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Saturday, June 23, 2018

2018.06.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:29

Questions for Littles: Who is a consuming fire? Whose God is He?
In this week’s sermon text, we were reminded that it is no small thing to approach God in worship. The concluding verse of that text alludes to three places in Scripture to remind us that the glory of worship is actually the glory of the living God Himself.

The first place to which it alludes is Sinai. We know this of course, because it is the nearest conflagration of fire to our passage, being mentioned earlier in the passage. But whether at the time of the ten commandments, or earlier in Moses’s experience of the bush, there is one detail that tells us that these are not the primary allusion here: in neither of those Sinai fires did the Lord actually consume what was on fire.

The second place that this “consuming fire” image takes us is the whole burnt offering. It was the first and primary offering in the system of worship that the Lord had commanded under the Mosaic covenant. You couldn’t have any other kind of worship without the offering in which the entire bull would be entirely burnt by a fire whose intensity would have to be achieved to accomplish that.

But, just as the bull is an inferior substitute as a glimpse of Christ, so also the burnt offering’s consuming fire is an inferior substitute as a glimpse of the wrath of God. How great and consuming is the wrath of God, and it is every bit as central to His character as love is! We love to quote 1John 4:8, “God is love.” How much do we love to quote Hebrews 12:29, “God is wrath.” Our God is a consuming fire!

And how much more amazing is His love to us now than it was before we began to grasp that truth?

The third, and most pointed, place to which this verse points us is Leviticus 10 and the cautionary demise of Nadab and Abihu. Consecrated priests, on a consecrated day, using consecrated pans, to offer consecrated incense. What could be wrong about that?

One thing: God had not told them to perform this act of worship. God calls it strange fire, and goes on to explain what made it strange, “which He had not commanded them” (Lev 10:1). Now, consider vv2-3 in light of the passage before us this week:

“So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.’ ”

Oh, dear reader, how necessary it is that we remember the divine simplicity. Our God is who He is—not in parts or pieces but a glorious divine simplicity. So when we come to Him, let us come to Him in the manner appropriate to His nature as love and His nature as a consuming fire!
How do God’s holiness and wrath magnify His grace to you? How does this affect how we worship?
Suggested Songs: ARP7B “God Is My Shield” or HB11 “Holy, Holy, Holy!”

Friday, June 22, 2018

2018.06.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 15:16-39

Questions for Littles: What did the soldiers put on Jesus’s head (v17)? What did they say in v18? What did they do to him in v19? To what place did they bring him (v22)? When they offered Him wine with painkiller in it, what did He do (v23)? What were they doing with His clothes (v24)? What was the charge against Him (v26)? What does v28 give as the explanation for the two robbers being crucified with Him? What did those who passed by do (v29)? Who else blasphemed and mocked Him (v31-32)? What happened for three hours (v33)? What did Jesus say at the ninth hour (v34)? What happened in v37? And what happened to the veil of the temple (v38)? What did the centurion say and why (v39) 
In the Gospel reading this week, we come to the climax of the gospel of Mark, and indeed the crisis point of all human history.

Truly this Man was the Son of God! God became a man to die for men so that we might come safely near His holiness. God opened that new way through the veil—the flesh of Jesus Christ.

This is the answer to that question that Jesus quoted from the beginning of Psalm 22. Jesus was forsaken so that we could be forgiven and call the Holy God our Father.

We are horrified by the mocking of the soldiers—the whole garrison gathering together for the crown of thorns, the mocking salute, caning Him in the head, spitting on Him, and offering Him mock worship. We are horrified by the passers by, wagging their heads and blaspheming Him. We are horrified by the chief priests making even belief in Him a point of mockery. We are horrified by those who were crucified with Him reviling Him.

But, to be honest with ourselves, we are not so horrified with these things as we ought to be even with our own sin. And that is part of the point, in the blessed wisdom of the Holy Spirit: do you see what sin is? Do you see what sin does?

No wonder such a sacrifice would have been required to atone for it! And what a glorious wonder indeed that the Holy One would give Himself for such sinners as we are!! Amazing love, how can it be that Thou, my God should’st die for me?!
What has God given us to keep the cross of Christ fresh on our minds and hearts?
Suggested songs: ARP22A “My God, My God” or HB199 “Alas! and Did My Saviour Bleed”

Thursday, June 21, 2018

2018.06.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 3:1-8

Questions for Littles: How couldn’t Paul speak to the Corinthians (v1)? In what two ways did he speak to them? To what does he compare the spiritual food he gave them (v2)? Why didn’t he give them solid food? What proof does he give them that they are still fleshly minded in v3? What does this envy, strife, and division look like (v4)? What are Paul and Apollos called in v5? What did the Lord give to each one? What does Paul do in v6? What does Apollos do? What does God do? Which of these is “something” according to v7? What is the relationship between the planter and the waterer (v8)? According to what will each receive his reward? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we were reminded of the two unflattering options for those who foster party-spirit in the church. Either they are acting like the most infantile believers possible, or they are acting as if they are not believers at all, but still in their flesh—what the NKJV calls “carnal.”

We’ve met them before—people who either make themselves or someone else the litmus test for favor in the church. Either you are for them, or you are for the other guy, but the way they describe it, you can’t be for both.

It’s no wonder that Paul says that when someone is thinking like this, they have to go all the way back to square one and start over with the gospel as if they are just now hearing it for the first time.

If we don’t realize that God’s work in this world is all about God, all about Christ, and that the best of men are still servants at best… then how can all of our hope be in God? How can all of our hope be in Christ?

Paul is basically calling them out for their own inability to recognize the wisdom in his preaching. As we go along in 1-2Corinthians, we realize that there were many in that church who preferred the false “super-apostles” to the genuine apostle, Paul. One of the reasons was because they thought their preaching sounded much wiser than Paul’s.

But Paul has just finished saying that since the wisdom of his preaching is Holy-Spirit-wisdom, only Holy-Spirit-people are able to receive it. And now he says that is exactly why the majority of the congregation at Corinth could not receive it. Yes, the same congregation that he has generally acknowledged under the title “saints” just two short chapters ago.

This is a frightening condition: to have quenched the Spirit to the point that we act so fleshly that our behavior is indistinguishable from unbelievers.

How is it with you, dear reader? Is there some believer that you so identify with (or so identify against!) that you make them a litmus test of unity and familiarity? Do you not see how to make so much of them is to make little of Christ? To make little of God? God spare us from such a mindset!

Let us instead rejoice in all of the Lord’s work, giving special attention to whatever we have the privilege of serving in—knowing that the fruit belongs to God, but that He rewards us for our labor in whatever part He has assigned to us (for the sake of His grace in Christ!).

Let us rejoice in Him! And let us prepare to feed upon the solid food that is only digestible through that rejoicing.
How do you work at staying connected with everyone in the church and not just one group?
Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or HB473 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

2018.06.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 25:1-18

Questions for Littles: What did Abraham get in v1? How many sons did she bear him (v2)? Thinking about Abraham’s life so far, why is this so amazing? What did Abraham give to Isaac (v5)? What does v6 call Hagar and Keturah? What did he give their sons? Where did he send them? How long did Abraham live (v7)? What point does v8 make about this age? Yet, how does this compare in length to some of his ancestors? To whom was he gathered in v8? Then what happened to him in v9? Who buried him? To whom did the special blessing of God pass on (v11)? Where did Isaac dwell? Whose genealogy do we have in vv12-18? How many princes came from him? How long did he live? To whom was he gathered in v17?  
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we have the transition from Abraham to Isaac. Notice the great blessings that continue to fall upon Abraham and everyone connected with him. Between the ages of 137 (when Sarah died) and 175, Abraham remarries and proceeds to have six more sons. Considering the fact that he was considered old for having children at 100, this is pretty amazing!

And he has enough to give gifts to Ishmael and to all of them without making a significant dent in his possessions, because after that it can still be said, “He gave all that he had to Isaac.” Isaac, of course, isn’t just his son; Isaac is the son of the promise.

So, there is blessing that attends everyone connected with Abraham, but the main blessing without which the rest would matter little goes to the one from whom the Christ will come: Isaac.

The Holy Spirit also gives us a clue here that Ishmael is a believer in the Savior who will come through Isaac. Yes, God blesses Ishmael greatly, and just as promised (cf. Gen 17:20), 12 princes come from Ishmael.

But the real blessings are Ishmael’s hope in the resurrection, as he returns to participate in burying Abraham with Isaac, and then what happens at Ishmael’s own death. When Abraham dies, it first tells us that he was gathered to his people, and then that he was buried by his sons.

This “being gathered to his people” doesn’t, therefore, refer to burial. Sarah was the only one in that cave, and the gathering was something that happened when his spirit departed, not when his body was committed back to the earth.

Therefore, when we see the same phrase used of Ishmael in v17, we don’t understand it of burial either. He breathed his last, died, “and was gathered to his people.” Who are his people? Well, one of them is his father, Abraham, who preceded him in death by 46 years. Ishmael’s soul departed to where Abraham’s soul had departed.

It is precious that, despite his rocky start, Ishmael did not allow jealousy or spite to keep him from hoping in Christ. We too might wish to have a central role in the work of God on earth, but those things are up to the providence of God. What is far more important for us is that we would be hoping in Christ Himself, who is THE center of all of God’s saving work. Then, at our deaths, we will be gathered to our people—the people who trust in Jesus!
Who are “your people” who have gone before you? Who are “your people” now on earth?
Suggested songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or HB435 “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

2018.06.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Colossians 1:9-22

Questions for Littles: With what did Paul pray that the Colossians would be filled (v9)? How did he pray that they would walk (v10)? With what did he pray that they would be strengthened (v11)? Who has qualified us for this (v12)? From what has God delivered us, and into what has God conveyed us (v13)? Through what do we have redemption (v14)? What is this redemption (v14b)? Of what is Jesus the image (v15a)? Over what is Jesus the firstborn (v15)? What was made by Him and why (v16)? What is Jesus before (17a)? In whom do all things consist (17b)? Of what is Jesus the head (v18a)? Why (18c)? What pleased the Father (v19)? What things did God reconcile to Himself (v20)? By whom? How did He make peace? In what were we once alienated and enemies (v21)? What has He now done to us? In what (v22a)? Through what? To do what? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Confession of Sin, and Assurance of the Gospel came from Colossians 1:9-22.

The passage begins with prayer, and quickly moves to where good prayers quickly move: the person and work of Jesus Christ. How can sinners such as we are be filled with the knowledge of His will and walk worthy of the Lord, being strengthened with all might? The only answer is: by the redemption through Christ’s blood.

Really, that’s the only answer to how we can do anything. The Scripture teaches us that apart from Jesus we can do nothing. We must be crucified with Christ so that it would no longer be we who live but Christ who lives in us. The live that we live, we must live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us.

And who is this Christ? Very God of very God. The Creator of all things, the reason for all things, the goal of all things, the Sustainer of all things, the One in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells. What an amazing phrase that is: everything that God is, He is!

And what has this Christ done? Reconciled all things to Himself. Made peace through the blood of His cross. Reconciled sinners in the body of His flesh through death. And (past tense certainty of future even result) presented us holy and blameless and above reproach in His sight. This is the work of Christ. Halleluah!!

So, everything we ask for within the will of God depends on this Christ who is this glorious Person and has done this glorious work.

But let us not fail to notice one more thing about Him: all of heaven and earth throughout all of history is all about Jesus, and Jesus is about His church. He is the head of the body. The church is attached to Christ and identified with Him. Therefore, the church is not some peripheral organization or optional benefit. As Christ’s own focus in all creation and history, she must have a central focus in all of our life as well!
How much do your prayers dwell upon Christ? What place does His church have in your life?
Suggested songs: ARP16A “Keep Me, O God” or HB435 “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”

Monday, June 18, 2018

Introducing the "Pastor's Memory Challenge"!

Each week, during the fellowship time after worship, we purpose to have an "open mic" time for congregational sharing, but only a few have taken advantage of this time up to this point.

So, each week, we are going to be having a congregational memory verse. Yes, just one verse--baby steps! The children have been reciting their catechism answers for us for years--time for the adults to step up and start reciting some memory work of their own! Head on over to hopewellarp.org (or check out the back of this week's Hopewell @Home) to see the memory verse for the coming Lord's Day!

Each week, the verse will be a main verse from the morning sermon passage. Over the course of a sermon series, you will memorize your way through the key verses of a book, with each verse tied in your memory to the preaching of that passage. What a blessing to have the theology and application of entire books of the Bible ready to hand!

One week at a time.

So, as soon as folks are seated for the meal, one of the elders will step up to the mic and give you your golden opportunity to recite your verse for the week. When Scripture memory is done, we'll sing and pray in thankfulness for the birthdays and anniversaries of the week, and the ice will be broken for anyone who has something else that they would like to come to the mic and share.

2018.06.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:28

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?
In the sermon this week, we heard about how we respond rightly to our Redeemer in His worship. The Lord’s Day worship of a Christian congregation is full of Jesus’s Word, because He is using it to “shake off” what will not remain.

Christian congregational worship is an other-worldly experience that turns our attention up to heaven and forward to the New Heavens and New Earth. It is the weekly invasion of the genuinely glorious into our mundane lives.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, …

This reality demands three things of our worship: that it be acceptable, that it be dignified in manner, and that it be awed in spirit.

First, we are to worship God acceptably. This is the great lesson of the last third or so of the book of Exodus and the entire book of Leviticus, but especially of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10. Only what God has commanded for worship is acceptable to Him in worship. We must never think that God will be pleased simply because we mean well, are sincere, or feel worshipful.

Second, we are to worship God in a dignified manner. That is what the word translated ‘reverent’ communicates. This is not an occasion for lightness. This is not an occasion for over-familiarity. We must not be casual, laid back, flippant, or glib. This is one great reason to dress well for worship. While true worship is the greatest occasion that we have in this life for joy, there is good reason here to be restrained in the outward demonstrations of that joy. When in the presence of true greatness, one takes extra care not to draw attention to himself.

Third, we are to worship God in an awed spirit. We should be astounded at Him, and participate each week with a renewed sense and depth of wonder. We are not surprised that God, who has commanded reverence for our outward manner, would make the same requirement of our hearts before the sentence is complete. Throughout Scripture, the Lord addresses both, but the emphasis is always upon the heart.

If we do not marvel at God’s glory, His holiness, His justice, His power, and His wrath, then we will appreciate none of His other attributes enough either. Love and grace and compassion are all the more amazing when we consider the infinite weightiness of Him from whom they come, and who gave Himself both for us and to us!

But, ultimately, there is one thing that we need above all others. We need grace. Our original nature pushed down upon the knowledge of God, refusing to acknowledge Him or give Him thanks. If we are going to worship acceptably, reverently, and in awe, we must have grace! Let us ever be employing the means of grace, and especially coming to the throne of grace, to find His grace to help us in the time of need of corporate worship!
What are you going to do differently about worship, having carefully considered this Scripture?
Suggested Songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or HB11 “Holy, Holy, Holy!”