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 29, 2020

2020.02.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Colossians 3:16

Questions from the Scripture text: What are we to have dwell in us (Colossians 3:16)? In what manner? To that end—what are we to do to one another? In what three things are we to teach and admonish one another? What are we to do with these psalms and hymns and spiritual songs? What are we to have in our hearts (cf. Colossians 3:19)? To whom are we to sing?
What an amazing thing is congregational song! Toward ourselves, others, and the Lord.

Toward ourselves, congregational singing is an appointed means by which Christ’s word dwells in us richly. Not just in a way that gives us knowledge, but in a way that makes us wise to use and respond to that knowledge.

Toward one another, congregational singing is a privilege that the Lord Jesus has given to us—that we might be used by Him in this building up of one another in wisdom. When the congregation sings, even little children are teachers and admonishers in the unity of the whole. We learn from Hebrews 2:12 (and the fact that Colossians 3:16 calls it “the word of Christ”) that it is the Lord Jesus Himself who does the work through us, and this is a great privilege!

Toward the Lord, we sing. He has chosen to glorify Himself through our worship. And this is the highest privilege of all.

Now, there are two things that this verse presents as necessary for us to participate in this amazing privilege: Scriptural content and Spiritual life. Scriptural content—if Jesus is the true Singer in our worship, and it is the word of Christ that we sing, then we must sing that which comes from Him—the Bible.

And what is one way that we know that He wants us to sing Bible? Well, He has put songs right into His Bible! “Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” translates three words that are used in the titles of many Psalms in the Greek translation of the Old Testament that the Colossians would have used. Psalms (3-9, 11-15, 19-25, 29-31, 38-41, 43-44, 46-51, 62-68, 73, 75-77, 79-85, 87-88, 92, 94, 98-101, 108-110, 139-141, 143), Hymns (6, 54-55, 61, 67, 76), and Songs (4, 18, 30, 39, 45, 48, 65-68, 75-76, 83, 87-88, 91-93, 95-96, 108, 120-134).

The question arises whether this list is exclusive (we must sing only these), or inclusive (these are examples, because the Lord wants us to sing from all Scripture).

There are two reasons to believe that it is inclusive. One is that if it is exclusive, then we couldn’t sing Psalms that the Greek OT labeled “Instructional” (32, 42, 44-45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88-89, 142), or that had no category in their superscript, or in some cases any superscript, at all (1-2, 10, 156-17, 26-28, 33-37, 56-60, 69-72, 86, 89-90, 97, 102–107, 111–119, 135–138, 142, 144–150).

The other reason is that the primary command is to let the word (singular!) of Christ dwell in us richly. We ought to sing from all parts of the Bible, for it is all His Word.

That is the Scriptural content of congregational song. But this verse also teaches us that we must sing with true Spiritual life: “grace in your hearts.” There’s no amount of mere outward form that can do what congregational singing is designed to do: only the power of almighty God at work within us.

How, then, should we sing in congregational worship? As those who are participating in a great work of God. Making His word to dwell richly in ourselves. Teaching and admonishing others. And glorifying the Lord in song. We must sing with grace in the heart—grace to adore the Designer of such glorious worship, grace to trust the truths of His Word, grace to obey the commands of His Word, grace to stir up our feelings toward Him, and form our choices and desires as we sing.
What should you aim at for yourself in congregational song? For others? For the Lord?
Suggested songs: ARP22C “I’ll Praise You in the Gathering” or TPH22C “Amid the Thronging Worshipers”

Friday, February 28, 2020

2020.02.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 2:36-38

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom does Luke 2:36 introduce? What tribe was she from? How old was she? How long had she been married? How long had she been a widow (Luke 2:37)? Where did she stay? To do what? When? When does she run into Joseph and Mary (Luke 2:38)?  
Ana is an example to us of someone who is great in the kingdom—precisely because she is little in the world’s eyes, and especially because she is little in her own eyes.

In the world’s eyes, she is elderly, helpless, and useless. Even if she married at 14, that would make her 21 at the beginning of her widowhood and 105 at the time of our passage (some modern translations find it so unbelievable that they make 84 her age instead of the years of her widowhood). And there is no one more helpless than a widow. Ana is little in the eyes of the world.

She is also little in her own eyes. At her age, one might understand if she took what comfort and pleasure she could. But she is constantly at the temple. Denying herself food (fastings, Luke 2:37). Denying herself sleep (prayers night and day). Indeed, even on a horizontal (person-to-person) level, she has made it her business to know who in Jerusalem is “looking for redemption” (Luke 2:38). And now, having come in the instant that Simeon was prophesying about Jesus (verse 38a), she seeks to gladden all who have been hoping for Him. She places others—and especially God—above herself.

And yet the Lord honors her. By granting to her to announce His redemption as a prophetess. By granting to her to live to a great age. By granting to her to hear Simeon’s proclamation. By granting to her to meet the baby Jesus. By placing her in the Scripture account of the gospel of our Lord!

Such is the gospel grace of our Lord Jesus—He has a special interest in the poor and despised– something that is a special emphasis throughout Luke’s gospel. And something that is a special encouragement to us, if God will give us the humility to know that we are nothing!
Why is grace for the weak and unimpressive such good news for you, personally?
Suggested songs: ARP131 “My Heart Is Not Exalted” or TPH146 “Praise the Lord! My Soul, O Praise Him”

Thursday, February 27, 2020

2020.02.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Galatians 6:16-18

Questions from the Scripture text: Upon which people does Galatians 6:16 pronounce a blessing? What blessing does it pronounce? What does verse 16 call them? What does he say for no one to do in Galatians 6:17? Why? What does he call them in Galatians 6:18? What blessing does he give them now?  
Our Lord is everything to us—we are nothing in ourselves, but HE has everything in Him. This has been the apostle’s point about justification in this book—we are right with God only by His righteousness, through faith in Him.

This has been the apostle’s point about sanctification in this book—it is not our ideas or effort that produces it, but only the new-creation-life of Christ, applied by His Spirit, who leads us in the battle and gives us the victory.

And now this is the apostle’s point about the identity and blessedness of God’s people. It is not children of the flesh whom he calls “brethren” (Galatians 6:18), but those who are believers. Even more forcefully, he calls those who walk according to the rule of Christ in this book “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). Even the apostle feels no need to defend himself against the Judaizers—his certificate of authenticity has literally been inscribed in his flesh by what he has suffered for the Lord Jesus and in union with the Lord Jesus (Galatians 6:17). God’s people have that identity only in Jesus Christ.

And their blessing is only in Jesus Christ. This is seen by the three words that describe this blessing: peace, mercy, and grace. Peace: having God as our ally—God bringing to bear all that He is for our good in every way. Mercy: the good comes to us not because we are good, but because God is good—He has compassion upon us in our sin and misery. Grace: strength, blessing, and goodness for those who have none of their own—and from where does this strength, blessing, and goodness come? From our Lord Jesus Christ.

He is Lord. The sovereign God. He is Jesus. The Savior. He is Christ. The anointed Prophet, Priest, and King. It’s no wonder, then, that the apostle loves Him so much, and desires so much for His people that no one would distract them from having the Lord Jesus as their everything. May He be our everything, and may we desire that He be one another’s as well!
How can you be right with God? How can you be made holy? Who are God’s people?
Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH265 “In Christ Alone”

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

2020.02.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 2:11-18

Questions from the Scripture text: Where did Elkanah go (1 Samuel 2:11)? Who stayed behind to do what? What was the moral condition of Eli’s sons (1 Samuel 2:12a)? Why (verse 12b)? What did the sons do to get more meat, of their choice, before they were supposed to (1 Samuel 2:13-14)? What, in specific, did they take, that was supposed to belong entirely to God (1 Samuel 2:15)? What would they do if someone wanted to offer the sacrifice the right way (1 Samuel 2:16)? What does 1 Samuel 2:17 say about their sin? Besides greediness for meat, what were they doing? Who else was ministering before the Lord (1 Samuel 2:18)? What priestly garment was he already wearing?
This passage sets us up to expect Samuel to replace the sons of Eli. The “not knowing the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:12) and “very great sin before the LORD” (1 Samuel 2:17) of the sons of Eli are very carefully sandwiched between Samuel “serving the LORD” in 1 Samuel 2:11 and 1 Samuel 2:18.

And this is clinched by the final detail that Samuel is wearing a linen ephod—a priestly garment, even though he is a child (not yet eligible for service—Levites couldn’t even enter until age 25, according to Numbers 8:24, or carry anything until age 30, according to Numbers 4:3Numbers 4:23Numbers 4:30). Furthermore, he is not a Levite at all, but an Ephraimite.

But there is a qualification for priests that is much greater than right age or right family. Holiness. The godliness of his parents, and the care that Hannah has put into training him, has been used of God to produce holiness in Samuel. We’ll learn in the next chapter that Eli did not rebuke his sons (1 Samuel 3:13).

How unholy were the sons of Eli? They despised the holiness of God, taking for themselves the consecrated parts of the sacrifices that were only for God (1 Samuel 2:15). They despised the holiest of the people, threatening those who wanted to keep God’s Word (1 Samuel 2:16).

How very different is our Lord Jesus Christ! So great is His regard for God’s holiness and God’s people, that He gave Himself a sacrifice to vindicate the holiness of God while redeeming them from their sin! His priesthood is forever and ever, and it has the most essential characteristic of all—His own perfect holiness.

God always works in history consistently with His character, and especially unto the praise of Jesus as the perfect display of His character! Praise God for Jesus Christ, our great High Priest.
How holy is Jesus? How does that help those who are His? Does that include you?
Suggested Songs: ARP110B “The Lord Has Spoken” or TPH277 “Before the Throne of God Above”

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

2020.02.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 24

Read Psalm 24
Questions from the Scripture text: To whom does the earth belong (Psalm 24:1)? How much of the fullness of what it contains belongs to Him? What else belongs to Him? Who else belong to Him? Why—what has the Lord done to the earth (Psalm 24:2)? What questions does Psalm 24:3 ask? How does Psalm 24:4 answer? What two things does Psalm 24:5 say He receives? From whom does He receive them? What does Psalm 24:6 call the generation of those who seek God? What commands do Psalm 24:7 and Psalm 24:9 give? To whom? What questions do Psalm 24:8 and Psalm 24:10 ask? What answer do they give? 
Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Song of Adoration come from Psalm 24 in order to sing God’s thoughts after Him with Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates.

In these verses, we hear the worthiness of God, and the worthiness required of those who would come near to Him.

First, the Lord is worthy of everything because He made everything. Every single thing belongs to Him. Every single person belongs to Him.

So, He is worthy of worship that is absolutely perfect. But are we worthy to give Him that worship? If we look at the criteria in Psalm 24:4, we have to answer that we are not!

The clean hands in verse 4 are not our hands. The pure heart is not our heart. The faithfully devoted soul and reliably true lips are not ours either. We know this to be true because of our Scriptural theology and personal experience, but we can also see it in the fanfare in Psalm 24:7-10.

The One who is ascending the hill of Yahweh to stand in His holy place is Yahweh of hosts, the King of glory Himself! For Him, the gates are to lift up their heads. For Him, the everlasting doors are to be lifted up. He is the Champion, returning from battle!

On this side of the cross, it is not so difficult to know how this can be. The LORD Himself became a man, our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. His hands have always been perfectly clear. His heart pure. His soul faithful. His lips true.

We are His and belong to Him by faith—by seeking Christ, and in Christ seeking the very face of God. And Christ has received for us blessing from the LORD and righteousness from the God of our salvation.

Christ alone is worthy, and we must cling to Him alone as our worthiness!
What kind of worship does God deserve? How are you going to give it to Him?
Suggested songs: ARP24 “The Earth and the Riches” or TPH297 “Lift Up, Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates!”

Monday, February 24, 2020

2020.02.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Hebrews 12:18-29

Questions from the Scripture text: To what mountain do we come in corporate worship (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? Who is the Priest who leads that worship (verse 24)? Who is the Preacher who preaches in it (Hebrews 12:25)? What is He using that worship to prepare us to receive (Hebrews 12:25-27)? 
It is a wonderful thing that we get to hear the voice that is shaking heaven (Hebrews 12:22-26)!

And it is amazing that this wonderful hearing comes in something rather earthly and unimpressive—the plain speaking of God’s Word. This is why, as the apostle said of his own preaching in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 and 2 Corinthians 4:2–7, we ought to seek for plain preaching rather than that which is eloquent or clever. Because the heavenly power of preaching comes through most clearly when there is no earthly impressiveness in the way.

God’s speech at Sinai was impressive in an earthly way (Hebrews 12:18–21). But it only shook earth. Jesus’s preaching to us from heaven is unimpressive on earth—but it is not only shaking earth and heaven but also removing them (Hebrews 12:27). It is His way of preparing us for the unshakeable kingdom that we are receiving (Hebrews 12:28)!

But let us take the focus off what this does for us. In keeping with the spirit of the text, shouldn’t we rather focus upon Christ Himself? When we do so, we realize what a true act of worship it is to listen to, give ourselves to, and appreciate this kind of preaching (Hebrews 12:25a).

When we don’t demand the cleverness, or eloquence, or attention-grabbing stories or factoids or humor; but, we simply give ourselves to the explanation of Christ’s Word, because it is CHRIST’s Word, we are acknowledging His invisible but very real glory in heaven—AND in biblical worship on earth.

When we value unadorned preaching of Bible truths, we are saying, “we believe what Jesus says about His speaking right now, and we count Him and His worship more valuable and desirable than anything that would appeal even to unbelievers.” Of course, that’s also part of the glory of it. Genuinely receiving such preaching as the Word of God is something that comes by faith as a work of the Spirit (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:13).
What happens during preaching in corporate worship? How will you glorify Jesus in it?
Suggested songs: ARP29 “You Sons of God” or TPH172 “Speak, O Lord”