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, August 22, 2020

2020.08.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:14-17

Read Hebrews 12:14-17

Questions from the Scripture text: What are we to pursue with all people (Hebrews 12:14)? What will we not see the Lord without? In what manner are we to be looking (Hebrews 12:15)? What are we watching that people would fall short of? What might spring up and cause trouble? Who would become defiled? What kind of person was Esau (Hebrews 12:16)? How did he show that he was profane? What did he want afterward (Hebrews 12:17)? How did he seek this and with what?
In this passage. we see that we respond to the Lord’s work in our lives by putting forth effort of our own. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work, according to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). Here, we discover what that work looks like.

First, it looks like pursuing peace with all. This is accomplished by loving our neighbor as ourselves and loving one another as Christ has loved us. Of course, love does no wrong to its neighbor, so what does love do? It fulfills the law.

We obey this instruction to pursue peace with all when we honor those in authority over us; and, refuse to murder even in our hearts; and, refuse to indulge fleshly appetites outside their God-given proper place in our lives; and, refuse to steal; and, refuse to bend words to our advantage; and, refuse to covet. It is by this discipline of heart and mouth and hand that we pursue peace with all.

Of course, it’s not just with men that we need peace. So, we must pursue that holiness without which no one will see the Lord. We must treat Him as holy, as we live always before His face. We must treat His worship as holy, worshiping only in the way that He has commanded. We must treat His name as holy, neither speaking it nor bearing it lightly. We must treat His day as holy, taking up the whole of the day in worship, and those duties of necessity and mercy that enable us to worship.

How intensely should we be following God’s law? “Looking carefully”—overseeing ourselves. It’s a verb form of the word for “overseer” or “bishop” or “ruler.” Rule yourself in godliness, dear Christian!

If we don’t live this way, then it isn’t the root of holiness and happiness that we are putting down, but rather the root of bitterness. And God save us from putting that root down! Esau didn’t think ahead; he lived in the moment; he just satisfied his desire. But oh the bitterness that he reaped! When it came time to lose that blessing that he wanted to inherit, he wept bitterly trying to get his father to change his mind!

How very many sins there are that look enticing in the moment, but great is the bitterness that is suffered by the one who commits them! But we are not moving toward bitterness. Rather, we are moving toward blessedness, and the Lord is producing in us the peaceful fruit of righteousness!
What place does God’s law have in your life? When do you read it? How do you follow it?
Suggested Songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Friday, August 21, 2020

2020.08.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:12-13

Read Hebrews 12:12-13

Questions from the Scripture text: What things that hang down are we to strengthen (Hebrews 12:12)? What feeble things are we to strengthen? What kind of paths are we to make for our feet (Hebrews 12:13)? What will God use this to do for whatever is lame? 
In this passage, we learn how to respond to God’s determined work to make us holy. We do whatever the One who is doing this work says to do. In this case, our Fatherly God commands us to do the difficult and painful.

Strengthen those hands that hang down. Strengthen the feeble knees. Make straight paths for your feet. These are marching orders. Things for us to do. But let us not make the mistake of turning the Christian life into a life of toughing it out because our obedience will make everything better.

We don’t follow these commands because we have been left to train ourselves. We follow these commands because the Lord is training us. This passage isn’t talking about toughing it out. To be sure, there is determination here, but it is a determination that is based upon God’s strength, not ours.

It is not our obedience that makes everything better. Rather, it is God who is producing our obedience by making us better. This is why He chastens us, according to Hebrews 12:3-11. And this is why we obey what He says to do. As Hebrews 12:10 tells us, He’s making us holy. As Hebrews 12:13 tells us, He’s healing us.

So often, as we struggle, we feel the hanging down, and feebleness, and lameness. If we are looking unto ourselves and considering ourselves, then the command to strengthen and make straight will just plunge us into despair. Yet, so many try that, thinking that they are obeying the commands in Hebrews 12:12-13.

God deliver us from this deadly half-obedience to the instruction in this text! Looking unto Jesus, strengthen and make straight. Considering Him who endured the hostility, strengthen and make straight!

But let us not miss that this passage also cuts the other way. There are many who say, I’m not going to work at holiness, because… I’m looking unto Jesus. Or, I’m not going to make a straight path of obedience to follow, because… I’m considering Him who endured the hostility.

This passage just doesn’t allow us to think like that. Those who look unto Him, and consider Him, are looking unto and considering the One who both is working in us, and also commands us to work.
Which mistake do you find yourself more likely to make: looking unto yourself for strength, as you follow Scripture instruction for life? Or excusing a laziness about the Christian life by dressing that laziness up by telling yourself that you are looking to Jesus?
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths to You I Cried” or HB275 “Amazing Grace”

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Why Risk Taking Vows? (2020.08.20 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

 Hopewell Herald – August 20, 2020

Dear Congregation,

Upon hearing how weighty a thing it is to make a solemn promise before God, such as a vow or an oath, we might be tempted to think, “Then, why would we want to do such a thing? Why take vows when being added to the church, or when professing our faith, or when the Lord adds children to us, or when we take office, or when we get married?” 

It’s a good question. What is to be gained? 

Well, for those with whom the Lord puts us into relationship, much is to be gained by a vow, if the vow is a means by which we perform our duties toward them more consistently and completely. In a society where vows mean little, this advantage is lost, and we make a mockery out of integrity and honesty.

And for the unbeliever, of course, there can be nothing ultimately gained. The short-term good that the Lord continually does him will always condemn him all the more in the end. With no atonement for his sin, even outward “uprightness” will testify that all his sin was against that much more undeserved mercy from God. How dreadful to be the man in the coffin that everyone called “a good man,” but to appear at the judgment without Christ!!

But, for the believer, there is much indeed to be gained.

First, we don’t make promises in these vows to anything that the Lord Jesus hasn’t already required of us. If He saves us, He has added us to the church. Refusing to profess Him is a sin (Matt 10:32–33; Rom 10:8–10). Inconsistent attendance, whether we have professed or not, is a sin. The church is keep a roll and to add to its number (cf. Ac 1:15; 2:41; 4:4) those whom the Lord providentially adds by bringing their men to faith. Resisting being added is a sin. If God adds a child to us, and we fail to put His sign upon that child; or, if we fail to bring him up in the Lord’s discipline and the Lord’s instruction, that is a sin (Exo 4:24–26; Deu 6:4–14; Eph 6:1­–4). What grooms and brides properly promise in a wedding would have been a sin for them not to fulfill; as Scripture says, marriage is a covenant from God (Prov 2:17; Matt 19:4–5).

So, taking vows that have been established by those who have faithfully applied the Word for generations is a help against the self-deception in which our flesh tries to convince us that our profession/membership is our own, or our marriage is our own, or our children are our own, etc. These all are defined by, and belong to, the Lord.

Second, when we live not under the law as a burden, but under grace which fuels devotion to God’s law out of love and thankfulness, having vows to take increases opportunity for expressing our love and thankfulness to the Lord Jesus! We love to reflect upon how we may please Him. we enjoy watching others whom He saves make these promises, and celebrate with them the anniversaries of His sustaining them by grace. When it is necessary for us to come alongside them, we set before them the goodness and glory of Who He is and What He has done, that His worthiness might be ever-renewed and increased in their sight and ours.

Third, when we see that these vows (which come in accordance with God’s good and wise Word) increase the guilt of each sin that is committed against them, the value of Christ’s sacrifice and righteousness both increase before our eyes. How great is what He has suffered in our place! How astonishing He is in His perfect righteousness—and how marvelous that this is the righteousness that is reckoned unto our account before God!

Fourth, in our battle against sin, we should marshal all the weapons and means that God has placed at our disposal. When we have a serious and important duty or relationship, against which we know that our flesh will resist, having avowed ourselves to that duty stirs up our resolve to be in league with the Spirit against the  flesh.

Taken along with these considerations—and we could identify more—there is much to be gained by the consideration that God Is Witness. That He sees all, and even unto the depths of our hearts, and far more than we can ever see. And that He is perfectly holy and infinitely powerful. For, the more that we see the depth and weightiness of taking a vow, the more each of these preceding benefits is increased unto us.

We have a God Who swears by Himself, and Who makes and keeps covenant, binding Himself to us by His Word, His Son, His blood (Heb 6–10; cf. Ac 20:26–28). And ultimately, it is His keeping of His promises in Christ (and Christ’s keeping of our own obligations!) that makes vow-taking and vow-making such a benefit to believers!

Looking forward to coming to Him together with you in that worship to which we have rightly vowed our attendance,

Pastor

Humbled, Lifted, and Upheld by God's Mighty Hand (1Pet 5:6–7 Prayer Devotional)

In prayer, we come to our mighty, caring God and Father. And in prayer, we place ourselves under and upon His hand—submitting ourselves under His wisdom, and securing ourselves upon His will

2020.08.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:5-11

Read Hebrews 12:5-11 

Questions from the Scripture text: What speaks to us as sons (Hebrews 12:5)? Whose chastening and rebuke do we receive? How shouldn’t we respond? Whom does God chasten (Hebrews 12:6)? Whom does God receive? When is God dealing with us as sons (Hebrews 12:7)? What does verse 7 assume that all fathers will do with their children? If we have no chastening in our lives, then what aren’t we (Hebrews 12:8)? How does Hebrews 12:9 assume that children will treat their fathers? Of what does verse 9 call God the Father, and how does this relate to Hebrews 12:3? Why does God discipline us (Hebrews 12:10)? How does chastening seem for the present (Hebrews 12:11)? What does it produce? 
In this text, we learn some comforting things about the uncomfortable situations in our lives.

First, our lives are never out of control. Well, sure, they are always out of our control. Any idea that we are ever in control is a lie that we tell ourselves. And, often, it’s the uncomfortable times that the Lord uses to expose the lie.

But the Lord is always in control. So, Hebrews 12:5-6 call those uncomfortable times the “chastening,” “rebuke,” and even “scourging” of the Lord. But now we’ve gone from “lest you become discouraged” in Hebrews 12:3 to a command “do not be discouraged” in Hebrews 12:5.

Do not be discouraged! Why?

Reason 1: the Lord loves you. He loves you enough to do whatever is necessary to produce the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Reason 2: the Lord receives you. Actually the word in Hebrews 12:6 is more than that. He welcomes you. He takes you in. but sin cannot enter heaven. Heaven has a war against sin. That’s why righteousness is a peaceful fruit. That’s why being delivered from the ongoing presence of sin is worth whatever it takes.

Reason 3: the Lord treats you as a son. Being discouraged by His providence actually dishonors our heavenly Father and despises our fatherly God.

Does it not seem best to us? What is that next to the fact that it is what seems best to Him (Hebrews 12:10)?

You may be in an uncomfortable situation now. If not, and if you live a bit longer, you will be in an uncomfortable situation soon enough. How do I know? Because the Scripture says that if you are without discipline, you’re not a true son.

And it’s guaranteed to be painful, Hebrews 12:11. But do you know what else is guaranteed? The peaceful fruit of righteousness. The whole point of this isn’t the pain. It’s your true Father loving you and taking you to be with Himself forever.
What uncomfortable situation are you in or have been in? What is your Father doing in it?
Suggested Songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

2020.08.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:3-4

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom are we to consider (Hebrews 12:3)? What did He endure? From whom? What will considering Him keep us from becoming? Unto what point have they not resisted (Hebrews 12:4)? Against what are they striving? 
In this passage, we receive a word for a situation that we all go through: weariness and discouragement of soul. What can we do to keep weariness and discouragement at bay?

Consider Him.

It’s important to see that this is a continuation of the instruction in Hebrews 12:2: “looking unto Jesus, the pioneer and guaranteed completer of our faith.”

We heard from Hebrews 12:1-2 that, as we look unto Jesus, by faith, sitting at the right hand of the throne of God, we see the One who is at work in us, and whose handiwork every case of true faith has ever been.

Now, Hebrews 12:3-4 reminds us that this exalted One has been not only where we are, but lower. Not only are we to consider Him, but we are to consider Him

Who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself.

What sinners? The crowd that said, “His blood be upon us and our children”? Yes. But not just the way you might think. Because some of those people, fifty days later, cried out, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Since this is the letter to the Hebrews, some of those people were likely in the congregation that first received it.

But they went from “Brethren, what shall we do?” to repenting and believing, to putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit of God… the same Spirit that teaches us to call God our Father and testifies that we are the children of God. (cf. Romans 8:13-17)

So what we have, when we take all these Scriptures together, is that Jesus endured hostility from sinners to save them from more than just the penalty of their sin. He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God and kept on saving us from sin… from the power of our sin and from the presence of our sin.

Jesus is the Finisher of our faith, and that finish comes, sometimes, through pain. Since He is suffering through it with us, let us be all the more strengthened to suffer through it with Him!
What are you suffering through right now? Who suffers through it with you? Why?
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths to You I Cried” or HB275 “Amazing Grace”

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

2020.08.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 7:20-8:2

 Read Hebrews 7:20-8:2

Questions from the Scripture text: Who wasn’t Jesus made priest without (Hebrews 7:20)? What did the others become priest without (Hebrews 7:21a)? Who swore an oath to Jesus that He would be priest forever (verse 21b)? Who has become surety of our covenant (Hebrews 7:22)? Of what kind of covenant has He become surety for us? Why were there many priests in the previous covenant (Hebrews 7:23)? Who continues forever (Hebrews 7:24)? Why is Jesus’s priesthood unchangeable? Who is able to save those who come to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25a)? How completely is He able to save them (verse 25b)? Why is He able to save them to the uttermost? Who is the High Priest who was fitting for us (Hebrews 7:26a)? What five things in verse 26 describe how and why Jesus is fitting? What does Jesus not need to do daily (Hebrews 7:27a)? What did Jesus do once for all (verse 27b)? What kind of men did the law appoint as priests (Hebrews 7:28a)? What appointed a perfected Son forever (verse 28b)? Who has the kind of High Priest that Hebrews 8:1 describes? Where is He seated? In what sanctuary (holy place) and tabernacle does He serve (Hebrews 8:2)? Who erected it? 
Jesus has finished the work of atoning for us. The moment that one believes savingly in Christ, he is as justified as he will be in glory. But Jesus isn’t finished with His work as our Mediator, because He has given Himself to do more than just atone for us. He has also given Himself to intercede for us. In our passage, the focus is upon God’s having given Christ, from among men, to be our Priest forever.

With what great confidence we should come to “the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1)!

We come through Him to Whom Yahweh has sworn that His priesthood continues forever (Hebrews 7:21, cf. Psalm 110:4).
  • We come through Him who has secured the blessings of a superior covenant (Hebrews 7:22). 
  • We come through Him who is able to save us to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25a). 
  • We come through Him who lives forever (verse 25b). 
  • We come through Him who makes intercession for us (verse 25c). 
  • We come through Him who is holy (Hebrews 7:26). 
  • We come through Him who literally does no evil thing (“harmless” in NKJV). 
  • We come through Him who is unstained. 
  • We come through Him who is not corrupted by proximity to sinners. 
  • We come through Him whose sacrifice has put our sin away once for all (Hebrews 7:27). 
  • We come through Him who is the Beloved Son (Hebrews 7:28). 
  • We come through Him who has flawlessly and completely qualified forever to be our Priest.
  • We come to Him who is seated at the right hand of the throne (Hebrews 8:1).
  • We come to Him who is Priest not of an earthly tabernacle, but of that heavenly glory of which the earthly one was a copy (Hebrews 8:2)

One of the reasons that we don’t come to worship with enough wonder is because we give little attention to Him through Whom we come, and therefore we little appreciate what glorious access we have been given in Him. O that the Spirit would stir up our hearts to appreciate Him and the entrance He has given us into glory in New Testament worship!
About which of the characteristics of Christ’s priesthood did you most need to be reminded?
Suggested songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or TPH275 “Arise, My Soul, Arise”

Monday, August 17, 2020

Real Reconciliation 2: When and How to Confront an Offense

When the relationship is damaged, or a brother is in spiritual trouble, those who are skilled in dealing with their own sins are called to help him deal with his.

Jesus's Plan for Your Stability: How Not to Be a Doctrinal Toddler in a Rowboat

Jesus equips us by pastor-teachers so that our theology won't have the instability of a toddler in a rowboat.

God Is Witness: Taking Vows before the All-Seeing, Almighty God (2020.08.16 Morning Sermon in Genesis 31:36–55)



Taking a vow requires great humility (because God sees everything) and gospel hope (because God is almighty and holy and just). Thankfully, God vowed Himself to save in Christ, and He has kept His vow!

2020.08.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:1-2

Read  Hebrews 12:1-2

Questions from the Scripture text: By what are we surrounded (Hebrews 12:1)? What two things should we lay aside? With what are we to run the race? Unto whom should we be looking (Hebrews 12:2)? What has Jesus done with our faith? What was set before Jesus? What did He endure for that joy? What did Jesus despise? Where has He sat down?
In this passage, we read about a group who are joining the heroes of faith that we learned about in chapter 11: us!

It is important that we get that sense: that glory is where “our people” are. It is so easy to look around at the people we rub elbows with every day and think of them as our people…

We are tempted to want to fit in here, when we should be thinking about being made fit for glory

We are tempted to want to be liked here, when we should be ravishing our hearts upon Christ’s everlasting love.

We are tempted to want to be admired, when we should be adoring God’s glory.

There are lesser things that compete for our hearts. They are not sinful in and of themselves, but they weigh us down like wearing a lead suit. Habits. Hobbies. Little indulgences. Pass-times. Even certain friendships that we know keep us quite earthly-minded.

Then there are sins. And sin always turns our hearts away from God, against God. They are little claims to the throne. Little lies. A little gossip. A little laziness. A little lust. Indulging some bitterness or hostility in our hearts. Like vines, wrapping themselves around a runner’s leg, these don’t just slow us down but trip us up so we fall on our faces.

We lay aside weight, and run a little bit, and we are amazed to find that weight is back. We lay aside the sin, and run a little bit, and we are amazed to find that the sin is back.

Well, let’s not be amazed. Obviously, this was not a one-time thing. Otherwise, we would not be commanded to run with endurance.

It’s a race worth running, and there are real obstacles, but we have that promise that we will inherit the promises with them. Therefore, we also, let’s run!
What weights in your life keep you from living more zealously for Christ?
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths to You I Cried” or HB275 “Amazing Grace”