Saturday, June 2, 2018

2018.06.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:14-17

Questions for Littles: What are we to pursue with all people (v14)? What will we not see the Lord without? In what manner are we to be looking (v15)? What are we watching that people would fall short of? What might spring up and cause trouble? Who would become defiled? What kind of person was Esau (v16)? How did he show that he was profane? What did he want afterward (v17)? How did he seek this and with what?
In this week’s sermon text, we learned that we respond to the Lord’s work in our lives by putting forth effort of our own. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work, according to His good pleasure (Phil 2:12-13). Here, in the second half of our sermon passage, we discover what that work looks like.

First, it looks like pursuing peace with all. This is accomplished by loving our neighbor as ourselves and loving one another as Christ has loved us. Of course, love does no wrong to its neighbor, so what does love do? It fulfills the law.

We obey this instruction to pursue peace with all when we honor those in authority over us; and, refuse to murder even in our hearts; and, refuse to indulge fleshly appetites outside their God-given proper place in our lives; and, refuse to steal; and, refuse to bend words to our advantage; and, refuse to covet. It is by this discipline of heart and mouth and hand that we pursue peace with all.

Of course, it’s not just with men that we need peace. So, we must pursue that holiness without which no one will see the Lord. We must treat Him as holy, as we live always before His face. We must treat His worship as holy, worshiping only in the way that He has commanded. We must treat His name as holy, neither speaking it nor bearing it lightly. We must treat His day as holy, taking up the whole of the day in worship, and those duties of necessity and mercy that enable us to worship.

How intensely should we be following God’s law? “Looking carefully”—overseeing ourselves. It’s a verb form of the word for “overseer” or “bishop” or “ruler.” Rule yourself in godliness, dear Christian!

If we don’t live this way, then it isn’t the root of holiness and happiness that we are putting down, but rather the root of bitterness. And God save us from putting that root down! Esau didn’t think ahead; he lived in the moment; he just satisfied his desire. But oh the bitterness that he reaped! When it came time to lose that blessing that he wanted to inherit, he wept bitterly trying to get his father to change his mind!

How very many sins there are that look enticing in the moment, but great is the bitterness that is suffered by the one who commits them! But we are not moving toward bitterness. Rather, we are moving toward blessedness, and the Lord is producing in us the peaceful fruit of righteousness!
What place does God’s law have in your life? When do you read it? How do you follow it?
Suggested Songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Friday, June 1, 2018

2018.06.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 14:53-65

Questions for Littles: To whom did they lead Jesus away (v53)? Who were assembled with him? Who followed at a distance (v54)? Where did he end up? With whom did he sit? What were the chief priests and all the council seeking (v54)? What did they want to do with Jesus? What did they find? Who bore false witness against Him (v56)? What was the problem with their testimony? What did some finally testify that they had heard Jesus say (v58)? What was still a problem with their testimony (v59)? How did Jesus answer (v60-61a)? Whom did the high priest finally ask Jesus if He is (61b)? How did Jesus answer (v62)? What did the high priest tear (v63)? Of what does he accuse Jesus (v64)? What did they all say Jesus deserved? What kinds of things did they begin to do to Jesus?
In the Gospel reading this week, we heard about the trial of Jesus at the high priest’s house. We can smell their rotten sham of a trial a mile away. How is it that all of these important men were already out of bed in the middle of the night, and gathered in assembly like this? It wasn’t even technically legal for them to meet at this hour! Of course, they were all in on it, so they knew ahead of time to be there.

Then, there’s all the false witnesses who couldn’t get their stories straight. How difficult is it to practice saying the same thing? But the Lord would have us see the great folly in persisting with Christ.

Isn’t it ironic that they attempted to use testimony about Jesus tearing down the temple and rebuilding it in three days? Jesus, of course, had been speaking of His body (cf. John 2:19-22). The irony is that they were in the very process of helping Him to fulfill that prophecy.

Eventually, Jesus testifies about Himself, and they respond not just with condemnation but with ugly mocking and mistreatment.

The shocking thing about the mistreatment in v65 is that we know that v62 is true. He who could have destroyed them with blazing glory instead permitted Himself to be beaten and ridiculed by them—all for our sake!

Next week, we will hear what Peter was doing outside, but I suspect that you know. How wonderful, then, that Jesus was inside suffering this for him!
Who is the One who has suffered for you? What has He suffered for you? How often do you remember this?
Suggested songs: ARP191 “I Love the Lord” or HB199 “Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed”

Thursday, May 31, 2018

2018.05.31 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 1:26-31

Questions for Littles: How many wise according to the flesh are called (v26)? How many mighty are called? How many noble are called? Why has God chosen the foolish things of the world (v27)? Why has God chosen the weak things of the world? Why has God chosen the base things of the world, and the things are despised, and the things which are not (v28)? What does God want no flesh to do in His presence (v29)? How did we come to be in Christ Jesus (v30)? What four things is Christ Jesus for us? In what (whom!) should we glory, instead of ourselves (v31)? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, God lowers our self-esteem. He reminds us that the world considers us foolish. He reminds us that, humanly speaking, we are weak. We are unimpressive, and of little earthly account.

The sooner that we just admit this about ourselves, the sooner we can get to the (literally) glorious reason for this: so that our only glory will be the Lord Himself! At the end of the day, the more we try to retain some wisdom, strength, goodness, or any other quality worthy of admiring, the less we will admire the Lord alone.

Sadly, many of us have not gotten this message. As individuals, we think that we will be so impressive to our unbelieving friends that they will just want to become Christians on the spot after they meet us! We harbor secret suspicions that if our fellow church members would just be a little more impressive, we’d be able to get more people to stick. Or even worse, we build up an entire array of programs and strategies for looking impressive, and think that it’s actually a good thing when people come and stay for them!

If only we would, more often, take out the 1Corinthians 1:26-31 mirror and take a good long look and say, “the only thing genuinely impressive about me is Jesus.” If only we would, more often, take out the 1Corinthians 1:26-31 mirror and take a good long look and say, “the only thing genuinely impressive about our congregation is Jesus—and He is the only thing that can ever be genuinely impressive about us.”

Is Jesus’s glory so small that we think we can add to it, or feel that it needs adding to? Do we think that we do anyone a favor by displaying ourselves, when they could have Christ displayed to them instead? Would it be healthy if they were drawn to us, when they would not have been drawn to Christ?

Here is God, the eternal Son, who has become a man; and, as a man, He has become for us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption! Glory!!! Surely, if one is not moved by this, it matters little if we can get him to think that we are warm, welcoming, and have much to offer him!

May the Lord save us from ourselves and our self-esteem… so that we may have eyes fully open to the glory of Christ, and rejoice in His glory among us!
Of what are you tempted to be impressed about yourself or your church? How does this passage remind you to think about it instead? What are you hoping will draw people to Christ? If that is your hope, then how will you go about evangelizing them?
Suggested songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or HB132 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name”

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

2018.05.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 24:1-27

Questions for Littles: In what condition do we find Abraham in v1? Whom does Abraham call, and what does he make him swear not to do (v2-3)? What does he make him swear to do (v4)? What possible problem does the servant ask about in v5? Whom does Abraham say will provide this wife? How many camels does the servant take? What does he ask to be the sign of the right woman for Isaac’s wife? When does Rebekah arrive (v15)? How does she look (v16)? What does the servant do (v17)? How does she respond? For how many camels is she drawing water? Even though his sign had been exactly fulfilled, what was the servant still observing in v21? What gifts did the man produce in v22? What questions did he ask in v23? What action does the man take when he custody of another (v24-27)?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, there’s a problem. Abraham is old, well advanced in age, and Yahweh has blessed Abraham in all things. That doesn’t sound like a problem, except…. His heir is unmarried. Isaac needs a wife!

Now, it cannot be just any wife. We saw what happened in Genesis 6 when the godly married from the wrong people! But the nearest approved relative is way out in Mesopotamia. Abraham cannot go there. So he sends a servant.

The Lord shows His great mercy, to Isaac, to Abraham and to the servant by directing the servant right to the spot where he needed to be.

Then the servant asks for the sign… that if he asked the girl for water, she would offer to draw water for the camels also. That may just sound polite to you, but here’s a foreigner with ten camels—it would be no small effort!

Isn’t it interesting, though, that even after the girl says this, the servant still watches and remains silent “so as to know whether Yahweh had prospered his journey or not”? For Abraham’s servant the fulfilment of a sign was no substitute for good character.

But there she was, not only beautiful but running back and forth with those pitchers of water until each of those ten camels had completely replenished its water supply! Not only that, she was willing to extend hospitality to him as well.

There is much to be admired in Rebekah’s character. And we would do well to raise daughters to be such as she appears to be in this text, and to encourage our sons to marry women with character like this.

However, let us not miss the main point, as promised earlier in the passage by Abraham, and repeated by the servant now in v27. “Blessed by Yahweh, God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His steadfast love and faithfulness toward my master.”

This, ultimately, is from where come good marriages and the preservation of covenant families across generations: the faithful love of our covenant God! Do you have children whom you hope to see grow godly and marry godly? Train them well, but look to and hope in the Lord for them!
To whose faithfulness do you look for your good marriage? What are you doing to pursue it?
Suggested songs: ARP45B “Daughter, Incline Your Ear” or HB106 “The King of Love My Shepherd Is”

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

2018.05.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 22:27-31

Questions for Littles: Who will remember and turn to the Lord (v27)? Who will worship before Him? To whom does the kingdom belong (v28)? Who rules over the nations? Who will eat and worship (v29)? Who will be before Him? What can’t people do for themselves? Who will serve the Lord, according to v30? Whom should each generation tell about the Lord? To what people will they declare His righteousness (v31)?
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin all came from Psalm 22:27-31. As we have been learning recently, this was part of the joy set before Christ, for which He was able to endure the cross.

As our Lord suffered the penalty of our sin, He was sustained by the hope of Christian worship assemblies, in which He would declare His Father's name to His brethren and sing His Father's praise (cf. Ps 22:22-26).

The Lord delights in our Lord's Day services as a partial fulfillment of that, as congregations on earth join that perfect worship of the great congregation in glory. We hope to hear more about that, by God's help, in morning worship on June 3rd.

But, even more, there is coming a day when the Lord will have gathered in His people from all nations to the end of the earth, and all families throughout history. And it is then that the ultimate fulfillment of Psalm 22:27-31 will have been completed.

From now until that day, there are two great tasks that we can undertake to participate in the glorious spread of the gospel: missionary work, in which we spread the gospel to parts of the world that it has not yet gone, but more and more by recounting to our children the great deeds of the Lord, and that they charge their children to do the same, who will do so with their own children, etc.

Perhaps some of us will be surprised that it is this transmitting of the gospel from one generation to the next that is emphasized in a section that begins with vv27-29. But let us not be: God invented the family and loves to work through it. He created human fatherhood and childhood to mimic something about Himself.

That’s right… when you have family worship, you are bringing about that thing that was such a joy to Christ, that it is what sustained Him upon the cross! Doesn’t that make you want to not miss a single opportunity to tell your children of the Lord? God grant that we would make the most of our time with them!
What members of the next generation are you telling about Christ? When/how?
Suggested songs: ARP162 “All Ends of Earth” or HB501 “The Ends of All the Earth Shall Hear”

Monday, May 28, 2018

2018.05.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:12-13

Questions for Littles: What things that hang down are we to strengthen (v12)? What feeble things are we to strengthen? What kind of paths are we to make for our feet (v13)? What will God use this to do for whatever is lame? 
In the sermon this week, we learned how to respond to God’s determined work to make us holy. We do whatever the One who is doing this work says to do. In this case, our Fatherly God commands us to do the difficult and painful.

Strengthen those hands that hang down. Strengthen the feeble knees. Make straight paths for your feet. These are marching orders. Things for us to do. But let us not make the mistake of turning the Christian life into a life of toughing it out because our obedience will make everything better.

We don’t follow these commands because we have been left to train ourselves. We follow these commands because the Lord is training us. This passage isn’t talking about toughing it out. To be sure, there is determination here, but it is a determination that is based upon God’s strength, not ours.

It is not our obedience that makes everything better. Rather, it is God who is producing our obedience by making us better. This is why He chastens us, according to vv3-11. And this is why we obey what He says to do. As v10 tells us, He’s making us holy. As v13 tells us, He’s healing us.

So often, as we struggle, we feel the hanging down, and feebleness, and lameness. If we are looking unto ourselves and considering ourselves, then the command to strengthen and make straight will just plunge us into despair. Yet, so many try that, thinking that they are obeying the commands in vv12-13.

God deliver us from this deadly half-obedience to the instruction in this text! Looking unto Jesus, strengthen and make straight. Considering Him who endured the hostility, strengthen and make straight!

But let us not miss that this passage also cuts the other way. There are many who say, I’m not going to work at holiness, because… I’m looking unto Jesus. Or, I’m not going to make a straight path of obedience to follow, because… I’m considering Him who endured the hostility.

This passage just doesn’t allow us to think like that. Those who look unto Him, and consider Him, are looking unto and considering the One who both is working in us, and also commands us to work.
Which mistake do you find yourself more likely to make: looking unto yourself for strength, as you follow Scripture instruction for life? Or excusing a laziness about the Christian life by dressing that laziness up by telling yourself that you are looking to Jesus?
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths to You I Cried” or HB275 “Amazing Grace”