Saturday, March 21, 2020

2020.03.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Peter 2:4–10

Questions from the Scripture text: What did men do with Jesus Christ, the living stone (1 Peter 2:4)? What had God done? Who else are living stones (1 Peter 2:5)? What are these stones for building? What are to offer to God?  Through what (Whom!) are our spiritual sacrifices made acceptable? Where had God told about this beforehand (1 Peter 2:6)? Who will by no means be put to shame? To whom is Jesus precious (1 Peter 2:7, cf. 1 Peter 2:4)? What did the disobedient builders do to Him? To what were they disobedient (1 Peter 2:8a)? How did this come about (verse 8b)? What four glorious things does 1 Peter 2:9 call us? For what purpose did God make us into this (1 Peter 2:10)? Whose praises do we proclaim? 
The second time that He cleansed the temple, as the Lord Jesus came to have His body destroyed and then rebuild it in three days, He reminded us that His Father had called the temple, “a house of prayer for all the nations” (cf. Isaiah 56:7; Mark 11:17).

Now in today’s passage, it reminds us that the temple was not just to be Christ’s physical body. When we come to Him, we are not only coming to be forgiven of sins so that we may be blessed. We are coming to be built upon Him, with others, for the purpose of public worship.

Christ is the living stone, chosen by God and precious (1 Peter 2:4). We too are living stones, being built up as a spiritual house, as a place of public worship. We are a holy priesthood, a people of public worship.

And what are we to do in this public worship? Offer bulls and goats and grain offerings and drink offerings? Absolutely not! Christ Himself is the once-for-all sacrifice. But we do offer up spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5b).

That is to say, we offer up to God actions of our inner-self that glorify God and Christ, because they are acceptable only through Jesus Christ (end of verse 5). This offering up of ourselves is called prayer, and is something that is both its own worship action when verbal and to be part of all other worship actions, that they might be truly spiritual sacrifices, and not merely outward rituals.

He is chosen and precious (1 Peter 2:3), elect and precious (1 Peter 2:6, cf. Isaiah 28:16), and believed in and precious (1 Peter 2:7). But we too are chosen by God, set apart royalty, a consecrated nation, a special people. Why has shown us mercy (1 Peter 2:10b) to adopt us (verse 10a)? So that we might proclaim His praises (1 Peter 2:9b) and offer spiritual sacrifices (1 Peter 2:5b). Prayer-saturated public worship is the goal for which God has counted us as precious, and for which God has set us apart, and therefore it ought to be precious to us and the goal of our lives as well.
For each part of public worship, in what way should you be praying during that part?
Suggested songs: ARP62A “My Soul Finds Rest” or TPH402 “Christ Is Made the Sure Foundation”

Friday, March 20, 2020

2020.03.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 3:7–14

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom is John speaking in Luke 3:7? What does he call them? What does he ask them? What does he tell them to do in Luke 3:8? What does he warn them not to assure themselves by, without repentance? Why? What is true “even now” at the time John speaks (Luke 3:9a)? What happens to those who do not bear the fruit of repentance? What, then, are the people interested to know in Luke 3:10? What illustrations of repentance does he highlight in Luke 3:11? How does this especially apply to whom in Luke 3:12-13? How does this especially apply to whom in Luke 3:14
How do you get saved? Only by God’s graciously bringing you into Abraham’s family of faith (cf. all of Romans 4, Galatians 3)—the family of those who are made right with God through faith in Jesus Christ. That’s a non-negotiable of biblical Christianity.

But today’s passage warns us, “bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as father.’”

Without repentance that produces neighbor-love, our knowledge of saving truth and our membership among God’s people should give us no comfort at all.

This is because of what we are apart from Christ. The baptizer’s opening salvo in Luke 3:7 is shocking, “Brood of vipers!” Matthew only tells us of the baptizer saying this to the Pharisees and Sadducees, and of two times that Jesus said it to the Pharisees. So we ironically (Pharisaically!) think of it as applying primarily to them.

But Luke records that this is what the baptizer said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

In other words, why do we need to be baptized? Because apart from Christ our nature is as wicked as the serpent, and we will end up with him in the fire (end of Luke 3:9) of God’s wrath to come (end of Luke 3:7; cf. Matthew 25:41, Revelation 20:10, Revelation 20:14–15, Revelation 21:8).

The baptizer’s preaching helps us to see how necessary repentance is, without thinking that our repentance earns anything for us. In other words, repentance is “necessary but not meritorious.” You cannot be justified by it. But you also cannot be justified without it.

And what is this repentance? A change from acting like a self-serving viper to acting like a neighbor-loving child of Abraham. It is a change in the kind of “thing” we are from snake into fruit-bearing tree.

The prophet tells us what the fruit looks like. Yes, love of God with all the heart is the life of the tree. The first table of the law is all our heart, soul, mind, and strength poured out unto God in love. But these things are on the inside, and we can more easily deceive ourselves that we have them.

The fruit that the living tree produces, however, might be more easily seen in the second table of the law. Not an endorsement of 8th-commandment-breaking social/financial redistribution systems. But 5th-10th-commandment abundance of personal generosity (Luke 3:11) and self-denial that keeps us from abusing any advantages we might have (Luke 3:12-14). The lover of God will be a lover of neighbors.

But a viper can be neither, and the call to bear that fruit both prepares the way for us to run to Christ to believe in Him, and provides a diagnostic test for considering whether that has happened with us. Have you taken that way and entrusted your wrath-escape entirely to Christ? Does the fruit of your life agree with your answer to that question?
What do self-denial and generosity look like in whatever you spend most of your time doing?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH238 “Lord, with Glowing Heart I’d Praise Thee”

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The worship booklet is now available for those who wish to prepare for corporate worship on the Lord's Day. The links at http://hopewellarp.org are updated on both the main page and the live webcast page http://bit.ly/harpclive

2020.03.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 1:5–6

Questions from the Scripture text: Who predestined whom (Ephesians 1:5a)? To what? By Whom? As sons to Whom? According to what? Unto what end (Ephesians 1:6a)? What had He done by that grace? In Whom?
The gospel is about God expanding His family.

It’s almost blasphemous to talk that way. But Romans 8:29 tells us that from before time began, God foreknew (meaning “loved in advance”) certain people whom He determined He would make into the likeness of His Son and into a multitude of siblings for His Son.

In this week’s Ephesians passage, we read of that determination in light of the Father: if someone is a believer, it is because before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4), God determined to adopt him as a son to Himself (Ephesians 1:5a).

Of course, there is only one way that this adoption could be conceived from all eternity—by His loving us in the eternally Beloved (Ephesians 1:6b) Son, Jesus Christ (verse 5a).

And lest we have any ideas that this could happen by some version of divine foresight in which our own choices determine God’s (which would have the ludicrous effect of making us sovereign instead of God), the Scripture tells us exactly the criteria of this choice: “according to the good pleasure of His will” (verse 5b).

This, of course, would require His grace to bring us to that faith (cf. Ephesians 2:8-9) by which we would be united to the Beloved One, in order that in Him (and only in Him) would we be made accepted (verse 6b). We don’t “believe into” predestination. We believe in Jesus, as we were predestined to do.

And that grace God did indeed give. He graciously gave His Son for us. And then, by His grace, He gave us faith to believe in His Son and be joined to His Son. This is why our salvation is “to the praise of the glory of His grace.”

Our justification (being made right before God’s justice) and adoption (being made children of the Father and siblings of the Son) happen at the same time, but the justification is a means unto the adoption—which is the great occasion of the praise of God’s glorious grace.

This is what predestination is all about. Not nit-picking over doctrinal logic, but everlasting love that has a 100% success rate of bearing fruit in time as sinners have this adoption bestowed upon them, and God’s grace is gloriously displayed in order to be eternally praised.

Hallelujah! Literally.
How ought you to respond to Jesus? How ought you to respond to predestination?
Suggested songs: ARP65A “Praise Awaits You, God” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

2020.03.18 Prayer Meeting

The folder for tonight's 6:30 p.m. prayer meeting is available at http://bit.ly/harpc200318pm

If you are coming in person, pastor recommends that we sit in family units, and that we place at least two chairs between each family. We ordinarily organize into smaller groups, anyway, so that each of us can do more praying.

Tonight, we'll also be live-streaming audio from one of the groups at Hopewell's Facebook page for those who are unable to gather but wish to join their hearts and minds in from home.

2020.03.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 2:27–36

Questions from the Scripture text: Who came to Eli in 1 Samuel 2:27? What had God done (verse 27b)? What had God done in 1 Samuel 2:28? Which of Eli’s family’s sins is singled out in 1 Samuel 2:29? What had God promised (1 Samuel 2:30a)? But by what principle does God say He will operate in verse 30b? What will happen to Eli’s household, according to 1 Samuel 2:31 and 1 Samuel 2:32-33? What will happen to show the certainty of this prophecy (1 Samuel 2:34)? Whom will God raise up instead (1 Samuel 2:35)? What will be asked of this priest by the remnant of Eli’s household (1 Samuel 2:36)?
How horrible to choose family over the Lord! The Lord’s primary charge against Eli is, “you honor your sons more than Me” (1 Samuel 2:29). Jesus said that we must be ready to reject parents, descendants, siblings, or even our own lives for His sake (Luke 14:26).

Sometimes this is standing up for the Lord or His truth in the midst of a difficult conversation. Sometimes this is finding a biblical place to worship while out of town visiting family whose church worships in an idolatrous way. Sometimes this is insisting on not forsaking the assembly when the children and grandchildren are in town and would rather have a big family brunch.

Principles are hashed out in particulars, as Eli learned. Sure, he had rebuked his sons (1 Samuel 2:23-25), but he had never taken action. And how dreadful was the curse that fell upon him and his family for maintaining the family peace by taking too skimpy a stand for the Lord!

How horrible to compromise the worship of God! At one level, this was a question over cuts of meat (end of 1 Samuel 2:29). That mightn’t seem to us to be so big a deal as the lurid (and possibly even violent) sin reported as a secondary thought in 1 Samuel 2:22b. But the Lord describes it as a “kick at My sacrifice and My offering [for] which I commanded a dwelling place” immediately after reminding them that they got to that place from Aaron’s previous location in Egypt precisely for the sake of the worship of God.

God’s redemption, by God’s mercy, is for God’s worship God’s way. “If You, Yahweh, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.”

That worship has ever centered upon Christ—first by sacrifices that looked forward to Him, and now by His personal leadership of that worship through the intercession empowered by His once-for-all sacrifice. What a great sin it is to “kick against” Christ by compromising the details of the right worship of God!

How wonderful are the Law and Gospel of God! It would have served Israel right to be destroyed for what was done in God’s worship. The Lord had almost done it when Eli’s ancestor Aaron had corrupted God’s worship (cf. Exodus 32:10). But here, God’s Word appears out of nowhere—on the lips of a prophet whose name and origin we are never even told (1 Samuel 2:27a)—and intervenes to stop the sin. When God’s law convicts us, it is a great mercy.

But conviction does little good without a remedy for that sin. The gospel of 1 Samuel 2:35 is wonderful. This happened in a little way when Solomon elevated Zadok to high priest in place of Eli’s descendant Abiathar (cf. 1 Kings 2:26–27). But the promise here in verse 35 is too big, and Zadok is too small to fulfill it.

No, this promise can only be fulfilled by the High Priest who is not from Aaron’s family at all, whose faithfulness is perfect, and whose ministry has no end. Eli’s descendants could not be priests long because they would die young (1 Samuel 2:31-34), but Jesus is Priest forever because He cannot die (cf. Hebrews 7:20–8:6, and especially Hebrews 7:23–24). For us who are prone to the sins of the house of Aaron and Eli, it is a glorious gospel that we are saved instead by the sacrifice and righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ!
How do you need to be better responding to the sacrifice and priesthood of the Lord Jesus Christ?
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, from the Depths” or TPH354 “Not All the Blood of Beasts”

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

2020.03.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 2:8–14

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom does Luke 2:8 introduce? Where were they? What were they doing? Who stood in front of them (Luke 2:9)? Around whom did the glory of the Lord shine? How did they respond to these two occurrences? What is the first thing that the angel tells them (not) to do (Luke 2:10)? What did he bring them? For which of the people were these tidings? What had happened (Luke 2:11)? For whom? When? Where? What is the identity of this baby? What did the angel give them to prove the identity of the baby (Luke 2:12a)? And what was this sign—where would they find the swaddled baby? Where did the heavenly army appear (Luke 2:13)? What were they doing? What is unto God (Luke 2:14)? Where? What is on earth? What is unto men?
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Adoration come from Luke 2:8–14 in order to sing God’s thoughts after Him with While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night.

The scene is different than many have been led to imagine. The angel is not in the sky. He’s standing before the shepherds. The glory isn’t around the angel—it’s around the shepherds. The angels are shouting more than singing, “Glory to God in the Highest! And on earth peace! To men, good pleasure (i.e., of God)!”

What brought them to such shouting? What event is accompanied by such wonders? A baby has been born. Who is He? Christ the Lord! This is strange. From the highest creatures to a helpless baby is a smaller step down than from God down to any creature, even the most glorious of angels. We do not expect the Lord to be a baby.

How can we know that it is the Lord? A sign! What’s the sign? He’s napping in a feeding trough. Almost certainly not a cave or a stable—the word for “inn” from Luke 2:7 is the same as the upper room where they had the last supper, and is almost certainly a guest quarters. There were often indoor animals in such a home, which would be kept in a room on the main floor with the family. Not ideal, but squeezing extended family from out of town into whatever parts of the house you can find is just about as old as families having houses.

So, what great sign has God chosen to prove that this baby is Christ the Lord? He’s in a feeding trough. And to what learned noblemen would this announcement be made? Shepherds out in the country. Strange.

And that’s just the point, for he way that God has decided to glorify Himself is the strangest thing of all. Men who deserve Hell are instead objects of His good pleasure. An earth that should have been made into Hell is instead a place of peace. Glory has come down—that which belongs in the third heaven has surrounded some shepherds, and will soon be beheld in the Word made flesh by all who receive faith to see it.

It is the strange illogic of the gospel—God displays His highest glory in the lowest people and places, so that the greatness of the glory will belong only to Himself. The angels don’t even need saving, but they are the first to give praise for God’s salvation. Because they are—just as we should be—preoccupied with the glory of God.
When you think about your own salvation, what place does the glory of God have in those thoughts? When you tell others about God’s salvation, what place does a desire for the glory of God have in that telling? How does pride compete against this desire?
Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or TPH438 “I Love to Tell the Story”

Monday, March 16, 2020

2020.03.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 5:24–26

Questions from the Scripture text: To Whom do some people belong (Galatians 5:24)? What have those who genuinely belong to Christ done? In Whom do those who belong to Christ live (Galatians 5:25)? What must they also do in the Spirit? What must we not become instead of dependence upon the Spirit (Galatians 5:26)? What would this false pride cause us to be toward one another? 
Galatians 5:26 brings us to the end of a unit with what began in Galatians 5:13-15. Our freedom is not for indulging the flesh but for killing it—otherwise, in our fleshliness, we will consume one another (verse 15), provoking and envying one another (Galatians 5:26).

The Spirit is out for death—the death of the flesh. The apostle uses a word image that is pretty gruesome: crucifixion. If you belong to Christ, you have crucified the flesh. You have pinned down your remaining sin, nailed it up, and are determined to choke every last bit of air-gasping life out of it.

This is not a passive, just-learning-to-enjoy-Jesus-more-and-more, low-effort, low-activity approach to sanctification. But it is the Scripture-picture for what it looks like to keep in step with the Spirit. Why? Because the Spirit’s desires are against the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17). The Spirit wants our remaining sin dead, and if we are being led by Him, then our battle against our flesh is a ruthless death match. Crucifixion.

If we forget that we are dependent upon the Spirit, and try to approach sanctification in any other way, then we are conceited (Galatians 5:26a). And, when we fall out of step with the Spirit, it is then that we shift from being hard on ourselves to being hard on others (verse 26b). On the flipside, if we find ourselves hostile to or envious of others, we have good reason to ask ourselves, “Am I walking in the Spirit? Do I belong to Jesus? Am I locked in a crucifying-to-death battle with my sin?”
Against which of your sinful desires are you currently engaged in mortal combat?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”