Saturday, February 22, 2020

2020.02.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:22-27

Questions from the Scripture text: To what mountain have do we come in corporate worship (Hebrews 12:22)? To whose city have we come? What else is that city called? Of whom are there an innumerable company there? What is the church there called (Hebrews 12:23)? Where are they registered? Who is the Judge of all? What verdict has He declared about the spirits in the church of the firstborn? What else has been done to these just men? To whom else does Hebrews 12:24 tell us we have come? Of what is Jesus the Mediator? What speaks better than the blood of Abel? Who is the Priest who leads that worship (verse 24)? Who is the Preacher who preaches in it (Hebrews 12:25)? What is He using that worship to prepare us to receive (Hebrews 12:25-27)?
As we begin to hear about and think about each of the various parts of the worship that Jesus leads from heaven, we will be starting with the preaching of the Word.

We’re going to be picking Hebrews 12 up from Hebrews 12:22—and not just because it describes that glorious scene in heaven, but because the speaking of Jesus does not begin in the main “preaching” section of our passage—Hebrews 12:25-27. There is a speaking that Jesus does in heaven before He ever opens His mouth—the speaking of His blood.

This is the first thing that we must hear from Christ as we come to hear preaching. We are coming through His blood. He has justified us. He has opened the way into heaven. He has washed us with His blood and sprinkled our consciences clean. He continually intercedes for us on the basis of His sacrifice. As with Abel’s condemning blood, God Himself is the first audience of Jesus’s redeeming blood. It announces before the court of God that our sins are paid for.

But we also are to hear Him announce salvation to us by His blood—the very blood by which we come.

God has always spoken by Christ. He is the eternal Word. When He shook Sinai with His voice, it was the Son whom they heard. It was a great wonder to hear the Son who breaks into earth in His divine nature. It is, if possible, a greater wonder to hear the Son who has ascended into heaven in His human nature.

The fact that He is there. The fact that He is reigning. The fact that He is sanctifying His people through preaching. This all announces that He is bringing all of creation and history to its glorious conclusion—that the Son would be the Firstborn among many brethren who have been conformed to His image. That those whom He justified, He will have glorified. And that He will be glorified in them forever and ever.

Now—THAT is what Jesus is doing in the preaching of the Word in corporate worship on the Lord’s Day. Who can add any manmade thing alongside this for the worship of God? Who can acknowledge this reality and not respond by giving themselves entirely to the hearing (and the preaching!) in the worship?

From this passage, let the preacher learn the absolute necessity of being faithful to the words on the pages of Scripture. How far we descend when we move from the preaching of Christ in heaven to the opinion or stories or jokes of man on earth!

And from this passage, let the hearer learn to offer ear and mind and feelings and will unto Jesus as he sits under Bible preaching. Let him look to heaven not only for the source of his preaching but also the destination—knowing that his glorified Redeemer is using that very word to fit his redeemed ones for glory!
What is Jesus doing during the preaching in Lord’s Day worship? What should you be doing? What makes the preaching and the hearing glorious?
Suggested songs: ARP29 “You Sons of the God” or TPH172 “Speak, O Lord”

Friday, February 21, 2020

2020.02.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 2:25–35

Questions from the Scripture text: Who was in Jerusalem when Joseph and Mary took Jesus for His firstborn-sacrifice (Luke 2:25)? What kind of man was he? For what was he waiting? Who was upon him? What had the Spirit revealed to him (Luke 2:26)? Who told him to go to the temple (Luke 2:27)? Whom did Simeon meet there (Luke 2:27-28)? What did he do with the baby? What does he call God in Luke 2:29? What does he call himself? What does he know is about to happen to him? Why (Luke 2:30)? For whom is this salvation (Luke 2:31-32)? Who are amazed at Simeon’s words (Luke 2:33)? Whom does Simeon bless now (Luke 2:34)? What does he say will happen to many in Israel? What kind of sign will Jesus be? What will happen to Mary’s soul (Luke 2:35)? Why?
Those who are righteous and devoted to God and looking for Him to show compassion to sinners by His salvation… should expect that others will despise them for Christ’s sake and that belonging to Him will bring us pain.

But, we rejoice to cling to Christ. God is our Sovereign Master (“Lord” in Luke 2:29 is not the usual word, but the one from which we get the word ‘despot’), and we are His slaves (“bondslave,” not “servant” as translated in verse 29). We’re not so much looking for our comfort as we are looking for His glory—and it gladdens us to see Him saving sinners from among ALL peoples, and sending His gospel for to the NATIONS. And, yes, we rejoice in the history of Israel and their greatest glory—being the nation from whom Christ came!

What it must have been like for Joseph and Mary—hearing about the glory of their almost-six-week-old son! It is no wonder that they wondered (“marveled,” Luke 2:33) at these things.

But let us learn with them to be willing to endure anything—and everything that is required of us—for the sake of Jesus. If it was Mary’s “blessing” to have a sword pierce through her heart for the glory of Christ (Luke 2:35), then let us too learn to “rejoice and leap for joy” when they hate us and exclude us and curse us and cast out our name as evil for His sake (cf. Luke 6:22-23).
When have you suffered for the sake of Christ?
From this passage, how can you prepare to rejoice when it happens?
Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or TPH270 “At the Name of Jesus”

Thursday, February 20, 2020

2020.02.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 6:11–15

Questions from the Scripture text: By whose hand is Galatians 6:11 written? What difference is there in the handwriting? How does the apostle identify the person he’s talking about in Galatians 6:12? What are they trying to do to the Galatians? What do they get out of it? What don’t the circumcised do (Galatians 6:13)? Why do they want the Galatians circumcised—what do they want to boast in? What is the only thing in which the apostle is willing to boast (Galatians 6:14)? What has the cross done to the apostle’s desires for the world’s approval? What does the apostle have (Galatians 6:15)? What doesn’t do anything for him now? What does (cf. Galatians 5:6)? 
Whether we are rejoicing over our Christianity, or over someone else’s Christianity, the only truly Christian boasting is to be full to bursting with who Christ is and what Christ has done.

Not so the Judaizers, who were working so hard to see the Galatians circumcised. They were not spiritual men who were careful to depend upon the Spirit for their own crucifying of the flesh (Galatians 6:13, cf. Galatians 6:1-5). And their goal for the Galatians wasn’t their spiritual good either—just as long as they had some tradition they could be proud of getting the Galatians to conform to. And this particular religious tradition had the added benefit for them that they wouldn’t have to suffer so much from the Jews for the sake of Christ (Galatians 6:12). Let us beware of this temptation to follow religious practices that will make us more palatable to those who care little for the genuine miraculous work of Christ in us or others!

But for Paul, Christ Himself (and especially His cross) is just too glorious. How could he boast in something that came from himself? Or in something that came from the Galatians? Or, actually, in anything at all except the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ?! The apostle doesn’t mind if the world considers him dead to them—as many Christians often find their former families and friends treating them for Christ’s sake. He doesn’t need their approval, because the world is dead to him. He himself is a new creation that Jesus has made, and he is looking forward to the new creation that Jesus has earned for him and promised to him.

True Christianity is impossible. It absolutely cannot be done in the flesh. But it is also wonderful, because it is a miraculous work done by a crucified and risen Savior, who works in us by His Spirit. And, since it is something that Jesus does, it is sure to succeed. Why would we aim at anything less for ourselves or others?
What should you be giving Christ credit for in your life and in others’ lives, and what would that look like?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH338 “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

2020.02.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 2:1–10

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Hannah do at Shiloh, when giving Samuel to the Lord (1 Samuel 2:1)? What does her heart do? What is she able to do to her enemies? Why? What two things does she identify as unique about God (1 Samuel 2:2)? What does she caution against (1 Samuel 2:3)? Why should we watch carefully against arrogance? What happens to the strongest (1 Samuel 2:4-5)? What often happens to the weakest? Who does this (1 Samuel 2:6-7)? To whom does He pay special attention (1 Samuel 2:8-9)? What will happen to God’s enemies (1 Samuel 2:10)? Upon Whom does the conclusion of the prayer focus)? Who would later pray in a similar way in a similar situation (cf. Luke 1:51-55)?
The Holy Spirit gives us here, on Hannah’s lips, a model for responding to merciful providence in our life.

The first thing that she does is rejoice in the Lord Himself in His specific mercies to her (1 Samuel 2:1-3). He shows His character in every single thing in our lives. So, let us learn to reason from what He does in my life to who He is from all eternity to all eternity. And let us glory not so much in the details as in Him Himself.

Next, she highlights the fact that, just as the Lord has displayed His character in the details of His life, so also He has done this in His great acts throughout history (1 Samuel 2:4-8). Scripture often urges us to remember God’s wonderful works, so that we may praise Him repeatedly for these displays of His character.

Finally, she focuses especially upon the Lord’s eternally saving goodness to His church (1 Samuel 2:9), through His anointed King—the Lord Jesus (1 Samuel 2:10). This is the ultimate and eternal display of His goodness. The good that the Lord does in our lives and the good that He does in history all points to—and is part of—His saving work for the glory of Christ.

Ultimately, that’s where all of God’s goodness should take us—His eternal goodness in Christ. Let our prayers of thanksgiving and joy start with His goodness to us, and survey many of His great works of goodness in history. But, let our prayers and songs run quickly to the eternal goodness of God to His elect in Christ!
What is one recent example of God’s goodness to you?
What would it look like to pray this about that?
Suggested Songs: ARP146 “Praise the Lord” or TPH245 “Great Is Thy Faithfulness”

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

2020.02.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:18–25

Questions from the Scripture text: How does Hebrews 12:18–20 describe the mountain that we have not come to? When the people heard the sound of the trumpet and the voice of the words, for what did they beg (Hebrews 12:19)? What had been commanded to do to a beast if it touched the mountain (Hebrews 12:20)? Who else said that he was exceedingly afraid and trembling (Hebrews 12:21)? To what mountain have we come (Hebrews 12:22)? To whose city have we come? What else is that city called? Of whom are there an innumerable company there? What is the church there called (Hebrews 12:23)? Where are they registered? Who is the Judge of all? What verdict has He declared about the spirits in the church of the firstborn? What else has been done to these just men? To whom else does Hebrews 12:24 tell us we have come? Of what is Jesus the Mediator? What speaks better than the blood of Abel?
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Adoration come from Hebrews 12:18–25 in order to sing God’s thoughts after Him with O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

In these verses, we hear not only about the mountain to which we haven’t come (Sinai, apart from Christ), but also about the mountain to which we have come.

The flow of the chapter has been: “we’re surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses… and our Father is doing everything necessary to get us ready for glory… so we too should be making every effort toward holiness… since we have come not to Sinai but to Zion.” God uses the greatness of these glorious worship services on the Lord’s Day to stir us up in the pursuit of holiness.

“Immanuel”—God with us—is the same One who was present at Sinai, but He comes now not only in the great glory in which He announced the law, but in the greater glory in which He has triumphed in grace! “Heavenly Zion” is not a mountain with smoke and fire at the top. It is not a touchable mountain that we are to stay away from, but a spiritual mountain upon which the Lord Jesus is taking us all the way to the top. And what we find there is a city where we belong. It’s our Father’s city. And it’s full of angels, which this book already taught us are servants who minister to those who are inheriting salvation (Hebrews 1:14). And these angels are not assembled for war, but for a great celebration.

With whom else do we worship, when the Lord carries us by faith to heaven in the Lord’s Day Assemblies? The church of the firstborn. What we can’t see in English is that the word “firstborn” is plural. Here is something strange: everyone in Christ’s church has the status of a firstborn! This is a place of glory and honor for us!

Zion is also a place of security. The rights of the firstborn have been legally recorded in heaven. And God, the judge of all, has declared the members of this assembly to be just—officially “not guilty” in the court of God. In fact, the souls in glory have not just been forgiven, they have already been perfected. God’s salvation is sure, and it works, because it has been accomplished by the glorious One, the Lord Jesus Himself!

This is the main message that we hear in Christian worship. To be sure, it is not the only message. As we are reminded once again in Hebrews 12:25, we are not to refuse Him who speaks—and there is much that He speaks.

But, before we hear anything else, we are to hear His blood. Abel’s blood was terrible news. God observed it. God responded to it. His justice refused to ignore it. These all indicated that God is a God of wrath against sin.

Jesus’s blood, however, tells good news. And it does a better job of talking than Abel’s does. Whatever sin testifies against us, Jesus’s blood talks louder, testifying of our redemption. How much more ought we, who have been saved by that blood, to listen to everything else that He says!
What is the first thing to “hear” in Lord’s Day worship?
What else should we hear in Lord’s Day worship?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH293 “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel”

Monday, February 17, 2020

2020.02.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Deuteronomy 5:8-10

Questions from the Scripture text: What shall we not make (Deuteronomy 5:8)? For whom? What shall we not do toward them? What shall we not do to them? What does the Lord say about Himself (Deuteronomy 5:9)? What will He do to those who worship this way? What does He say that those who worship this way are doing to Him? What does God to thousands? What does He call those who keep His commandments in worship (Deuteronomy 5:10)? 
When Moses is about to re-state the ten commandments in Deuteronomy 5, the Holy Spirit leads up to it in Deuteronomy 4:1–40 with an extended section that explains especially the second commandment.

“Do not add or take away from these words,” he says in Deuteronomy 4:2. In Deuteronomy 4:3-4, he reminds them how dangerous God’s holiness can be, especially since (as he says in Deuteronomy 4:7), God is so very near to them.

We probably still remember the Lord saying, “By those who draw near to me…” when talking about worshiping only as God says in Leviticus 10:3. Then, in Deuteronomy 4:8-11, he reminds them how terrifying Yahweh’s glory was at Sinai, when they only heard His voice (Deuteronomy 4:12-14).

It is at this point that he underlines to them that the foundation of prohibiting them from worshiping by way of a carved image is that Yahweh simply did not make Himself known to them by that means.

By beginning Deuteronomy 4:15-18 with “Take careful heed to yourselves, for you saw no form,” he makes it clear that the second commandment (much of which is here, word for word, and expanded upon) is about wrong ways of worshiping the true God, that result in worshiping according to that which fascinates all people (Deuteronomy 4:19) rather than in the special way that the Lord has commanded for His special people (Deuteronomy 4:20).

How serious an offense would this be? Moses reminds them that even he doesn’t get a pass with God in Deuteronomy 4:21-22. Then, he immediately ties the prohibition of making carved images to their covenant relationship with God in Deuteronomy 4:23. This is why worshiping God’s way only is tied to the statement in Deuteronomy 4:24, “For Yahweh your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.” We are familiar with the consuming fire language from Hebrews 12:29; and, of course, the “jealous God” language takes us directly to the second commandment.

God. Considers. It. Unfaithfulness. To. Our. Covenant. With. Him. To. Worship. Our. Way. Instead. Of. His.

Like adultery, but instead of against our wife or husband—against the Living God! That’s the point that is made in the wonderful section in Deuteronomy 4:25-40 about how even after judging them for whoredom against Himself, He would grant them repentance out of the same Husband-love in which He had chosen them in the first place!!
How has God betrothed you to Himself?
How does He expect You to respond to that in Lord’s Day worship?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH130A “LORD, from the Depths”