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Saturday, February 3, 2018

2018.02.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 8:7-13

Questions for Littles: What does the need for a second covenant show wasn’t true about the first one (v7)? With whom does v8 say He found fault? What had the Lord taken Israel by the hand to do (v9)? But in what did they not continue (v9b)? In the new covenant, what does God put in His people’s mind (v10)? And what does He write upon their hearts? What does He promise that He will be to them? What does He promise that they will be to Him? What won’t they have to tell each other to do (v11)? Which of His covenant people will know Him (v11)? Toward what will the Lord be merciful (v12a)? What will He remember no more (v12b)? What has God made obsolete (v13a)? What was about to happen to it when the book of Hebrews was written (v13b)?
In the Scripture for the sermon this week, we heard about the faultiness of the Old Covenant administration of the covenant of grace. We know, of course that it was a covenant of grace, because the redemption of the people was front-loaded. God “led them by the hand out of Egypt.”

But, as we read our Old Testaments, we find ourselves in complete agreement with v9: they did not continue in God’s covenant. Precious few seemed to love the Lord. Precious few obeyed Him. Precious few came to know Him. Precious few acknowledged Him.

Now, the book of Hebrews begins to open up for us some of the reason for that: so that when God gave His own Son to be the Mediator of the New Covenant administration, God would glorify His Son by establishing that New Covenant with far better promises. What were they? Our passage gives us three:

  1. The pouring out of God’s Spirit for His transforming work in mind and heart (v10, cf. 2Cor 3). Jesus pours out His Spirit as promised (Acts 2:17-35).
  2. The establishing of personal, direct fellowship with God, in which He communicates Himself to us, and we willingly acknowledge Him with mouth and life! (v11)
  3. The mercy toward our iniquities (v12, Christ, our mercy seat, cf. Rom 3:25). This is the climax of the passage—we don’t just have cow blood on the lid of a box in a tent… we have the very blood of God the Son on the throne of glory!!

Why would we ever want to go back? Christ Himself is the glory of the church!
What are we celebrating when we gather to God as His New Covenant people? How does love to Christ factor into desiring to see Him glorified?
Suggested Songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or HB132 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name”

Friday, February 2, 2018

2018.02.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 9:14-29

Questions for Littles: What did Jesus see, when He came to His disciples (v14)? How did the people respond when they saw Jesus (v15)? What did Jesus ask the scribes (v16)? Who answers, and how (v17-18)? What does Jesus call that entire generation in response (v19)? What did the spirit do when they brought the boy to Jesus (v20)? What did Jesus ask (v21a)? What did the father answer (v21b-22)? What did he not seem sure that Jesus could do? What does Jesus tell the father in v23? How does the father respond in v24? Whom did Jesus rebuke in v25? What happened in v26? How do the people respond? But how does Jesus respond in v27? What do the disciples ask in v28? And what does Jesus say in v29? 
In the Gospel reading this week, we run into a problem that is not so rare, even today. There are people failing to believe in Jesus because His followers don’t seem to have special powers of their own.

While it is true that Jesus would later give them particular “signs of an apostle” by His Holy Spirit, apparently the people thought that the disciples’ inability to cast out the demon meant that Jesus was somehow gone. Notice that they are “greatly amazed” to see Him in v15. And notice in v18 that the man had come with full expectation that the disciples could help. Even the disciples thought they should have been able to do it (v28).

Sometimes, we are tempted to think this way too. We look around the church, and maybe we see a bunch of unimpressive people. Sometimes, in fact, they leave exactly the wrong impression upon us. There are people still today who see that and say, “well, Jesus must not really exist; or, at least, He must not be a Savior worth having.”

But by this time in Mark’s gospel, we’re noticing a theme. Jesus saves by going to the cross. Jesus tells us that we have to take up our own cross. Even when He says, “all things are possible to Him who believes” in v23, He makes it plain that this all-things-possible is not some kind of power that He gives us, but something that goes along with a life that is trusting Him.

“This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” Depending upon Jesus and denying ourselves. That’s the Christian life! Notice that Jesus didn’t pray and fast; He just commanded.
In the end, there were two people in that family who were deaf and mute. The father needed Jesus’s help as much as the son did. He needed Jesus’s help to open his ears with the understanding of faith, and to open his mouth with expressions of faith.

We need that too, if we’re going to live a life of depending upon Jesus and denying ourselves. Let us learn to cry out to Him, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!”
In what situation in your life, do you need Jesus to give you the faith to trust that the Lord is doing and will do something wonderful for your good and His glory?
Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or HB379 “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”

Thursday, February 1, 2018

2018.02.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 9:14-29

Questions for Littles: What had Paul heard some people say about God if election and predestination are true (v14)? But what two things does v15 highlight the Lord as being determined to have? What does salvation depend upon (v16)? But how does He glorify Himself in Pharaoh (v17-18)? How does Scripture respond to a sinner who complains about being hardened in his sin (v19-21)? What does v22 say God wanted to show and make known? What does v23 say that God wanted to make known? What kinds of people does He save, despite their not deserving it (v24)? Where had He taught this truth before (v25-26)? How many of the Israelite people had Isaiah said would be saved (v27-29)?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we come to one of the hardest passages of Scripture. It’s actually not that hard to understand—mostly just hard to accept.

We deserve Hell. Not one of us deserves to be saved. In fact, apart from God’s mercy and compassion (v15), there is not one of us who even wishes to be saved, let alone is able to put forth effort to be saved (v16).

One thing that is important to see here is that it is part of the glory of our holy God that He has wrath against wickedness. His wrath is part of His perfection!

But notice how He prioritizes the displays of His perfection. He wills to show His wrath and make known His power (v22), so that He may also show His mercy (v23).

This is the same priority demonstrated in Exodus 34:5-7. Of all His perfections, the Lord seems to like to display His mercy the best!

The same is true for both Jews and Gentiles. No one is saved because of who they are. All who receive salvation do so because of who God is. He gives to us opposite what we deserve!

In fact, the Lord makes this abundantly clear because the people who had the greatest advantages (Israel) are saved in such a manner that it is just a little remainder of them (v27-28), or else they would have been wiped out like Sodom and Gomorrah (v29).
What have you learned today about predestination and election? 
Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or HB282 “God, Be Merciful to Me”

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

2018.01.31 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 13:2-18

Questions for Littles: What was Abram very rich in (v2)? Where did Abram return, after having been rebuked for his trip to Egypt and his conduct there (v3-4)? And what did he do, when he returned to Bethel? What did Lot have (v5)? Why couldn’t they dwell together (v6)? What happened between Abram’s herdsmen and Lot’s herdsmen (v7)? Who wanted this strife to end in v8? What did he propose in v9? What did Lot see about the plain of the Jordan (v10)? Whom did he choose to live there (v11)? Where in the plain did Lot dwell (v12)? Toward where did he pitch is tent? What comment does the Lord make about this place in v13? Who spoke to Abram in v14? What did He promise to him in v14-15? What else did He promise in v16? What did He command Abram in v17? Where did Abram go in v18? What did he do there?
The passage for this week’s Old Testament reading presents to us a humbled Abram. When he comes back to the land to which the Lord had originally commanded him, he goes all the way back to the place that the Lord had brought him at first. And he worships.

In fact, the passage is bookended by worship at Bethel and worship at Mamre. In between, the man who has been humbled before God is also humbled before others.

No longer is he seeking to preserve his own skin by taking advantage. Rather, he is trusting the Lord to take care of him, and avoiding strife by inviting his nephew to have the first pick of the land.

Sadly, Lot sought to improve his earthly circumstances rather than abandoning his wealth to stay with his uncle. Abram wasn’t just family; he was the man to whom and in whom the covenant promises had been made. If it comes down to choosing between a fortune and being with God’s Mediator, then what shall we choose? Lot chose poorly.

Eventually, we find him in the cities of the plain… and at last, alas, toward Sodom! What would come of him and his family from all of this? He would end up losing all of his earthly treasures anyway. And worse things too.

For Abram, however, trusting the Lord is rewarded. We know that Abram could see the plain from his new home (cf. 19:27-28). The Lord promised it all to him, both his area and Lots, and everywhere else!

Here, then, is the choice that faces each of us: live in humble dependence upon the Lord that leads to avoiding strife and enjoying blessing? Or, live for earthly treasure in the moment, slowly sliding toward Sodom?
With whom do you have strife? Before whom should you be humbling yourself as the beginning of a remedy for that strife?
Suggested songs: ARP78A “O Come, My People” or HB89 “The God of Abraham Praise”

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

2018.01.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Samuel 7:3-12

Questions for Littles: To whom was Samuel speaking (v3)? What did he tell them to do with all their hearts? What did they have to put away? What would they need to prepare, if they were to serve the Lord only? What did Samuel promise, as God’s prophet, would happen if they did this (v3)? How do the people respond in v4? Then what does Samuel offer to do in v5? Even though the people have changed their ways, what do they do and say in v6? And what does Samuel do there? What do the Philistines do, when they realize that Israel is gathered in one place (v7)? And what do the people, now all the more, ask Samuel to do in v8? What does Samuel do, first, before he prays in v9? How does this verse describe his praying? What was Samuel doing in v10? How did the Lord respond? What did the Israelites do in v11? What did Samuel set up in v12? 
This week’s Invocation and Confession of sin came from 1Samuel 7:3-12, a point at which the Lord had severely humbled the Israelites. He had killed more than fifty thousand of them. This was so unbelievable that a few Hebrew manuscripts went ahead and deleted the fifty thousand and just left the seventy!

The question in 6:20 is one that we all need to ask: “Who is able to stand before Yahweh, this holy God?” And there are three good answers here.

The first good answer is: those who come to God through His appointed Mediator. Samuel, here, is acting as a prophet, as a priest, and even as a ruler of sorts (a judge). He is a foreshadowing of Jesus. Who is able to stand before the holy God? The one who comes to Him in Jesus.

The second good answer is: those for whom there is an atoning sacrifice. Again, this looks forward to Jesus. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

The third good answer is: certainly not God’s enemies! The holiness of God, and His almighty power, are great comforts to those who belong to Him in Jesus Christ. We know that no enemy, however powerful, can stand before Him.

At some point, every single one of us is actually going to stand before the holy God. Will we do so, as those who are coming to Him through Jesus Christ, our Prophet, Priest, King, and Atoning Sacrifice? Or will it be as an enemy who is about to perish? Lord, bring us to faith in You!
If you were to stand before the Lord, the holy God, today… could you?
Suggested songs: ARP32A-B “What Blessedness” or HB281 “How Blessed Is He Whose Trespass”

Monday, January 29, 2018

2018.01.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 8:1-6

Questions for Littles: Who has the kind of High Priest that v1 describes? Where is He seated? In what sanctuary (holy place) and tabernacle does He serve (v2)? Who erected it? What is every high priest appointed to offer (v3a)? Therefore, which High Priest had to offer something (v3b)? Where do priests offer their gifts according to the [Levitical] law (v4)? Of what were those earthly things a copy and shadow (v5a)? Whom had God shown this pattern on a mountain (v5b)? What kind of ministry has Jesus obtained (v6a)? Of what is He the Mediator (v6b)? Upon what was that covenant established (v6c)?
The Scripture for the sermon this week, we continued to learn about how Jesus ministry in Heaven connects to His church on earth. His once-for-all sacrifice was just part of this amazing ministry.

The Lord Jesus, even seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, continues to offer gifts! We’ve already learned about some of these worship offerings: declaring God’s name to us (2:12a), singing God’s praise in the midst of us (2:12b), offering to God His faith and faithfulness as ours (2:13a), presenting those whom He has redeemed in glory (2:13b), receiving tithes (7:4-10), and offering prayers for us (7:25, cf. 5:7).

Preaching, singing, confessing the faith, tithing, and praying… what does that sound like? Well… it doesn’t sound like animal offerings, grain offerings, drink offerings, oil candles, burning incense, annual festivals, etc. Those things belonged to shadows that were done in a copy.

Now, a shadow and a copy cannot exist without the real thing. And they give a shape, a picture, so that someone who looks at them can have some appreciation for the real thing.

It was always Christ that a true Jewish believer was trusting in—not the copies or shadows themselves. Now that He has come and is making the real offerings in glory, there is no need for the shadows or copies any more.

As we trust in Jesus, and especially every week, as we worship Him and worship through Him, we are celebrating our perfect Mediator!
Instead of celebrating the shadows, what (Whom!) should we celebrate?
Suggested Songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song to the Lord” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”