Saturday, March 31, 2018

2018.03.31 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 11:4-7

Questions for Littles: Who offered to God a sacrifice by faith (v4)? Whose sacrifice was it more excellent than? What else did he obtain through the faith displayed in the sacrifice? Who testified about his offerings? What does Abel still do, even though he is dead? By what was Enoch taken away (v5)? What didn’t Enoch see? What witness did Enoch have about himself? Without faith, what can’t we do to God (v6)? What two things must we believe about God? Of whom is He a rewarder? Of what had Noah been warned (v7)? What did he move with, by faith? What did he prepare? For whose saving did he prepare it? Whom did this condemn? Of what did he become an heir instead?
In the second half of this week’s sermon text, we began to hear about the people of old and their faith.

The first example is Abel. By faith, he offered a more excellent sacrifice than Cain? We know from other Scriptures what his believing offering looked like. He gave of his first and best. And he offered the same kind of sacrifice that God had done, in order to clothe them with animal skins.

All of that to say is that: (a) he treated God as real and rewarder (cf. v6), and (b) he treated God Himself as his greatest reward. As v4 points out, we can be certain that Abel was counted righteous through this faith, because God Himself witnesses and testifies to it.

The next example is Enoch, from Genesis 5. This verse gives us the Holy Spirit’s own authoritative interpretation of what Gen 5:22-23 mean when they tell us that Enoch “walked with God.” That is to say: he pleased God, because he knew that God is real and that God is a Rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

Finally, Noah believed that God is real. Real enough and angry enough that if He says to build an ark to save his family, Noah’s going to spend a century doing it! When it says that he “condemned the world,” it doesn’t just mean that “he made the world look bad.” We can tell this, because v7 follows that phrase up by saying that Noah “became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” In other words, Noah valued something as being even better than the whole cosmos.

What did Noah look for to become his inheritance? The same thing (One!) of whom Enoch’s entire life was a walking with Him. The same thing (One!) who was so valuable to Abel that he gladly did away with the first and best of his flock for him.

I hope you have seen where this is going, dear reader. The faith that is being described in this chapter—the faith in which we persist, unto salvation—is faith that takes God at His Word, that believes that He is real, and that believes that He rewards those who give themselves to seeking Him. This faith counts God Himself as His own greatest reward.

Is He that to you?
If God Himself is His own greatest reward for you, how does that change how you spend your time? Your money? What you want out of life?
Suggested Songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB126 “In Sweet Communion”

Friday, March 30, 2018

2018.03.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 11:27-12:12

Questions for Littles: To where did they come again in v27? Where was Jesus walking? Who came to Him? What did they ask Him (v28)? What did Jesus tell them they would have to do if they wanted Him to answer them (v29)? What does He ask them (v30)? Why didn’t they want to say “from heaven” (v31)? Why didn’t they want to say “from men” (v32)? So, what do they answer (v33)? And what does Jesus say? In what did Jesus then begin to speak to them (12:1)? What is this parable about? Where does the owner of the vineyard go? What does he do at vintage-time, when there should be grapes ready (v2)? What do they do to the servant (v3)? What do they do with the second servant (v4)? And the third (v5)? How many sons did the owner have (v6)? What did the vinedressers say among themselves in v7? What do they do to the son (v8)? What does Jesus say that the owner will do in v9? What Scripture quote does He say in v10-11? About whom did the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders know that Jesus had spoken this parable?
In the Gospel reading this week, we are starting to feel the buildup of pressure that leads to the cross. The chief priests, the scribes, and the elders have all joined forces now. The scribes and the elders were very hostile to Rome, while the chief priests were very friendly to Rome, who had permitted them to continue operating the temple. The others saw the priests as sellouts.

But, these groups can finally agree on something. They hate Jesus and want to destroy Him. When they come and ask the question about authority, it is a catch-22 for Jesus. If He claims a divine authority to act against the temple order, as currently overseen by Rome, it would be a crime of rebellion against Rome, and punishable by death.

If He somehow claimed Roman authority to do it, then the scribe/elder party would consider his sellout on the level of blasphemy for desecrating the temple, and they would execute Jesus for that. In the end, this was, indeed, the charge that they were trying to line up (false!) testimony to prove--that Jesus had spoken against the temple and Moses. But Jesus confessed Himself to be the Son of God, and so they based the blasphemy charges upon that instead.

In the parable, Jesus exposes just how bad this really is. They know that He is from God. The very thing that they are trying to get Him to admit is that God has invested Him with His own authority to give God the fruit that He has always sought from Israel.

They know, and they want to destroy Him anyway. But notice who is afraid, and who is in control here. They come to trap Jesus with a question, and He traps them with one instead. They are out to destroy Jesus, but Jesus is not the One who is afraid. Rather, twice it says that they are afraid of the people/multitude.

Jesus is in control, and that’s super-important.

It means that the cross was not some tragic miscalculation or accident. It was not the Jews or the Romans or even the Devil overpowering Jesus. It was Jesus, intentionally, in-control, laying down His life for His people. It is so important, dear reader, that you see how powerful and in-control Jesus is, as He goes to the cross. Behold Him who laid down His life for sinners!
When have you felt out of control? Who is really in control of that? What else has He done for you, of which He was in complete control? What does this mean He is doing now?
Suggested songs: ARP118D “Now Open Wide the Gates” or HB437 “The Church’s One Foundation”

Thursday, March 29, 2018

2018.03.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 13:11-14

Questions for Littles: What is it time to do (v11)? What is nearer now than when we first believed (11b)? What is far spent (v12)? What is at hand? What should we cast off? What should we put on? How should we walk (v13)? What six things, specifically, are ways that we must not walk? What (whom!) must we put on to be able to do this (v14)? For what should we make no provision? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we learn something very important: salvation is more than being forgiven.

Of course, it must start there. God’s holiness, justice, and wrath will not permit us to receive any lasting or glorious good, as long as we are still guilty of our sins! And even He did permit it, what value would any other good have to us, if we still eternally perished?

Yes. Salvation starts with forgiveness. But it includes so much more. That is why v11 tells us that our salvation is actually nearer than when we first believed. Our salvation includes enjoying every good thing that Christ has earned for us.

And that means not just entrance into glory, but that the Lord would make us fit for that glory before we enter. Amazingly, God gives us a participation in this work of making us gloriously ready for heaven.

  1. Cast off the works of darkness. We see some of them listed here. Revelry and drunkenness, lewdness and lust… wicked! Of course these must be cast off as soon as possible! But notice the last two. Strife. Envy. These are in the same category as drunkenness, lewdness, and lust? God help us to give as little offense as possible, take as little offense as possible, and rejoice well with those who rejoice, and mourn well with those who mourn!!
  2. Put on Christ. Praise God that He has given us not just the “what” to do but the “how”… by putting on the Lord Jesus Christ. In other words: you know that your salvation comes from being united to Him. Now, continually remember that union, and be mindful of Him wherever you go. Get so accustomed to thinking of Christ that any moment in which you are not doing so is one in which you feel as if you were naked.
  3. Starve the flesh. The remaining sin from our former nature is a ravenously hungry beast. There is only one cure for such aggressive impulses. Starve them. Don’t make even a little wiggle room. Make. No. Provision. STARVE IT!

What sins have you been committing that you need to starve to death?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or HB310 “Take My Life, and Let it Be”

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

2018.03.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 19:1-11

Questions for Littles: To where did the two angels come (v1)? What time was it? Where was Lot? How did he respond? Where did he ask them to spend the night (v2)? Where did they say they would spend the night? When did he suggest that they should then leave? Who won the argument (v3)? What did he do for them? Who came and surrounded the house (v4)? What did they want Lot to give them (v5)? Where did Lot go to talk (v6)? What does he call the people of Sodom in v7? What does he offer to give them in v8? What does he say the men of the city may do to them? What did they say they were about to do to him—then actually begin to do—in v9? Who end up saving Lot in v10? What do they do to the men of the city in the doorway (v11)?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we have the unfolding of the tragedy of Lot.
When he first pitched his tent toward Sodom, we wondered why he hadn’t just sold off some of his herd and valued being with God’s chosen man above having more earthly stuff.

Now, there’s no tent anymore. There’s a door. And, it turns out to be quite a necessary door… for an unnecessary situation. It would not have come to this for Lot if he hadn’t actually become a part of Sodom. He has a house in the city now. He calls the men of the city his brethren.

Yes, he pleads with them not to do evil, and the Holy Spirit tells us later, through Peter, that Lot’s righteous soul was tormented daily in that place.

But still, he's there. And look at how his situation has affected him! Can you imagine this man, whose duty it was to protect and defend not just his guests, but especially his daughters, with his own life… and he offers to bring them out to be abused by the men of the city of Sodom?!

He should rather have given himself up than do that to his daughters.

Sadly, the account of how his parenting affected his daughters is not going to get better, but only worse.

When we are overconfident in our spiritual ability, we fail like Lot did. Not only had he inched his way into the city, while thinking he could do so as a “missionary,” but even in our passage we see the ironic reversal: the “men” whom he had sought to protect end up having to be the ones to protect him!

Let us not put ourselves—and especially our families—in situations where their lives are spent under a saturation of devilish influence. Whatever ministry we conduct to the world, let us make sure that love to God is the hallmark of our primary companions and indeed the pervasive atmosphere of our entire homes.

And let us be grateful that our Redeemer is the One who was so patient and merciful, even with someone who had messed up as bad and for as long as Lot had.
How has pride gotten you into spiritual or earthly trouble? How do you fight it?
Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

2018.03.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 53:1-6

Questions for Littles: What two questions do v1 ask? With what word does v2 begin? So, what is this report that is the revelation of God’s saving arm? Like what kind of plant would the Messiah grow (2a)? Out of what kind of ground (2b)? What does v2 assure us would not be true about the Messiah physically? How would men treat Him (v3a)? What would He experience (v3b)? How would we respond to His sorrow and grief? But whose grief and sorrow is He actually carrying (v4)? And who, would men think, was punishing the Messiah? But for whose transgressions was He wounded (5a)? For whose iniquities was He bruised? For whose peace was He chastised? Whom did He heal by His stripes? What had we done (v6)? And who was it that laid our guilt upon the Messiah instead?
This week’s Prayer for Help and Confession of Sin came from Isaiah 53:1-6.

It is easy to see why these verses work so well for both of those purposes.

First, v1 is a perfect verse for a prayer for help in worship. It reminds us that in worship, when God’s Word is announced, His strong arm of salvation is being put on display. But it also reminds us that the ability to believe the Word as it is taught and preached is not something that we automatically have. In fact, God has to supernaturally give us the ability to believe!

Then, vv2-6 are some Scripture verses that perhaps, of the entire Bible, lend themselves most easily to a confession of sin. Look at how great our sin is, in what it cost. Sorrow! Grief! The striking and wounding and bruising of God! Chastisement! Stripes!

But don’t just look at what our salvation from sin cost. Look at Whom it costed those things!! Here is the ugliness of our sin best seen—

And what a rich mercy that we get to see our sin most clearly, precisely in the very picture of the love and salvation of Christ for sinners. For, we may gaze at this picture without minimizing the greatness of our guilt upon the one hand, but also without despairing over that greatness on the other.

The Lord has laid upon Him our iniquity!
When did you last consider your sin in light of the cross?
Suggested songs: ARP22A “My God, My God” or HB194 “O Sacred Head Now Wounded”

Monday, March 26, 2018

2018.03.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 11:1-3

Questions for Littles: Of what is faith the substance (v1)? Of what is faith the evidence? What did the elders obtain by faith (v2)? What does v3 say that we understand by faith? By what were the worlds framed? Of what were the things which are seen not made?  
In the sermon text this week, we thought a lot about faith. This is a subject that we want to know about, since the previous passage told us that there are two options for us: drift away and be lost, or persist in faith and be saved.

So, we want very much to know what this faith is, and the Holy Spirit immediately begins to tell us. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.”

Now, it’s important for us to understand that the word translated “hope” here isn’t a word that means uncertainty. In English we often say that we “hope” for something, when we mean that it is very unlikely, but we still wish it would happen.

But the Greek word is almost exactly the opposite. It means to be so sure of something that we do not see (usually because it hasn’t happened yet), that we can already enjoy its reality even though we don’t see it with our eyes (cf. Rom 5:1-4; Rom 8:24-25).

So, it is pretty strong for v1 to tell us that faith is the “substance” of this. A better word for “substance” is the word “assurance,” or “certainty,” or “confidence.” Hope is the enjoyment of the unseen thing’s certainty. Faith is the certainty of the unseen thing that we enjoy.

How is it the certainty of the unseen thing? Faith has verified it. Now, you can see how this is very different than what people call “blind faith.” “Blind faith” is to accept something without verification. The Scripture here says that biblical faith, saving faith, is exactly the opposite.

That’s difficult for us to understand, because we trust our eyes too much. We aren’t willing to accept alternate forms of verification. But the fact of the matter is that there is something more reliable by which something can be verified, even than if we could see it: the very word of God!

Most of the rest of the chapter will give examples of v2—how the people of old received their commendation by faith in God’s Word. But before moving onto that, v3 challenges us immediately on the doctrine of creation.

The Bible starts off with a great miracle that cannot be verified by sight. In fact, there is no theory of where things came from that can be verified by sight. Even the anti-theistic theories of men, in order to say something about origins, have to come up with very different and impossible circumstances that stretch the imagination.

The question for us is: are we willing to accept God’s Word as verification? Or, will we instead blindly believe some other theory from someone who was not there? The “we” in v3 is the “we” from 10:39. It has to be, because creation is not the biggest miracle in the Bible.

The incarnation. Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross. Christ’s bodily resurrection. His ascension into glory. His current, physical session (sitting) at the right hand of the majesty in glory. All of these are far greater miracles than the creation of everything from nothing.

Yet, without these, there simply is no such thing as a Christian and no hope for salvation at all.

Are you part of the “we” who accept God’s Word as the most reliable form of verification?
Who is someone that you know who doesn’t accept God’s Word as verification? What do they accept instead? What is an example of why that thing is not reliable?
Suggested Songs: ARP19B “The Lord’s Most Perfect Law” or HB260 “The Spirit Breathes upon the Word”