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Saturday, May 2, 2020

Christ-Led Worship from Heaven (2020.05.02 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)


Hopewell Herald – May 2, 2020

Dear Congregation,

This week, I received a request for more explanation about the underlined portion of the following line from my article in the Christian Observer:
“This is the time for entertainment/involvement worship to be replaced by simple, Scripture-commanded, Christ-led worship from heaven that involves the whole of every person in the whole congregation the whole time.”

Though we have been learning about this together from the Scripture for almost three years now, sometimes we are helped by thinking through it again or by hearing it in different words. So, I hope that the following reply will stir up your anticipation for this glorious worship that awaits us tomorrow on the Lord’s Day:

There's a lot to unpack to answer the question, if someone hasn't thought this through or been taught it, but I'll try. I showed all of these things in the Hebrews series and more briefly in the recent worship series.

But the line that he is asking about is basically the teaching of the entire book of Hebrews. 

That there is a Sabbath-keeping (sabbatismos, not katapausis, in Heb 4:9) that remains, on which Christ personally and really addresses us from Heaven in the preaching (as chs. 3–4, 12 all teach, cf. Rom 10 "how will they believe Him whom they have not heard, and how will they hear without a preacher). 

Heb 2:12 also teaches this, while quoting from Psalm 22 to authoritatively interpret it as Christ saying that in the midst of the congregation it is actually He who sings His Father's praise (this has huge implications for what we sing in corporate worship, since it is Christ who puts His words into our mouths, and we are not at liberty to put our words into His; Eph 5 and Col 3 help with this, since it is the Spirit who fills us by making Christ's Word to dwell in us richly as we sing and admonish one another with His Word in song; Eph 5 even tells us that when we are doing this, each is to be submitting to all the others. The egalitarians love to wrestle v21 from this context and make it apply to marriage in v22ff, but this abuses the text and corrupts the teaching of the passage on both marriage and congregational singing). 

The point in the second half of 1Cor 11 is that their corruption of procedure shows that the Corinthians have missed that in the Supper Jesus is feeding us upon Himself from heaven

And, in prayer, we are living stones who offer spiritual sacrifices (1Pet 2, etc.), but this is mediated by our great High Priest who has offered Himself once for all, and Jesus our Priest presents our prayers at the throne (Heb 4–10).

This is why worship requires faith, because it engages in an unseen heavenly reality much more than the mere outward forms that we practice on earth (ch. 11–12). We come not to a Sinai that we can see or touch but to a heavenly Zion with angels, perfected souls, our Father, our Mediator, etc. The assembly of the firstborn.

This is why when ch 10 says to come to the true holy of holies through the new and living way that is His flesh and not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, it is sentimental rubbish to take the "where two or three are gathered" text and abuse it to say that you can do this with any Christians at any time.

There are divinely mandated holy assemblies throughout the Scripture. There is just one in the New Testament, the holy assembly on that sabbatismos which remains; but, the holy assembly on the Lord’s Day is no less divinely mandated than any former holy assembly, and it participates in an assembly in glory over which Jesus presides as Prophet and Priest in an unique way that is not available to us at other times in other gatherings.

Pastor

2020.05.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 25:19–26

Questions from the Scripture text: Whose “genealogy” is this (Genesis 25:19)? How old is Isaac in Genesis 25:20? How does verse 20 identify Rebekah? What does Genesis 25:21 tell us that Isaac did for her? Why? How does Yahweh respond? What is happening within Rebekah in Genesis 25:22? How does she feel about this? How does she respond? What does Yahweh say are in her womb (Genesis 25:23)? What does He say will happen to them when they come out? How will they relate? And who will serve who? What days are completed in Genesis 25:24? What were there in her womb? How does the first come out (Genesis 25:25)? What do they call him? What does the brother do when he comes out in Genesis 25:26? What do they call him? How old is Isaac at this point? 
In this passage, the Lord keeps a promise in response to Isaac’s prayer, and makes another promise in response to Rebekah’s prayer. But it’s not just the two kinds of answers that are rather different from one another, the two kinds of praying are different too.

The passage ever-so-subtly tells us that Isaac prayed for his wife for twenty years. The form of the verb for pleading is one that may indicate ongoing action, and the passage tells us when he began (40 years old, Genesis 25:20) and when he finished (60 years old, Genesis 25:26). The man who submitted to his aged father on the altar on Mt. Moriah, and whom we met meditating in the field in the evening, and who loved his wife is a man who pleads with Yahweh for his wife for twenty years. Prayer is often a long, sustained work of faith.

But though it requires strong and sustained faith, the way that this prayer operates is according to a pretty simple faith. What’s the summary statement? “Isaac pleaded with Yahweh for his wife, because she was barren; and, Yahweh granted his plea, and Rebekah his wife conceived” (Genesis 25:21). We make a plea, and the Lord grants it. He glorifies Himself as the Hearer of prayer.

Rebekah had seen this for decades in her husband, and in Genesis 25:22 she comes into a moment where she too needs Yahweh to be a hearer of prayer unto her. It’s difficult enough to be pregnant with twins, but these sons don’t wait to “take it outside” (cf. Genesis 25:26); they’re already fighting in the womb! How bad is it? The translation smooths it over for us, but Rebekah asks, “If it is thus, why am I?”! Perhaps some mothers who have had difficult pregnancies will not be surprised that she despaired of her existence.

The answer is poetic, but it may have felt to her as there were literally two nations in there, and that they were at war and had to be separated. But they are there because the Lord has plans for them. What a comfort it is that nothing happens apart from His providence! He doesn’t do things our way (the younger shall serve the older) but His way (the older shall serve the younger). It is all of grace (the deceiver from birth is the chosen one—certainly not for his righteousness!). So that it may be all unto His glory.
For what long-term thing are you praying? In what desperate circumstance are you praying?
Suggested songs: ARP65A “Praise Awaits You, God” or TPH65C “Praise Waits for Thee in Zion”

Friday, May 1, 2020

In Luke 5:1–11, Jesus displays almighty power in catching men and fish—which we need Him to do, because His holiness is deadly to sinners such as we are, unless He saves us by that almighty power!

2020.05.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 5:1–11

Questions from the Scripture text: What did the multitude press around Jesus to hear in Luke 5:1? Where was He? What did He see (Luke 5:2)? Who weren’t there and why? Where did Jesus go in Luke 5:3? What did He ask? What did He do? What does Jesus stop in Luke 5:4? What does He then say? How does Simon answer (Luke 5:5)? What happens in Luke 5:6? What is breaking? Whom do they get for help in Luke 5:7? But then what happens to the boats? Who sees it in Luke 5:8? What is his response, while the nets are breaking and the boats are sinking? What does he ask Jesus to do and why? What did these professional fisherman think of what had just happened (Luke 5:9-10)? What does Jesus tell Simon not to do? What does Jesus tell him that he will do? What do they do when they get to the shore (Luke 5:11)? 
Christ’s first catch in this passage is breaking the geography and geometry of preaching. When hearing this account as a child, I remember much being made of the genius of the natural amphitheater of the shoreline and the use of water to reflect sound. But the passage begins with the reason that He ends up in the boat: “the multitude pressed about Him to hear the Word of God.” That’s a miracle, praise God!

In the dullness of our flesh, we do not so readily see this miracle. Peter should have dropped to his knees then, and begged the Lord to depart from him then. But we are more impressed with inexplicably full-to-breaking nets that have enough fish in them to sink two boats. The professional fisherman didn’t think, “huh—guess we missed where to get ‘em.” They were all astonished (Luke 5:9-10).

Peter understands the implications of the miracle—Jesus is holy, and this holiness is a mortal threat to sinners such as Peter. Peter is literally in a sinking boat, but for a sinner the presence of the Holy One is more dangerous than a sinking boat. Yet, what is Jesus’s holy command? “Do not be afraid.” Jesus is here to exercise His almighty power by catching men, not destroying them. He is catching Peter.

And He will empower Peter to be a catcher of men too. The miracle on the shore that had pushed them into the boats would be repeated at Pentecost and other occasions throughout the apostolic ministry. It is repeated in men’s hearts through gospel preaching today, as they realize the holiness of Christ, and their own sinfulness, and Jesus’s power to save sinners.

Ought we not to seek the Lord of the catch would make multitudes press to hear the Word of God? May the Holy One thus exercise His almighty power!
In your life, how is Jesus always displaying His power? In what way does He especially do so?
Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or TPH280 “Wondrous King, All Glorious”

Thursday, April 30, 2020

2020.04.29 Prayer Meeting Devotional: Christians Are Those Who Come to God through Jesus, Our Complete Savior (Heb 7:25)

Each week at the Prayer Meeting, we have a Scripture lesson from the text which will call us to prayer during public worship on the following Lord's Day morning. In Hebrews 7:25, we learn that Jesus is a complete Savior. In Him are justification, adoption, sanctification, glorification, and all other saving benefits. He prays for us, and shapes us to be like He is—people of prayer who come to God through Him.
In Ephesians 1:20–23, we learn that the power by which God works in us is the same power by which our resurrected Redeemer bodily ascended to the throne of the third heaven in paradise. What grace God has given us, that this power makes us the glorious Bride of this glorious One!

2020.04.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 1:20–23

Questions from the Scripture text: In Whom did God’s mighty power work (Ephesians 1:20)? When? At what did He seat Him? In which places? Far above what for things (Ephesians 1:21)? And above which names? At what times? What has God put where (Ephesians 1:22a)? As what did He give Christ, and to whom (verse 22b)? What two things does Ephesians 1:23 call the church? What does verse 23 call Him? 
What is the exceeding greatness of God’s power toward us (Ephesians 1:19)? The same power by which He raised Christ from the dead. And, greater still—the power by which He seated Christ at His right hand in the heavenly places. This power did not merely restore life to a body and raise it from the grave. It raised this body and transported it through the heavens to the very throne of glory!

How far? Above all principality and power and might and dominion. Above the vast angel armies, above the most blazing of the seraphim, the most powerful of the cherubim, the highest of the arch angels. Above the living creatures and the whole holy host.

And the power that seated Christ there is the power that works in Ephesian believers. And American believers. Whom the Lord has joined to Jesus by faith.

It’s astonishing and humbling. Jesus is Head over all things, but the Lord has given Him as Head to the church. All things are under His feet, but we ourselves are His body. His beloved bride, as chapter 5 will teach. Hallelujah!

In His role as our Mediator, God has granted that Christ would be completed by His bride. Not that there is anything lacking in Him, but that He has chosen to take us as His very own body, of His flesh and of His bone. By reminding us that Jesus “fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:23), the Scripture reminds us that it would be a great blasphemy if we were the ones who claimed to be the “fullness of Him.”

But we are not the ones who claim it. God is the One who declares it. God is the One who designed it. God is the One who did it. How great is His love toward us, and How great is that power by which His love has decided to work in us!
For what part of your sanctification do you most need reminded of God’s powerful work in you?
Suggested songs: ARP8 “Lord, Our Lord” or TPH29A “Now unto the Lord, All You Sons of the Mighty”

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

In 1 Samuel 6:1–12, we learn (1) to respond to Providence by repentance and faith, (2) the inestimable value of God's Word, (3) how greatly God Himself values His own glory.

2020.04.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 6:1–12

Questions from the Scripture text: Where was the ark of Yahweh and for how long (1 Samuel 6:1)? For whom did the Philistines call (1 Samuel 6:2)? What did they ask? What did the Philistine religious experts say not to do (1 Samuel 6:3)? What did their priests say they should offer? What follow-up question is asked in 1 Samuel 6:4? And what do the priests answer to offer as a trespass offering? Why (1 Samuel 6:4-5)? What did they think that this would give to the God of Israel? From what three objects did they hope He would lighten His hand? What question do their priests now ask the Philistines in 1 Samuel 6:6? What kind of cart do they say to use (1 Samuel 6:7)? What kind of cows do they say to hitch to it? Where do they say to take their calves? What do they say to do with the cart (1 Samuel 6:8)? And for what do they say to watch (1 Samuel 6:9)? What do they say to conclude, based upon the result? What do they do in 1 Samuel 6:10-11? And what is the result in 1 Samuel 6:12?
In this passage, the Lord both vindicates His Name and also shows surprising mercy to the Philistines. Their priests’ and diviners’ ideas are offensive to Him of course. Golden tumor idols and golden rat idols as a trespass offering?! Putting Him to the test with calf-separated milk cows pulling an untested cart in the wrong direction?!

But the Lord condescends (stoops down) to fulfill their “sign” and sends those cows straight to Beth Shemesh, lowing all the way.

Even Philistines know that devastation comes from the hand of the one, true God. They learned the lesson of Pharaoh and Egypt, asking one another, “Why then do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh hardened their hearts?” We must shake our heads when Philistine idolaters are better at understanding and responding to the providence of God than nations where profession of the true religion once abounded. Better even, perhaps, than much of what calls itself the “evangelical church.”

For, the Lord afflicts us, and rather than seeking how we may have offended Him and what He seeks from us, we merely seek relief from the affliction. We fill our prayers with requests for deliverance, rather than repentance—and that’s when we pray at all. The bulk of our effort is spent not crying out to heaven but figuring out how to navigate the situation on earth.

But God does highly prize the glory of His Name and has a history of surprising displays of marvelous grace. This doesn’t encourage us to engage in Philistine-style idolatry and sign seeking, but surely it should drive us into Scripture to rest upon the Lord’s glorious grace and do according to all His good commands!
By what situations has the Lord gotten your attention? What has your response primarily been?
Suggested Songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH557 “Great King of Nations, Hear Our Prayers”

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

2020.04.28 Hopewell Harbinger

Hopewell This Week, April 27–May 2, 2020

▫Attached is a pdf of Lord’s Day’s Worship Booklet, complete with Hopewell @Home devotionals for this week, in addition to 8.5x11's of the memory verse and catechism questions that can be used as posters to help with memory work.

▫The link is now active for audio and pdf outline of the Lord’s Day morning sermon (Genesis 25:1–18 Kingdom Blessings, Now and Forever)

Every day at 9a.m. Joint prayer with the rest of the ARP Synod for repentance and revival in light of the current chastening providence of God.

Prayer Meeting, Wednesday, April 29, at 6:30p.m. The prayer meeting folder is available at http://bit.ly/harpc200429pm

Changes for Lord’s Day, May 3:

What Is Sanctification?

Pastor takes his youngest catechism child through the Westminster Shorter Catechism answer for May 3.
Even after we have been justified and adopted, for our salvation to be complete, we must be sanctified and glorified. Jesus is able to do all of this because He lives forever and intercedes on the basis of a sufficient sacrifice.

2020.04.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 7:25–27

Questions from the Scripture text: What is Jesus able to do (Hebrews 7:25)? How far/much? Whom is He able to save to the uttermost? What does He always do? What office does Jesus have (Hebrews 7:26)? What five qualities make Him perfectly suitable/fitting to be our High Priest? What did other high priests have to do and how often (Hebrews 7:27)? What did Jesus not need to do at all? What is the difference in the frequency of His sacrifice for His people’s sins? What is the difference in what was offered?
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin come from Hebrews 7:25–27 in order to sing God’s thoughts after Him with Not All the Blood of Beasts.

We need more saving than just having the slate clean with God. We need to be made suitable for the glory that Jesus has earned for us. We need much help and deliverance in this life. We need ultimate deliverance at death and then again at the resurrection.

Our Lord Jesus is able to do all of these because of the indestructibility of His life and because of the infinite value of His sacrifice. He is not prevented by death from continuing His work (cf. Hebrews 7:23), but rather “always lives” to intercede for us. He has no sin of His own that would require sacrifice, and the sacrifice that He gave for our sins was Himself—a sacrifice rich enough to be once for all.

Our salvation includes so much more than justification that Scripture can say that it is “nearer to us now than when we first believed” (cf. Romans 13:11). And we may rejoice to know that Christ’s life is abundantly powerful and His sacrifice abundantly valuable for all of it!
What do you need Jesus to do for you right now? In the future? How do you know that He can?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH354 “Not All the Blood of Beasts”

Monday, April 27, 2020

2020.04.26 Morning Sermon—Genesis 25:1–18, "Kingdom Blessings, Now and Forever"

When we live by faith in Christ, we see life on earth as saturated with covenant blessings that are dwarfed by God's blessing at our death, and then again at our resurrection. [mp3] [pdf]
When we live by faith in Christ, we see life on earth as saturated with covenant blessings that are dwarfed by God's blessing at our death, and then again at our resurrection

2020.04.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 25:1–18

Questions from the Scripture text: What did Abraham do in Genesis 25:1? How many sons did Keturah bear him (Genesis 25:2)? How many grandsons do Genesis 25:3-4 mention? To whom did Abraham give his entire estate (Genesis 25:5)? How does Genesis 25:6 refer to Keturah (and Hagar) by comparison to Sarah? What did he do with all his other sons? How long did Abraham live (Genesis 25:7)? How does Genesis 25:8 describe him? What two things happen to Abraham in verse 8? What third thing happens to him in Genesis 25:9? Who bury him where? How did they get the field (Genesis 25:10)? Who else was buried there? What continued after Abraham died (Genesis 25:11)? Whose genealogy does Genesis 25:12 begin? How many sons of Ishmael do Genesis 25:13-15 name? What else does Genesis 25:16 tell us about them? How long did Ishmael live (Genesis 25:17)? What three things happen to Ishmael in verse 17? Who is with him at his death (Genesis 25:18)?  
The Lord sometimes gives His people great earthly blessing. Abraham had 16 sons and grandsons from Keturah. Ishmael had 12 sons who became great princes in cities at he heart of settlements that were nations. Abraham had enough to give presents to all of these and still have the fullness of his estate to give to Isaac.

Abraham, however, knows that all of the earthly blessings are nothing in comparison to eternal covenant blessings. This had been his complaint in chapter 15, that his eventual death renders all other blessings pointless. But God had promised the Offspring who would solve the death problem. Since then, Abraham’s resurrection hope has governed his life, even to the point of that land purchase of which Genesis 25:9-10 remind us, the cave in which his own body is now laid.

And the passage holds before us the promise of something even more than resurrection. Both Abraham and Ishmael breathe their last; their bodies cease to function. And both Abraham and Ishmael die; their souls depart (cf. Genesis 35:18). And both of their bodies are buried by those left behind.

But there is one more thing that happens to each of them. They are “gathered to their people.” This is covenantal language for the destination of their departed souls. In Scripture, it is only used of these two, and then later of Isaac (Genesis 35:29), of Jacob (Genesis 49:33), and finally Aaron (Numbers 20:26) and his brother Moses (Numbers 27:13).

But, Jesus Himself refers to this intermediate state as “Abraham’s bosom” (cf. Luke 16:22). David says that his covenant child has gone there in 2 Samuel 12:23. And Paul rejoices in the wonderful, post-ascension truth that what had been called “Abraham’s bosom” is now the presence of the resurrected Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6–8).

So, the Lord does sometimes bless His people in earthly things. Believers do not despise wealth, inheritance, even earthly influence. These all are, at various times, even covenant blessings. But there are two blessings in this passage that come not just to some of the Lord’s people, but all of them: the intermediate state and the resurrection. And these blessings dwarf the earthly blessings.

You can more easily see Ishmael’s son’s nations, and even the great property that Abraham gives to his descendants (and especially Isaac). But, if by the Spirit’s work in us, we walk by faith rather than by sight, we will see that “being gathered to our people” and the hope of the resurrection are far greater than any earthly or temporary blessing. And we will live in this world with the strength and joy that belongs to only such as have this hope!
What earthly blessings has God given you? What better blessings? What should you live for now?
Suggested Songs: ARP90B “O Teach Us How to Count Our Days” or TPH234 “The God of Abraham Praise”