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Saturday, October 5, 2019

2019.10.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 15:25-32

Questions from the Scripture text: Who was in the field (Luke 15:25)? What did he hear as he neared the house? Whom did he ask about this (Luke 15:26)? What does the servant say his father has done (Luke 15:27)? How does the older brother respond (Luke 15:28)? And how does his father respond to that? What does the son say that he has done (Luke 15:29)? What does he say that he has not done? What does he say that his father has not done (that the son, apparently, wanted most)? What does he call his brother (Luke 15:30)? How does he describe what his brother did? What does the father present to the older brother as his first great blessing (Luke 15:31)? What does he present as his second? What does the father say about their making merry and being glad (Luke 15:32)? What does he say was the younger brothers previous condition? What does he say is the younger brother’s current condition?
What do we consider our greatest blessing? Is it to be with our Father? To know that all that He has is ours?

We’d love to tell ourselves that this is so, so let us be careful that we would seek out time with Him, to be content with what we have, and to have heart priorities that reflect His priorities.

When the older brother lodges his complaint—that serving and obeying dad was miserable to him, but his friends would make him happy—he exposes his heart. He doesn’t love his father or time with his father. How do we feel about time with our heavenly Father by comparison to worldly friends and festivity?

Also in the older brother’s complaint about the one thing that he defined as good (and that he did not have) was a judgment about all that he did have, and therefore a judgment about the goodness of his father. Doesn’t all discontentment in our own hearts expose a similarly wicked judgment on our part? Discontentment says, “My heavenly Father is not being so good to me as He could be, but if He would just do this thing that I have come up with, that I have defined as good, then He would be doing better.” Horrors! God save us from discontentment!

Finally, within the parable as a whole, we see a symptom of such a low esteem of God’s fellowship and God’s goodness: hard-heartedness toward others. If we are so wicked as to view God as hard toward us, we will be hard on others. If we are so proud as to think that God owes us for our service and obedience, then we will begrudge any good that comes to someone else. This was the real problem of the Pharisees. This was the real problem of the older brother. And, if our hearts are not rejoicing at the idea of God restoring the wicked to Himself, then this is our real problem too. God make us rejoice at God’s mercy to the wicked!
Whom are you tempted to wish ill upon? How can you foster joy at the hope of their repenting?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH340 “There Is a Fountain”

Friday, October 4, 2019

2019.10.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 18:12-19:16

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom do they take Jesus first (John 18:12-14)? Who were still following (John 18:15-16)? What does Peter do three times in John 18:17-18John 18:25-27? What testimony does Pilate give of Jesus in John 18:38John 19:4, and John 19:6? What does the crowd cry out in John 18:40? And in John 19:4-6? And in John 19:12-16)? What testimony does Jesus give about Himself in John 18:20-21, and John 18:23? What testimony does He give of Himself in John 18:36-37? What testimony does He give about Him and His death in John 19:11?  
Taking this entire section together allows us to see three different kinds of unfaithful responses to Christ.

Three times, Peter denies the Savior that he knows and loves. Three times, Pilate declares the truth about Jesus—that there is no fault in Him—but ultimately gives into the crowd. And as for the crowd (manipulated by the chief priests and pharisees), three times they express a murderous desire to see Christ executed.

By comparison, the Lord Jesus confesses the good testimony about Himself three times (cf. 1 Timothy 6:13). He has spoken what was good, doing so publicly and clearly (John 18:20-23). He is God from all eternity who entered this world in time to be the King of an eternal kingdom that is above this world, not from it (John 18:36-37). And, while He is dying at the hands of the wicked, who will be judged for their wickedness, this is happening under the authority of God above, who has planned this death for good.

Wonderfully, while we are not sure what comes of Pilate (though the early spiritual returns are encouraging), we do know that there are those who are saved from the other two groups.

We could easily forget that other than the disciple who has an “in” at the high priest’s household, Peter is the only one who follows Christ even this far. The others will also need strengthening, which Jesus has charged Peter with doing (cf. Luke 22:32). But look how these disciples who failed Christ were ultimately restored by Him and used by Him! He who confessed the good confession about Himself went to the cross for our failures and restores and strengthens us by His resurrection power!

Perhaps even more remarkably, it is precisely these who have so rabidly called for Christ’s death who are the objects of the first great sermon at Pentecost. And thousands of them are saved! Behold the power of the preaching of the Word. Behold the completeness of Christ’s atonement for sin, such that even this forgiveness is guaranteed to all who repent and believe.

So, yes, this passage does set before us three different kinds of wrong response to Christ as a warning. But the heart of the passage is Christ Himself. His perfect testimony about Himself. His commitment to dying for us, though He is the perfectly righteous King. And how there is salvation for all who turn from any kind of wrong response, repenting and believing in Jesus Christ for salvation.
How have you failed Christ? How has He succeeded in your place? How does He remind you of this and direct your attention to Himself and His perfections?
Suggested songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song” or TPH457 “Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness”

Thursday, October 3, 2019

2019.10.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Peter 2:1-9

Questions from the Scripture text: What do the worst of the false prophets’ and false teachers’ destructive heresies deny (2 Peter 2:1)? Who will follow their destructive ways (2 Peter 2:2)? What does this cause to be done to the truth? Why would the false teachers do this to their hearers (2 Peter 2:3)? But what will happen to them? Whom had God not spared in 2 Peter 2:4? Whom had God not spared in 2 Peter 2:5? But whom did He save? Whom had God not spared in 2 Peter 2:6? To whom did God make Sodom and Gomorrah an example? Whom did God deliver—what does 2 Peter 2:7 call him? What effect did the filthy conduct of the wicked have upon him (2 Peter 2:7-8)? From what does the Lord know how to deliver the righteous (2 Peter 2:9)? For what does the Lord reserve the unrighteous?
One of the temptations when reading about Noah or Lot is to think that they are primarily warnings to the world. However, the false prophets and teachers that are mentioned in 2 Peter 2:1 are not in the world but rather in the church. They “deny the Lord who bought them”—not that they were personally, eternally saved, but rather that they are in the church, who are the assembly of those bought by the Lord.

Of course, that’s the worst part of their heresy. They deny His lordship. They announce some gospel truth (2 Peter 2:2), but cause it to be blasphemed by also teaching that the saved may continue in ungodliness. Here, the apostle compares such teachers and their hearers to angels who sinned—who, although they were angels, are destroyed for their sin. And to the generation of Noah, upon whom the flood came for ungodliness (2 Peter 2:5). And to Sodom and Gomorrah as an example to those who live ungodly (2 Peter 2:6).

The message is clear. Those who live in ungodliness must expect that God’s judgment will destroy them. And this is exactly what 2 Peter 2:3 says is coming upon the false teachers. So, why would they teach such things? Verse 3 says that it’s because they want money. People want to hear that the gospel means that it’s ok for them to sin. And, preachers give in to the desire to give hearers what they want in order to get more money.

But God isn’t like those preachers. He wants to deliver the righteous out of temptations. In fact, while Noah was not in his situation by choice, Lot did in fact choose his. And the Lord, being merciful, delivered Lot out of his temptations! Without 2 Peter 2:9, we might think that the rescue mention was to save Lot from Sodom’s destruction. The main thing, however, was that God was rescuing Lot from Sodom’s wickedness.

What false preachers do to the congregations, and some foolish believers do to themselves, the Lord is determined to undo! The danger, however, is for those whose souls are not tormented by sin. For those who are ok with it. For those who think that this is part of the gospel—to feel ok about sinning. God is just as committed to the destruction of such self-deceived, so-called “Christians” as He is committed to the sanctification and ultimate salvation of the genuinely converted. So, let us heed His warnings!
What sins are you tempted to be ok with? What teachers reinforce this temptation?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH130A “Lord, from the Depths”

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

2019.10.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Judges 17-18

Questions from the Scripture text: Who had taken the silver from Micah’s mother (Judges 17:1-2)? To whom had she dedicated it (Judges 17:3)? To make what? What did they end up making (Judges 17:4-5)? What is the explanation in Judges 17:6 for this? What kind of man shows up, and what is he looking for (Judges 17:7-9)? What offer does Micah make and have accepted (Judges 17:10-12)? How does Micah expect Yahweh to respond to this (Judges 17:13)? What reminder do we receive in Judges 18:1? Who now show up at Micah’s in Judges 18:1-3? What do they ask the priest about himself (Judges 18:3) and about themselves (Judges 18:5)? How does he answer them (Judges 18:4 and Judges 18:6)? What do they learn about the land around there and the people of it (Judges 18:7-10)? What kind of gathering and action do Judges 18:11-13 describe? What might we have expected from faithful Israelites in Judges 18:14-16? But what are they actually doing in Judges 18:17-21? How does Micah’s clan respond in Judges 18:22-24? How does the confrontation turn out with Micah (Judges 18:25-26)? And how does it turn out with Laish (Judges 18:27-29)? And what do they do with their stolen Micah-made Yahweh religion (Judges 18:30-31)? With what comment does Judges 18:31 conclude by comparison?
As the Samson portion of Judges comes to a close, what remains are two great exhibits of the greatness of Israel’s wickedness. When we get to 1 Samuel 8:1-5, Israel is going to be arguing that they need a king to save them like the other peoples have. But God has been delivering them by judges for generations. Now, in these last five chapters, God Himself is giving the reason that they need a king: “there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

So, what are the two great exhibits of Israel’s wickedness that show how badly they need to be punished for their sin to be kept in line? Chapters 19-21 will show that Israel has become a “New Sodom” of sorts. But chapters 17-18 show a corresponding sin that might surprise us: they are inventing their own way of worshiping Yahweh.

Let that sink in. It is Yahweh whom Micaiah (and mom) invent ways to worship (Genesis 17:2-3). It is Yahweh whom Micaiah thinks will bless him for including a Levite in all of this worship that he has invented (Genesis 17:13). Surely, the Lord will especially like my worship ideas if I incorporate His too! And it is Yahweh whom the Danites think will bless them for poaching these new worship ideas from Micaiah (Genesis 18:5-6).

But Yahweh has already given them His own way of worshiping Him (Genesis 18:13). In fact, Genesis 18:14-16 set us up to expect the tribe of Dan to destroy Micaiah with the vengeance of God for his self-made worship, but the tribe of Dan doesn’t punish Micaiah for the worship—they steal the wrong worship for themselves!

Today’s American Christian might be surprised that manmade worship would be paired with New Sodom as exhibits A and B for “there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” But that’s because we too live in a New Sodom, and it has been paired with the same grievous sin in the church. We sincerely (but self-deceived in our rebellion!) invent ways of worshiping God which He has not commanded, and we expect Him to love it and to bless us—especially if we include aspects that He has in fact commanded. But we don’t realize that in doing so, we might as well raise a banner over our worship that says, “Jesus is not King here; we do what is right in our own eyes.”

God save us from being kingless, from being Christless! God grant unto us to ruthlessly expunge from our worship every last part of it that has been introduced by man’s creativity instead of by God’s (explicit or necessarily implicit) command!
What are some things that churches do in worship that are not directed by God, either by direct command or by good and necessary consequence?
Suggested Songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome”

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

2019.10.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 43:1-13

Questions from the Scripture text: Who is speaking in Isaiah 43:1? What has He done to Jacob/Israel in verse 1ab? What in verse 1c? What does He conclude, based upon this creation and redemption? Does this mean they will have little trouble or none at all (Isaiah 43:2)? But who will be with them? And what will not happen to them? What does God call Himself in Isaiah 43:3? What has He given for His people (Isaiah 43:3-4)? What three reasons does He give for doing this? What does He tell them not to do in Isaiah 43:5? Whom does He say that He will gather to Himself in Isaiah 43:5-6? What reasons does He give for this in Isaiah 43:7? How does He describe the nations in Isaiah 43:8? What does He challenge them about their inability to do in Isaiah 43:9? What role has He given to His people in Isaiah 43:10? As they fulfill this role, what is God teaching them about Himself (Isaiah 43:10-13)—who is He? What has He done? 
This week’s Call to Worship, Invocation, Confession of Sin, and Song of Adoration came from Isaiah 43:1-13. This passage presents salvation as an act of creation (Isaiah 43:1) in which the Lord has loved a people, determined to find them precious and to honor them (Isaiah 43:4). So, He creates them; He forms them by redeeming them (Isaiah 43:7).

Why? So that they may know His glory and be called by His name and be His witnesses and recognize that He is God, and there is no other (Isaiah 43:9-12). This is ultimately what eternal life is all about: coming to know and understand who God is.

If we look at Jesus’s high priestly prayer in John 17, we find that it is all about this ultimate love of God and glory of God. He has decided to share Himself. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have existed in perfect love and fellowship and glory outside of time, from all eternity.

Now, He has created a people to whom He would extend love as big as He is. And He makes them to see and enjoy His glory. And to be called by His name.

This is the secret to all of history. The nations think that it is about them, but they literally exist so that God can create and love and save this people (Isaiah 43:3)! What, then can hurt the redeemed? Even the most painful trials are driven by this loving purpose, and the Lord Himself is with them in the midst of it all (Isaiah 43:2)!
What trials do you find yourself in? What is their purpose? Who is with you?
Suggested songs: ARP103B “Bless the Lord, My Soul” or TPH103E “O Come, My Soul”

Monday, September 30, 2019

2019.09.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 19:1-11

Questions from the Scripture text: Who had said that He was going down to Sodom in Genesis 18:21? And who does Genesis 18:22 say departed? Now, who does Genesis 19:1 say arrive in Sodom? At what time of day do they arrive? Where do they find Lot? How does he respond when he sees them? Where does he tell them to spend the night (Genesis 19:2)? Where do they say that they will spend the night? Who prevails (Genesis 19:3)? What does Lot do for them? What do the men of the city do in Genesis 19:4? Which ones? For what (whom!) do they ask in Genesis 19:5? What is Lot’s counterproposal (Genesis 19:6-8)? What rationale does he give in Genesis 19:8? What do the men say about Lot in Genesis 19:9? What do they threaten? Who save Lot in Genesis 19:10 and how? What do they do in Genesis 19:11?   
Holy Scripture tells us that Lot was righteous, and that His soul was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (2 Peter 2:7-8) that tormented his soul day with sights and sounds day by day. So it is utterly shocking to hear Lot referring to the Sodomites as “my brethren” (Genesis 19:7) and even more so to see him offering up his daughters to be horribly abused (Genesis 19:8) rather than defending with his own life all who are under his roof.

When we live in such a wicked culture as we do, we must ask ourselves—even if our souls are tormented daily by the sights and sounds of the culture—whether we have found our fellowship with the culture (as Lot has in Genesis 19:7) or given in to the situation by compromising our duties (as Lot in Genesis 19:8).

But ultimately, this passage is not about how far Lot has fallen, but about God’s mission to pull him out of it. Yahweh arrives at Sodom as two messengers who look like men (Genesis 19:1, cf. Genesis 18:21-22), and He is even more earnest for Lot to see what is going on with Sodom and with himself than Lot is for them not to see it. Lot does get them to stay at his house instead of with the sodomites, but the sodomites come to the house.

When things heat up, it looks pretty dismal for Lot. But what he can’t do for himself, the Lord Himself does—striking the entire town with such a supernatural blindness as they can’t even feel their way to the door and give up for exhaustion. It’s a picture of what is happening on a larger scale—Lot hasn’t been able to bring himself, spiritually, to a place where he escapes the wickedness of Sodom. So the Lord Himself has now come to deliver him. Praise God, who deals with the nations on behalf of His people!
With whom do you find your fellowship? What duties does this culture make difficult for you?
Suggested Songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH1A “That Man Is Blest”