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); and the Weds. Prayer Meeting at 6:30p

Saturday, February 17, 2018

2018.02.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 9:11-15

Questions for Littles: Who came as High Priest of the good things to come (v11)? What kind of tabernacle does He minister in? What as not used to make it? Indeed, what is it not a part of at all? With what did He enter the Most Holy Place (v12)? How often has He entered there? What kind of redemption has He obtained? What blood used to be splattered (v13)? To what ashes did this blood witness? What did all of this cleanse? By whose blood are we cleansed (v14)? Through what (Whom!) did Christ offer Himself to God? What does His blood cleanse? From what does His blood cleanse our consciences? Of what does this make Him Mediator (v15)? By what means? For the transgressions under which covenant does v15 specifically say Christ made redemption? Who from that covenant received the promised eternal inheritance?
In this week’s sermon text, we were reminded again that Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come. The sacrifices and purification rituals of the Old Testament looked forward to Him and the “good things” that He would accomplish for us.

This explains why v14 refers to them (among other things) as “dead works.” Were they sinful in and of themselves? Of course not; God had commanded them! But they were dead on two counts.

The first is that until we are enabled to believe in Christ, and receive life through union with Him, we ourselves are dead (cf. Eph 2:1). Even now, we do nothing without sin.

The second is that the works of the former time had no value in themselves, but only as they looked forward to Christ and His works, which alone have the true value (cf. Rom 3:25)

We heard in 6:1 that a foundation of Christianity is that we must turn away from these dead works as a way of being made right with God; and, we must turn instead to God’s own righteousness, provided in Christ alone, as our only way of being made right with God.

Now, we hear about having our consciences cleansed from these dead works. The question is: how can we come near to God? The old purifications were good enough for “coming near” in the earthly tabernacle. They “sanctified for the purification of the flesh.” 

But one day, we are going to have to draw near to the glorious, heavenly presence of the Living God Himself. We must not do so holding onto anything less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

So, that presses this question: what right do I have to hold onto Christ? How do I know that He will acknowledge me and save me? And the answer is: my baptism! I was sprinkled with the water of baptism at the command of Jesus whose blood shed on Calvary washes my conscience clean. In Christ and His blood, I can stand confidently, with a clear conscience, before the Living God!!

This was even the means of “redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant.” And it is our guarantee that He who has called us will surely give us our eternal inheritance—Himself!
What is your plan/habit for using your baptism to develop your sure confidence in Christ alone for your forgiveness and eternal inheritance?
Suggested Songs: ARP78B “O Come, My People” or HB198 “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”

Friday, February 16, 2018

2018.02.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Mark 9:43-50

Questions for Littles: What should you do with even a hand that “caused” you to sin (v43)? Where is it better to go without a hand, rather than to go into hell? What never happens to the fire in hell? What never happens to their worm in hell (v44)? What should you do with even a foot that “caused” you to sin (v45)? Where is it better to go without a foot, rather than to go into hell? What never happens to the fire in hell? What never happens to their worm in hell (v46)? Where is it better to go with just one eye, rather than to be cast into hell fire (v47)? What never happens to their worm in hell (v48)? What never happens to the fire in hell? What must happen to everyone with fire (v49a)? What will happen to every sacrifice (v49b)? What must we have in ourselves (v50)? What must we have with one another?
In the Gospel reading this week, there’s a lot of warning about hell. Remember from last week, in talking about the value of Christ’s name, the Holy Spirit emphasized the value of little ones upon whom He has placed His name.

In this week’s passage, Jesus continues that theme, but turning us to consider its application to ourselves. What might cause us to stumble into sin, and by that sin to stumble into hell?

There is a popular PCA preacher who said recently that “being homosexual doesn’t send you to hell; failing to believe in Jesus does.” But we must be careful not to be wiser than the Lord (cf. 1Cor 6:9-11). Refusing to trust in Christ is certainly a sin, and those who do so will go to hell for that sin, but they will also be going to hell for all of their other sins as well.

Hell is nothing to trifle with. It is internal (worm) and external (fire), continual, retributive punishment from God. It is not simply “getting what we want, by being far from God.” No, God is everywhere (cf. Psalm 139), and the punishment in hell comes from the glory of his presence (2Thess 1:9). He compares that to being eaten alive from the inside out, and burned alive from the outside in—forever.

Yes, the righteousness and sacrifice of Christ are bigger than all of our sin. But consider this: one sin is as bad as an eternity of hell, for hell is the proper punishment of that sin. How much, then, should we do to avoid sin—we who have been saved by Christ and love Him?!

Now, the real question in this passage is: what are you willing to cut out of your life in order to stop sinning? Obviously, we are responsible for our own sin. “My hand made me do it” (or foot, or eye) is not a good excuse. And thank God for that, or else we would need to open up a triage unit for those who obeyed this passage! We cannot blame God, like Adam, “this woman that You gave me; she made me do it!”

But there are certainly situations that we choose to be in, and relationships that we choose to enter or continue that become occasions for stirring up all manner of sin within our hearts, into which situations also we commit wicked behavior.

So, we have two options for fire: purifying fire upon a life lived as a living sacrifice, or punitive fire in condemnation of a life lived for oneself. This dual use of the image of fire appears also in Matthew 3:11-12. We may not find it pleasant to endure suffering and discipline in this life, as the Lord fits us for heaven by making us holy.

But, of the two fires, that is the one that is far to be preferred. And those whose lives are living sacrifices should not be surprised when it comes. Did our Lord not suffer far more than we ever will? And has He not been comparing His suffering to ours these last several passages of this gospel?
What situational/relationship choices are you making, despite the knowledge that they lead to sin? What fire is the Lord putting you through to prepare you for glory?
Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or HB369 “How Firm a Foundation”

Thursday, February 15, 2018

2018.02.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 10:14-21

Questions for Littles: What do people need to do with Christ before they can call on Him (v14)? But what must happen first if they are going to believe in Him? And what can’t they hear Him without? What needs to happen for a preacher to preach (v15)? What do the beautiful-footed people of v15 preach? What do they bring? But what have not all done (v16)? By what does faith come (v17)? By what does hearing come? Who have heard (v18)? How did Moses say God would provoke Israel to jealousy (v19)? How would God move Israel to anger? By whom did Isaiah say that God would be found (v20)? To whom did he say that God would be made manifest? What had God stretched out to Israel all day long (v21a)? What does He call them in v21b?
In this week’s Epistle reading, we get another answer to why Israel hasn’t believed: because they can’t. They are a disobedient and contrary people.

The chapter 9 answer had been that not all who are descended from Israel are Israel, but only specifically those whom God has chosen. Fair enough. He’s the Potter; we are the clay.

But now we see why this election was so necessary: because if God doesn’t supernaturally give us hearing hearts by His Word, we cannot actually hear, believe, or call upon His Name to be saved. And God has to send the preacher with that hearing-giving Word in the first place.

So, there are two absolutely necessary gifts there—as evidenced by what Isaiah had prophesied about God holding His hands out all day to this people. The fact was that, unless God made them able to respond, the gospel could be continuously offered, and they would never believe.

That’s deeply sobering, and it ought to make us cry out to God for grace to change our hearts. And, for us who have believed, it also makes us cry out to Him in thankfulness.

God specifically chose to make Himself seen and found by people who were not looking for Him. He did it to show that His salvation is 100% of grace. There is no such thing as a seeker, whom God has not first supernaturally made to seek.

So, dear Christian, what did you have to do with your salvation? You were responsible for the sin of which you needed to be forgiven, and the weakness—indeed death—from which you needed to be resurrected!
How does this passage exclude spiritual pride? How will you use it to do so?
Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or HB402 “I Sought the Lord, and Afterward I Knew”

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

2018.02.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 14:17-15:1

Questions for Littles: Who went out to meet Abram in v17? Where did he meet him? Whom had Abram just defeated? What other king came out (v18)? Of what/where was He king? What did He bring out? Of whom was He priest? What did Melchizedek do to Abram in v19? By whom did He declare Abram to be blessed? What did He call God? Of what did He say that God is the Possessor? Whom else did He bless in v20? What did He say that God had done? How does Abram respond to the blessing (end of v20)? What other king now talks to Abram in v21? What does he propose to take from Abram? What does he propose to give Abram? What does Abram call God in v22? Of what does Abram say that God is the Possessor? By whom alone is Abram willing to say that he has been blessed (v23)? What does Abram refuse to take? Whom else does Abram point out that they have a right to a portion (v24)? Finally, what King speaks to Abram in 15:1? What does He tell Abram not to do? Whom does He say will be Abram’s shield? Whom does He say will be Abram’s reward?
In the passage for this week’s Old Testament reading, we find what is something of a familiar text because of our time in Hebrews 5-8. Melchizedek appears (with no beginning or end, and no genealogy!) as the Priest of God Most High.

He’s also the King of Salem. He’s also the prophet who teaches Abram to call God, “God Most High,” to identify God as the “Possessor of the heavens and the earth,” and to acknowledge God alone as the One who has blessed him.

Prophet, Priest, and King—it is clear that Melchizedek is a foreshadowing of Christ. But there is something more here. For, these were roles that Abram enjoyed to one extent or another on the earth, as God’s chosen covenant mediator, the one in whom all the families of the earth would be blessed.

But, as Hebrews teaches us, Melchizedek is obviously greater than Abram, being the One who blesses him and receives a tithe from him.

At any rate, Abram learns well from Melchizedek, and it is a very important lesson. For, Abram has just defeated one multi-king alliance in the world war, and he is about to offend the other multi-king alliance from that world war. And, to top it all off, he is going to decline any revenue from what was a very expensive campaign for himself.

But, he follows Melchizedek’s lead and puts his trust in the Lord. What a marvelous affirmation it is, then, when in the very next verse, “After these things, the word of Yahweh came to Abram…”

Who will protect Abram, having offended every major king in the known world? Yahweh says, “I will be your shield.” If God is for us, who can be against us?

What reward will Abram have, having given up his share of the spoil, even though he had expended such cost? Yahweh says, “I will be your exceedingly great reward.” He is the pearl of great price!
In what current situation do you need to remember that God is your shield and reward?
Suggested songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

2018.02.13 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 124

Questions for Littles: Who had been on their side (v1)? What was Israel commanded to do about this? When had the Lord been on their side (v2)? What would have happened if the Lord hadn’t been on their side (v3-5)? Over what, specifically, would the stream and the swollen waters have gone (v4-5)? Whom are believers to bless for their survival (v6)? In what do believers sometimes find themselves (v7)? And yet, even when they find themselves in such circumstances, in what is their help (v8a)? Why is that such a great help—what powerful thing has He done (v8b)? 
This week’s Call to Worship and Invocation came from Psalm 124, verse 8 of which has been used weekly for the Call to Worship in some Reformed churches for almost 500 years.

This Psalm gives us a heads up on what to be preparing for whenever we come into a trial that is so severe that we might describe it as having had our soul caught in a snare(v7!). Sometimes, in the Christian life, it feels like our soul is trapped in a rushing stream as the water slowly rises and is about to go over our heads (v4-5!).

What’s God’s plan? Could He possibly have a plan in such a situation?! Well, His plan is for us to worship Him. “Let Israel now say” (v1) … “Blessed be Yahweh” (v6).

He is the faithful Lord who, for His own sake, even though we deserve the opposite, saves us out of every trouble, in order to put His heaven-and-earth-creating power on display.

It seems silly to us, during our sane moments before the Lord in His Word and in prayer, that we fret so much in the midst of the trial—as if something strange or surprising were happening!

But we do. And, it’s for times like those that the Lord has given us Psalms like this one.

Even if it’s wicked men who have intentionally risen up against us, their actions are not outside the sovereign control of God, our Savior.

He’s just getting us ready to go to church, and sing together, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, Who made the heavens and the earth.”
From what troubles has the Lord saved You? What trouble are you in now?
Suggested songs: ARP124 “Unless the Lord Had Been There” or HB357 “Now Israel May Say”

Monday, February 12, 2018

2018.02.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1Peter 3:18-22

Questions for Littles: Who suffered for sins (v18)? How many times? Who was just, and who was unjust? Why did He suffer? What happened to Him in the flesh? By Whom was He made alive? To whom had He previously preached (v19)? In what days had He preached (v20)? What was being prepared at that time? How many were saved? Through what? What is the antitype to the salvation of the ark (v21)? How does baptism not save us? What part of us does it make good by enabling it to give an answer to God? Through whose resurrection does Baptism do this for us? Where has He gone now (v22)? At whose right hand is He? Who is subject to Him? 
In the sermon this week, we made reference to the parallel passage in 1Peter 3:18-22. There, to suffering believers who need comfort and assurance, Peter points to the resurrected High Priest, who offered Himself once for all for sins, and sat down at the right hand of God.

Just as in our Hebrews passage, Peter talks about the cleansing of the conscience before God. That is, of course, the most necessary assurance and comfort that we all need.

Sometimes, we get short-sighted and think that what I really need is assurance and comfort about my current situation. But the greatest assurance and comfort that I need is that God’s justice and wrath have been satisfied concerning my sin.

And we have this, because the resurrected Christ has both poured out His Spirit upon us and commanded that the waters of baptism also be poured out upon us.

How were Noah and his family sure that God was saving them? They had the ark. Now, it certainly would have been foolish of them to put their hope in the ark! No, the ark was just one part of the means that God was using to save them.

So now, we have the real mccoy to which the ark pointed forward: union with Jesus Christ, as He announces to us in our baptisms. It would be ridiculous for us to trust in our baptism, when that baptism is directing us to trust only in Christ, who has given that baptism to us!

How do we know that He has finished atoning for sin? He was resurrected! How do we know that He has the authority to rule and overrule all things for our good? Even in His human nature, He sits upon the throne, at God’s right hand.

Angels, authorities, and powers are worshiping subjects at the feet of a Man in heaven. How much more, then, shall we trust in and worship Him!
In what current situation do you need to respond to your baptism for comfort and assurance? How often do you contemplate your baptism?
Suggested Songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or HB368 “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less”