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Friday, October 18, 2019

2019.10.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ John 19:31-37

Questions from the Scripture text: What day was it (John 19:31)? What special kind of Sabbath was the next day? Why weren’t Jesus’s legs broken (John 19:31-33)? What did they do to Him instead in John 19:34? What happens? Why did these things happen (John 19:36-37)? What is John’s purpose for testifying to these things (John 19:35)? 
The Lord wants you to believe in Jesus Christ. That is the great message of John 19:35. John will emphasize this point once again at the end of the next chapter (John 20:31). How does this faith come about? We can see it even in how Scripture tells us about the bodies’ being removed from the cross.

There are some who read this passage and get hung up upon what it might mean that blood and water both came out. Is it something medical—showing the asphyxiation by which Christ died? Is it something theological—a reference to the Supper and baptism, or the two kinds of birth that one must have to be saved?

Without other Scripture making something of the combination itself, we are left with John’s own emphasis in John 19:35. It is simply the kind of details that one would know if he were there—if he were standing with Mary, whom he had just been commanded to adopt as his mother, and watching as the soldiers came by to clean up before the special Sabbath of the Passover (the “high” day).

And what did John see? He saw two Scripture texts being fulfilled. Psalm 34:20 had prophesied, “not one of His bones shall be broken.” Psalm 22:16-17 had said, “they shall look on Him whom they pierced.”

Don’t you see, dear reader? This was a planned death. The crucifixion was intended by God and foretold by God so that we would do more than merely know that it happened—that, in fact, we would hope in what God planned to do here… that we would hope in Him who gave Himself as the substitute for those who deserved death and the wrath of God.

The Jews were ever so careful and desirous to participate in the Passover ritual. But Scripture here points us to Christ and says that it is Him in whom we should seek to have a part! Have you been careful to rest in Him and have a part in Him?
Why did God tell us about Christ’s death beforehand? Why did He tell us afterward?
Suggested songs: ARP22A “My God, My God” or TPH22A “My God, My God, O Why Have You”

Thursday, October 17, 2019

2019.10.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 3:13-14

Questions from the Scripture text: From what has Christ redeemed us (Galatians 3:13)? What did He become for us? How did God show that (cf. Deuteronomy 21:23)? Whose blessing came upon the Gentiles (Galatians 3:14)? In Whom? What/Whom did we receive? Through what?
In what ways are we not under the law, if we believe in Jesus Christ?

First, we are not under the curse of the law. As Galatians 3:10 reminded us, the law puts a curse upon everyone who does not personally, perfectly, perpetually obey it!

This is a great problem for us, because we have not done so. It is no problem for Christ, because He has done so.

Yet, one of the wonders of the gospel is that Christ has taken our problem and made it His problem. Galatians 3:13 tells us that Christ became a curse for us.

Scripture wanted us to see that this is what Christ was doing by the prophecy of Deuteronomy 21:23, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” This is why Jesus had to be crucified, not stoned or beheaded or die of tuberculosis. He wasn’t only being punished in our place; He was being displayed as having become a curse for us.

You, dear reader, must have this as all your hope as you think about the judgment of God. If Christ is not yours through faith, then your curse is still yours, and it will sink you lower than the grave!

A second way that believers are not under the law is that they are hoping for reward through faith in Christ, not through the merit of the law.

Galatians 3:14 tells us that it is “in Christ Jesus” that “the blessing of Abraham” comes upon the nations (the literal meaning of “Gentiles”).

Scripture often tells us that there is a reward for good works, but then it also often tells us that none of our works are good enough to deserve the reward. How can this be?

It is because Christ is the One who deserves the reward. And the Christ who deserves the reward is the One who gives us His Spirit. As the apostle has already reminded them, it is preposterous to imagine that the Spirit could ever be received by a wicked man as his due for his works under the law (cf. Galatians 3:2).  Now, Galatians 3:14 affirms that all of the blessings of the covenant (collectively called “the blessing of Abraham”) are in Christ Jesus, received through faith.

We are not under law, but under grace—the grace that gives us Christ’s righteousness counted for us and His removal of the curse from us, the grace that works out Christ’s righteousness in us to enable us to obey the law, the grace that gives us in Christ all covenant blessing.
What role does God’s law have in your life? What role must it not have in your life?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH130A “Lord, from the Depths”

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

2019.10.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Judges 20

Read Judges 20
Questions from the Scripture text: How many Israelites assemble in Judges 20:1-2? Who heard about this in Judges 20:3? What do the Israelites ask? How does the Levite answer in Judges 20:4-6? How does he challenge them in Judges 20:7? What do they decide to do in Judges 20:8-10? Against whom do they come in Judges 20:11? What do they do with the other cities of Benjamin (Judges 20:12-13)? How does the rest of Benjamin answer (Judges 20:13-14)? How many do they gather (Judges 20:15-16)? From how many is Israel’s 10% selected (Judges 20:17)? Whom do they ask about which should be selected (Judges 20:18)? How does He answer? But what happens to these forty thousand in Judges 20:19-21? And how does Israel respond after this (Judges 20:22)? What do they ask, and what does Yahweh say (Judges 20:23)? What happens this time (Judges 20:24-25)? And now how do they respond (Judges 20:26-28)? What is different about this third response from Yahweh in Judges 20:28? What strategy does Israel employ this time (Judges 20:29-34Judges 20:36-46)? But what was the deciding factor—Who defeated Benjamin (Judges 20:35)? How many escaped (Judges 20:47)? What was done to the rest of the cities of Benjamin (Judges 20:48)? To how many of the inhabitants of each city?
It might appear at first that Gibeah is wicked, and the rest of Israel is righteous. I’m afraid that we all have a tendency to see others’ sins and not our own—especially when that sin is of the heinous kind that we have seen in Gibeah in chapter 19.

But we are concerned, as we hear the Levite give his account, to wonder why he would be so indignant when it is he who offered his concubine/bride to be abused in his own place. We see that there is great sin in him as well.

Indeed, as the people of Israel consult the Lord, and the Lord says to send Judah (Judges 20:18), and then the Lord says to go up again (Judges 20:23), it is by His Word that Israel goes to its own defeat and destruction. Finally, the third time, the Lord actually promises that they will prevail (Judges 20:28), but there is an indication here that they are all guilty before God and deserving of destruction. It is not until they come with fasting and sacrifice—acknowledging that they too deserve God’s wrath—that they receive this third response.

Indeed, as they call Benjamin “our brother,” they acknowledged that they are of the same stock (even as the people of Jesus’s day condemned themselves when they accused their ancestors of killing the prophets, cf. Matthew 23:29-33).

And so the judgment of God falls so heavily upon Benjamin that it truly is a judgment upon all of Israel, as one tribe comes precariously close to being wiped out—something that will have to be remedied in the next chapter.

So, as we rightly condemn sin in others, let us not forget to righteously condemn our own sin, and come to God clinging only to the sacrifice of Christ—and not with any illusions of our own goodness!
What are some sins that you are rightly indignant about in others? What do your own sins deserve? What hope can there be for someone who deserves this?
Suggested Songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry before You Come” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

2019.10.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 5:6-21

Questions from the Scripture text: What condition were we in, when Christ died for us (Romans 5:6)? For whom does verse 6 specifically say that Christ died? For what kind of man would people ordinarily still be unwilling to die (Romans 5:7)? Who is giving the demonstration in Romans 5:8? What is He demonstrating? For Whom? In what condition were we when Christ died? For whom did Christ die? Is Romans 5:9 presenting something that is more certain, or less certain, than sinners such as we are being justified (declared righteous) through Christ’s blood? What is more certain—from what will we be saved? Through Whom? What were we, when we were reconciled to God (Romans 5:10)? Through what were we reconciled? What condition are we now in? By what shall we be saved (end of verse 10)? In addition to this certainty, what are we already doing (Romans 5:11)? In Whom are we rejoicing? Through Whom are we rejoicing? Why—what have we received through Him? How did sin enter the world (Romans 5:12)? What entered through sin? What had all men done (verse 12)? What was already in the world before it was given on Sinai (Romans 5:13)? What happened to men from Adam to Moses, to show that the law was already in effect (Romans 5:14)? When Adam’s offense and Jesus’ grace are in competition, which does Romans 5:15 say “abounded”? How many offenses of Adam did it take to condemn us (Romans 5:17a)? From how many of our offenses did Jesus justify us (verse 17b)? What kind of gift did Romans 5:16 call this? How were many made sinners (Romans 5:19a)? How were many made righteous (verse 19b)? When the law came to be written on stone and scroll, instead of only on hearts, what abounded (Romans 5:20)? But when Jesus came and was obedient in our place, what abounded even more than the offense of those sins? Whose kingly reigns are in competition in Romans 5:21? What do each of these produce? Whom does verse 21 identify as having made this glorious difference?
This week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Confession of Sin all came from Romans 5:6-21. This is a passage about those whom God has declared righteous through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). But there are two transitions that have taken place. Legally, they have gone from “sinners” (Romans 5:8) to “justified” (Romans 5:9). Relationally, they have gone from “enemies” (Romans 5:10) to “reconciled” (Romans 5:10-11). Is this you, dear reader? Have you recognized the debt of sin, and come to the cross and had it canceled in the permanent ink of the blood of Jesus Christ? If so, then you are reconciled with God!

And the point that our passage is making is that if God’s particular interest in you was such that while you were still ungodly and a sinner and an enemy, Christ died for you… how can it even be possible that God’s interest in you has become any less now? Less interest in one who is declared righteous by the throne of heaven? Less interest in one whose righteousness and reconciliation are the result of being IN CHRIST? Less interest now that you have gone from His enemy to His friend? Of course not! God’s redeeming love and saving interest in you cannot be lost by anything in time, because it is from eternity. It can have no end, because it had no beginning!

Further, Romans 5:11 considers the new reflex of our hearts toward God—to be exulting in Him, to be full of His praise—and says that this new life of rejoicing is an evidence and seal of our reconciliation. So, may I ask you, dear reader—do you rejoice over God’s great redeeming love and saving acts?

Here, also, we have one of Scripture’s great comparisons between the first Adam and the last Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ. Some dislike the idea of Adam’s sin being counted against us. But the fact of the matter is that if we cannot be considered in our federal head, then this takes Jesus away from us. We are sinning and dying plenty for ourselves. How we ought to rejoice that there is a free gift of righteousness and eternal life for us in the obedience of Jesus Christ!

Some dislike the idea of Jesus being punished for the sins of others. But let them see that He willingly went. It is grace! It is a free gift! It is not some horror of injustice, but a mind-boggling quest of love and power! And let all remember that apart from Jesus and His grace we are perishing. God’s law has always been on our hearts. There is no escape. One great purpose of His proceeding to give that law also in plain words was to intensify this urgency. How great is our offense against God!

And yet, it is precisely the gospel that enables us to say, “How great is my offense!” As we go through life, realizing this over and over again, we are not terrified to death, but rather more and more amazed at our eternal life. Every time we say, “How great is my offense!” The Lord Jesus comes along in the gospel and says, “How greater is my grace!” There is no extent of the believer’s realization of his sin and death that Christ has not already answered with forgiveness and eternal life. For the believer, wherever sin abounds, grace has already abounded all the more!
Why are your offenses great? How is God’s grace greater? How are you responding to this great grace?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH431 “And Can It Be”

Monday, October 14, 2019

2019.10.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 19:12-29

Questions from the Scripture text: How does Genesis 19:12 identify the speakers? By whom does Genesis 19:13 say they were sent? Whom does Genesis 19:21-22 say will overthrow the city? Whom does Genesis 19:24 say rained down brimstone and fire? Before whom had Abraham stood (Genesis 19:27)? What question does Yahweh ask Lot in Genesis 19:12? Considering  Genesis 18:32 and Genesis 19:13 (and Who it is that is asking!), what does he already know is the answer? Whom did Lot warn about the city’s destruction (Genesis 19:14)? Why did they not heed him? What had Lot suggested would happen early in the morning (Genesis 19:2)? What actually happened (Genesis 19:15)? When he lingered, what did they do (Genesis 19:16)? Why? Where do they tell him to go (Genesis 19:17)? What does he recognize that the Lord has done for him (Genesis 19:19)? But, what does he think may happen if he goes so far? Where does he ask to go, and why (Genesis 19:20-23)? What happens in Genesis 19:24-25? Where are they when Genesis 19:25 happens? What happens to his wife and why (Genesis 19:26)? Who else looks that direction, and what does he see (Genesis 19:27-28)? Why had God spared Lot (Genesis 19:29)?
We want to pay good attention to God’s judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah, because that is the future of all the earth. In Acts 17:30-31, the apostle Paul is preaching to people who have heard of all sorts of religions, but do not know the one true God, and have not heard of Jesus Christ. He announces to them one implication of the resurrection that doesn’t often receive much attention: that the resurrection is assurance that Jesus is the Judge by Whom God will judge the world in righteousness, and that therefore the resurrection is a command that all men everywhere repent.

So, as we consider the command for repentance in light of Genesis 19, we are keen to know whether or not there can be mercy. None of us have righteousness of our own. None of us could withstand, in ourselves, a judging of the world in righteousness. But—praise God!—what we find in this passage is mercy in the midst of judgment.

We find the cause of mercy. Genesis 19:16 is a beautiful snapshot of the fact that the cause of mercy is in the Lord Himself. Lot—who has brought so much of this upon himself, despite having a soul that trusts in Christ for eternal salvation and that is tormented by evil—is now lingering (can you imagine?!). There is nothing in Lot himself that could be the cause of mercy. He is doing the very thing for which his wife is about to be righteously judged. But the Lord is simply merciful. That is the cause of His mercy to some, or else we would all be condemned.

We also find the command of mercy. In Genesis 19:12, and then on Lot’s lips in Genesis 19:14, and then again in Genesis 19:15, and then Genesis 19:17, and then Genesis 19:22… over and over again, we see the urging to flee the wrath to come. This was the great cry of John the baptizer, as he was preparing the way for the Lord Jesus, and it is a command of mercy. Flee the wrath to come! Do you not know that there is wrath coming? Not merely upon one nation or another, but upon this entire wicked world that must be burned with fire and created anew—and especially upon the devil and his angels, and all people who are not united to Christ by faith, all of whom will be thrown forever into what Scripture calls the lake of fire.

Third, we find the compelling of mercy. Sometimes there are those who have heard, and whom God is saving, but who are sluggish to do so—even after repeated and urgent commands. And yet God, in His mercy, brings them by some compelling providence—a picture of which we have in Genesis 19:16. The Lord here, appearing as these two angels, literally drags Lot, his wife, and his two daughters, by the hand outside the city! O, that the Lord would show such mercy to us—and to all our dear ones—who have heard the gospel but are slow of heart to leave this world’s pleasures and purposes behind!

Finally, we find the commitment (covenant) of mercy. When Genesis 19:29 summarizes this great judgment, it summarizes it primarily as a demonstration of mercy, and it tells us the mechanism by which the justice of God is satisfied, while the mercy of God is exercised: God remembered Abraham. Of course, the promise about Abraham is first and foremost a promise about his Seed, Jesus Christ, that offspring through Whom all of the families of the earth will be blessed. There is one God and one Mediator, the Man Jesus Christ. There is no other Name given under heaven by which one may be saved. Salvation is in Him alone—cling to Him! For, when the day of overthrow comes, God will remember the Lord Jesus Christ and all of those who are united to Him.
How real to you is the wrath to come? How urgent has God been with you? In what/whom are you hoping?
Suggested Songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage” or TPH385 “The Lord Will Come”