Current series on "How God Wants to Be Worshiped":

Current series in Galatians:

Saturday, January 18, 2020

2019.01.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Leviticus 9:18-10:7

Questions from the Scripture text: What was being done at the end of the eighth day of the ordination procedure for Aaron and his sons (Leviticus 9:18-21)? What did Aaron do, having offered the climactic offerings of each type (Leviticus 9:22)? What did Moses and Aaron do, when they came out of the tabernacle (Leviticus 9:23)? And what did Yahweh do (Leviticus 9:23-24)? And how did the people respond? Which two newly ordained Aaronic priests does Leviticus 10:1 mention? What do they take and what do they offer? How does the end of verse 1 explain what was “profane” (literally “strange” or “foreign”) about the fire? From where does the fire in Leviticus 10:2 come? What does it do? What do they do? Who immediately speaks in Leviticus 10:3? What two groups of people does He mention? What must they do (e.g., what had Nadab and Abihu not done)? How does Aaron respond (or not)? Whom does Moses call in Leviticus 10:4? To do what? By what do they carry out the bodies (Leviticus 10:5)? What does Moses tell the father and brothers of the deceased not to do (Leviticus 10:6)? Who is to mourn what instead? What did their being “on duty” in the first full day of their ordained service mean they mustn’t do (Leviticus 10:7)? 
In tomorrow’s sermon text, we are confronted with the holiness of God in a way that is shocking to our sinful sensibilities. To too many of us, and far too often, it seems a small, primarily emotional or perhaps intellectual activity to draw near to God. We don’t realize how very much the holiness and glory of God ought to incinerate us in this nearness. And it is for this reason that we underappreciate what Christ has done to gain for us this nearness.

If anyone should have understood the costliness of one’s safety in drawing near to God, it should have been Nadab and Abihu. From the beginning of chapter 8 up until our particular text, they have been subjected to an eight day ordination ritual with dozens of sacrifices, the smell of burning animal flesh and burning organs, and the ferric scent and crimson-then-brown sight of blood poured out to consecrate the altar. Their righthand ears, righthand thumbs, and righthand big toes were all now deeply stained—monuments to the death and hell that ought to await any sinner in the presence of God, but also that God had provided a way into His presence by atonement. They had even been warned that sticking exactly to God’s plan for worship was “so that you may not die” (Leviticus 8:35).

If ever anyone had been sufficiently called, sufficiently consecrated, sufficiently attired, etc., to bring their creativity to the worship act, it would have been these two. The blessing of God had just been declared not once but twice, and God’s acceptance of the sacrifices had been demonstrated both by a display of His glory and by fire that came from the mercy seat to consume what was on the altar.

But that’s just it. By worshiping in any way at all that God has not commanded, the worshiper comes in a way that has not been bought by Jesus and is not being mediated by Jesus. There is no room for creativity in choosing the actions of worship. When the right men, in the right garments, at the right place, using the right fire pans, and the right incense substituted man-made fire for the God-provided fire, fire came out from Yahweh and consumed them.

Fire came out from Yahweh—meaning from the mercy seat. Even the mercy of God refused to save them. The only way to draw near to God in a way that regards Him as holy is to come through Christ. The only way to gather as the people of God in a way that glorifies Him is to gather through Christ. And it is always God’s commanded actions—and never man’s invented actions—that God accepts as coming through Christ.

But here is the astonishing glory and goodness of the gospel—Christ IS our mercy seat, and there IS mercy for us. This holy God who is a consuming fire has made a way for us to draw near to Him not only in safety, but in blessing and joy!
What habits, before and during corporate worship on the Lord’s Day, help you treat God as holy and glorious in the service? From where must all of our worship actions in corporate worship come? Through Whom are we coming, when we come with God’s commanded worship?
Suggested songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or TPH274 “Jesus, My Great High Priest”

Friday, January 17, 2020

2019.01.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 1:57-80

Questions from the Scripture text: What time came in Luke 1:57? How did her neighbors and family respond (Luke 1:58)? What day does Luke 1:59 describe, and what was happening? What were they going to call him? What did Elizabeth call him instead (Luke 1:60)? Why was this strange to the guests (Luke 1:61)? Whom did they expect to overrule (Luke 1:62)? What name did he choose (Luke 1:63)? What happened to him at that point (Luke 1:64)? What was the response of not just the guests but the surrounding region (Luke 1:65-66)? What happens to Zacharias to shape his words for his first speech since having his voice restored (Luke 1:67)? For what event is Zacharias praising God (Luke 1:68-71)? What does he say that God is fulfilling (Luke 1:72-73)? What is God’s purpose in this salvation (Luke 1:74-75)? What part will Zacharias’s child have (Luke 1:76)? What would the Lord do, for Whom John would prepare the way, for His people (Luke 1:77-79)? What did God do for child John—and where (Luke 1:80)? 
We tend to be amazed by unusual things. It’s the spectacular that impresses us. So, baby John’s family and neighbors were abuzz with the news of his strange name and his dad’s muteness and prophecy.

That actual prophecy, though, focuses upon Someone Else altogether. Baby John’s significance is as a go-before. It’s a great honor to be His herald, to give knowledge of what He does. But He is the One who does it. Jesus is the great one, and someone who responds to John rightly will be impressed rather little with John and rather much with the One whom John proclaims.

John is still teaching this some 30 years later, when his disciples wish people would be more impressed with him, and he is teaching all of us, “[Christ] must increase, and [we] must decrease” (John 3:22-36).

But it is Jesus who saves us from those great enemies who keep us from “serving Him boldly in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life” (Luke 1:74-75). Jesus atones for our sin, negates death and Hell’s claim upon us, and turns all the attacks of the devil upon themselves.
It is Jesus who visits us, in the tender mercy of God, and drives away our darkness and death by His light and life (Luke 1:78-79).

We too must desire that it would be Jesus who gets all the glory of our life. And, especially when we desire for others to be guided into the way of peace, it must be Jesus that we present and Jesus that we praise. Yes, what He has done for us or how He has used us are interesting and notable mercies. But the good news is not news about us. It’s news about Jesus!
What spiritual people/circumstances most easily catch your attention? How can you redirect this attention back to Jesus Himself and what He has done? Whom have you been telling about Christianity? How much has that telling focused upon Jesus?
Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or TPH438 “I Love to Tell the Story”

Thursday, January 16, 2020

An audio recording of a sample family worship lesson in today's Hopewell @Home Passage. The apostle gives us a list of the works of the flesh, so that we may rightly recognize whether we are battling with the Spirit or against Him. If we find that we are consistently battling against Him, we can be sure that we are not inheriting the kingdom.

2019.01.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 5:19-21

Questions from the Scripture text: Which works are evident (Galatians 5:19)? What sixteen specific works do Galatians 5:19-21 mention? How does Galatians 5:21 end the list? When does the apostle say that he is telling the church? Before what—of what event is he speaking? Is this the first time that he tells them? About whom is he especially speaking at the end of verse 21? What will they not do? 
In the previous passage, we heard about a great battle between the flesh (our remaining sin from our original nature in the first Adam) and the Spirit—and how we are to be led by the Spirit into battle against the flesh. Of course, that immediately presents the question of how we can tell which side we happen to be fighting on. This week’s passage gives us a list of things to be fighting against. Next week’s passage gives us a list of characteristics to expect to grow as we trust in the Spirit for His work.

One important thing to note is that there are some things in this list that people excuse by saying that’s their “personality.” That’s not what this Scripture calls them. The Scripture calls them “works of the flesh”—expressions of that guilty, wicked nature with which we came into this world.

Galatians 5:19 targets especially the seventh commandment. These are sins where one indulges earthly desires over against the self-control and purity to which we are called. A couple of the terms especially highlight purity in our thought life and a regard for helping others remain pure in their thought life.

Galatians 5:20 targets especially religious sins—sins against the first table of the law, the first four commandments. Any compromising of the holiness or truth of God; promotion of self or of personal preferences or ideas about God; or, manmade ways of increasing spiritual vitality (“sorcery” in the NKJV, but the Greek word from which we get pharmaceutics, and implying concoctions of man to achieve health or power)—things that result in harm to the purity of the church, and often by this harming the peace of the church.

Of course, there is overlap between harming the church generally and harming others individually, and Galatians 5:21 brings us full-circle: highlighting sins that immediately damage ourselves or others, physically or spiritually.

It is important to note that, when it says "and the like," this Scripture invites us to other Scriptures that give us such lists (Romans 1:26-31, 2 Timothy 3:2-4, etc.), so that we can take an honest catalog of what behaviors we are nursing that are “harboring the enemy” in our spiritual battle.

It helps us rather little to go through such a list and focus upon those sins that are not issues for us. If we want more help, we need to focus especially upon those sins that are battles for us right now, and with the Scripture as an exposing mirror (Psalm 119:105, James 1:21-27, Hebrews 4:11-13), consider which side of the battle we have been fighting for.

Finally, there is a very serious warning. If those who are sons of God are led by the Spirit of God, and those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God, then our eternal destiny may be discerned by assessing which side of the battle we are on.

Because Jesus makes a true difference in every individual whom He redeems, this Scripture can say with 100% truthfulness and seriousness: “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

God redeem us, and adopt us, and send forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, that we may be engaged on the right side of this battle!
Against which sins in this list have you been doing battle? Which, if any, have you been coddling?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH51C “God, Be Merciful to Me”

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

An audio recording of a sample family worship lesson in today's Hopewell @Home Passage. There are two potential redeemers for Naomi in Ruth 4:1-12--one admirable and one less so. But the great Redeemer that this Scripture holds out to us is the One who was orchestrating His coming into the world to redeem us by His blood. He is still orchestrating all things, for His redeemed, to apply to us what He has done for us.