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”