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Saturday, March 24, 2018

2018.03.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 10:32-39

Questions for Littles: What days does v32 tell us to recall? After they were illuminated, what did they endure? By what were they made a spectacle (v33)? Of whom did they become companions? What did they have upon the writer in his chains (v34)? What did they joyfully accept? What kind of possession did they know that they had in heaven? What are we commanded not to cast away in v35? What do we have need of in v36? After we have done what, will we receive the promise? After a little while, what will happen (v37)? By what does the just man live (v38)? But if a man is not just, and does not have a real faith by which he lives, but instead draws back, in what does the Lord’s soul have no pleasure? Of what group are we not a part (v39)? Who go to perdition? How does it end for those who believe?
In the second half of week’s sermon text, the Scripture instructed us to look back and to look forward.
Look back. The love and zeal that you had at first—do you have it now? Are your treasures in heaven and your pleasures in being identified with Christ? Or is your treasure on earth, so that suffering can rob you of pleasure?

Look forward. Yet a little while, and Jesus will come and not delay. Does confidence in that day have you pressing forward and enduring? Does belonging to the Master have you doing His will while you wait for His return?

This is one way that we can gauge whether we are drawing back or enduring: look back and look forward. If you are beyond where you were, and still straining forward to where you will be, then you are enduring.

But, what if you look back in time and find that you once lived as someone who values Christ above all, but now would much rather be comfortable and complacent rather than devoted and suffering?

Repent! Behold Christ and His glory all over again! How? Where? By the means described in v19-25. Renew your commitment to visiting heaven with the congregation each Lord’s Day, and to the fellowship in which we stir one another up to the love and good works that serve our Master!
For what kinds of things do you miss Lord’s Day worship? What kind of fellowship do you try to have on the Lord’s Day? How do you try for it?
Suggested Songs: ARP184 “Adoration and Submission” or HB29 “O Come and Sing unto the Lord”

Friday, March 23, 2018

2018.03.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 11:12-26

Questions for Littles: Who was hungry in v12? What did He see from afar (v13)? What didn’t He find upon it? What does Jesus say to it (v14)? Who heard Him? To where did they come in v15? Where did Jesus go? Whom did He drive out? What did He overturn? What would Jesus not allow in v16? Then what did He do to them (beginning of v17)? What did He teach them that the temple was to be called? For whom was it to be a house of prayer? When Jesus expected to find this fruit on it, what did He find instead? What did the scribes and chief priests want to do to Jesus (v18)? Why didn’t they? In the morning on their way back into the city, what did they see (v20)? What does Peter say (v21)? What does Jesus command them to have in v22? Which mountain does He tell them that God will remove if they ask (v23)? What are we to believe, regardless of what we ask in prayer (v24)? What must we always have done before we pray (v25)? What won’t God do, if we do not forgive (v26, cf. Mt 6:15, 18:35)?
In the Gospel reading this week, we come upon a sobering passage about the Lord’s rejection of the Mosaic covenant.

In Judges 9:11, Jotham had referred to Israel as a fig tree, and Jesus picked up this word picture for Israel earlier in His ministry in Luke 13:6-9. There, He specifically referred to it as planted in a vineyard, picking up one of the most well-known metaphors for God’s displeasure with Israel’s unfaithfulness in Isaiah 5.

When we take those things into account, it becomes clear why vv15-19 are sandwiched on both sides by the cursing of the fig tree and the Lord’s teaching about it. Israel was supposed to have been a light to the nations. v17 quotes Isaiah 56:7 which is picking up a theme from Isaiah 45:14.

Jesus isn’t having a supernatural temper tantrum about missing out on a figgy breakfast… it wasn’t even the season for figs. What He is hungry for most of all is to do His Father’s work of gathering in the nations (cf. John 4:27-42)! The nation of Israel is the fig tree, and that is the fruit that was missing and the reason for their rejection.

What’s frightening for the apostles is that as they climb up Mt. Zion into Jerusalem, at the top of that mountain is an impressive physical structure, political structure, and religious hierarchical structure. And the powers at the top of that mountain are all trying to destroy Jesus.

The promise about the mountain is not about excavation of dirt but rather success of the great commission. Have you ever noticed that v23 refers to this mountain? It’s referring to the temple mount! How will the apostles topple it? They won’t. Jesus will, in response to their prayers.

It’s better to read v24 without supplying the direct objects, “whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive, and you will have.” These things are being asked for in a context: the mission of the church. And Christ WILL build His church!

One last thing: such dependence is essential because we come to Christ not as those who do so by works and stumble over Him, but as those who are needy of forgiveness. We cannot afford to be works-based, which means we too must be a forgiving people (v25-26). Let no man think that he is about the business of the kingdom if he shows not the forgiveness of the King!
What’s your part in the Great Commission? For what do you pray? Whom do you need to forgive?
Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or HB381 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength”

Thursday, March 22, 2018

2018.03.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 13:1-10

Questions for Littles: To whom must every soul be subject (v1)? From where does all authority come? Who has appointed the particular authorities that exist? Whose ordinance does one resists if he resists authority (v2)? What do those who resist bring upon themselves? To what kind of works are rulers not a terror (v3)? To what kind are they a terror? What question does v3 ask? How does it answer? What does God use the authority as a minister for to do to us (v4)? But if we do evil, what is he God’s minister to do to us? For what two reasons must we be subject to authority (v5)? Why do we pay taxes (v6)? In v7, what three things are due unto various entities? What debt can we never fully pay off (v8)? What does someone fulfill if he loves another? What commandments are mentioned in v9? In what saying are they summed up? What does “love” use as a definition of what is harmful?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we move from relationships in the church to relationships in the State.
Notice that there is no idea here of “natural law.” No, in the State, God is King every bit as much as in the church, and the law that defines and governs “good,” “evil,” and “love of neighbor” is the explicit commandments of God from Scripture.

Now, we know that as far as the rulers themselves go, v3 often does not appear to be true. Many wicked authorities have punished the good and rewarded the evil. But, isn’t that the point? They are not the ultimate authority. Despite themselves, God will use them (and even their wickedly intended sins) to do God to His people, and to bring wrath and vengeance upon the wicked.

This is why we must be subject to authorities—not just because of what they might do to us, but because we know that ultimately, it is God Himself with whom we have to deal, and it is therefore necessary to keep a clear conscience. Both they and we will answer to Him!

This is also why we cannot refuse to pay taxes based upon the idea that the money belongs to God and not man. God Himself has established government not only by His law, but also in His providence (v1). It is true that all of our money belongs to God, which is why we must pay taxes to the entities that God has established. And customs (revenue). And respect. And honor.

Do we find this idea unpleasant? The let us repent and remember that the Lord who gave Himself for us is the One who has appointed to us the time and place of our dwelling. Serving Him here and now—even in the paying of taxes—is His appointment to us. So, let us fulfill that appointment with diligence and joy!
Who are the authorities set over you? What do you owe to them? Are you doing so?
Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or HB496 “Jesus Shall Reign”

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

2018.03.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 18:16-33

Questions for Littles: Who rise and look toward Sodom in v16? But who is the One going and looking in v20-21? And whom does v22 say went? And whom does v33 identify as having stayed behind to talk with Abraham? According to v19, what was Abaraham’s part in the bringing about of what God had promised him? What does Abraham keep asking the Lord? How does the Lord keep responding?   
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, it is very clear that all three “men” who had visited Abraham were themselves an appearance of the Lord.

Liberal (unbelieving) scholars will tell us that this cannot be an indication of the Trinity, because such an idea did not yet exist. But, we know that the Holy Spirit is ultimately the author of Scripture. The Trinity is not merely an idea but a reality that has always existed—quite literally, from all eternity.
What is amazing is not so much that God is manifesting Himself here, but what He is doing as He manifests Himself.

Does God really need to go on an investigative trip? Of course not. This is all grace. Grace to Lot to get him out of Sodom. Grace to Abraham to stir him up to prayer for the Lord’s people wherever they might be.

And grace to us to give us a window into the mind and heart of God who so patiently bears with the wicked for the sake of His saving plan to send Christ into the world.

Of course, the life that Abraham lives by this amazing grace is amazingly… ordinary. He prays for the community around him. He has been brought into close relationship with God (v19) in order that… “he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of Yahweh to do righteousness and justice.”

Praying for others. Leading his family in godliness. That was “the stuff” of being God’s special man. And it still is. God grant unto us faithfulness in such gloriously ordinary lives!
For whom do you pray that is coming under judgment? What ordinary service unto the Lord and others has God appointed for you these days?
Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

2018.03.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 24

Questions for Littles: To whom does the earth belong (v1)? How much of the fullness of what it contains belongs to Him? What else belongs to Him? Who else belong to Him? Why—what has the Lord done to the earth (v2)? What questions does v3 ask? How does v4 answer? What two things does v5 say He receives? From whom does He receive them? What does v6 call the generation of those who seek God? What commands do v7 and 9 give? To whom? What questions do v8 and 10 ask? What answer do they give? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer of Invocation and Confession of Sin came from Psalm 24, which have to do with the worthiness of God, and the worthiness required of those who would come near to Him.

First, the Lord is worthy of everything because He made everything. Every single thing belongs to Him. Every single person belongs to Him.

So, He is worthy of worship that is absolutely perfect. But are we worthy to give Him that worship? If we look at the criteria in v4, we have to answer that we are not!

The clean hands in v4 are not our hands. The pure heart is not our heart. The faithfully devoted soul and reliably true lips are not ours either. We know this to be true because of our Scriptural theology and personal experience, but we can also see it in the fanfare in vv7-10.

The One who is ascending the hill of Yahweh to stand in His holy place is Yahweh of hosts, the King of glory Himself! For Him, the gates are to lift up their heads. For Him, the everlasting doors are to be lifted up. He is the Champion, returning from battle!

On this side of the cross, it is not so difficult to know how this can be. The LORD Himself became a man, our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. His hands have always been perfectly clear. His heart pure. His soul faithful. His lips true.

We are His and belong to Him by faith—by seeking Christ, and in Christ seeking the very face of God. And Christ has received for us blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of our salvation.

Christ alone is worthy, and we must cling to Him alone as all of our worthiness!
What kind of worship does God deserve? How are you going to give it to Him?
Suggested songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or HB187 “All Glory, Laud, and Honor”

Monday, March 19, 2018

2018.03.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 10:26-31

Questions for Littles: How might one sin, even after he knows the truth (v26)? What, then, no longer remains for him if he does so? What certain, fearful expectation would he have (v27)? What will devour God’s adversaries? For rejecting whose law did people die without mercy (v28)? How does the punishment for rejecting the gospel compare (v29)? When someone rejects the gospel, Whom do they trample underfoot? What do they treat as a common thing? What have they done to the Spirit? Who says, “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay” (v30)? Who will judge His people? What kind of thing is it if you fall into the hands of the living God (v31)?  
In the sermon this week, we moved from last week’s great privilege and duty to an equally great warning.

Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. But, if we will not glorify God by enjoying Him, we will still most certainly bring glory to His infinite perfections—not just His justice and holiness, but also even His love.

How great is God’s love, that He has given us His Son! And therefore, if we know that He did so, and still are not battling against our sin, God’s wrath will glorify His love by devouring us in fiery indignation.

How great is God’s love, that He has brought us into everlasting covenant with Himself, and that by His own blood! And therefore, if we know that He did so, and still are not battling against our sin, God’s wrath will glorify His love by devouring us in fiery indignation.

How great is God’s love, that He has given us His own Spirit to work in us by His own strength! And therefore, if we know that He did so, and still are not battling against our sin, God’s wrath will glorify His love by devouring us in fiery indignation.

We see now how vital it is that we employ Christ’s appointed means for battling sin: gathering for Lord’s Day worship to hold fast to Him together, and being called alongside one another to stir up love and good deeds.

Some say, “A loving God would not have fiery indignation that devours.” But, it is precisely because sinners are scorning and rejecting this infinitely glorious love that justice demands “fiery indignation which will devour.”

But: back to His love. This passage does not come to us with arms folded, “See what you deserve?” Rather, it comes to us with arms extended, “See how much I love you that I designed the worship and fellowship of the church for your good?”

The real question for us is: what use will we make of these means that He has so lovingly provided?
How can you tell whether you are genuinely devoted to Lord’s Day worship and fellowship?
Suggested Songs: ARP184 “Adoration and Submission” or HB70 “O Day of Rest and Gladness”