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Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017.12.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 6:4-8

Questions for Littles: What had once happened to these people (v4)? What had they tasted? Of what have they become partakers (partners)? What good thing have they tasted (v5)? What powers have they tasted? It is impossible to renew them again to repentance if they do what (v6)? Why—what two things do they do to Christ? What earth receives blessing from God (v7)? What earth is about to receive curse and burning (v8)? 
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, we had our default view of the world abruptly interrupted.

We like to think of things as being good or bad depending upon what they do for us. But we are not the Alpha and the Omega. Christ, our God, is the Alpha and Omega. He is the One from whom all things come, and for whom all things exist.

Things are good or bad, depending upon whether they function according to Christ’s command, and whether they function unto Christ’s glory.

When the earth produces herbs that are useful to the farmer who cultivates it, we say, “It has been blessed by God!” After all, it is God Himself who made the rains to come upon it. Even more, it is God Himself who made it produce herbs instead of thorns and briers. So we say, “It has been blessed by God!”

Similarly, we have just now in this passage had sanctification described to us as something that comes by the Lord’s washings from heaven, and by the Lord using His appointed servants to cultivate growth in them.

So, when a believer produces fruit unto Christ and His body, we say of him, “He has been blessed by God!” After all, it is God Himself who has given His Word and Spirit by whom He washes us. Even more, it is God Himself who uses this ministry to produce in our lives that which is good, rather than that which is useless.

But, there is a frightening warning for us here at the end of v8: if nothing useful is being produced in one’s life from all of his exposure to God’s Word and Spirit, we say something far worse than simply, “It has not been blessed by God.” Rather, we say, “It is about to be cursed by God!” (v8).

There is no middle ground, no neutral response to God’s Word and Spirit: either we are producing fruit, or we are about to be cursed. Let us cry out for—and run after!—God’s blessing!
What is your habit for responding to God’s Word and seeking for Him to bless it to You?
Suggested Songs: ARP19B “The Lord’s Most Perfect Law” or HB260 “The Spirit Breathes Upon the Word”

Friday, December 29, 2017

2017.12.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 7:1-23

Questions for Littles: Who come to Jesus in v1? Where did they come from? With what do they find fault (v2)? In what manner did they wash their hands (v3)? What else did they baptize (v4)? What did they ask (v5)? Does Jesus answer their question? Whom does Jesus say prophesied about them (v6)? What did Isaiah say they did with their lips? What did Isaiah say about their hearts? What did Jesus say about their worship (v7)? Where did their worship come from, that made it vain (v7, 8, 9)? What does v10 say God commanded? What do v11-12 say got in the way of obeying God’s command? What did Jesus say defiles a man (makes him unclean, v15)? When He explains this to His disciples in v20-23, what does He describe as the manner in which what comes out of us shows us to be unclean? What does Jesus say about all foods in v19? With whom are people disagreeing, when they try to keep the Old Testament food laws? 
In the Gospel reading this week, religious leaders are shocked at the disciples of Jesus because they don’t “wash hands with a fist” (literally) before eating.

“These backwards Galileans!” they must have thought—don’t they know that up in Jerusalem we have a well-established tradition that all Bible-believing Jews have followed for hundreds of years?!

Of course, the disciples are more interested in listening to whatever Jesus says—even if they don’t always understand it well. Jesus had to explain to them that with His coming, all foods are now declared clean. Jesus had to explain to them that the point of the food laws was to impress us with how easily we become unclean.

Jesus had to point out that our uncleanness is far worse than the food laws ever even pictured. Every sin that comes out of us does so precisely because our hearts are cesspools of filthiness. As a famous late preacher summarized, “We aren’t sinners because we sin; we sin because we’re sinners!”

Well, it’s one thing to struggle to grasp what Jesus is saying because we are dull-minded. The Pharisees and Scribes had a worse problem. Their struggle to grasp what Jesus said was because man-made religious ideas were so big to them that the commandments of God were small by comparison.

So Jesus puts them on notice: Isaiah 29:13 (cf. Col 2:22-23) was written about you! No worship or righteousness can ever be defined by the ideas of man. Only God can define what is true worship. Only God can define what is true righteousness.

Isaiah’s words are quite sharp. All worship that comes from the ideas of man instead of the command of God is “vain.” That means it is empty, invalid, and worthless. Following such practices shows that our “hearts are far from God.” Would you like for God to call your worship to Him worthless? Simply take something that man made up and treat it as if it is spiritually meaningful!

Worse, it will be a distraction from following what Jesus says to think and do. And we already have enough difficulty with that, don’t we?
What “Christian” ideas or practices were invented by men and not God? How can we squash the idea or feeling that such ideas or practices are spiritually meaningful?
Suggested songs: ARP119M “O How I Love Your Law” or HB253 “How I Love Thy Law, O Lord!”

Thursday, December 28, 2017

2017.12.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 7:15-8:4

Questions for Littles: What doesn’t Paul understand (v15)? What doesn’t he practice? What does he do? With what does he agree (v16)? Who (what) is really doing the sin (v17)? How much good dwells in his flesh (18a)? What doesn’t he find (18b)? What does he not do (19a)? What does he practice (19b)? Who/what is doing what he wills not to do (v20)? What law does he find (v21)? What does he do according to his inward man (v22)? But what does the law in his members bring him into captivity under (v23)? How does Paul feel about this war within himself (v24)? Whom does he thank (25a)? For whom is there no condemnation (8:1)? When is there no condemnation (v1)? What relationship to the law has set him free (v2a)? From what relationship to the law has he been freed (2b)? Why couldn’t the law do this before (3a)? How is the righteous requirement of the law starting to be kept (8:4)?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we have what can be a very difficult subject: sin in the life of a believer. There are several important things to note about this sin.

The first thing to note is that it is always there. This is what Paul is referring to when he talks about a “law” in his members “that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.” Let no one ever again suggest that there will come a time in this life when a Christian can stop sinning altogether!

A second thing to note about our remaining sin is that it is no longer our nature. He repeats in v17 and again in v20 that it is not him that is doing it now, but sin that dwells in him. In his inner being, he delights in God’s law. When he hates and resists the sin that he does, he is agreeing with the law that it is good. His nature now is not that old flesh (v18, 8:1, 8:3), but rather the new nature from the Holy Spirit, by whom he wills to do good (v19, 22, 8:1, 8:2, 8:4).

A third thing to note about our remaining sin is that even though it doesn’t come from our current nature, we are still guilty of practicing it (v15, 16, 19, 25). The only ones who can say that their sin is not their nature are the ones who are at war with their sin and looking for deliverance from this body of death. Those who take this passage as a license to sin “since it’s not really them” just show that they are still dead in their sins and have no new nature at all!

A fourth thing to note about our remaining sin is that it is no longer the only thing we do. Though evil is always present with us (v21), something glorious has happened. God has killed and judged our sin at the cross of His Son (8:3), which means that it can longer claim us as its possession.

In fact, not only have we been credited with Jesus’ perfect obedience (v1, 3), but now for the first time ever, we are actually able to “fulfill the righteous requirement of the law” (to some extent, however small it may be) as we “walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (v4). We do nothing purely good, but we do some that is authentically good!

Finally, it is impossible that God would fail to achieve what His love has planned from eternity and accomplished in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is already now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And the days are numbered for the presence of sin. He who has begun the good work in us will complete it!
What do you do to fight sin? How are you depending not on yourself but on the Holy Spirit?
Suggested songs: ARP32B “Instruction I Will Give to You” or HB379 “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Worship Preview: Prayer of Invocation from Psalm 46:4-11

When God calls us to worship by His Word on the Lord's Day, our first act of worship is to call upon Him for His presence and help. For, it is Him Himself for whom we have come, and He alone can enable us to worship.

This week's prayer is from Psalm 46:4-11. You may find that if you read through it in advance (perhaps with your family), you will be better able to pray it with sincerity and passion in the service.
As a stream that makes glad a city, Lord be in our midst this morning. Make us Your tabernacle, the holy place where You dwell.

By Your Word, show us Your almighty works. Heaven and earth will pass away, but Your Word will not. Every other kingdom will end, but Yours is the kingdom forever and ever. 

Oh Lord of hosts, be with us!

Like Jacob, we cling to You for blessing, because we know that from You alone may we obtain it. God of Jacob, be our refuge!

Through Jesus Christ, AMEN.


2017.12.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 9:28-10:32

Questions for Littles: How long did Noah live after the flood (9:28)? After what did Noah’s sons father sons (10:1)? How many nations are listed here as coming from Noah’s three sons (10:2-31, should be 70)? What were divided from the nations of the families of the sons of Noah (10:32)? After what were these nations generated (v32)? 
In this week’s Old Testament reading, we heard about the families of nations that came from Shem, Ham, and Japheth. It seems like a long list of difficult names, but it is really a trumpet fanfare about the grace of God.

First, this chapter trumpets the grace of God because it is a record of man being fruitful and multiplying him upon and filling the earth. This was our original privilege in the creation. It had been forfeited in the Fall. And God had resoundingly announced this in the Flood, in which he destroyed man and man’s work, by subtracting him from, and emptying the earth.

The text highlights this grace to us in v1 and v32 by reminding us that this being fruitful and multiplying occurs “after the flood.” Yet, there is still that reminder of how grace is not an excuse for wickedness. vv8-20 are sobering. We know about the Canaanites, about whom we thought much last week because of the curse at the end of chapter 9.

But look at what else came from Ham: Nimrod (whose kingdom began with Babel), Assyria (and its capital Nineveh), and Mizraim (which is Hebrew for “Egypt”). The climax of the families of the Canaanites is four cities that famously no longer exist by the time Israel receives this book from the pen of Moses: Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, Zeboiim. Oh the consequences of our sin upon our children!

This brings us to a second trumpeting of grace: Babel. We’ll hear more about Babel next week, but several of the nations in chapter 10 actually come to exist for the first time after chapter 11.

Why put chapter 10 first, then? Because even after the children of Shem and Japheth ignored their blessing at the end of chapter 9 (by allowing themselves to be joined to Nimrod and led by him), God was determined to separate them from Ham.

The Lord mercifully and miraculously put back into place that distinction (that “enmity”) that was originally part of the promise of the Covenant of Grace (cf. 3:15), and the loss of which had led directly to the Flood (6:1-7). It may seem better for man to be unified, but for the sake of their spiritual good, it was actually necessary and gracious that they be separated!

Finally, this chapter trumpets God’s grace by how small God’s people are. There are very many nations listed in this chapter. And there are some great and might nations listed in this chapter. But Israel isn’t one of them. Israel is this teeny-tiny insignificant slice that came out of Peleg, whom we meet in v25.

The Lord will later make this point in Deuteronomy 7, Joshua 24, and other places. It was not because Israel was big or impressive that God chose them to be His people, the ones who would receive His Word and through whom the Messiah would come. No, salvation history isn’t about their greatness or goodness… there was precious little of that! Rather, salvation history is about His undeserved love!!
What habits do we have in place to thank God for His grace? How are we watching against our pride?
Suggested songs: ARP107A “O Thank the Lord” or HB9 “Now Thank We All Our God”

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

2017.12.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 98

Questions for Littles: To whom are we to sing (v1)? What kind of song? Why—what has happened to occasion this new song? What has Yahweh made known (v2a)? What has He revealed (v2b)? In whose sight? What has He remembered (v3a)? Who has seen this (3b)? Who, then, is to shout joyfully to Him (v4)? Into what are they to break forth (4b)? What priestly instruments are named in vv5-6? What parts of creation join this praise in vv7-8? At what point (v9) has all of creation become the church?
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of sin came from Psalm 98. There is little that will give us a bigger view of God, a more honest view of ourselves, and therefore a more damning view of our sin than beholding God as Creator, Redeemer, King, and Judge.

Here is a Psalm that claims to be a “New Song” on the occasion of the Lord’s having won the victory, kept His covenant, spread His church, and returned to judge.

What has gained Him the victory? Not the works of men sustained by Him, but only His own work. His right hand. His holy arm. Because there was none to save, the Lord Himself has come to do the saving—by Himself alone. Hallelujah! (cf. Isa 41:28-42:4; 59:16-21)

He revealed His righteousness in the sight of the nations. How? By putting on display the Pharisees, who deluded themselves into thinking that they were doing a great job of obeying the commandments? No! But by putting on display His Son as the payment for sin, showing that God’s righteousness is so complete and so exact that nothing less could ever satisfy it (cf. Rom 3:21-26).

What’s wonderful is that Jesus isn’t just displayed to the nations (at the cross, at Pentecost, and in the spread of the gospel), but He is the Savior of the nations. All who believe into Him are engrafted into Israel. God’s covenant love and covenant faithfulness to Israel (v3) turn the entire earth into His redeemed worshipers (v4).

The nations—and indeed the entire creation (cf. v7-8)—become members of the sacred assembly.

Not only do they sing and shout, but the priestly instruments which were ordained by King David are commanded here to accompany the singing (v5-6). In great David’s greater Son, the priesthood may be abolished, but there is still a melody (grace, Col 3:16) played upon an instrument (our hearts, Eph 5:19).

This is a song for when all nations shout before their King (v6) upon His coming in glory to be Judge of all (v9)! It’s a salvation song. It’s a Christian song. It’s that New Song that we will sing forever and ever in glory. May God fill our hearts with its praise already now, while we continue to wait for its final fulfillment!
How does it increase your praise to God to remember that you didn’t contribute anything to your salvation?
Suggested songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song to the Lord” or HB161 “Joy to the World!”

Monday, December 25, 2017

Worship Preview: Psalm 46, A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

The first song for Lord's Day the 31st is A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. You can learn more about the history of this song [here]. It is, of course, a paraphrase of Psalm 46. Our Call to Worship, Prayer of Invocation, and Confession of Sin will all be coming from that Psalm

2017.12.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 6:4-8

Questions for Littles: What had once happened to these people (v4)? What had they tasted? Of what have they become partakers (partners)? What good thing have they tasted (v5)? What powers have they tasted? It is impossible to renew them again to repentance if they do what (v6)? Why—what two things do they do to Christ? What earth receives blessing from God (v7)? What earth is about to receive curse and burning (v8)? 
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, we hear about a frightful situation: those whom it is impossible to renew again to repentance.

Other Scriptures (1Cor 5:5) tell us of those who are put out of the church, handed over to Satan for the destruction of their flesh but the salvation of their souls. So a man can fall far without falling entirely away in the sense referred to here in v6.

So that is pretty frightening by itself: when it comes to living as those in whose lives Christ has had little effect, there is a point of no return at which hardening becomes permanent… but this point is difficult to identify.

There is a second reason that this falling away is frightening: to whom it can happen:

  • Those who were once enlightened, which is to say, those who have genuinely understood the Scriptures and the gospel. They are not still in the dark. They have been given some light
  • Those who have tasted the heavenly gift. Gift. Singular. In light of this ultra-intensely-Christ-centered-and-glorifying book, that can only be one thing. These are people who have not just some doctrine right, but a good sense of how wonderful Jesus is
  • Those who have become partakers of (literally, “partners with” the Holy Spirit). They are in a genuine church, with the genuine gospel, and genuine Christian love and service. 
  • Those who have tasted the good word of God. This reminds us that the “tasting” language goes back to chapter 5. They know about Justification in Christ for righteous standing, Sanctification from Christ for righteous living, and Glorification with Christ for a righteous vindication.
  • Those who have tasted of the powers of the age to come. They can see real sanctification all around them. They have enjoyed what it’s like to be in relationship with people who are being made more and more loving to God and neighbor, because those people belong to the age to come.

There is a sense in which this is even more frightening than Matt 7:21-23. There, the people going to Hell had a Reformed (biblical) theology of justification. Here, they have a biblical theology of the whole of salvation, and they are seeing Christ’s grace worked out by the ministry of the Holy Spirit, and enjoying the benefits of belonging to such a church

Finally, a third reason that this falling away is so frightening: not just that it is permanent (which we referred to, somewhat, in the first reason), but the reason that this falling away is permanent. These people build up an immunity to the grace and glory of Jesus. O, may God in heaven protect you and protect me from such an end!

That we could become so accustomed to hearing about Christ crucified for sinners that it comes to mean little to us, and we would crucify Him again for ourselves?

That we could become so unimpressed by the glory of Christ that it comes to mean almost nothing to us to bring open shame to His name, which He has placed upon us as members of His church? God forbid it! God forbid it!
What parts of obeying Christ are we giving ourselves a pass for not following? If we find that we are being hard-hearted toward Him in one area or another, what should we do immediately?
Suggested Songs: ARP32A “What Blessedness” or HB281 “How Blest Is He Whose Trespass”

Saturday, December 23, 2017

2017.12.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 11:23-26

Questions for Littles: Who gave to Paul what he had delivered to the Corinthians (v23)? On what night did Jesus take the bread? What did Jesus do with the bread first (v24)? What did He say they would eat when they obeyed this command? What were they to do in remembrance of Him? In what way did Jesus take the cup (v25)? When did Jesus take the cup? What did He call the cup? In whose blood is this covenant? What were they to do in remembrance of Him? 
At the Lord’s Table this week, we heard again in what manner Jesus instructs us to make remembrance of Him: by observing the Lord’s Supper.

The Lord’s Supper presents bread and wine to our sight and our smell and our touch and our taste. But it is the Lord’s own body and the Lord’s own blood that the Lord’s Supper presents to our faith.

We have no life in ourselves, so it is unto Christ’s flesh and Christ’s blood that we must look for all of our life (cf. John 6:53)! This is a necessary theological lesson that invites us into a vital theological action: to lift our hearts up to heaven, by the power of the Holy Spirit, who enables us to feed upon Christ, to have our souls nourished upon Him who took to Himself a true human body and soul for us. Hallelujah!

But there is more than a lesson and an action taking place here. For whom is the remembrance! The Lord has used such covenantal language before. Signs are not signs only unto us, but also unto Him. He gives the sign, and He promises to respond to it according to the terms of His covenanting with men.

Were you surprised recently, in Genesis 9:14 that God promised that there will be a rainbow in every cloud? How come we cannot always see it? Part of the answer is that it’s not just there for us! It is a sign between God and between us (Gen 9:12).

In fact, it is specifically God Himself who “remembers” (acts accordingly to) the covenant by its sign in 9:15 and 9:16! And so it is with many other covenant signs (circumcision, the blood of the Passover Lamb, etc.)

So also at the table with us. The Lord’s Supper is not only a remembrance unto us, but unto God! It is not only unto us that Christ’s death is “proclaimed” (v26, literally “shown forth”), but unto God.

When He sees the sign that He has appointed, He acts upon us according to His promises, as secured by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Again, Hallelujah!

Let us learn to treasure this Supper, in which the Lord invites us to act upon Him, even as He also responds to His own sign by acting upon us.
How do you prepare for the Supper? What do you think about and do at the table?
Suggested Songs: ARP191 “I Love the Lord” or HB442 “Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face”

Friday, December 22, 2017

2017.12.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 6:30-56

Questions for Littles: To what kind of place was Jesus trying to take the disciples, and for what reasons (v30-32)? But who got there first (v33)? How did Jesus feel about them (v34a)? Why (v34b)? Why do the disciples want to send the people to the villages in v36? Whom does Jesus say should give them something to eat (v37)? What does He ask them, and what is the answer (v38)? What does He tell them to do (v39)? What does He do (v41)? How many eat (v44)? How much do they eat (v42)? How much is left over (v43)? Where does Jesus send the disciples (v45a)? What does He stay behind to do (v45b)? What does He do when He is finished with that (v46)? What does He see in v48, and what is he about to do at the end of that verse? What do they see, and how do they respond (v49-50a)? What does He say (v50b)? What does He do (v51a)? How do they respond (v51b)? Why were they so amazed (v52)? What happens as soon as they arrive (v53-55)? What does Jesus do (v56)?
In the Gospel reading this week, we see the greatness of Christ’s strength and the feebleness of our weakness.

Even though the disciples had done so much, they needed rest, and Jesus knew it. But, they really weren’t going to get any rest. The people get there ahead of time, and Jesus teaches a crowd of probably around 20,000 (including women and children). The disciples, it seems, have been employed in crowd management—quite a task in a group that numbers almost two thousand per disciple!

Then, when they understandably want to send the crowd away for food, Jesus’ tune seems to have changed. He who had recognized their need for some R&R was now saying, “you give them something to eat.”

These exhausted men pool their money, and there’s 200 denarii (a day’s wage each)—was this why Jesus told them not to take their money before in v8?—still probably not enough to feed the crowd?

Now, Jesus asks for a different inventory, one far more meager than the money. How many loaves? Five. Great, that’s something we can work with! So, Jesus tells them to get back into crowd control mode. Have the people sit down in the green grass—not back in the cities, where they would be even more tired, and covered with the dust of their travel, but right out here!

To their credit, the disciples obeyed. Sometimes, the Lord puts us in a position where there’s really no other option. If Jesus wasn’t the One sending them away like the disciples had said in v36, it seems unlikely that this crowd that races to meet Jesus at every point would go away. Truth be told, the crowd was not nearly as tired as the disciples, for whom this was supposed to have been a much-needed vacation!

But the Lord is dealing with them how He still often deals with us. All in all, our resources—our wisdom, our goodness, our character, our willingness, and then of course all of our physical and earthly resources—are pathetic.

Though we flatter ourselves otherwise, the Holy angels can see that what we bring to the table doesn’t even amount to five loaves v.s. 20,000 people. But we still have a Redeemer for whom “that’s something He can work with!” Let us learn to follow His instructions carefully, even though there’s no earthly expectation of things working out.

That’s just the point, isn’t it? Our expectations are not earthly. We are the ones who struggle and struggle and get nowhere, as in the boat. He is the One who can simply walk on the sea, and would easily just pass us by.

And this is why He brings Himself into view: that we might see the difference and abandon all trust in ourselves. That we might see ourselves, and see Him, and find our rest and strength and wisdom and hope, all entirely in Him.

If our hearts are hard to this, we will be of all people most to be pitied. Because even if He gives us a glimpse into what He is doing, we will be all the more troubled and terrified! But if our hearts are soft, we will rejoice merely that He is with us. We will recognize that His commands are empowered by His strength, and that the outcome is always sure.

In His human nature, when Christ fully exhausted Himself, one thing was needful above even physical rest—time apart to His Father to pray (v46). If this was true for Him in His strength, how much more for us in our weakness!

Delusions of our strength will only get us exhausted. But admission of our weakness means that we must readily obey Him upon whom we are placing our trust. Trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus, than to trust and obey!
In what situations have you been trusting yourself? When has Scripture instruction seemed to you like it couldn’t possibly work?
Suggested songs: ARP111B “The Mighty Power of His Works” or HB307 “O Jesus, I Have Promised”

Thursday, December 21, 2017

2017.12.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 7:7-14

Questions for Littles: What were some people saying about the law (v7)? What had the law enabled Paul to recognize? Which sin, in particular, had the law made him identify? What did sin do with the commandment, according to v8? Without the law, what had he thought of himself (v9a)? When the commandment came, what did he see was really alive? Whom did he see was really dead? What had he thought the commandment could bring him (v10a)? What did he find that the commandment actually brought him instead (v10b)? Ultimately, what was it that had killed him (v11)? What, then, does he conclude about the law (v12)? What three things does he conclude about the commandment, in particular? What question does he ask in v13? What did he conclude had actually done the harm? What had the commandment led him to conclude about sin? Where does he place the blame in this whole mess in v14? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, the Lord preserves for us a love and esteem for His law and its commandments.

There were those who were calling the law sin (v7), because it could not produce righteousness in us (v6). They reasoned that since having grace as our master by the Holy Spirit is what gave righteousness, that we should therefore throw away the law of God as if attempting to follow it was a wicked thing.

Many people do the same today. They cry “legalist,” if anyone thinks he can follow the law to be made right with God. And they are correct about that. But then they turn around and cry “legalist,” if anyone says that we ought to try to obey the law of God. In this, they are greatly mistaken.

The law is not sin. Sin is sin. In fact, God’s law has this wonderful effect of showing us the sinfulness of sin, the deadness of ourselves apart from Christ, and our complete need for and dependence upon Christ (v7-11, 13). The commandment isn’t only holy and just. It’s also good.

That third characteristic is vitally important. When we follow the law in the strength of the Spirit instead of in our flesh, we see that we are not self-made men, but rather that God the Holy Spirit is actually working in us, the very sons and daughters of the living God, who have been adopted by Him through faith (cf. 8:1-14!).

And it is in that process that we see just how much good the law of God continues to do unto us, if we follow it by the work of the Holy Spirit who is producing in us the life of Christ Jesus so that we no longer walk according to the flesh (8:1-2).

In the end, we have to admit to ourselves that whatever comes from Christ—including His law!—is good, but whatever comes from ourselves is sinful. Is the law sin? Certainly not!
What use do you make of the law of God? Have you been treating it as something good for you?
Suggested songs: ARP119W “Lord Let My Cry Before You Come” or HB253 “How I Love Thy Law O Lord”

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

2017.12.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 9:18-27

Questions for Littles: Which of Noah’s sons went out of the ark with him (v18)? Who was the father of Canaan? How much of the earth was populated from these three sons (v19)? What work did Noah do now, that he was no longer building the ark (v20)? What did Noah drink enough to become in v21? What did he do when he was drunk? What does v22 call Ham again (cf. v18)? What did Ham see? What did Ham do? What did Shem and Japheth do in v23 that Ham had failed to do? What did they not see? What did Noah learn in v24? Who was his younger son who had done that? But whom does he curse in v25? Whom does he bless in v26? And whom does he make Shem’s servant? Whom does he bless in v27? And whom does he make Japheth’s servant? 
In this week’s Old Testament reading, we are quickly reminded that God’s covenant of grace with man is certainly dependent upon grace, and not upon the godliness of man.

Noah, whom v19 makes sure to remind us is the father of us all, drinks himself drunk. He was to take dominion of the earth, and he does proceed to tend the ground. He does well, and produces grapes and wine. But, he uses it in such a way that the wine takes dominion of him, and he leaves himself naked.

This shame closely parallels the description of the fall of Adam in chapter 3, where his realizing that he is naked is the very first consequence of his sin.

Let us note how readily our sin wounds us at our very hearts! Noah was to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with image-bearing, sacrifice-offering, God-worshiping offspring. But his own sin becomes the occasion upon which sin also traps Ham.

How easily sin ensnares us! Shem and Japheth understand the danger of it, even walking backwards to cover their father so that they won’t even see his nakedness for a moment. Are they silly prudes? No! They are appropriately cautious sinners, guarding the heart through the gate of the eye. Consider the blessing that came upon them as a result!

Now, this is an important thing for us to weigh. Obviously, God’s mercy and salvation are only by grace. The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth (8:21). But there are genuine consequences to sin. Ham should have been a blessing to his son, but his action resulted in a curse being called down upon him.

As the Israelites prepared to enter a land riddled with wicked Canaanites, Genesis 9 sounded a great alarm: these Canaanites got to be this way because they were children of their father, Ham. They are bearing their family resemblance!

Sadly, the Israelites did not heed the warning, and their history became one of generational sins from which they could not escape. Will we heed the warning? Shall we not be quick to repent, warning our children of the danger of following the example of our sin, and pleading with the Lord to spare them?!
From which of your sins would see your children spared? Have you confessed this to them and to God?
Suggested songs: ARP78B “O Come, My People” or HB255 “O Come, My People, to My Law”

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

2017.12.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 6:1-7

Questions for Littles: In what year did Isaiah see this (v1)? Whom did he see? Where? What filled the temple? Who stood above the throne (v2)? How many wings did each have? What did each do with those wings? What did they cry to one another (v3)? By what were the door posts shaken (v4)? With what was the temple filled? What did Isaiah say about himself (v5)? What were his lips like? What had his eyes done? What did one of the seraphim do in v6? What did he have to use to take the coal from the altar? To what did he touch it (v7)? What did he say had been done when the coal touched Isaiah’s lips? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of sin came from Isaiah 6:1-7. This is a familiar passage about the great glory of God.

Uzziah had been king for more than fifty years, but he was not the great king. The Lord is not only high, but higher than high: high and lifted up. So great is His glory, that the temple is not even standing-room-only. It is no-room-for-anyone-to-stand. You mayn’t step upon the King’s robe, and the train of His robe fills the temple!

The attendants of this King are “burning ones” (what “seraphim” literally means)—these are literally creatures of flame. Still, they are dwarfed and awed by the Holy-Holy-Holy One. They mayn’t stand, so they hover. They mayn’t look, so they cover their faces. Their feet are unworthy to be seen.

They cry to one another with such force that this heavenly temple of this glorious vision is shaken by their voices. This is no earthly shack, but still the praise of God makes it tremble as in an earthquake. Such is the crying out about the holiness of God that it causes a heaven-quake!!

It’s no wonder, then that Isaiah was concerned about how he had used his lips up to this point. As he hears the flame creatures, he realizes the one great purpose for which lips exist, and he realizes further that his own use of his lips has fallen so far short of this purpose that his very existence is self-destructive. “Man’s chief end is to glorify God… but all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God… so, woe is me, for I am undone!”

It is a conclusion that we must all reach now, from God’s Word, by God’s Spirit, lest we arrive at the throne ourselves on that Great Day, and hear that judgment pronounced by Him who sits upon it!
Of course, the glory of the holiness that is on display is matched by an equally glorious display of mercy. A hovering seraph, who has been waiting for the King to will him into motion, flies into action. He takes a coal so hot that a flame-being must use tongs to handle it, and touches it to Isaiah’s lips.

That might sound like a recipe for lip-annihilation, but that is not the result. Rather, it is lip-atonement. The reason is truly astonishing: He who sits upon the throne was the sacrifice upon whom the fire of the wrath of the altar of God had been spent.

There is a very important passage in John 12, where v40 quotes v10 of this chapter, and then says about Jesus in v41, “These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.” Who is the Him? Yahweh of hosts (Isaiah 6:3). Here’s yet another declaration by Scripture that Jesus is Jehovah, the Christ is Yahweh Himself!

And He is Yahweh upon whom was poured all of God’s hatred and holy wrath against sin, for everyone who believes in Him. Oh, dear reader, I certainly hope that is you. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and You shall be saved!
Have you believed upon the Lord Jesus Christ as the true and Living God who gave Himself for you?
Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or HB199 “Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed”

Monday, December 18, 2017

2017.12.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 6:1-3

Questions for Littles: About whom are the elementary doctrines that are the foundation of biblical thought and life (6:1a)? What are the first two parts of the foundation (v1b)? From what kind of works should we repent? Toward whom should we have faith? What are the second two parts of the foundation (v2a)? What are the third two parts of the foundation (v2b)? Although it was the hearers’ dullness that was preventing the preacher from assuming the foundation, in whom was he hoping that He would permit them to go on to the subject that builds upon that foundation (v3)?
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, we heard about justification (Christ’s righteousness being counted for us, because we have none of our own), sanctification (Christ’s righteousness being applied to our lives in place of our sinfulness), and glorification (Christ’s declaration that not only has His righteousness been counted for us, but that His work in us has also been finished, wherefore He now welcomes us into the final and full and forever enjoyment of all that He has won for us).

Scripture gives us active commands for sanctification, the kind that would be devilish to apply to our justification, commands like: wrestle, run, fight, kill, work, beat. But it would be a great mistake for us then to think that the process of becoming holier in our living depends upon us.

Truly, God gives us a duty and privilege of participating, but it still depends upon Him. His power. His plan. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” … FOR … “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work, according to His good pleasure” (Phil 2:12-13).

This dependence upon Him—even in the part of salvation in which we work—is driven home by the “foundational pair” that our text uses to describe sanctification.

First, “teaching about washings.” Jesus washes us once for all from guilt, but He is also that faithful husband of Ephesians 5:26. He has given Himself for our forgiveness (v25). And, He keeps on washing us by His Word, until we are at last perfectly clean (v27).

Second, “laying on of hands.” It is the Lord’s plan, not man’s, that we should be shepherded in our faith by men on earth, whose faith and outcome of conduct we may observe and follow. It is the Lord’s power that not only calls but equips them, and it is to the Lord that they will give an account for how they have watched out for our souls. This is all signified in the laying on of hands!

So, dear Christian, do seize your privilege and take up your duty in Christ’s work of preparing you for heaven. But, remember it is Christ’s work! As you run your race, rest upon and rejoice in Him!
Are you resting upon Christ? What use are you making of the Scriptures and Elders He gave you?
Suggested Songs: ARP19B “The Lord’s Most Perfect Law” or HB260 “The Spirit Breathes Upon the Word”

Saturday, December 16, 2017

2017.12.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 6:1-3

Questions for Littles: About whom are the elementary doctrines that are the foundation of biblical thought and life (6:1a)? What are the first two parts of the foundation (v1b)? From what kind of works should we repent? Toward whom should we have faith? What are the second two parts of the foundation (v2a)? What are the third two parts of the foundation (v2b)? Although it was the hearers’ dullness that was preventing the preacher from assuming the foundation, in whom was he hoping that He would permit them to go on to the subject that builds upon that foundation (v3)?
In the sermon this week, we heard about how the milk of Christianity are the elementary principles of Christ. And, the solid food of Christianity is learning more about Christ!

Notice how the milk of Christianity, its foundation, is about justification in Christ, sanctification from Christ, and glorification with Christ.

Repentance from dead works and faith toward God are about justification in Christ. A spiritually dead man can do no good thing. Scripture says that there are none righteous, not even one. No one who seeks God. Even our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. Our works are dead! We cannot be made right with God by what we do! What then? We need to have faith toward God that we can be made right with Him only by what He has done. Only by what Christ has done.

Washings (baptisms) and laying on of hands are about sanctification from Christ. Though the word used here is a more general term for washings, it can definitely include both the physical act and spiritual realities represented in Christian baptism. And that is exactly what it does: Jesus’ once for all sacrifice washes us clean from the guilt of our sin once and for all time when we believe.

And He also pours out upon us His Holy Spirit, who powerfully works in us to produce the life and mind and character of Christ in us, until we are conformed to His image. He washes us not only from sin’s penalty and sin’s power, but at last even its presence. What is one of the primary things that He uses to do this? His ordained servants, upon whom hands have been laid in ordination so that we may be equipped and grow up, and each of us be enabled to minister to the others (cf. Eph 4:11-16, Heb 13:7, 17).

Finally, the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment are about our glorification with Christ. Just as Christ has been raised bodily from the dead, so also will we to be with Him forever. At the judgment, we will be publicly and eternally owned by God as righteous, as adopted, as cleansed, and as being eternally worthy with Christ as our worthiness!

It’s all about Christ. If we aren’t obsessively depending upon Him, delighting in Him, and devoted to Him, then we haven’t even begun to “get it” yet as Christians—never mind growing up!
What place does Christ have in your moment to moment thoughts? What are His methods for improving that in your life?
Suggested Songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or HB405 “My Jesus, I Love Thee”

Friday, December 15, 2017

2017.12.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 6:14-29

Questions for Littles: Whom did Herod think Jesus was (v14)? What had Herod done to him (v16)? What had John the Baptizer said to Herod (v18)? Who wanted to kill him for that (v19)? Why couldn’t she (v20)? What had Herodias done to please Herod (v22)? What did He swear to her (v23)? Whom did she ask for advice about what to ask for from Herod (v24)? What did Herodias ask for (v25)? How did the king feel about this (v26)? But what did he do and why (v26)? What had John’s disciples done with the body (v29)? 
In the Gospel reading this week, we came to the account of how Herod beheaded John the Baptizer. The way we get to it is by a sort of flashback, in which we are learning why Herod might think that Jesus was actually John the Baptizer, resurrected.

Herod had a strange esteem for John the Baptizer. He didn’t lie and pretend in order to try to get the king to like him. He told it like it is. “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”

Obviously, something about John’s character had struck a chord with Herod that he could think that Jesus was John, resurrected back to life. It also seems that his disciples’ earnestness to retrieve and bury the body—even without a head!—had left an impression upon Herod.

Burial is a way of saying, “he’s not done with this; we expect resurrection.” Christ’s burial was the same way: an expectation of resurrection. And I hope that your burial will be as well, dear Christian.

So Herod was impressed with John. This wasn’t a faker. This was a just man, an upstanding man, a righteous man, a holy man. In fact, v20 tells us that Herod did many things to protect John, and that he heard him gladly. That should be terrifying.

How few of us “would do many things” in order to “hear gladly” a faithful preacher, who isn’t afraid of offending us with the truths of God’s Word? On the one hand, I think that many of us will have to admit to being less zealous to hear faithful preaching than Herod!!

On the other hand, if Herod was so zealous to hear John, then what could have led to such a turn that John’s protector would suddenly sentence him to death?! Let us beware of worldly pleasure such as feasting our eyeballs upon a dancing girl. Guard the eye-gates of your hearts, men!

And let us beware of pride similar to that in which a man could be so impressed with himself and his property that he considers it half of it disposable. Let us beware of its evil twin, immodesty, in which a man makes display of himself by grandiose gifts and rash vows.

Finally, let us beware of how desiring the admiration of others can make us throw our morals and our consciences out the window. He had done many things to protect John before, but now he was quick to sign off on his death lest he suffer the most great and terrible consequence of embarrassment?!
How can you strengthen yourself against peer pressure? In what situations are you in danger of lust entering your heart through the eye-gate?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or HB310 “Take My Life, and Let It Be”

Thursday, December 14, 2017

2017.12.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 6:20 - 7:6

Questions for Littles: Of what were we slaves in v20? In regard to what were we free? What is the end of living that way (v21)? What are we now free from (v22)? Of what are we slaves? What kind of fruit does that produce? What is its end? What does sin earn (v23)? What comes only as a gift of God? In whom does it come?  How long does the law have dominion over a man (7:1)? When is a woman free to marry another man than her previous husband (v3)? Who was our old husband, to whom we have died, according to v4? Through what did we die to the law? To whom are we now married? What kind of fruit does this marriage bear? Now that we are no longer married to the law, what (Who?!) enables us to serve God?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we entered one of the trickier passages in Romans, but it really does not have to be that difficult.

We come into this world stuck in a bad marriage: slaves of sin and married to the law. In that condition, the law is like a wife who is truthful but unhelpful. It tells us how terrible our master is, and how terrible we are for obeying that master, and it’s right! God’s law is right!

But as long as we are slaves of sin, we are never going to be able to do anything about it.
When we believe in Jesus, something wonderful happens. We die. Why is it wonderful? Because it ends both situations: slavery to sin and marriage to the law. Instead, we become slaves to God, and married to Christ.

Does Christ tell us that our sin is terrible? Absolutely! But not by telling us how it’s going to drag us down to death and Hell. Christ tells us that our sins were so bad that they required His hellish death.

And while the law couldn’t help us, Christ most certainly can. The letters on the page couldn’t make us a single bit more able to obey. But, married to Christ, we don’t serve in the oldness of the letter. Now, we have His own Spirit empowering our service!

Christ is a complete Savior from sin. The fruit of sin is filthiness that ends in death. The fruit of slavery to God is holiness that “ends” in everlasting life. Christ has both earned everlasting life for us and also works in us, by His Spirit, to prepare us for that life by making us suitable for it.

If we say that we can “turn over a new leaf” in order to come to God, we deceive ourselves. We must be dead to sin and the law by faith in Christ before any good can ever come from us. And if we say that being in Christ makes us “free” to ignore God’s law, then we deceive ourselves and blaspheme Christ, by making Him responsible for our ongoing filthiness on a path of death!
What are some areas of weakness for you? How can you seek to serve by trusting Jesus’ Spirit to work in you, rather than by thinking you will be successful if you just try hard enough?
Suggested songs: ARP196 “Waiting for the Lord” or HB271 “Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me”

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

2017.12.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 8:20 - 9:17

Questions for Littles: What was the first thing that Noah did when he got off of the ark (v20)? To what did the Lord respond with a promise never again to curse the ground or destroy every living thing (v21)? What is man’s heart like at this point? What does God promise will not be interrupted as long as the earth remains (v22)? What does God command Noah and his sons to do (9:1, 7)? What does God now give to them to eat (v3)? Why does God institute the death penalty for murder (v6)? What does God do for Noah and his sons in v9? What sign does God give of this covenant (v13)? For whom is that sign a remembrance (v15, v16)? For whom is this covenant?
In this week’s Old Testament reading, we probably aren’t surprised by Noah’s first act off the boat: worship.

What we might be surprised by is what God responds to. It isn’t the sincerity of Noah’s heart or the impressiveness of Noah’s actions. It’s the smell of roasting flesh. The sacrifice. The reminder of what He Himself will come to earth and do about sin in the Person of His Son.

As for Noah and his sons, their hearts are still evil from their youth (v21)! There are many hints from the creation account here. The command to be fruitful and multiply. The (re)establishing of man’s dominion.

But the original blessings of the creation come now in the context of a humanity that has already suffered a tremendous judgment against sin. Now that we have had such a vivid demonstration of what sin deserves, how can we hope that these new covenant promises will stand up, while man continues to provoke the wrath of God?

God has a simple answer: He will punish Himself. We caught a whiff of that (pleasing aroma, get it?) in the sacrifice, but there is another astonishing example of it later in the passage. We are too accustomed to thinking of rainbows as girly or effeminate—useful primarily as stickers for sprucing up a young child’s school folder, perhaps.

We forget that the bow was the most advanced and deadly weapon of the age. At the time of the Exodus, proficiency in the longbow had given the Egyptians tactical superiority over the rest of the world. Now, what does God do with His bow? He aims it at Himself in situations that seem meterologically connected to the great act of judgment just past!

Dear Christian, we don’t deserve the smallest particle of all of the provision and protection and prosperity that we enjoy! The only reason that we get it is because God is treating Himself as we deserve in order to bless us as He desires! What grace! What a God!
What are some situations in which you are tempted to feel like you deserve a reward? How does this passage remind you of what you really deserve? Why would God bless you, then?
Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

2017.12.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 1:68-79

Questions for Littles: Who was singing this song (v67) to whom (v63)? What was the Lord God of Israel doing at this time (68)? What was He raising up (v69)? How long has God been speaking through His prophets (70)? What has God been promising since the world began (v71)? What was promised to the fathers (v72)? According to His promise, why was He saving us from our enemies (v74)? What does v75 present as the two main parts of serving God? What did Zacharias tell his baby son that he would be called, in v76? Before whom would John go (v76b)? What would he be preaching that Jesus will do when He comes (v77)? What would the sunrise from God (v78) do for those who are in darkness and death (v79)?
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of sin came from Luke 1:68-79. These amazing statements are made to John the Baptizer by his daddy when he is just 8 days old and being circumcised.

From the beginning, God has been a speaking, promising, saving God. The promise of salvation from the hand of that great enemy who hates us first came in Genesis 3:15, and this passage tells us that there were no ages before that. Throughout the ages, God has been this covenant-making, covenant-keeping God!

And His purpose for us is to respond in love and gratitude. The salvation that v71 promises has a purpose, about which v74 tells us: that we might serve the Lord God without fear. That we might know that He is for us, that He has loved us, that He has saved us… and therefore we would not be afraid of anything else, but live our entire lives as service to Him!

What does that service look like? What great feats of spiritual strength, or mission field victories, or mind-boggling sacrifices make up this service?! Simply this: to live a holy and righteous life before Him, day in and day out (v75). That’s not particularly glamorous before the eyes of men, but it is glorious before the eyes of God!

First things first, though. We don’t even deserve to be able to live lives like that! That’s John’s big announcement: “I baptize you with water that says that you need cleansing from sin, but Jesus is going to come and baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He is going to give you real spiritual life to believe in Him, and He is going to suffer the fire of Hell on the cross so that when you believe into Him, you will know that your sins were cleansed there! At the cross!

That is where the sunrise of life bursts through our darkness and death: God, in His tender mercy, has given Himself to be punished for our sin and to be our life. Hallelujah!
What are your daily activities? What does it look like for that to be done “in service to God”? Why don’t you deserve to be able to do that? What has Jesus done about what you deserve? 
Suggested songs: ARP191 “I Love the Lord” or HB310 “Take My Life, and Let It Be”

Monday, December 11, 2017

2017.12.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 5:10-14

Read Hebrews 5:10-14
Questions for Littles: According to v11, why would it be hard to explain to them about Melchizedek? What do they need someone to teach them again (v12)? What kind of food do they need? What does v13 say about someone who is unskilled in the word of righteousness? What is a mature Christian trained by exercise to distinguish about his food (v14)? 
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, the preacher/writer to the Hebrews was frustrated. He wanted to go onto his next sermon point, but he won’t be able to until the beginning of chapter 7. Why can’t he? Because his audience “have become dull of hearing” and “have come to need milk and not solid food.”

This is a stern warning to us: although Christ will surely finish His sanctifying work in believers, sometimes their spiritual “growth” goes in the wrong direction. Those who have been ready hearers can become dull hearers. Those who were ready for solid food can fall out of practice, lose their skill, and need to return to milk.

So, how do we watch against falling into the same predicament? First, we follow the instruction already given to us from the middle of chapter 3 to the middle of chapter 4: come to Lord’s Day preaching with soft hearts. Respond to the Word. Let it cut you. Let it expose you. And then make heart and life adjustments, since this is Jesus’ plan for bringing you at last safely into His rest. Do not be “dull of hearing” (v11).

Second, take an interest in growth not only for yourself but for others in the church. v12 says that they should all have been learning with the purpose of helping others learn too. Instead, they’re in a position where they need to be takers, rather than givers.

Third, develop skill in handling the Word in a way that leads to righteousness. This is the “adjustments” idea that we were talking about above. If the Word is being handled properly, we will be directed to trust in Jesus for our righteous standing and to obey Jesus for our righteous living.

This skill comes by practice, by exercise (v14). By recognizing whom the teaching is pointing us to trust in. If it’s pointing us to trust in Christ it’s good; if it’s leading us to trust in ourselves, it’s evil. If it leads us to obey Christ’s commandments, it’s good; if it leads us to obey our own impulses, it’s evil.

Dear Christian, whether to preaching or to personal Bible study, let us come with ready hearts, for both our own good and others’; and, let us seek to be led to trust in Christ alone, and to live by obedience to Christ’s commands!
What specific activities in your life does this passage apply to? How does it tell you to do them?
Suggested Songs: ARP19B “The Lord’s Most Perfect Law” or HB255 “O Come, My People, to My Law”

Saturday, December 9, 2017

2017.12.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 5:6-10

Questions for Littles: How long is Christ’s appointment as high priest (v6)? What did Jesus offer up in the days of His flesh (v7)? With what (in what manner) did Jesus offer up prayers and supplications? To whom did Jesus pray? Why was Jesus heard? What did Jesus learn most of all by this suffering (v8)? What does v9 say that He perfectly become? Who had designated Him for this (v10)?
Jesus is fully God and fully man. In v5, we were reminded that as God, Jesus is the eternally, begotten Son. It belongs to the Father to beget the Son, and it belongs to the Son to be begotten. So, from all eternity, Jesus is God’s only begotten Son, even with reference to His divine nature. Of course, when the Lord Jesus adds also a human nature to Himself He does not stop being the eternal Son.

So, when God appoints Himself, His own Son, to be our priest, the Son as to take on flesh. That’s extraordinary. God never changes. God cannot change. So what does the second Person of the Trinity do? He enters time. He adds flesh to Himself. He brings to pass in history this new era called “the days of His flesh.” It is that era that we refer to as anno domini—year of our Lord. And those years continue even now. That’s why we refer to this year as 2017 a.d.

We see in this passage that Jesus adds to Himself not only a human body, but also a human soul. Yes, Jesus sinlessly thinks and sinlessly decides and sinlessly desires, but He does all of these things humanly. So, Jesus has always had, and still has, has His divine mind and will, which never changes. But, Jesus now also has His human mind and will, with which He has never sinned, but in which He grew. He grew in wisdom. He grew in understanding Scripture. He grew in applying Scripture.

This also means that Jesus is subject to emotion. As a man, He feels pain and grief and need. He feels comfort and joy and thankfulness. And He does so sinlessly which means, therefore, that in His time of need, He offered up prayers and supplications. The most intense example of this was in the garden, when He was in pain over the idea of the cross.

Jesus prayed to the only One who could spare Him of the cross if He willed, and could sustain Him on the cross if necessary, and could bring the cross to an end when it had accomplished its purpose.

A perfect High Priest would have to be obedient. But in His divine nature, Jesus couldn’t ever be obedient, because there is only one will in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Son became a man so that He could suffer, so that He could pray, so that He could submit Himself. And He was heard—not just because He is the eternal Son, but also because of His godly reverence, His living in wonder at and worship of the Lord.

His ultimate obedience was what happened as a result of His prayer in Gethsemane: having entrusted Himself to God, He also submitted Himself to God. “Not My will but Thine be done.” What was God’s will? That our perfect Priest would be our perfect Sacrifice, who would pray for us forever on the basis of that sacrifice. If we entrust ourselves to Jesus, and become those who submit ourselves to Jesus, He is for us the author of salvation not just from every earthly trouble and time of need—but eternally!
When you feel that you are too bad for God to hear your prayers, what hope do you have?
Suggested Songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken…” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

Friday, December 8, 2017

2017.12.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 6:1-13

Questions for Littles: Whose town did Jesus come to in v1? Who followed Him? What did He do on the Sabbath (v2)? What did the hearers ask about His teaching? What did they ask about His mighty works? What does v3 say they asked? What does v3 give as the last word about their response to Jesus? What is Jesus’ explanation for why they did not honor Him (v4)? What could Jesus not do there, according to v5? What did Jesus marvel at in v6? Where did He go instead? Whom did Jesus call to Himself in v7? What did He give them? What did He command them to take with them in v8? Where were they to stay when they went to a place (v10)? What two kinds of people were they to shake the dust off their feet against (v11)? How would it turn out for those people? What did the disciples preach (v12)? What did they do (v13)? 
In the Gospel reading this week, we were reminded again that being around Jesus’ life-giving teaching and life-changing power is a dangerous thing for the hard hearted. We have seen this several times recently in both Hebrews 3 and Mark 2-4. When in God’s Providence, He brings us across the same thing in several places (Remember also the Sabbath in Gen 2, Heb 4, and Mark 2-3), we would do well to take it to heart!

What we see happen in this particular passage is that familiarity breeds contempt. There is a danger in growing up around Jesus. “Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Sion? And are not His sisters here with us?” Jesus’ addition in v4 of “relatives… own house” tells us who was leading this Nazareth gossip!

Can you imagine having known a man, the eldest Son of a godly family, who Himself had never sinned even once—no sin of omission, and no proper loving service to family or neighbor left unattended to? Their knowledge of Jesus condemns them more, not less!

Well, dear Christian, are we so accustomed now to the goodness of Jesus that we put rather little stock in His Word or power? Can we listen to sermons or read passages that lay us bare, think to ourselves “wow, that’s some teaching!,” and then proceed to think and live exactly as we had previously done? Have we grown so accustomed to His daily treating us in perfect love that when we hear about His deeds of power, we yawn or even disbelieve?

Notice also two reasons why people put themselves in a worse spot than Sodomites and Gomorrahns will be at the judgment (!!!!!). One is that they are unwilling to receive the Lord’s servants. This might be a case of being unwilling to be associated with the Lord’s oddball people; and there is certainly more than enough of that in our churches today. How many people want to be associated with the oddballs in the church?

It might also be a case of not wanting to give resources. Receiving someone in an hospitable culture meant not just providing sustenance but rolling out the red carpet. Many people refuse to come to Christ (and join His church) because they simply want to keep their resources (especially money and time) to themselves.

The second reason that v11 says people put themselves under condemnation is that they do not wish to hear what Jesus’ messengers have to say. “You should repent” (v12) has never been a popular message. It’s so negative and judgmental. How do I respond to being told to repent? Let me be careful about that one—it might just land me in a deeper part of Hell than the murderous perverts at Lot’s door that night!
Of which are you most in danger: being unimpressed with Jesus, refusing to be generous with Him, or responding negatively to being told to repent of your particular sins?
Suggested songs: ARP32A “What Blessedness” or HB281 “How Blest Is He Whose Trespass”

Thursday, December 7, 2017

2017.12.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 6:12-19

Questions for Littles: What are we not to allow sin to do (v12)? What is the first step in denying sin (13a)? To whom are we instead to present ourselves—and every little part of who we are (13b)? Why are we able to succeed against sin (v14)? If we take having grace as our master (v15) as an excuse for sinning, then who is our real master (v16)? What is the way that God has delivered us from slavery to sin (v17)? What does freedom from sin look like (v18)? What must we do with every part of whom we are?
In this week’s Epistle reading, Scripture went hard after one of the worst ways that people abuse the truth about God’s saving sinners by grace. How can we actually think that freedom means doing whatever we feel like doing?

That’s called obeying desires, allowing sin to reign in our mortal body (v12).

So, how do we stop it? When we are fighting against sin, it feels like this giant, ugly monster  (which it is) that we can take down by some great heroic act. But that’s not what our passage describes. Our passage describes our battle against sin not only in one big picture, but also in a multitude of little ones.

Every word. Every action. Every moment of time. Everything that we do is an offering, a service either to sin or to the Lord. There’s no neutral ground.

What does the life of freedom look like? It is a life of cheerful and willing obedience. v17 calls it obeying from the heart. It is also a life of theological obedience. That same verse reminds us that we obey “a form of doctrine that has been committed unto us.”

The life of freedom is also a life of slavery. That sounds counter-intuitive. Would it help if we called it a life of “devotion”? That is, ultimately, what v19 says. Slavery to righteousness is a slavery that is for holiness—devotion, consecration, being set apart to the Lord.

It is so complete, wholehearted, and full that the Scripture here calls it slavery. One cannot have two masters. So slavery means that every part of who we are, and every part of what we do, belong to the Lord so much that we refuse to belong to anyone or anything else—least of all ourselves.

Yes, it sounds bad to call ourselves “slaves” to the Lord, but that’s why the Holy Spirit calls it “speaking in a human way” in v19. Slavery may be distasteful, but it’s really the best way to understand how completely we are to belong to the Lord. Let us give ourselves to Him!
In what parts of your life could you be more intentionally offering yourself as a slave to God for righteousness? What would it look like for you to do that?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or HB310 “Take My Life and Let It Be”

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

2017.12.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 8:1-19

Questions for Littles: Whom did God remember in v1? How did God make the waters start receding? What did God now keep it from doing (v2)? What happened 5 months, to the day, after Noah’s family got onto the ark (v4)? How long did it take for the tops of the mountains to be seen again (v5)? What month and day is it in v6-7, when he sends the raven out? What does he send out in v8? What happens with it (v9)? What happens the second time he sends the dove (v10-11)? And the third (v12)? How long has it been in v13? What does Noah see, 10½ months after the rain started, 9 months after the rain stopped, 5½ months after the ark came to rest (end of v13)? How many more weeks pass until v14? What was Noah waiting for (v15)? Who had survived the flood (v16-19)?
In this week’s Old Testament reading, we spend a lot of time on a boat.

The text says that God remembered Noah, 40 days in, but that might have seemed like news to Noah. From when the rain stops to the time when the ark comes to rest, it’s almost four months. Four months with all those animals, doing all those chores, the entire world wiped away beneath them, all of the uncertainty that would face them when they got off the boat.

If they got off the boat.

From the time that the boat came to rest, to the time that he saw the ground dry, it was even longer than it had been from the time the rain started to the time it came to rest. And even then it would be another eight weeks—almost two full months—before he could get off the boat.

Let that sink in. After almost a year on the ark, Noah saw the ground dry, and he didn’t get off the boat. He trusted in the Lord enough, and was humbled enough before the power and holiness of God, to wait until God told him to get off the boat.

This was a great part of the Lord’s salvation. Yes, God preserved the lives of Noah, his wife, his sons, his sons’ wives, and all of the kinds of creatures on the planet! But, He also continued sustaining the faith of Noah, grew him in patience and trust, through a trial the like of which we can hardly imagine.

Dear believer, consider what the Lord might bring you through to save you and grow you!
What is the most difficult trial you have ever endured? What was/is God doing through it?
Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge” or HB112 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

2017.12.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Philippians 2:1-11

Questions for Littles: How (v2) do we respond to God’s great goodness to us in the gospel (v1)?  How should nothing be done (v3)? How should each view others? If we esteem others better than ourselves, for whose interests should we look out (v4)? Whose mindset was like that (v5)? Who is in the form of God (v6)? What was not robbery for Christ Jesus? What form did He take (v7)? What likeness? How low did Jesus humble Himself (v8)? Who exalted Him (v9)? What name did He give Him? Which knees will bow at the name of Jesus (v10)? What will every tongue confess (v11)? To whose glory?
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of sin came from Philippians 2:1-11. We’ve been learning about Christ’s humiliating Himself for our sakes. Becoming a man. Enduring weakness. Suffering trials.

And, of course, the greatest was submitting Himself to death… particularly death on a cross.

Our passage from Philippians points out something shocking about His doing this. When Jesus gave Himself for us, He was treating us as if we are as important as He is. He was attending not only to His own interests but also to ours.

We have two required responses.

The first way to respond to how Christ humbled Himself for us is to humble ourselves. Not just a little, but completely. Overlooking offenses, backing out of rivalries, treating everyone as better and more important than ourselves.

Of course, there are some people with whom that is easier than with others. If we’re imitating Christ, and examining ourselves, it’s the hardest people that we have to focus upon. With whom are we having difficulty? Nursing an offense? In a rivalry? Those who are sinning against us (as we have done to Him!) are the ones with whom we must most imitate Christ.

The second way to respond, the eternal way, is to worship. Every mention of His Name should be precious to us. We shouldn’t be able to tolerate any misuse of His Name. It is the Name that should always make our knees to bend, always make our tongue confess that He who gave Himself for us is Lord.

Finally, let us consider that it is not only the Son who has given all. God the Father, for our poor sakes, has given the humiliation and death of His beloved Son, with whom He is pleased!
With whom do you most need to humble yourself? How could you better honor Jesus’ name?
Suggested songs: ARP22A “My God, My God” or HB143 “At the Name of Jesus”

Monday, December 4, 2017

2017.12.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 5:1-5

Questions for Littles: From among whom is a high priest taken (v1)? For whom are they appointed? To whom do they relate upon man’s behalf? What do they offer for sins? Upon whom can a high priest have compassion (v2)? Why is he able to do so? For whom is he required to offer sacrifice for sins (v3)? Who can take this honor for himself (v4)? Who called Aaron to be a high priest? Who appointed Christ to be High Priest (v5)? What did He say to Christ in v5?
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, we were reminded that every high priest has to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He ministers on behalf of a sinful people before a holy, holy, holy God!

This requires two things: first, he has to be appointed by God; second, he has to be identified with our sins.

A high priest must be appointed by God. A man cannot simply demand that the perfectly just and holy God receive his ministry. The Lord is not obligated to provide or accept any sacrifice for our sin. The Lord is not obligated to provide or accept any priest to offer that sacrifice. So, the very existence of high priests is evidence of the great love of God—the perfectly just and perfectly holy God—to sinners! And, the fact that He has given us God the Son to be our high priest is evidence not merely of great love, but infinite, everlasting love!

A high priest must also be identified with our sins. As he who was appointed by God offers sacrifices that were appointed by God, the justice and wrath of God fall upon a substitute instead of us. The problem for sinful high priests is that this can never satisfy. Even their offering needs atonement. The advantage is that they are able to be gentle and merciful, because they are in the same boat as their people.

Enter the Lord Jesus Christ. He identified with us willingly. At the beginning of His ministry, John the Baptizer knew that this made no sense, but our Redeemer insisted upon it (cf. Mat 3:11-17). And on the night that He was betrayed, our Lord identified Himself with His people as He instituted the Supper, and then spent a significant part of the evening praying on their behalf as those who are joined to Him (cf. John 17).

But while those moments were great displays of the intentionality of our Redeemer in identifying with us, they were not the height of His identifying with us. That took place upon the cross, where our Lord experienced the guilt and shame of sin, together with all of God’s hatred against it. This was exactly what He had pleaded to be spared from the previous night in the garden!

How much is Jesus able to sympathize with us? In a very real sense, even more than we can sympathize with ourselves. He has endured the sinfulness of those who believe in Him in a way that—precisely because of His sacrifice—we never will! God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him!
How does it help either to know God’s love in making Jesus our Priest, or to know Christ’s sympathy?
Suggested Songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or HB143 “At the Name of Jesus”

Saturday, December 2, 2017

2017.12.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 4:14-16

Questions for Littles: Who is our great High Priest (v14)? Through what has He passed? To what, then, should we hold fast? What do we not have, according to v15? Like whom was Jesus tempted? In how many points was He tempted as we are? What is the difference between Jesus’ response to temptation and ours? To where, then, should we come (v16)? In what manner should we come to the throne? What kind of throne is it for us? What do we hope to obtain and find at the throne? When should we come to the throne of grace for mercy and grace? 
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, we learned that we must hold fast to our confession of Jesus as our High Priest—that is, to hold fast to Jesus Himself. We do so because He is worthy, and because we are needy.

First, He is worthy. Jesus is the Son of God (v14), and so there is no more powerful or glorious High Priest possible.

Jesus is able to sympathize with our weakness, with our neediness, so there is no more appropriate High Priest possible. He was made like us in every way, and in all points tempted as we are.

And, Jesus is sinless, so there is no more effective High Priest possible. He does not have sin of His own to cleanse, and He offers Himself as the actual perfect sacrifice. The unspottedness of the former sacrifices could only hint at that perfection which is a reality in Christ. Whatever Jesus does on our behalf in glory is always effective.

Second, He is gracious. In our union with Christ, we come together all the way to the throne of glory. What do we find there? That the throne of glory is for us a throne of grace. Our Mediator, our great High Priest, is not bowed down before the throne. He is seated upon it!

The wonder of all of this is that we do not have to wait until we are strong or pure to go there. And that is good, because right now is our time of need. Right now is when we need mercy. Right now is when we need grace. Right now is when we need help. And right now, already, we may come.

When and how do we do that? Every time that we pray, we do that. But we especially do it when we are together, gathered as His church, gathered as those who confess Him together!
Which do you forget about most easily: Jesus’ power, sympathy, or sinlessness? How will you go about learning and reminding yourself of it, to help you hold fast to Him?
Suggested Songs: ARP183 “Under His Wings” or HB385 “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

Friday, December 1, 2017

2017.12.03 Worship Assembly Information

It's Friday! Just two more days to get ready for the holy, called assembly of the church on God's holy day!
  • Sermon text: Hebrews 5:1-10 (https://goo.gl/rYFzk9)
  • Songs: As with Gladness Men of Old (Phil 2:1-11, https://goo.gl/s2Siyy) · Under His Wings (Psalm 91, https://goo.gl/ZWtQat) · Crown Him with Many Crowns (Heb 5:1-10, https://goo.gl/cvtzWT)
  • Children’s Catechism: Q. 46. Did our Lord Jesus Christ ever commit the least sin? A. No; he was holy, harmless, and undefiled.
  • Shorter Catechism: Q. 16. Did all mankind fall in Adam's first transgression? A. The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.

Worship Folder

2017.12.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 5:21-43

Questions for Littles: When Jesus crossed back to the Jewish side of the lake, who gathered to him (v21)? Who fell at his feet in v22? What did he ask Jesus to do in v23? Where did Jesus go in v24? Who went with Him? For how long had the woman in v25 had a flow of blood? How had she tried to get better (26)? What did she try now (27)? How quickly was she healed when she touched Jesus (28-29)? What did Jesus ask (30)? Why did the disciples think this was a silly question (31)? How did the woman respond (33)? What does Jesus call her (34)? What has happened during this time (35)? What did Jesus say to the synagogue ruler in v36? Whom did He bring with Him now in v37? What does He say about the girl in v39? By the end of v40, who is there? What does he call the daughter in v41? How old was she (42)? How do they respond? What two things does He command them in v43?
In the Gospel reading this week, we find two daughters. The Holy Spirit gives us the little girl’s age and the length of the woman’s suffering so that we will connect the two.

Other than that, the two seem to have little in common. The woman is by herself. She is out of resources. No one seems to care about her. The little girl has parents. Her father is the synagogue ruler. She has her own crowd of people weeping and wailing for her.

But our Savior brings the invisible woman out into the light. He who is full of the Spirit, and knows so much about so many—did He not know who had been healed? Of course He does, but He wants everyone else to know. He wants everyone else to see her with Him. He wants everyone else to hear Him call her daughter.

Then, there’s the opposite in the house. He only takes three of the disciples. He tells the truth that the girl is sleeping (her soul has not departed but is waiting by her body to obey Christ’s command). When people mock, He takes it as an opportunity to retain only Jairus and Mrs. Jairus. He’s not interested in provoking the mob to try to enthrone Him as king. Although He had called the ‘invisible’ woman “daughter,” he calls the little girl “little girl.”

Jesus hid from everyone else what we have an easier time remembering: that He is infinitely glorious! But He put on display what we have a more difficult time accepting: that He is wondrously merciful. To Him, there are no invisible women. To Him, that woman is considered with all the tenderness of a daughter.

And so are you, dear Christian. You may have no one else. You may have nothing else. You may have tried everything. The Lord Jesus can heal you and cares for you as for a daughter!
In what current situation do you most need to remember Christ’s power and tender mercy?
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or HB130 “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds”