Monday, December 17, 2018

2018.12.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 3:1-6

Questions for Littles: Who was more cunning than any beast of the field (v1)? To whom did the serpent speak? Whose words did the serpent question? How did the serpent change God’s words (v1, cf. 2:16)? Who answered the serpent (v2)? How does she change God’s words (v3b, cf. 2:17a)? How does the serpent change God’s words in v4 (cf 2:17b)? What did the serpent say that God knew in v5? What three things did the woman see about the fruit in v6? What did she do about that for herself? Who was with her? What did she proceed to do with the fruit? What did he do with it?
In the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we see the folly of false spirituality. The woman did not give in to the temptation to consider God to be stingy. She flat out corrected the serpent on that. And of course she could see that the tree was good for food and pleasant to the eyes. But that wasn’t new or different.

What had changed? Why did she decide to eat the fruit? 1Timothy 2:14 helps us understand what happened. There, we learn that Adam knew that he was doing wrong (he was not deceived), but his wife did not (the woman was deceived).

Looking at our Scripture with this in mind, we see how the serpent changed his tactic. He couldn’t convince her to rebel against God directly, so He convinced her that she was really obeying God. “You will be like God,” said the serpent. And, of course, this was exactly what she was created to be: in the image of God.

However, she allowed herself to be convinced that God had left it to her to figure out how to do that. Sure, He had brought her to her husband as soon as she was created. He had previously given her husband instructions for her. He had commanded her to be fruitful and multiply and take dominion.

But this seemed pretty exciting. Would she be willing to risk her life to fulfill her calling to be like God?

It’s a very deceptive temptation. Churches are full of believers who sincerely love God, but all of those ordinary things that God has given us to do just don’t seem to be the expressions of love that they are looking for.

We might be lazy, skip work or school to “minister,” and call it “trusting God for finances.” We might try to worship in a more “inspiring” or spectacular way than the plan reading, praying, singing, and preaching of God’s Word. We might come up with doctrines or practices that the world finds more acceptable and convince ourselves that we are being “winsome for the Lord” rather than unfaithful to His Word. We might delve into meditation techniques or man-made rituals that we’re convinced make us feel closer to God.
What kinds of spiritual things do you get excited about? How do you know/learn what God calls you to do for worship, for growing in Christ, for ministry? Whom has God given you to help you identify deceptive temptations? 
Suggested Songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH172 “Speak, O Lord”

Saturday, December 15, 2018

2018.12.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 3:1-7

Questions for Littles: Who was more cunning than any beast of the field (v1)? To whom did the serpent speak? Whose words did the serpent question? How did the serpent change God’s words (v1, cf. 2:16)? Who answered the serpent (v2)? How does she change God’s words (v3b, cf. 2:17a)? How does the serpent change God’s words in v4 (cf 2:17b)? What did the serpent say that God knew in v5? What three things did the woman see about the fruit in v6? What did she do about that for herself? Who was with her? What did she proceed to do with the fruit? What did he do with it? What happened to them in v7? What did they do about it?
In the Scripture for tomorrow’s sermon, we meet for the first time the enemy that is still around in Revelation 12—that old serpent, the dragon. Just as we see him doing later, in Revelation, so also we see him doing here: taking advantage of the weak and attacking where he can.

One of the great tragedies of this passage is when we get to v6 and discover that her husband is with her. Well, then, can we understand the apostle’s complaint in 1Timothy 2, when he says that the man was not deceived, but that the woman, having been deceived, fell into transgression.

It is not the woman’s behavior that we find so inexplicable, as the devil appears as an angel of light. Rather, we are horrified at the man who stands there, listening to the serpent purposefully misquote God, and to his wife make smaller errors with God’s Word… and the man does nothing about it!

In fact, once his wife is convinced that this is what the Lord really would have her do, and she eats of the forbidden fruit, he himself eats—not because he has been tricked into thinking it is good, but because he somehow believes that he can get away with it!

Though their physical eyes do not close in death, their spiritual death is expressed by open eyes. They know themselves to be sinners and immediately have suspicions from about one another from which each one wishes to hide. But even their effort at a remedy is a spectacular failure, as can be attested by those who have sewn leaves or are familiar with how long they last in that condition.

What a critical place marriage has had, from the very beginning, in the battle against sin and Satan! How very much evidence there is in our closest relationships—our marriages—of our crucial need of Jesus Christ! How useless are all of our own attempts to remedy the effects of sin without Him!
How is Jesus the remedy for sin? How can Christians live together by His power?
Suggested Songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH265 “In Christ Alone”

Friday, December 14, 2018

2018.12.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 6:52-59

Questions for Littles: Who quarreled among themselves (v52)? About what? Who answered them (v53)? What did Jesus say we must do, or else we have no life in us? What does Jesus say that we have if we eat His flesh and drink His blood (54a)? What will Jesus do to us, if we eat His flesh and drink His blood (54b)? What does Jesus say is genuine food (55a)? What does Jesus say is genuine drink (55b)? How does Jesus describe eating His flesh and drinking His blood at the end of v56? Who is the source and purpose of Jesus’ human life and mission (57a)? What does v57 say about the person who feeds on Jesus? After having described feeding upon Him in these ways, what does Jesus say will happen to those who “eat this bread” (v58)? Who taught these things (59)? Where? 
In the Gospel reading this week, Jesus resolves a quarrel for the Jews, and if we listen closely, He would resolve a Reformation quarrel for us too: “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”

First in v53, Jesus presents us with a problem: we have no life in ourselves. How does He mean this? Physically? Of course not! There they are, living and breathing and arguing. Obviously, He’s talking about spiritual life. The eating and drinking that He’s talking about is one that resolves this problem.

Second in v54, Jesus directly connects “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” to v44, 47. If we look at those verses, “eating His flesh and drinking His blood” is the same as the Father dragging us to come to Christ (v44) and our believing in Christ (v47). Those who are brought to faith in this way are said to be “eating His flesh and drinking His blood.”

We understand this to be true about how we believe in Jesus to be joined to Him and declared righteous before God (justification). But Jesus is now emphasizing God’s sovereign gift of faith in Him as the key to His ongoing work in us for salvation (sanctification unto glorification).

When Jesus says that His body is “genuine food” and that His blood is “genuine drink,” He’s not saying that actual bread and wine are not actual food and drink. He’s saying that though in a spiritual sense, it is still in a very true and genuine way that His body and blood are food to us—that He Himself is food to us. And then He fleshes this true sense out in two ways:

First in v56, we abide in Him, and He abides in us. This happens with food and drink. Someone once asked me if I was nuts, to which I replied, “considering how many nuts I’ve eaten as I’ve grown, I’d have to say that to a significant extent, I am indeed nuts.” Of course, Jesus is “living” bread and wine. He does not become a part of our spirits in exactly the same way that molecules from bread and wine become part of our bodies. Rather…

Second in v57, we live on account of Him. He is the source, cause, and purpose of our lives.

As we move forward from when we first came to Christ, Jesus continues to be our everything, every day. And this is also how we turn our hearts to Him and feed upon Him at His table.
What does it look like to abide in Jesus and live because of Jesus on a daily basis? How do we look to Him in the same way while taking the Lord’s Supper?
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH202 “Here, O My Lord, I See Thee”

Thursday, December 13, 2018

2018.12.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Corinthians 15:20-34

Questions for Littles: What has Christ done (v20a)? Who became the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep? What came by a man (21a)? Whet else came by a man (21b)? What do all who are in Adam do (22a)? What happens to all who are in Christ (22b)? When is the resurrection of those who are Christ’s (v23)? What comes then (24)? To whom does Christ deliver the kingdom? What will Jesus do to all other authorities? What will be the last enemy to be destroyed (v26)? Who is putting all things under Jesus’s feet (v27)? Who, then, is not put under Jesus’s feet? To whom will Jesus be subject (v28)? By even what people was the resurrection of the dead believed (v29)? And what were the apostles willing to do because of the resurrection (v30)? What did Paul say that he did daily (v31)? What would he do, if the dead are not raised (v32)? What should we be careful not to do with others who think like this (v33)? Whom should we know and think about instead (v34)?
In this week’s epistle reading, Paul makes the final argument for the resurrection: this is how it must all end! God must win at the last (v28).

The problem is that the first Adam sinned, and in him all died. The fact that we received spiritual death from him is an indisputable fact. We try to hide from it, but every one of us who is honest with ourselves find that it is true that our hearts are deceitful above all things (unknowable) and desperately wicked (unfixable).

How does this go with the fact that God must win at the last? There is another Adam, the last Adam—Christ. Since by a man came death, by a man resurrection had to come.

But when? Well, there are more things wrong with the world than just that we are spiritually dead. This sin and death has infected all authority, so that all has to be brought back under Christ’s feet. And even then, there is one more enemy to be defeated: death itself.

Christ’s mission to save us isn’t about us. It’s about God. God is displaying both His love and His power, and at the last He shall reign!

So the resurrection is sure. The question for you and me is, what difference does it make? Well, if you’re into false religion, you baptize for the dead—and how sad would it be if believers were less confident in the resurrection than such cults (v29)?

But the apostle sets us the true example. Be willing to risk much for the Lord (v30). Stop living for this life, and live for eternity instead (v31). Do battle with all that opposes Christ (v32a). Watch out for living for the flesh (v32b). Refuse to have as your companions those who live for this life (v33). And have instead, as your constant companion the Lord Himself (v34).
Are you living like someone whose hope is to enjoy yourself as much as possible for as long as possible? Or like someone who knows that you will rise from the dead unto everlasting joy?
Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly, I Am with You” or TPH539 “Am I a Soldier of the Cross”

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

2018.12.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 10:16-28

Questions for Littles: What had five Amorite kings done (v16)? Who was told about it (v17)? What did Joshua say to do in v18? What would sealing up the cave for later allow them to do to the rest of the Amorites (v19)? Why was Joshua so sure that this would work (end of v19)? What were the results (v20)? What did the people do when they were done pursuing Amorites (v21a)? Now what would no one else do (21b)? Now that this was done, what did Joshua say to do in v22? Which five kings were these (v23, cf. v3)? What did Joshua have the captains of Israel do in v24? What does Joshua tell them, while in this position (v25)? Whom does Joshua tell them will defeat their enemies? What does Joshua do with the five kings in v26-27? What was the last city in this area to be defeated (v28)?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we learn about the Lord’s ongoing war against one of His people’s greatest enemies.

You see, we often think that our problem is in our circumstances or in external forces. It certainly looked that way for Israel. Kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, Eglon, and Makkedah… and all their warriors who had fled into fortified cities.

But the Scripture makes quick work of those external enemies and circumstances. Where we can see the text slow down for speeches or ceremonial acts, we have one reminder after another that “Yahweh your God has delivered them into your hand” (v19) … “thus Yahweh will do to all your enemies against whom you fight” (v25) … and then the displaying of the five kings with the memorial/historical comment, “which remain until this very day” (v27).

What enemy is being attacked in these verses? The enemy of self-trust is attacked by a reminder that it is Yahweh who fights. The enemies of fear and doubt are attacked by a reminder that Yahweh will always win. This last reminder also attacks the enemy of temptation to rebel.

Self-trust. Fear. Doubt. Temptation to rebel. Do you know anyone else who battles such enemies? Let us do that battle by the same strategy that the Holy Spirit employs here—only let us do so with an even greater example!

Let us be constantly reminded that the Lord Jesus Himself has obeyed perfectly when we couldn’t have. Jesus has suffered the penalty of sin completely, which wouldn’t have ended for us through all eternity. Jesus has taken on Satan himself and crushed that devil’s head. How could we ever go back to hopeless trust in ourselves, when we have begun by trusting in our absolutely sure and perfect Savior?

The Lord Jesus will always win. He sits enthroned in glory, and His enemies are being made a footstool for His feet. Whenever we are tempted to indulge ourselves, or fear men, or choose the lazy way out, let us remember Him there on the throne—lest we make it seem like a small thing to resist His rule. By God’s grace, let us keep our eyes on Jesus!
What daily exercises help you keep remembering the truths of the gospel? What else can you be doing throughout the day? How does keeping the Lord’s Day help?
Suggested songs: ARP72B “Nomads Will Bow” or TPH429 “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing”