Tuesday, February 19, 2019

2019.02.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 3:7-19

Questions for Littles: Whom does Hebrews 3:7 tell us spoke the words in Hebrews 3:7-11? What did the people in 7b hear? What did they do with their hearts (Hebrews 3:8)? What did God think of that (Hebrews 3:10a)? What did God swear (Hebrews 3:11)? What should we watch out for about our hearts (Hebrews 3:12)? Who else helps us resist being hardened (Hebrews 3:13)? Of whom have we become partakers already if we hold our confidence (Hebrews 3:14)? What do those who are partakers of Christ continually hear in this life (Hebrews 3:15)? What people heard God and rebelled (Hebrews 3:16)? With whom was God angry for forty years (Hebrews 3:17)? To whom did God swear that they would not enter His rest (Hebrews 3:18)? Why didn’t they enter (Hebrews 3:19)?
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Confession of Sin all came from Hebrews 3:7-4:5. Here, we see what Scripture says about itself: “as the Holy Spirit says.” It is the Holy Spirit who has spoken Scripture. The very words of Psalm 95, in Hebrews 3:7-11, are the words of God the Holy Spirit.

And, when these words are properly opened in preaching, it is the Lord Jesus who addresses us. We have already seen in Hebrews 2:12 that it is Jesus who declares God’s name in the gatherings of the church. Now, Hebrews 3:12 makes it clear that Psalm 95 has a current application to us in Christ’s New Testament church.

We need to bring soft hearts to the preaching of the Word. If the people who saw God’s salvation from Egypt could still fail to enter heaven because of unbelief, then just knowing about salvation in Jesus does not mean we will be saved (Hebrews 3:16).

We must soften our hearts, when we hear God’s Word (Hebrews 3:13). The Holy Spirit gives us an immediate clue about what that looks like, when He warns that hard hearts come “through the deceitfulness of sin.” He gives us another clue, when He points out in Hebrews 3:17 that those who had perished did so because of sin; and, again in Hebrews 3:18, when He points out that they did not obey.

So… if we want to be saved, we just need to obey?

Not quite. Obedience is what comes out of the heart, but look at Hebrews 3:12 and Hebrews 3:19 to see where the disqualifying disobedience came from: unbelief. Those who fell in the wilderness (verse 19) fell because of their sin, but that sin was the fruit of unbelief. So, what verse 12 warns us against isn’t just disobedience.

Rather, verse 12 warns against having an evil heart of unbelief. This is the greatest problem with our disobedience; it says: “I don’t trust, You, Lord, that You have my best interests in mind… or, perhaps, that You know how to accomplish my best interests.” That is the sound of an “evil heart” that “departs from the living God.” In other words, obedience doesn’t save. Clinging to God in Christ is what saves!
How does a soft heart during preaching show that you are clinging to God? What are some things that get in the way of our listening to preaching with a soft heart? 
Suggested songs: ARP184 “Adoration and Submission” or TPH152 “Safely through Another Week”

Monday, February 18, 2019

2019.02.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 4:25-5:32

Questions for Littles: What does Eve name the son in Genesis 4:25? Why? By what name were men called in Genesis 4:26? In whose likeness was Adam made (Genesis 5:1)? In whose likeness was Seth begotten (Genesis 5:3)? What happened to nearly all of the men in chapter 5? What did Enoch do after he begot Methuselah (Genesis 5:22)? What happened to him instead of dying (Genesis 5:24)? What did Noah’s dad hope that he would bring (Genesis 5:29)?
In the Scripture for this week’s sermon, the Holy Spirit teaches us about the twin family-realities of our fallenness and God’s grace.

Bearing children reminds us that we are fallen. Adam fell from his original state, created in God’s image and according to God’s likeness. So, when at the age of 130, Adam father Seth “in his own likeness, after his image” (Genesis 5:3), it is a sobering reminder that this is not exactly the image and likeness in which man was first created. All parents have seen this in their children—our own sin being borne out in their characters as well. And what we see in the spirit, we also see in the body. Not just they have their father’s nose or their mother’s eyes—but that they die their parents’ death. It’s the refrain of this chapter: “and he died… and he died… and he died…”

But, bearing children also reminds us of God’s grace. There was something about Seth becoming the father of Enosh that led Adam and Seth and Enosh to call on (or by) the Name of Yahweh together. It was a mercy that multiple generations were being born. And the responsibility of caring for eternal souls was great. Later, something happens to Enoch, when we begets Methuselah. Genesis 5:21 says that Enoch “lived” 65 years. But then, after he begets Methuselah, Genesis 5:22 changes the verb (in contrast to all the other accounts in this chapter): Enoch “walked with God” three hundred years. Again, fatherhood was something that the Lord used to turn their hearts toward the Lord.

We can even see this in the names of the children. Eve gave Seth the name “appointed,” recognizing and submitting to the fact that this child belongs to God. Lamech called his son Noah, or “rest,” expressing gospel hope in the one who would reverse the curse.
How is it evident that gospel hope—despite the fall—is the center of your home life?
Suggested Songs: ARP32A “What Blessedness” or TPH130A “Lord, from the Depths to You I Cry!”

Saturday, February 16, 2019

2019.02.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 4:25-5:32

Questions for Littles: What does Eve name the son in Genesis 4:25? Why? By what name were men called in Genesis 4:26? In whose likeness was Adam made (Genesis 5:1)? In whose likeness was Seth begotten (Genesis 5:3)? What happened to nearly all of the men in chapter 5? What did Enoch do after he begot Methuselah (Genesis 5:22)? What happened to him instead of dying (Genesis 5:24)? What did Noah’s dad hope that he would bring (Genesis 5:29)? 
In the Scripture for tomorrow’s sermon, we see that the Lord did in fact appoint another seed in the place of Abel. In fact, it is with the establishing of Seth’s line that men begin to be called by the name of Yahweh (more literal reading of Genesis 4:26).

Though this family line has been known up until this point as the “seed of the woman,” Genesis 4:26 and Genesis 5:1-3 make it clear that we are also to know them as the “sons of God.”

This is exactly the point of Luke, by the Holy Spirit, in Luke 3:38. Adam was in the likeness of God, and Seth is in the likeness of Adam, and the way Genesis 5:3 speaks of Seth implies that this is something that is distinguishing him from Cain.

Indeed, this is a line of gospel hope.

Eve expresses it by the name Seth (“appointed”).

Seth’s family expresses it once Enosh is born, calling by the name of the Lord.

Enoch expresses it, once Methuselah is born, his entire life being a walking with God at that point.

Even “good” Lamech expresses it, naming his son Noah (“rest”), as he looks for the reversing of the effects of the fall.

Yet, despite all of this gospel hope, there is one great problem in chapter 5: they all keep dying. Eight times, we see that frightful conclusion, “and he died.” Did the hope of everyone but Enoch end up perishing?

Of course not. But this does set us up to expect something about the promised serpent-Crusher: He is going to have to do something about death! And He has.

We can think comfortably, now, about our bodies turning to dust. We go into the ground mortal and corruptible, and we will come back out of that ground incorruptible and immortal, like Christ’s own resurrection body. In HIM is fulfilled the hope of the gospel!
How are you a son of Adam? Are you also a son of God? How—in whom?
Suggested Songs: ARP116A “How Fervently I Loved the Lord” or TPH358 “Sing, Choirs of New Jerusalem”

Friday, February 15, 2019

2019.02.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 9:1-34

Questions for Littles: Who saw the blind man in John 9:1? What did the disciples ask (John 9:2)? What was Jesus’s answer (John 9:3)? How did Jesus heal him (John 9:6-7John 9:11)? What day was it (John 9:14)? What do some of the Pharisees decide that Jesus has done wrong (John 9:14-16)? What do others say? Whom do the Jews refuse to believe at first? What do his parents say, and why (John 9:20-23)? What does the whole group seem to have concluded about Jesus by John 9:24? What does the former blind man know? What does he think is marvelous? What do they say about him and do to him, despite Jesus’s testimony about the reason for the man’s blindness?
In the Gospel reading this week, Jesus cures one man’s blindness, and exposes a host of others’.

It’s a sad irony. In the opening verses, Jesus directly testifies that the man being born blind was not because of a particular sin, but only for the glory of God in Jesus’s works. But then, at the end of today’s portion, the Pharisees condemn the man as being “completely born in sins” and put him out of the synagogue.

The Pharisees are blind about this man. And of course, they are blind about Jesus, whom they call a sinner as well. The only ones that they think are good are themselves. Blind again! “Are you teaching us?” they ask. You see the implication: we aren’t sinners; we’re the ones who notice that everyone else is.

I suppose that if there’s a man who was an expert on the plight of those born blind, it would have been this man. After all, he had a vested interest in knowing whether that had ever been healed. But he says, “since the world began, it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind.” It is no wonder that Jesus calls Himself the light of the world.

This was the work that He had come to do: to show that He had brought the salvation of God, and to accomplish the salvation of God. And indeed, there is nothing that could be more appropriate for a Sabbath!

One thing that often goes unnoticed in this passage is Jesus’s statement that there is a time coming when the miraculous sign-works that He is performing will no longer be done. “Night is coming when no one can work.” He is the light of the world, and any sign-works that are done are revelations of Him—that He is from God.

As He says elsewhere: even if they didn’t believe the words, they should still have believed on account of the works!
What do you believe about Jesus? Has He opened your eyes to see your sin, or are you still blind? Has He opened your eyes to see Him, or are you still blind?
Suggested songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or TPH268 “Of the Father’s Love Begotten”

Thursday, February 14, 2019

"Jesus took all our Hell on the cross" (what the descent clause really means) -- Pastoral Letter from the 2019.02.14 Hopewell Herald

If you are interested in receiving the Herald, please send a request to be added to the list to church@hopewellarp.org

Dear Congregation,

When we come to the table on the coming Lord’s Day, one of the things that we will want to come having done is examine ourselves. “Am I believing in Christ as He is offered to me in the gospel?” That’s a question that we need to be asking ourselves, and indeed, it is a question that we answered publicly, when we first professed our Christian faith.

This is the focus of the Athanasian Creed, which begins, “Whosoever desires to be saved should above all hold to the catholic faith,” and ends, “This is the catholic faith, that one cannot be saved without believing it firmly and faithfully.”

One of the many blessings of our new Psalter-Hymnal is having the Athanasian Creed ready to hand. Up to this point, we have been confessing the Nicene Creed at the table. The Athanasian creed is more developed than that of Nicaea (325) and declares carefully those truths about the Trinity that we have been studying from Scripture in the Education Hour, as acknowledged by the elders who gathered at the councils of Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451).

In the Reformation, reforming churches wished to demonstrate that they were not inventing some new religion, but still confessed the same historic, biblical faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. So, they retained and confessed such creeds as the Athanasian Creed.

One problem, however, was that as a result both of Roman Catholic contentment to keep the masses (pun intended) in the dark, and the accumulation of contra-biblical Roman Catholic teachings, many in the churches had come to believe that Christ’s human soul went to Hell upon His burial, rather than being dismissed to the paradise of His Father’s hands from the cross.

So, would the Reformed improve the language of the creed, at the cost of appearing to introduce new doctrine in order to correct this erroneous thinking? They chose instead to retain the language, and correct misconceptions by teaching.

So, we are again blessed to have the Trinity Psalter Hymnal. When you read the “descent clause” in the Athanasian Creed on p854 on the Lord’s Day, you may notice a footnote referring you to Heidelberg Catechism 44 (p879), Canons of Dort 2.4 (p904), and Westminster Larger Catechism 50 (p945).

Heidelberg and Dort explain the descent clause the same way that Calvin did—that the confessing of Christ’s humiliation in the “Apostles’ Creed” was not ordered by chronology but rather by intensity—that although He finished (as He Himself declared) enduring Hell upon the cross before He was buried, yet that pouring out of God’s wrath was His humiliation’s greatest extent and so it is named last.

Westminster explains the descent clause historically, basically saying that this was the language used to describe not a place that He went, but His body’s spending three days in the grave under the power of death.

It is vitally important that we believe these two things—that Christ suffered all of the Hell that our souls deserved by the time that He said “it is finished,” and that He indeed continued under the power of death for three days, and on the third day rose again.

As we approach the table, confessing this together, let each of our hearts resoundingly say, “I believe this!” And let us show forth Christ’s death, as we feed upon Him by faith.

Looking forward to Word, sacrament, and prayer with you,