Saturday, August 18, 2018

2018.08.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 13:5-7

Questions for Littles: For what two reasons must we be subject (v5)? What do we also do because of this (v6)? Why do we pay taxes (6b)? What are four different kinds of things that we might owe to an authority (v7)? 
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we heard about two reasons that we are to obey the governing authorities: wrath and conscience.

The “wrath” reason is more immediate. We usually think of it in terms of “the wrath to come,” but in v5 it is connected to the ability to wield the sword from v4. There are things that the government commands that it really has no right to command—things that don’t help us love God or neighbor, and may actually be hindrances to loving God or neighbor.

Yet, the government still has that sword—that ability to punish—as God has ordained for it to have. There is a wisdom calculation that we must make: is it worth it to disobey on this point, in order to be able to love God and neighbor more conveniently?

But then there is the other reason: conscience. We covered that in Monday’s devotional on vv1-4, but it bears repeating that every lawful command must be obeyed, because government is instituted by God.

That brings us to the subject of taxes. The government at the time that Paul wrote this letter had done things like crucify Christians, cover them in tar, and light them on fire as torches. But, as long as it was also actually punishing evildoers, taxes were due to it as a matter of conscience.

However, there was another reason to pay. Tax collectors and soldiers were in cahoots with one another to get more money out of people than they were supposed to collect. There’s a choice there: is it worth it to suffer the wrath of the soldiers to stiff the tax collector on the overcharge?

At the end of the day, every authority over us is due one kind of thing or another—even if that thing is just respect or honor. And we must give them what is due for both reasons: punishment from men and conscience before God!
What do you owe to the various authorities in your life? Do you pay it?
Suggested Songs: ARP72A “God, Give Your Judgments to the King” or TPH174 “The Ten Commandments”

Friday, August 17, 2018

2018.08.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 1:35-51

Questions for Littles: What does John tell two of his disciples about Jesus (v35-36)? And what do they do (v37-39)? Who was one of these two (v40)? Whom did he bring to Jesus (v41-42)? What did Jesus predict about him? Whom did Jesus call in v43? Whom did he tell in v45? What did he say about Jesus? But what did Nathanael answer (v46)? What does Jesus say about him in v47? But what makes Nathanael change his mind about Jesus in v48-49? What does Jesus tell him he will see in v51? 
In the Gospel reading this week, Jesus’s identity is the main focus.

John tells us that Jesus is the Lamb of God (v36), the unspotted sacrifice that God provides for the forgiveness of sins.

Andrew tells us that Jesus is the Messiah (v41), which is to say that He is the anointed one. By this time, this was primarily a reference to His kingship, though we know from the rest of Scripture that it is also a reference to His offices as Prophet and Priest.

Philip tells us that Jesus is the focus of the whole Bible. He is the one that Moses wrote about in the law, and the one about whom all the prophets wrote.

Nathanael tells us that Jesus is the Son of God and the King of Israel. That seems like quite a leap, except that he is taking Jesus’s knowledge of him as confirmation of what Philip had said.

Jesus Himself tells us that He is the new Israel. He is great Jacob’s greater son. It is valid to read Genesis 28:12 in the Hebrew as saying that the angels were ascending and descending upon him (Jacob). Not only does the grammar fit it better (the gender would have been incorrect for the word “it/him” to refer to the “ladder”), but John makes that parallel here.

Jesus has replaced Jacob. When heaven opens, what Nathanael—and every other believer—sees is that in order to be in covenant relationship with God, we must belong to Jesus Christ. This is a great shift from God’s covenant with Israel, but just like John the Baptist, all predecessors must give way to Christ. The question for you, then, is: do you belong to Christ?
How is Jesus your Sacrifice? King? Priest? Prophet? God? Salvation?
Suggested songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken” or TPH492 “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds”

Thursday, August 16, 2018

2018.08.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 6:12-20

Questions for Littles: What were some Corinthians saying they were allowed to do (v12)? What were they saying the stomach is made for (v13)? But whom does Paul warn them will destroy it? For whom does the body exist? And what will God do with us that He has already done with the Lord Jesus (v14)? Of what are our bodies members (v15)? Of what must we not make them members (v15-16)? In what way are we one with the Lord Jesus (v17)? How should we respond to sexual immorality (v18)? Against what do we sin in sexual immorality? But what is this our body (v19)? How did God claim His right to us (v20)? What should we do with both our body and our spirit?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we find a couple sayings that sound wise, and were going around the Corinthian church. “All things are lawful for me,” they said. I’ve heard a version of this, where those who profess faith in Christ say, “I’m not perfect, just forgiven.” By that, they mean, “I can do whatever I want, since I’ve got forgiveness in Jesus.”

But that’s not how someone who actually has forgiveness thinks. Rather, the one whose heart has been opened to the Lord and forgiven by the Lord wants to live in the way that glorifies the Lord and keeps him free from sin.

Another thing that they were saying was, “Foods for the stomach and the stomach for foods.” They were justifying their gluttony by saying, “this is the way God made us—that’s what stomachs are for!”

But the apostle reminds us that we are not in fact the way that God made us. Sin and death have entered the world, and the fact that our bodies will soon lie in the grave is a reminder that our impulses are full of sin now.

But the Corinthians were even using such excuses to tell themselves that it was ok to visit prostitutes. They were taking the temple of the Holy Spirit, the blood-bought possession of the Lord Jesus Christ—themselves—and joining it to a prostitute!

It is a sad fact that, as Christians, we think so much about how we can best enjoy ourselves rather than how we can best glorify God. But living for ourselves is theft. Our whole selves—body and soul—have been bought with the blood of Jesus Christ. We must live in the way that glorifies Him!
What must you stop doing that you have been doing? What must you do instead? 
Suggested songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or HB276 “There Is a Fountain”

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

2018.08.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 28:10-22

Questions for Littles: What did Jacob dream (v10-12)? What were ascending and descending upon him? Who stood above him in v13? What did He promise to give to Jacob? What did He promise about his descendants in v14? And who would be blessed through them? What else does the Lord promise in v15? How does Jacob feel, when he wakes up (v17)? What does he think that place is? What does he do in v18, and what does he call the place in v19? What does Jacob vow in v21? And what does he promise in v22?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, Jacob is running for his life from Esau. The map tells us that he has gone about 60 miles by the time he stops. That would be a 15 hour day of 15 minute miles!

No wonder he is so tired that he can sleep with a rock for a pillow! But, he is about to get even more scared. He has a vision of angels ascending and descending upon him by means of some kind of ladder, and even of a manifestation of the Lord right at his head.

The rest of the interaction is rather odd. The Lord makes glorious covenant promises of the land (v13), the people (14a), salvation (14b), and even His personal presence (v15). But, when Jacob wakes up, he seems not to be taking God at His Word. He makes his vow in a “if” “then” sort of format.

As we read it, we want to believe that he’s implying that God will surely keep the promises, but what we observe of Jacob in the coming chapters doesn’t really encourage us to think that he’s approaching this from a position of faith. In fact, it seems like he is bargaining with God.

We must never do that. God doesn’t need anything from us at all. Rather, He generously invites us into relationship with Him. It is a blessing to us to have God as our God. It is a blessing to us to be able to give Him a tithe of everything. We don’t do these things as some sort of quid-pro-quo response to if God keeps up “His end of the bargain.”

Jacob definitely is not the hero here. The Lord is. He makes this glorious promises that belong to all Israel. But He especially makes them to those who belong to the true Israel—our Lord Jesus Christ!
What are the Lord’s promises to you in Jesus? How are you privileged to respond?
Suggested songs: ARP89C “Behold, How Blessed the People Are” or TPH245 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

2018.08.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 4:5-31

Questions for Littles: Who were gathered together to put Peter and John on trial (v5-6)? What did they ask (v7)? By what name does Peter tell them they had done a good deed to a helpless man (v8-10)? What else does Peter say about Jesus in v10? What does he quote in v11? What does he say about Jesus’ name in v12? What did the accusers and court realize about them in v13? Still, what did they decide to do in v14-17? What command did they give in v18? How did Peter and John answer in 19? What did they feel that they had to do (v20)? What did they do to them in v21? What couldn’t they do to them, and why (v21-22)? What do the apostles acknowledge about God in v24? Whom do they recognize Psalm 2 as being about (v25-27)? What did the nations and Israel do, according to v28? For what do the apostles ask in v29? What did they immediately go out and do at the end of v31?
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of sin came from Acts 4. In this particular passage, the apostles are on trial, and the Lord actually uses those who are trying to punish them to give them a great opportunity. Their captors actually ask them by what power or name they had healed the man!!

Of course, that’s a great big softball, and the Holy Spirit fills Peter and enables him to knock it right out of the park. He doesn’t just tell them that it was Jesus—but the crucified and risen Jesus in whose name alone there can be any salvation!

The court threatens them, but how much of a threat is it really? The apostles have read all about the nations raging in Psalm 2, and they know something very important: God foreordains whatsoever comes to pass.

Dear Christian, don’t you realize this about yourself, your friends, and even your worst enemies: though each of us is responsible for our willful actions, we all do “whatever God’s hand and God’s purpose determined before to be done.”

The cross, of course, is the greatest example of this. And the effect of it is that the Scripture here gives us a model prayer: not so much that we would be comfortable, but rather that we would be faithful. We can trust our ultimate comfort to God, who sovereignly works all things for our good.
In what difficulty is God’s sovereignty enabling you to focus on doing right?
Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or TPH231 “Whate’er My God Ordains Is Right”

Monday, August 13, 2018

2018.08.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 13:1-4

Questions for Littles: How many souls should be subject (v1)? To whom should they be subject? Where does all authority come from? Who has appointed the authorities that exist? If we resist authority, what do we really resist (v2)? If we resist authority, what will we bring upon ourselves? To what kind of works are rulers a terror (v3)? What should we do, if we want to be unafraid of authority? From whom also, then, will we get praise? Whose minister to us is the authority (v4)? For what purpose? When should we be afraid? What does the authority bear, and no in vain? What is the authority to be upon him who practices evil? 
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we were reminded of the significance of the fact that every man must answer to God. Authority was not our idea, it was God’s. Everyone is under authority, and everyone must answer… and ultimately everyone will answer to the Lord.

This is why we must never resist the idea of authority. In our sinfulness, we don’t like to be under authority, but God doesn’t need to consult us on how He operates His creation.

When God told Noah, in Genesis 9, that the one who sheds man’s blood must have his blood shed by man, God commanded the death penalty for murderers. Of course, God could easily kill all murderers Himself, but in giving that command, He established that there must be an authority who oversees, who investigates, who determines guilt, who carries out sentences.

Sadly, man corrupts authority—just as he corrupts all of God’s good gifts. So, there are authorities of whom we might rightly be afraid… IF God hadn’t said, “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord.”

Ultimately, if we do what is good, even if the immediate authority above us does not approve, God does. He will take vengeance upon any wrong done to us. He will even reward us—for Jesus’s sake!—for any good that we have done in Christ. The ultimate authority will even praise us!

Note that this logic only applies if it is God who determines what is “good” in v3-4. We recognize God’s authority by refusing all commands to do evil!

However, if we do what God calls evil, His justice will fully agree with the just punishments that we receive. And that is good reason to be afraid!
What authorities are over you? When and why must you obey them?
Suggested Songs: ARP95B “Today If You Will Hear His Voice” or HB146 “Hail to the Lord’s Anointed”