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, June 12, 2021

God's Gracious Warnings (2021.06.12 Pastoral Letter and Hopewell Herald)

Hopewell Herald – June 12, 2021

Dear Congregation,

Thank you for your prayers for elder Rentschler and me while we were at General Synod this week. I trust in the Lord to give you an informal report at open mic time tomorrow afternoon and to write up something a little more thorough by next week’s Herald.

Last week, in Joel 2:1–11, we were quite sternly and frighteningly warned against assuming that the Day of the Lord is going to be a good day for us just because we’re part of His church or know some good doctrine.

Such warnings are sometimes unpopular in preaching, and sometimes I even hear people say that that’s “Old Testament preaching” as if the New Testament is different or that strong warnings are somehow incompatible with the gospel.

But complaints like these commit serious errors in themselves. For, the Old Testament and New Testament are from the same God, by the same Spirit, and rich with the same gospel of the Son. If you miss the gospel in the Old Testament, or the warnings in the New, then you’re not reading either one with good understanding.

In tomorrow’s Luke reading, Jesus tells a parable in which the Master wants his servants to be about His business (19:13). He then characterizes as those who hate (!) Him, anyone who does not want to be ruled by Him (v14). Then at the end of the passages, He calls such people “those enemies of mine” and commands for them to be slaughtered (!) in front of Him (v27).

It just will not do to pretend that Jesus is some undemanding, tame teddy-bear of a God-Man.

Luke, Joel, and the entire Bible are clear: if your life isn’t being ruled by Christ, if you are not living in order to be about His business, then Jesus is your enemy, and the Day of the Lord is a day of terror for you. All of the churchianity and grace-speak in the world will do you no good.

But He is a marvelous Redeemer, who has come to seek and to save the lost (cf. Luke 19:10)—which is exactly what He is doing when He alarms you at your sin and guilt, so that His Spirit may also allure you by Him and His grace.

This alluring is what we are looking forward to in Joel 2:12–17 tomorrow!

Looking forward to sitting with you under such a gracious word as we worship our gracious and glorious God,

Pastor

2021.06.05 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joel 2:12–17

Read Joel 2:12–17

Questions from the Scripture text: Who is speaking in Joel 2:12? What does He say to do? With how much of what? And with what three activities? What does He tell them to tear/rend (Joel 2:13)? And to what to return? For what four characteristics of the Lord, and what one action? What is still a possibility (Joel 2:14)? What form would such a blessing take? What does He tell them to blow (Joel 2:15)? Where? What to consecrate? What to call? Whom to gather (Joel 2:16)? Whom to sanctify? Whom to assemble? Whom else to gather? And which two specific people from which locations? Whom does Joel 2:17 address? What are they to do where? Who gives them what to pray? Whom are they to pray that they would be spared? Whom not to be given to reproach? What would this reproach look like? And then what would be said among whom? 

To what to repent, Joel 2:12a–b, Joel 2:13b. Often, we focus upon from what we are to repent. But the focus here is almost entirely upon to Whom we are to repent. The main thing, after all, isn’t leaving the sin—though that is absolutely necessary. The main thing is coming to the Lord!

In what manner to repent, Joel 2:12b–Joel 2:13a. With all your heart. With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning. Rending your heart and not your garments. There are half-hearted things that look like repentance but aren’t. There’s repentance that has the appearance of intensity and the indicated actions, but isn’t genuine. But the Lord commands repentance that is intense complete (Joel 2:12b), intense (verse 12c), and genuinely from the soul.

Why to repent, Joel 2:13c–e. Because of how wonderful this God is to Whom we are turning! Look at His graciousness! Look at how merciful/compassionate He is! Look at how patient and slow to anger! Look at His exceeding covenant love! Look at His forgiveness! Truly, this is a God worth turning to, and He is worthy of the glory that we will magnify by turning to Him. 

On what basis to repent, Joel 2:14. We repent on the basis of God’s freedom to bless (verse 14a–b). Repentance does not manipulate Him or force His hand (indeed, He is the One Who gives it, cf. Acts 11:18). Rather, it lays hold of His freedom in which He delights to display the character described in Joel 2:13 (cf. Romans 9:23–24). We know that He loves to forgive, so we play into His free pleasure when we come to Him in repentance.

With whom to repent, Joel 2:15-16. The entire holy assembly. The people. The congregation. The elders. The children. The nursing babes (there’s no one to young/unable). The bridegroom and bride (there’s no one too busy or with a higher-priority activity). Though each must repent from the core of who he is, with all that he is, if you haven’t become part of His holy assembly you have not biblically repented. The truly repentant are not just those who have turned from sin, but especially those who have been gathered unto the Lord with His people.

Through whom to repent, Joel 2:17. Repentance is led by priests, mediators who go between (verse 17a–b). God has given them the office, and God has given them the words. 

Ultimately, God has given us Jesus as our Priest through Whom we come to Him. And He has given us an entire Bible of Jesus’s words with which to do so (cf. 1 Peter 1:11). Repentance is through God Himself and for God Himself. For His people. For His heritage. For His honor among the nations and the peoples.

O dear reader, turn to the Lord, entirely and sincerely, for His great graciousness is glorified by receiving You and blessing You, together with all that holy assembly, whom He has set apart for His own glory!

Which aspect of biblical repenting in this passage offers you the most room for growth?

Suggested songs: ARP99A “Let the Nations Tremble” or TPH389 “Great God, What Do I See and Hear!”


Friday, June 11, 2021

2021.06.11 Hopewell @Home ▫ Philippians 3:12–14

Read Philippians 3:12–14

Questions from the Scripture text: What hasn’t the apostle already done (Philippians 3:12)? What hasn’t already been done to him? So what does he do? In order to lay hold of what? What doesn’t he count himself to have done (Philippians 3:13)? Upon how many things does he focus? What does he forget? In order to reach for what? Toward what does he press (Philippians 3:14)? What is the prize? 

What do we do if only Christ will satisfy us? We keep running until we have completed making Him our own. And we are encouraged to do so, because He has completed making us His own. He completed purchasing us by His blood on the cross, and the moment He unites us to Himself by bringing us to faith, we are as justified as we will ever be (end of Philippians 3:12).

This is the great difference between a believer and a legalist. Those against whom Paul had warned them in Philippians 3:2 were satisfied with themselves. But the apostle is not satisfied with Himself (Philippians 3:12a, Philippians 3:13a), and in verse 13 he adds the word “brethren” to this statement. Here is no self-satisfied legalist telling others how they can be as satisfying as he is. 

No, for the believer, the best is out in front of us. The past was God’s good means of getting us where we are, but neither the past nor the present are to be compared to where we shall be. What would we think of a man who ran a really good half race, and then stopped to admire how well he had done? No, his goal is at the end of the race, and until he gets there that’s where his eyes, his thoughts, his efforts are focused.

Already, he has found Christ satisfying, and so long as he can be more satisfied with Christ, he will press forward to that. So, he urges his beloved brethren to come along with him, to be satisfied not with him nor with themselves, but only with Christ!

Whom do you know that finds Christ satisfying and wants to find Him more satisfying? Whom do you know that is pretty satisfied with himself and thinks everyone else should be like him? Into which one of these categories do you think those who know you would place you?

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH508 “Jesus, Priceless Treasure” 

Thursday, June 10, 2021

2021.06.10 Hopewell @Home ▫ Luke 19:11–27

Read Luke 19:11–27

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Jesus speak (Luke 19:11)? For what two reasons? Who is the parable about (Luke 19:12)? Where is going to go to do what? Whom does he call (Luke 19:13)? What does he give to them? What does he command them to do with it? How did they respond and why (Luke 19:14)? What did he do when he returned (Luke 19:15)? How did the first servant respond (Luke 19:16)? What did the master entrust to him in response (Luke 19:17)? How did the second respond (Luke 19:18)? What did the master entrust to him (Luke 19:19)? What did another say he had done (Luke 19:20)? Why (Luke 19:21)? About which part of this answer does the master confront him in Luke 19:22? If his accusations were true, what should he have done (Luke 19:23)? What does the master say to do (Luke 19:24)? How do the bystanders respond (Luke 19:25)? What explanation does the master give in Luke 19:26? What does he say to do to the ones who had given the answer in Luke 19:14?  

Disciples in Luke 19:11 (and today) want the kingdom to hurry up right away, but Jesus corrects this.

The Master is going to be gone for a significant time. But He is not idle; He is obtaining a kingdom (Luke 19:12). And He commands us to be busy too (Luke 19:13). In this literary description, Jesus styles those who are not diligent in His business as those who “hate” him and say “we will not have this man to reign over us” (Luke 19:14).

So a big part of this text is correcting the desire to have the kingdom right away, or to wait for it while being about your own pleasure.

Speaking of pleasure, Jesus is not at all that severe Master that the wicked servant imagines in Luke 19:20. He is pleased with His servant in Luke 19:17. We all know that the servant has only done what was required (cf. Luke 17:10), but this just makes the graciousness and goodness and generosity of our Lord shine in His, “Well done” (cf. Matthew 25:21). In fact, it is even more abrupt in the original than in the English. 

Yet, Christ’s pleasure isn’t His only stunning response in the parable-picture that He draws here. Not only does the lazy servant have his stewardship taken away (Luke 19:25-26), but all who are not about the Lord’s business will be slaughtered before Him (Luke 19:27).

The kingdom will not appear immediately, but we are to be busy serving the King until it does. Those Who do so because they are His will be amazed at the pleasure of His response. Those Who don’t serve Him will be amazed at the intensity of His wrath. Let us be busy for Him, and let us be amazed at Him.

How are you busy serving the Lord? What response does His pleasure in service draw out of you? What response does His fury at laziness/rebellion draw out of you?

Suggested Songs: ARP95B “Today, If You Will Hear His Voice” or TPH389 “Great God, What Do I See and Hear”

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

2021.06.09 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Samuel 14:23–33

Read 2 Samuel 14:23–33

Questions from the Scripture text: Where did Joab go (2 Samuel 14:23)? To do what? To where did he bring him? What did the king say he could do (2 Samuel 14:24)? What did he say Absalom couldn’t do? What does 2 Samuel 14:25 emphasize about Absalom? What did he do once a year (2 Samuel 14:26)? What children did he have, and which one’s name does 2 Samuel 14:27 give us? How long did Absalom dwell in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 14:28)? How long has it now been since he has seen the king’s face (verse 28, cf. 2 Samuel 13:38)? Whom did Absalom try to get to present him at court (2 Samuel 14:29)? How many times? How does he incentivize Joab to pay attention (2 Samuel 14:30)? What effect does this new strategy have (2 Samuel 14:31)? What complaint does Absalom make in 2 Samuel 14:32? What challenge does he make to Joab, and by transitive implication to the king? What does Joab do (2 Samuel 14:33)? What does the king do? What does Absalom do, when he arrives? How does the king respond?

Absalom’s already in control. The punishment that God promised in 2 Samuel 12:10–12 is near its climax. 

Oh, he’s complaining in 2 Samuel 14:32 (cf. 2 Samuel 14:24) that he’s as much an exile in Jerusalem has he had been in Geshur. But he’s got the kingly looks that the people can’t stop talking about (2 Samuel 14:25), the annual hair-cutting ceremony (complete with weigh-in, 2 Samuel 14:26), and the royal family (including the gorgeous daughter named after her gorgeous aunt, 2 Samuel 14:27, cf. 2 Samuel 13:1).

Joab may be running David (cf. 2 Samuel 14:1-22), but Absalom knows how to run even Joab (it just takes a little fire in his standing barley to properly incentivize him, 2 Samuel 14:29-31). And he knows that the king hasn’t shown the stomach to execute him, so he doubles down on this by way of ultimatum (end of 2 Samuel 14:32) and just the right amount of bowing (2 Samuel 14:33b) to reclaim his standing in the kingdom (verse 33c).

It’ll get worse in chapter 15, but he’s already in control, and he’s got all the kingly qualities except the ones that matter the most. He’s got both the charisma and the ruthlessness to win anything from reality shows to presidential elections, but he entirely lacks the character to be chosen to be an elder among God’s people (cf. 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1)—let alone to be anointed their king.

Thankfully, the beauty and power of King Jesus in His resurrected and enthroned glory is matched by an absolute perfect wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. We now have the King that David had aspired to be but couldn’t, and Absalom’s superior in form and opposite in substance. And He has purchased kingdom citizenship for so many of us Davids and Absaloms at the cost of His own blood. Hallelujah!

Which do you work on more: appearances or character? Getting your way or character? And for that matter, how can character—real, soul character—be worked on in the first place?

Suggested songs: ARP72A “God, Give Your Judgments to the King” or TPH281 “Rejoice, the Lord is King”

 

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

2021.06.08 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 17:24–31

Read Acts 17:24–31

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the apostle introduce God as having done (Acts 17:24)? What two things has He made? Of what does this make Him Lord? In what does He not dwell? By what is He not worshiped (Acts 17:25)? What doesn’t He need? To whom does He give what? What has He made from what in Acts 17:26? What two things has He determined for them? What (Whom) should they seek (Acts 17:27)? In what hope? What makes it surprising that they do not seek or find Him? In what way is He not far from us (Acts 17:28)? Of what Greek poetry phrase does the inspired apostle approve? Who get their nature from Whom (Acts 17:29)? What does this mean God’s nature cannot be like? What cannot devise it? Why had God not dealt judicially against national idolatries (Acts 17:30)? Would this forbearance continue? Why not (Acts 17:31)? What token has God given that nations are now corporately judged specifically for idolatry?

Next week’s Call to Worship, Prayer for Help, Song of Adoration, and Prayer of Confession all come from Acts 17:24–31, so that we will see that we are singing God’s thoughts after Him with Cast Down, O God, the Idols

There’s nothing we can offer God that He needs. He “made the world and everything in it” (Acts 17:24a). He is “Lord of heaven and earth” (verse 24b). Our handmade temples cannot benefit Him (verse 24c). Our hands themselves cannot benefit Him (Acts 17:25a). He is nothing like even the most valuable or strongest things in creation (Acts 17:29b, “gold or silver or stone”). He is nothing like anything at all that  our minds can come up with (verse 29c).

Rather, we have come from His mind (Acts 17:26a) to refract His image as His offspring (Acts 17:28b–Acts 17:29a), for we are the only things that He made as a display of Himself (verse 29). 

So, are you thinking of Him as He describes Himself in Scripture? And worshiping Him alone? And only doing so in the way that He has appointed in Scripture—through Christ alone, which must only be through the worship that the resurrected Christ leads from heaven? And do you think of yourself and your purpose as Scripture says: existing to glorify God as one made in His image, and to enjoy Him in that worship through Christ?

There was a time when most nations lacked the Scriptures and lived in ignorance of these things (Acts 17:30a). This was in the wisdom and providence of God (Acts 17:26b). But now He is sending His gospel into all the world, with the command to repent and to become His renewed image-bearers and worshipers in Christ (Acts 17:30b). 

Nations whose idolatry was not punished in the way that Israel’s idolatry was must no longer think God will overlook it now that Christ has come (v30). He made all these nations from one blood (Acts 17:26a) for the same glorious purpose (Acts 17:27). 

By raising Christ from the dead (Acts 17:31b), God declared Him to be that Son of God with power (cf. Romans 1:4), to Whom belong all the kingdoms of this world and their glory (cf. Psalm 2). Now, God judges all nations in history for their idolatrous theology and idolatrous worship (Acts 17:30b) as a means by which He announces to each of us that we will stand for judgment before this resurrected King (Acts 17:31a).

What a dreadful thought this is for our own nation! And unimaginably and everlastingly dreadful for every person who hasn’t repented from defining God, worship, and self to lay hold of Jesus Christ and His Word for the definitions of these things. Repent, and believe upon Jesus Christ!

Why are you? How has that been showing up (or not) in what you do and how you do it? To you, what defines good worship? How has your nation, and/or its churches, been answering this question? On this basis, what do you expect would happen to your nation and/or its churches?

Suggested songs: ARP2 “Why Do Gentile Nations Rage” or TPH467 “Cast Down, O God, the Idols”

 

Monday, June 7, 2021

2021.06.07 Hopewell @Home ▫ Joel 2:1–11

Read Joel 2:1–11

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Joel 2:1 tell them to blow and sound, where? Who else should do what? Why? What five characteristics describe this day (Joel 2:2)? What kind of people come on this day? What goes before them (Joel 2:3)? What change does it make as they go? What escapes? What do they look like (Joel 2:4a, Joel 2:5d)? How fast are they (Joel 2:4b)? What do they sound like (Joel 2:5a, c)? How high do they jump (verse 5b)? What is happening to the people in front of them (Joel 2:6)? What is the movement of this army like (Joel 2:7-9)? With what effect on creation (Joel 2:10)? Whose army is it (Joel 2:11)? What is He doing in front of them? What is strength doing? What does verse 11d call the day? And what question does verse 11e ask? With what expected response?

The Lord sounds the alarm (Joel 2:1), but it turns out that the invading army is led by the Lord Himself (Joel 2:11). This is surprising, but it is intended to prevent a worse surprise: those who are expecting the day of Yahweh to be a day of joy, but are headed for it as a day of devastation.

Elsewhere in the prophets, there are preachers who say “peace, peace” where there is no peace (cf. Jeremiah 6:14, Jeremiah 8:11; Ezekiel 13:10). And there are those who assume that they may continue tolerating all sorts of sin or false worship, because after all they live in Jerusalem and attend worship at the temple (cf. Jeremiah 7:8; Micah 3:11). 

When we are church members who feel little of God’s holiness or our sin’s wickedness, we are in a similar danger, and there are plenty of preachers who will gladly keep us comfortable. Not so our Lord. He gives His people a little foretaste of His day in this locust plague.

Look at how these little insects and their day are described! The sights (darkness, gloominess, clouds, thick darkness; from Eden-like to scorched earth; fearless invaders and petrified victims)! The sounds (noise like chariots, noise like raging fire)! The sensation (earthquakes and heaven-quakes)! And the insects themselves are presented as a most strong, speedy, skilled, disciplined, selfless, organized, persistent army.

Why would the Lord invade His own city with such an army in history? Because He is coming with a frightfully more fearsome army at the end of history. Each of these locusts in the ten thousands of ten thousands will be replaced by a mighty angel. If Joel 2 is what it is like when the army is hundreds of millions of locusts, what will it be like, when the army is hundreds of millions of mighty angels?! And yet, there is One at the head of that army (cf. Revelation 19:19) Who is by Himself more mighty and more deadly than all of the rest of the army together (cf. Revelation 19:11–14, Revelation 19:21).

So in Joel, and for us as we read and hear it by the Spirit’s help, the Lord raises the alarm ahead of time, calling us to repentance. He disabuses us of any false sense of security in our church membership or in anything else, and sends us flying to Christ alone. In chapter 1, He wakes us up; and here, in chapter 2, He shakes us up.

Who can endure the great and very terrible day of Yahweh? No one. And so when He comes, you had better be part of the armies of heaven and led by the One on the white horse; for, you cannot endure being His enemy.

When do you tend to lose the sense of your neediness of Christ and desperation for Him? How can you make good use of passages like this one, and what they talk about, to stir it back up?

Suggested songs: ARP99A “Let the Nations Tremble” or TPH389 “Great God, What Do I See and Hear!”



Sunday, June 6, 2021

The Excellence of the Knowledge of Christ for Justification, Sanctification, and Glorification (2021.06.06 Evening Sermon in Philippians 3:8–11)

Nothing else, and not even everything else all taken together can avail the smallest bit for being right with God, being made holy, or coming into perfect and endless blessedness in the resurrection. For each and all of these, however, the knowledge of Christ is excels. How excellent is the knowledge of Christ!

Christ-Authored Faith Guaranteed to Be a Christ-Perfected Faith (2021.06.06 Sabbath School on WCF 14.3.4 from Hebrews 11:39–12:14)

Those who have any real faith have a faith authored by Christ, and they are sure to have a faith that is also perfected by Christ!

Alarmed in Love to Not Be Destroyed by Wrath (2021.06.06 Morning Sermon in Joel 2:1–11)


Who can endure the great and very terrible day of Yahweh? No one. And so when He comes, you had better be part of the armies of heaven and led by the One on the white horse; for, you cannot endure being His enemy.