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Saturday, April 27, 2019

2019.04.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 1:1-5

Read John 1:1-5
Questions for Littles: When was the Word already there (John 1:1)? With whom was the Word at that time? Who was He at that time? Who was with (literally, “toward,” or “facing”) God in the beginning (John 1:2)? What was made through Him (John 1:3)? What wasn’t made through Him? What was in Him (John 1:4)? What did men receive from this light? What does the light do now (John 1:5)? What has the former light of men become? What can’t the darkness grasp? 
In the Scripture for tomorrow’s sermon, we will hear an astonishing introduction to Jesus Christ. It doesn’t start in Bethlehem. It doesn’t start in the womb of Mary. In fact, it doesn’t even start in time. In the beginning, the Word already was. From all eternity. How? The Word was God. And Jesus’s mission was one that began outside of time.

The Gospel of John is the story of God, the eternally glorious Son, breaking into time to retrieve the adoptive children, and bring them home to Father, where they will enjoy Him (Christ) as the very glory of the Father Himself, forever and ever.

So John begins by taking us literally to the beginning: the glory that Jesus had with God before the world began—from all eternity, the Father and the Son (with the Spirit, who is not explicitly mentioned here) in perfect and equal glory and power, of the same substance.

This glory, God displayed by creating, and of course the Son is the Creator every bit as much as the Father is. Because the Word was God. So everything else that is not God is created by the Word. He is, therefore, very God of very God from the beginning. No wonder various cults either deny or rewrite this portion of Scripture!

And what a glorious beginning for man: the life of the Word Himself was given to men to be their light. Man was made in His image. Nothing else in creation can make that claim.

Sadly, man fell quickly. His light became darkness—so dark, in fact, that when the Word Himself came and shined in the darkness, men were unable to grasp His light. But to those who, by the will of God, receive the new birth and come to believe in Him, He gives them, too, the amazing right to be called the children of God!
What were you created to be? What would you be by yourself? What has God done about that?
Suggested Songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or TPH270 “At the Name of Jesus”

Friday, April 26, 2019

2019.04.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 12:12-16

Questions for Littles: How many people are in the crowd mentioned in John 12:12? What did they hear was happening? What did they take with them in John 12:13? Whom did they go to meet? What did they quote from Psalm 118:25-26? What did Jesus seek and find in John 12:14? What did He do with it? What was He saying about Himself, from Zechariah 9:9 (John 12:15)? Who didn’t understand these things at first (John 12:16)? When did they realize that Psalm 118 and Zechariah were referring to Jesus?
In the Gospel reading this week, the chief priests’ and Pharisees’ greatest fear seems to come true. Before John took us to the little dinner party in Bethany, we had left Jerusalem with two groups who were wondering if Jesus would come—the Passover-early-arrivers who were there to purify themselves for the feast, and the religious leaders who were hoping to put Him to death before He got too popular.

Too late. It’s five days before Passover now, and this is not just “many” people as in John 11:55 but now a “great multitude.” And the conclusion to which they had come is that Jesus is the King of Israel of Whom Psalm 118 spoke. Still, crowds are fickle. It has become popular in recent years to point out that this isn’t exactly the same crowd that will be shouting “crucify Him!” a few days later, but surely there was some overlap. And who knows how many others had garnered such attention or gathered such a following? Gamaliel points out that this has happened before (cf. Acts 5:36-37).

What is much more significant is the actions of Jesus. John merely tells us that Jesus “found a young donkey.” Matthew, Mark, and Luke all described the process by which Jesus specifically sought one out. By telling us that the disciples did not understand at first, John highlights for us the one who did understand: Jesus.

It wasn’t so much that Jesus was trying to make sure that all the ‘i's were dotted and ‘t’s were crossed. It was “that these things were written about Him.” In other words, it was not just that Scripture was being fulfilled; rather, the Scripture was the way it was precisely because it was looking forward to Him. Who He would be is what had determined what would be written—not the other way around.

The King had come. The Scripture responded rightly (hundreds of years earlier). The crowds (for now) responded rightly. The apostles (later) responded rightly. The King has come. How will you respond? Praying for salvation (Hosanna) and adoring His Majesty? Trusting in Him (fear not, daughter of Zion!)? God grant that it would be so.
What has your response been, so far, to King Jesus? How will you respond now?
Suggested songs: ARP118D “Now Open Wide the Gates” or TPH325 “All Glory, Laud, and Honor”

Thursday, April 25, 2019

2019.04.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Corinthians 8:8-15

Questions for Littles: What is the apostle intentionally not doing in 2 Corinthians 8:8? By urging them without command them, what is he testing? Who is the example for them (2 Corinthians 8:9)? What had He been? What did He become? Why? What opinion does he give in 2 Corinthians 8:10—to whose advantage will it be if they give? When had they planned to do this? What does he counsel them to do with their plans (2 Corinthians 8:11)? How will the completion of their willingness be tested, according to 2 Corinthians 8:12? What does the apostle not mean to happen to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 8:13)? What does he mean to happen to the Judean Christians now (2 Corinthians 8:14a)? And what does he mean to happen to the Corinthian Christians later (verse 14b)? Who is the One who makes sure that following His commands leads to full provision (2 Corinthians 8:15, cf. Exodus 16:11-31).
In this week’s Epistle reading, the apostle is urging a gift of charity in imitation of Christ, but he begins in a curious way, “I speak not by commandment.” Let us note that even though the law—given, as it was, to a church among whom very few were spiritually converted—commanded charity, the apostolic wisdom here is not to do so. In fact, the law was unable to produce charity, weakened as it was through the flesh—Boaz’s generosity in the things commanded actually made him a rare catch in his day!

The difference here is the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Not just what He gave up, although this was an act, on His part, of grace toward us “though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor.” But it is also a work of His grace for us and in us, “that you through His poverty might become rich.”

Rich in what? Denarii (Roman coins)? Remember: this is the grace of Christ, “blessing for those who deserve only curse and strength for those who have only weakness.” And we could well add, “goodness in those who in themselves have only sinfulness.” Jesus makes us rich not in being wealthy, but rather in being generous!

Here, then, is the first great reason that the apostle does not compel their charity by way of command, to show “the sincerity of your love” by comparing it to that of the Macedonians. When the one love turns out to look just like the other love, then the conclusion will be unmistakable, “These loves have the same source: the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ!”

But there is another reason in this passage as well: so that just like with the manna, which the Lord miraculously supplied in just the right amounts to each, so also as we depend upon Him both for a generous spirit in ourselves and for generous giving from others, God Himself can be displayed as the One who has provided it all: He makes us depend more and more upon Him, and gives us the privilege of participating in others’ also finding Him faithful.

May the Lord grant unto us to see our need or others’ need as an opportunity for the display of Christ’s grace in those who are generous and God’s generous provision to all!
What believer do you know who is needy? What might Christ do for each of you?
Suggested songs: ARP112 “O Praise the Lord” or TPH538 “Take My Life, and Let It Be”

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

2019.04.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joshua 24:16-28

Questions for Littles: Who are answering in Joshua 24:16? Whom do they say they will not forsake? Whom do they say they will not serve? What are four things that they acknowledge that Yahweh has done in Joshua 24:17-18? What is the ultimate reason that they give for serving Him at the end of verse 18? What does Joshua tell the people that they cannot do in Joshua 24:19? What two reasons does he give for this from God’s character? What reason does he give from God’s justice? What will Yahweh do if they forsake Him and serve strange gods (Joshua 24:20)? What do the people respond in Joshua 24:21? What does Joshua call them in Joshua 24:22? Who else calls them that? Then what does Joshua tell them to put away in Joshua 24:23? What does he say to do with their hearts? What do the people say in Joshua 24:24? What does Joshua make with them that day in Joshua 24:25? What does he set up as a witness in Joshua 24:26? What does he say “has heard” the words (Joshua 24:27)? Where do the people now go (Joshua 24:28)?
In this week’s Old Testament reading, it seems like Joshua’s speech from the previous passage has gained its aim, when the people commit themselves to the correct action, “We also will serve Yahweh, for He is our God.” Except that was, apparently, not Joshua’s aim.

It must have been shocking to the people when he said, “You cannot serve Yahweh!” God is holy; He demands a single-mindedness, a whole-heartedness, of which they are just incapable. What’s worse for them is that Yahweh is a righteous judge, and they don’t deserve to be made capable (end of Joshua 24:19). And the final and ultimate problem is that this just judgment makes them all the more the targets of Yahweh’s wrath (Joshua 24:20).

Yet, the people continue to acknowledge that the judgment of Yahweh has been correct in this. Joshua warns them that they are being witnesses against themselves, and they agree that they are witnesses. Fully half of the passage is their interaction about the stone of witness. Why?

Because while the book of Joshua declares the Lord’s faithfulness to His people (no falling words!), it also means to leave us wondering, “what about the people’s unfaithfulness to the Lord?” (only falling words!). And the answer has the same Hebrew name as Joshua. Jesus.

Jesus was single-minded and whole-hearted toward God. And Jesus deserved for us to be made able to believe into Him, so that His righteousness could be counted before God as our righteousness, and His life could become ours, replacing our death. The final message of Joshua’s life is, “You need Jesus!” And you do!
Are you able to be whole-hearted toward God? Who is? What difference does that make?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man or TPH459 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

2019.04.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Questions for Littles: How many wise according to the flesh are called (1 Corinthians 1:26)? How many mighty are called? How many noble are called? Why has God chosen the foolish things of the world (1 Corinthians 1:27)? Why has God chosen the weak things of the world? Why has God chosen the base things of the world, and the things are despised, and the things which are not (1 Corinthians 1:28)? What does God want no flesh to do in His presence (1 Corinthians 1:29)? How did we come to be in Christ Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:30)? What four things is Christ Jesus for us? In what (whom!) should we glory, instead of ourselves (1 Corinthians 1:31)? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Confession of Sin all came from 1 Corinthians 1:26-31. In this passage, God lowers our self-esteem. He reminds us that the world considers us foolish. He reminds us that, humanly speaking, we are weak. We are unimpressive, and of little earthly account.

The sooner that we just admit this about ourselves, the sooner we can get to the (literally) glorious reason for this: so that our only glory will be the Lord Himself! At the end of the day, the more we try to retain some wisdom, strength, goodness, or any other quality worthy of admiring, the less we will admire the Lord alone.

Sadly, many of us have not gotten this message. As individuals, we think that we will be so impressive to our unbelieving friends that they will just want to become Christians on the spot after they meet us! We harbor secret suspicions that if our fellow church members would just be a little more impressive, we’d be able to get more people to stick. Or even worse, we build up an entire array of programs and strategies for looking impressive, and think that it’s actually a good thing when people come and stay for them!

If only we would, more often, take out the 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 mirror and take a good long look and say, “the only thing genuinely impressive about me is Jesus.” If only we would, more often, take out the 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 mirror and take a good long look and say, “the only thing genuinely impressive about our congregation is Jesus—and He is the only thing that can ever be genuinely impressive about us.”

Is Jesus’s glory so small that we think we can add to it, or feel that it needs adding to? Do we think that we do anyone a favor by displaying ourselves, when they could have Christ displayed to them instead? Would it be healthy if they were drawn to us, when they would not have been drawn to Christ?

Here is God, the eternal Son, who has become a man; and, as a man, He has become for us wisdom and righteousness and sanctification and redemption! Glory!!! Surely, if one is not moved by this, it matters little if we can get him to think that we are warm, welcoming, and have much to offer him!
May the Lord save us from ourselves and our self-esteem… so that we may have eyes fully open to the glory of Christ, and rejoice in His glory among us!
Of what are you tempted to be impressed about yourself or your church? How does this passage remind you to think about it instead? What are you hoping will draw people to Christ? If that is your hope, then how will you go about evangelizing them? 
Suggested songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or TPH435 “Not What My Hands Have Done”

Monday, April 22, 2019

2019.04.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 9:1-7

Questions for Littles: What did God do to Noah and his sons at the beginning of Genesis 9:1? What does He command them to do? What has God now put upon the animals (Genesis 9:2)? Upon how many of them and what kinds? What does He give them to eat (Genesis 9:3)? How many of them? What/how must they not eat any animals (Genesis 9:4)? What does God refer to as an animal’s life? For what does God demand a reckoning in Genesis 9:5? What reckoning, specifically, does He demand in Genesis 9:6? What reason does He give? What commandment does He restate in Genesis 9:7
In the Scripture for this week’s sermon, we saw the what, how, and why of God renewing the creation mandate in His redemption plan.

The “what” of the creation mandate was to fill creation with little images of God. Now, since we are all sinners, this means not just people but redeemed people. If we are fruitful and multiply and few come to faith, then instead of filling the earth with pictures of God’s life in Christ, we would be filling the earth with pictures of the death that we all died in Adam.

The “how” of the creation mandate was by God’s provision and power. He gives us all that we need. Breath, light, clothing, physical life, even meat to eat! And, He reminds us that His power is sufficient. Sufficient to sustain the animals—even as man “takes a bite” out of them. Sufficient to sustain the people. But even more than that—that God’s life is our life. Jesus’s life is the provision for us to live instead of die. Jesus’s life is the power by which we live.

The “why” of the creation mandate was because God loves to display Jesus as His glory. And God’s chosen way of displaying Jesus as His glory is to display Him as our Savior, and to display the difference that He makes in those whom He saves.

This has huge implications. There is no such thing as “just a human being.” There is either “a display of the death and shame of Adam” or “a display of the life and glory of Christ.” So the first thing is to know that your life is all about who Jesus is.

But, if that’s the case, then everything we do every day is an opportunity to display His glory. And everyone whom we encounter is potentially another one in whom Christ’s glory can be displayed, day by day and for all eternity!
In what part of your life do you have the most difficulty remembering that you are to be a display of Christ’s glory? How will you remind yourself? Whom do you know that needs to see Christ’s glory? What will you do to help them see Him?
Suggested Songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH461 “Blessed Are the Sons of God”