Friday, February 23, 2018

2018.02.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 10:1-16

Questions for Littles: Where does Jesus go (v1)? Who gathered to Him? What was He accustomed to do with them? What question do the Pharisees ask in v2? With what question does Jesus answer in v3? What is their answer (v4)? What does Jesus say was the reason that Moses permitted this (v5)? What does Jesus remind them that God did at the beginning of creation (v6)? How had God created man? Of what else does Jesus remind them in v7? How many does Jesus say become one flesh in v8? Whom does Jesus say is the One who joins a man and his wife together (v9)? Who ask Jesus about the same thing in v10? What does Jesus say a man does, if he divorces his wife and then remarries (v11, cf. Matt 5:32)? What does Jesus say a woman does, if she does the same (v12)? To whom do they then bring little children (v13)? What do they want Jesus to do with the children? What do the disciples do to those who brought the children? When Jesus sees it, what does He think (v14)? To whom does Jesus say that the kingdom belongs? And to whom are the children an example (v15)? What does Jesus then do with the children (v16)?
In the Gospel reading this week, we heard about two incidents in which the Lord Jesus affirms God’s valuing of marriage and children.

First, on the question of divorce, there are a couple interesting things about Christ’s answer.

There is a truth about the Mosaic civil code here that we could easily miss. God gave unto Israel laws that took into account the hardness of their hearts. If you look at the parallel in Matthew 5:32, you can see part of the “hardness of heart” Jesus is talking about. Divorce wouldn’t be necessary, but there are husbands and wives who commit adultery.

Even more interesting is the theological foundation of Jesus’s teaching on divorce. He doesn’t take us to Genesis 2 first. Jesus takes us to the creation in Genesis 1. He takes us to God creating male and female. The implication is that marriage is about man being in the image of God, man being a covenanting creature.

Only after establishing this first does Jesus take us to Genesis 2, where He twice repeats the math: 2 become 1. This math wasn’t explicit in the text of Genesis 2, but it was obviously implied. Now, Jesus gives His authoritative explanation and application of the passage. Marriage is one man, and one woman, covenanted for life.

But there’s more! Who forms this covenant? Not just the man and the woman. The Lord is the One who joins them together. Marriage is the “covenant of our God” (cf. Prov 2:17). No wonder God hates divorce! The Scripture that tells us that also tells us one of God’s great purposes for marriage: to produce a godly seed, covenant children (cf. Malachi 2:14-16).

Now, the Holy Spirit ties the two subjects together again in Mark 10. Look at how serious our Redeemer is about covenant children! He is greatly displeased with the disciples for hindering the little children of these believing parents from coming to Him.

Our Lord doesn’t just love our children because they are ours. He loves our children because they are His. Jesus points out, in v15, that children are often better examples of believers than adults. But this isn’t even His strongest statement about them.

In v14, Jesus says of such is the kingdom. These little children are kingdom citizens in their own right. They have a right of access to the King! In the end, Jesus doesn’t just touch the children as was requested. He takes them up into His arms, and lays His hands upon them, and blesses them. How much our Lord loves marriage and children!
How does your daily and weekly schedule reflect Jesus’s priority upon marriage and children?
Suggested songs: ARP128 “How Blessed Are All Who Fear the Lord” or HB455 “O Happy Home, Where Thou Art Loved”

Thursday, February 22, 2018

2018.02.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 11:1-32

Questions for Littles: Whom does Paul give as an example of an Israelite that God has not cast away (v1)? Which of the Israelites has God not cast away (v2)? What determines which Israelites will be saved (v5)? So, if the nation as a whole does not obtain salvation, who do obtain it (v7) What happened to the rest (end of v7)? Who has given them over to their blindness like that (v8-10)? What is one reason that the Lord has done this (v11)? What is one way that the Lord will bring these elect Israelites to salvation (v13-15)? What does Paul warn Gentile believers against doing in v18? What will happen to branches that do not continue in God’s goodness (v19-24)? How many of these elect Israelites will be saved (v25-29)? How does everyone whom God saves in mercy start out (v30-32)? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we come to the conclusion of Paul’s explanation of what is happening to the Israelites.

And his explanation is that—with respect to the elect Israelites—what is happening is that they are being saved!

As we heard toward the end of chapter 9, God had determined not to leave Israel like Sodom and Gomorrah. God had determined to save a remnant. God had elected some, and He is determined that not a single elected one will perish.

What is necessary, however, is that this salvation would come not merely by being Israelite, but only by trusting in Jesus. That was the whole point of chapter 10. Salvation is by faith through hearing, not by works.

Now, in chapter 11, the Holy Spirit ties these two items together. If God has elected some Israelites, but for now they have not been saved, it is so that He might bring them to faith as a result of what He is currently doing in saving Gentiles.

It’s really a marvelous plan. It announces to us about God that He is gloriously merciful in His electing, saving love. And it announces to us about ourselves that the only way that we can be saved is through faith in Jesus Christ as a result of sovereign, electing love.

Do we know that about ourselves? We deserve to be given over to our own blindness as was justly done with those many Israelites who were not elect! But the Lord is gloriously merciful, and astonishingly wise in His plan for whom and how He saves!

God grant to us the rejoicing humility of those who are saved entirely and only by sovereign, merciful, electing grace.
When are you tempted to spiritual boastfulness? What has God given us to help against it?
Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or HB402 “I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew”

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

2018.02.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 15:2-21

Questions for Littles: What reason does Abram give God for why having a great reward doesn’t help him (v2-3)? From where does God say Abram’s heir will come (v4)? What does God give as a picture of how many descendants Abram will have (v5)? How was Abram accounted as righteous (v6)? After Abram already believes the Lord, what does the Lord declare in v7? What does Abram ask in v8? What does God tell Abram to bring Him (v9)? What does God tell him to do with the animals (v10)? What three things fall upon Abram in v12? What things does God promise Abram in vv13-16? Why will this not happen immediately? What happens when the sun goes down (v17)? What is God making with Abram in this ceremony (v18)? What does God promise to give him? Whose land is it currently (v19-20)? 
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we are reminded once again that God wants us to be sure of what He has promised us.

At first, Abram has a problem with the promise of God as his shield and great reward. The big problem is death. It wouldn’t matter what Abram got, if Abram would just disappear, and he doesn’t even have any descendants.

Of course, the Lord makes the fantastic promises about his descendants here. But, there is also a glorious (though subtly delivered) promise in v15. God promises something beyond death.

On one hand, Abram’s body will be buried. Not burned, but buried. When it goes into the grave, he won’t be done with it yet. Abram learns this lesson well—when his wife dies, he buys his first piece of his inheritance to bury her in it.

But the promise about his soul is even better than the one about his body. His soul will not merely disappear at death. He will go to his fathers in peace. That Hebrew word doesn’t just mean the absence of conflict. It means wholeness and wellbeing.

Abram just wanted to know about descendants. But when Abram had believed in the promise of his offspring—when Abram believed in Christ (however incomplete his understanding of Christ was at the time)—the Lord promised him eternal life!

The meat of the chapter, however, isn’t the promise. It’s the covenant ceremony that the Lord performs in order to make Abram sure of that promise. The Lord appears in enough of His glory to make great terror fall upon Abram even in a deep sleep.

But then, the covenantal passing between the cut-up animals isn’t between the Lord and Abraham. Instead, the Lord makes that covenant with Himself. It was a common ceremony: the covenanting parties walk between the animals, signifying that they are committed to this bond unto the death.

Not unto Abram’s death, however. Unto the Lord’s! By the time God is done keeping this promise, He will have to have become a man in order to be able to die.

It’s a marvelous ceremony—a marvelous display of God’s commitment to delivering upon His promises.

Dear believer, the Lord doesn’t just want you to believe Him. He wants strengthen your confidence in His promises until it has grown up into a full assurance of faith.
What use are we making of the things that the Lord gave us to stir up our assurance?
Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

2018.02.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 15:22-41

Questions for Littles: Whom did they bring to Golgotha (v22)? What did Jesus do, when they offered Him the wine that would decrease the pain (v23)? What did they do with His clothing (v24)? What did the inscription of the accusation say (v26)? Whom did they crucify with Him (v27)? What did the Scripture that this fulfilled say (v28)? What did people mock Him and tempt Him to do in v29-30? Who else mocked Him with the same temptation (v31-32)? Who else even reviled Him (end of v32)? How long was there darkness (v33)? What does Jesus cry out at that point (v34)? What do people think Jesus is doing (v35-36)? What does Jesus do in v37? What happens in the temple in v38? What does the centurion say when He sees Jesus’s dying cry and breath (v39)? Who were looking on from afar (v40)? What had they done (v41)?
This week’s Invocation and Confession of Sin came from Mark 15:22-41.

In this particular picture of the crucifixion, the Holy Spirit focuses upon Christ’s insistence upon suffering for His people. He is King, and He is going to the cross like a King.

He refuses to take the wine with myrrh that would dull the pain. His purpose for coming was to endure that pain in our place.

He refuses the temptation of those who throw His words back in His face. It is a temptation from Satan, very much like Satan’s quotes of Scripture during the temptation in the wilderness.

He refuses the temptation from the priests and scribes. Behold our King on the cross, in the midst of His greatest trial and agony, He is refusing temptation with Kingly dignity!

Even His endurance of the darkness is kingly. God literally turns the Aaronic blessing inside out against Christ: Yahweh curse You and destroy You! Yahweh hide His face from You in darkness and pour out wrath upon You. Yahweh frown upon You and give You Hell.

The Lord Jesus endures this darkness, from noon until three p.m. Three hours, He bore up under God’s wrath with Kingly resolve. And only after three, long hours does He cry out at the pain of being forsaken for our sin.

Considering what we’ve been learning from the book of Hebrews, isn’t it wonderful that the moment Jesus breathes His last, the temple curtain is torn in two from top to bottom?

Before the Centurion cries out in v39 that Jesus was the Son of God, God announced via that curtain that this One upon Whom He had frowned is actually His beloved Son with whom He is well-pleased.

So, how will we respond? The indifference of the soldiers gambling over the clothes just will not do.

Is that all that this crucified King means to us? An opportunity to get something from Him? God forbid!

Though, like the women, we are still afar off, let us look on with same following care as those who are committed to serving Him with our lives!
How often do you consider the cross? When you do, what are some of your responses?
Suggested songs: ARP22A “My God, My God” or HB199 “Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed”

Monday, February 19, 2018

2018.02.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 9:16-22

Questions for Littles: When there is a testament, what does it require (v16)? What is a death required for (v17)? With what was the first covenant started (v18)? What does v19 say Moses spoke to the people? What did He sprinkle to show that the book of the covenant was now in effect? What did Moses say while He was sprinkling the book (v21)? What can’t we have forgiveness without?
In the sermon this week, we learned the background behind Matthew 26:28, “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

This is vitally important to us for the cleansing of our consciences. If we were just filthy, it would be enough for us to be washed clean. But our consciences don’t just accuse us of being unclean or unworthy. Our consciences accuse us of being guilty.

It would not be enough for us to be enabled to worship for a little while, knowing that we are about to die and be punished for our sin. We need more than just cleansing and acceptance. We need forgiveness—the remitting of our sins, the canceling of our debts against the justice of God.

There were different substances that God had given for cleansing. Water was sufficient for that at some point. But water isn’t enough for starting a covenant, and water isn’t enough for the forgiveness of sins.

We needed blood: the blood not of bulls and goats but Jesus’ blood, shed for many, for the forgiveness of sins!

Jesus’s blood has taken away our sins! But it has also done one more amazing thing: it has made absolutely sure, forever and ever, every blessing of God to us, as He has promised.

A covenant had to be established with a death. It required the display of the penalty for breaking a life-and-death bond between two people. The word “testament” in v16-17 is exactly the word “covenant”—and it’s useful to us that that we still use the word when we say “Last Will and Testament.”

The provisions of such a document do not go into effect until the death has occurred.
So also the book of the covenant of Moses. So also all the promises of God that are “yes and Amen” in Christ.

He had to die, not only so that we could receive the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus also had to die so that we could receive the blessed rewards for His obedience. And that was the greatest obedience: to drink the cup that established the covenant… the cup of the wrath of God and the death of cross.

Precious blood! Precious death! It has secured everything for us! How precious is it to you?
Where do we savor the preciousness of what Christ has done for us? Do you do that there?
Suggested Songs: ARP191 “I Love the Lord” or HB448 “’Twas on That Night”

Saturday, February 17, 2018

2018.02.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 9:11-15

Questions for Littles: Who came as High Priest of the good things to come (v11)? What kind of tabernacle does He minister in? What as not used to make it? Indeed, what is it not a part of at all? With what did He enter the Most Holy Place (v12)? How often has He entered there? What kind of redemption has He obtained? What blood used to be splattered (v13)? To what ashes did this blood witness? What did all of this cleanse? By whose blood are we cleansed (v14)? Through what (Whom!) did Christ offer Himself to God? What does His blood cleanse? From what does His blood cleanse our consciences? Of what does this make Him Mediator (v15)? By what means? For the transgressions under which covenant does v15 specifically say Christ made redemption? Who from that covenant received the promised eternal inheritance?
In this week’s sermon text, we were reminded again that Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come. The sacrifices and purification rituals of the Old Testament looked forward to Him and the “good things” that He would accomplish for us.

This explains why v14 refers to them (among other things) as “dead works.” Were they sinful in and of themselves? Of course not; God had commanded them! But they were dead on two counts.

The first is that until we are enabled to believe in Christ, and receive life through union with Him, we ourselves are dead (cf. Eph 2:1). Even now, we do nothing without sin.

The second is that the works of the former time had no value in themselves, but only as they looked forward to Christ and His works, which alone have the true value (cf. Rom 3:25)

We heard in 6:1 that a foundation of Christianity is that we must turn away from these dead works as a way of being made right with God; and, we must turn instead to God’s own righteousness, provided in Christ alone, as our only way of being made right with God.

Now, we hear about having our consciences cleansed from these dead works. The question is: how can we come near to God? The old purifications were good enough for “coming near” in the earthly tabernacle. They “sanctified for the purification of the flesh.” 

But one day, we are going to have to draw near to the glorious, heavenly presence of the Living God Himself. We must not do so holding onto anything less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

So, that presses this question: what right do I have to hold onto Christ? How do I know that He will acknowledge me and save me? And the answer is: my baptism! I was sprinkled with the water of baptism at the command of Jesus whose blood shed on Calvary washes my conscience clean. In Christ and His blood, I can stand confidently, with a clear conscience, before the Living God!!

This was even the means of “redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant.” And it is our guarantee that He who has called us will surely give us our eternal inheritance—Himself!
What is your plan/habit for using your baptism to develop your sure confidence in Christ alone for your forgiveness and eternal inheritance?
Suggested Songs: ARP78B “O Come, My People” or HB198 “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”

Friday, February 16, 2018

2018.02.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 9:43-50

Questions for Littles: What should you do with even a hand that “caused” you to sin (v43)? Where is it better to go without a hand, rather than to go into hell? What never happens to the fire in hell? What never happens to their worm in hell (v44)? What should you do with even a foot that “caused” you to sin (v45)? Where is it better to go without a foot, rather than to go into hell? What never happens to the fire in hell? What never happens to their worm in hell (v46)? Where is it better to go with just one eye, rather than to be cast into hell fire (v47)? What never happens to their worm in hell (v48)? What never happens to the fire in hell? What must happen to everyone with fire (v49a)? What will happen to every sacrifice (v49b)? What must we have in ourselves (v50)? What must we have with one another?
In the Gospel reading this week, there’s a lot of warning about hell. Remember from last week, in talking about the value of Christ’s name, the Holy Spirit emphasized the value of little ones upon whom He has placed His name.

In this week’s passage, Jesus continues that theme, but turning us to consider its application to ourselves. What might cause us to stumble into sin, and by that sin to stumble into hell?

There is a popular PCA preacher who said recently that “being homosexual doesn’t send you to hell; failing to believe in Jesus does.” But we must be careful not to be wiser than the Lord (cf. 1Cor 6:9-11). Refusing to trust in Christ is certainly a sin, and those who do so will go to hell for that sin, but they will also be going to hell for all of their other sins as well.

Hell is nothing to trifle with. It is internal (worm) and external (fire), continual, retributive punishment from God. It is not simply “getting what we want, by being far from God.” No, God is everywhere (cf. Psalm 139), and the punishment in hell comes from the glory of his presence (2Thess 1:9). He compares that to being eaten alive from the inside out, and burned alive from the outside in—forever.

Yes, the righteousness and sacrifice of Christ are bigger than all of our sin. But consider this: one sin is as bad as an eternity of hell, for hell is the proper punishment of that sin. How much, then, should we do to avoid sin—we who have been saved by Christ and love Him?!

Now, the real question in this passage is: what are you willing to cut out of your life in order to stop sinning? Obviously, we are responsible for our own sin. “My hand made me do it” (or foot, or eye) is not a good excuse. And thank God for that, or else we would need to open up a triage unit for those who obeyed this passage! We cannot blame God, like Adam, “this woman that You gave me; she made me do it!”

But there are certainly situations that we choose to be in, and relationships that we choose to enter or continue that become occasions for stirring up all manner of sin within our hearts, into which situations also we commit wicked behavior.

So, we have two options for fire: purifying fire upon a life lived as a living sacrifice, or punitive fire in condemnation of a life lived for oneself. This dual use of the image of fire appears also in Matthew 3:11-12. We may not find it pleasant to endure suffering and discipline in this life, as the Lord fits us for heaven by making us holy.

But, of the two fires, that is the one that is far to be preferred. And those whose lives are living sacrifices should not be surprised when it comes. Did our Lord not suffer far more than we ever will? And has He not been comparing His suffering to ours these last several passages of this gospel?
What situational/relationship choices are you making, despite the knowledge that they lead to sin? What fire is the Lord putting you through to prepare you for glory?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or HB369 “How Firm a Foundation”