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”