Saturday, March 17, 2018

2018.03.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 10:23-25

Questions for Littles: What should we do with the confession of our hope (v23)? Without what should we hold fast? Why should we hold fast without wavering (end of v23)? Whom should we consider (v24)? In order to stir up what? What must we not forsake (v25)? As we see the Day approaching how much should we exhort one another? 
Has it ever crossed your mind that “all I need is Jesus; I don’t need the church”?
If there were ever a place in Scripture that we might think to find such thinking, the book of Hebrews would be it.

Here we have Jesus declared in all of His unique glory as being in very nature God Himself. Here we have Jesus, even with respect to His human nature being the only possible Priest for us, the only effective sacrifice for us, the One in whom we are certain to be completely forgiven and saved to the uttermost.

It is by His blood alone that we are emboldened to draw near to God. It is by the pathway alone of His flesh that we are enabled to draw near to God. It is by baptism into Him alone that our hearts are unburdened from an evil conscience.

Jesus alone! Jesus alone! Jesus alone! How wonderful it is, therefore, that this is the very passage in which He says most clearly, “But it is My will and My way that you do not have Me by being alone!”

He has called us to be alongside one another. This is the literal meaning of that word “exhorting” in v25. Sometimes it is translated exhort, sometimes comfort, or encourage, or counsel, or rebuke. It is the word that Christ uses of the Spirit, when He says that He will send another “Comforter.”

Gathering as the church is not optional. On these Lord’s Days, in which He does that Word-work on softened-hearted believers, He points us to that great Day of entering His rest. He announces His work, and calls forth our love. He tells us His will, and calls forth our works.

It is in the Lord’s Day assembly that Jesus has especially appointed for us to draw near to God in the Holy of Holies. It is in the Lord’s-Supper-celebrating assembly of the baptized that Jesus has especially appointed for us to hold fast to our confession, to hold fast to Him.

What a good command and glorious gift are these Lord’s Day assemblies. Let us not forsake the assembling of ourselves together!!
What are some reasons that you are tempted to miss church? Why shouldn’t you?
Suggested Songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or HB435 “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”

Friday, March 16, 2018

2018.03.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 10:46-11:11

Questions for Littles: Where had they come, and from where were they now leaving (v46)? Who was with Him? What was blind Bartimaeus doing? Whom did he hear was going by (v47)? What did he call Jesus? What did he ask Jesus to do? What did people warn him to do (v48)? How did he respond? What did Jesus do when He heard Bartimaeus (v49)? What did Jesus ask him in v51? What did Bartimaeus say? What does Jesus say made him well? Where had Jesus commanded him to go? Where does he go instead? When they reach the Mount of Olives, what does He send two disciples to get (11:1-6)? What do the disciples do to the colt for Jesus to sit on (v7)? What do the people do with their clothes and the branches for Jesus to ride on (v8)? What did the people cry out in v9-10? What does Jesus do at the temple in v11? Where does He then go and why?
In this week’s gospel reading, if we pay careful attention, we will notice the way of salvation: faith in Jesus Christ as the promised forever-King.

Last week’s passage had ended with “The Son of Man… came to give His life a ransom for many.” Now, in v52 Jesus literally says, “Your faith has saved you,” and then in vv9-10 the people are crying “Hosanna!,” which literally means “O, save!” 

But it is not just the truth of salvation that draws these passages together. They are also held together by the truth about how that salvation comes.

The son of Timaeus is interested in someone else’s parentage. He doesn’t refer to Jesus as Teacher or even Lord, but as Son of David. He recognizes that Jesus is that forever-King promised to David in 2Samuel 7. When Jesus heals him and tells him to go his own way, there is only one way that Bartimaeus wishes to go: whichever way Jesus, his forever-King, leads.

Then, in chapter 11, it is obvious that the people are treating Jesus as a King. The implication in the colt hunt is that there are people who now recognize that everything in the kingdom ought to be at the King’s disposal. The disciples consider Jesus too royal to ride bare upon an animal’s back. The people consider Jesus too royal for His steed’s hooves to touch the bare ground.

Why all this kingly treatment? v10 explains, “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that comes in the name of the Lord!” Here again is the recognition that this is the forever-King of 2Samuel 7, Psalm 72, Psalm 2, etc.

I wonder, dear reader, if you are responding to Jesus as King? Surely, the first step is to believe in Him with similar faith to that which saved Bartimaeus. But are we going wherever He leads? Is His wish our command? Do we treat Him as royalty, offering that honor and homage and worship that is due unto Him? Is He our KING?!
In what way could you most improve responding to Jesus as your King?
Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or HB496 “Jesus Shall Reign”

Thursday, March 15, 2018

2018.03.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 12:14-21

Questions for Littles: What are we to do with those who persecute us (v14a)? What are we not to do (v14b)? What are we to do with those who rejoice (v15a)? What are we to do with those who weep (15b)? What kind of mind are we to seek to have together (16a)? With whom should we be willing to associate (16b)? What are we not to think of ourselves (16c)? What are we not to repay (v17)? To whom are we to provide good things? What are we to do if possible (v18)? What are we not to do (v19)? To whom does vengeance belong? What are we to do with our enemy (v20)? What does this end up doing upon him? What does good like this do to evil (v21)? 
In our epistle reading this week, we rapidly receive many commands.

They are simple commands, but that is not the same thing as easy commands!

When someone persecutes us, we have an assignment from God: speak well of them.

When our brother or sister rejoices, we have an assignment from God: rejoice with them.

When our brother weeps, we have an assignment from God: weep with them.

When someone does us evil, we have an assignment from God: provide them good things in the sight of all men.

When someone is hostile to us, we have an assignment from God: do what we rightly can to be at peace with them.

If our enemy is hungry, we have an assignment from God: feed him.

If our enemy is thirsty, we have an assignment from God: give him drink.

This is not surrender but overcoming: stirring up the wrath of God more against the enemy, if he does not repent.

The key to all of this is to be of the same mind to one another—that we don’t view ourselves as higher and some others as lower, but exercise humility.

Of course, the startling thing here is the “one another” of v15. This implies that v14 did not abruptly begin a new section on how to deal with people outside the church. Rather, v14-21 is recognizing that there will be people who treat us like this from within the church!

So, let us not be surprised when what God has warned actually happens! Instead, let us realize that this is part of being in a group of sinners, and let us recognize that the Lord has given us a bunch of simple (not easy!) commands for what to do. Our assignment is clear!
Which of these “assignments” have you been neglecting? What are you going to do about it?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

2018.03.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 18:1-15

Questions for Littles: Who appeared to Abraham by the terebinth trees of Mamre (v1a)? How many men does Abraham see, when the Lord visits (v2)? What does Abraham do? What does he ask the Lord not to do (v3)? What does Abraham propose to do for the Lord in v4? What does he propose to do in v5? How much does he propose to bring to them? What does he command Sarah to prepare (v6)? What else does he run to have prepared in v7? What does he take along with this food in v8? What does the Lord ask in v9? What does the Lord promise about Sarah in v10? How does Sarah respond to this promise in v11-12? How does the Lord respond in v13-14? How does Sarah respond to His response in v15? 
In our Old Testament reading this week, Abraham is in a hurry to serve the Lord. v2, he ran. v6, he hurried. He told Sarah to make the cakes quickly. He ran to the herd. The young man hastened to prepare the calf.

It’s a flurry of activity. Also, in good Middle Eastern style, the “bit of bread” that he proposed to bring them ends up being a feast suitable to roughly thirty people.

But Abraham, of course, becomes an example of the old adage, “You cannot out-give God.” By the time our passage is over, God has promised that Sarah herself would bear a child for Abraham within a year’s time.

This is where things get weird. Not so much that Sarah laughs in unbelief. We can all probably understand that, though we should not excuse it. But apparently Sarah’s view of God’s capability is rather small indeed. For, when He asks why she laughed, she actually denies having done so!

So, Sarah doesn’t just disbelieve that God can make her to bear the promised son. In fact, she starts an argument with God that presupposes that He does not know all things in all places at all times!

How ridiculous we sinners are, that we would even start an argument with God Himself! But how great is God’s mercy unto us—especially through the promised Son. Not just Isaac, but Jesus who at last would come from him.

God grant to us faith to believe His promises, and humility to hold our tongues!
What promise(s) of God have you had a hard time believing lately?
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or HB104 “The Lord’s My Shepherd”

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

2018.03.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 103:1-5

Questions for Littles: What or whom is the Psalmist commanding to bless the Lord (v1)? With how much of what is within him is he to obey this command? How many times does he give himself this command (v2a)? What is he not to forget (v2b)? What is the first benefit not to forgive (v3a)? What is the second (3b)? The third (4a)? The fourth (4b)? What is one of the tender mercies of God (5a)? What effect does it have (5b)?
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of Sin came from Psalm 103:1-5.

In this passage, the Psalmist teaches and models for us proper self-talk, as he does elsewhere in the psalter (cf. Ps 42-43). And one of the most important things to tell ourselves is to remember to give praise and thanks to God with our whole being!

Of course, God is worthy of all praise, just because He is God. But that is not the only reason that He has given to us for praising Him. He does much to us and for us that is useful to our souls in stirring up praise unto Him.

The first and greatest benefit of God is the forgiveness of all of our sins. What use could anything else be without forgiveness?

But this is followed immediately by His healing all of our diseases, all of our sicknesses. We are, after all, both body and soul. And the Lord takes complete care of both. Just as many of our sins as He has forgiven, so also that many of our diseases He heals.

Those who promise the “health and wealth” gospel do not promise too much. They promise too little. They promise something that will again be taken away when the time comes for us to die. That is so much smaller than the disease-healing that is actually promised in the gospel.

Every believer in Jesus Christ must necessarily be resurrected in order to enjoy and praise the Lord, both body and soul, forever and ever. There is not a single disease or sickness in that comes into the life of a believer except that it is the Lord’s plan that it end not in death but in resurrection!

Truly, then, does v4 say, “who redeems your life from destruction.” This is both destruction in the ultimate sense (the Lord has redeemed us from death and Hell), and also in a current and ongoing sense. The Lord grants unto us to live in love and service to Him, and He is pleased to make us agents not of destruction but of blessing to others around us and even to the glory of His Name.

Every day, God pours out upon us His lovingkindness (covenant love) and tender mercies. Indeed, every meal that we eat, and every time we feel physically refreshed, it is one more installment of those love-gifts that stream continuously from that same love by which we are forgiven and shall at last be resurrected.

Let us learn to remember ALL of His benefits, so that we will continuously rest in and rejoice over His covenant love to us… so that we will bless His holy Name with our whole soul!
What opportunities do you have to remember the Lord’s benefits and bless His Name?
Suggested songs: ARP103A “O, Bless the Lord, My Soul” or HB8 “Bless, O My Soul, the Living God”

Monday, March 12, 2018

2018.03.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 10:19-22

Questions for Littles: Where do we have boldness to enter (v19)? By what do we have this boldness? What kind of way has Jesus consecrated for us to enter (20a)? What is the way through the veil (20b)? What do we have over the house of God (v21)? With what kind of heart may we draw near (22a)? From what were our hearts sprinkled, to be prepared for this (22b)? What also was washed to show this reality (22c)? 
In this week’s sermon text, we receive a call to action: “let us draw near!” We can see at the beginning of our passage the great obstacle to drawing near to God: timidity about entering the Holy of Holies. Nearness to God is nearness to the Creator, the Almighty, the Holy One.

Scripture tells us that He dwells in unapproachable light (1Timothy 6:16), that His eyes are too holy to look upon evil (Habakkuk 1:13), and that even seraphim who are living flame creatures hide their faces before Him (Isaiah 6:1-5).

Oh, dear reader, can you who are mere dust, and sinful dust at that, really draw near to the Living, Almighty God?!

Here is the glorious testimony of our passage: we have encouragement to do so from the very path that has been opened for us.

What is our pathway beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies? The flesh of Jesus Christ. Not dead flesh but resurrected, living flesh. A new and living way. His flesh is the very evidence that He is there not so much on God’s behalf; but, by God’s appointment, Jesus is there on our behalf as our High Priest.

And, as we have heard, He entered not with the blood of a bull or goat, but by His own precious blood. From there, He offers us to feed upon His flesh by faith. From there, He offers us to drink the cup of the new covenant in His blood. From there, He announces our welcome in Heaven.

We are joined to Jesus forever by faith. We are seated with Him in the heavenly places!

But, how do we walk upon this pathway? Feeding upon Him is not with the mouth of flesh, but faith is the mouth that feeds upon Christ. So, also, faith is the feet by which we enter through the veil. Our passage says that this drawing near is “with a true heart” and explains this further as being “in full assurance of faith.”

So, I may draw near to God upon the pathway that is Jesus Himself, and the manner of walking on this pathway is with “a true heart.” How do I get this true heart? Our Scripture answers this too: by its being “sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with cleansing water.” That is to say: the sprinkled, true heart is the one that has believed what God proclaims in the sign of baptism… that everyone who believes in Jesus shall surely be saved.

When we come in this certainty alone, we come in a true heart. So, let us draw near to God!
Have you been baptized? What does Jesus announce in that baptism? Do you believe it?
Suggested Songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or HB24 “All People That on Earth Do Dwell”