Saturday, October 27, 2018

2018.10.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:20-23

Questions for Littles: What is God doing at the beginning of v20? What does He say? What does He command to fly above the earth? Did they exist yet? Before the face of what do they fly? From what did God create the great sea creatures (v21)? What else did He create from nothing? What did the waters do with them? According to what were they created? According to what were the winged birds created? What did God do them in v22? And what did He command them to do? Then what came (v23)? And then what came? And what did that conclude?
In the Scripture for tomorrow’s sermon, we’ll be hearing about God “bara”-ing again: creating from nothing. Whether it’s ancient near-eastern religions or “modern” science, so many have tried to explain the great variety and abundance of life as coming from the sea.

But Scripture tells us the reason that there is such an abundance and variety—NOT because the sea has such power to produce life, but because God commanded that abundance to exist there, then created it out of nothing to exist there.

Have you ever seen a school of fish on a nature show or a giant flock of birds during migration? There can be no doubt that the sea and the sky are FULL of thriving life. But rather than being an indication that the sea is very “fertile,” it is a display of our Lord’s delight in abundant life.

In fact, the Lord commands these new creatures to be fruitful and to multiply. When we hear the same thing to man on Day 6, we will understand that the Lord wants this world to be FULL of image-bearing, God-glorifying, in-God-delighting people.

There’s a how-much-more argument here. God is already displaying His delight in multiplying abundance on day four. Now, if that was true of birds and fish, how-much-more is it true of man on day six?

Why emphasize this point? Because we live in a world where anti-theists—and, sadly, even many professing Christians—speak and act as if there are already too many people in the world. Christians should be a people who choose people over rare insect ecosystems, children over possessions and vacations, who fight abortion and euthanasia with all that they are—who love life.
What kind of people are you most likely to despise? How should that change?
Suggested Songs: ARP8 “Lord, Our Lord” or TPH8B “Lord, Our Lord, in All the Earth”

Friday, October 26, 2018

2018.10.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 5:16-23

Questions for Littles: Whom were the Jews persecuting (v16)? What did they seek to do to Him? Why? Who answers them (v17)? Whom does He say is still working? Who is working now? Whom do the Jews seek all the more to kill in v18? Why-what did they think He had broken? With whom did Jesus make Himself equal? Who answers them in v19? What can Jesus do without His Father? How much of what the Father does, does Jesus do? What is the Father’s attitude toward the Son (v20)? What does the Father show the Son? How were Jesus’s coming works going to compare to healing the man who had been paralyzed for 38 years? What does v21 say the Father does? To whom does the Son give life? Whom does the Father judge (v22)? To Whom has all judgment been committed? Whom must everyone honor (v23)? If someone doesn’t honor Jesus, whom else do they not honor?
In the Gospel reading this week, the Holy Spirit overwhelms us with Christ’s glory.

First, Jesus is equal with God. Because the Jews had understood Him rightly, Jesus doesn’t correct their idea but infuriates them even more by making several more claims to equality with God!

Second, Jesus is One with God. First, He says that His actions are actually God’s actions (the Son can do nothing of Himself), but far more amazingly, God’s actions are actually His actions (whatever the Father does, the Son also does in like manner). This is astonishing. To all mere men, God says “As high as the heavens are above the earth, so much higher are My ways than your ways and My thoughts than Your thoughts.” We cannot even know “whatever the Father does.” Jesus claims not only to know all the works of God but to do all the works of God.

Third, the Father loves the Son. Everything the Father does, He does out of love for the Son! How can anyone ever be lost while clinging to Christ?!

Fourth, the Son’s will determines who will be saved. Yes, the Father has chosen the elect in His Son. But the Son has also chosen to give life to whomever He will. Here is a level of God’s sovereignty so great that many professing believers refuse even to attribute it to the Father. But here, Christ claims this sovereign will for Himself.

Fifth, the Son is at least as honored as the Father. This is the very reason that the Father has committed all judgment to Him!

Finally, NO ONE who fails to acknowledge Jesus as everlasting God will be acknowledged to honor the Father.

Now Jew is ever saved except by believing in Jesus. No one from any other religion whatsoever can be saved. All religions (cults) that claim to accept the Bible while denying the eternal Godhood of Christ are utterly false and cannot honestly consider Him even a good teacher since they so completely disagree with Him on this point. Islam. Jehovah’s Witnesses. Mormonism.

Even Roman Catholicism is utterly bankrupted by this passage. Who could possibly pray to Mary or any saint when they can pray to such a Christ? Even worse—what mere human’s works could we ever add to the works of Christ to improve them? Such rubbish thoughts are from the pit of Hell.

Finally, dear Christian, do you see how loved you are? The Father who loves and honors His Son the way that this passage describes has chosen You in the Beloved (cf. Eph 1:3)! The Son, whose special display of His own divinity is to choose to whom to give life, has chosen to give You whatever spiritual life You have! How infinitely great is Christ’s love for you! How infinitely great is Christ’s worthiness for you! Rest in Him as all of your righteousness and salvation, and you will surely be saved!
How are you developing the mental habit of dwelling upon and remembering Christ’s love and worthiness?
Suggested songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or TPH270 “At the Name of Jesus”

Thursday, October 25, 2018

2018.10.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Corinthians 11:17-34

Questions for Littles: Was the Corinthians’ coming together making it better or worse (17)? What was the first reason that coming together for church was actually hurting them instead of helping them (18)? What is one reason that God allows these divisions—these factions—in the church (19)? Whose Supper, then, were they not eating (20)? Because whose supper were each of them taking (21)? From whom did Paul receive these instructions about the Supper (23)? What did Jesus take on the night He was betrayed (23)? When He gave thanks, what did He do with it (24)? What did He say? When did He take up the cup (25)? What did He say about it? What do eating the bread and drinking the cup proclaim (show forth) (26)? And for how long? If someone eats or drinks in the wrong way (“an unworthy manner”) of what are they guilty (27)? What is someone to do about the way he takes the Lord’s Supper (28)? What happens to us if we are wrong about that (29)? What was happening to them because they were taking wrong (30-32)? What should we do at the Lord’s Supper, when we come together to eat (33)? If we are hungry for food, what are we to do (34)? 
In this week’s Epistle reading, we learn about the Lord’s Supper—one of the great gifts that the Lord Jesus uses to bless us in worship. But, it was hurting the Corinthians instead of helping them. Why? Because everyone was seeking their own interests (v21). It was a spill-over from the division in their church (v18) that God was using to expose the hearts of some who were not even believers (v19).

But even believers were getting caught up in this division and self-interest. v32 tells us that some who were being judged with death were those who would not be condemned with the world. That doesn’t surprise us. Believers are sinners. We nurse bitterness, color others ugly with our words.

But of course the Lord’s Supper must never be the place for this. Jesus was betrayed for His church. Jesus died for this church. And Jesus gives Himself to His church, at the Lord’s Supper in particular. When He is giving Himself to us, we must not come to the table for anything else. And when He is giving Himself to our brothers and sisters, we must not come to the table with hearts divided against them.

He gives us bread to eat. But He tells us that He is feeding us upon Himself. He gives us a cup to drink. But He tells us that this is a covenant pledge—an action of announcing and confirming His bond with us and our bond with Him.

So, if we are just trying to have a snack, or trying to display ourselves, or make ourselves feel a certain way… then we are ignoring Jesus. And if we aren’t recognizing that the ones taking the Supper with us were so precious to Him that He is doing the same for them, then we are ignoring Jesus.

And if we are ignoring Jesus at the Lord’s Supper, we are not just guilty of a procedural error, or momentary gluttony, or even failing to reconcile with a brother. If we are ignoring Jesus at the moment that He is giving Himself to us as fruit of His work on the cross, then we are sinning against the body and blood of Jesus.

This is the great self-examination as we come to the table. It’s not trying to figure out if we’re spiritual enough, or repentant enough, or believing enough. It’s a questioning of whether we are coming because we know ourselves to be sinners, and we know Christ to be our only hope. It’s a questioning of whether as we come, we will look to Christ by faith and rejoice that He gives Himself to our brothers and sisters, as well as to us.
Why do you take the Lord’s Supper? What are you looking for as you take? Are you also thinking about your brothers and sisters who are taking the supper? With whom do you need to reconcile, so that you can rejoice for them? 
Suggested songs: ARP191 “I Love the Lord” or TPH201 “’Twas on That Night When Doomed to Know”

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

2018.10.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 5:13-15

Questions for Littles: Where was Joshua by? What did he see? What did the Man have in His hand? What did Joshua ask? What did the Man answer in v14? Whose army was He commanding? What does Joshua do? What does Joshua ask? What does the Commander of Yahweh’s army tell Joshua to do (v15)?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, Joshua meets the God of the bush on Mount Sinai.

It’s a surprising meeting. The Lord has exalted Joshua in the eyes of Israel, so what Joshua needs more than anything is to be humbled before the God of Israel.

Rachael’s been waiting in her Jericho-wall-apartment for going on four chapters now. The invasion has been postponed by one dramatic event after another. And now… as Joshua is right by Jericho…

The Captain of Yahweh’s army appears. Joshua begins from a position of strength, “Are you for us, or for our enemies?” It’s a challenge from someone who is confident. Really, Joshua expects the answer to be one or the other. But the surprising answer is, “No.”

No? No. You might think that He would answer, “I am for you.” After all, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” And it is true, the Lord would be fighting for Israel. But that is not the point of this particular interview. The point is that God’s allegiance to His people is never in question. What is in question, however, is God’s people’s allegiance to Him.

Joshua gets the message and falls on his face, worshiping. Don’t let that be lost upon you. By the time Joshua asks the next question, he is already on his face, worshiping.

What message can be so important that the Captain of Yahweh’s hosts would personally appear to deliver it to Joshua, now that he is by Jericho? Is it some last-minute intel from the city? Is it a last-minute tweak of strategy?

No. It’s a wardrobe command. Remove your sandals. There are a couple of surprising things here. First, Joshua’s feet aren’t even on the ground! Second, why would Yahweh show up to tell Joshua that the ground is holy, when the ground wasn’t even holy until Yahweh made this appearance?

The point is clear: far more important than any knowledge of Jericho, far more important than any knowledge of strategy, is the knowledge of the greatness of the holiness of God. Do you have that knowledge, dear believer?

Are you, first and foremost, awed and dwarfed by the white-hot holiness of the Lord? Or are you perhaps preoccupied with trying to figure out what’s going on in the circumstances of your life? Or coming up with a strategy of how to change those circumstances? The most important thing for any of us to know is the holiness of the Lord!                     

Our greatest danger is not on earth. It is the holiness of God against which we have sinned. Our only help is not on earth. It is our holy Redeemer who sits at God’s right hand! Unless we are convinced of God’s infinite holiness, we will miss the Redeemer and suffer infinite, eternal wrath.
How and when do you intentionally acquaint and affect yourself with the holiness of God?
Suggested songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or TPH230 “Holy, Holy, Holy”

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

2018.10.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 73

Questions for Littles: How does the Psalm summarize its teaching in v1? But what does the Psalmist immediately admit about himself, concerning faith in God’s goodness, in v2? What are some things that he had noticed about the wicked in vv3-12? What did he conclude about himself and his godliness in v13? What circumstance from v14 had led him to decide that there was no point in being godly? But what would he have done if he had spoken like that out loud (v15)? When he tried to figure this out, what happened (v16)? What ended up making the difference (v17)? Whose end does he understand in v17-20? What does he conclude had been his problem in vv21-22? Who is always with him? Who will receive him into glory? Whose end is he learning about now? What does that teach him about what to value in v25? What does that teach him about whom to depend upon in v26? What will happen to those who are far from God (v27)? What is good in v28? What is the ultimate purpose of trusting in the Lord in v28? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin came from Psalm 73:17-28.

Here, we learn the value of true worship—because it teaches us what a true life of thanksgiving looks like.

It looks like remembering what our end could have been (losing everything we have on earth, and falling into destruction as we are condemned by God).

It looks like remembering what our end is instead (enjoying the glorious holiness of God forever and ever).

It looks like realizing that we have, now already, Him who is the heavenliness of heaven. We are continually with Him! It is He who holds us by our right hand! It is He who guides us with His counsel! Who is He? The glorious One who will receive us into His own glory.

It looks like concluding that if we have Him, we have already, now, in heaven and earth, more property than we could ever hope to desire. God is our portion forever.

It looks like concluding that if we have Him, we have already, now, more power than we could ever fear to need. God is the strength of our heart.

Is God near to us? Then we have not kept our hands clean in vain. Are we far from God? Then we are on the cusp of eternal destruction.

Why have we trusted in God? Not so that we can get all the other earthly stuff that we love, but so that we can realize and tell all that God is more glorious and worthy than all else combined!
What trials do you have right now? What earthly things do you desire? How does God compare? How has your life been showing a desire to tell others His praise?
Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly, I Am with You” or TPH73C “In Sweet Communion, Lord”

Monday, October 22, 2018

2018.10.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 1:14-19

Questions for Littles: Who commanded lights to exist in the firmament (v14)? What were the lights to divide? What else would these lights mark off? What did God command that they would give onto the earth (v15)? How many great lights did God make (v16)? Which would rule the day? Which would rule the night? What did He make “also”? Where did God set them (v17)? To do what? What did they rule over (v18)? And what did they divide? And what did God see? Then what happened (v19)? And then what? And what did this conclude?
From the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we noticed that the Lord created this greater light, lesser light, and billions of stars and doesn’t bother to give a single one of them a name. Is it because He does not take a special ownership over them? Of course not. He gives them commands—even for busywork. He assigns them a job serving the rest of His creatures.

This, of course, was in direct opposition to the imaginations of unbelievers who saw the sun, moon, and stars as powerful gods to be worshiped and feared. The Lord is emphasizing that there is no other god. He is the almighty Lord, the sovereign One who works all things according to the counsel of His will.

In our culture today, people tend to find their security or take their pleasure in technology. We tend to live for entertainment. We fear government, or otherwise put our hope in it, as if it were some kind of god. Perhaps the most subtle god we trust in and serve is ourselves: “believe in yourself” is the ultimate doctrine preached by many.

Let us learn to look up into the sky. We know now the size and magnificence of these servants that the Lord has hung in the sky for us. Our God is infinitely superior to them. He alone is worth fearing. He alone is worthy of worship.

And, most of all, it is He who has given Himself for us and to us. Let the sun, moon, and stars take our attention to the cross of Jesus Christ, where the sun went dark. God announces His power and love for us in Christ with every sunrise, sunset, beautiful moon, and shining star!
What do you tend to fear instead of the Lord? Trust? Find pleasure in?
Suggested Songs: ARP136 “Thank the Lord for Good Is He” or TPH136 “O Thank the Lord, for He Is Good”