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Saturday, July 21, 2018

2018.07.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 13:20-21

Questions for Littles: Of what is God the God of (v20)? What did He do to the Lord Jesus? What is Jesus’s relation to the sheep? Through what was He raised from the dead? In what does God completely furnish us (v21)? To do what? What does He work in us? Through whom does God work this in us? What does Jesus receive for this work? For how long?
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we learn about God’s glorious intentions for us. The blessing that is pronounced in these two verses is a declaration of what God intends to do—and which, therefore, shall most certainly be done!

Here is one more reason that prayer is so powerful: for, it is not an effort to overcome God’s reluctance, but rather a joyful yielding of ourselves to lay hold of God’s willingness! And behold how willing God is!

First, He is the God of peace. This, of course, is a direct allusion to Numbers 6:22-27. God’s purpose to make us whole and happy—in body, mind, and soul—is so central to how He makes Himself known that He calls Himself, “the God of peace.”

Second, He brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead. Romans 4:25 reminds us the significance of this: Jesus rose on account of our justification. Death could not hold Him, because He had made us legally righteous in God’s sight, and we and He now both must at last be perfectly holy, happy, and healthy forever and ever!

Third, we have Jesus as our Great Shepherd. He is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. And He is that Psalm 23 Shepherd who takes perfect care of us until at last we dwell in His house forever.

Fourth, this is all secured through the blood of the everlasting covenant. This presents two absolute certainties: that the blood of Christ has forged an unbreakable covenant bond between us and God, and also that God will keep all of His covenant commitments.

Fifth, what is our God committed to doing? Thoroughly furnishing us for every good work—not just in our actions (to do His will), but also in our affections and intentions (working in us what is well-pleasing in His sight).

Sixth, the resource by which God does this in us is Jesus Christ Himself. Both His sufficiency for doing the work, and His praise for having done it, are completely inexhaustible. For what He is doing in us now, and for what He has ever done, and for who He is in Himself, He shall indeed receive glory forever and ever!! Amen indeed.

It is with a declaration of such rock-solid, absolute truths about God, and His intentions toward us and actions for us in Jesus Christ, that Christian worship concludes. When we pray for such things, and then hear such a benediction, what we are hearing is God Himself giving His own AMEN!
What will you do and think about, from now on, during benedictions at the end of worship?
Suggested Songs: ARP121 “I Lift My Eyes and See the Hills” or TPH121A “I Lift My Eyes Up to the Hills”

Friday, July 20, 2018

2018.07.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 1:6-13

Questions for Littles: What was the name of the man sent from God in v6? What did this man come to do (v7)? Why did he bear witness of the Light? Was that man the Light (v8)? Then what was he sent to do? To whom does the true Light give light (v9)? Where was the true Light coming? Where was He, in v10? What was made through Him? What (Whom!) did the world not know, when He was in the world? To what things does v11 say that He came? But what people did not receive Him? What right did the Light give to those who received Him (v12)? What did “receiving Him” mean they had believed in? From where did this birth to believe in Him NOT come (v13a, b, c, d)? From where DID this birth to believe in Him come (v13e)?
In the Gospel reading this week, we heard about the witness named John. Our passage emphasizes that John bore witness to Christ. He announced that the Christ was coming. When Jesus appeared, he announced that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. But our passage doesn’t give those details. It just points out how very much without excuse Israel was, since, on top of everything else that God had done for them, He sent a witness immediately before Jesus, announcing Him.

A second reason they were without excuse is that it was so very obvious that Jesus is God Himself. The creation responded to Him as its Creator. When v11 says, “He came to His own,” the word ‘own’ is neuter in gender. He came to His own things. He came to His own creation. Water, and wind, and seas, and disease, and bread, and fish, and even death itself “received” Him as Creator. The world was made through Him.

But His own (masculine gender this time) people, Israel, did not receive Him.

John has begun his gospel with such high praise of Jesus Christ as Very God of Very God that we immediately begin to wonder—how can it be that everyone did not immediately believe in Him? How can it be that some—indeed, many—hated Him so greatly that they became the human instruments of His crucifixion?

The answer is one of the most important messages of this gospel, and indeed of the entire Bible: “You must be born again.” Your bloodline cannot bring you to faith in Christ. Your fleshly ability cannot bring you to faith in Christ. Your sincerest intentions cannot bring you to faith in Christ. Only a new birth from God—His almighty power completely transforming you into a new, spiritually alive person—can bring you to believe in the name of Him who is the Light.

And, when God gives you that new birth, He also gives You a new family, adopting you and giving you forever the legal right to be called His own dear child! This is a salvation that is by God’s grace from start to finish!

He is the Savior. He gives the faith to be saved. He is the Reward for the saved!
Do you have confidence in Christ to call upon God as your own dear Father?
Suggested songs: ARP103A “O Bless the LORD, My Soul” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

Thursday, July 19, 2018

2018.07.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 4:14-21

Questions for Littles: For what reason did Paul not write (v14a)? What does he call the Corinthians? Why did he write? What might they have ten thousand of (v15)? But what do they not have many of? In whom did Paul father (beget) them, and through what? What does he urge them to do in v16? Whom has he sent to them (v17a)? What does he call Timothy? What will Timothy do, to help them to imitate Paul? How are some acting (v18a)? What is this puffed up action failing to take into account (v18b)? What will Paul not know, when he comes (v19)? What will he know instead? What else is not in word but in power (v20)? Who has the choice of the manner in which Paul comes (v21)? What two options do they have for how Paul comes?
In this week’s Epistle reading, Paul invites the Corinthians to turn away from being puffed up and impressed with themselves, and instead to turn to imitating him in living by faith and responding with love even to his enemies.

The “imitate me” in v16 is directly tied to the character of personal godliness described in vv12-13. It seems like a lot of pressure to put on Timothy. Paul is saying, “here’s a son in the faith who is bearing the family resemblance… I’m sending him to you so that you can be reminded by a live example that the gospel has power to transform a man… I’m going to give you not just these words but Timothy as a demonstration of power.”

Of course, one of the main points here is that Timothy himself is not puffed up, but looking always outside of himself and to the Lord alone for spiritual life and strength.

This is something important for our elders to think about: am I looking to Christ to work in me, so that the flock entrusted to my ministry will see real spiritual transformation—a demonstration of the power of Jesus?

It may be even more important for parents to think about. If we have seemingly good words with our children, but they don’t see a sinner saved by grace and living in integrity by that same grace, then we will misrepresent the kingdom of God to them. The kingdom is not in word but in power!

This is one of the reasons that church discipline is so important. While we are still sinners, the church is made up of redeemed, repentant sinners. We should be very different from the world!

Excusing ongoing unrepentant sin and a life lived carelessly for self instead of Christ is NOT a form of extending grace; that kind of worldly life with Christianese words is a living denial that grace actually works!

So, the Corinthians have a choice. Either their way of life comes into line with genuine repentance, or Paul will have no choice but to come “with a rod” when he comes to them. The apostle has a duty, and how they choose to live will either bind him to come with firm discipline or enable him to come with gentle affection.

If elders or parents do well, this is an example for them too. As much as they wish to extend gentle affection always, they have a responsibility before God that actually puts the congregant (or the child) in the place of choosing what kind of interaction they are about to have. God give us such faithful elders/parents, and God grant the repentance that enables the affection!
What sin do you tend to permit? What evidence is there of your repentance/growth in this area?
Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH466 “My Faith Looks Up to Thee”

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

2018.07.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 26:12-35

Questions for Littles: How much did Isaac reap during the famine (v12)? What point does v13 triple-make? What point does v14 triple-more-make? What had the Philistines done to Abraham’s wells (v15)? And what did Abimelech say to Isaac in v16? So, what did Isaac go around doing in v17-18? What did the Philistine shepherds of Gerar keep doing with these wells in vv19-21? What did Isaac say that the Lord had finally done for him in v22? When he went to Beersheba (v23), who appeared to him, and what did He say (v24)? How did Isaac respond (v25)? Then, who came and talked to him (v26)? And what does Isaac ask him (v27)? What kind of people do they all of a sudden sound like in vv28-30? How do they claim to have treated Isaac? Is this true? But what does Isaac do for/with them anyway in v30-31? When they leave, who immediately arrive, and with what news (v32)? What familiar name does Isaac give it (v33)? What becomes a source of grief in v34-35? 
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we find the Lord’s abundant blessing upon Isaac in many ways.

First, though Isaac was a wandering shepherd, all of a sudden he’s the best crop farmer there’s ever been—one hundredfold yield in the midst of a famine. And God prospers, prospers, prospers him with possessions, possessions, possessions. It is obvious that he is materially blessed.

But, second, Isaac is spiritually blessed. Though Isaac is mistreated, God gives him grace to be persistent. One well, after another, which are rightly his, get claimed by the Philistines. But the Lord hasn’t given him the land yet, and he has a promise from God to be taken care of in the famine. So, he just keeps moving on and trusting God—hearty faith in God’s Word enables him to be a peace-loving neighbor.

This spiritual blessing also presents itself in a more immediate way in the Lord’s appearance to him, giving strong reassurance in v24 that reinforces the great covenant promises of vv3-4. For Isaac’s part, the Word of God is even more important than a well of water. Amazingly, he stays in Beersheba, not Rehoboth, even before the well there is reopened.

Again, confidence in God’s promises to him enables him to deal kindly with the politically maneuvering Philistines—Abimelech trying to trade upon his kindness in the Rebekah incident and pretend that he has no control over the shepherds outside Gerar. But Isaac makes peace with them anyway. Let them have their land for now. After all, that guarantees the land to him, since God has promised to him their lands.

The main point here is still looking forward to Christ—the heir of all things who came first as a man of gentleness and peace… the very One who is promised here, and for whose sake Isaac is preserved.

But there is also an example for us, isn’t there? You have been promised that you will inherit the new heavens and new earth with Christ. It is all yours. This enables you to live wisely, stewarding whatever the Lord gives you now for the service of Christ, and (as far as possible) living at peace with all men!

Finally, however, note that there will be hard times. With so many mouths to feed (and water), surely the business about the wells was a great stressor upon Isaac. And who can place a value on the grief of Esau’s marriage choice(es!)? Thankfully, Christ did indeed come, and He has secured for us the promised inheritance. Let us live by faith in Him!
Who is mistreating you right now? How does faith in Christ enable you to react?
Suggested songs: ARP23B “The LORD’s My Shepherd” or TPH474 “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee”

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

2018.07.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 5:5-11

Questions for Littles: What does hope not do (v5)? Why not—what has been poured out in our hearts? By Whom? What condition were we in, when Christ died for us (v6)? For whom does v6 specifically say that Christ died? For what kind of man would people ordinarily still be unwilling to die (v7)? Who is giving the demonstration in v8? What is He demonstrating? For Whom? In what condition were we when Christ died? For whom did Christ die? Is v9 presenting something that is more certain, or less certain, than sinners such as we are being justified (declared righteous) through Christ’s blood? What is more certain—from what will we be saved? Through Whom? What were we, when we were reconciled to God (v10)? Through what were we reconciled? What condition are we now in? By what shall we be saved (end of v10)? In addition to this certainty, what are we already doing (v11)? In Whom are we rejoicing? Through Whom are we rejoicing? Why—what have we received through Him?
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from Romans 5:5-11. This is a passage about those whom God has declared righteous through faith in Jesus Christ (v1). But there are two transitions that have taken place. Legally, they have gone from “sinners” (v8) to “justified” (v9). Relationally, they have gone from “enemies” (v10) to “reconciled (v10,11).

Is this you, dear reader? Have you reconciled the debt of sin, and come to the cross and had it canceled in the permanent ink of the blood of Jesus Christ? If so, then you are reconciled with God!

And the point that our passage is making is that if God’s particular interest in you was that while you were still ungodly and a sinner and an enemy, Christ died for you… how can it even be possible that God’s interest in you has become any less now?

Less interest in one who is declared righteous by the throne of heaven? Less interest in one whose righteousness and reconciliation are the result of being IN CHRIST? Less interest now that you have gone from His enemy to His friend? Of course not! God’s redeeming love and saving interest in you cannot be lost by anything in time, because it is from eternity. It can have no end, because it had no beginning!

Finally, v11 takes the new reflex of our hearts toward God—to be exulting in Him, to be full of His praise—and says that this new life of rejoicing is an evidence and seal of our reconciliation.

So, may I ask you, dear reader—do you rejoice over God’s great redeeming love and saving acts?

Then, let no trouble ever discourage you—this recognition of God’s love has been spread into the corners of your heart by the Holy Spirit Himself. It is impossible that this hope would at last be disappointed!
Are you personally familiar with this rejoicing over the love of God with your whole heart?
Suggested songs: ARP32A “What Blessedness” or TPH431 “And Can It Be That I Should Gain”

Monday, July 16, 2018

2018.07.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 13:18-19

Questions for Littles: What does the apostle want them to do for him (v18)? Of what is he confident? What does he desire to do in all things? But why does he especially urge them to pray for him (v19)?  
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we learn the necessity and power of prayer.

First, we find the necessity of prayer in the command. “Pray for us,” says the apostle. You remember those who are prisoners (v3). You remember those who spoke the Word of God to you (v7). Remember us, too, in prayer.

This is the greatest service that we ever may do to those who are nearest to us: to go to the throne of heaven, armed with the blood and righteousness of Christ, and ask to have done all of the holy will of our most merciful and gracious God.

And even for those most distant, we may yet perform this greatest service!

Second, we find the necessity of prayer by considering him who asks for it in this text: the eminent apostle himself. Now, if the apostle needed prayer, how much do you need it? How much do those whom you care about it need it? How much do those whom God brings to mind need it?

In particular, the apostle needed prayer for his release and subsequent restoration to them. For those whom God places in positions where they come under the attack of the enemies of Christ, He calls us to the service of prayer!

Because God commands it, we do not ask “what good does it do” by way of challenge or rebellion. Rather, assuming that God commands us to do that which is good, we genuinely wonder: what does prayer accomplish? If all of God’s works are known to Him from the foundation of the world, does prayer change anything?

And the answer in this passage is: it absolutely does! The apostle believes that he and his companions have a good case to make before the judge. They have a good conscience, which is to say that they cannot think of a true charge against them. This is a strong plea both with the human judge, and with the divine Father who would give whatever strokes of discipline were necessary to a wayward child.

The apostle is an example to us in this: remember that he is speaking the Word of God to you, and follow the faith that has produced his good conscience, just as you follow the faith of your leaders, whose conduct was the fruit of faith and love in Christ. Let us follow the apostle in desiring to live honorably and in maintaining a good conscience.

But, the apostle now urges his readers to pray. Why? So that he may be released to them sooner. What? Can this eminent apostle really believe that if the readers do not pray, it will be longer; but, if the readers do pray, the apostle’s release will be sooner? That is exactly what he says!

Yes, known to God are all His works from the foundation of the world. And among those works are commanding His people to prayer, and moving His people to prayer, and sustaining His people in prayer. Prayer doesn’t change His plan, but it does change our circumstances, because He who rules over those circumstances has revealed Himself as the God who graciously hears and answers prayer! Therefore, prayer is an exceedingly powerful action, for it moves the hand of Almighty God!
For whom ought you especially to be praying? What might God be planning to do through you?
Suggested Songs: ARP4 “Answer When I Call” or TPH518 “Come, My Soul, with Every Care”