Monday, August 31, 2020

A Day Devoted to Delighting in the Lord Jesus (2020.08.30 Morning Sermon in Exodus 20:8–11)

The Lord has given us a weekly day to be renewed in Him. We are to remember what the day is for and devote the day entirely to that purpose.

Privilege, Providence, and Priorities (1) (2020.08.30 Sabbath School)

The only true and lasting privilege is to receive everything as a gift from, and an assignment for, the Lord. Desire for more than that, or employing it in any other way, is a prescription for disappointment, disaster, and destruction.

All Civil Authority Is under—and Limited by—Christ (2020.08.30 Evening Sermon in Romans 12:18–13:10)

Jesus Christ is at the top of the chain of command of civil government. The only reason that we are to obey anyone is because we are to obey Him. If government is wicked, we will often have to disobey in order to obey Jesus. "Rebellion" must always come out of an obedient spirit unto Christ, not a contrarian spirit against men—and in this way can be done out of love rather than fear.

A lesser magistrate will often have to countermand the directive or action of someone above him, in order properly to fulfill the authority and care entrusted to him by the One at the head of the chain and command. If we love our neighbors, we ought to be training up men to be in the positions of these lesser magistrates by whom Christ's appointed good in the civil magistrate may be done.

Only Christ's law can determine what is good and evil, a law that is written on men's hearts and observable in creation and providence, but is most plainly and fully detailed in the Scriptures.

2020.08.31 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 20:8–11

 Read Exodus 20:8–11

Questions from the Scripture text: With what command does Exodus 20:8 begin? What are we to remember? What are we to do with that day? How many other days are there in a week (Exodus 20:9)? How much of our labor and work are we to do on that day? But what is the seventh day (Exodus 20:10)? Whose Sabbath is it? What are we not do upon it? Whom else is not to work upon it? What else is not to work upon it? To what people (role), then, is this commandment especially addressed (hint: cf. WLC 118)? Who established this pattern for man to follow (Exodus 20:11)? What did He do in six days? What did He do on the seventh? What two things did He do to the day that defines this “resting”?

Sometimes, we are tempted to think of the Lord’s Day as a day of resting or refreshment. The fourth commandment, properly obeyed, will result in rest and refreshment only if we find the Lord Himself restful and the Lord Himself refreshing.

As we can see in Exodus 20:8, the basic commandment is to remember and to consecrate.

First, we are to remember that it is the Sabbath of Yahweh our God. If we are moving right along in a particular mode, laboring and doing all our work, we may be forgetful when we come to a day that is not for those things. So, the first part of obedience here is remembering that the day is different.

Second, we are to consecrate the day. That is: we are to set it apart as holy, i.e., wholly devoted unto the purpose for which God Himself has consecrated it. 

We know, of course, that God needs no rest. In fact, He did not need to take six days to create. 

These things He has done for us because of our need to devote ourselves entirely to Him. Even when man had not yet fallen, the Lord gave him a day to come apart from serving in the creation in order to directly act upon the Creator Himself in service. This is what we call worship service.

When Jesus identifies Himself as the Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12), He declares Himself to be greater than David, greater even than the temple. He is the Lord unto Whose worship the day had always been set apart as holy, the One in Whom we are meant to find our rest.

But He declared this in the midst of accomplishing our redemption, so that it is no surprise that He changed the timing of the day to emphasize that we are acting upon Him Who is not just our Creator, but also our Redeemer!

It is a hideous wickedness when we twist the Lord’s Day to make it about our rest and refreshment in the abstract—as if things that we find more restful or refreshing than Jesus properly fulfill the purposes of the day. Such thinking successfully exposes how profane we are, but certainly does not justify spending the day in such ways!

Thankfully, the Day itself, properly kept, is filled with the means of His grace, and especially designed to root this profaneness out of our hearts. As He promises in the new-covenant section of Isaiah, if we call His Sabbath a delight, then our delight will be in Him Himself.

What/Whom should you find most restful? To grow in this, what must you do to the Lord’s Day?

Suggested songs: ARP118D “Now Open Wide the Gates” or TPH153 “O Day of Rest and Gladness”

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,


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”

Saturday, August 22, 2020

2020.08.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:14-17

Read Hebrews 12:14-17

Questions from the Scripture text: What are we to pursue with all people (Hebrews 12:14)? What will we not see the Lord without? In what manner are we to be looking (Hebrews 12:15)? What are we watching that people would fall short of? What might spring up and cause trouble? Who would become defiled? What kind of person was Esau (Hebrews 12:16)? How did he show that he was profane? What did he want afterward (Hebrews 12:17)? How did he seek this and with what?
In this passage. we see that we respond to the Lord’s work in our lives by putting forth effort of our own. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work, according to His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). Here, we discover what that work looks like.

First, it looks like pursuing peace with all. This is accomplished by loving our neighbor as ourselves and loving one another as Christ has loved us. Of course, love does no wrong to its neighbor, so what does love do? It fulfills the law.

We obey this instruction to pursue peace with all when we honor those in authority over us; and, refuse to murder even in our hearts; and, refuse to indulge fleshly appetites outside their God-given proper place in our lives; and, refuse to steal; and, refuse to bend words to our advantage; and, refuse to covet. It is by this discipline of heart and mouth and hand that we pursue peace with all.

Of course, it’s not just with men that we need peace. So, we must pursue that holiness without which no one will see the Lord. We must treat Him as holy, as we live always before His face. We must treat His worship as holy, worshiping only in the way that He has commanded. We must treat His name as holy, neither speaking it nor bearing it lightly. We must treat His day as holy, taking up the whole of the day in worship, and those duties of necessity and mercy that enable us to worship.

How intensely should we be following God’s law? “Looking carefully”—overseeing ourselves. It’s a verb form of the word for “overseer” or “bishop” or “ruler.” Rule yourself in godliness, dear Christian!

If we don’t live this way, then it isn’t the root of holiness and happiness that we are putting down, but rather the root of bitterness. And God save us from putting that root down! Esau didn’t think ahead; he lived in the moment; he just satisfied his desire. But oh the bitterness that he reaped! When it came time to lose that blessing that he wanted to inherit, he wept bitterly trying to get his father to change his mind!

How very many sins there are that look enticing in the moment, but great is the bitterness that is suffered by the one who commits them! But we are not moving toward bitterness. Rather, we are moving toward blessedness, and the Lord is producing in us the peaceful fruit of righteousness!
What place does God’s law have in your life? When do you read it? How do you follow it?
Suggested Songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Friday, August 21, 2020

2020.08.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:12-13

Read Hebrews 12:12-13

Questions from the Scripture text: What things that hang down are we to strengthen (Hebrews 12:12)? What feeble things are we to strengthen? What kind of paths are we to make for our feet (Hebrews 12:13)? What will God use this to do for whatever is lame? 
In this passage, we learn how to respond to God’s determined work to make us holy. We do whatever the One who is doing this work says to do. In this case, our Fatherly God commands us to do the difficult and painful.

Strengthen those hands that hang down. Strengthen the feeble knees. Make straight paths for your feet. These are marching orders. Things for us to do. But let us not make the mistake of turning the Christian life into a life of toughing it out because our obedience will make everything better.

We don’t follow these commands because we have been left to train ourselves. We follow these commands because the Lord is training us. This passage isn’t talking about toughing it out. To be sure, there is determination here, but it is a determination that is based upon God’s strength, not ours.

It is not our obedience that makes everything better. Rather, it is God who is producing our obedience by making us better. This is why He chastens us, according to Hebrews 12:3-11. And this is why we obey what He says to do. As Hebrews 12:10 tells us, He’s making us holy. As Hebrews 12:13 tells us, He’s healing us.

So often, as we struggle, we feel the hanging down, and feebleness, and lameness. If we are looking unto ourselves and considering ourselves, then the command to strengthen and make straight will just plunge us into despair. Yet, so many try that, thinking that they are obeying the commands in Hebrews 12:12-13.

God deliver us from this deadly half-obedience to the instruction in this text! Looking unto Jesus, strengthen and make straight. Considering Him who endured the hostility, strengthen and make straight!

But let us not miss that this passage also cuts the other way. There are many who say, I’m not going to work at holiness, because… I’m looking unto Jesus. Or, I’m not going to make a straight path of obedience to follow, because… I’m considering Him who endured the hostility.

This passage just doesn’t allow us to think like that. Those who look unto Him, and consider Him, are looking unto and considering the One who both is working in us, and also commands us to work.
Which mistake do you find yourself more likely to make: looking unto yourself for strength, as you follow Scripture instruction for life? Or excusing a laziness about the Christian life by dressing that laziness up by telling yourself that you are looking to Jesus?
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths to You I Cried” or HB275 “Amazing Grace”

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Why Risk Taking Vows? (2020.08.20 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

 Hopewell Herald – August 20, 2020

Dear Congregation,

Upon hearing how weighty a thing it is to make a solemn promise before God, such as a vow or an oath, we might be tempted to think, “Then, why would we want to do such a thing? Why take vows when being added to the church, or when professing our faith, or when the Lord adds children to us, or when we take office, or when we get married?” 

It’s a good question. What is to be gained? 

Well, for those with whom the Lord puts us into relationship, much is to be gained by a vow, if the vow is a means by which we perform our duties toward them more consistently and completely. In a society where vows mean little, this advantage is lost, and we make a mockery out of integrity and honesty.

And for the unbeliever, of course, there can be nothing ultimately gained. The short-term good that the Lord continually does him will always condemn him all the more in the end. With no atonement for his sin, even outward “uprightness” will testify that all his sin was against that much more undeserved mercy from God. How dreadful to be the man in the coffin that everyone called “a good man,” but to appear at the judgment without Christ!!

But, for the believer, there is much indeed to be gained.

First, we don’t make promises in these vows to anything that the Lord Jesus hasn’t already required of us. If He saves us, He has added us to the church. Refusing to profess Him is a sin (Matt 10:32–33; Rom 10:8–10). Inconsistent attendance, whether we have professed or not, is a sin. The church is keep a roll and to add to its number (cf. Ac 1:15; 2:41; 4:4) those whom the Lord providentially adds by bringing their men to faith. Resisting being added is a sin. If God adds a child to us, and we fail to put His sign upon that child; or, if we fail to bring him up in the Lord’s discipline and the Lord’s instruction, that is a sin (Exo 4:24–26; Deu 6:4–14; Eph 6:1­–4). What grooms and brides properly promise in a wedding would have been a sin for them not to fulfill; as Scripture says, marriage is a covenant from God (Prov 2:17; Matt 19:4–5).

So, taking vows that have been established by those who have faithfully applied the Word for generations is a help against the self-deception in which our flesh tries to convince us that our profession/membership is our own, or our marriage is our own, or our children are our own, etc. These all are defined by, and belong to, the Lord.

Second, when we live not under the law as a burden, but under grace which fuels devotion to God’s law out of love and thankfulness, having vows to take increases opportunity for expressing our love and thankfulness to the Lord Jesus! We love to reflect upon how we may please Him. we enjoy watching others whom He saves make these promises, and celebrate with them the anniversaries of His sustaining them by grace. When it is necessary for us to come alongside them, we set before them the goodness and glory of Who He is and What He has done, that His worthiness might be ever-renewed and increased in their sight and ours.

Third, when we see that these vows (which come in accordance with God’s good and wise Word) increase the guilt of each sin that is committed against them, the value of Christ’s sacrifice and righteousness both increase before our eyes. How great is what He has suffered in our place! How astonishing He is in His perfect righteousness—and how marvelous that this is the righteousness that is reckoned unto our account before God!

Fourth, in our battle against sin, we should marshal all the weapons and means that God has placed at our disposal. When we have a serious and important duty or relationship, against which we know that our flesh will resist, having avowed ourselves to that duty stirs up our resolve to be in league with the Spirit against the  flesh.

Taken along with these considerations—and we could identify more—there is much to be gained by the consideration that God Is Witness. That He sees all, and even unto the depths of our hearts, and far more than we can ever see. And that He is perfectly holy and infinitely powerful. For, the more that we see the depth and weightiness of taking a vow, the more each of these preceding benefits is increased unto us.

We have a God Who swears by Himself, and Who makes and keeps covenant, binding Himself to us by His Word, His Son, His blood (Heb 6–10; cf. Ac 20:26–28). And ultimately, it is His keeping of His promises in Christ (and Christ’s keeping of our own obligations!) that makes vow-taking and vow-making such a benefit to believers!

Looking forward to coming to Him together with you in that worship to which we have rightly vowed our attendance,


Humbled, Lifted, and Upheld by God's Mighty Hand (1Pet 5:6–7 Prayer Devotional)

In prayer, we come to our mighty, caring God and Father. And in prayer, we place ourselves under and upon His hand—submitting ourselves under His wisdom, and securing ourselves upon His will

2020.08.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:5-11

Read Hebrews 12:5-11 

Questions from the Scripture text: What speaks to us as sons (Hebrews 12:5)? Whose chastening and rebuke do we receive? How shouldn’t we respond? Whom does God chasten (Hebrews 12:6)? Whom does God receive? When is God dealing with us as sons (Hebrews 12:7)? What does verse 7 assume that all fathers will do with their children? If we have no chastening in our lives, then what aren’t we (Hebrews 12:8)? How does Hebrews 12:9 assume that children will treat their fathers? Of what does verse 9 call God the Father, and how does this relate to Hebrews 12:3? Why does God discipline us (Hebrews 12:10)? How does chastening seem for the present (Hebrews 12:11)? What does it produce? 
In this text, we learn some comforting things about the uncomfortable situations in our lives.

First, our lives are never out of control. Well, sure, they are always out of our control. Any idea that we are ever in control is a lie that we tell ourselves. And, often, it’s the uncomfortable times that the Lord uses to expose the lie.

But the Lord is always in control. So, Hebrews 12:5-6 call those uncomfortable times the “chastening,” “rebuke,” and even “scourging” of the Lord. But now we’ve gone from “lest you become discouraged” in Hebrews 12:3 to a command “do not be discouraged” in Hebrews 12:5.

Do not be discouraged! Why?

Reason 1: the Lord loves you. He loves you enough to do whatever is necessary to produce the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

Reason 2: the Lord receives you. Actually the word in Hebrews 12:6 is more than that. He welcomes you. He takes you in. but sin cannot enter heaven. Heaven has a war against sin. That’s why righteousness is a peaceful fruit. That’s why being delivered from the ongoing presence of sin is worth whatever it takes.

Reason 3: the Lord treats you as a son. Being discouraged by His providence actually dishonors our heavenly Father and despises our fatherly God.

Does it not seem best to us? What is that next to the fact that it is what seems best to Him (Hebrews 12:10)?

You may be in an uncomfortable situation now. If not, and if you live a bit longer, you will be in an uncomfortable situation soon enough. How do I know? Because the Scripture says that if you are without discipline, you’re not a true son.

And it’s guaranteed to be painful, Hebrews 12:11. But do you know what else is guaranteed? The peaceful fruit of righteousness. The whole point of this isn’t the pain. It’s your true Father loving you and taking you to be with Himself forever.
What uncomfortable situation are you in or have been in? What is your Father doing in it?
Suggested Songs: ARP73C “Yet Constantly I Am with You” or HB303 “Be Thou My Vision”

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

2020.08.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:3-4

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom are we to consider (Hebrews 12:3)? What did He endure? From whom? What will considering Him keep us from becoming? Unto what point have they not resisted (Hebrews 12:4)? Against what are they striving? 
In this passage, we receive a word for a situation that we all go through: weariness and discouragement of soul. What can we do to keep weariness and discouragement at bay?

Consider Him.

It’s important to see that this is a continuation of the instruction in Hebrews 12:2: “looking unto Jesus, the pioneer and guaranteed completer of our faith.”

We heard from Hebrews 12:1-2 that, as we look unto Jesus, by faith, sitting at the right hand of the throne of God, we see the One who is at work in us, and whose handiwork every case of true faith has ever been.

Now, Hebrews 12:3-4 reminds us that this exalted One has been not only where we are, but lower. Not only are we to consider Him, but we are to consider Him

Who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself.

What sinners? The crowd that said, “His blood be upon us and our children”? Yes. But not just the way you might think. Because some of those people, fifty days later, cried out, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Since this is the letter to the Hebrews, some of those people were likely in the congregation that first received it.

But they went from “Brethren, what shall we do?” to repenting and believing, to putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit of God… the same Spirit that teaches us to call God our Father and testifies that we are the children of God. (cf. Romans 8:13-17)

So what we have, when we take all these Scriptures together, is that Jesus endured hostility from sinners to save them from more than just the penalty of their sin. He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God and kept on saving us from sin… from the power of our sin and from the presence of our sin.

Jesus is the Finisher of our faith, and that finish comes, sometimes, through pain. Since He is suffering through it with us, let us be all the more strengthened to suffer through it with Him!
What are you suffering through right now? Who suffers through it with you? Why?
Suggested Songs: ARP130 “Lord, From the Depths to You I Cried” or HB275 “Amazing Grace”

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

2020.08.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 7:20-8:2

 Read Hebrews 7:20-8:2

Questions from the Scripture text: Who wasn’t Jesus made priest without (Hebrews 7:20)? What did the others become priest without (Hebrews 7:21a)? Who swore an oath to Jesus that He would be priest forever (verse 21b)? Who has become surety of our covenant (Hebrews 7:22)? Of what kind of covenant has He become surety for us? Why were there many priests in the previous covenant (Hebrews 7:23)? Who continues forever (Hebrews 7:24)? Why is Jesus’s priesthood unchangeable? Who is able to save those who come to God through Him (Hebrews 7:25a)? How completely is He able to save them (verse 25b)? Why is He able to save them to the uttermost? Who is the High Priest who was fitting for us (Hebrews 7:26a)? What five things in verse 26 describe how and why Jesus is fitting? What does Jesus not need to do daily (Hebrews 7:27a)? What did Jesus do once for all (verse 27b)? What kind of men did the law appoint as priests (Hebrews 7:28a)? What appointed a perfected Son forever (verse 28b)? Who has the kind of High Priest that Hebrews 8:1 describes? Where is He seated? In what sanctuary (holy place) and tabernacle does He serve (Hebrews 8:2)? Who erected it? 
Jesus has finished the work of atoning for us. The moment that one believes savingly in Christ, he is as justified as he will be in glory. But Jesus isn’t finished with His work as our Mediator, because He has given Himself to do more than just atone for us. He has also given Himself to intercede for us. In our passage, the focus is upon God’s having given Christ, from among men, to be our Priest forever.

With what great confidence we should come to “the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1)!

We come through Him to Whom Yahweh has sworn that His priesthood continues forever (Hebrews 7:21, cf. Psalm 110:4).
  • We come through Him who has secured the blessings of a superior covenant (Hebrews 7:22). 
  • We come through Him who is able to save us to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25a). 
  • We come through Him who lives forever (verse 25b). 
  • We come through Him who makes intercession for us (verse 25c). 
  • We come through Him who is holy (Hebrews 7:26). 
  • We come through Him who literally does no evil thing (“harmless” in NKJV). 
  • We come through Him who is unstained. 
  • We come through Him who is not corrupted by proximity to sinners. 
  • We come through Him whose sacrifice has put our sin away once for all (Hebrews 7:27). 
  • We come through Him who is the Beloved Son (Hebrews 7:28). 
  • We come through Him who has flawlessly and completely qualified forever to be our Priest.
  • We come to Him who is seated at the right hand of the throne (Hebrews 8:1).
  • We come to Him who is Priest not of an earthly tabernacle, but of that heavenly glory of which the earthly one was a copy (Hebrews 8:2)

One of the reasons that we don’t come to worship with enough wonder is because we give little attention to Him through Whom we come, and therefore we little appreciate what glorious access we have been given in Him. O that the Spirit would stir up our hearts to appreciate Him and the entrance He has given us into glory in New Testament worship!
About which of the characteristics of Christ’s priesthood did you most need to be reminded?
Suggested songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken to My Lord” or TPH275 “Arise, My Soul, Arise”