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Friday, August 23, 2019

2019.08.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 16:16-33

Questions for Littles: What will happen after a little while (John 16:16)? What will happen after another little while? Why? Who have a hard time understanding this (John 16:17-19)? What will they be doing when they don’t see Him (John 16:20)? What will the world be doing? But what will happen to their sorrow? What illustration does Jesus give, in John 16:21, of sorrow being turned into joy? When will the disciples’ hearts rejoice (John 16:22)? For how long? Whom does He say they will ask to have their joy full (John 16:23-24)? What will happen when they ask? How has Jesus spoken to them just now about the cross and resurrection (John 16:25, cf. John 16:21)? When He speaks to them more plainly, about Whom will He speak? What will they do in that day (John 16:25-26)? Who loves them directly (John 16:27)? How can they know that? From where did Jesus come (John 16:28)? Where is Jesus going? What do the disciples say in John 16:29? What have they concluded (John 16:30)? What is the implied answer to Jesus’s question in John 16:31? What does He say that they will do (John 16:32)? Who will still be with Him? In Whom does Jesus want them to have peace (John 16:33)? What will He have done to give them this peace?
The greatest trouble and sorrow a disciple of Jesus could have would be to be cut off from Christ. And indeed this is the sorrow of that “little while” during which the disciples would not see Christ. But Christ tells them in advance that He has overcome, and that it would only be a little while, and that they would see Him, and that they would have everlasting joy.

This is a seeing more of faith than of the eyes, because the implication of John 16:22 is that they will keep seeing Him, even when He has returned to the Father. This note of the joy of seeing Jesus by faith helps us understand what John 16:24 is talking about them asking and receiving. They joy that will be full at the end of verse 24 is the same joy described in verse 22. It is ever the prayer of a Christian to have increased faith to see Jesus more clearly and rejoice in Jesus more fully. “We believe—help our unbelief!”

And as we ask, we will know how much the Father loves us (John 16:27). Only the Father’s love could produce our loving Jesus. Only the Father’s love could produce faith that the Man Jesus is God the Son from all eternity. Wonderfully, the disciples (who are not getting that Jesus is talking about His crucifixion and resurrection) immediately show this proof of the Father having loved them: they confess that Jesus is God.

Certainly, it is proof not of their wisdom or goodness, but of the Father’s love. For, they still do not understand or believe all that Jesus is talking about (John 16:31). And when the time for crucifixion comes, they will indeed abandon Him (John 16:32). This is why it must be in Jesus alone that we have peace (John 16:33)—He is the One who must overcome. And so it always is with our lives: in the world we have trouble, and in ourselves we have trouble, but in Jesus we have peace, because He has overcome.

At what cost? At the cost of losing the one constant and remaining comfort to which He refers in John 16:32: “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Answer: for our peace!
When do you pray to know Jesus better? How do you look to Him for peace?
Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge” or TPH476 “It Is Well with My Soul”

Thursday, August 22, 2019

2019.08.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 2:1-10

Questions for Littles: How long was it between Galatians 1:24 and  Galatians 2:1? Where did Paul go? With whom? Whom did they take? What had caused them to go up (Galatians 2:2)? What did Paul communicate to them? In what setting? What was he proving not to have been the case? What did those of reputation (cf. Galatians 2:9) not do to Titus (Galatians 2:3)? What were his enemies called in Galatians 2:4? What kind of strategy had they employed? What were they trying to do? What did Paul not do for even an hour (Galatians 2:5)? Why? What does Paul call the apostles in Galatians 2:6? What did they add to him? What did they see (Galatians 2:7)? To how many gospels does Galatians 2:7-9 refer? How many destinations? What did they desire? Why wasn’t even this adding anything?
There is only, only, only one gospel. And those who mess it up bring themselves and their followers into slavery. Paul had received some kind of revelation (Galatians 2:2) that this needed to be demonstrated and defended, so he goes up to Jerusalem. This was not a necessary “check-up” for him—after all, he’d already been ministering this gospel for 14 years at this point! Rather, it was a necessary defense against the enemies of the gospel.

Notice these enemies. Notice that they came from within the church. These are always the most dangerous men. The ones who are called brothers, and appear to be brothers, but as Galatians 2:4 says, this name and appearance is false. Notice that their strategies are ruthless. They are brought in secretly. They come in by stealth. They have no problem lying, acting, and manipulating situations.

Sometimes, we hear that those with sound theology need to develop equivalent tactics to the enemies of the gospel. God forbid! Notice that the enemies desire to force others into submission. What Paul refuses in strategy, he more than makes up for in backbone. May the Lord sustain His faithful never to yield even for an hour!

Notice what is at stake. The truth of the gospel. The good of the church. These are the same thing. It’s not like the apostle is navigating the doctrinal controversy in order to get back to the good of the church. “that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” IS the good of the church!

Ultimately, the point of Galatians 2:6-10 is that there cannot be more than one gospel, because there is only one God. It is His gospel, and His mission. The difference is not in doctrine, but in destination. Here is the ultimate biblical opportunity to emphasis contextualizing the message, but the Holy Spirit does exactly the opposite. The message doesn’t change for its context; it changes people from every context. Christ is what circumcision looks forward to. And when He gets hold of a Gentile, He does not demand that Jewish shadows be inflicted upon him. Rather, He transforms him into a brother of sacrificial love toward every believer, Jew or Gentile!
If getting theology correct is so important, what choices do you need to be making about how you spend time, and to what efforts you devote yourself?
Suggested songs: ARP117B “O, All You Nations” or TPH461 “Blessed Are the Sons of God”

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

2019.08.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Judges 10:17-12:7

Questions for Littles: What people are giving Gilead problems (Judges 10:17-18)? What was the problem with Jephthah’s origin (Judges 11:1-2)? What was the problem with Jephthah’s occupation (Judges 11:3)? But to whom do the elders feel like they have to turn when things are going badly against Ammon (Judges 11:4-8)? What do they have to agree to, in order for him to deliver them (Judges 11:9-11)? What argument does Jephthah have with the king of Ammon in Judges 11:12-23? Whose land does Jephthah point out they have actually taken, and by Whose power? What land does Jephthah “encourage” (mockingly) them to possess in Judges 11:24? Whom else had Israel not fought (Judges 11:25, cf. Judges 11:15)? How long has Israel possessed the contested land (Judges 11:26)? Whom does Jephthah call to judge the case (Judges 11:27-28)? Who comes upon Jephthah in Judges 11:29? What is the result in Judges 11:29-31? What is the result of the battle (Judges 11:32-33)? What is the result of the vow (Judges 11:34)? What additional information makes her being offered up more tragic? How does Jephthah respond in Judges 11:35? And how does she respond in Judges 11:36? What do she and her friends bewail in Judges 11:37-38? What is the result of him carrying out the vow in Judges 11:39? What does Jephthah get from her instead of descendants (Judges 11:40)? What is Ephraim upset about in Judges 12:1? What point does Jephthah make in Judges 12:2-3? What did Jephthah do in Judges 12:4? Why—who had forced the issue? What did the Gileadites do to keep the Ephraimites who had attacked them from escaping back west across the Jordan (Judges 12:5)? How did they sort out who the ‘foreign’ invaders were (Judges 12:6)? How long did Jephthah judge Israel (Judges 12:7)?
Things are getting darker in the book of Judges, and they will get extremely dark indeed by the time we are done. From Judges to 2 Kings, the theme that builds is that no deliverer or king will do for God’s people but Jesus.

Jephthah has the wrong pedigree (his mother was a prostitute) and the wrong profession (basically a land-pirate). And yet the Lord chooses to save Israel from the Ammonites through this thug. At least he is a Yahweh worshiper (Judges 11:29), who gives Yahweh credit for Israel’s past successes (Judges 11:23), and trusts that Yahweh will judge in the end (Judges 11:27). He has even taught his daughter to trust in Yahweh (Judges 11:36) and that vows to Yahweh cannot be broken (Judges 11:35-36).

We are shocked, then, that the text tells us about his vow; but let us be careful even before calling it a rash vow. The passage does seem to connect the Spirit’s coming upon him in Judges 11:29 to the vow in Judges 11:30. And although he vows to offer her as “an offering that goes up” (the literal meaning of the word translated “burnt offering”), it is her virginity that she and her friends bewail, and her knowing no man that is the summary statement of the carrying out of the vow in Judges 11:39. This produces a tragic symmetry with the account of his mother. She had “known” all sorts of men in her wickedness; but just as Jephthah had no ancestry to trace backward, he would have no descendants forward either, for his daughter was an only child.

The text presents the ironic irritation of Ephraim, and Jephthah’s response of extermination, without comment. Rather than have us pass judgment on any of his actions, the Scripture here is just pressing into us how ugly and tragic it is when the Lord bears with a sinful people and saves them by the hand of sinful men. It leaves us crying out for a Deliverer and King who is not only sinless Himself, but who can do something about His people’s sin!
In what merely human sinners are you tempted to trust? How do you resist that?
Suggested Songs: ARP146 “Praise the Lord” or TPH146 “Praise the Lord! My Soul, O Praise Him!”

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

2019.08.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Revelation 4:1-11

Questions for Littles: What did John see open in heaven in Revelation 4:1? What did the voice he heard sound like? What did the voice say? In what did he immediately find himself in Revelation 4:2? What did he see in heaven? With what words does he try to describe what he saw in Revelation 4:3? How many thrones were there altogether (cf. Revelation 4:4)? Who sat on the other 24? With what were they clothed? What did they have on their heads? What was the great/main throne like in Revelation 4:5? What was in front of the throne’s platform (Revelation 4:6a)? What was on the throne’s platform (verse 6b)? How does verse 6 communicate that one purpose of the living creatures was to behold the throne? How does Revelation 4:7 communicate that the living creatures represent all living creatures? How does Revelation 4:8 communicate that the living creatures have the same ultimate purpose as the burning ones (seraphim) of Isaiah 6:1-10 (cf. John 12:40-41)? How often do they take a rest? What are they doing all this time without rest? What, specifically, do they say about God three times? And then what do they say about God? And then what? How does Revelation 4:9 begin? So, how often is Revelation 4:10 happening? Who falls down before Him who sits on the throne (verse 10)? What else do they do? What do they do with their crowns? Of what do they say the Lord is worthy (Revelation 4:11)? Why?
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Confession of Sin all came from Revelation 4:1-11. Here, we have a window into the praise of heaven, and what we find is the most amazing creatures (Revelation 4:8-9), and the most honored among glorified humanity (Revelation 4:10-11) praise God for things that are only true of God, and not even the most glorified creature.

First, God is holy. He alone has holiness inherent to Himself. The only way anything else becomes holy is by association with Him, by being set apart unto Him or near Him. We should be amazed at His holiness. These amazing creatures do not rest, day or night, in amazement at His holiness. They never tire of the holiness of God. They never begin to find it boring.

Similarly, only God is Almighty. Everything and everyone else is limited in power, and dependent upon God for their very existence from one moment to the next.

And only God is eternal—without any beginning. He just was. It seems to be to this that the elders are responding when they answer, with praise of their own, the praise of the four living creatures. When they hear that God is the only eternally existent being—that He had no beginning at all—they are reminded that He alone is the Creator of all things. Everything literally owes its existence to Him.

And that, of course, includes us. There is no honor or recognition or authority that we have, except that which ultimately belongs to Him, and we must lay it at His feet! So, let us learn not only to be impressed with Him, but also (importantly) to be unimpressed with ourselves!

Wonderfully, when we look at Isaiah 6:1-10 with John 12:40-41, we realize that this glory that belongs to God alone is actually the glory of Jesus Christ—God Himself who became man to save us!
Of what are you tempted to be proud? What is the danger of missing out on who Jesus is and how glorious Jesus is? What activities does He use to humble you about yourself and show you His glory instead? What use will you make of these activities for your own soul?
Suggested songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken” or TPH229 “Holy God, We Praise”

Monday, August 19, 2019

2019.08.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 17:1-8

Questions for Littles: How old was Abram in Genesis 17:1? How much time has passed since chapter 16? Who appears to Abram? What does He call Himself? What does He command Abram to do? What will Yahweh make between Himself and Abram (Genesis 17:2)? What will He do in that covenant? How does Abram respond in Genesis 17:3? How does God respond to that? What does God proceed to say about Himself in Genesis 17:4? What outcome will this have for Abram? What else is God changing for Abram in Genesis 17:5? What are some of the details in Genesis 17:6 about what God will do for Abram? With whom is this covenant established (Genesis 17:7)? How is this covenant relationship described? What else does God give them in this covenant (Genesis 17:8)?
What do believers who have been stumbling along in their own strength need? This is the question we see presented in Abram, who has been dealing with the consequences of the Hagar choice for thirteen years, as this passage opens.

Such believers need the power of God Almighty at work in them. We might think that “I am God Almighty” is the prelude to destroying a sinner, since that is what Abram is. But it is instead the prelude to sustaining a saint, since that is also what Abram is: “I am God Almighty, [so] walk before Me and be blameless”!

Such believers need the presence of God Almighty pressed into them. The knowledge that we are before His face is a help against all fear of men, and even against service of self.

Such believers need the purity of God’s standard applied to them. Be blameless. Not the run-of-the-mill blamelessness in the eyes of men, either. Blameless in the eyes of God! Only one who has been shown God’s grace in Christ can have this as a standard, because only Christ’s sacrifice and righteousness can be the sure fulfillment of such a standard on our behalf, and only Christ’s life in us can be a sure hope that we will one day be conformed to such a standard.

Such believers need the promise of God’s covenant. We who are so deserving of wrath need God’s glorious swearing of Himself to us as an encouragement to our faith (cf. Hebrews 6:13-20). It was not for His sake that God entered into such a commitment, but for ours.

Such believers need the propriety of God in us. One way that God reaffirms that He has special ownership of Abram is by changing his name. “You are Mine, so you will be called what I call you.” And so He calls us saint, brother, believer, sons of God, etc. in the Scripture.

Such believers need the prosperous fruits of God’s commitments held out unto us. What sad consequences we endure daily from our fall in Adam. But God’s salvation in Christ is even more effective. Genesis 17:6 and Genesis 17:8 present the opposite of Abraham’s current experience. And as God tells us throughout Scripture of the effects of His gospel, we expect this opposite-fruit to continue.

Such believers need to be reminded of the persistence of God’s covenant. Persistent across generations: just as the fall comes upon our children simply because they are ours, all of these covenant benefits are held out to them by God, also simply because they are ours. And persistent across time. This is still the same covenant that we are in when we believe in Jesus. It is an everlasting covenant that belongs to all who have the same faith in Christ as Abraham (cf. Romans 4:11-18, Galatians 3:7, and Galatians 3:29).
When you slide into stumbling along in your own strength, how will you remind yourself of these things?
Suggested Songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or TPH461 “Blessed Are the Sons of God”