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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

2020.05.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Corinthians 2:1–5

Questions from the Scripture text: How did Paul not come to them (1 Corinthians 2:1)? What did he come declaring instead? What was he determined not know (1 Corinthians 2:2)? What, alone, was he determined to know? What about Christ did he emphasize? How did Paul present himself before them in 1 Corinthians 2:3? What did his preaching appear to be missing, to some (1 Corinthians 2:4)? But with what did that preaching come? What did this keep them from putting their faith in (1 Corinthians 2:5a)? What did it ensure that they would put their faith in (verse 5b)? 
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin come from 1 Corinthians 2:1–5 in order that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name.

In this passage, we are challenged about what we put our faith in, and what we lead others to put our faith in. Praise God for faithful churches, and praise God for faithful ministers. But, our passage leaves us with the clear message that if people come away from us thinking, “what a great church!” or “what a great minister!” then we have not truly achieved our aim. Rather, we should desire that they come away thinking, “What a great God!” and “What a great Savior!” and “What a great salvation!”

Paul is still encouraging them to embrace their ordinariness—to embrace their unimpressiveness. Not only does this ensure that all the glory goes to God (as we learned in last week’s passage), but it also redirects people’s faith.

If the Lord takes us from people, would they say, “Oh no! What shall we do?” Or, have we been determined to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ and Him crucified, so that they can receive a message similar to Joshua chapter 1: “Moses, My servant, is dead. Now, be strong and courageous for [God] is with you.”

How we present ourselves to those to whom we minister is, in the economy of God’s providence, a significant factor in determining upon what they come to depend. Will they end up with faith in the wisdom (or, perhaps thoughtfulness or goodness or togetherness, or ?) of men? Or will they end up with faith in the power of God?

Paul didn’t preach cleverly assembled sermons full of catchy turns of phrase. He preached plain doctrine about how God became man to save, and did so not by being impressive but rather by being executed.

In fact, he preached such sermons that one would say, “Come on, Paul… it would take a miracle from God for that sermon to bring someone to faith!”

And that is exactly the point, isn’t it? Paul came and preached plainly about Jesus so that when the people believed, all would know for sure, “This can be a demonstration only of the Spirit and power of God!”

Isn’t this what we want most, when we witness, or when we have others preach and teach to us: not that there would be a great presentation that gives us a memorable encounter with men, but instead that there would be a plain gospel presentation, that Christ would be clearly seen, and that there would be a glorious encounter with God.

Let us so act and so speak as to have this as our great aim!
How can you be presenting Jesus more plainly and yourself less impressively to others?  
Suggested songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or TPH375 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name”

Monday, May 25, 2020

2020.05.24 P.M. Exhortation—Ephesians 2:11–13, "Equipped by Remembering (New)Creation, Commonwealth, Covenant, & (Union w/)Christ"

We are equipped to walk in good works by remembering that we are new creatures in Christ, that we have been brought into the common wealth of God's people, that God has bound us to Himself by covenant, and that all this has been done for us by union with Christ.

2020.05.24 Morning Sermon—Genesis 26:12–22 "Fruitful Grace: God's Powerful and Merciful Material and Spiritual Provision"

We must look to God to provide for us all that is necessary materially and spiritually, in His unlimited power and unmerited favor, which He offers in Christ. [PDF] [MP3]

2020.05.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 26:12–22

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Isaac do in Genesis 26:12? How much did he reap? How did this happen? Of what was this the beginning (Genesis 26:13)? To what extent did it continue? What did he have (Genesis 26:14)? How did the Philistines feel about this? What did they do in Genesis 26:15? What did Abimelech say and do to Isaac in Genesis 26:16? Where did Isaac go in Genesis 26:17? What did he do in Genesis 26:18? What else in Genesis 26:19? Who quarreled over these wells (Genesis 26:20)? What does he call the well in response (verse 20)? What does he do in Genesis 26:21? What do they do? What does he call the well in response? What does he do in Genesis 26:22? What does he call this new well? Why? Whom does he recognize as doing what for him?  
What astonishing material fruitfulness! Everything is stacked against Isaac. He’s a livestock farmer, not a crop farmer. He’s used to the hill country, not the lowlands. It’s the middle of a famine. But he reaps one-hundred-fold in the first year! That’s more than enough for himself, and the brisk grain market enables him to purchase flocks, herds, and servants. 

Genesis 26:13 emphasizes the increase of Isaac, literally: “And the man became great, and continuing he continued and became great until he became exceedingly great.” 

But this fruitfulness was not just material; it was also spiritual. Just as there is no other explanation for Isaac’s grain crop, there is also no other explanation for the shift in Isaac’s character.

In the previous passage, the man through whom all the nations of the earth were to be blessed had almost brought guilt upon Gerar. In this passage, he departs peaceably from the city, and interacts exceedingly peaceably with the herdsmen in the countryside.

Isaac now has a huge logistical task on his hands. In Genesis 26:16, Abimelech had complained that Isaac was too numerous. The city and its area couldn’t support both him and the Philistines. So, now he moves into the countryside and finds the old wells stopped up. He’s giving them the old names, but they’re about to get new ones related to the herdsmen claiming one after another of them. 

Isaac needs the water! And, he’s mighty. He could easily take it by force. If he is too great for Gerar city, he is also too great for its herdsmen. But he doesn’t. He is trusting Yahweh (finally!). He keeps digging them and digging them until finally the herdsmen have enough water for themselves (that Isaac has now provided), and one for himself. Rehoboth. “Wide.” 

No longer is Isaac acting out of self-interest, putting his own skin ahead of everyone like he had earlier (even ahead of Rebekah). He acts in great selflessness, great patience, great persistence, great diligence… all out of great faith in the Lord to take care of him. Praise God!

And that’s exactly the point. Praise God. Only He can make land fruitful like Isaac’s crops had been. Only He can make a sinner’s heart and life fruitful like Isaac. Can’t He (and doesn’t He!) do the same for His people today? Whatever your material needs; your Father knows and is abundantly able. Whatever the difficulty of your spiritual challenges; your Father is more than able by His Spirit, and the life and character of His Son, to form and sustain in you great spiritual fruitfulness!
What material needs do you have right now? What spiritually challenging circumstances are you in? 
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH534 “Fill Thou My Life, O Lord My God”

Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Necessity of Good Works Sends Us Running Back to Grace (2020.05.23 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

Hopewell Herald – May 23, 2020

Dear Congregation,

After last week’s considerations of necessary and instrumental (NOT meritorious!) good works in Gen 26:5 and Eph 2:10, it was gratifying and moving to hear someone say, “I have had a real hard time with the idea of good works, but I hear what you’re saying in these passages, and I know it’s true, but it’s just so hard for me because I struggle so much.”

This is gratifying, because the good works of believers honor the Lord and glorify Christ for the difference that He makes in those whom He redeems. But it’s moving, because I so strongly feel the pain of that struggling!

This is why it’s so important to see not only Isaac’s failures in last week’s morning sermon Scripture passage, but especially God’s surprising mercy. The Bible tells us the truth about ourselves, and it’s not a flattering truth. But the Bible also tells us the truth about Christ, and it’s a GLORIOUS truth!

It is well and good for us to feel our struggle, if it gives us yet another opportunity to turn away from ourselves and to the Lord in repentance. Isaac is going to continue to have his ups and downs for the next several passages, but the Lord is faithful and persevering in His great power and great mercy!

Indeed, once our time of weakness and remaining sin is concluded, we will leave behind these opportunities for repentance. For then, we will be continuously, lovingly and thankfully focused upon Christ.

For now, however, let us rejoice over every opportunity for us struggling believers to be pointed back to our Lord’s great power and mercy in the lives of repenting sinners. In tomorrow morning’s passage, we will see Isaac’s surprising failure give way to an even more surprising spiritual recovery. Praise be to the God whose power and mercy so work in the lives of a struggling believer like Isaac!

And like us, praise God. Looking forward to worshiping Him together in this passage with you,