses from letters to words to sentences, so God’s revelation progressed from types, ceremonies, and prophecies to final completion in Jesus Christ and the New Testament.
Thought incomplete by New Testament standards, the Old Testament is nonetheless fully inspired by God. That’s affirmed often in the New Testament. Peter tells us that no human writer of the Old Testament wrote of his own will but only as he was directed by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). Paul added that “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, [and] for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16, emphasis added).
The Old Testament isn’t all of God’s truth, but all of it is true. And as you progress from the Old to the New, you see God’s character and redemptive plan unfolding in greater detail.
Suggestions for Prayer: Praise God for the fullness of revelation you enjoy in Scripture.
For Further Study: Memorize 2 Timothy 3:16–17.
CONFUSED ABOUT WORSHIP
For ye are the temple of the living God.
2 Corinthians 6:16
To really know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is to love and worship Him!
As God’s people, we are so often confused that we could be known as God’s poor, stumbling, bumbling people, for we are most prone to think of worship as something we do when we go to church on Sunday!
We call it God’s house. We have dedicated it to Him. So, we continue with the confused idea that it must be the only place where we can worship Him.
We come to the Lord’s house made of brick and stone and wood. We are used to hearing the call to worship: “The Lord is in His holy temple—let us kneel before Him!” This is on Sunday and in church—very nice!
But on Monday, as we go about our different duties, are we aware of the continuing Presence of God? The Lord desires still to be in His holy temple, wherever we are; for each of us is a temple in whom dwells the Holy Spirit of God!
Lord, I want all the rooms in my temple to be clean not only for Your abiding Presence but also to be a shining testimony to those I encounter during the week.
HOLINESS AND WORSHIP COME BEFORE POWER
…He that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
To teach that the filling with the Holy Spirit is given the Christian to provide “power for service” is to teach truth, but not the whole truth!
Power for service is but one effect of the experience, and I do not hesitate to say that it is the least of several effects. Contrary to the popular belief, “to serve this present age” is not the Christian’s first duty nor the chief end of man.
The primary work of the Holy Spirit is to restore the lost soul to intimate fellowship with God through the washing of regeneration. To accomplish this He first reveals Christ to the penitent heart (1 Cor. 12:3). He then goes on to illuminate the newborn soul with brighter rays from the face of Christ (John 14:26; 16:13–15) and leads the willing heart into depths and heights of divine knowledge and communion. Remember, we know Christ only as the Spirit enables us and we have only as much of Him as the Holy Spirit imparts!
God wants worshipers before workers; indeed the only acceptable workers are those who have learned the lost art of worship. It is inconceivable that a sovereign and holy God should be so hard up for workers that He would press into service anyone who had been empowered regardless of his moral qualifications. The very stones would praise Him if the need arose and a thousand legions of angels would leap to do His will!
Gifts and power for service the Spirit surely desires to impart; but holiness and spiritual worship come first!
 MacArthur, J. (1997). Strength for today. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 MacArthur, J. (2001). Truth for today : a daily touch of God’s grace (p. 365). Nashville, Tenn.: J. Countryman.
 Tozer, A. W., & Eggert, R. (2015). Tozer on the almighty god: a 365-day devotional. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 347). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 351). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
 Tozer, A. W. (2015). Mornings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.
 Tozer, A. W., & Smith, G. B. (2015). Evenings with tozer: daily devotional readings. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers.