Saturday, November 11, 2017

2017.11.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 58:13-14

Questions for Littles: From what were they to turn their feet on the Sabbath (v13)? Whose day is it? What were they to call a delight? What were they to call honorable? Whom do we honor when we delight in the Sabbath? Whose ways are they not to do on the Sabbath? Whose pleasure are they not to find on the Sabbath? Whose words are they not to speak on the Sabbath? What (whom!) does v14 say that this kind of Sabbath-keeping will make them delight in? Upon what will this Sabbath keeping make us to ride? Upon whose heritage will this kind of Sabbath-keeping make us to feed?
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, the Lord taught us what it means to treat the holiness of His day as weighty, especially as it concerns our ways, our pleasure, and our words.

The first way to “honor Him” on His day is by not doing our own ways. This refers to activities that are not sinful on other days. The Lord’s Day is holy. It is set apart from common use. It is set apart for another use. In Monday’s devotional we focused on attitude, but now we are talking about how this works out in action. God says, “clear your schedule on Sunday. Whatever you had planned, cancel it. I’ve got plans for you for this day; I’ll tell you what to do, and you do it as well as you can.”

The second way to “honor Him” is by not finding our own pleasure on His day. The verb means “seeking” just as much as it means “finding.” Just as with scheduling and planning, God has reserved our “seeking” energies for Himself on the Lord’s Day. Our tendency is to spend our hearts in yearning after those things that we think will give us more pleasure. On this day, however, we have an entire day of seeking to be pleased with Him directly. If we find that “doing His way instead of my own” isn’t pleasing, then let us seek with our hearts to find Him pleasant.

The third way to “honor Him” is by not speaking our own words. In fact, the text is much stronger: “not speaking a word.” There are at least two reasons for this. One is that out of the overflow of our hearts, our mouths speak (Luk 6:45). Our words will let us know how we are doing with our hearts.

Another reason is that the Lord’s Day is a day of being gathered together with one another, and our words have a significant impact upon one another. Our hearts are bad enough that the last thing that our brothers and sisters on the Lord’s Day need is for our words to turn their attention away from Him. Indeed, each of us needs all the Lord’s Day help that we can get, and in love each of us ought to be filling others’ ears with the wonderful goodness of our Lord.

As spiritually cold and dry as we are, these three simple steps are very difficult. Even if we are committed to them, we will find it tough slogging and fail often. But, we have confidence in Christ’s blood that this is paid for, and confidence that His obedience has already been counted for us. And, in this particular case, we have the most amazing promise attached: then you will delight in the Lord!
What is your Lord’s Day plan? With whom can you agree to mutually encourage one another with “Lord’s Day” words?
Suggested Songs: ARP184 “Adoration and Submission” or HB70 “O Day of Rest and Gladness”

Friday, November 10, 2017

2017.11.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 4:21-34

Questions for Littles: Where is a lamp to be set (v21)? What will happen to hidden and secret things (v22)? What should believers do with what they hear, according to v24-25? What doesn’t a person who scatters seed know (v27)? Who makes the things in v28 happen? Who enjoys the result in v29? How big is a mustard seed? How big is a mustard tree? For how much of Jesus’ public teaching did He use parables? When and to whom did He explain them?
In the Gospel reading this week, we continued to hear about those to whom Jesus has “given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God” by giving them “ears to hear.” The first question for us, of course, is whether that describes me?

Have I responded to the Scriptures as a divine rescue mission to bring me to faith in Jesus Christ, freeing me from slavery to sin and Satan? Have I rejected worry to have Christ as my confidence, and rejected worldliness to have Christ as my joy? Do I take His Word, day by day and week by week, as the operating system of my heart—directing how to think about, feel about, and respond to everything and everyone in my life?

Notice that this isn’t the same as doing so perfectly or even particularly well—but it is a habit of heart and mind in our life of clinging to Christ. Indeed, the Word to which we cling tells us that we will fail often, but it gives us a prescription for renewed faith and reinvigorated repentance whenever we do, coming again and again to Him to whom we eternally belong by His blood.

The next question is: what now? The answer: tell others. They won’t be in the dark forever. One day, they will know plainly about Jesus… and they will know that you knew and could have told them. If you had light and hid it, they will find out. That’s the convicting message of v22-23. So, v24 tells us, remember what to do with what you heard, because in addition to their finding out (v22), the Lord Himself responds with reward. Tell others about Christ!

Perhaps you don’t think it will have much effect. This is the way we often shrink away from telling others. But v26-29 rebuke us in this. Simply put: you do your part, and let the Lord be the Lord. You have no idea when He is going to make that word you speak bear an abundant crop in those who hear. You just scatter the seed, and when the Lord produces the harvest, you rejoice!

In fact, it is the Lord’s pleasure to take even the smallest evangelistic moments to produce the biggest results (v30-32). So, let us be generous in our scattering, and see what He might do. What are we waiting for? What good reason could we possibly have for keeping the gospel to ourselves?

After all, since it glorifies God to be the One who opens the eyes, ears, and hearts, we should not be surprised when He takes what we thought would be nothing and makes it great—that way, it is all the more obvious to everyone that God alone has done this!
How many conversations with unbelievers have you had this week? Where and how could you have more? What are some ways of bringing into those conversations what Jesus has done for sinners?
Suggested songs: ARP180 “Christ Shall Have Dominion” or HB141 “O for a Thousand Tongues”

Thursday, November 9, 2017

2017.11.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 4:13-25

Questions for Littles: Who received the promise that he would be heir of the world (v13)? Who are not the heirs of this promise (v14)? What does the law bring (v15)? Of what is the promise (16a)? According to what is the promise (16b)? Whom did Abraham believe (v17)? What two things had God done that made Abraham sure of that promise (17b)? Of what did Abraham become the father (18)? What would he have been weak in, if he considered the deadness of his body and Sarah’s womb (19)? What did he give to God as a result of his strengthened faith (20)? What was he convinced of about God (21)? What was imputed (counted) to him, through this faith (22)? For whose sake was this written (23-24)? In whom do we believe (24)? Why was Jesus delivered up? Why was Jesus raised? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we are confronted with our weakness and God’s power. Abraham’s physical condition, when he heard God’s promise about Christ coming from him, is analogous to our spiritual condition: dead. But that’s the point: the outcome didn’t depend upon Abraham’s ability to have offspring, but upon God’s ability to keep His promise.

If Abraham’s true descendants were the ones who had the law, then the promise would be dead on arrival (v14), because all the law does is testify against us that we are breaking it (v15). The gospel tells us this too: that Jesus had to be delivered up because of our offenses (v25). So that is one reason that the true children of Abraham are the ones who have his faith.

Another reason is the one in v16: that it might be according to grace. Grace is God’s blessing for those who deserve only curse (as we have seen), but it is also God’s strength for those who have only weakness (cf. 2Cor 12:9-10). We need the Creator who breathes life into dirt, and who commands light (which did not yet exist) to exist (v17).

That’s Christian faith: admitting that I have absolutely nothing good or strong in myself, while rejoicing that God has in Himself abundant goodness and strength for my salvation. This is what Abraham believed about the promise of the Christ who would come from him (v18-21), and this is how he came to be counted righteous (v22).

Did it work? Absolutely! It is a mystery why some translations of v25 say that Jesus was raised “for” our justification. The preposition used, with that case of its object (“justification”), always means “on account of.” When Jesus rises from the dead, He puts on display that His goodness and His power have conquered: that all who are in Him have been justified!

We are tempted to think that we can earn from God what we can only inherit from God, so let us remember that not only is it impossible to earn our part in what He has promised, but that it has to be by faith so that it can all be by His grace and by His power.
What are you really working on in your Christian walk right now? What difference does it make in your thoughts and words to remember that this must come entirely by God’s goodness and strength?
Suggested songs: ARP32A “What Blessedness,” or HB275 “Amazing Grace”

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

2017.11.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 5:25 – 6:8

Questions for Littles: How old did Methuselah live to be? What did Lamech call his son in v29? Why? Why did they need rest (“Noah,” v29)? Who are the sons of God (6:2, cf. 4:26-5:3)? From which line, then, did the “daughters of men” come? Why did the sons of God marry them? How did God respond to the mixing of the two lines (v3)? How long did He give them from when He pronounced this judgment until He carried it out? What were the children of these families like from an earthly perspective (v4)? But what were they like spiritually (v5)? Whose line does this remind us of (cf. 4:19-24)? Sadly, which line now looks like this? What does a holy God think of a world like this (v6)? How does a holy God respond to a world like this (v7)? What did Noah find from the Lord in v8?
In this week’s Old Testament reading, the covenant of grace almost came to a disastrous end. How many times in Scripture has the covenant hung by the thinnest of threads! And yet, that thinnest thread is also the strongest: the faithfulness of God and His grace toward men.

How did things get so bad so quickly? The sons of God were calling upon the name of Yahweh. Enoch walked with God for three hundred years after fathering Methuselah, who grew up in the household of that admirable saint. When his son Lamech became the father of Noah, his heart was tender toward the Lord and eager for an end to the curse.

Now, we cannot know how many children Methuselah had before fathering Lamech at the age of 187, or how many Lamech had before fathering Noah at 182, or how many Noah had before Shem, Ham, and Japheth (were they triplets?), beginning at the age of 500. And, of course, if they continued having children until the age of 500, their families would have numbered in the thousands or even millions by the time of the flood.

Every intention of the thoughts of their hearts were only evil, continually? That means that none of them had come to faith, and none of them were doing any good works. How, then, did there come to be no converted people left on earth, except Noah? The answer is something that still plagues so many Christian families today: a fleshly approach to marriage choices.

They chose from among the wrong families: those from the line of Cain. They chose according to the wrong criteria: they saw that they were beautiful to look at. They chose without taking good counsel “whomever they chose.”

Just as more famously later with Solomon, so also more grievously and disastrously here with the line of the godly: poor marriage choices made impressive matches and produced offspring that were impressive from a worldly standpoint, but spiritually they cared little for the Lord’s promise of a seed who would crush the Serpent’s head. Of the millions and perhaps even billions of families now on earth, only one was not producing the seed of the Serpent.

Dear Christian, you work so hard to equip your children to be “men of renown”; what view of covenant, family, and marriage are you training them up with? Have they bought in? Are they eager to find a spouse from the family of God? Are they “following their hearts” (a Satanic decision-making method propagated by Disney and too many preachers), or learning to seek and heed good counsel? Do they see the purpose of marriage as to raise up godly seed for the Lord (cf. Mal 2:13-15)?

The church will never again be brought to a worldwide low, where the earth now needs to be destroyed. But there are local churches (such as some of those in Revelation), and of course also nations, that come under the frightful judgment of God. There is no faster way to bring that about than poor marriage choices!

And even while we are careful with our marriages and childrearing to serve the Lord and His church, we can be about the business of raiding Satan’s kingdom as well: by evangelism. Seed of the serpent are captured by missions, not marriage! The thinnest line of God’s grace can lay hold of a man in the midst of the most corrupt generation in history, and save him!
What efforts are you making to establish good relationships in the church and connections with other godly families? How are you preparing your children to seek good counsel and make a good choice?
Suggested songs: ARP78B “O Come, My People,” or HB408 “Come, We That Love the Lord”

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

2017.11.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 48

Questions for Littles: Where does v1 say the Lord is greatly to be praised? What does v2 call the city of the great King? Who is in that city’s palaces (3a)? What kind of defenses does it have (3b)? What happens to her enemies and competitors (4-7)? Where does God make us witnesses to how He will establish His church forever (v8)? What do we think upon there (v9)? What is done wherever God is known (v10)? Of what is His right hand full (v10)? How do His people respond to His judgments (v11)? Who in particular, from among His people, rejoice at His judgments (11)? What reason does v13 give for spending time in Zion, counting her towers, marking well her bulwarks, and considering her palaces? What does v14 teach us to conclude and commit to, about God, as a result of thinking about what He does for Zion?
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of Sin came from Psalm 48. We’ve recently been learning some amazing things about the church as the Lord’s household and family, and this Psalm now brings us to consider the church as His city.

First, it is beautiful. When all of history is said and done, we will see that the City of God has been the crown jewel of His work in this world. From every place where we look, we will marvel at her and enjoy her, according to v2.

Why? Quite simply, because God is in her. He is not only her beauty, but her strength, v3. That’s a difficult thing for us to recognize sometimes, because the church is full of sinners. If we just consider them, she frankly seems pretty ugly and weak. But that’s just the point of v3. When we come to church on the Lord’s Day, and look around, our minds and hearts should be hushed with wonder: God Himself is the beauty of this people! God Himself is the strength of this people!

Indeed, those who seem most impressive in this age (v4) will soon be wrecked by the comparative glory of the church (v5-7). And week by week, we get to be reminded of that fact, as we gather in one of the her current outposts (v8). Do you remember that, dear Christian—that when you are gathered with a true congregation of Christ’s church on the Lord’s Day, it is an outpost of that lasting city whose builder is God? It is the city of Yahweh of hosts, and there we can hear and see the true outcome of all things!

A visit there will make us wonder not so much at the weak and sinful people who are there, but upon the steadfast covenant love of the God who has chosen them for His temple (v9). He is spreading His fame in His church across the world (v10), so that we should not be embarrassed even of His judgments, but rejoice in them and be glad (v11). Dear daughters, because of Christ’s blood spilled for you, you are enabled to admit that we all deserve utter destruction, and that God is righteous whenever He carries it out!

So, let us spend good time in His city (12a), paying attention to it in great detail (12b), because we know who is her protection and her palaces (13). It is in recognizing who God is for the church as a whole that we delight that we are His, and He is ours—that we reject all other gods and all other guides, and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to Him (14). Pass on to children and grandchildren this love of the church (13b)!
What church do you go to there? What are some unimpressive things about it? Yet, is the gospel preached there? Is God known? Is He being faithful? Is it part of that forever-glorious church that this Psalm is talking about? What should your attitude be about coming, and while you are there?
Suggested songs: ARP48B “Within Your Temple,” or HB438 “Within Thy Temple’s Sacred Courts”

Monday, November 6, 2017

2017.11.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 58:13-14

Questions for Littles: From what were they to turn their feet on the Sabbath (v13)? Whose day is it? What were they to call a delight? What were they to call honorable? Whom do we honor when we delight in the Sabbath? Whose ways are they not to do on the Sabbath? Whose pleasure are they not to find on the Sabbath? Whose words are they not to speak on the Sabbath? What (whom!) does v14 say that this kind of Sabbath-keeping will make them delight in? Upon what will this Sabbath keeping make us to ride? Upon whose heritage will this kind of Sabbath-keeping make us to feed?
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, we heard about God’s solution for our hearts that tend to view His law as a burden. His Sabbath. So… God’s remedy for our bad attitudes about His commandments is… the 4th commandment?

Immediately, we can see that following this remedy is going to require faith. It requires a decision to rely upon what God’s Word says instead of what I feel. It requires a commitment to treat my own wisdom as folly and follow the Physician’s advice instead of what I think I know.

So, it doesn’t surprise us that this commandment is at first about submission: “turn your foot away from doing your pleasure!” Did your heart just complain like mine did? We need to yield to the fact that when we do God’s pleasure instead of ours, we find out that He is better at making us glad. He cares more for our happiness than we do. He knows better how to give it to us than we do. Am I willing to admit that? If so, all my complaints against the commandments in this verse will evaporate.

Turn away from my own pleasure? Does God want me to be miserable every Sunday? On the contrary! That was just the first command. And the second is like it: call the Sabbath a delight. In other words: you don’t know what delight is. God designed many pleasant things for us. But He did not design us for those things. He designed us for Himself. There is a greater delight for us, who are made in His image than can be found in any creature. That delight is delight in the Creator.

Now, here comes the part that requires the greatest humility. We have to admit that we simply don’t enjoy God like we should. The greatest commandment is to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, but as soon as we are told to spend an entire day with Him, we begin proposing all of the alternative things that we might prefer. Our chief end is to enjoy Him forever, but we have an entire list of things that—when push comes to shove—our heart of hearts finds more joy in.

It’s the Lord who made those things for us. But He made us for Himself. Jesus knew this and felt this and lived this. If we trust in Him, we have the glorious promise that His obedience is counted for us as if we had done it. And, if we trust in Him, we have another glorious promise: that when we see Him, we shall be like Him. Don’t you want that? Don’t you want to delight in God Himself more than in any of His gifts? He will surely do it. Here’s what He uses though: set apart the Lord’s Day as holy!
Who cares most for your joy? What are some evidences of that? What is the biggest evidence of it?
Suggested Songs: ARP32A “What Blessedness,” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”