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”