Saturday, October 28, 2017

2017.10.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Read Hebrews 4:11-13

Questions for Littles: What should we be diligent (or strive) to do, according to the first part of v11? What would keep us from doing so, according to the second part of v11? What is living and powerful, according to the first part of v12? How sharp is it, according to the second part of v12? To what divisions does the Word of God pierce? What does it discern about our hearts? What creatures are hidden from God’s sight, according to v13? What things are naked and exposed to God’s eyes? What will we have to give to God?
In the Scripture text for the sermon this week, we heard a strange combination of words, “Let us be diligent to enter that rest.” Diligent… rest. Those words are almost opposites, aren’t they? There is a rest that only believers will enter at the end of this life, but until then, every Lord’s Day, while we are resting from our worldly work and recreation, we are to be diligent. 

Now that’s a word we don’t often think of in connection with the Sabbath, but part of the reason for that is that, like the Pharisees, we get caught up in what we must not do on the Sabbath. But Sabbath isn’t so much about all of the lesser things that we may not do on the day, as it is about a day of fellowship that was better than six, perfect days a week in Eden, with perfect earthly work and perfect earthly pleasures. On those Sabbath days, Adam and Eve were to look forward to “entering the rest of God”—a rest that would be an eternally superior paradise by comparison even to the garden of Eden.

The day is for fellowship with the Lord. The day is for delighting in the Lord. This doesn’t end when Christ finally comes. In fact, in contradiction to those who saw Sabbath as the day of “don’t,” Jesus sharpens its focus as a day of delight, when He declares Himself “The Lord of the Sabbath.” On the Lord’s Day, we are to be diligent to delight in Christ. On the Lord’s Day, we are to be diligent to gather to worship in Christ.

On the Lord’s Day, we are to be diligent to listen to preaching. On the Lord’s Day, we are to be diligent to offer our hearts to the preaching. Tender. Teachable. Directable. But the fourth commandment’s fulfillment in Christ isn’t the only reason for us to listen to the preaching that way.

Verse 12 begins, “For.” It’s giving us another reason to keep the Lord’s Day this way, and another reason to listen to preaching this way: on these Lord’s Days, the Lord isn’t just pointing us to our Eternal Blessedness in Him; on these Lord’s Days, the Lord is also preparing us for our Eternal Blessedness in Him.

One day, we will stand before Christ and give an account for who we are and what we have done. By then, He will have used His Word, Lord’s Day by Lord’s Day, to perfectly shape us into His image. By then, there will be a lifetime of good deeds that weren’t perfect, but were truly good and received in Christ. Those deeds will have been brought out of the mess of our sin by the razor-sharp, sometimes painful but always loving, heart surgery that Christ performs on us. One Lord’s Day at a time.

So, on these Lord’s Days and in these sermons… Let’s be diligent to give Him our hearts!
What does giving your heart to responding to Jesus in the preaching look like? What are some things that you can be doing to prepare you better to keep the Lord’s Day well? To listen to sermons well?

Friday, October 27, 2017

2017.10.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 3:20-35

Questions for Littles: Why couldn’t they eat bread in v20? Who go out to get Jesus in v21? Why did they? In v22, what do the Jerusalem scribes say is the reason Jesus can cast out demons? Whom does Jesus call to Himself in v23? What does He ask them? In v27, what does Jesus say that He is doing to Satan and Satan’s kingdom? According to v28, what sins can be forgiven? But according to v29, what can never be had by someone while he is blaspheming against the Holy Spirit? What does v30 explain is an example of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Who finally arrive in v31? And what does the crowd tell Jesus in v32? But what does Jesus ask them in v33? And what answer does Jesus give in v34? How does Jesus say we can identify His family in v35?
In the gospel reading this week, Scripture challenged us about our response to Christ.

What Jesus was doing was so amazing that it demanded an explanation. It demanded a response. No one during His time was neutral. And it is a disease in our churches that people can sit in them week after week and remain neutral.

So far, no one in the gospel of Mark had concluded that He is God. There were multitudes who believed that He was great and were listening to His teaching. We know that they were listening, because He pretty much says that about them in vv33-35. Then there was His family. They were saying that Jesus was out of His mind (v21).

We shouldn’t pass over that too easily. Despite the lack of understanding of brain physiology, first century Jews understood the demonic component of mental illness better than many today, something ironically supported by the fact that Jesus was casting demons out of so many. Jesus’ family wasn’t responding as hatefully as the scribes, but they did draw a similar conclusion.

As for the scribes, we know already their hatred for Christ in their connection to the Pharisees who were already trying to destroy Him (v6). But their public slander of Jesus became the opportunity to highlight the fact that forgiveness comes through Christ alone.

As long as someone is saying of Christ’s Spirit that He is anyone less than God, that person cannot be forgiven. Note the present tense verbs in v29. What is wonderful, however, is that v28 is made possible by the fact that Jesus is God, and His Spirit is God. Since Jesus is God, when we reject all other ideas about Christ and instead cling to Him as our God who saved us at the cross, we are forgiven each and every sin that we have ever committed or ever will commit. Hallelujah!

Finally, when Jesus’ biological family shows up, they become an opportunity for Jesus to point out how we can identify members of His eternal family. They do the will of God. They obey the Father, the Head of the household. Once you are forgiven by clinging to Christ, He begins working out the family resemblance in you!

Perhaps you worry that you have committed “the unforgiveable sin.” There’s no such thing for those who are clinging to Christ! Two of those brothers who stood outside that door committing it ended up coming to faith in Christ and even writing books of the Bible (cf. James 1:1, Jude v1). They were forgiven when they clung to Christ as their God and Savior. Cling to Him, and you are forgiven too!
Who is Jesus’s Spirit? When you are worried that you are not clinging to Christ, what is the solution?