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Saturday, January 20, 2018

2018.01.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 7:17-19

Questions for Littles: What does Scripture testify (v17)? For how long is Jesus a priest? According to what/whose order is Jesus a priest? What happened to the former commandment (v18)? Why is the former commandment annulled (canceled)? What made nothing perfect (v19)? What did Jesus’s priesthood bring in? What do we do through this better hope?
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, we heard about how Jesus’s priesthood gives us final and full access to God in worship. That surer hope that last week’s passage (6:19-7:10) taught us about is the “better hope” through which 7:19 says we now draw near to God.

It is true that the tabernacle and the ceremonial law were great gifts—special provision through which sinful men could draw near to God in worship. But if these did not have Jesus to look forward to, they never would have worked at all.

In fact, 7:18 tells us why these had to be done away with: they were weak and unprofitable. In other words, our ability to enter God’s presence as sinners is more than a special tent (tabernacle) or house (temple) could provide, and the uncleanness and guilt of our sin is more than the holiness code or sacrifices could do anything about.

To put it bluntly with v19, the ceremonial law made nothing perfect. Just as the moral law could define morality perfectly but could not make us a single bit more moral ourselves, the ceremonial law could not actually give us forgiveness of sins, or make us holy, or obtain for us an eternal judgment verdict.

But, as we confessed with the elementary things of Christ (6:1-3), Jesus has done all of these things. And it is Jesus who is the anchor of our souls, the Forerunner who is most surely bringing us to glory (6:19-20).

Where the ceremonial law was weak, Jesus is strong. Where it could do no real good to those who followed it, Jesus does every possible true good to those who come to God through Him.

When we draw near to God through Jesus, as taught in His Word, we can be absolutely sure that we are finally and fully accepted, and that His work in us will most certainly be completed. This way of drawing near to God will never be annulled!
During what weekly activity does God’s congregation draw near to Him in Jesus? When else may draw near to God in Jesus? What does that look like?
Suggested Songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or HB132 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name”

Friday, January 19, 2018

2018.01.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 8:22-38

Questions for Littles: Where did Jesus come in v22? What did they beg Jesus to do to the blind man? What did Jesus do by touching the man’s hand in v23? Then what did Jesus do to the man’s eyes? When Jesus put His hands on the man again, what did He ask? How did the man answer (v24)? What does Jesus do when He touches the man the third time (v25)? Where does Jesus send the man in v26? What does He tell him not to do? Where are Jesus and the disciples, when they have the conversation in v27-33? What does Jesus ask them first (v27)? What do they answer (v28)? What does He ask them in v29a? What does Peter answer (29b)? What does He warn them in v30? What does He begin to teach them in v31? What does Jesus do to Him in v32? What does Jesus call Peter in v33? What explanation does Jesus give for that? Whom does He call to Himself for the rest of the lesson in v34? What does He say someone who desires to follow Him must do? Whom does He say will lose his life in v35? For what purpose does He say we should lose our life? What will we lose if we gain the whole world by being ashamed of Christ (v36-37)? Of whom must we not be ashamed (v38)? Of what must we not be ashamed? If are ashamed of Jesus and His words now, who will be ashamed of us and when?
In the Gospel reading this week, we face the fact that the Lord has His own plan and His own timing that are quite different from what we would do with our lives.

We know that Jesus doesn’t even need to touch the blind man to heal him. But Jesus takes him by the hand, puts His hands on the man’s eyes, and puts His hands on the man’s eyes again. That’s three different touchings, in addition to a leading out of town, a spitting on the eyes, and a raising up of the man’s face.

So many steps! Why? Because it’s the wisdom of Jesus to do it that way and in that much time.
Then there’s the warning of the man not to go into town or tell anyone from town. And there’s His strictly warning the disciples not (yet) to tell anyone that He is the Christ(!). Why? Because it’s the wisdom of Jesus to do it that way at that time.

Of course, we’re tempted to disagree with Him. In fact, the more we think that we know about Him, the more serious it seems that this temptation can be. It is specifically Peter, who has confessed Jesus as the Christ, who is suddenly so sure of himself that he earns being called Satan(!!).

And, often, it is we who have walked with the Lord and known His love and wisdom in other situations, who suddenly find ourselves most bewildered when His plan for our current situation is very different than we would have expected.

A cross? A world of people scorning me? What have I done to cause this?! The answer may be: nothing at all. It may in fact be that we’ve been given that cross and that scorn not for the sake of some error in our conduct but precisely for the sake of Jesus and His Word.

Let’s not give into the lie that if we just treat people well enough, they will like us. Jesus teaches us to expect the opposite. It’s the wisdom of Jesus to do it in this way at this time. Let us learn to be able to say, “It is the Lord; let Him do as seems best to Him!”
In what current situation in your life has the Lord’s wisdom puzzled you?
Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or HB366 “Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right”

Thursday, January 18, 2018

2018.01.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 8:28-39

Questions for Littles: Which things do we know work together for good (v28)? To whom do they work together for good? What did God also do to those whom He foreknew (29a)? To what did He predestine them (29b)? For what reason (29c)? What did He do for those whom He predestined (30a)? What did He do for those whom He called (30b)? What did he do for those whom He justified (30c)? Who is for us (31)? Who can (successfully) be against us? What (Whom!) did God not spare (32a)? What did God do with His Son for us? What will God give to us together with Him? What does God do instead of bringing a charge against His elect (33)? What does Jesus do, instead of condemning us (34)? What are some of the things that are not able to separate us from the love of Christ (35, 38-39)? What is one of the reasons that such things happen (36)? So, what is going on in the midst of these things (37)?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we come to what is a favorite Scripture for many, many believers. All things must work together for our good. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. These are the things that make hearts swell up with joy and praise.

And we see here what wonderfully sure things they are.

God’s love is sure, because it goes back before time. God “foreknowing” His elect is not some form of divine cheating by sneaking a peek at the end. It’s talking about knowing in terms of a relationship: He loved us before the world began (cf. Eph 1:3-6). It was this love, that He simply decided to set upon us, that led to our being predestined.

God’s love is sure, because it is in Christ and for His sake. God loves the glory of His Son, and He has determined that for the Son’s great glory, He would be displayed as the firstborn of many brothers and sisters who have been shaped to look like Him. We’re predestined to bring Christ glory!

God’s love is sure, because His law now demands that it continue. We have been justified with Christ’s righteousness. The One who makes the charges at the judgment is the One who has justified us (33). The One who condemns at the judgment is the One who has taken our condemnation and is continually pleading our case (34).

God’s love is sure, because its most infinite gift has already been given, and it is irrational to think that anything else could possibly be held back (32).

There are many things that come into our lives that threaten to shake our joy in God’s love. But, when we consider them in the light of the teaching in these verses, that threat quickly dissolves.

We realize, instead, that even if we are like sheep being slaughtered, it is for His sake. It is because we are joined to Him in that love from which we can never be separated. It is most certain that this love will prevail with us, and that we will prevail in the trial. Even before the trial ends, we can know already that we are more than conquerors!

Election and predestination are not dry, dusty doctrines for theological fuddy-duddies. They are the foundation of sure, victorious love!
In what current circumstance do you most need to cling to the cross and God’s electing love?
Suggested songs: ARP4 “Answer When I Call” or HB402 “I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew”

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

2018.01.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 12:1-9

Questions for Littles: Who spoke to Abram in v1? What did He tell him to get out of? From whom did He tell him to go? To where did He tell him to go? What did God promise to make Abram into (2a)? What else did He promise to do (2b)? What did He promise to make great (2c)? What (whom!) did God promise to make a blessing? Whom did God promise to bless (3a)? Whom did God promise to curse (3b)? How many families of the earth would be blessed in Abram (3c)? How did Abram depart (4a)? Who went with him (4b)? How old was Abram when he departed from Haran (4c)? Whom did Abram take (5a)? What did Abram take (5b)? Where did they go? To what place did Abram pass through (6a)? How far did he go (6b)? Who were in the land (6b)? Who appeared to Abram (7a)? To whom did He promise to give the land (7b)? What did Abram build there? To whom? Where did Abram move from there (8a)? Where did he pitch his tent (8b)? What did he build there (8c)? What did he use the altar to do (8d)? What did he continue to do in the same manner (9a)? In what direction (9b)? 
In this week’s Old Testament reading, we come to what many refer to as “the call of Abram.” Abram and his family were still in Haran, where Terah’s journey toward Canaan had come to a permanent end. After Terah dies, Yahweh speaks to Abram, explaining to him why this wasn’t far enough.

Haran was still close enough to be considered his country. There were extended family still there. This was not a place of godliness (cf. Josh 24:2). This was not a place of faith. Abram’s was to be a life of faith that rested upon great promises.

Where does God call Abram to go? “a land that I will show you.” That’s a faith requirement isn’t it? Let a husband propose that family move to his wife. Husband: “honey, we’re moving.” Wife: “really, to where, dear?” Husband: “a land that I will show you.” Wife: “you know that’s not an actual name of a place, don’t you, dear?”

Perhaps Abram and Sarai had just such a conversation. The command comes with little in terms of immediate details about Abram’s new life, but with big promises. God basically promises to identify Himself with Abram now—taking personally whatever others do to Abram, and placing Abram and his family right at the center of His saving plans in the world.

Faith believes the promises. Faith doesn’t demand details. Faith does “just as Yahweh has spoken” (v4). Faith also does something else…

Faith worships. Abram gets to Shechem, where he finds out that it will actually be his descendants that receive the land and not he himself. And Abram worships. Abram goes east of Bethel. And worships.

He built no house. He built no city. He built altars to call upon the name of Yahweh. Priorities. First things first. Faith believes and obeys. And faith worships!
How can you tell that worship is the most important part of your life?
Suggested songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or HB26 “O Worship the King All Glorious Above”

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Prayer Meeting tomorrow, 7p.m.

Prayer Meeting tomorrow at 7p.m. The folder for it is now available at https://goo.gl/i9LP9t -- as usual, we will be praying through the different major themes using the next particular Scripture focus identified in Matthew Henry's Method for Prayer (see https://goo.gl/cJEZeh)

2018.01.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 2:16-21

Questions for Littles: By what is a man not justified (v16)? By what is a man justified? Into whom have we believed? Who shall be justified by the works of the law? What are we ourselves found to be, even while we seek to be justified by Christ (v17)? Does this make Christ a servant (minister) of sin? If we build again what we destroyed, what do we make ourselves into (v18)? What did we do through the law (v19a)? Why did we die to the law (v19b)? With whom have we been crucified (v20)? Who no longer lives? Who lives in us? How do we live the life that we now live in the flesh? What has the Son of God done for us? What must we not then set aside (v21)? Through what do those who set aside grace say that righteousness comes? If righteousness does come through the law, then what else is true (end of v21)?
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of sin came from Galatians. This was one of the passages from which they came. False teachers had come to the Galatian church and insisted that believers had to maintain their right standing with God by keeping God’s law, and particularly circumcision.

In this passage, Peter had come up to Galatia and at first would eat with the Gentiles. But then, when some men came from the primarily Jewish church in Jerusalem (pastored by James the brother of Jesus, v12), Peter all of a sudden separated himself—not wanting to appear to be rejecting the law of circumcision by eating with the uncircumcised.

What a mess—and not just because feelings might be hurt. No, this was a much worse than that. He was making a mess of the gospel! Paul saw this happening, and rebuked Peter to his face, and today’s verses come from that speech.

We know that a man is made right with God only by what Jesus has done. That’s why, in order to be right with God, we believed into Jesus Christ (v16)! Apparently, some had come along and said that if that’s our theology, then Christ just gives us an excuse to sin and becomes a servant (minister, v17) of sin.

Paul announces that that is hogwash on two counts. First of all, hoping that the works of the law will maintain our right standing with God is “rebuilding what I had destroyed” (v18). That would be to set back up again a standard that we will never in this life keep. It would only result in making ourselves back into transgressors before God.

After all, it was the law that demanded that we be executed for our transgression. It was the law that refused to allow us to have spiritual life. It was the law that said, “Being made able to live unto God is a privilege that you don’t even deserve!” We had to die unto the law in order to live to God (v19)!

But it is faith that joins us to Jesus so that we are crucified with Him (20a). It is faith that joins Jesus to us, so that our new life is lived by His life in us and through us (20b). It is faith that clings to the love of Jesus and knows that it has Him (20c).

So, maintaining a righteous standing with God by works doesn’t work. And even worse, it doesn’t treasure Christ and cling to Him. In fact, it says, “I don’t need grace; He died for no reason.” What a terrible thing it is to try to maintain our standing with God by works!
What obedience to God are you most tempted to think is maintaining your right standing with Him?
Suggested songs: ARP32A-B “What Blessedness / Instruction I Will Give to You” or HB275 “Amazing Grace”

Monday, January 15, 2018

Worship Preview for January 21: Lord's Supper, new Psalm of the Month

Lord's Supper this coming Lord's Day (21-Jan-08)!

Just a reminder to come prepared to partake, and also that when we come to the table, any offerings that you bring in cash are received into the deacon's fund for helping the poor and needy.

It also means that it's time for a new Psalm of the Month. This month is Psalm 27:7-10 (a.k.a. 27C in the Blue), to the tune St. Peter (https://goo.gl/pkWMRC):

O hear my voice, LORD, when I cry,
And answer me in grace.
When You said, "Seek my face," my heart
Said, "LORD, I'll seek Your face."

O do not cause Your face to be
Concealed from me, I pray.
Treat me, Your servant, without wrath;
Do not turn me away.

For You have surely been my help,
Do not abandon me;
Do not forsake me now, I pray,
O God who rescues me.

My father and my mother both
May leave me all alone,
But surely then the LORD Himself
Will take me as His own.

Also, as long as the book of Hebrews is opening up Psalm 110:4 in the sermon texts, we will be responding to the sermon by singing Psalm 110B. May the Lord grant that our children would grow up, exulting in Christ as their forever-king-priest, with that Psalm often on their lips, bringing Him to mind.

2018.01.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 7:11-16

Questions for Littles: Through what did perfection NOT come (v11)? Under what did the people receive the law? If perfection were through the Levitical priesthood, what would not have been needed? What was changed, when Jesus was acknowledged as the begotten Son of Psalm 2 and 110 (v12)? What else was changed, of necessity? Who belongs to another tribe than Levi (v13)? What had no man from that tribe done before? Who made this change of priesthood and law evident by arising from Judah (v14)? How much did Moses speak of Judah, concerning the priesthood? What made the change of priesthood and law far more evident (v15)? According to what did our Lord NOT come as a priest (v16a)? According to what DID our Lord come as a priest (v16b)?
The Scripture for the sermon this week dove even deeper into what it means for our walk with God that Jesus is “priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” In last week’s passage, we heard that Jesus’s new priesthood gives us a surer hope. In this week’s, we hear that Jesus’s priesthood produces full and final access to God in worship. And in next week’s, we will hear that Jesus’s priesthood secures a better covenant.

The ceremonial law, which God gave through Moses, did not bring in perfection. That is to say that it could not accomplish the final, full, and complete relationship that God intended to form between Himself and His people.

Jesus, the new Melchizedekian Priest, shows that the ceremonial law that the people received under the Levitical priesthood was a temporary measure (v11). The ceremonial law taught the people how to be ready and clean and acceptable to draw near to God. The ceremonial law provided the way in which they could draw near to God. The ceremonial law taught them what to do when they were there.

So, it’s not surprising that this ceremonial law was precious to the people, along with the Levitical priesthood and the order of Aaron. These are great blessings. But they were imperfect. The Levites and priesthood of the Old Testament could not fully or finally bring the people near to God.

When the Jesus’s new priesthood appears, then all of these change: how to be acceptable for worship, and where to go for worship and what to do there. God made this abundantly clear, because our Lord arose from Judah (v14).

There was no command to any human to ordain Jesus (16a). Instead, there is something far superior: an endless life (16b). How long will Jesus’s blood and righteousness be what makes us acceptable as worshipers? As long as Jesus’s life!

How long will the right way of worshiping be with Jesus as the preacher, and Jesus leading the singing, and Jesus receiving the tithe, and Jesus pronouncing the blessing? As long as Jesus’s life!

Christian worship is no longer tied to a particular building, with particular furniture, and clergy of a particular ethnicity. It is tied to our great Priest in glory, and His endless life!
How does the simple worship of the NT show that Jesus is better than all the priests that ever came before Him? What happens when we fancy-up worship again ourselves?
Suggested Songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”