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, September 26, 2020

Clinging to Christ Required for Proper Listening to Christ (2020.09.26 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

Hopewell Herald – September 26, 2020

Dear Congregation, 

Tomorrow’s morning sermon passage is a difficult one. It challenges us (and especially fathers) on worldliness, harmful permissiveness (especially with our daughters), and passivity. 

It’s crushing to wrestle seriously with such issues apart from a hearty gospel hope, not only in Christ’s forgiveness, but also in His power and determination to cleanse us and grow us—and in His marvelous mercy to spare us so often and so much from the consequences of our folly and sin. 

If we come to consider the real consequences of our sin without this hope, the temptation will be to dismiss the instruction and warning of the Scripture text as legalism or judgmentalism. 

But, if we come hoping in Christ, we come rejoicing that He is the righteousness that is counted for us, and that He is determined to make us like Himself by His Spirit. 

This rejoicing over what Christ is doing, coupled with a godly sorrow over what sin we have done and what sin remains in us, strengthens us to repentance. 

We are enabled to “work out or salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12) because we rejoice that He is the One who works in us, both to will and to work, according to His good pleasure (Phil 2:13). And we know that He who has begun the good work will bring it unto completion (Phil 1:6)—AND that His Word is the very means by which He does this work (John 17:17)! 

So, let us come to Him, clinging to Him in that gospel that enables us to take seriously all of His instruction for our lives, without sliding into the false pride or crippling discouragement of legalism, or denying our Master and harming others by antinomianism. 

And, trusting Him to bless His means to us and our children, let us come with a desire to love Him with all our heart and our neighbors (especially those nearest neighbors in our own homes) as ourselves. 

Looking forward to coming to Him, while clinging to Him, together with you, 


2020.09.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 33:18–34:6

Read Genesis 33:18–34:6

Questions from the Scripture text: To what city does Jacob come safely in Genesis 33:18? In what land was it? From what land had he come? Where does he pitch his tent? Of whom does this remind us (cf. Genesis 13:12)? What does Jacob buy in Genesis 33:19 (cf. Genesis  23:15–20; Joshua 24:32)? How much does Jacob pay for it (cf. Genesis 23:15)? What does Jacob do there (Genesis 33:20)? What does he call it? About whom does Genesis 34:1 tell us? Where does she go? Why? Who sees her in Genesis 34:2? What is his status? What does he do with her? How does the end of verse 2 judge what was done? But what was the feeling of Shechem’s soul toward her (Genesis 34:3)? And what does verse 3 say that he did to her? And how does it say that he spoke to her? To whom does Shechem speak in Genesis 34:4? And for what does he ask? What other father has heard something (Genesis 34:5a)? What does he (not!) do? What does Hamor, however, do already in Genesis 34:6?

Sometimes we slouch into thinking that our growth in Christ will be linear, but sinners and salvation are more complex than that. This passage presents real progress, as far as Jacob is concerned, but rather troubling shortcomings as well. We learn to rejoice over God’s genuine work in sinners that He is saving, while raising the alarm about how damaging remaining sin can be, while we are still in the process of being sanctified.

First, we see the real progress of Jacob. v18 establishes it with geography: the Padan Aram period is over, and the patriarch is back in the land of promise, “the land of Canaan.” Genesis 33:19 establishes it with real estate: “and he bought the parcel of land.” There are echoes of Abraham here, buying the field of Mamre from the sons of Heth. Now it is Jacob buying literally “the field” from the sons of Hamor. 

And Genesis 33:20 establishes it not only with worship—again, this is reminiscent of Abraham, who has erected altars all over the promised land—but especially with the name of the God who is worshiped: “Elohe Israel” (“the God of Israel”). No longer is the focus on God as his father’s God and his grandfather’s God, but very specifically Jacob’s own God, Who has given him a new identity in relationship to Himself, “Israel.”

But, among these reminders back toward what was good with Abraham, the Holy Spirit also gives us an alarming mixture of reminders of Lot and of some of the shortcomings of Abraham. One can hardly see Jacob pitching his tent toward Shechem without seeing the reflection of Lot pitching his tent toward Sodom back in Genesis 13:12. And how disastrous this ended up for both men’s daughters! 

And just as we see Jacob proceed to be shamed in some respects as a husband and father, by comparison to Shechem and Hamor, we can hear the echoes of Abraham before Pharaoh or Abimelech, and Isaac before the other Abimelech, with the heads of wicked states justly taking issue with the other patriarchs. 

Jacob’s relationships with Leah and Rachel (not to mention Zilpah and Bilhah) have not been described in such wholehearted terms as Shechem’s soul clinging for all it’s worth to Dinah, or loving her and speaking to her heart. Jacob heard that his daughter had been brought low by her unclean romance (Genesis 34:5), but kept silent until back came. Hamor outshines this passivity by going straight to Jacob as soon as he hears his son’s request.

So, on the one hand, we are encouraged to be reminded that our struggles in sanctification are not news. Even when we have seen real spiritual progress among God’s people, great folly and sin have remained, and the capacity for astounding stumblings (e.g., David, others). But on the other hand, when we see what comes of this we are also solemnly warned of the disastrous consequences that may come from this remaining sin, and by this warning we are urged by the Holy Spirit to stay in lock-step with Him in the war against our flesh!

What evidence is there of spiritual progress in your life? How are you fighting against what remains from your flesh?

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH219 “O Worship the King”

Friday, September 25, 2020

Being Impressed with Jesus to the Core of Your Being (Family Worship, Luke 8:22–39)

No one who truly encounters Christ finds Him boring. How strongly are you responding to the Lord Jesus? Pastor leads his family in today's "Hopewell @Home" passage. In these eighteen verses, we learn that if we are truly encountering Christ, we will respond either with profound terror or profound comfort, joy, gratitude, love, service, and witness.

2020.09.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 8:22–39

Read Luke 8:22–39

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Jesus get into in Luke 8:22? With whom? What does he propose? What does Jesus do as they sail (Luke 8:23)? What comes down on them? What happens to the boat? What do the disciples do in Luke 8:24? What do they say? What does Jesus do? What does Jesus say? What do the wind and water do? What does Jesus ask them in Luke 8:25? How do the disciples respond to this question? What question do they ask one another? Of what are they now afraid? Where does the sailing trip take them (Luke 8:26)? Who meets Jesus, when He steps onto land (Luke 8:27)? What are some evidences of this demonic activity? What does he do when he sees Jesus (Luke 8:28)? What does he call Jesus? What does he beg Jesus? What had Jesus already done (Luke 8:29)? What had the demon often done? What does Jesus now ask in Luke 8:30? And how does he answer? Why? What are they begging Jesus in Luke 8:31? What else was there (Luke 8:32)? What do they now beg Jesus? What does Jesus do? What do the demons do (Luke 8:33)? What do the now-possessed swine do? Who sees this in Luke 8:34? What do they do? What do those who hear do (Luke 8:35)? What do they find? How do they respond (end of verse 35)? Who also tell them what in Luke 8:36? With what are they now seized, and what do they plead (Luke 8:37)? What does the delivered man now plead (Luke 8:38)? What does Jesus do to him? About Whose great doings does Jesus command him to tell (Luke 8:39)? About whose great doings does he tell?

The Lord Jesus is scary powerful. The disciples thought wind and waves were scary (Luke 8:23-24) until they met the One who could command them (Luke 8:25). The Gadarenes must have thought the demonic man described in Luke 8:29 was scary, until they met the One who had delivered him and were seized with great fear (Luke 8:37). 

If we are at all genuinely interacting with the Lord Jesus, we will be overwhelmed by His greatness. That’s the unifying theme of all of these short pictures of our Lord. Against the backdrop of His glorious greatness, the Holy Spirit gives us many types of responses in the various ones whom He encounters.

Terrified, doomed, and begging to be permitted to continue in wickedness. That’s the demons. There are many who say that they believe, but do worse than demons, who at least tremble. God have mercy on those who seem largely unimpressed/unaffected by Christ! And those who are trying to figure out how their sinning can be uninterrupted by Jesus, let them know that they are basically demonic.

Terrified, but just wanting to pretend that this Jesus doesn’t exist. Out of sight, out of mind. That’s what the Gadarenes wanted Jesus to be. And there are many who do this with the true Christ—even by filling their head with a sentimentalized, mushy, docile version of Him. They hide from the true Redeemer-Lord-King-God Jesus by sending Him away from their mind/hear/life by having instead a cosmic boyfriend, teddy-bear, or genie-in-a-bottle that they call by the same name.

Terrified, wondering, but still asking for help, and still sticking with Him. This summarizes the disciples’ response. They are with Him, and they know that He can help, and they know that He wants to, but they are still easily shaken by circumstances. And their view of Him is small enough that they sometimes find it jarring to encounter the greatness of His power and authority. The differences between the disciples and the Gadarenes is that they go along with Him, trembling at Him but continuing in wonder at Him and trying to know Him more, as He truly is.

Awed, rejoicing, and telling others. This is where the disciples will eventually end up, but it’s where we find the delivered demoniac already. The Gadarenes thought they were rid of Christ, but here comes the delivered man announcing what great things Jesus had done for him (Luke 8:39b). He has rightly identified Jesus Himself as God, who has done these great things (verse 39a).

What does your (non?)response to Jesus’s greatness tell you about where you are? How would you come to where you need to be?

Suggested songs: ARP45A “My Heart Is Greatly Stirred” or TPH219 “O Worship the King”

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Gladdening the Spirit and Fighting the Devil in Putting on and Putting Off (Family Worship in Ephesians 4:25–30)

Are you grieving the Spirit or gladdening Him? Fighting the devil or giving him opportunity? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” devotional. In these six verses, we learn that fighting alongside the Spirit in sanctification requires both putting off and putting on in every area.

Certainty and Joy in Praying for Sanctification

Since we can be sure that the Lord will complete His sanctifying work in our brothers, praying for it is something that we are obligated to do, and in which we may have assurance and joy.

2020.09.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 4:25–30

Read Ephesians 4:25–30

Questions from the Scripture text: What are we to put away altogether in Ephesians 4:25? But what can we sometimes do without sinning in Ephesians 4:26a? What is one key to this righteous anger (verse 26b)? If we don’t manage our anger properly, to whom do we give place (Ephesians 4:27)? Who else must stop what he was doing altogether (Ephesians 4:28a)? What should he do instead (verse 28b)? What kind of work should he do? What should he hope to do with his earnings (verse 28c)? What shouldn’t we let proceed from our mouth (Ephesians 4:29a)? What should we let proceed (verse 29b)? That it may do what? Whom must we not grieve (Ephesians 4:30a)? What has been done by Him, for what (verse 30b)? 

There’s a cosmic tug of war in every Christian’s life and thought. The Holy Spirit is always with us, since it is by Him that we have been sealed for the day of redemption (Ephesians 4:30), and the devil is always ready to take whatever ground we are foolish and wicked enough to give him (Ephesians 4:27). If we aren’t mindful of both, we can end up living quite ignorantly of the cosmic war that rages in the ordinary context of our living out the mind and life of Christ in us (cf. chapters 5–6)

There can be no neutrality in this war. It is not enough to put on the quality from Christ by His Spirit; you must put off the corresponding quality from the old man. It is not enough to put off the corresponding quality from the old man; you must put on the new man as well. This verses give us four examples of this putting off and putting on. The putting off helps the putting on. The putting on helps the putting off.

Three things are to be put away entirely: lying, stealing, and corrupt speech.

Not only are we to put away lying; we are to intentionally pursue speaking truth with one another, in light of what we learned in Ephesians 4:11-16 about how the body functions. 

Not only are we to stop stealing, cold turkey, but the new man cares about what kind of job he has (“working with his hands what is good”—hands here being a synecdoche for any and all of his own faculties) and what he does with his earnings (focusing not merely on provision for himself, but especially upon provision for others: family, extended family, church, extended church family, neighbors, etc.)

Not only are we to cut off entirely the flow of a single corrupt word, but the new man is crafting good words that impart grace, because he knows (again, from the body-function lesson in verses 11–16) how needful this is for the hearers’ being built up in Christ.

Interestingly, anger is not one of those things that we are to put off entirely. If we think about it a little, this becomes obvious because, whereas Scripture tells us that God cannot lie (cf. Titus 1:2) and that all His Words are pure words (cf. Psalm 12:6, Proverbs 30:5), the same Bible actually teaches us frequently that God is angry (cf. Psalm 7:11, etc.). 

So, Ephesians 4:26 actually begins with the command to be furious (the word can mean trembling with anger or even enraged). If we are never furious, we have made little progress in being renewed in the spirit of our mind (cf. Ephesians 4:23). Righteous anger, however, is the opposite of stewing resentment or bitterness (Ephesians 4:26b) that leaves us especially prone to the devil (Ephesians 4:27, cf. 2 Corinthians 2:10–11, 1 Peter 5:6–8).

In each of these cases, we are to fight both against the devil and with the Spirit (cf. Galatians 5:16–18), rejoicing that the Spirit cannot fail to win this tug-of-war for the believer’s mind and conduct.

What are you currently working to put off/on? What do you correspondingly need to put on/off?

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

2020.09.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Samuel 18:1–16

Read 1 Samuel 18:1–16

Questions from the Scripture text: When David is done debriefing with the king, who sees him, and how does he respond (1 Samuel 18:1)? What does Saul put a stop to at that point (1 Samuel 18:2)? What do Jonathan and David do (1 Samuel 18:3a) and why (verse 3b)? What five things does Jonathan give David in 1 Samuel 18:4? Where does David go (1 Samuel 18:5)? What does he do? Whom is he over? How is he received? By whom? From what was David returning in 1 Samuel 18:6? Who had come out from where? What were they doing? Whom were they meeting? But what did they say in their singing and dancing (1 Samuel 18:7)? How did Saul feel about this (1 Samuel 18:8)? Why? What did he begin to do on that day (1 Samuel 18:9)? What happened on the next day (1 Samuel 18:10)? What Saul doing under this spirit? Who did what and why? But what was different this time? What did Saul do, and why, in 1 Samuel 18:11? How many times? Who was afraid of whom in 1 Samuel 18:12? Why? What does Saul do out of this fear (1 Samuel 18:13a)? Where does he put David instead? What does David do (1 Samuel 18:14a)? How/why (verse 14b)? Who recognizes this as the cause, and how does he respond (1 Samuel 18:15)? How do all Israel and Judah respond (1 Samuel 18:16)? 

Beloved, let us look to God for grace to guard our hearts against jealousy. We’ve known for a couple chapters now that the Lord is against Saul. What a dreadful thing—to have the Lord against you! And what does the Lord use, here, to bring down the one against whom He has set Himself? 

Jealousy: “David has their hearts, which makes him an enemy of my crown” (1 Samuel 18:8). Never mind that it was to Saul that they were coming out with joy and song and dance (1 Samuel 18:6), and that they attributed the slaying of thousands unto him (1 Samuel 18:7), and that it is implied praise to him that he has chosen David as his righthand man (1 Samuel 18:21 Samuel 18:5). 

Jealousy is irrational; that’s how it works—especially when we think beyond our circumstances to the truth that we brought nothing into this world (1 Timothy 6:7), and that everything that we are or have is the grace of God to us to begin with (1 Corinthians 4:7).

But what if the world is irrationally against us, as Saul was against David? David’s faith operates understandingly; it is the opposite of jealousy. Then let us seek to have the same strength as this passage emphasizes about David: that the Lord is with us (1 Samuel 18:121 Samuel 18:14). And let us seek to respond with the same skill as this passage emphasizes about David: that we would behave wisely (literally, “understandingly” in 1 Samuel 18:51 Samuel 18:141 Samuel 18:15). 

Jealousy is much concerned with whether circumstances or people seem to be for us. Faith says, “the Lord is for me, and knowing this frees me to live for the Lord.” If you are a Christian, this is the fundamental reality of your life: “The Lord is with me in Jesus Christ.” And if that is true, this is the fundamental response of your life: “Let me live for the Lord according to the understanding that His Word gives.”

How do you decrease focus upon people’s opinion and increase focus upon God’s favor?

Suggested songs: ARP56B “You Have Recorded All My Ways” or TPH515 “More Than Conquerors”

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

2020.09.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 26:6–12

Read Psalm 26:6–12

Questions from the Scripture text: In what does the psalmist wash his hands (Psalm 26:6a)? But what does this enable him to approach (verse 6b)? With what voice does he proclaim something there (Psalm 26:7a)? Of what does he tell in this proclaiming (verse 7b)? What has the psalmist loved in Psalm 26:8a? What else does he call it (verse 8b)? By contrast, where doesn’t he want to be gathered (Psalm 26:9a)? What else does he call them, and what do they endanger (verse 9b)? What does he expect to find in their hands (Psalm 26:10a)? And what in their right hand (verse 10b)? But what does the psalmist need to walk in instead (Psalm 26:11a)? How would this happen (verse 11b)? On what footing would this put him (Psalm 26:12a)? And what would the ultimate response to this be (verse 12b)?

Next week’s Prayer for Help comes from Psalm 26:6–12 in order that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord.

The hand-washing station stood halfway between the tabernacle tent and the altar for sacrifice. Psalm 26:6-8 rejoice over public worship and the preparation for it. God’s mercy is presented to him at the altar of sacrifice. God’s glory is presented to him in “the tabernacle of Your glory” as Psalm 26:8 literally calls it. And washing hands according to God’s Word is the first step toward each.

The Old Testament believer, then, came to worship in the same way we do: not by the merit of how well he had done but by looking to Jesus. In baptism, Jesus has held out to us His cleansing of us in innocence as at the laver. In the supper, Jesus has held out to us His sacrifice as at the altar. And Jesus Himself is our Immanuel—God who has tabernacled among us, and we beheld His glory (cf. John 1:14).

The danger of being gathered to the world, and endangering our life by them or being like them, is set forth in Psalm 26:9-10, before the Psalm returns us in Psalm 26:11-12 to the joyous gathering with God’s people unto their redeeming, merciful God.

Though it is coming to God through Christ that saves, the separation from the world and rejection of its sin always accompanies it. The way that we say this theologically is that “only faith saves, but faith is always accompanied by repentance.” Or you may have heard it put, “justified by faith alone, but justifying faith is never alone.”

In this Psalm, it’s put in terms of thanksgiving and love and desire. The holy Lord and the sinful worldlings are at such complete odds that love for and delight in the Lord cannot coexist with keeping the company of worldlings.

But aren’t we worldlings? This is why we need redemption and grace (Psalm 26:11). It is Jesus who has saved us from being worldlings by washing us, atoning for us, and uniting us to Himself through faith!

Who are your companions? What does this say about your trust in and desire for Jesus?

Suggested songs: ARP26 “Lord, Vindicate Me” or TPH405 “I Love Thy Kingdom Lord”

Monday, September 21, 2020

Life from Christ via Theology (2020.09.20 Evening Sermon in Ephesians 4:17–25)

Those who are still in Adam are spiritually brain-dead and alienated from the life of God. If we are to put off the old man and put on the new man, we need that life of God that Christ gives to us, as One Whom we learn and hear, and by Whom we are taught. Theological instruction is central to the mission of the church, because the church is Christ's mission, and this is Christ's method.

Feeding Together on Earth upon the Lord Jesus in Heaven (2020.09.20 Lord's Supper Table Lesson in 1Cor 11:22–34)

It's not a household meal; it's a church meal. Christ calls His church to wait for one another, because they are to feed together upon Him.

Graciously Upheld by the Assurance of Grace (2020.09.20 Morning Sermon in Genesis 33:1–17)

By giving Himself in Jesus, the Lord has assured believers of all of His promises. This does not preclude preparations, but it does establish the priorities of being a blessing to others, and pursuing the Lord's promises in and through us.

Jesus Changed the Weekly Sabbath to the First Day, Just As He Had Taught Us to Expect (2020.09.20 Sabbath School Lesson)

All of Scripture taught us to expect that when redemption came by the Lord of the Sabbath, He would restore His church to a weekly first-day Sabbath. And that is exactly what Christ and His Spirit did in the church, and commanded the church.

2020.09.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 33:1–17

Read Genesis 33:1–17

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Jacob see in Genesis 33:1? Into what three groups does he divide the wives and the children (Genesis 33:1-2)? Who goes first (Genesis 33:3)? What does he do? But what does Esau do in Genesis 33:4? Then whom does he see, and what does he ask (Genesis 33:5)? How does Jacob describe his children? What do the three groups do in Genesis 33:6-7)? What, then, does Esau ask about in Genesis 33:8? How does Jacob answer? What does Esau say he has in Genesis 33:9? What does he tell Jacob to do? What does Jacob tell Esau to do (Genesis 33:10)? What does he say about seeing Esau’s face? How does this relate to Genesis 32:13–32? What does Jacob tell Esau to do in Genesis 33:11? Why? What does Esau propose in Genesis 33:12? What objection does Jacob make in Genesis 33:13? What suggestion does he make in Genesis 33:14? What promise does he make/imply? What suggestion does Esau make in Genesis 33:15, and how does Jacob respond? Where does Esau go in Genesis 33:16? Where does Jacob go in Genesis 33:17? What does he do there? What does he call it?

Jacob had made many preparations, but the Lord displays His great power and faithfulness in the surprising behavior of Esau. We almost couldn’t have hoped for such a display—murderous-hearted Esau running and embracing and falling on his neck and kissing Jacob? Appearing with the same forgiveness and affection as the father in the parable of the prodigal son (cf. Luke 15:20)?

But this is what God can do, even with an unbeliever. The heart of the king is in God’s hand like water, to direct it however He will (cf. Proverbs 21:1). And so are the hearts of Esau, and anyone who threatens you. What an encouragement this response must have been to Jacob!

Indeed, we hear Jacob say twice (Genesis 33:5Genesis 33:11) that God has dealt graciously with him. Surely, the behavior of Esau confirmed to him the words of the Lord who had blessed him at the end of the previous night’s wrestling. When Esau asks about the various companies of gifts that Jacob had sent, Jacob uses the same word (“favor” in Genesis 33:8Genesis 33:10) to ask Esau to be gracious toward him as God has. 

But Jacob knows that he has the only favor that ultimately matters: God’s graciousness toward him. This is what is behind his statement in verse 10. If it were mere flattery toward Esau, it would be an unthinkable blasphemy after the events of the previous night. Rather, Jacob seeing Esau being favorable toward him is the evidence that God actually has smiled His face upon Jacob this day, just as He had blessed him the previous night.

So, whereas God causes Esau to consider what he has as enough (Genesis 33:9), so that he will be favorable toward Jacob, the Lord does even better for Jacob, who knows that he has all (Genesis 33:11, literally translated, where NKJV says “enough”). Indeed, he has the favor of God Himself, and this is better than either the birthright or the blessing that he had previously stolen from his brother. So, we actually hear him saying, “please, take my blessing (verse 11). What an astonishing turnaround!

For Jacob’s part, the blessing includes peace with Esau, but he needs nothing from Esau. What he needs is to remain in the promised land, and so he reasons with Esau to go on ahead, even though what Jacob ultimately intends to do is to stay in Canaan, where God has called him (cf. Genesis 31:3, Genesis 32:9).

Every believer can now have the same confidence that Jacob did in this passage. Since God has truly committed Himself to our blessing in Christ, we can be sure that we have all things (cf. Romans 8:32). He is able either to give us the favor that we could least hope to obtain from others, or to bless us even through their greatest hostility. But, we know that He works all things for our good. And it is this blessing that enables us to conduct ourselves with humility and generosity even to those who would otherwise have been our greatest enemies!

With whom do you need God to give you favor? In what situation do you most need to remember that God is giving you all things? How do you know that God is doing so?

Suggested songs: ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”