Each week we webcast Lord's Day Sabbath School at 10a, morning public worship at 11a, and p.m. singing and sermon at 2:30p (sermon at 3:30)

Saturday, January 25, 2020

2020.01.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Matthew 15:1-20

Questions from the Scripture text: Who came to Jesus from where (Matthew 15:1)? What do they accuse his disciples of transgressing (Matthew 15:2)? Why—what were they doing? What does Jesus accuse them of transgressing (Matthew 15:3)? Why were they transgressing? What had God commanded (Matthew 15:4a)? What penalty showed God’s seriousness about this (verse 4b)? But what did they say one could do with something—thereby making it unavailable for honoring father or mother (Matthew 15:5)? What does the tradition end up doing to the commandment (Matthew 15:6)? What does Jesus call them in Matthew 15:7? Who had prophesied about something similar? With what had God said they were near to Him and honored Him (Matthew 15:8)? In what way were they far from Him? What did He say about their worship (Matthew 15:9a)? What made their worship empty (verse 9b)? Whom did Jesus call to Himself in Matthew 15:10? What did He say did not defile a man (even though the old tradition said so, Matthew 15:11a)? With what Scriptural teaching was this idea in competition (verse 11b)? What is the eternal problem with the Pharisees (Matthew 15:12-13)? What is their situational problem (Matthew 15:14)? Who else doesn’t see very well for the moment (Matthew 15:15-16)? What doesn’t defile a man (Matthew 15:17)? What does defile a man (Matthew 15:18-20)?
Only one standard can decide what defiles a man. Only one standard can decide what is morally good. Only one standard can decide how to worship. That’s the logic of these eleven verses.

The Pharisees were sure that the disciples were defiled, because they didn’t wash their hands because they ate. But they were fools. They thought that the “tradition of the elders” was an appropriate way of deciding what defiles a man. Jesus is going to give the Bible answer for what defiles a man—those things of which He lists examples in Matthew 15:18-20, things to which the laws for ceremonial cleanness pointed.

But before getting there in response to Peter’s question, Jesus asks the Pharisees a question of His own to expose their great mistake (Matthew 15:3)—setting up their own standards as equal to God’s. God’s standards are in perfect consistency and harmony with one another. Adding our own standards to His corrupts them and throws them out of balance. This was the problem with something that seemed very sincere: the idea that you could devote all that you did not need for yourself as a gift (probably to the temple, though Matthew 15:5 does not actually say). But their sincere idea conflicted with God’s moral law and the duty required unto parents.

And this was not the only place that they did this. Because they had added the standards of men to how to worship (Matthew 15:9b), they had rendered all of their worship vain (verse 9a), Why? Because when the heart honors God as God, it leaves the place of worship construction to God—to Whom it alone belongs. Their lips said words that sounded like honor, but by coming in their own way, they had failed to cede unto Him the place of true honor. And God declared a terrible verdict: “Their heart is far from Me.”

In Leviticus 10:3, God had described worship as drawing near to Him. How terrible a thing, then, to draw near in mouth but be far from Him in heart! When we understand what the Lord is saying here, we too will distrust all our own desires for worship, and resolve to follow only the Lord’s instructions, and as closely and simply as possible!
By what actions may your heart draw near to God in worship? What attitude is needed to match these actions? How does one prepare for or maintain such an attitude?
Suggested songs: ARP131 “My Heart Is Not Exalted, LORD” or TPH131B “Not Haught Is My Heart”

Friday, January 24, 2020

2020.01.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 2:1-7

Questions from the Scripture text: What came from whom in Luke 2:1? How does Luke 2:2 help establish the historicity of this event? What did everyone do (Luke 2:3)? Who went up, from where, to where, in Luke 2:4? Why? Who went with him (Luke 2:5)? In what condition was she? What happened while they were there (Luke 2:6)? Whom did she bring forth (Luke 2:7)? In what did she wrap Him? In what did she lay Him? Why? 
It is of critical importance that it is an historical fact that God the Son entered our world as a man. If this did not really happen—and His perfectly obedient life, and sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection—then we are left dead in our sin. So, Luke nails down for us the place and time and occasion for Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem.

Indeed we have here, already, God’s provision for Christ’s obedient life. Even the fulfillment of His predicted birthplace occurs because his parents are obedient to the civil magistrate. Even being of pure heart, Christ comes in such low and humble condition—a human baby!—that He is dependent upon His parents for God’s law to be fulfilled concerning Him.

Joseph and Mary are not only of the right line—the house and lineage of David—but they are of necessary character, as will come to the fore again in Luke 2:21-42. Thus, they have relatives in Bethlehem—albeit not ones with a full spare room. Yes, it is part of the lowliness of His condition that his cradle is a feeding trough, but it is part of the proof of His proper lineage that there was a spare room (albeit already full under the circumstances) that would have been designated for them with family in the City of David.

God did everything exactly right in bringing our Redeemer into the world!
What difference does it make for a baby to have godly parents? What difference did Christ’s godly parents make for you?
Suggested songs: ARP110B “The LORD Has Spoken to My Lord” or TPH322 “Once in Royal David’s City”

Thursday, January 23, 2020

2020.01.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 5:22-23

Questions from the Scripture text: Which works had been aspects named here are all of a single fruit—the Spirit fruit. While the unbeliever may seem to possess one or more of these aspects, he rarely demonstrates them all superficially; and more importantly, they are neither his in the heart and nor especially aimed first at the Lord. Believers will have all, and more importantly have them first and foremost toward the Lord, and in increasing measure.
Love—wholehearted desire for the good of the object, first and foremost the desire that God would receive His due glory, and then one’s neighbor as oneself. Joy—especially flowing from love for God, because of delight in the absolute confidence that He will, indeed, receive that due glory. Peace—the resting that this God bends all things toward that glory and our good.

And how does one whose heart is ruled by love, joy, and peace act toward others? With patience—necessary, because others are sinners, and love/joy/peace means bearing long with their sin. And with kindness—that countenance, and word choice, and tone, and manner that communicates a desire for others’ good. And goodness—actions that aim to covered in Galatians 5:19-21? Whose desires are against these (cf. Galatians 5:17)? What does Galatians 5:22 call the list in these verses? How many aspects of the (singular!) fruit are named? Which aspects are conditions of the heart? Which govern relation toward others? Which govern one’s relation to himself? How do these relate to God’s laws?

Is Paul teaching against the law? That’s an important question, because those whom Christ genuinely saves, He also genuinely changes, and their hearts start to view God’s law as “the perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25), crying out things like, “Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97).

The answer, of course, is that the apostle is not teaching against the law. He is teaching against the flesh—that same flesh that abuses the law to feel superior to others (Galatians 5:15), even while the flesh violates that same law in every way (Galatians 5:19-20). What the apostle is promoting is yielding ourselves up to the Spirit (Galatians 5:18) who is at war with that flesh (Galatians 5:17). And what happens when we are led by the Spirit?

He produces in us fruit. Not fruits, plural, but singular in Galatians 5:22. The nine fulfill this desire for the good of others. And faithfulness—saying what you mean, keeping your promises, fulfilling your obligations; never needing to compromise, because your wellbeing can’t be improved beyond that perfect good that the Lord is already doing you.

Finally, how does one whose heart is ruled by love, joy, and peace act toward himself? Primarily by distrusting our heart, actually. Distrusting our heart’s opinion of ourselves, and distrusting our heart’s emotions desires.

Gentleness, in many ways, is distrusting our heart’s overinflated view of ourselves. The word translated ‘gentleness’ is actually meekness. Meekness toward God: submissiveness to obey God’s Word and submissiveness to accept His providence. And meekness toward man: recognizing that any good we have is a gift, esteeming others better than ourselves, and preferring their interests to our own.

And self-control acts upon a distrust of our heart’s emotions and desires. It begins with the recognition that our feelings are not to be trusted, and that even when our desires aren’t wrong (as they often are), they constantly tend toward disproportion. So, self-control is really Scripture-control by Spirit-control. It measures feelings and desires against the Bible, and acts not according to the impulses of our hearts but according to the revealed will of God.

So, does being led by the Spirit mean that we have rejected the law? No! It means that we pursue the keeping of that law in the only possible way: by the Spirit producing His fruit in us, and our growing in all of those things that are perfectly consistent with the law of God. Against such things, there is no law.
In which aspects of the fruit of the Spirit do you find yourself weakest? Since it is the fruit of the Spirit, how can you grow in it, and Whom must you trust to produce the growth in that way?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

2020.01.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ruth 4:13-22

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Yahweh give Ruth in Ruth 4:13? What did she bear? What did the women say to Naomi (Ruth 4:14)? About whom do we find out they are speaking in Ruth 4:15? What do they pray that he will be for her? Who becomes one of the boy’s primary caregivers (Ruth 4:16)? Who call his name Obed (Ruth 4:17)? Who is the boy’s grandson? With whom does the genealogy in Ruth 4:18-22 begin (verse 18, cf. Ruth 4:12; Genesis 46:12)? With whom does it end? 
It is the fairytale happy ending to the story. Boaz and Ruth got married and lived happily ever after. Except that it isn’t. Because it isn’t even really about Boaz and Ruth.

They get a little mention in Ruth 4:13, but really the rest of the text is about Naomi whose forsakenness and forlornness was the main theme at the beginning of the story. Now, she is full and blessed. And who is her redeemer? Ruth 4:15 makes it plain that the redeemer mentioned here is the son that Ruth had borne.

But is it Obed? Already, of course, we have a hint that it is not. David is mentioned twice in the text. First, he is the short-term target of the line of Obed in Ruth 4:17. Then, the text reaches back to Perez, who received special mention among the grandsons of Jacob in Genesis 46, in order to reach down again to David.

Already, the elders of the city had recognized the specialness of this in Ruth 4:12. We too are remembering that there was a seed promised to Eve who would crush the serpent’s head. And then there was a seed promised to Abraham in whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. And there was a prophecy upon Judah that the scepter would not depart from his house. The special mention of Perez in Genesis 46:12 and Ruth 4:12 and Ruth 4:18 has an eye that is not so much backward to Perez as it is forward to Jesus.

Soon this David, the great-grandson of Boaz and Ruth, would receive his own Messianic promise—that he would have a descendent whose kingdom would see no end! Naomi was blessed as she cradled little Obed the redeemer in her arms. Here was love and fulfillment and someone in whom the heritage would be preserved. But she—and we—are blessed here, because in little Obed is the coming Redeemer whose everlasting arms are underneath us, bearing us up (Deuteronomy 33:27). Even at the cost of spreading His human arms on a cross as He bore our sin. Hallelujah!

Whenever we experience these smaller, little-r redemptions, let us remember that for our holy God to do us any of these goods, it has required that big-r Redemption in our Lord Jesus Christ. And that is exactly what God was accomplishing, even as He was restoring the fortunes of Naomi.
What small deliverances have you enjoyed? How is it that a holy God could do this for a sinner?
Suggested Songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH256 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

2020.01.22 Prayer Meeting Folder

As we rotate through the different things for which Holy Scripture teaches us to be thankful, guided by Henry's Method for Prayer, it is always deeply moving to come to "thank God for the great encouragement Christ gave to poor sinners to come to Him."

Tomorrow night at 6:30, you can join voices and hearts with us in this thanksgiving at Hopewell ARP Church. If you can't be there in body, you can use the attached pdf to pray along with us (or maybe to prepare for prayer before coming) http://bit.ly/harpc200122pm

2020.01.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:22-13:4

Questions from the Scripture text: Where does the church gather for worship on the Lord’s Days (Hebrews 12:22)? With whom does the church gather on the Lord’s Days (Hebrews 12:22-23)? Who is the Priest who leads that worship (Hebrews 12:24)? Who is the Preacher who preaches in it (Hebrews 12:25)? What is He using that worship to prepare us to receive (Hebrews 12:25-28)? How should we participate in that worship (Hebrews 12:28)? What kind of earthly life does that worship produce (Hebrews 13:1-4)?
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Adoration come from Hebrews 12:22-13:4 in order to sing God’s thoughts after Him with Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder.

This amazing little passage teaches, first, that congregational worship on the Lord’s Day joins a celebration already in progress in glory, where Christ’s gospel accomplishments are being delighted in by angels, perfected saints, and even God Himself.

Second, Jesus is the leader of this worship. He is the Great High Priest who is the Mediator of this new (everlasting) covenant.

And the blood that has sprinkled everything to sanctify it is not the blood of bulls and goats, but His own blood, which overcomes all of the guilt of all of His people’s sins.

Third, Jesus is the preacher in this worship. He speaks from heaven, and He calls for a response from us.

We must not come out of worship unchanged, which would be to refuse Him who speaks. Rather, we take all of His truth to heart, and all of His instruction as marching orders for our lives.

Fourth, we rejoice that rather than our trying to worship Him well enough to get something from Him, He has already designed His own worship as the method by which He is giving us an unshakeable kingdom.

Fifth, when we come to such worship, through such a Mediator, we must do so according to His prescriptions, with dignity of manner, and reverence of heart.

We come by grace, but we still come to a Holy God!

Finally, this God-loving worship sends us out into a neighbor-loving life. Love of brother. Love of stranger. Love of sufferer. Love of spouse.
How do you prepare for worship? What do you do during the services? How do you follow up afterward?
Suggested songs: ARP184 “Adoration and Submission” or TPH286 “Let Us Love and Sing and Wonder”

Monday, January 20, 2020

An audio recording of a sample family worship lesson in today's Hopewell @Home Passage. We regard God as holy in worship by giving priority to "the Lord spoke" over anything we feel, and to the instructions of God to the exclusion of the ideas of men, wholly devoting ourselves to the consecrated duty to which we have been called for that time.

2020.01.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Leviticus 9:18-10:7

Questions from the Scripture text: What was being done at the end of the eighth day of the ordination procedure for Aaron and his sons (Leviticus 9:18-21)? What did Aaron do, having offered the climactic offerings of each type (Leviticus 9:22)? What did Moses and Aaron do, when they came out of the tabernacle (Leviticus 9:23)? And what did Yahweh do (Leviticus 9:23-24)? And how did the people respond? Which two newly ordained Aaronic priests does Leviticus 10:1 mention? What do they take and what do they offer? How does the end of verse 1 explain what was “profane” (literally “strange” or “foreign”) about the fire? From where does the fire in Leviticus 10:2 come? What does it do? What do they do? Who immediately speaks in Leviticus 10:3? What two groups of people does He mention? What must they do (e.g. what had Nadab and Abihu not done)? How does Aaron respond (or not)? Whom does Moses call in Leviticus 10:4? To do what? By what do they carry out the bodies (Leviticus 10:5)? What does Moses tell the father and brothers of the deceased not to do (Leviticus 10:6)? Who is to mourn what instead? What did their being “on duty” in the first full day of their ordained service mean they mustn’t do (Leviticus 10:7)?
This was to be a day of great joy and blessing. There’s Aaron giving the blessing in Leviticus 9:22. And Aaron and Moses, together, blessing the people in Leviticus 9:23. There’s the fire in Leviticus 9:24, coming out from the mercy seat, signifying at both one and the same time that God is a consuming fire in His holiness, and that He has consumed His own fire by atonement so that we can approach Him in mercy.

But one thing that the mercy of God never offers is for us to come to Him on our own terms or in our own way. And the joy and wonder of God making a way to approach Him in blessing, without disregarding His holiness, evaporates in Leviticus 10:1-2. This is strange fire—not the fire that God had commanded. It is not the fire that signifies the forthcoming sacrifice of Christ, in which the wrath of God would be consumed upon Him. This is because we do not get to decide what signifies Christ, and by what acts we come through Him. Only God, who gives Christ, and only God who brings us through Him to Himself, can authorize these things.

Although Aaron is often a poor example to us, that is not so this time. Having gone through the eight days of ordination, and seen what ought to happen to everyone who draws near to the Lord, just one solid word of God from Moses is enough to still his brother in Leviticus 10:3. Aaron held his peace.

Now, we are not Aaron, but we have a high duty in corporate worship, since Hebrews tells us that it is the equivalent of entering beyond the veil into the holy of holies. And it is in the context of that book that we are reminded that our God is a consuming fire, and that all of the parts of New Testament worship are personally led by Christ from glory.

This makes it very dangerous for us to come to worship, and assess (or plan, if that is our role) by anything that we want, or that any other mere man wants. Here, we are coming through the veil into glory, a holy of holies greater than the one from which the fire comes in this passage. And will we now come without regarding God as holy? Without coming in only those ways that have been commanded by Him who has provided the propitiation of His wrath (completely satisfying it so that there is only favor left)?

May it never be! But, how often have we evaluated public worship by how well we have liked what happens there, or how meaningful the experience has felt to us? Perhaps we could resist this tendency, if we studied to grow in understanding and embrace of how the Lord Jesus Himself is leading us in each part of the worship that He commands in Scripture!
Looking at the list of Scriptural parts of worship in WCF 21.3-5, how does Scripture show each of them being led by Christ? What habits, before and during worship, can help you improve your awareness of this?
Suggested Songs: ARP22C “I’ll Praise You in the Gathering” or TPH277 “Before the Throne of God Above”