Saturday, September 8, 2018

2018.09.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 20:25-32

Questions for Littles: What will the Ephesian elders never see again (v25)? Of what does Paul say he is innocent (v26)? Why—what has he not shunned to declare to them (v27)? To whom must the elders take heed to first (v28)? To whom else must they take heed? Who has made the elders overseers? What are the overseers to do the church? Whose church is it? How did He get it? What danger does v29 warn against? What danger does v30 warn against? What is the example for how watchful the elders are supposed to be, and how watchful was he (v31)? To what is Paul commending/entrusting them, with all of these instructions (v32)? What is it able to do?
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we learned God’s plan for getting us all the way home.

At the end of the passage, the apostle says that he commends them to God and to the word of His grace. If we have been paying attention in Scripture, everywhere we see this truth: God alone can save, which salvation therefore must be only by grace; and, He has determined to do so by means of His Word.

Furthermore, this Scripture gives us even more details about the manner in which God works in us by His Word. God the Son has purchased the church by His own blood. Now, God the Holy Spirit has made some redeemed sinners into overseers, so that they might shepherd that church.

What do these overseer-shepherds need to do? Declare to the flock the whole counsel of God.

But it’s not exactly that simple. There are savage wolves that come in among the flock and devour them. The shepherds must go around amongst the flock, checking to see that Christ’s blood-bought ones are fed properly and protected properly.

Also, there are elders who will say things that stray from the Scriptures, and draw people after themselves instead of after the Savior. So, it is a necessary part of the care of the flock for elders to maintain their own souls, and to study, and to keep one another accountable.

This is, ultimately, what it means to entrust oneself to God and the Word of His grace: to be a truly biblical Presbyterian.
How have you enlisted the elders’ help to avoid spiritual/theological danger?
Suggested Songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd”

Friday, September 7, 2018

2018.09.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 2:23-3:21

Questions for Littles: Whom did many at the feast believe in (v23)? But what didn’t Jesus do (v24)? Why—what did He know? What Pharisee came to see him (v1)? At what time of day (v2)? How does Jesus answer Nicodemus’s opening compliment (v3)? What question does Nicodemus ask in v4? By what does Jesus say we must be born in v5-6? Where does the wind blow, and in whom therefore does the Spirit work (v8)? What does Nicodemus ask in v9? By what is Jesus amazed in vv10-12? Where was the Son of Man, and where did He go (v13)? What must happen to the Son of Man, and how can someone have eternal life (v15-16)? Why did God send His Son into the world (v17)? Why is the one who does not believe condemned already (v18)? Why do men love darkness rather than light (v19-20)? When someone who does the truth comes to the light, what can be seen about his deeds (v21)?
In the Gospel reading this week, we hear about a most important subject concerning our happiness: how a man can avoid being destroyed, but instead have eternal life with Jesus Christ.

The problem is actually originally found in the people at the feast: we are rotten from the inside out. This was why Jesus did not entrust Himself to them: He knew what was in man. The people believed in Him; Nicodemus acknowledges Him to be a good teacher from God, but none of them are saved, yet. Why not?

Because only the Holy Spirit can save, and He cannot be manipulated any more than we can change which way the wind will blow. He will work in whomever He will. Of course, Nicodemus knew that Jesus meant spiritual rebirth—but that’s offense to think about. Is there really nothing salvageable in me? Nothing good at all? Must I be completely remade? Don’t I just need a touch-up here and there?

Until the Spirit convicts us, we avoid having the light of God’s truth shine on us, because we enjoy the false narrative that our deeds aren’t so bad. Everyone practicing evil hates the light. The idea that we need an entirely new spiritual life to be saved was as ridiculous to the honored Pharisee as the idea of climbing back into his mother to be reborn.

But that is the case: there is nothing good in us at all. That is why salvation is only by trusting in the crucified Christ. That is why the only good works are only those works that have been done in God, after one has come to faith in Christ.

The great news in this passage is not so much that one must be born again as it is that the Holy Spirit does in fact give this new birth! Have you had this birth? Is Christ all your hope? Are your good deeds only done by His life in you?
Why did you need to be completely remade by God the Holy Spirit? Have you?
Suggested songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or TPH391 “Come, Thou Quick’ning Spirit”

Thursday, September 6, 2018

2018.09.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 7:17-35

Questions for Littles: Who has distributed to each of us our situation (v17)? What is one thing that we do not need to change (v18)? What is it that actually matters (v19)? How should we consider our current circumstances (v20)? What is another thing that we do not need to change (v21)? What two, opposite things are we at the very same time, in Christ (v22)? But what, especially, should we NOT become (v23)? About what does the apostle not have a direct quote from Jesus (v25)? Because of what, at that time, was it good for a man to remain single (v26)? But what should married men, still at that time, not have sought (v27)? During such times, what would marrying bring (v28)? What kinds of things are not as important as serving the Lord as well as possible in the present form of this world (v29-31)? And, yet, what must a married man place as his top priority in the Lord’s service (v32-33)? What must a married woman place as her top priority in the Lord’s service (v34)? Again, what is the main point of the apostle’s instructions in this section (v35)?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we receive a pretty big corrective to one of the lies that we tell ourselves: “If only I change [this] or [that] thing in my circumstances, then I’ll really be set up to serve the Lord properly.”

The problem with that kind of thinking is that it secretly blames God for our current poor service, because our circumstances themselves are a calling from God in which to serve. Circumcision, uncircumcision, slave, free—callings from God. That is to say: our cultural and place in society is a calling from God, and our economic status is a calling from God.

Now, we shouldn’t seek to place ourselves under any more obligation than necessary to others, lest we intentionally limit ourselves from certain avenues of service to the Lord (v23). But our intentionally doing something is quite different from God having providentially done it (v24)!

Still, there is wisdom to be exercised in each particular circumstance. According to v26, the Corinthians were going through some significant distress—one in which it would not be wise to try to start a family.

And there is wisdom to be exercised in every circumstance on this side of glory—recognizing that this life is our last chance to serve the Lord before the eternal age arrives. Therefore, let us see every temporary thing (yes, even marriage, cf. Mat 22:30!) not as an end in itself, but as an occasion in which we are to serve the Lord—marriage, grief, and possessions are all occasions for serving the eternal God in a temporary world (v29-31)!

Therefore, the reasoning of the rest of the chapter is that there are certain avenues of service that are open to the unmarried, but in which the married would be very limited. The husband’s first place of service is his wife, and the wife’s first place of service is her husband (v33-34).
What are your circumstances? What would it mean for you to serve the Lord in them? What distractions have you added that are getting in the way of more service?
Suggested songs: ARP128 “How Blessed Are All Who Fear” or TPH538 “Take My Life, and Let It Be”

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

2018.09.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 29:31-30:24

Questions for Littles: Who opened Leah’s womb (v31)? Why? What does Leah call her first son (v32)? Why? What does she call her second son (v33)? Why? What does she call her third son (v34)? Why? What does she call her fourth son (v35)? Why? What is different about this fourth name? Whom does Rachel blame for her having no children (30:1)? Whom does Jacob point out is actually in charge of whether she bears children (v2)? What plan does Rachel come up with in v3? Where have we seen this before? Who goes along with it (v4)? What is the result in v5? What does Rachel claim about this son in v6? What does she name the son? What does she name the second son (v8)? Why? Now who is coming up with the same sinful plan (v9)? What does she name the son in v11? Why? What does she name the son in v13? Why? What had Rachel apparently been able to prevent Leah from doing (v15)? How did Leah get her to relent? Who obediently went along with the arrangement in v16? Why/how did Leah conceive (v17)? What does she name this son (v18)? Why? What does she name her sixth son (v20)? Why? What is different about her next child (v21)? Who acts in v22? What does she say in v23? What name does she give the son in v24? Why—what did she say?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we find something of an arms race. Sons were very valuable for their labor/productivity/earning, for their military worth, and especially for carrying on the family line—especially when the salvation of the world depends upon that family line!

Here we are in the third generation of the Abrahamic covenant, and we’ve just had one son that remained in the covenant, and then again one son that remained in the covenant, and now BOOM—in just a handful of verses (and wives?!?!!) 11 covenant sons (with one more to come).

The whole thing is deeply sad, starting with an unloved wife, and the handmaid method of increased fertility, and the passive husband who just does whatever his wives say—right down to allowing Rachel to control the bedroom rotation roster. We feel badly for Leah on the names of the first three, and maybe a little bit proud of her for Judah. But names like Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Issachar just seem so out of line! In fact, the passage as a whole is almost enough to make us sick.

But the astonishing thing is that despite the wickedness of man than fills the passage up, there is a thread of God’s grace running all the way through it. He is noticing who is unloved. He is answering Leah’s prayers, and then Rachel’s.

How can the holy, holy, holy God do so for such sinners as we see them to be here? The answer is in the purpose of multiplying these sons to begin with: to form the nation into which God’s own Son can be born as the Son of Man. God can be merciful to sinners, because He is so lovingly determined to be merciful that He Himself is preparing to enter into the world to bear their sin!

Dear believer, this is exactly what He has done for us! If we could honestly see our sin as it really is, we would find it as ugly and sick as the arms race in the passage. Shall we not then also see the wonderful grace of God that is the great thread that runs through our life?
What are some good things God has done for you lately? Why would/did He?
Suggested songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

2018.09.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 35

Questions for Littles: What will happen to the wilderness, wasteland, and desert for God’s people (v1-2)? What ultimate glory and excellency will they see (v2)? What should His people do while they wait (v3-4)? Who will come with a vengeance? What will He do to His people? How does He describe this salvation in terms of their eyes (v5)? Their ears? Their ability to walk (v6)? Their tongue? Into this picture of new life from v7, what do we see appear in v8? What is the highway called? Who cannot pass over it? What will not be there (v9)? But who will walk there? What will the ransomed be doing as they return to Zion (v10)?  What will be on their heads? What will they obtain? What will flee away?
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, and Confession of sin came from Isaiah 35.

This chapter uses colorful imagery to describe the salvation that Jesus Christ brings to His people.

Surely, without Him, it feels like we are in a wilderness, a wasteland, a desert of parched ground. But once His salvation is completed in and for us, we shall find that He has made our experience one of eternal, lush, vibrant life.

Surely, without His Spirit, we are blind, deaf, lame, and mute. Is this not the great reason for Jesus performing miracles on such physically afflicted people during His earthly ministry? He was declaring Himself to be the Savior-Redeemer-God of Isaiah 35. Therefore, He points to these exact things, when John the Baptizer’s disciples come and ask if He is the Christ. Only Christ adds, “and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”

Look at the reward that He has in store for us—to be perfectly safe forever, to view the glory and excellency of our God, to have only singing and joy and never sighing or sorrow!

Therefore, we heed the instruction in vv3-4. Trusting in Him, and knowing that He will finish His work, we strengthen the weak hands and straighten the wobbly knees, and determine to be strong and not fear.

Our God will surely save us, and bring us into everlasting life and joy!!
In what current situation do you need to remember that Jesus is saving you?
Suggested songs: ARP16A “Keep Me, O God” or TPH170 “God in the Gospel of His Son”

Monday, September 3, 2018

2018.09.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 20:16-24

Questions for Littles: Where couldn’t Paul visit, since he was in a hurry (v16-17)? What did he ask for their elders to do instead? What was the first thing that Paul reminded them about in v18? How had he served the Lord (v19)? How had many tears and trials happened to him? What did he keep back from them (v20)? What had he done instead? In what two settings did he teach them? To which groups of church members did he conduct such a ministry (v21)? What were the two primary things that he preached? Where is he going now (v22)? What has the Holy Spirit said awaits him there (v23)? What does he care about more than what happens to himself (v24)? What two things does he want to finish? With what attitude? And what is the ministry that he received, and from whom?
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, Paul establish the top priority for the Ephesian church going forward: preaching and teaching ministry in public and from house to house.

How high a priority is this? Paul is in a great hurry to get to Jerusalem—such a hurry that he can’t spare the time to go into Ephesus. Instead, he sends word ahead, and the Ephesian elders come meet him on the coast. As the elders are on their way to Miletus, they (and we) are primed to expect something very important indeed.

This is only heightened, with Paul’s introduction about how they knew his devotion to the ministry, despite the many hardships that he faced. What was so important that he had them come out to them now? What was so important that he had been willing to suffer so many tears and trials.

The ministry of the Word. In public. And from house to house.

Notice the way he puts it: he had kept back nothing that was helpful. What is it that God uses to help us? The proclamation of the Word. This is what we need more than anything else. Preaching and teaching the Word must be our elders’ priority, and hearing and heeding that preaching and teaching must be our congregation’s priority.

Two more things to note, briefly, about this preaching ministry (1) its location: in public and from house to house; (2) its content: repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus Christ.

In public+households is a simple recipe, but sadly not always followed. In fact, rather few churches in our time have this from-house-to-house pastoral ministry of the elders. One would think that the biblical term “shepherd” would be clear enough in implying that the elders need to be spending time out among and directing the sheep. Even so, here we have clear teaching that this ought to be so. Let us make this a priority for the kind of ministry that we seek from them!

Finally, repentance and faith both need to be preached. The whole of Scripture needs to be preached. The law needs to be preached—not just to unbelievers but to believers who need to know how to go about living unto God. But a ministry that only preaches this will lead people either into pride or despair over how they think they are doing.

The gospel, faith toward Jesus Christ, must also be preached: not only is He the only righteous standing we can ever have before God, but His life is also the only spiritual life that we can ever have for living unto our God who has saved us. Similarly, if this is the only thing that is preached, then we leave out much of Scripture. Paul reminded the Ephesian elders that he had proclaimed both, that they must proclaim both, and so must we have both proclaimed.
Where do your elders pastor you? How are you responding to each type of preaching (repentance and faith)?
Suggested Songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH175 “Your Law, O God, Is Our Delight”