Each week we LIVESTREAM the Lord's Day Sabbath School at 10a, Lord's Day morning public worship at 11a, and Lord's Day p.m. singing (3p) and sermon (3:45), and the Midweek Sermon and Prayer Meeting at 6:30p on Wednesday

Tuesday, October 04, 2022

My God Is Like THAT!—the True Danger and Opportunity in Our Persecutions [Family Worship lesson in Psalm 69:1–18]

What sort of distress may come upon those who genuinely love God and His house? Psalm 69:1–18 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eighteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that just as Christ was wrongfully hated, mocked, and executed, so also those who are united to Him are conformed to His character and even His suffering.
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2022.10.04 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 69:1–18

Read Psalm 69:1–18

Questions from the Scripture text: Into whose hands was this Psalm committed (superscript)? What musical note is attached? Who penned it? What is the immediate request of Psalm 69:1? How does David describe the urgency of the situation? How does Psalm 69:2 flesh out this urgency? How does Psalm 69:3 describe David’s condition in this circumstance? What is he doing to cope? What actual details of the circumstance does Psalm 69:4a–b add—who are how many? What are they like (verse 4c)? What makes this worse (verse 4d)? What are they saying David has done (verse 4e)? What verdict has been reached (verse 4f)? What is David’s own view of himself, and Whom does he know knows this (Psalm 69:5)? For whom else is he concerned (Psalm 69:6a)? What else does he call them (verse 6b)? What is he concerned about happening to them? What was he willing to have happen to himself and why (Psalm 69:7)? Who have begun treating him what way (Psalm 69:8)? Why is he willing to endure this shame—what has eaten him up (Psalm 69:9a)? What have fallen on him (verse 9b)? From whom? How did he respond (Psalm 69:10a)? Which of the two reproaches was worse (verse 10b)? How deep was this reproach (Psalm 69:11a)? What did his enemies/brothers conclude from this mourning (verse 11b)? Who else has heard and adopted these conclusions (Psalm 69:12)? But with whom is the Psalmist primarily concerning himself (Psalm 69:13)? How is he addressing Him (verse 13a)? What does he trust about the timing of the answer (verse 13b)? What does he trust about the source of the answer (verse 13c)? What does He trust about the character and conclusion of his Hearer (verse 13d)? What is he asking God for (Psalm 69:14a–b)? From whom does he ask to be delivered (v14c)? From what does he ask to be delivered (verse 14d)? How many times does he repeat this in how many ways (Psalm 69:14-15c)? What is he asking for in Psalm 69:16a? Why? What does he ask God to do in verse 16b? According to what? What does he ask God not to do (Psalm 69:17a)? Why (verse 17b)? What does he add to his request in verse 17c? What particular request does he make in Psalm 69:18a? What other request would this fulfill (verse 18b, cf. Psalm 69:1Psalm 69:14)? 

What sort of distress may come upon those who genuinely love God and His house? Psalm 69:1–18 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eighteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that just as Christ was wrongfully hated, mocked, and executed, so also those who are united to Him are conformed to His character and even His suffering. 

A Psalm about the persecution of Jesus. From the beginning of His ministry, it was clear that Jesus was the One about Whom David ultimately wrote this Psalm. We’ve seen that in several Psalms, most famously Psalm 16, which both Peter and Paul preached, was actually more properly about Christ than about David. Now, we recognize Psalm 69:9 from our passage as describing Jesus in John 2:17 in His first visit to the temple in His public ministry. Later, on the night that He was betrayed, He quotes Psalm 69:4 as being about Himself in John 15:25.

When we get to the imprecatory (prayer for cursing) portion of the Psalm, it will be important to remember that these are attacks upon Christ. Refusing to glorify God or give Him thanks is an attack upon God (cf. Romans 1:21–23, Romans 3:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:8a). And rejecting the claims of Christ is an attack upon Christ (Romans 1:3–5, Romans 16:26; 2 Thessalonians 1:8–10). 

The intensity of the persecutionPsalm 69:1-3. It is a great mistake to think that believers will not suffer. David, of course, did not suffer to the extent of Christ, Whose suffering was anticipated in David’s own. But David’s own suffering was great. The metaphor in Psalm 69:1 is already strong, before the richness filled in of the “deep mire” and “floods overflowing” in Psalm 69:2. And the pain of the circumstances in verse 2 is felt with great intensity in his experience of them in Psalm 69:3. How many believers have been weary with crying, throat dry, looking for God until it feels like all ability to look for Him has been extinguished! This is not an anomaly. Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God (cf. Acts 14:22). Everyone who desires to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (cf. 2 Timothy 3:12).

The occasion of the suffering: unjust persecutionPsalm 69:4-5. On the one hand, we can always learn from and be sanctified through our suffering. We know that God, Who has already punished all our sin upon Christ (cf. Romans 8:1), uses it in this way (cf. Romans 5:3–5; James 1:2–4). Like David in Psalm 69:5, whenever we suffer we may recognize before the Lord that we don’t deserve any better from Him. But, it is often the case that we ought rightly to be treated better by others.

If they hated Christ without a cause (Psalm 69:4a, cf. John 15:25), then we shouldn’t be surprised when the same happens to us. A believer’s life may include being targeted by a multitude (Psalm 69:4b) and the mighty (verse 4c). Was not our Lord denounced by a multitude and jointly condemned by the throne of Herod and the emissary of the empire (cf. Acts 4:27)? We should expect no better (cf. John 15:20). And when we are not only falsely accused but condemned (Psalm 69:4e–f), let us remember that the sinless Lord entered into union with us precisely to bear our sin (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21). 

Accept it from Scripture, dear Christian. You will be accused. Only determine so to live in honor of your Lord that, as much as possible, the accusations and judgments will be false (cf. 1 Peter 2:11–12, 1 Peter 2:19–20). Thus, you will have a fellowship not only with David and other believers as our Psalm shows, but with Christ Himself Whom this Psalm prophecies (cf. 1 Peter 2:21–23). Part of “returning the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” is living for righteousness under fire as He did (cf. 1 Peter 2:24–25).

The danger in persecutionPsalm 69:6. David’s great concern here is that he would sin (Psalm 69:5), and the result  would be an unnecessary causing of believers grief or doubt over how we have represented the faith (Psalm 69:6, cf. Psalm 73:15). If we are honest with the Lord about our weakness, and if we are conscientious about how this may affect those whom He loves and redeems, then our prayers should feature concern that we not cause shame and dishonor to believers.

The opportunity in persecutionPsalm 69:7Psalm 69:9. Our suffering presents that danger, but also an opportunity to suffer for the Lord’s sake (Psalm 69:7a). If it is His wisdom that our suffering would be best, then we are willing to submit to His will. And if it is submission to Him that makes us willing to suffer, then it is an opportunity to display that He is worth that cost.

Indeed, the Lord Himself has great zeal for His house (Psalm 69:9a)—His worship, the display of His gospel, the redemption of His people. And if we mirror this zeal, those who despise Him will despise us for it as well (verse 9b). This was, of course, most true when He Himself came for the sake of His house, to die for the sake of His house, and the reproach fell upon Him (cf. John 2:17, John 2:18; Romans 15:3). But it continues to be true in all of the sufferings of His people (cf. Romans 8:36). 

The worst persecutionsPsalm 69:8Psalm 69:10-12. As many Psalms relate and prophesy, the hardest oppression and persecution is not that which comes from enemies but from family and close friends (Psalm 69:8; cf. Psalm 41:9; Psalm 55:12–14). This was most true for our Lord (cf. Mark 3:21; Luke 8:19; John 7:3–5). Here, David’s dear ones take his distress as further occasion to mock (Psalm 69:10-11), and take the lead in spreading his shame from the highest to the lowest (Psalm 69:12). As with David and Himself, Jesus tells us that many believers will find their nearest ones becoming their worst enemies (Matthew 10:21, Matthew 10:34–36; Luke 12:53, Luke 21:16). 

Knowing it in advance does not make the pain to be less; the pain is great because family and friendships are great gifts designed for great blessing. The relation of the first and second Persons of the Trinity are the original from which created fatherhood and sonship arise. Election in the Son and the adoption and union that come from it are the original from which brotherhood arises. Knowing from Scripture that their enmity is prophesied doesn’t make the pain of that enmity small!

But knowing it in advance prepares us to embrace God’s good will and intentions for us in their evil intentions (cf. Genesis 50:20). And knowing that this suffering is something that we share with Christ makes the suffering itself almost pleasant as it is sweetened by the sharing of it with Him Whom our soul loves (cf. Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 1:5; Philippians 1:29; Colossians 1:24).

The hope in persecutionPsalm 69:13-18. The worse our persecutions, the more we see the blessedness of the One to Whom they drive us. Many have experienced the soul-suffocating effects of dwelling upon their enemies (or frenemies) and their attacks. But having had these attacks prophesied should turn us to the One Who not only has prophesied them, but uses them for our good.

By the grace of the Spirit, David turns his attention away from his persecutors to his Redeemer: “But as for me, my prayer is to You, O Yahweh” (Psalm 69:13a–b). The Lord’s timing is right (verse 13b). The Lord’s steadfast love is great (verse 13c).  The Lord’s salvation is sure and true (verse 13d).  The Lord’s steadfast love is good (Psalm 69:16a). His “compassionate compassions” are a multitude (verse 16b). O how salubrious the persecution that turns us to Him! And when we find Him as He is, we remember our persecutions as they are: light and momentary. When we cry out to be delivered from it (Psalm 69:14), to be sustained in it (Psalm 69:15), and to have fellowship through it (Psalm 69:17-18), we are crying out for nothing less than what God has promised, and we can do so with the confidence of those who are agreeing with God.

O that we would learn by the same Spirit! This is not ignorance of who man is and what man is doing; he “calls a spade a spade.” It is simply giving more credence to Who God is and what God is doing; he calls the Savior the Savior!

When have you been falsely accused? Why should you prepare to be? What good purposes will the Lord have in it? How, then, should you plan on responding when the persecution comes.

Sample prayer:  O Lord, our prayer is to You in Your acceptable time, in the abundance of Your steadfast love and the faithfulness of Your salvation! Hear us, for Your steadfast love is good, and turn to us according to the abundance of Your compassionate compassions! As we come to You, draw near to our souls and redeem them we ask in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP69A “Save Me, O God” or TPH69B “Thy Lovingkindness, Lord, Is Good and Free”

Monday, October 03, 2022

Close Communion: the Lord's Supper as a Covenant Meal for Covenant Members [2022.10.02 Sabbath School special class]

Four Biblical principles for church-member-only communion. Three options. Hopewell's practice.
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Jesus Christ the Only (and Infinite!) Righteousness that Sinners Can Have [Family Worship lesson in Romans 3:21–22]

If even the works of the law can’t justify us, how can we be righteous before God? Romans 3:21–22 looks forward to the sermon in the midweek prayer meeting. In these two verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that in Jesus Christ, God has offered His own righteousness to sinners.
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2022.10.03 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 3:21–22

Romans 3:21–22

Questions from the Scripture text: What is revealed in Romans 3:21? Whose righteousness? Apart from what? Who/what had testified to this righteousness? What does Romans 3:22 begin by restating as its theme? Through what is this righteousness obtained? What (Who!) is the object of this faith? Unto whom is this righteousness? Upon whom is this righteousness? Unto/upon how many of them? How does the end of verse 22 support  that it is all of them (only them) who are counted righteous in this way? 

If even the works of the law can’t justify us, how can we be righteous before God? Romans 3:21–22 looks forward to the sermon in the midweek prayer meeting. In these two verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that in Jesus Christ, God has offered His own righteousness to sinners.

Righteousness of God, Romans 3:21. If by the deeds of the law we cannot be justified, then what righteousness can a man have as his standing before God? Verse 21 answers that God gives His own righteousness! This is that greatness of the gospel since back in Romans 1:16–17. We have no power to save, but the gospel is God’s power to save. We have no righteousness, but in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed.

Righteousness apart from the lawRomans 3:21. This righteousness does NOT come from our having the law, hearing the law, believing the law, or doing the law. The law and prophets tell us about the righteousness that we may have. But the law cannot be the way that get that righteousness.

Righteousness through faith of Jesus ChristRomans 3:22. This righteousness comes by believing in Jesus Christ. There’s no preposition here, and it can be read as well as “through the faith of Jesus Christ.” What saves is not our believing but the Christ in Whom we believe. It is even His own faith that is the only worthy faith (cf. Hebrews 2:13). And He is the only worthiness that we or our faith can have. 

Righteousness into and uponRomans 3:22. The first preposition sounds like “unto” in many English translations but actually means “into” in the original. The credit of Christ’s righteousness becomes as much ours as if it came from within us. And lest we think that this is “infused” righteousness instead of “imputed” righteousness, the Spirit adds that the righteousness is “upon” us. God bestows His righteousness upon the believer as a gift.

Righteousness for all who believeRomans 3:22. This phrase teaches mechanism. All who believe in Jesus Christ receive Jesus Himself and are credited with all of His own righteousness. This is why all who believe in Jesus are justified. Their faith may be weak; their faith may be strong. But they have the same Jesus!

What righteousness can you have? How can’t you get it? Whose is it? How can it come to be yours?

Sample prayer:  Lord, even from Your holy and righteous and good commandments, we could not obtain righteousness. But, in the gospel You have revealed Your righteousness for all who believe! Grant that by Your power, we would have Your salvation, by Your righteousness, in Your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH435 “Not What My Hands Have Done”

Sunday, October 02, 2022

Theology Simply Explained — WSC55 What the Third Commandment Forbids

Pastor walks his children through Westminster Shorter Catechism question 55: What is forbidden in the third commandment? The third commandment forbiddeth all profaning or abusing of anything whereby God maketh Himself known.
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Saturday, October 01, 2022

A Model of Prayer, Humility, and Fasting [2022.09.30 Special sermon for Tennessee Day of Prayer, Humility, and Fasting]

The Scripturalmodel for "prayer, humility, and fasting" is to pray biblically, intentionally, worshipfully, humbly, and believingly.

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2022.10.01 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 13:49–14:7

Read Acts 13:49–14:7

Questions from the Scripture text: What was spreading where (Acts 13:49)? Who stirred up opposition (Acts 13:50)? Especially among which two groups? What did they raise up against whom? What did they succeed in doing? But what does the apostolic team do (Acts 13:51, cf. Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5)? To where do they come? Despite this persecution, and the loss of their preachers, with what are the disciples filled (Acts 13:52)? And/by with Whom? Where do they go in Acts 14:1? What is the mechanism that produces the result there? What is that result? Who stir up whom in Acts 14:2? And what do they do to their minds? With what word does Acts 14:3 start? What is the first part of the apostolic response? What do they do there for a long time? What was the Lord doing? How did He bear this witness? Into what two groups was the entire city’s population divided (Acts 14:4)? Which party conspired to do what in Acts 14:5? Who learn of it in Acts 14:6? What do they now do? To what two cities in what area? What were they doing there (Acts 14:7)?  

How do Christ’s servants respond to opposition? Acts 13:49–14:7 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eleven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that through whatever opposition they experience on earth, Christ’s servants serve Him in dependence upon Him. 

The persecution they experienced. Spiritual success looks like the Word of the Lord spreading (Acts 13:49), the disciples of the Lord being full of joy and the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:52), and great multitudes believing (Acts 14:1). What it doesn’t necessarily look like is the absence of opposition. In the midst of this success, first at Antioch Pisidia, and then at Iconium, they received stiff opposition.

In both cases, gossip was a cornerstone of opposition to the gospel. The Jews in Antioch Pisidia knew whom to target: worshiping and prominent women, and then politicians. These groups presented the advantage of being easily stirred up and wielding a disproportionate influence. The city isn’t wise enough to see through it, and they succeed in raising up a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, getting them expelled from the region (Acts 13:50). In Iconium, it’s unbelieving Jews poisoning the minds of the general Gentile population (Acts 14:2), and eventually getting a coalition together with violent and murderous intentions (Acts 14:5).

The ways that they responded. When they could no longer stay in Antioch Pisidia, Paul and Barnabas shake the dust off their feet against them. What is the point of this? God is the intended audience of this act; He will act upon this in the day of judgment (cf. Matthew 10:14–15). But He also acts upon it by blessing their labors even in their absence (Acts 13:52). Christ’s servants must remember that He is their primary audience.

Wherever they go, they stay on missionActs 14:1 notes something that we could easily miss. In our translation, it is found it that little word “so.” They so spoke that a great multitude believed. God’s appointed mechanism for working faith in a great multitude was not just preaching but a particular manner of preaching. We have seen that manner in the great sermon in Acts 13:13–41, and it is summarized in Acts 14:3 as “speaking boldly in the Lord.” Their recent experiences and stiff opposition did not cause them to tone down their ministry but to persist in it. When they end up in Lystra and Derbe they do the same (Acts 14:7).

They know the difference between discouragement and danger. Whereas opposition is a cause for them to reaffirm their commitment in Acts 14:3, actual threat on their life is cause for them to move on to the next ministry in Acts 14:6.

The way that Christ responded. There is much here about how His enemies resisted, and how His servants responded, but the main Character isn’t actually in any of the cities but sitting on the throne of heaven. It is His Word that spreads (Acts 13:49). It is His Spirit Who fills the disciples (Acts 13:52). It is He Himself Who bears the witness in Acts 14:3. It is to the Word of His grace to which He bears that witness. It is He Who grants gifts of signs and wonders done by their hands as that witness. Surely, this not only confirmed their message to their hearers but encouraged them in their preaching that the Lord Himself was with them.

What are some signs of a faithful and fruitful gospel ministry among us? What sorts of opposition might we expect from within the church? From the world? How should we pray and hope that we, and especially Christ’s ordained servants will respond? How should we pray that Christ will respond?

Sample prayer:  Lord, grant to us that many would believe and be full of joy and of Your Spirit. Grant that Your servants would speak in such a way that a multitude would believe. Forgive us for when we are fearful, anxious, discouraged, or intimidated by the gossip and opposition of those who reject the bold preaching of Your Word. Give us wisdom to see the difference between resistance and threat, and keep us faithful until our work in this world is done, we ask, in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage?” or TPH2B “Why Do Heathen Nations Rage?”

Friday, September 30, 2022

Yahweh Teaches Israel—and Us!—to Walk with Jesus [Family Worship lesson in Exodus 23:20–33]

What will the covenant relationship between Yahweh and this new church-nation be like? Exodus 23:20–33 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these fourteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God Himself will lead them, God Himself well bless them, and God Himself will establish them.
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Shutting Our Mouths to Drive Us to Christ Alone: the Law's Role in Our Justification [2022.09.28 Midweek sermon in Romans 3:19–20]

The law's role in our justification is to close our mouths, judge us before God, and convince us of sin.

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