Thursday, November 30, 2023

2023.11.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Titus 3:12–15

Read Titus 3:12–15

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom will the apostle send later (Titus 3:12, cf. Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12)? What is Titus to do, when his ministry sub arrives? In what manner? Why? What two people are bringing this letter (Titus 3:13)? What is Titus to do with them? Who else is to do such things (Titus 3:14, cf. Titus 3:8)? To meet what? What does this give them an opportunity to do? Who already greet whom (Titus 3:15)? How many of them? What is Titus to do on their behalf? To whom? What is the final/closing greeting? From Whom does that ultimately come? How does the apostle attest the finality and faithfulness of this letter?

What goes into believers’ plans and greetings? Titus 3:12–15 prepares us for the second serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that believers humbly see their neediness and seek/accept help, but also rejoice at opportunities to be used by Christ to meet others’ needs. 

The apostle’s great need. In Titus 3:12, the apostle tells Titus, “do your utmost to come to me.” The reasoning is that the apostle has made a strategic decision for the best place to spend the winter. In addition to being needy of an advantageous location for these months of ministry, he has the humility to see his need of Titus’s help as well. Apparently, he especially needed his best helpers in the wintertime (cf. 2 Timothy 4:21). 

It is good for Christ’s servants not to think of themselves more highly than they ought (cf. Romans 12:3) but as being needy of the gifts that Christ has invested in other servants as well (cf. Romans 12:4–8).

The church’s great need. Despite Paul’s own need, the church in Crete was needy of Titus’s help, and the apostle was not about to have him abandon that congregation and newly trained elders. Instead, he would send either Artemas or Tychicus (Titus 3:12). Tychicus, in particular, he calls a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant (cf. Acts 20:4; Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:12). Titus is not to leave Crete until his substitute arrives. It is more important to Paul that the church be helped than that he himself be helped.

The church’s opportunities for fruit. Needs, themselves, are opportunities to bear the fruit of the gospel. When Zenas and Apollos came through (probably carrying this letter), whatever they lacked would become an opportunity for Titus to do his utmost (Titus 3:13; “haste” translates a different form of the same root as “be diligent” in Titus 3:12). And once they had gone on, Titus was to continue to lead the congregation in Crete “to maintain good works” (Titus 3:14). 

This was the very thing that he was to affirm in his ministry of the Word (cf. Titus 3:8), and we should probably conclude that the third person plural imperative here refers to the parallel work of the diaconate in that church. Deacons are the sort of men who help the church see “urgent needs” as opportunities to “not be unfruitful”—or, to put it positively, to see urgent needs as divinely appointed opportunities for fruitfulness.

Believers’ opportunities for fellowship. Finally, we see that Paul’s writing to Titus was an opportunity not just for Paul, but for all the believers with him, to express their affection for Titus (Titus 3:15). The wording of the next phrase, especially “those who love us,” both acknowledges that believers in Crete have expressed love toward them, as well as reciprocating that love back. 

“In the faith” reminds us of where such affection among believers comes from: Christ Himself, into Whom they have believed together, and Whose love for them they now share with one another (cf. Philippians 1:8, Philippians 1:9). The more that we know Him together, the more we will increase in love for one another and desire to take our opportunities to express and receive that love.

Everyone’s ultimate neediness. The letter closes with a final greeting that is really a greeting not from the apostle or the believers with him, but from Christ Himself. “Grace be with you all. Amen.” This is a reminder that we have no good in us, but depend entirely upon Christ to be our goodness (cf. Ephesians 2:8). And it is a reminder that we have no strength in us, but depend entirely upon Christ’s strength in us (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:9). There is no shame in knowing neediness, when there are riches of grace in Christ to be prayed for, received, depended upon, and lived from out of.

In what situations might you need to admit your need of help or fellowship? What are some ways that you can prioritize the church’s corporate needs over your personal needs? What needs in others might you need to be viewing as opportunities for you to bear fruit? What opportunities are you taking advantage of, for expressing the fellowship and affection that are specifically for other Christians and because they are Christians?

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us for when we have been too proud to see how we need help, like Paul could see that he needed Titus. And, forgive us for when we have prioritized our own personal needs over the church’s corporate needs, unlike Paul’s willingness not to receive Titus until the church in Crete was taken care of. Forgive us for our lack of interest in bearing fruit, which is exposed when we don’t see others’ needs as an opportunity to bear that fruit. And, forgive us for not taking whatever opportunity You give us to express to others the affection and fellowship that we have with them, simply because we are Christians. Indeed, we need Your forgiveness, Lord, for there are even times when we are forgetful of our need for You and live as if we were not dependent upon grace alone. But, You are full of grace, and we look to You both for forgiveness of sin and cleansing of all unrighteousness, through Christ, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds” 

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

November 29 Midweek Meeting Live Stream (Live at 6:30p)

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Severe Mercy, Subduing Mercy, Superlative Mercy [Family Worship lesson in Isaiah 30]

How does the Lord show mercy to those who prefer human wisdom to God’s authoritative Word? Isaiah 30 prepares us for the first serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these thirty-three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that if men prefer their own wisdom to God’s Word, it is a mercy when God visits their plans with devastating failure.
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2023.11.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 30

Read Isaiah 30

Questions from the Scripture text: Upon whom is the fourth woe pronounced (Isaiah 30:1a)? What do they do in verse 1b–c? What is wrong with this consulting and planning (cf. Isaiah 30:2b)? Why does this happen (Isaiah 30:1d)? In whom do they trust instead (Isaiah 30:2)? How will this turn out for them (Isaiah 30:3)? What can’t be found even from the northernmost to southernmost parts of Egypt (Isaiah 30:4-5)? What will be found instead (Isaiah 30:5d)? What weight will fall upon whom in Isaiah 30:6? But what will they have to show for their poor beasts’ efforts (Isaiah 30:7)? What will Egypt’s new nickname be (verse 7c)? What word does YHWH now send to those who failed to ask for one (Isaiah 30:8-9)? In fact, what have they actually done to the Lord’s Word (Isaiah 30:10-11)? What are they actually trusting in, instead, when they do this (Isaiah 30:12)? What will the Lord do to their efforts (Isaiah 30:13-14)? What had the Lord YHWH offered them (Isaiah 30:15)? And what had they said that they would do instead (Isaiah 30:16)? So, what is He making the outcome of their plan to be (Isaiah 30:17)? To what end is He bringing this disaster upon them (Isaiah 30:18)? To Whom will He force them to turn? What will He do for them when this happens (Isaiah 30:19)? And what will He restore to them (Isaiah 30:20)? How close will the words of the true prophets be (Isaiah 30:21a)? How practical the application (verse 21b)? How continually (verse 21c–d)? What will they do with their former hope and delight (Isaiah 30:22)? What will the Lord do for them at that point (Isaiah 30:23)? And what else will enjoy the difference (Isaiah 30:24, cf. Isaiah 30:6)? What will He provide (Isaiah 30:25)? How does Isaiah 30:26 communicate the supernatural/new-creation nature of this provision? But what approaches in Isaiah 30:27a? And what will this be like for the nations (Isaiah 30:27-28)? What will YHWH give to His people in that day (Isaiah 30:29)? What comes near/is heard in Isaiah 30:30a? But what will this music and singing be like for those who are the Lord’s enemies (Isaiah 30:30-33)? When was this role for Tophet/Hell purposed (Isaiah 30:33a)? What is it like (verse 33)?

How does the Lord show mercy to those who prefer human wisdom to God’s authoritative Word? Isaiah 30 prepares us for the first serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these thirty-three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that if men prefer their own wisdom to God’s Word, it is a mercy when God visits their plans with devastating failure

Rebellious children. The fourth woe addresses those who take counsel (Isaiah 30:1b), devise plans (verse 1c), and take advice. The problem is that it isn’t God’s counsel, God’s plan, or God’s advice (Isaiah 30:2b). Thus they are called “rebellious children” (Isaiah 30:1a, Isaiah 30:9). Since they refuse God’s Word *to* them, they will hear God’s Word *about* them (Isaiah 30:8). 

Rejecting God’s authoritative Word (Isaiah 30:10a–b) is the hallmark of the rebellious (Isaiah 30:9a). It’s not that they don’t want preaching at all. Rather, they refuse to hear YHWH’s law (verse 9c); they accumulate for themselves preachers of smooth things (Isaiah 30:10c; cf. 2 Timothy 4:3–4). 

But to despise God’s Word is not merely to have a flaw in our preferences; it is to despise God Himself (Isaiah 30:11). It is to give oneself to perversity (Isaiah 30:12)! God offers them rest, quietness, and confidence in turning to Him (Isaiah 30:15a–c), but they reject Him Himself in rejecting His Word.

Merciful devastation. In this case, the smooth and deceitful words told them that the Assyrian threat could be turned away by the help of Egypt (Isaiah 30:2). But God is going to turn their hope into their shame (Isaiah 30:3). From Zoan in the north to Hanes in the south (Isaiah 30:4), not only would there be no benefit (Isaiah 30:5a–b), but there would be positive failure and humiliation (verse 5c). 

The poor beasts in Isaiah 30:6 would bear the treasure of Israel back to Egypt through the wilderness (same word as “South”), obtaining nothing in return. They unwittingly reverse the sudoxE, and their hope (Egypt) gets a new nickname. Rahab has been a nickname for Egypt, but now it gets expanded to “Rahab the Do-Nothing” (Isaiah 30:7). 

How completely will the Lord shatter them (Isaiah 30:13)? Such that there won’t be a peace left large enough to carry any water (Isaiah 30:14). Since they have rejected having God Himself as their help (Isaiah 30:15) in favor of a plan that depends on their initiative, the Lord’s judgment will match and exceed their vigor (Isaiah 30:16), until they are utterly devastated (Isaiah 30:17)

Why would the Lord do this? He is patiently (Isaiah 30:18a) bringing them to the point where they have nothing but the Lord’s glory and mercy (verse 18b). Let the believer remember that the kindness of God often comes in the painful, afflicting stroke (cf. Hebrews 12:6–11).

Subduing mercy. As the Lord wipes the tears from their eyes (Isaiah 30:19), they are glad. More than that, it was precisely through affliction (Isaiah 30:20a–b) that they are glad, now, to hear His Word (verse 20c–d). And the Word that they now receive is given to them abundantly. The Word comes near them (Isaiah 30:21a). The Word addresses, practically, the very part of their life in which they find themselves (verse 21b). The Word persists with them at all times and places (verse 21c–d). 

Not only do they receive the Word, but the Lord gives them to respond to it. They reject their old idols (Isaiah 30:22). The mercy of God does not leave His people unchanged. Rather than giving them what they want, His mercy transforms them into those who hate what they used to love and love what they used to hate.

Ultimate mercy. The blessing that their own ideas utterly failed to give them, the Lord Himself will now give (Isaiah 30:23a–d). Even beasts, that had fared so poorly in Isaiah 30:6, are now blessed richly in Isaiah 30:23-24. We’ve already seen this as an indication of ultimate mercy (cf. Isaiah 11:6–9). This becomes clear in Isaiah 30:25-26, especially with the brightness of the place. This wiping away of tears, and supernatural provision of water, and brightness that far exceeds the sun is hearkened to in Revelation 21:3–6, Revelation 22:1–5. The same mercy that brings us to repentance has its ultimate end as the mercy that we will enjoy in perfect blessedness forever.

Ultimate judgment. Finally, Assyria (Isaiah 30:31) will come under the very judgment of Hell (Isaiah 30:27-33). The song of Israel’s blessing (Isaiah 30:29) will correspond to the song of YHWH’s punishing Assyria (Isaiah 30:32). Whereas Egypt was not so great as to be the help they had imagined, Assyria is not so great a threat as they had imagined. They should not fear them who can only kill the body. The Lord, after killing the body, righteously casts the wicked soul into Hell (cf. Matthew 10:28; Luke 12:5): the indignation of His anger, the flame of devouring fire (Isaiah 30:30). Tophet’s (the fire in the valley of Hinnom/Gehenna) pyre is fire with much wood (Isaiah 30:33a–c)—the breath of YHWH kindling it like a stream of brimstone (verse 33d–f). God’s people and God’s enemies both get the same thing in the end: God Himself. For His people, God is their blessed delight. For His enemies, God is their burning destruction.

From where does the desire to hear only smooth/easy preaching come? What devastating failure or painful affliction have you had in your life? IF you are a believer, what was it accomplishing? How has mercy subdued your resistance to God’s Word? What else does such mercy give you, beside repentance? If God is not your blessed delight forever, then what will you experience forever?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for Your authoritative Word. Forgive us for how we have sometimes rejected it, even prefering our own plans to Your perfect precepts. We have been blind to how rejecting Your authoritative Word is really a rejection of You. Save us from our sin, bring us through affliction, wipe the tears from our eyes, and make Yourself our hope and our joy in Christ, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH51C “God, Be Merciful to Me”

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Chief End of Redemption [Family Worship lesson in Psalm 105]

Why does God redeem sinners? Psalm 105 prepares us for the opening portion of public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these forty-five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God redeems sinners to display His glory in faithfulness, power, mercy, generosity, and wisdom.
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2023.11.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 105

Read Psalm 105

Questions from the Scripture text: How does the Psalm begin (Psalm 105:1a)? How does it end (Psalm 105:45c, cf. Psalm 105:2a, Psalm 105:3a)? What is to be added to this thanksgiving and praise (Psalm 105:1b, cf. Psalm 105:3-4)? What else (Psalm 105:1c, cf. Psalm 105:2b, Psalm 105:5)? Among whom? What does Psalm 105:6 call these peoples? Who is He (Psalm 105:7a)? And to them? Where does He operate (verse 7b)? What does He remember (Psalm 105:8)? For how long? With whom did He make it (Psalm 105:9-10)? What did He promise them (Psalm 105:11)? At what time (Psalm 105:12-13)? What did He do for them then (Psalm 105:14)? What did He call them (Psalm 105:15)? What was one way He brought His covenant to pass (Psalm 105:16-22)? What was another (Psalm 105:23-25)? How was this resolved (Psalm 105:26-38)? What was it like when He brought them out (Psalm 105:39-41)? Why did He do this for a grumbling people (Psalm 105:42)? What did He give them in their hearts (Psalm 105:43)? Why—what does this verse call them? What else did He give them (Psalm 105:44)? So that they would do what (Psalm 105:45a–b)?

Why does God redeem sinners? Psalm 105 prepares us for the opening portion of public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these forty-five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God redeems sinners to display His glory in faithfulness, power, mercy, generosity, and wisdom. 

God redeems sinners to display His glory, Psalm 105:1–5Psalm 105:45c. There is nothing better for the creature than to enjoy the great glory of the Creator, which God has especially given His people to do by praising (Psalm 105:1a, Psalm 105:2a, Psalm 105:3a, Psalm 105:45c), praying (Psalm 105:1b, Psalm 105:3-4), and preaching (Psalm 105:1c, Psalm 105:2b, Psalm 105:5). God is His own pleasure from all eternity, and there is no greater gift than for Him to bring us into His pleasure in His own glory (Psalm 105:43, cf. John 15:11, John 17:13, John 17:22, John 17:24). 

God redeems sinners to display His faithfulness, Psalm 105:6-12Psalm 105:42. He makes them promises so that they are brought into fellowship with Him by His Word. This binding-promise, Psalm 105:8-10 calls a covenant. He spoke it (Psalm 105:11), when it appeared impossible (Psalm 105:12), showing that His Word will always be kept, simply because it is His (Psalm 105:42). His redemption, coming according to covenant, is a great display of His faithfulness.

God redeems sinners to display His power, Psalm 105:13-38. Whether Canaanites (Psalm 105:13-15), famine and slavery for Joseph (Psalm 105:16-22), or bondage under a hostile Pharaoh (Psalm 105:23-38), the Lord brought His people through hardship after hardship. He displayed His power in protecting them from ultimate harm, in carrying them in the midst of the hardship, and in delivering them out of the hardship. This was especially on display in the plagues. God’s redemption is a great display of His power. 

God redeems sinners to display His mercy, Psalm 105:39-41. The amazing thing about this part of the Psalm is that, despite God making a display of Himself to them, they grumbled! The grumbling about food and water literally occurred before the pillar of cloud and fire. Yet, God showed them mercy with quail, manna, and even water from the rock. He redeems sinners precisely to display the riches of His glory in mercy toward them who don’t deserve it.

God redeems sinners to display His generosity, Psalm 105:43-44. As we noted in thinking about the display of His glory, this is the greatest generosity. Protection, provision, inheritance… these are all well and good. But the great generosity is the joy and gladness of knowing Him and being known by Him, of loving Him and being loved by Him. It is the joy of God Himself, and He redeems us to bring us into it. When the Lord Jesus is praying for us according to the eternal covenant within the Godhead, this is precisely what He prays for (Psalm 105:43, cf. John 15:11; John 17:13, John 17:22, John 17:24). 

God redeems sinners to display His wisdom, Psalm 105:45a–b. In redeeming sinners, God makes sinners new so that they receive His Word, and as He sustains them in following that Word, they discover the goodness and fruitfulness of His wisdom in their lives. He saves them by grace through faith. And not only does He give them statutes and laws, but He works in them to make them to walk in those good works that He has prepared beforehand for them (Psalm 105:44, cf. Ephesians 2:8–10). 

God redeems sinners for His own glory in their good. What a marvelous God He is! Praise the LORD!

What is your chief end? Has God redeemed you? How ought you respond? How have you been responding this way? For each attribute of His in this Psalm, what is one way that He has done this with you? 

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You for Your great glory. You have been faithful to make Your covenant and keep it. You have protected us from every evil, sustained us through every trial, and will save us out of every adversity. We praise You for the mercy in which You repay our sin with forgiveness in Christ and kindness that is according to His merity. Thus You gave your people meat, and manna, and water. And thus You have given us every blessing in our lives. Even more than that, You have made Yourself our reward and joy, bringing us into Your own glory and joy. Grant that we would observe Your statutes and keep Your laws, and glorify and enjoy You now and forever, through Jesus Christ, AMEN!

 Suggested songs: ARP105A “O Thank the LORD (Call on His Name)” or TPH105C “O Praise the LORD, His Deeds Make Known”

Monday, November 27, 2023

Holy Blood for Atonement and Life [2023.11.26 Evening Sermon in Leviticus 17]

Blood was holy to Israel because God used it to point to the atonement of Christ for us and the life of Christ in us.

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Happy Mourning (and Happier Comfort!) [2023.11.26 Morning Sermon in Matthew 5:4–5]

Longing for Christ and His kingdom includes profound grief for a time, but they to whom the Spirit gives this longing are blessed already in the sure hope of perfect, eternal blessedness

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God's Battle Plan for the Mind 4: Occasional Meditation [2023.11.26 Sabbath School]

Scripture teaches us to interact personally with God, by means of His Word, throughout our life—taking occasions from His providence to meditate upon Scripture that is illustrated by that providence or applies to that providence.
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How All Things Happen [Theology Simply Explained: Westminster Shorter Catechism 8]

Pastor walks his children through Westminster Shorter Catechism question 8—especially explaining how God sovereignly carries out His own purposes, because He is a (the) true and living God.

Q8. How doth God execute His decrees? God executeth His decrees in the works of creation and providence.
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