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Saturday, June 16, 2018

2018.06.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:28-29

Questions for Littles: Who is receiving a kingdom (v28)? What cannot be done to this kingdom? What must we have? What do we do by that grace? What three things does v28 tell us about the worship that we should be offering? What does v29 tell us about our God?  
In this week’s sermon text, we learned how to worship in services where the Lord Himself is using His Word to give us an unshakeable kingdom.

There certainly is instruction about worship here. God, to whom we come, is not making Zion smoke, shake, and burn. But this does not make New Testament worship any less intimidating or serious than Sinai. In fact, it is exactly the opposite, because in New Testament worship, we come all the way to the Living God, and He is a consuming fire!

The fact that our God is a consuming fire means three things for our worship. First, we must worship acceptably. Is it too obvious to point out that if the Holy Spirit tells us to worship acceptably, then there is unacceptable worship as well?

In fact, needing a command to worship acceptably implies that our default mode is to worship in a way that does not please God. Let us learn, then, never to offer worship that is from ourselves, but only that worship that has been specifically commanded by God.

Second, we are to worship with reverence. The word means something like modestly, or respectfully, or properly. So, not only are we to worship with particular content, but we are also to worship in a particular style. Joy and zeal are not the same thing as showiness or lack of restraint.

Third, we are to worship with awe. Some translations say, “godly fear,” and certainly fear or even terror can be meant by this word. When we come to worship, it should be in wonder and amazement at the greatness and holiness and power and justice of God. This is more than a matter of external style as in the previous word. This is about the condition of our hearts.

So yes, there certainly is instruction about worship here. But the primary command is not to worship acceptably with reverence and awe. The primary command is actually, “Let us have grace.” Yes, some translations substitute “thankfulness” here, which is an alternative meaning for the same word. But, from the context, “grace” is the better reading.

That’s what we desperately need: grace. How do we have that grace? In large part by receiving the Word that He speaks. And then, of course, by prayer—an expression of dependence upon the Lord and His grace. Indeed, it seems that the point here is that worship itself is the place where we get the grace to worship well—not just in the assembly but in life as a whole. Dear believer, with such worship as God has designed for us, let us have grace to worship, that we may receive grace in worship!
Are you able to worship God well on your own? How do you show that you need grace?
Suggested Songs: ARP95B “Today If You Will Hear His Voice” or HB29 “O Come, and Sing Unto the Lord”

Friday, June 15, 2018

2018.06.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 15:1-15

Questions for Littles: To whom did they take Jesus in v1? What does Pilate ask Him in v2? What does Jesus answer, in v3, to all the accusations of the chief priests? Now what does Pilate ask in v4? And what does Jesus answer in v5? What effect does this have upon Pilate? What custom did Pilate have at the feast (v6)? What had Barabbas done (v7)? When the people begin crying out for a prisoner release in v8, what does Pilate ask them in v9? Why? What did he know about the chief priests’ real reason for handing Jesus over (v10)? Who stirred up the crowd In v11? Whom did they get the people to ask for? What question does Pilate ask in v12? And what do the people answer (v13)? What new question does Pilate ask in v14? What is the response? What did Pilate want to do (v15)? So, what did he end up doing? 
In the Gospel reading this week, Pilate helps us to ask all the right questions.

Is Jesus the King of the Jews? Jesus answers this question. He is, in fact, the promised forever-King from the line of David. Against the backdrop of that truth, we see just how ugly is this treason and blasphemy.

Does Jesus answer nothing? He is not trying to escape the cross. For this reason He came into the world. He is saving us from our sins!

Do we want our King? What a good question. Obviously, Jesus was very popular with the crowds, or else v10 wouldn’t make any sense. So there is a sad reminder here how easily we can break our allegiance to Christ out of a desire to please others, or when they place pressure upon us.

What was done to Christ? They crucified Him like a murdering terrorist, and they let the murdering terrorist go free instead.

What evil has He done? None at all! He is the spotless Lamb of God, who goes to His death only to pay the penalty for the sins of all who would ever believe upon Him.

So, allow me to take a page out of Pilate’s book and ask you a question: what will you do with Jesus? This is a King who demands a response. Will you yield yourself up to Him? Will you entrust yourself unto Him? Will you commit yourself to serving Him?
How do you go about reminding yourself of the cross and responding to it in your daily life? What physical or mental habits could improve your practice?
Suggested songs: ARP22A “My God, My God” or HB199 “Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed”

Thursday, June 14, 2018

2018.06.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 2:6-16

Questions for Littles: What kind of wisdom do Paul and his partners not speak (v6)? To what are the rulers of this age coming? Whose wisdom does Paul speak (v7)? When had God ordained it? For what purpose? How many of the rulers of that age knew that wisdom (v8)? What wouldn’t they have done if they had known it? What hadn’t man’s eye seen, ear heard, or heart considered (v9)? Through what (Whom!) has God revealed them (v10)? From where, alone, can come the knowledge of the things of God (v11)? So, whom must believers receive if they are to know the things of God (v12)? So, what wisdom does Paul speak (v13)? For what kind of people? What kind of person cannot receive them (V14)? Why not? How are they discerned? But who has the resources to judge all things (v15)? What is the expected answer to the question, “who has known the mind of the Lord” (v16)? What is the surprising actual answer at the end of that verse? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we learn about the most glorious thing that we can know, and about the only way that we can know it.

Sometimes, I have heard people take v9 to mean something like when 1John 3:2 says, “It has not been revealed what we shall be”—that is, about some future glory. But that most certainly is not the case here. Rather, the Holy Spirit is saying here that what the rulers of this age did not know is that God had prepared to give Himself, the Lord of glory, for those who love Him.

This is the extraordinary that eye hadn’t seen, ear heard, nor heart considered. No, God had kept the details of this glorious gospel gift hidden from the eyes and ears and minds of men.

This is the most glorious thing that we can know. The Lord of glory has given Himself for sinners! Even with the access and instruction that we have, we do not really wrap our minds around this: the Lord of glory was crucified for me! For this, we must have the active working of the Holy Spirit.

When we say that “the only way we can know” this amazing gospel truth is by the work of the Spirit, we mean more than just that the Spirit has to come up with the words.

Certainly that is true, which is what vv10-12 are all about. ONLY the Spirit knows the things of God. ONLY THROUGH the Spirit has God revealed the truth to us. And the greatest part of that truth, the heart of that truth, is “the things that have been freely given to us by God.” Behold how good and generous is our God that the height of the revelation of His glory would be how He has given Himself for us!

But just as the work of the Spirit is the only way that we could have had the Scriptures, so also the work of the Spirit is the only way that we can come to believe them. The natural man does not receive them. Rather, the Scriptures are spiritual for spiritual (how v13 literally ends): Holy-Spirit-given words for Holy-Spirit-helped people.

And how does the Holy Spirit help us? By giving to us that which is Christ’s. Not only Christ’s words, as promised in John 16, but also even Christ’s mind, as we see here in v16! The Lord gave Himself for us once for all at Calvary, and He continually gives Himself to us by the working of His Holy Spirit. Praise the Lord!
How does your habit/practice of Bible reading reflect the necessity of the Spirit’s work in it?
Suggested songs: ARP119C “That I May Live and Keep Your Word” or HB260 “The Spirit Breathes upon the Word”

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

2018.06.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 24:50-67

Questions for Littles: Who answered Abraham’s servant in v50? What did they say (50-51)? How did Abraham’s servant respond (v52)? Who received what in v53? What did the servant and his men do that night (v54)? What did he say in the morning? What did her brother and mother want (v55)? But how does he respond (v56)? Whom do they decide to ask (v57)? What does she say (v58)? What blessing do they give her as she departs (v60)? How do Rebekah and her maids travel (v61)? What does Isaac do in the evening (v63)? What does Rebekah ask (v65)? What does the servant tell Isaac in v66? Where does Isaac take Rebekah (v67)? What does she become? What effect does this have on Isaac after his mother’s death?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we find something that isn’t all that unusual: a believer’s wedding becomes an occasion for unbelievers to get some exposure to the gospel.

First, there’s Laban (and Bethuel). We’re almost surprised that Behtuel is alive when he says something in v50. Laban seems to have been running everything up until this point. But of course, Laban has been studying how to talk to Abraham’s servant ever since Rebekah recounted her experience as well.

Now, “Come in, blessed of Yahweh!!!!” has turned into “The thing comes from Yahweh!!!!”… all the while with at least one eye firmly focused on the stash of goodies that Abraham’s servant still hasn’t yet distributed.

Then there’s the family’s blessing in v60. They obviously have heard the promise about Abraham having innumerable descendants and possessing the gate of his enemies. This last promise was one that we heard about for the first time after the almost-sacrifice in Genesis 22:17, so we have good reason to believe that the house of Bethuel has heard more than just the amazing story of Yahweh prospering the servant’s journey. Indeed, they have heard about the Lord’s sacrificial substitute.

The whole thing seems to have gotten Rebekah pretty nervous. All of a sudden, she’s betrothed, and her family is singing Messianic war songs about her! It’s a bit more than she bargained for in her good deed at the city well. Perhaps this is behind her decision in v58, which seems to have surprised her family. Then, in v64, the English translations give us the rather tidy “dismounted” in place of the Hebrew’s rather clumsy “fell off.” There are other words to use for dismounting. This seems to have a bit of nervous-bride written all over it. You’ve heard of being nervous for a blind date… what about a blind marriage?

Well… what about that blind marriage? It is working out pretty well for Isaac, considering the quality of woman that Abraham’s servant has secured. And v63 has us thinking that it is working out pretty well for Rebekah too. Oh that all our covenant daughters would have husbands who are in the habit of meditating (on the Lord) in the evening! It will serve her well, when she comes to need 20 years of prayer for barrenness.
When distant relatives intersect your life, do they necessarily find it about the Lord and His gospel? What such occasion do you have coming up? What can you say or do at that time to make it so?
Suggested songs: ARP45B “Daughter, Incline Your Ear” or HB106 “The King of Love My Shepherd Is”

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

2018.06.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Peter 2:4-10

Questions for Littles: What did men do with Jesus Christ, the living stone (v4)? What had God done? Who else are living stones (v5)? What are these stones for building? What are to offer to God?  Through what (Whom!) are our spiritual sacrifices made acceptable? Where had God told about this beforehand (v6)? Who will by no means be put to shame? To whom is Jesus precious (v7, cf. v4)? What did the disobedient builders do to Him? To what were they disobedient (v8a)? How did this come about (v8b)? What four glorious things does v9 call us? For what purpose did God make us into this? Whose praises do we proclaim?  
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from 1Peter 2:4-10. It’s a helpful passage to have in the same week as our particular reading from the gospel of Mark, where we literally see the “builders” rejecting Christ, who is our Chief Cornerstone.

Now, it is obvious that we should aim to receive and submit to Christ, rather than reject and attack Him like the builders did. We need continual reminding to condition our hearts properly toward Him, so it’s a blessing to have that reminder in our passage.

But there is something else wonderful that I would like to point out here: how belonging to God in Christ makes us more and more like Him.

Our heavenly Father holds Christ dear and precious (v4), and when He calls us out of darkness into His marvelous light, we too come to consider Christ as precious (v7)?

Jesus is a living stone (v4), and so also we are living stones (v5).

Just as Jesus was chosen by God and precious (v4), so also in Him we are a chosen generation (v9).

The Lord loves to produce in us the many evidences and examples of how we belong to Him, and now we are His.

So, the question for us is: do we love to bring our Cornerstone glory by acting as a holy nation? Do we recognize that one of the primary purposes of our salvation is that we would proclaim His praises?

The Lord would have had every right to appoint us to a disobedience that we would willingly enter into as sinners. But instead, He has made us His people, and He has given us His mercy.
In what part of your worship or thought life do you acknowledge that God chose you simply out of His mere goodness, and not for any good thing in you?
Suggested songs: ARP4 “Answer When I Call” or HB402 “I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew”

Monday, June 11, 2018

2018.06.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:25-27

Questions for Littles: What are we to “see to” in v25? What are we not to refuse? Where was the mountain from which God spoke before? Where is the mountain from which He speaks now? What two places is the Lord shaking with New Covenant preaching (v26)? Since this is the last time, what are the only things that will remain when this age of preaching is done (v27)?
In the sermon this week, we considered the responsibility in sermon-hearing, the relationship in sermon-hearing, and the redemption in sermon-hearing. As we follow up together in this devotional, I wonder—what practical steps are we going to take in response to this passage?

What are we going to do about the fact that we are responsible for good sermon-hearing? The command is not “do not refuse Him who speaks,” but rather “See to it” that you do not refuse… It’s the way you talk to someone who is in charge of something, who is responsible for it. “See to it that…”

So, what gets in the way of our hearing sermons with ready, responsive hearts? And what are we going to do… during the service? That morning before it? The night before? The afternoon after? The day after?

This responsibility in sermon-hearing is all the more important because of the relationship in sermon-hearing. Here is another subtle nuance in the text before us this morning. It doesn’t merely say, “don’t refuse what is spoken.” Rather, it says, “Don’t refuse Him who speaks.”

When we resist the Word, faithfully preached, in the gathered Lord’s Day worship, we aren’t just refusing a true statement or even a powerful statement. If we resist the proper preaching in public worship, we are refusing a Person—and that Person is our Lord and God Jesus Christ.

What a serious thing it is, then, not just to listen to Him in the preaching, but to respond to Him, from the heart, with action in our lives! Shall we not love Him whose blood has spoken so excellently for us, and who then speaks weekly to us?

Isn’t “whether we are going to refuse Him” a much greater issue than “whether we will benefit” from the preaching? Both are  stake in what we do with the preaching—Lord, make us a people who are weekly changed by the preaching of Your Word!

Finally, with what expectations do we come to this redemptive preaching? Christ’s Word is shaking us free of things that are fleeting and worthless. It’s a weekly reset, fixing our focus back upon those things which cannot be shaken.

Do we come, expecting to spend an hour, and then returning with the same priorities as before? Or, do we expect a shake-up, presenting our hearts with an openness and expectation that some disproportion in our minds/hearts/lives is about to be remedied? May we come with a motto like Calvin’s, “My heart I offer Thee, Lord, promptly and sincerely!”
What are you going to do differently this week: before, during, and after the preaching?
Suggested Songs: ARP95B “Today If You Will Hear His Voice” or HB253 “How I Love Thy Law, O Lord!”