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 29, 2020

The Christian's Calling to Be a Royal Priest (2020.08.29 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

 Hopewell Herald – August 29, 2020

Dear Congregation, 

On the Lord’s Day, we heard Numbers 2 preached in the public worship—a chapter quite literally with God at the center, as He carries out His plan of redemption. A redemption that is not just the awarding of an ancient near-eastern tract of land to the descendants of a transplanted Chaldean, but the bringing of Christ into the world to save sinners and reconcile them to God! 

Of course, every single Israelite had a particular place to be and part to play in God’s grand design:

And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: “Everyone of the children of Israel shall camp by his own standard, beside the emblems of his father’s house; they shall camp some distance from the tabernacle of meeting.” […] “Thus the children of Israel did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses; so they camped by their standards and so they broke camp, each one by his family, according to their fathers’ houses.”

(vv1–2, 34)

By making us to belong to a “family” and a “father’s house,” He has woven into the very fabric of society and the church the fact that we do not exist for ourselves. This orderliness calls for sacrificing our willfulness in favor of fulfilling our responsibilities. Living well as a family requires a hundred little sacrifices a day, but we enjoy so much blessing as a result of what God does through the fellowship of each household.

Our families are the nurseries in which the seedlings of our character are designed by God to grow and train so that we may function well and bear fruit in the field of society and the garden of the church.

But none will avail, except it be the Lord Himself at the center as the King by Whose proclamation we are ordered, by Whose power we are enabled, and by Whose pleasure we are contented.

But vv17, 33 remind us that this presents a problem: an entire tribe was assigned to the maintenance and service of the tabernacle, because the holy God cannot dwell among a sinful people except by means of atoning sacrifice and mediation.

For us, not only is Christ the King. He is also the Great High Priest, Who has offered Himself once for all as our atoning sacrifice. In fact, we do not need to “keep our distance” from the presence of God anymore, for He has made us into a kingdom of priests—a royal priesthood that belongs to all believers (cf. 1Peter 2:9).

Once a week, every single member of His church is invited through the veil into the Holy of Holies, by the new and living way of His flesh (Heb 10:19–21). It’s no wonder that we are urged not to forsake this assembling of ourselves together (Heb 10:25)!

Looking forward to that assembly together with you,

Pastor

2020.08.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:29

Read Hebrews 12:29 

Questions from the Scripture text: Who is a consuming fire? Whose God is He?
In this text, we are reminded that it is no small thing to approach God in worship. This verse alludes to three places in Scripture to remind us that the glory of worship is actually the glory of the living God Himself.

The first place to which it alludes is Sinai. We know this of course, because it is the nearest conflagration of fire to our passage, being mentioned earlier in the passage. But whether at the time of the ten commandments, or earlier in Moses’s experience of the bush, there is one detail that tells us that these are not the primary allusion here: in neither of those Sinai fires did the Lord actually consume what was on fire.

The second place that this “consuming fire” image takes us is the whole burnt offering. It was the first and primary offering in the system of worship that the Lord had commanded under the Mosaic covenant. You couldn’t have any other kind of worship without the offering in which the entire bull would be entirely burnt by a fire whose intensity would have to be achieved to accomplish that.

But, just as the bull is an inferior substitute as a glimpse of Christ, so also the burnt offering’s consuming fire is an inferior substitute as a glimpse of the wrath of God. How great and consuming is the wrath of God, and it is every bit as central to His character as love is! We love to quote 1 John 4:8, “God is love.” How much do we love to quote Hebrews 12:29, “God is wrath.” Our God is a consuming fire!

And how much more amazing is His love to us now than it was before we began to grasp that truth?

The third, and most pointed, place to which this verse points us is Leviticus 10 and the cautionary demise of Nadab and Abihu. Consecrated priests, on a consecrated day, using consecrated pans, to offer consecrated incense. What could be wrong about that?

One thing: God had not told them to perform this act of worship. God calls it strange fire, and goes on to explain what made it strange, “which He had not commanded them” (Leviticus 10:1). Now, consider Leviticus 10:2-3 in light of the passage before us in this lesson:

“So fire went out from the Lord and devoured them, and they died before the Lord. And Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord spoke, saying: ‘By those who come near Me I must be regarded as holy; And before all the people I must be glorified.’ ”

Oh, dear reader, how necessary it is that we remember the divine simplicity. Our God is who He is—not in parts or pieces but a glorious divine simplicity. So when we come to Him, let us come to Him in the manner appropriate to His nature as love and His nature as a consuming fire!
How do God’s holiness and wrath magnify His grace to you? How does this affect how we worship?
Suggested Songs: ARP7B “God Is My Shield” or HB11 “Holy, Holy, Holy!”

Friday, August 28, 2020

Sharpened Faces and Ripened Fruit (Family Worship in Prov 27:17–18)

Pastor leads his family in two verses of "today's" Proverb, 27:17–18. Because we are often forgetful that we are before His face, God uses our brother's face to sharpen ours. And God, who has planted us in whatever role we find ourselves, grants to us that if patiently and cheerfully labor in our calling, then in due season we will reap—whether we are farmers or slaves, and ultimately as His own children and servants.

2020.08.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:28

Read Hebrews 12:28 

Questions from the Scripture text: Who is receiving a kingdom? What cannot be done to this kingdom? What must we have? What do we do by that grace? What three things does verse 28 tell us about the worship that we should be offering?
In this text, we hear about how we respond rightly to our Redeemer in His worship. The Lord’s Day worship of a Christian congregation is full of Jesus’s Word, because He is using it to “shake off” what will not remain.

Christian congregational worship is an other-worldly experience that turns our attention up to heaven and forward to the New Heavens and New Earth. It is the weekly invasion of the genuinely glorious into our mundane lives.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, …

This reality demands three things of our worship: that it be acceptable, that it be dignified in manner, and that it be awed in spirit.

First, we are to worship God acceptably. This is the great lesson of the last third or so of the book of Exodus and the entire book of Leviticus, but especially of Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10. Only what God has commanded for worship is acceptable to Him in worship. We must never think that God will be pleased simply because we mean well, are sincere, or feel worshipful.

Second, we are to worship God in a dignified manner. That is what the word translated ‘reverent’ communicates. This is not an occasion for lightness. This is not an occasion for over-familiarity. We must not be casual, laid back, flippant, or glib. This is one great reason to dress well for worship. While true worship is the greatest occasion that we have in this life for joy, there is good reason here to be restrained in the outward demonstrations of that joy. When in the presence of true greatness, one takes extra care not to draw attention to himself.

Third, we are to worship God in an awed spirit. We should be astounded at Him, and participate each week with a renewed sense and depth of wonder. We are not surprised that God, who has commanded reverence for our outward manner, would make the same requirement of our hearts before the sentence is complete. Throughout Scripture, the Lord addresses both, but the emphasis is always upon the heart.

If we do not marvel at God’s glory, His holiness, His justice, His power, and His wrath, then we will appreciate none of His other attributes enough either. Love and grace and compassion are all the more amazing when we consider the infinite weightiness of Him from whom they come, and who gave Himself both for us and to us!

But, ultimately, there is one thing that we need above all others. We need grace. Our original nature pushed down upon the knowledge of God, refusing to acknowledge Him or give Him thanks. If we are going to worship acceptably, reverently, and in awe, we must have grace! Let us ever be employing the means of grace, and especially coming to the throne of grace, to find His grace to help us in the time of need of corporate worship!
What are you going to do differently about worship, having carefully considered this Scripture?
Suggested Songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or HB11 “Holy, Holy, Holy!”

Thursday, August 27, 2020

2020.08.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:28-29

Read Hebrews 12:28-29 

Questions from the Scripture text: Who is receiving a kingdom (Hebrews 12:28)? What cannot be done to this kingdom? What must we have? What do we do by that grace? What three things does verse 28 tell us about the worship that we should be offering? What does Hebrews 12:29 tell us about our God?  
In this text, we learn how to worship in services where the Lord Himself is using His Word to give us an unshakable kingdom.

There certainly is instruction about worship here. God, to whom we come, is not making Zion smoke, shake, and burn. But this does not make New Testament worship any less intimidating or serious than Sinai. In fact, it is exactly the opposite, because in New Testament worship, we come all the way to the Living God, and He is a consuming fire!

The fact that our God is a consuming fire means three things for our worship. First, we must worship acceptably. Is it too obvious to point out that if the Holy Spirit tells us to worship acceptably, then there is unacceptable worship as well?

In fact, needing a command to worship acceptably implies that our default mode is to worship in a way that does not please God. Let us learn, then, never to offer worship that is from ourselves, but only that worship that has been specifically commanded by God.

Second, we are to worship with reverence. The word means something like modestly, or respectfully, or properly. So, not only are we to worship with particular content, but we are also to worship in a particular style. Joy and zeal are not the same thing as showiness or lack of restraint.

Third, we are to worship with awe. Some translations say, “godly fear,” and certainly fear or even terror can be meant by this word. When we come to worship, it should be in wonder and amazement at the greatness and holiness and power and justice of God. This is more than a matter of external style as in the previous word. This is about the condition of our hearts.

So yes, there certainly is instruction about worship here. But the primary command is not to worship acceptably with reverence and awe. The primary command is actually, “Let us have grace.” Yes, some translations substitute “thankfulness” here, which is an alternative meaning for the same word. But, from the context, “grace” is the better reading.

That’s what we desperately need: grace. How do we have that grace? In large part by receiving the Word that He speaks. And then, of course, by prayer—an expression of dependence upon the Lord and His grace. Indeed, it seems that the point here is that worship itself is the place where we get the grace to worship well—not just in the assembly but in life as a whole. Dear believer, with such worship as God has designed for us, let us have grace to worship, that we may receive grace in worship!
Are you able to worship God well on your own? How do you show that you need grace?
Suggested Songs: ARP95B “Today If You Will Hear His Voice” or HB29 “O Come, and Sing Unto the Lord”

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Confessing Sin in Prayer As an Act of Worship (1John 1:9 Prayer Devotional)

Prayer is an act of worship in which we call upon God in Christ, laying hold of Him as He has revealed Himself in His Word. This Scripture teaches us that, in confessing our sins, we lay hold of and magnify the perfections of His faithfulness and justice, especially in the actions of His forgiving (justification) and cleansing (sanctification) sinners.

Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Patience, Gentleness, Self-Control (Family Worship in Proverbs 25:14–15)

Pastor leads his family in worship in yesterday's "Proverb of the day," Proverbs 25 (this month in vv14–15). True generosity and faithfulness to God and man makes believers refreshing and encouraging to others. And the patience, perseverance, and gentleness that the Spirit works in them is much more powerful and effective than any fleshly bluster.

2020.08.30 Worship Booklet

 The green link in the left-hand column has been updated with the Worship Booklet for August 30. The Lord bless its use to His glory and our good in His holy assembly!

2020.08.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:25-27

Read Hebrews 12:25-27

Questions from the Scripture text: What are we to “see to” in Hebrews 12:25? What are we not to refuse? Where was the mountain from which God spoke before? Where is the mountain from which He speaks now? What two places is the Lord shaking with New Covenant preaching (Hebrews 12:26)? Since this is the last time, what are the only things that will remain when this age of preaching is done (Hebrews 12:27)?
In this text, we consider the responsibility in sermon-hearing, the relationship in sermon-hearing, and the redemption in sermon-hearing. As we follow up together in this devotional, I wonder—what practical steps are we going to take in response to this passage?

What are we going to do about the fact that we are responsible for good sermon-hearing? The command is not “do not refuse Him who speaks,” but rather “See to it” that you do not refuse… It’s the way you talk to someone who is in charge of something, who is responsible for it. “See to it that…”

So, what gets in the way of our hearing sermons with ready, responsive hearts? And what are we going to do… during the service? That morning before it? The night before? The afternoon after? The day after?

This responsibility in sermon-hearing is all the more important because of the relationship in sermon-hearing. Here is another subtle nuance in the text before us this morning. It doesn’t merely say, “don’t refuse what is spoken.” Rather, it says, “Don’t refuse Him who speaks.”

When we resist the Word, faithfully preached, in the gathered Lord’s Day worship, we aren’t just refusing a true statement or even a powerful statement. If we resist the proper preaching in public worship, we are refusing a Person—and that Person is our Lord and God Jesus Christ.

What a serious thing it is, then, not just to listen to Him in the preaching, but to respond to Him, from the heart, with action in our lives! Shall we not love Him whose blood has spoken so excellently for us, and who then speaks weekly to us?

Isn’t “whether we are going to refuse Him” a much greater issue than “whether we will benefit” from the preaching? Both are  stake in what we do with the preaching—Lord, make us a people who are weekly changed by the preaching of Your Word!

Finally, with what expectations do we come to this redemptive preaching? Christ’s Word is shaking us free of things that are fleeting and worthless. It’s a weekly reset, fixing our focus back upon those things which cannot be shaken.

Do we come, expecting to spend an hour, and then returning with the same priorities as before? Or, do we expect a shake-up, presenting our hearts with an openness and expectation that some disproportion in our minds/hearts/lives is about to be remedied? May we come with a motto like Calvin’s, “My heart I offer Thee, Lord, promptly and sincerely!”
What are you going to do differently this week: before, during, and after the preaching?
Suggested Songs: ARP95B “Today If You Will Hear His Voice” or HB253 “How I Love Thy Law, O Lord!”

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

2020.08.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:22-24

Read Hebrews 12:22-24

Questions from the Scripture text: 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? 
In this text, we hear not only about the mountain to which we haven’t come (Sinai, apart from Christ); but, we also heard 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 stirs us up in the pursuit of holiness by the greatness of these glorious worship services on the Lord’s Day.

First, it 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!

It 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!

This is the main message that we hear in Christian worship. To be sure, it is not the only message. As we will be reminded once again in Hebrews 12:25, we are not to refuse Him who 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 does your approach to Lord’s Day Worship take into account these glories?
Suggested Songs: ARP95B “Today If You Will Hear His Voice” or HB29 “O Come, and Sing Unto the Lord”

Monday, August 24, 2020

Reconciliation through Discipline (2020.08.23 Sabbath School)

Because we are reconciled in Christ, we cannot tolerate any sin—and especially sin that separates us. And, when the sin is repented of, we must hasten to reaffirm and strengthen the bonds of affection, lest Satan exploit relational fissures in the church.

A Theology of Faces: Unmasking the Defacing of God's Image in Christ and the Redeemed (2020.08.23 Evening Sermon in 2Cor 3:12–4:6)

Why do we have faces at all? What has God intended to communicate, by our faces, about Himself and about His purposes in our creation and redemption? What is lost if we must cover our faces, and what is being cheaply sold if we willingly yield to it without good warrant for it?

Order of March (Numbers 2, guest preacher Alan McClelland)

2020.08.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:18-21

Read Hebrews 12:18-21 

Questions from the Scripture text: Describe the mountain in Hebrews 12:18-20 (the one 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)?
In this passage, we hear at first about what Sinai is like without Christ.

Now, those last two words are very important, because Sinai was not without Christ. The Ten Commandments begin with an announcement of salvation: covenant relationship (“I am the Lord, Your God”) and divine redemption (“who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery”). And though Moses was exceedingly terrified as a sinner before God, his hope in God’s mercy proved true—precisely because God acted according to His saving purposes toward us in Christ.

But what would Sinai—what would God’s law—be like without Christ? It’s a perfect law. It’s an holy law. It’s a just law. So, what is that like?

Terrifying. Horrifying. There can be nothing more frightening than the Law without Christ. It looks like a mountain—immense, immovable, unclimbable. And who would want to climb it? For, it burned with fire and smoked and shook.

Sometimes, sinners who are pushing down on the knowledge of God say things like, “If I could just see Him” or like Thomas and the risen Lord, “if I could just touch Him, I would believe.” No. No they wouldn’t believe.

Or, how about, “If I could just hear God speak to me…” Really? The people who heard His voice apart from faith in Christ begged that they would never have to hear Him again.” It is not some kind of magically inspiring experience. It is absolute terror to be before someone so holy that even a beast—just for being a creature—would be executed for coming near Him without holiness.

Apart from faith in Christ, if we could meet God, up close and personal, it would be horrifying and devastating. We would be sure that the very next thing to come is fiery punishment from the Lord. It would be with us as with Isaiah, “Woe is me! I am undone!”

But thankfully, just as there was atonement for Isaiah, there is atonement for us. We have Christ. When we come to His commandments, we don’t even come to Sinai. We receive His commands at Zion.

As He did with Thomas, Christ comes to us in gentleness, and in resurrection power He presents to us the marks of our redemption, and we fall at His feet and say, “My Lord and My God.” This is how we are to come to His commands!
Which response do you tend to have to God’s law: fear or joy? Does this tell you that you are coming to His law with faith in Christ? Or without Christ at all?
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths to You I Cried” or HB275 “Amazing Grace”