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Saturday, July 4, 2020

True Liberty (2020.07.04 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)


Hopewell Herald – July 4, 2020

Dear Congregation,

As American freedom has much eroded and been much surrendered, it is amazing to consider that what remains is still much more than the vast majority of this world has ever had. This is because what we have has come upon backs that were bent by minds captivated by the true freedom that belongs to those liberated by King Jesus and have no ultimate King but Christ!

What is true liberty?

True liberty is to be set free by the Holy Spirit from the blindness into which we are all born by nature, to behold the glory of God in Jesus Christ. And to know that He is infallibly determined to reproduce the image of that glory in those whom He saves.
“But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
2Corinthians 3:14–18

True liberty is to be set free from the guilt and power of sin by the Son of God.
“Jesus answered them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.”
John 8:34–36

True liberty is to have as our law, not the moralisms of men or even our own preferences and predilections, but the decrees of King Jesus. To embrace wholeheartedly all that Scripture commands us to do.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does… If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well.”
James 1:22–25, 2:8

True liberty is to have, as our hope for keeping this law, not the efforts of the flesh or the law itself, but the Holy Spirit, Who has indwelt all whom Jesus has freed from being bound to sin and death and condemnation by joining them to Himself.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”
Romans 8:1–4

True liberty is to groan in the midst of a world in bondage, with the absolute certainty and confidence that sin’s days are numbered, not only in ourselves but indeed in the whole creation.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”
Romans 8:18–21

True liberty is to know that we need not fear to unleash freely our whole hearts in public worship, and know that it is genuinely unto God in Christ that our hearts draw near, because we accept for true worship only what Jesus has commanded.
“ ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
Matthew 15:8–9

Looking forward to worshiping God FREELY together,

Pastor

2020.07.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 29:13–30

Questions from the Scripture text: What had Laban heard (Genesis 29:13)? What did he do? Who else told him everything? What did Laban say to this in Genesis 29:14 (cf. Genesis 2:23)? How long had he stayed with him in Genesis 29:15? What does Laban ask for in verse 15? What did Laban have in Genesis 29:16? Who had the soft eyes (Genesis 29:17a)? Who had the pretty form and face (verse 17b)? Which one did Jacob love (Genesis 29:18a)? What does he propose (verse 18b)? What does Laban say, exactly, in Genesis 29:19? What did Jacob do for how long and why (Genesis 29:20)? What did Jacob ask for in Genesis 29:21? What does Laban do in Genesis 29:22? But whom did Laban give him in Genesis 29:23? And whom did Laban give to her (Genesis 29:24)? When did Jacob discover the switch (Genesis 29:25)? What does he do about it? What did Laban explain in Genesis 29:26? What does he propose in Genesis 29:27? What does Jacob do about it (Genesis 29:28)? With what result? Whom did Laban give to Rachel (Genesis 29:29)? What was the result in Jacob’s marriage(s) (Genesis 29:30)? What was the result in his employment?
This passage begins a pretty humiliating section for the Israelites who first received this passage by the pen of Moses. It’s hard to claim the moral high ground, when your family began in deceit, polygamy, and strife.

We can see that Laban is already thinking to marry off Leah in Genesis 29:14. The words that he uses take us straight back to Genesis 2:23. It might even be that he’s anticipating the marriage request in response to the “wages” inquiry in Genesis 29:15. Slimy as he is, Genesis 29:19 sounds rather non-committal in retrospect, and the excuse in Genesis 29:26 is pathetic. He’s about seven years late in delivering that information at that point.

For his part, Jacob probably isn’t being as wise as he might have been. Form and appearance change with time, and often with babies. The Holy Spirit seems to imply a Genesis 6:2 mindset for Jacob by the comparison that He gives us in Genesis 29:17. And Jacob probably makes the wrong choice. The “soft eyes” statement is probably not some sort of physical weakness (as some translations interpolate), but rather an observation of Leah’s character (as the names of her first few sons may bear out).

Now, without being too hard on Leah—when one’s father puts you in a position of having to disobey him to honor the Lord, it is a tougher call in the moment than for you or me reading from our literally easy chairs. However, she does end up complicit in the deception.

And Jacob could have either taken his ending up with her as an indication of God’s providential overruling of wrong intentions (like when Isaac realized that he had blessed the other son), or he could have made a legitimate case for annulment.

Then, there’s Rachel, who ought not to have agreed to become a second wife. Even if it was not written on her heart (and perhaps explicitly taught) that polygamy is wrong, surely she could have anticipated that one of them (and probably her) would be loved better than the other, which would end up making both of them miserable.

So, through the misbehaving of all four of them, we come to the end of this passage ready for the arms race to being, which competition will end in the births of the twelve tribes of Israel. A rather inglorious start for the people of the glorious God! An inglorious beginning that underlined both to them and to us that the greatness and goodness of His people is all by His grace!
In what situations in your past can you see how you (and perhaps everyone) were very much in the wrong, but the Lord mercifully brought much good out of it anyway?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH503 “From Depths of Woe”

Friday, July 3, 2020

2020.07.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 6:27–38

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom does Jesus say that He is speaking in Luke 6:27? Whom does He say to love? To whom does He say to do good? Whom does He say to bless (Luke 6:28)? For whom does He say to pray? To whom does He say to offer the other cheek (Luke 6:29)? To whom does He say to be willing to give a tunic? To whom does he say to give (Luke 6:30)? What does He say not to ask for from whom? What does Jesus say to do to others (Luke 6:31)? What does Jesus say does not necessarily commend someone’s godliness (Luke 6:32)? Who else loves those who love them (Luke 6:33)? What else, similarly, would not commend us (Luke 6:34)? What four things does Luke 6:35 say to do? What will we receive? Why? What does Luke 6:36 say to do? Why? What three things does Luke 6:37 talk about? What will be the result of our doing so with others? How does Luke 6:38 describe this? With what?
There are at least three incentives here for our Christian behavior.

First, we should desire to live in such a way that shows that a genuine work of grace has been done in us. Our best opportunity for that comes, frankly, when we are abused. It’s pretty normal to be loving toward those who love us, and generous toward those whom we expect might pay it back one of these days. What is extremely unusual is to repay with kindness when others hate, curse, abuse, strike, and steal from us. So, when we are mistreated, or when someone who could never pay us back has need, we are in prime position to follow this incentive for doing them good. It’s an opportunity to show that a real work of grace has been done in us.

Second, we should desire to reflect our father’s character (Luke 6:35-36). There’s only one way that this grace can come to work in us: if the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Son of God, the Spirit of sonship, produces it in us. Bear the family resemblance. That’s what the Scripture is saying at this point. Your Father is invisible. Let His children be visible, so that others may view in them the likeness of some of His features.

Third, the Lord has commanded His providence in such a way that generally follows the principle that you reap what you sow. Whether with jumping to conclusions and denouncing others (Luke 6:37), or being forgiving and generous with them (Luke 6:37-38), even a desire to be blessed of the Lord in a way designed by the Lord will helpfully motivate us unto godly behavior.

Oh, how we should love the Lord such that our obedience and service come out of that love and thankfulness! But, how good our Lord is to give us these other incentives, and how appropriate it therefore is for us to make use of every possible incentive to serve and obey Him.
What enemies are giving you an opportunity to act like God’s children? How do you plan to love and bless them? 
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH174 “The Ten Commandments”

Thursday, July 2, 2020

A Gospel-Sized Prayer (Family Worship lesson in Ephesians 3:14–19)

Pastor leads his family in today's Hopewell @Home lesson. Here, the apostle to the Gentiles performs the other great function of his apostleship: prayer. He asks for the same purpose by the same power as he does in the ministry of the Word. What results is a divinely-sized prayer.

Anointed by God's Praying Anointed (James 5:14 Prayer Devotional)

The Lord Jesus, Who always prays for us, leads us in prayer by elders. When we are ill, He sends His elders in His Name to remind us that we and our illness are set apart to Him for His glory.

2020.07.02 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 3:14–19

Questions from the Scripture text: What (Ephesians 3:14, cf. Ephesians 2:14–22) does the apostle now pick up from v1 as the reason for this prayer? What posture does he take for this prayer? What does He call God, Whom he addresses (Ephesians 3:14-15)? According to what does he pray that this request will be granted (Ephesians 3:16)? With what does he pray that they will be strengthened? Through Whom does he pray that they will be strengthened? In what does he pray that they will be strengthened? What does he pray that the Spirit will do in their inner man (Ephesians 3:17a)? In what will this root them and ground them (verse 17b)? What would this enable them to do, with whom (Ephesians 3:18)? What is the thing that he prays that they will begin to know the measure (or, rather, immeasurability!) of (Ephesians 3:19)? With what will such knowledge fill them? 
Heaven has been reconciled to earth, with God making redeemed sinners the trophy in which He displays His grace even in glory to the angels (Ephesians 2:6–7; Ephesians 3:10–11). Paul began to say “for this reason” in Ephesians 3:1, and now he picks the train of thought back up in Ephesians 3:14, having uncovered and displayed several more facets of this glorious, multicolored diamond of the wisdom and the grace of God.

It is the glory of this mystery that we can call God Father—not only are all of the ethnicities of believers being brought together into one family on earth, but in heaven they actually appear in glory, the same glory that was being accomplished even through Paul’s imprisonment (end of Ephesians 3:13).

Of course, a part of the blessedness of our glorious adoption is access to the family estate, the riches of God’s glory. And it is in realizing that God is building this family that the apostle now bows his knees and requests access to the family treasure. The fatherhood of the Father. The strengthening of the Spirit. The indwelling of the Son.

It must be a great request indeed! And what is all of this being requested to do? To enable the Ephesians to comprehend (to take hold of) by experiential knowledge something that our brains can’t wrap around.

He has been reflecting upon the fact that the love of Christ goes widely through all the earth to all of its families, that the length of the love of Christ began before all things hidden in God Himself and continues for all eternity, that the love of Christ reaches down all the way to those who are dead in trespasses and sins, and that the love of Christ takes us up onto even the highest throne of the highest heaven.

How could we come to take hold of such a thing? How could we come to take hold of something that will fill us, continually, abundantly, forever? Filled with all the fullness of God! It would be blasphemy if the Holy Spirit had not been the One to say it. What a glorious way to say continual, abundant, and forever fullness. It is not the fullness of that which is finite but the fullness of God.

No wonder, then, that the apostle makes this great Trinitarian prayer when coming with such a request. And, how much we need to consider the great necessity and glory of the church that such knowledge must come together “with all the saints.” Shall we not bow our own knees for this?
How do we grow in the love of God? Who must make those activities effective? Ask Him!
Suggested songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song to the Lord” or TPH425 “How Sweet and Awesome Is the Place”

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

2020.07.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Read 1 Samuel 12

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Samuel say he has done (1 Samuel 12:1)? What people does he point out that the Israelites can observe in 1 Samuel 12:2? What challenge does he make to them in 1 Samuel 12:3? How do they answer in 1 Samuel 12:4? Whom do they call to witness (1 Samuel 12:5)? Whom does Samuel defend and vindicate (1 Samuel 12:6-7)? What had the Lord done in response to what, in 1 Samuel 12:8? What did they still do to the Lord (1 Samuel 12:9a)? And how did He discipline them (verse 9b)? What did this bring the people to do in 1 Samuel 12:10? What men did the Lord send at different times, in response to such crying out (1 Samuel 12:11)? What did they ask for, and when, in 1 Samuel 12:12? Why was this such an offensive request? To Whom does Saul get compared in 1 Samuel 12:13a? But Who is presented as giving Saul to them (verse 13b)? What will happen, on what condition, according to 1 Samuel 12:14? But what will happen if the condition is not met (1 Samuel 12:15)? What sign does Samuel call for (1 Samuel 12:16-18)? What did this show about their request for a king? What effect did the sign have upon them (verse 18b)? What did they ask Samuel to do an why (1 Samuel 12:19)? What does Samuel tell them not to do (1 Samuel 12:20a)? What does he tell them that they have done (verse 20b)? What does he tell them to do (verse 20c)? To what does he tell them not to turn aside (1 Samuel 12:21)? Why won’t Yahweh forsake His people (1 Samuel 12:22)? How does Samuel answer their request to pray (1 Samuel 12:23a)? What else will he do for them (verse 23b)? What three things does he command them to do in 1 Samuel 12:24? What will happen to them if they don’t (1 Samuel 12:25)? 
Although Yahweh had just worked a great deliverance for Israel (cf. 1 Samuel 11:13), their actual situation was ultimately one of great danger.  For, at the covenant renewal at Gilgal, Samuel turns prosecutor and condemns them for rejecting Yahweh as King ( 1 Samuel 12:121 Samuel 12:17).

This is often the way it is with us. God does something good for us, and we easily forget the greatness and wickedness of our sin against Him.

And that’s just what Yahweh gives them. Samuel has made a great case in his speech, but let’s be honest: often with God’s people, even the most plainly spoken and carefully reasoned theology and evidence is just in-one-ear and out-the-other.

Sometimes, we need vivid reminders… like a thunderstorm. This served two purposes.

One, of course, is to show that the Lord is genuinely angry at them, by giving a sign that is otherwise impossible. The dry season is no obstacle to Yahweh. Sure, the imaginary “Baal” might need all sorts of help when the rainy season is supposed to start up, but he doesn’t exist after all. But the true and living God shows His earnestness by the unusualness of the storm.

The other purpose of the storm is, well, to terrify them. We should tremble with awe before the Word of God, because of the greatness of the God of the Word. But, we are spiritually sluggish. Sometimes, it takes a little lightning to jolt us into respectfulness.

By the time the storm has brought forth its fruit, the people are begging for prayer for their survival, which the prophet (as the apostle, cf. Galatians 2:10) assures them is the very thing that he wished to do (1 Samuel 12:23a). Once they have seen the greatness of God’s glory, they are prepared to be comforted that it is this very glory which God has invested in doing good to His people.

Only, let them who hope in Him to glorify Himself by showing them mercy not despise that glory. The warning in 1 Samuel 12:25 is not an empty threat, as the history of Israel will prove.

Do you and I take rejection of God’s lordship seriously in our sins? Then let us tremble at His Word. But let us also be stirred up to undauntable confidence in His redemption, and persist in repentance and faith.
How might you be downplaying your sin against God? How does His saving you for His own glory help you to be sure, amazed, and thankful about that salvation?
Suggested songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

2020.06.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 85

Read Psalm 85
Questions from the Scripture text: For what purpose was this Psalm written (superscript)? What historical work had the Lord done (Psalm 85:1)? What did this mean that He had done toward His people’s sin (Psalm 85:2)? What did it mean that He had done toward His own anger (Psalm 85:3)? What do His people need again in their current situation (Psalm 85:4-5)? What do they need the Lord to do to them (Psalm 85:6a)? So that they can do what (verse 6b)? What do they ask to see (Psalm 85:7a)?  What do they ask to receive (verse 7b)? What do they hope to hear (Psalm 85:8)? From what do they hope that this will keep them? Of what are they confident (Psalm 85:9a)? Why is His salvation near (verse 9b)? What meet together in Psalm 85:10a? What kiss in verse 10b? From where do what things come in Psalm 85:11? Who gives all of this (Psalm 85:12a)? What, even, responds (verse 12b)? How, then, will He conduct Himself (Psalm 85:13a)? How, then, will we conduct ourselves (verse 13b)?
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin come from Psalm 85 in order that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with The Lord Will Come and Not Be Slow.

God has given us a great privilege to address Him in prayer. At the heart of this Psalm, in Psalm 85:4–7, is a raw, urgent crying out for mercy, for God to relent from His disciplinary hand upon His people.

The Psalm reflects upon how this request is in keeping with God’s glorious and gracious forgiving character (Psalm 85:1-3). But, apparently they have been turning back to folly (end of Psalm 85:8), and times of painful discipline have fallen upon them again.

But there is a greater privilege even than speaking to God. It is to have God speak to us. The transition point is when the psalmist says, “I will hear what God, Yahweh, will speak” (verse 8a).  Ultimately, what God speaks here (and, ultimately, what God speaks in Scripture as a whole) is the gospel: mercy and truth and righteousness and peace all being in agreement about saving sinners (Psalm 85:10-11).

This is the glory of Christ and His cross: that through Him and through sinners’ faith in Him, God can be both just and the justifier of sinners (cf. Romans 3:26). In this way, the righteous God can keep being righteous (Psalm 85:13a), while mercifully counting sinners righteous and then transforming them in the way of righteousness (verse 13b)
When do you avail yourself of the privilege of speaking to God? And of hearing Him?
Suggested songs: ARP85B “I’ll Hear What God, the Lord, Will Say” or TPH85 “You Were Pleased to Show”

Monday, June 29, 2020

The Church as the Multicolored Display of God's Glorious Wisdom (2020.06.28 Evening Sermon in Ephesians 3:10–13)

The multicolored glory that God displays by the church to the angels is also the ground of much boldness for Christians as they: address an unbelieving world, access the throne of grace, and assess their and other believers' troubles

God's Sustaining and Surprising Grace (2020.06.28 Morning Sermon in Genesis 29:1–12)

God sustains believers in doing more than they can do, as He works in their lives to do more than they can ask or think

Biblical Clarity on Race and Racism, Part 2 (2020.06.28 Sabbath School)

The second half of a lesson on race and racism. Accepting the idea that humanity is not one race dismantles the foundation for understanding and believing the gospel. Only the gospel can undo the hatred or vainglory that we sometimes call "racism," and justice in order to be just must follow God's law without reference or preference to any ethnicity.

2020.06.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 29:1–12

Questions from the Scripture text: To where does Jacob come in Genesis 29:1? What does he see in Genesis 29:2? What would happen there (Genesis 29:3)? What kinds of things is he asking about in Genesis 29:4-6? What does he tell them to do, once they have identified Rachel to him (Genesis 29:7)? Why do they say that they can’t (Genesis 29:8)? What happens in Genesis 29:9? What does Jacob do (all by himself?!), when he sees Rachel (Genesis 29:10)? How does he respond to her personally in Genesis 29:11? What does he tell her in Genesis 29:12? Whom does she tell? What does Laban do in Genesis 29:13? How does Jacob answer him? What, then, does Laban say to Jacob in Genesis 29:14?
Jacob has achieved his objective. By God’s grace, he has come to Padan Aram and seen the daughter, sheep, and flock “of Laban his mother’s brother” (Genesis 29:10, cf. Genesis 27:43, Genesis 28:2).

It’s pretty amazing. He began the chapter, literally just trying to lift his feet, and he may not know it but all of the things that are here referred to as being “of Laban his mother’s brother” will eventually be his.

God’s plan was greater than could be hoped for from Jacob’s abilities or their circumstances. And truly the same is often true for believers now. God’s plan was greater than Jacob could have imagined. And truly the same is often true for believers now.

But, even for all the emphasis on Laban’s daughter and Laban’s flocks, God’s plan was infinitely more than to give them to Jacob. Because what God was doing through Jacob was bringing Christ into the world to save sinners. Yes, in earthly things God does in fact do all things well. But, the ultimate story of His peoples lives are how He is bringing them to Himself through faith in Christ, and how He is using them to bring others to Himself through faith in Christ.
What about your current circumstances doesn’t seem promising? Who is using them for what?
Suggested songs: ARP181 “God Our Only Good” or TPH256 “God Moves in a Mysterious way”