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, December 26, 2020

2020.12.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 5:15–17

Read Ephesians 5:15–17

Questions from the Scripture text: How does the apostle say to walk in Ephesians 5:15? Not as what? But as what? What are they to be doing (Ephesians 5:16)? Why? What does he say not to be (Ephesians 5:17)? What does he tell them to understand?

Sometimes someone has a distinctive walk. That’s what’s behind the biblical use of this word, ‘walk’, for one’s life before the Lord. Throughout the Old Testament, then in Jesus’s description of the narrow v.s. the broad way, and then finally here (Ephesians 4:1Ephesians 4:17Ephesians 5:1Ephesians 5:8Ephesians 5:15).

Here, the Christian’s distinctive gait, distinctive walk, is that of wisdom. “Circumspectly” means “looking around carefully.” It has become popular to talk about “living intentionally.” No one should be more intentional than a Christian, who should be putting in the effort to discover what pleases God (Ephesians 5:17, cf. Ephesians 5:10) and always evaluating our direction and progress as we look around (Ephesians 5:15). 

This effort is a costly investment. These are not days in which people prize wisdom, in which people live for the Lord and for eternity. “Redeeming” (Ephesians 5:16) describes purchase. The Bible uses the word to talk about Jesus purchasing us from the curse of the law. If you don’t want to lose the time that you have for pleasing the Lord, you are going to need to be purchasing that time by finding out what pleases the Lord and walking circumspectly.

Just as in Ephesians 5:10, there is emphasis here upon our minds. In verse 10, we were told to scrutinize and seek out whatever pleases God. Here in Ephesians 5:17, the command is to perceive or have insight.

Part of understanding God’s will is understanding that He wants our minds, our understandings. Do not be conformed to the pattern of this (foolish, evil, unfitting, unfruitful) world, but be transformed. How? By the renewing of your minds! Romans 12:2

What should your walk look like? It should look like purchasing time by finding out from the Bible what are things that please God, and then being aware of how your walking compares to what the Bible says, so that you can purchase that time by doing it.

How do you use work time? Down time? Worship/Lord’s-Day time? What effort do you put into evaluating those choices? By what standard do you evaluate them?

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

Friday, December 25, 2020

2020.12.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 5:8–14

Read Ephesians 5:8-14 

Questions from the Scripture text: What were the Ephesians before (Ephesians 5:8)? What are they now? How should they walk? In what three things is the fruit of the Spirit (Ephesians 5:9)? What are they to find out (Ephesians 5:10)? With what are they not to have fellowship (Ephesians 5:11a)? What should their conduct do instead (verse 11b)? What is shameful even to speak of (Ephesians 5:12)? What does the light do to those things (Ephesians 5:13)? What two things are we commanded to do by the light of Christ in Ephesians 5:14? 

The apostle has been teaching us that Christ’s salvation is a life-transforming salvation. Believers are a new creation (Ephesians 2:10), with a new calling (Ephesians 4:1), and a new character (Ephesians 5:1). 

The contrast between the old and the new is put quite starkly in Ephesians 5:8—not just that we were once in darkness, but that we ourselves were darkness. Not just that we have come into the light, but that we ourselves are now light. 

When he tells us to walk as children of light, He is picking up on the fact that the God of Whom we are beloved children (Ephesians 5:1) is the God Who is light, and in Whom there is no darkness at all (cf. 1 John 1:5). “Now that you are light,” says the apostle, “keep making step by step in your forward progress as lightlings.”

So, what does a lightling look like as it walks? It’s fruitful. The Spirit of God, the Spirit Who is producing light in us, bears fruit in us: all goodness, righteousness, and truth. The fruit of consistency with God’s character, God’s standards, and God’s Word. The kinds of things that we should determinedly discover, constantly finding out whatever pleases the Lord (Ephesians 5:10).

Lightlings do works (Ephesians 2:10) that are fruit of the Spirit’s light in them. But those who are still darkness do works that have none of this fruit in them at all—unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). Everything that we do is either a fruit of light, or else it is an unfruitful work of darkness. So, when lightlings and darklings come across one another, the fruitlessness of the darkness is exposed by the fruitfulness of the light. 

This is an uncomfortable thing for those who are darkness. It’s hard to be someone in whom the miracle of new creation has not taken place, when everyone around you is popping out light-fruit. The temptation for those who are lightlings is to “tone it down” to make it easier for the darkness to be around them. 

But to tone it down is to stifle the fruit, to hide the light, and even to have some share in the darkness continuing to be unfruitful. Are we really willing to have a share in the kind of thing that it is even shameful to speak about (Ephesians 5:12)? 

Or, would you rather have a share in that exposing of darkness that Jesus uses to actually turn darkness into light (Ephesians 5:13)? 

Christ is that awakening, resurrecting, shining light described in Isaiah 51:17, Isaiah 52:1, Isaiah 60:1–3. And when He saves us, He turns us into lightlings that expose others as darkness Whom He may save and transform into light. 

So, don’t shrink back from bearing that light-fruit and the discomfort that can come to the darkness when it is exposed. Instead, since He has transformed you into light, SHINE!

Around whom are you embarrassed to shine by walking in goodness and righteousness and truth? Whom should you seek to please when around those people? How is this actually good for those people?

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

Thursday, December 24, 2020

2020.12.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 5:3–7

Read Ephesians 5:3–7

Questions from the Scripture text: What three kinds of sin does Ephesians 5:3 mention? What should they not even do with such sins? Why? What other three things are not fitting (Ephesians 5:4)? What is, then, fitting? Who knows the truth in Ephesians 5:5? What four types of people does verse 5 mention? What do none of these types have none of? What does he command them not to let happen in Ephesians 5:6? What will people speak in order to defend the idea that Christians can be these types of people? Why shouldn’t the Ephesians listen to these empty words, according to the second half of verse 6? What should the Ephesian believers do with such people (Ephesians 5:7)? 

Perhaps you have heard (or even spoken) such speech among believers as might hint at the enjoyability of sin, or the kind of talking that might cause one’s ears to perk up in curiosity about sin. Love doesn’t do that, says Ephesians 5:3. Rather, love speaks in a way that is fitting for saints.

Yes, our conversations should be different enough from unbelievers’ conversations that upon hearing us they would say (whether out of irritation, admiration, or otherwise), “they’re so holy.” That’s what it means to not even let those things in Ephesians 5:3-4 be named. That’s not “fitting for saints.”

When was the last time you heard a conversation in which each was encouraging the other to speak thankfully toward God? Well, that’s exactly what saintly speech sounds like according to the end of Ephesians 5:4.

Why? Because that’s what heaven’s speech sounds like! You can see some samples in Revelation chapters 4–5. Those are the people (from every tribe, tongue, and nation) with whom believers are to be “partakers” (Ephesians 5:7) in the “inheritance of the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:5). 

Still, the pull of the flesh is strong, and it makes us vulnerable to being “deceived with empty words” (Ephesians 5:6). When preachers realize that churchgoers still love their sin—or that the world hates to be told about its sin—they are tempted to speak empty words that soften the blow for “fornicators, unclean persons, or the covetous.” 

Don’t get sucked into such talk! Those are empty words that deceive even believers. Rather, think about the world with whom you are partakers: not the fleshly world of foolishness and filthiness, but the heavenly world of wisdom and delighting in God and His holiness!

Whenever we gather with one another in the church, our conversations should be like a visit to that heavenly world—mutual reinforcement in holiness, confidently hoping in our sure inheritance, and stirring one another up to give thanks to God in a virtuous cycle of building one another up in Him!

What are some things that you are thankful for? With whom do you plan to give that thanksgiving today? This Lord’s Day? What are some foolish and unhelpful conversations that you sometimes slide into at home or at church? How will you go about reversing them or avoiding them? Whom do you know who talks in a way that softens the blow for the wicked? Avoid them!

Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Hopewell Liturgy Reform, pt 2 — Q&A (2020.12.20 Sabbath School)

Q and A session. For clarity, again, at its last meeting the Session was insistent to the instructor to make sure to communicate that this was NOT for feedback or input, since that is not how public worship decisions are made. Rather, it was an opportunity for the congregation to acclimate to what is changing and to ask questions.

Christ Strengthens Us by Arming Us Together as One in Public Worship (2020.12.20 Evening Sermon in Ephesians 6:13–16)

What the apostle describes here as "taking up the armor of God" is the use of that corporate worship that He has been describing throughout the epistle. This does not surprise us, because throughout the letter, the apostle has been teaching us that this is how Christ imparts His own strength to us.

Affliction Useful for Forgetfulness, Fruitfulness, and Faith (2020.12.20 Morning Sermon in Genesis 41:46–42:9)

When God brings us through affliction to fulfillment, He is increasing our holy forgetfulness, hearty fruitfulness, and hope-full faith.

2020.12.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Ephesians 4:31–5:2

Read Ephesians 4:31–5:2

Questions from the Scripture text: What six things does Ephesians 4:31 command us to put away from us? How are we to be toward one another (Ephesians 4:32)? Out of what kind of heart? What will we need to do to one another if this is to be the case? Who has done it to us first and how? So, when we forgive one another, Whom are we imitating (Ephesians 5:1)? What are we enjoying and showing about ourselves as we imitate Him? In what are we to walk (Ephesians 5:2)? Whom are we imitating in that? What did Christ do in that love? How did His giving Himself for us function toward God? 

The walking that is worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1) is a walking in love toward God and men (Ephesians 5:2). So, the Spirit of adoption from the Father, Who is the Spirit of the Son, occupies our hearts (Ephesians 4:30), and we are not to grieve Him by allowing bitterness/wrath/anger to be roommates with Him in our hearts, or to overflow through our mouths (cf. Luke 6:45) in quarreling or gossiping (Ephesians 4:31b), all of which evidence hatred and ill will (Ephesians 4:31c). 

He is in us as a seal unto the day of redemption, and He is a seal “of authenticity,” because He is making us authentically like our Father and the only-begotten Son. By the Spirit, we put to death the deeds of the body (who we were in Adam, cf. Romans 8:13). Instead, He leads us to live like children of God (cf. Romans 8:14)—showing that we are truly God’s children (cf. Romans 8:15–16).

Here we have another “putting off the old man” (cf. Ephesians 4:22) and “putting on the new man which was created according to God” (cf. Ephesians 4:24). That last part—the “according to God”—is very clear in these four verses. In Ephesians 4:32, the forgiving is “even as God in Christ” has done. In Ephesians 5:1, the apostles says, “be imitators of God.” In Ephesians 5:2, walking in love is “as Christ also has loved.” 

If we are dear children of God, we are to bear the family resemblance to Father. And we know what this looks like, especially by observing the Son in His own humanity. What would Jesus do? He loved God (as “an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma”) and men (as He “has loved us and given Himself for us”), Ephesians 5:2.

Specifically, God has forgiven us; we are to forgive others. And it is an especially challenging definition of forgiveness: being kind and tenderhearted toward that “one another” who have sinned against us. Praise God that it is His almighty Spirit Who is doing the work in us, and that He began this work by creating us anew in Christ Jesus!

Who has sinned against you in the church? How does this make him or her an especially good candidate with whom to obey 4:32? How can you do this?

Suggested songs: ARP197 “Christian Unity” or TPH400 “Gracious Spirit, Dwell with Me”

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

2020.12.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Corinthians 2:1–5

Read 1 Corinthians 2:1–5

Questions from the Scripture text: How did Paul not come to them (1 Corinthians 2:1)? What did he come declaring instead? What was he determined not know (1 Corinthians 2:2)? What, alone, was he determined to know? What about Christ did he emphasize? How did Paul present himself before them in 1 Corinthians 2:3? What did his preaching appear to be missing, to some (1 Corinthians 2:4)? But with what did that preaching come? What did this keep them from putting their faith in (1 Corinthians 2:5a)? What did it ensure that they would put their faith in (verse 5b)? 

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, and Confession of Sin come from 1 Corinthians 2:1–5 in order that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name.

In this passage, we are challenged about what we put our faith in, and what we lead others to put our faith in. Praise God for faithful churches, and praise God for faithful ministers. But, our passage leaves us with the clear message that if people come away from us thinking, “what a great church!” or “what a great minister!” then we have not truly achieved our aim. Rather, we should desire that they come away thinking, “What a great God!” and “What a great Savior!” and “What a great salvation!”

Paul is still encouraging them to embrace their ordinariness—to embrace their unimpressiveness. Not only does this ensure that all the glory goes to God (as we learned in last week’s passage), but it also redirects people’s faith.

If the Lord takes us from people, would they say, “Oh no! What shall we do?” Or, have we been determined to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ and Him crucified, so that they can receive a message similar to Joshua chapter 1: “Moses, My servant, is dead. Now, be strong and courageous for [God] is with you.”

How we present ourselves to those to whom we minister is, in the economy of God’s providence, a significant factor in determining upon what they come to depend. Will they end up with faith in the wisdom (or, perhaps thoughtfulness or goodness or togetherness, or ?) of men? Or will they end up with faith in the power of God?

Paul didn’t preach cleverly assembled sermons full of catchy turns of phrase. He preached plain doctrine about how God became man to save, and did so not by being impressive but rather by being executed.

In fact, he preached such sermons that one would say, “Come on Paul… it would take a miracle from God for that sermon to bring someone to faith!”

And that is exactly the point, isn’t it? Paul came and preached plainly about Jesus so that when the people believed, all would know for sure, “This can be a demonstration only of the Spirit and power of God!”

Isn’t this what we want most, when we witness, or when we have others preach and teach to us: not that there would be a great presentation that gives us a memorable encounter with men, but instead that there would be a plain gospel presentation, that Christ would be clearly seen, and that there would be a glorious encounter with God.

Let us so act and so speak as to have this as our great aim!

How can you be presenting Jesus more plainly and yourself less impressively to others?

Suggested songs: ARP189 “Universal Praise” or TPH375 “All Hail the Power of Jesus’s Name”

Monday, December 21, 2020

2020.12.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Genesis 41:46–42:9

Read Genesis 41:46–42:9

Questions from the Scripture text: How old is Joseph now, and how long has he been in Egypt (Genesis 41:46, cf. Genesis 37:2)? How many years pass in Genesis 41:47-53? What does the land do during this time (Genesis 41:47)? What does Joseph do, where, during this time (Genesis 41:48)? How much does he gather (Genesis 41:49)? What/who else is fruitful at this time (Genesis 41:50)? What does Joseph call the firstborn (Genesis 41:51)? Why? What does he call the second (Genesis 41:52)? Why? What begin to come in Genesis 41:54? Where was there famine? Where was there bread? What happened to all the land of Egypt in Genesis 41:55? To whom did they cry out? What did he tell them to do? Where, again, does Genesis 41:56 repeat that the famine was? What did Joseph open? To whom did he sell? How bad was the famine? Who came to Joseph in Genesis 41:57? Where else was the famine this bad? What did Jacob “see” in Genesis 42:1? What were his sons “seeing”? What does he tell them to do in Genesis 42:2? For what purpose? Who go to Egypt to do what in Genesis 42:3? Who doesn’t go (Genesis 42:4)? Why not? With whom do the sons of Israel go (Genesis 42:5)? Who was personally overseeing the selling in Genesis 42:6? Who come? What do they do before him? In what manner (cf. end of Genesis 37:10)? What does Joseph do when he recognizes them (Genesis 42:7)? What does Genesis 42:8 tell us about this recognition? What does Joseph remember (Genesis 42:9)? How does he speak to them, and what does he say? What do they call Joseph in Genesis 42:10? What do they call themselves? What do they claim shows they are not spies in Genesis 42:11? What accusation does Joseph repeat (Genesis 42:12)? What extra data do they add in Genesis 42:13 about the claim they had made in Genesis 42:11? What accusation does Joseph repeat in Genesis 42:14? How does the demand of Genesis 42:15 relate to the claims they have made? How many does he say may go, and how many must stay, to prove it? For how long does he put them where, under this stated arrangement (Genesis 42:17)?

God has made Joseph fruitful! His wisdom pays off for Egypt, and ultimately for Canaan. When Jacob asks his sons (Genesis 42:1), “Why do you look at one another,” part of the answer is that they had sold into slavery the one whose wisdom would have had them preparing for this famine for the prior seven years!

Back in Egypt, although the grain storage was a “big government” program, Joseph emphasized local administration (Genesis 41:48). Genesis 41:54 may imply a little lag before Genesis 41:55, possibly due to each city’s residents storing their own, in addition to the local/city-wide effort. Regardless, Pharaoh has bread (verse 55) because Pharaoh has Joseph (Genesis 41:56), whom Canaan also needs (Genesis 41:57).

Of course, Joseph was fruitful in more than one way. Sure, he had an uncountable ocean of grain (Genesis 41:49Genesis 41:47-48). But he also had a very countable, but much more significant, pair of boys (Genesis 41:50-52). In fact, he names boy #2 “double fruitful,” acknowledging what the Lord has done. Yes, Joseph had been afflicted in Egypt, but affliction was a tree that had borne double fruit.

In addition to making Joseph fruitful, the Lord had made Joseph forgetful—not just of his toil in Egypt, but especially of his father’s house (Genesis 41:51). Not so much a structure or collection of tents, but a clan that had tried to murder him. In his new position, Joseph could probably have made a trip up to Canaan to see his family, but he goes instead throughout all the land of Egypt (Genesis 41:46). He was on a mission quite literally from God, and commissioned by Pharaoh. A mission that would save that household, whom he hadn’t seen in 13 years. The knowledge of God’s grace enables Joseph to a holy forgetfulness in which he set aside what came before in order to serve God fully in his present circumstances.

By the time we get to Genesis 42:3-9, those 13 years have become 20. It is at this point that God adds fulfilled faith to the fruitfulness and forgetfulness that He has given Joseph. The brothers bowing with their faces to the earth in Genesis 42:6 fulfill the prophetical dream of Genesis 37:7. Joseph recognizes (Genesis 37:7Genesis 37:8) and remembers (Genesis 37:9). God has displayed His faithfulness and strengthened His servant’s faith.

How necessary for us is this grace of God that makes affliction into the soil where our fruit grows, the dark velvet which we forget for the sparkling jewels of His blessing set against them, the season of clinging by faith until that faith becomes sight! It is worth observing that Genesis 37:5 notes for us that Jacob has now joined both father Isaac and grandfather Abraham in experiencing famine in the land of promise. Let all of God’s saints anticipate this affliction, resting upon the God Whose grace will use it to give us fruitfulness, holy forgetfulness, and fulfilled faith.

Through what affliction has God brought you? What fruit/forgetfulness/fulfilled faith did it bring?

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH257 “Children of the Heavenly Father”