Each week we webcast Lord's Day Sabbath School at 10a, morning public worship at 11a, and p.m. singing and sermon at 3p (sermon at 3:45); and the Weds. Prayer Meeting at 6:30p

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

The Only Strength and Purpose That Last Forever (Family Worship lesson in Psalm 52)

What hope will stand the test of time (and eternity!)? Psalm 52 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. Psator leads his family in today's Hopewell @Home passage. In these nine verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that while those who trust in themselves and their means are the so-called “mighty” who lie and deceive (v1–5), those who trust in God’s mercy will use their mouths for praise. The liar will be quickly destroyed, but the praise-er and his praise will endure forever like his God.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.05.31 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 52

Read Psalm 52

Questions from the Scripture text: Into whose hands was this Psalm put (superscript)? Who wrote it? When (cf. 1 Samuel chapters 21–22)? What question begins this Psalm (Psalm 52:1a)? What is more enduring (verse 1b)? What does the evil/”mighty” man’s tongue do (Psalm 52:2a, Psalm 52:4b)? In what manner (Psalm 52:2b)? Why (Psalm 52:3a, Psalm 52:4a)? With what behavior (Psalm 52:3b)? What will the forever-God of Psalm 52:1 do (Psalm 52:5)? Who will have which right response toward God (Psalm 52:6a)? And toward the wicked/deceitful (verse 6b)? In what do the deceitful foolishly put their trust (Psalm 52:7)? But what are the truth-tellers like (Psalm 52:8a)? Where? How (verse 8b)? What will they do for how long (Psalm 52:9a)? For what (verse 9b)? Among whom (verse 9c)? What will the righteous do now (verse 9d)? Why?

What hope will stand the test of time (and eternity!)? Psalm 52 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these nine verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that, while those who trust in themselves and their means are the so-called “mighty” who lie and deceive (Psalm 52:1-5), those who trust in God’s mercy will use their mouths for praise. The liar will be quickly destroyed, but the praise-er and his praise will endure forever like his God.

Doeg the Edomite was so eager to get in good with Saul that he betrayed and then exterminated the priestly household in order to do so (cf. 1 Samuel chapters 21–22). But what did he gain thereby? Will Saul be king forever? Will Doeg live forever? Of course not. It is God and His goodness that is forever (Psalm 52:1b). And since God is good forever, the evil will be destroyed forever (Psalm 52:5a). In a moment, all of their schemes will be dashed.

When the righteous sees the wicked seeming to prosper, he should fear (Psalm 52:6a). But not fear the wicked—the righteous ought to have a holy ridicule for such folly (v6b) that makes anything other than God one’s strength (Psalm 52:7a). If God alone is forever-strong, then it is literally, utterly ridiculous to make anything else our strength! Yet, the world is full of those who hope in money (verse 7b) and therefore in whatever they think will obtain it (verse 7c). Not so the righteous. When the wicked seem to prosper, the righteous should see the folly of it, fear the Lord Who will repay it, and turn away from evil.

But what about the one who makes God his strength? When he goes to the house of God (Psalm 52:8a), he sees his end (cf. Psalm 73:17–19, Psalm 73:23–24), and realizes that the worship of God is just the beginning of something eternal! An olive tree seemed almost eternal to a man, since they live thousands (!) of years. But there is something far more enduring in Psalm 52:8: the mercy (covenanted love!) of God, which is forever and ever.

God’s love is determined to give us the highest purpose and privilege: to praise Him (Psalm 52:9a). And we will not be alone in this. All of His saints (verse 9c), His holy ones whom He has separated unto Himself from the world, they will be there forever. They will be strong forever. They will praise Him forever. 

If we know that this is the case, why would we hope in anything else? God forbid that we would! Let us instead wait upon His Name (verse 9d)!

What sorts of things are you tempted to trust in? What happens when they fluctuate or even fail? Where do you go (gather!) to experience something infinitely more powerful and enduring? What relation does this assembly have to eternity? What does a commitment to the Lord keep you from doing?

Sample prayer:  Lord, You have extended to us Your steadfast, covenanted, eternal love! We trust in You, and when we gather in Your house, we find a strength that is the beginning of something eternal. Now, in the presence of Your saints, make us to delight in You! Remind us of the end to which the wicked quickly come, and make us to fear You instead. Keep us from all lesser hopes and foolish schemes by setting before us now: Yourself, Your goodness, Your love, and Your praise—all in Jesus Christ, through Whom we ask it, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP52 “Mighty Man, Why Boast in Evil?” or TPH52 “Mighty Man, Why Boast of Evil?”


Monday, May 30, 2022

Theology Simply Explained — WSC37 Believers' Benefits at Death

Pastor walks his children through Westminster Shorter Catechism question 37. What benefits do believers receive from Christ at death? The souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness, and do immediately pass into glory; and their bodies, being still united to Christ, do rest in their graves till the resurrection.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

The Day That Was Made for Direct Service and Enjoyment of Jesus (2022.05.29 Evening Sermon in Exodus 20:8–11)

The Sabbath was in place from before man fell, because it is the day of delight for those who know the Lord as their great purpose and pleasure.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

Christ's Power and Zeal to Give New Hearts to Sinners (2022.05.29 Morning Sermon in Acts 8:9–24)


Christ has power and zeal to overcome any obstacle to a sinner's salvation—even that daunting obstacle of pseudo religiosity in a baptized and active church member.

(click here to DOWNLOAD video/mp3/pdf files of this sermon)

How Should We Pray at Prayer Meetings? (2022.05.29 Sabbath School)

"How Should We Pray at Prayer Meetings?" in the RHB series, "Cultivating Biblical Godliness"
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.05.30 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 8:9–24

Read Acts 8:9–24

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom does Acts 8:9 introduce? What had he formerly done? How well? What had people done to him (Acts 8:10)? Which people? What did they call him? What does Acts 8:11 repeat that they did to him? Why did they? Whom did they now believe instead (Acts 8:12)? What was he preaching? Which of the sexes received the sign of covenant initiation? What does Acts 8:13 say that Simon did? What was done to him? then what did he do? What did he see? And what effect did this have upon him? Who in Jerusalem heard what (Acts 8:14)? What did they do? When Peter and John came down, what did they do (Acts 8:15)? Why (Acts 8:16)? Then what did Peter and John do (Acts 8:17)? Who saw this (Acts 8:18)? What did he offer? For what did he ask (Acts 8:19)? How does Peter answer (Acts 8:20)? Why? What does he say Simon does not have (Acts 8:21)? Why? What two things does he tell Simon to do (Acts 8:22)? What two things does he say have done this to Simon (Acts 8:23)? Now for what does Simon ask (Acts 8:24)? 

What are some ways that baptism can relate to our spiritual condition?  Acts 8:9–25 looks back to the morning sermon on yesterday's Lord’s Day. In these seventeen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that religiosity can be an obstacle not only to believing the gospel but also to recognizing whether your faith is genuine. 

The gospel comes with power to overcome the greatest obstacles.
The Spirit has already told us in Acts 8:6 that the multitudes in Samaria were heeding Philip with one accord. Now in Acts 8:9-11, we find out what a great obstacle this gospel preaching was overcoming. It was not the obstacle of atheism or polytheism, but under-informed religiosity, superstition, and spiritual excitement.

The Samaritans held to the first five books of the Bible and were monotheists, which we might have picked up from Jesus’s conversation with the woman in John 4. At that time, there had been much professed belief in Jesus through His own preaching (John 4:42). But since then, this man named Simon had been able to stir up some religious fervor by his “magic” (Acts 8:11). This excitement had captivated people of all sorts (Acts 8:10) for a long time (Acts 8:11). 

All of this information is designed to provide a backdrop against which we may be impressed with the effects of the gospel in Acts 8:12. Philip, too, showed miracles and signs (Acts 8:6-7) that put Simon’s magic to shame (Acts 8:13b). But the Spirit gives the credit to the conversions especially to the preaching (Acts 8:12). The glory of the gospel was seen not only in that it was for small and great, and that it overcame the false religiosity of the “Simon Magus” cult, but also that it came with a new sign that would be not only upon males but upon females as well. Baptism itself was a sign of the power of God to save, and the doubling of its objects over those over circumcision showed the greatness of this gospel.

Sometimes (often), people receive the sign of the promise even before they come to faith in the promise. This was true of covenant children in the Old Testament who had been circumcised on the 8th day. Even for those who are baptized after believing, we see in that passage that some of what is signified to them comes after baptism. In this case, it was the outpouring and indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17). Although the people had been converted through the evangelism of Philip, still God honored the ordinary office of the ministers of the gospel by bringing this part of their salvation through the means of their praying and laying on of Peter’s and John’s hands. Of course, the completion of our cleansing and resurrection in Christ is always future to us in this world. Baptism is a sign and seal of all of the believer’s covenant benefits—past, present, and future.

But it’s possible to have a pseudo-Christianity that is just a new religious excitement.
In the elect, the efficacy of baptism is not tied to the moment of its administration. But in others, it may also be the case that someone is not only baptized and also professes faith, but still is profoundly spiritually dead and lost.

Simon made a profession of faith, got baptized, and even joined the ministry team (Acts 8:13). But he wasn’t rejoicing in Christ alone as the life and power and authority of His church; Simon craved a bit of that old glory for himself and thought he could obtain it with money (Acts 8:18-19). 

This baptized man’s heart was not right before God (Acts 8:21). In fact, he was still poisoned by bitterness and bound by guiltiness (Acts 8:23). Sadly, when given direct instruction by the apostle (repent and pray, Acts 8:22), he doesn’t do as told but asks the apostle to pray for him instead (Acts 8:24). 

The lesson is ultimately that saving faith is more than just intellectual agreement. It is the fruit of a changed heart. Even the thoughts of our hearts must be forgiven (Acts 8:22), and it is especially our hearts that are counted righteous before God through saving faith (Acts 8:21). Baptism reminds us that this is not something we can do to ourselves; it is God alone Who can give repentance and faith!

What are some examples of religious excitement that aren’t necessarily Christian? What does baptism show to the elect? Why doesn’t it do any good for those who are not elect? What does it tell us to do?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You for Your glorious salvation that overcomes even our false religiosity. Forgive us for whenever we think there is true spiritual life or power from anything but Christ. And grant unto us not only changed hearts, but the completion of our conformity to Christ and His perfect heart, which we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH51C “God, Be Merciful to Me”


Saturday, May 28, 2022

Christ’s Power and Zeal to Give New Hearts to Sinners (Family Worship lesson in Acts 8:9–24)

What are some ways that baptism can relate to our spiritual condition? Pastor leads his family in today's Hopewell @Home passage. Acts 8:9–24 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these sixteen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that religiosity can be an obstacle not only to believing the gospel but also to recognizing whether your faith is genuine.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.05.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 8:9–24

Read Acts 8:9–24

Questions from the Scripture text: Whom does Acts 8:9 introduce? What had he formerly done? How well? What had people done to him (Acts 8:10)? Which people? What did they call him? What does Acts 8:11 repeat that they did to him? Why did they? Whom did they now believe instead (Acts 8:12)? What was he preaching? Which of the sexes received the sign of covenant initiation? What does Acts 8:13 say that Simon did? What was done to him? then what did he do? What did he see? And what effect did this have upon him? Who in Jerusalem heard what (Acts 8:14)? What did they do? When Peter and John came down, what did they do (Acts 8:15)? Why (Acts 8:16)? Then what did Peter and John do (Acts 8:17)? Who saw this (Acts 8:18)? What did he offer? For what did he ask (Acts 8:19)? How does Peter answer (Acts 8:20)? Why? What does he say Simon does not have (Acts 8:21)? Why? What two things does he tell Simon to do (Acts 8:22)? What two things does he say have done this to Simon (Acts 8:23)? Now for what does Simon ask (Acts 8:24)? 

What are some ways that baptism can relate to our spiritual condition?  Acts 8:9–25 looks back on the morning sermon from yesterday's Lord’s Day. In these seventeen verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that religiosity can be an obstacle not only to believing the gospel but also to recognizing whether your faith is genuine. 

The gospel comes with power to overcome the greatest obstacles.
The Spirit has already told us in Acts 8:6 that the multitudes in Samaria were heeding Philip with one accord. Now in Acts 8:9-11, we find out what a great obstacle this gospel preaching was overcoming. It was not the obstacle of atheism or polytheism, but under-informed religiosity, superstition, and spiritual excitement.

The Samaritans held to the first five books of the Bible and were monotheists, which we might have picked up from Jesus’s conversation with the woman in John 4. At that time, there had been much professed belief in Jesus through His own preaching (John 4:42). But since then, this man named Simon had been able to stir up some religious fervor by his “magic” (Acts 8:11). This excitement had captivated people of all sorts (Acts 8:10) for a long time (Acts 8:11). 

All of this information is designed to provide a backdrop against which we may be impressed with the effects of the gospel in Acts 8:12. Philip, too, showed miracles and signs (Acts 8:6-7) that put Simon’s magic to shame (Acts 8:13b). But the Spirit gives the credit to the conversions especially to the preaching (Acts 8:12). The glory of the gospel was seen not only in that it was for small and great, and that it overcame the false religiosity of the “Simon Magus” cult, but also that it came with a new sign that would be not only upon males but upon females as well. Baptism itself was a sign of the power of God to save, and the doubling of its objects over those over circumcision showed the greatness of this gospel.

Sometimes (often), people receive the sign of the promise even before they come to faith in the promise. This was true of covenant children in the Old Testament who had been circumcised on the 8th day. Even for those who are baptized after believing, we see in that passage that some of what is signified to them comes after baptism. In this case, it was the outpouring and indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-17). Although the people had been converted through the evangelism of Philip, still God honored the ordinary office of the ministers of the gospel by bringing this part of their salvation through the means of their praying and laying on of Peter’s and John’s hands. Of course, the completion of our cleansing and resurrection in Christ is always future to us in this world. Baptism is a sign and seal of all of the believer’s covenant benefits—past, present, and future.

But it’s possible to have a pseudo-Christianity that is just a new religious excitement.
In the elect, the efficacy of baptism is not tied to the moment of its administration. But in others, it may also be the case that someone is not only baptized and also professes faith, but still is profoundly spiritually dead and lost.

Simon made a profession of faith, got baptized, and even joined the ministry team (Acts 8:13). But he wasn’t rejoicing in Christ alone as the life and power and authority of His church; Simon craved a bit of that old glory for himself and thought he could obtain it with money (Acts 8:18-19). 

This baptized man’s heart was not right before God (Acts 8:21). In fact, he was still poisoned by bitterness and bound by guiltiness (Acts 8:23). Sadly, when given direct instruction by the apostle (repent and pray, Acts 8:22), he doesn’t do as told but asks the apostle to pray for him instead (Acts 8:24). 

The lesson is ultimately that saving faith is more than just intellectual agreement. It is the fruit of a changed heart. Even the thoughts of our hearts must be forgiven (Acts 8:22), and it is especially our hearts that are counted righteous before God through saving faith (Acts 8:21). Baptism reminds us that this is not something we can do to ourselves; it is God alone Who can give repentance and faith!

What are some examples of religious excitement that aren’t necessarily Christian? What does baptism show to the elect? Why doesn’t it do any good for those who are not elect? What does it tell us to do?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise You for Your glorious salvation that overcomes even our false religiosity. Forgive us for whenever we think there is true spiritual life or power from anything but Christ. And grant unto us not only changed hearts, but the completion of our conformity to Christ and His perfect heart, which we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH51C “God, Be Merciful to Me”


Friday, May 27, 2022

The Day That Was Made for What We Were Made For (Family Worship lesson in Exodus 20:8–11)

What’s wrong with focusing on what not to do on the Sabbath? Pastor leads his family in today's Hopewell @Home passage. Exodus 20:8–11 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Sabbath was in place from before man fell, because it is the day of delight for those who know the Lord as their great purpose and pleasure.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.05.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 20:8–11

Read Exodus 20:8–11

Questions from the Scripture text: What is the primary command here (Exodus 20:8)? What are they to remember? In order to do what? How much time are they given for what other things (Exodus 20:9)? What is the other day (Exodus 20:10)? Whose is it? To what does it not belong? To close any apparent loopholes, for which seven entities does this verse proscribe ordinary works? Why (Exodus 20:11)? Who set this pace and pattern of common work days and divine rest days? To which of these did He add special blessedness? What else did He do to this day?

What’s wrong with focusing on what not to do on the Sabbath?  Exodus 20:8–11 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Sabbath was in place from before man fell, because it is the day of delight for those who know the Lord as their great purpose and pleasure. 

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? 

Sample prayer:  Lord, we were created to glorify and enjoy You, and we have been redeemed to glorify and enjoy You. But Your holy day is often an occasion on which we find other things as our purpose or more restful than Your self in Your worship. Forgive us! And grant unto us the ministry of Your Spirit to make us find You Yourself as our great purpose and You Yourself as our great rest and refreshment in Christ, through Whom we ask it, AMEN!

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


Thursday, May 26, 2022

Unashamed of the Power of God to Save Sinners from Sin's Guilt and Corruption (2022.05.25 Midweek Sermon in Romans 1:16–17)


If you're a believer in Christ, then you came into life through faith in Christ, rejoicing over God powerfully saving you. That life, faith, and joy is still the only way that you can make progress in righteousness. And, as you do so, you will be fortifying yourself against ever being ashamed of Christ or His gospel!

(click here to DOWNLOAD video/mp3/pdf files of this sermon)

Wisdom and Patience in Admonishing for the Peace and Health of the Church (Family Worship lesson in 1Thessalonians 5:12–15)

Why should we acknowledge, esteem, and love those whom the Lord has set over us? Pastor leads his family in today's Hopewell @Home passage. 1Thessalonians 5:12–15 looks forward to the second serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Lord expects us to customize wisely our interactions with each type of person in His church.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.05.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Thessalonians 5:12–15

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:12–15

Questions from the Scripture text: In what three ways are elders (and maybe deacons) described in 1 Thessalonians 5:12? What does the apostolic term call the Thessalonians? But what are they to do with their elders? And what else in 1 Thessalonians 5:13? How much? In what manner? For what? What command does this enable them to keep with the elders and the brethren? Now concerning whom does the apostolic team instruct them (1 Thessalonians 5:14)? What are they to do with these unruly (idle) people? Concerning what three other types of people are they instructed? Which specific command applies to which specific people? What will this keep them from doing—which they mustn’t do (1 Thessalonians 5:15a)? what must they do instead (verse 15b)? For whom will this be good?

Why should we acknowledge, esteem, and love those whom the Lord has set over us?  1 Thessalonians 5:12–15 looks forward to the second serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Lord expects us to customize wisely our interactions with each type of person in His church. 

“Be at peace among yourselves”
Thus closes 1 Thessalonians 5:13’s instruction about how to interact with those who are over us and admonish us. Then, in 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, the Spirit describes various types of admonishment with which to respond to various types of believers in the congregation. The connection seems clear: if we learn to receive admonition well from our elders, and if we learn from our elders how to give good admonition to others, then the whole body will be better equipped to be built up in a way that “is good both for yourselves and for all” (end of 1 Thessalonians 5:15). So, what types of people in the congregation require what type of response from us?

“Recognize those who labor among you”
The type of labor is spelled our in the next couple phrases: oversight and admonishment. For those who are called to this labor, they should recognize it as “work” (1 Thessalonians 5:13a) for the “peace” (verse 13b) and “good” (1 Thessalonians 5:15) of the church. This will keep them from lording it over those whom they are called to serve by authority. If they do not “labor” and “work” in this way, those who are in authority will have themselves to thank when they are not recognized, esteemed, or loved.

And for those who are under the authority, recognizing the nature (labor/work) and purpose (peace/good) of the authority that is over them is needful. If we do not “recognize them” and “esteem them very highly” and “love” them, we will find ourselves resisting their authority and failing to get our benefit from them.

“Warn those who are unruly”
The word is a military term that literally means “untactical.” Anyone who is idle, lazy, unprepared, undisciplined, or disorderly falls under this term. It may be tempting just to work around such folks, but they are a danger to themselves and others. They need to be warned. A congregational culture of healthy giving/receiving admonishment enables us all to be helpful not only to the unruly one, but to the entire congregation, within the various relationships and closeness that God gives us in the church.

“Comfort the fainthearted”
Sometimes church members know what they ought to do, and have some skill and ability in doing it, but they grow weary in well-doing. Perhaps a perceived lack of fruit has discouraged them, or perhaps it has gotten more difficult, or perhaps plugging away in the same role for a long time has just “gotten old.” The overseer-admonishers whom the Lord has set over us should lead the way in consoling and encouraging such weary members. And the more we have been receptively on the receiving end of such encouragement and consolation, the more we will be equipped to be brother-consolers and brother-encouragers. 

“Uphold the weak”
Sometimes, church members simply aren’t that far along yet in knowledge or maturity. Sometimes their ability is just small—physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. They need more than encouragement. They need someone with more strength to pull them along. And the instruction here is literally to “keep holding on to” them. If someone in the church needs you to pull them through, don’t let go when your own strength seems to sag! Those in leadership must set their faces like flint, and doggedly depend upon the Lord, in order to keep pressing on. And it will be in those moments when they most feel like they themselves can’t go on that it will be most necessary for them not to let go of those with less strength. This culture of being devoted to helping the weak, rather than despising the weak, is one that starts at the top—both in heavenly terms (almighty God never letting go of us powerless men) and in earthly terms (elders/husbands/fathers not despising the weak but rather bearing even more of the load for them).

“Be patient with all”
In all things in this life, we fail much. Following the instructions in this passage will not be a one-time or one-off. It’s something that we will have to do. And keeping doing. And do again. When the Lord has to command us to be patient, we should admit that it will be our natural (fleshly) inclination to be impatient. To say, “I think I’ve done enough of that for them.” But we mustn’t. We must be patient with all. Every single other member will test our patience at some point. AND WE will test the patience, at some point, of every single other member.

“See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone”
We can see by the “no one” and “anyone” that this instruction is the twin of “be patient with all.” At some point, we are going to feel the urge to do worse than just give up on someone. Something they do will positively harm us (or appear to us to do so) or offend us. And we will be tempted to render evil for evil.

In fact, we’ll likely think that this is the one time that this is permissible. The special case in which they have just gone too far. Not so fast, my brother! The Spirit anticipates such reasoning and says, “See that no one” does this: you are not a special one who gets to do this. The Spirit anticipates such reasoning and says not to do this “to anyone”: they are not the specially bad one against whom this would be excusable. No, we must always pursue what is good. As the apostle says elsewhere, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” Keep doing good not until you’ve exhausted your inclination to do so, but until you’ve done all, and the peace just wasn’t possible!

Truly, it’s a profoundly loving and forgiving congregational life (cf. Ephesians 4:25–5:7) that is meant to be produced by submission to proper doctrinal oversight and admonition (cf. Ephesians 4:1–24). A biblically faithful ministry of oversight and admonition is a great gift from Christ! We should highly value it, and seek to avail ourselves under it until we all thrive by it.

With whom have you especially needed to exercise patience? In what types of interaction with them? What helpers has the Lord given you for establishing and building this patience?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for encouraging us, for warning us, for helping us in our weakness—and for persisting with us in everything that we need from You. Forgive us! For, we are not like You in these things, but are often impatient with one another and find our remaining fleshliness quite ready to repay evil for evil. But Christ has repaid our sin by dying for us, so that we might be both forgiven and cleansed, which we ask through Him, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH409 “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”


Wednesday, May 25, 2022

The Why, How, and What of Rehoboam's Spiritual, Moral, and National Disaster (Family Worship lesson in 1Kings 14:21–31)

After the folly of Rehoboam in aligning with his “youth group,” and the God-hating of Jeroboam in following his own way of worship, what does the Lord want us to take away from Rehoboam’s reign as a whole? Pastor leads his family in today's Hopewell @Home passage. 1Kings 14:21–31 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eleven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the consequences of seemingly small sins (even when appearances are kept up of faithfulness) can snowball into devastation for families, churches, and nations (even when appearances are kept up of prosperity).
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2022.05.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Kings 14:21–31

Read 1 Kings 14:21–31

Questions from the Scripture text: Who was king in Judah  (1 Kings 14:21)? At what age? For how long?  Where? Why is this special? Who was his mother (cf. Genesis 4:22)? Where was she from? Who did what (1 Kings 14:22)? In Whose sight? To what did they provoke Him? How much? What did they do, where? What were there in the land ((1 Kings 14:24)? Similar to whom? What had happened to the originals? What happened in the fifth year of Rehoboam ((1 Kings 14:25)? What did Shishak do with the treasuries ((1 Kings 14:26)? What else did he take? With what did Rehoboam replace them ((1 Kings 14:27)? Who oversaw them? When did the guards carry them ((1 Kings 14:28)? What did they do after? What weren’t important enough to make it into this account ((1 Kings 14:29)? What additional footnote does (1 Kings 14:30 add? What two things happen to Rehoboam in (1 Kings 14:31? With whom? But who is mentioned again (cf. (1 Kings 14:21)? Who reigned in his place?

After the folly of Rehoboam in aligning with his “youth group,” and the God-hating of Jeroboam in following his own way of worship, what does the Lord want us to take away from Rehoboam’s reign as a whole?  1 Kings 14:21–31 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eleven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the consequences of seemingly small sins (even when appearances are kept up of faithfulness) can snowball into devastation for families, churches, and nations (even when appearances are kept up of prosperity).

Previously, the Lord taught us about some of the things to which He might give us over, if He is bringing curse down upon us (cf. 1 Kings 12:1–24). Now the Lord both reminds us of why He gave Rehoboam over to such folly in the first place, and warns us of how devastating the consequences can be.

The disastrous reign of Rehoboam is a consequence of Solomon’s sin.
By framing in the narrative with “His mother’s name was Naamah, an Ammonitess” in (1 Kings 14:21) and 1 Kings 14:31, the Spirit reminds us what Solomon had done. He had married many foreign women (cf. 1 Kings 11:1), and they turned his heart away from Yahweh (cf. 1 Kings 11:2). Indeed, if David’s son had gone after Milcom (1 Kings 11:5) and Molech (1 Kings 11:7) of the Ammonites, what could be expected of Rehoboam son of Solomon and an Ammonite woman? 

The disaster of Rehoboam’s reign is immense.
God’s delivering the nation/church of Israel for Himself had been a glorious victory over wicked Egypt to bring them out of slavery, and a glorious victory over the wicked Canaanite nations to bring them into their land. But now, the land is so full of idolatry (1 Kings 14:23) and perversity (1 Kings 14:24a) that Judah has become Canaan 2.0 (verse 24b). Being given over to the sins of the world is a devastating judgment upon a professing church or previously believing nation!

And to drive home the judicial/penal nature of this disaster, it is Shishak king of Egypt (1 Kings 14:25) who now empties the treasuries of Yahweh’s house and the king’s house (1 Kings 14:26a) and removes the golden shields (verse 26b). Here were the great successes of Solomon: the building of Yahweh’s house (cf. chapters 6–8), the building of the king’s house and other structures (1 Kings 7:1–11), and the installation of the economic machine that had produced these opulent display shields (1 Kings 10:14–29). Israel had plundered Egypt on their way out (cf. Genesis 15:14; Exodus 3:21–22, Exodus 12:36), and now Egypt has plundered the greatest of Solomon’s achievements in one fell swoop.

Still, Rehoboam tried to keep up appearances of faithfulness and prosperity.
Rather than repenting of all of the false worship and immorality into which he and his father led Israel, Rehoboam made a big display of whenever he “went to Yahweh church” (1 Kings 14:28a). And rather than admitting how humiliating the reversal of the Exodus judgment/plundering had been, he substituted “fool’s bronze” to maintain some appearance of doing well (1 Kings 14:27). Just because we’ve actually come under such judgments as those against which this passage warns doesn’t mean that the church or nation that is under the judgment will recognize it!

So in our passage today, the Lord drives home just how much good, and how long a church or nation’s prosperity, can be undone so quickly by the consequences of not being watchful against sin in marriage choices or worship. Let us who think we stand take heed lest we fall!

What are some ways that believers make similar marriage and worship choices to Solomon’s and Rehoboam’s? Why do churches under judgment sometimes still appear faithful or alive?

Sample prayer:  Lord, how dreadful that even after sinning like Canaanites, Rehoboam could make a display of worship in Your temple. And even after being plundered by Egypt, Rehoboam could make display of ongoing prosperity and strength. Forgive our sin, and do not let our treacherous marriage choices or traitorous worship choices come down upon us or our children. Whenever You bring Your hand of discipline upon us, grant that we would be humiliated and repentant rather than proud and self-deceived, which we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or TPH180 “Kind and Merciful God, We Have Sinned”


Tuesday, May 24, 2022

The Great Prerequisite, Purpose, and Pleasure of a New Heart (Family Worship lesson in Psalm 51:9–19)

How and why does a sinner get a new heart? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. Psalm 51:9–19 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eleven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the prerequisite of a new heart is to be chosen in our atoning Christ, the purpose of a new heart is to praise God, and the pleasure of a new heart is God to get all His praise from all His people whom He redeems.
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2022.05.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 51:9–19

Read Psalm 51:9–19

Questions from the Scripture text: What does David need before he can have cleansing (Psalm 51:9)? What will David need once his sin is both forgiven and wiped out (Psalm 51:10)? From where will this clean heart and steadfast spirit come (Psalm 51:11)? What else does His presence bring (Psalm 51:12)? And what will David do in response to this joy (Psalm 51:13)? How does he summarize his request in Psalm 51:14? How will he respond (Psalm 51:14-15)? What can’t obtain this deliverance (Psalm 51:16)? But what are the necessary circumstantial conditions which please God (Psalm 51:17)? For whom else does David hope this same forgiveness, cleansing, and new heart/joy (Psalm 51:18a)? With what result (Psalm 51:18-19)? 

As we saw in the first half of the Psalm, sinners sin because they have been sinners to the core from when they came into this world. We need desperately to be remade from the inside out (Psalm 51:10). Just for continuing to exist, we require the presence of God and the work of the Holy Spirit (Psalm 51:11).  

But before we can be cleansed, we must be forgiven. Sinners don’t deserve to be cleansed. As long as they have iniquity and guilt, the justice of God refuses to give us His life. And without His life, we cannot even begin to be cleansed. So David cries out in Psalm 51:9, “Hide your face from my sins, and blot out my iniquities,” and in Psalm 51:14, “Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God.” 

But we need to be cleansed not just so that we can start fresh, but so that we can fulfill our purpose: the praise and enjoyment of God. We need this clean heart and new, steadfast spirit so that we may sing aloud of God’s righteousness (Psalm 51:14c), and praise Him (Psalm 51:15b) with the lips that He Himself has opened (verse 15a). We need this clean heart and new, steadfast spirit so that we may rejoice with the joy of His salvation (Psalm 51:12a).

Ultimately, it’s not our sacrifices that God wants (Psalm 51:16). In the last four verses of the Psalm, David is responding to the goodness of God in having forgiven him and cleansed him. How greatly he wishes to honor and thank God! But what do you give to the God Who has everything? Answer: whatever He wants. And what He wants is the humble, grateful hearts of redeemed sinners. A broken spirit (Psalm 51:17a), a broken and a contrite heart (verse 17b)—God doesn’t actually need these things, but He is pleased to receive them. This, He does not despise (verse 17c). 

As David offers his heart to his merciful, forgiving God, he also expresses his desire for the good of God’s people. God is glorified in His church, His Zion, His Jerusalem (Psalm 51:18). And David’s desire is that they would be prospered in order to keep conducting that public worship (Psalm 51:19) in which God’s Name is praised by a great assembly of those who bring the sort of heart described in Psalm 51:17.

Come to God for forgiveness. So that you may be forgiven and cleansed. In order that your mouth may be opened with praise, and your heart filled with joy. As you join in worship with a multitude of others who have been saved by the same mercy!

What should you want to give God? What must happen before you can do so? With whom will you respond?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for blotting out our iniquities and delivering us from our guilt. Now, create in us clean hearts, restore to us the joy of our salvation, and open our lips so that our mouths may show forth Your praise! Receive our humble, thankful hearts. And delight in the corporate praise of this assembly of those whom You have thus redeemed in Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP51B “From My Sins, O Hide Your Face” or TPH51C “God, Be Merciful to Me”


Monday, May 23, 2022

Theology Simply Explained — WSC36 Believers' Further Benefits in This Life

Pastor walks his children through Westminster Shorter Catechism question 36. What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption and sanctification? The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption and sanctification, are, assurance of God's love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

Created and Redeemed to Bear God's Glorious Name upon Our Lives and upon Our Lips (2022.05.22 Evening Sermon in Exodus 20:7)

We were created and especially redeemed to bear God's Name upon our lives in His image and upon our lips in His worship—and that if we never take our sin and His glory seriously, then we can never be saved because we will be despisers of Christ.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

God's Purposes in Persecution: How the Gospel Goes to Judea and Samaria (2022.05.22 Morning Sermon in Acts 8:1–8)

In this age God is overruling even (and especially) persecution to spread the gospel with saving power and divine joy.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

Why Should I Be Interested in Church History? (2022.05.22 Sabbath School lesson)

"Why Should I be Interested in Church History" in the RHB series, "Cultivating Biblical Godliness."- 2 of 2
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.05.23 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 8:1–8

Read Acts 8:1–8

Questions from the Scripture text: Who was doing what in Acts 8:1a? What now arose? Against which church? What happened to them (verse 1b)? Throughout which two regions? Except whom? Who carried whom (Acts 8:2)? What did they do for him? What did Saul do (Acts 8:3)? Entering where? Dragging off whom? Handing them over (“committing”) where? What did the scattered ones do (Acts 8:4)? Where? Who went where in Acts 8:5? What did he preach to them? Who responded in what manner (Acts 8:6)? What did they do, in addition to hearing? What two types of signs particularly attended him (Acts 8:7)? How does Acts 8:8 sum up the outcome?

How should Christians deal with persecution? At the time of this devotional’s writing, this is a question on the minds of many believers. Ultimately, this passage answers that they should rejoice in the ongoing victory of the gospel.

Where Persecution Comes From: God’s purpose to save
Thus far, great multitudes in Jerusalem have been converted—even from among the priests (Acts 6:7). But then the first martyr is murdered for his witness to Christ (Acts 7:58–60), and it’s as if the sharks finally get the taste of the blood. Saul the clothes-keeper (Acts 7:58) and consenter (Acts 8:1) is important. But he’s by no means the only one. “A great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered.” In one sense, persecution came from the fact that not everyone gets converted; and, once they figure out what the gospel really says about them, they hate it with murderous rage. But, in another and more important sense, persecution comes from the providence of God.

Where Persecution Sends the Gospel: wherever the Lord is saving next
When Acts 8:1 says, “throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria,” we remember Acts 1:8, “you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Suddenly, we see this persecution not as phase 1 of Satan’s counterattack but as phase 2 of Jesus’s evangelism plan. His gospel is never stationary or dormant. Often, He humiliates His enemies by making them the driving force by which He takes it to the place of its next success.

What Persecution Sends There: apostolic message, power, and joy
The apostles didn’t go along. We know that Philip the deacon is about to become quite the evangelist (Acts 8:4–13, Acts 8:26–40). But it seems likely that it is at this point that elders, too, were ordained. When this persecution brings the gospel to Antioch (Acts 11:19–20), there are already elders in Jerusalem to receive the gift in Acts 11:30

It seems likely that with the apostles staying with the believers in Jerusalem (end of Acts 8:1), other elders were ordained for the ministry of the Word throughout Judea and Samaria. And what a ministry it was! “Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word” (Acts 8:4). Persecution didn’t silence the gospel. It multiplied where it was preached. And of course, what is preached in “the Word” (end of verse 4) is Christ Himself (end of Acts 8:5). 

The apostles didn’t go, but the apostolic message did. And God attested to this by apostolic signs (Acts 8:6–7, cf. Acts 6:8), and especially by apostolic joy (Acts 8:8). 

When persecution arrives, it is not so much the end of one era of God’s saving as it is the beginning of the next one!

Whom/how do you tell about Jesus wherever you go? Where might persecution force you/other believers to go? What will you be praying to happen there? How might you serve its happening?

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us for when we lose heart at the prospect of persecution. Thank You for Your patience and wisdom in this age in which You are causing Your salvation to flourish to the ends of the earth! Grant unto us courage and zeal for the gospel, and attend new evangelism by the powerful working of Your Spirit, so that new cities would be filled with the joy of the salvation of Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH424 “All Authority and Power”


Saturday, May 21, 2022

The Divine Power of Wisdom Overwhelms the Weakness of the Greatest Creaturely Strength (Family Worship lesson in Proverbs 21:22)

Pastor leads his family in a selection from “the Proverb of the day.” In this verse of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the fear of the Lord leads to the strongest life possible: one lived by faith, in obedience to God’s precepts, and following God’s principles.
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The God Who Overrules Persecution to Spread the Gospel with Power and Joy (Family Worship lesson in Acts 8:1–8)

Why did a great persecution arise following Stephen’s death? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. Acts 8:1–8 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eight verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that in this age God is overruling even (and especially) persecution to spread the gospel with saving power and divine joy.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.05.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 8:1–8

Read Acts 8:1–8

Questions from the Scripture text: Who was doing what in Acts 8:1a? What now arose? Against which church? What happened to them (verse 1b)? Throughout which two regions? Except whom? Who carried whom (Acts 8:2)? What did they do for him? What did Saul do (Acts 8:3)? Entering where? Dragging off whom? Handing them over (“committing”) where? What did the scattered ones do (Acts 8:4)? Where? Who went where in Acts 8:5? What did he preach to them? Who responded in what manner (Acts 8:6)? What did they do, in addition to hearing? What two types of signs particularly attended him (Acts 8:7)? How does Acts 8:8 sum up the outcome?

How should Christians deal with persecution? At the time of this devotional’s writing, this is a question on the minds of many believers. Ultimately, this passage answers that they should rejoice in the ongoing victory of the gospel.

Where Persecution Comes From: God’s purpose to save
Thus far, great multitudes in Jerusalem have been converted—even from among the priests (Acts 6:7). But then the first martyr is murdered for his witness to Christ (Acts 7:58–60), and it’s as if the sharks finally get the taste of the blood. Saul the clothes-keeper (Acts 7:58) and consenter (Acts 8:1) is important. But he’s by no means the only one. “A great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered.” In one sense, persecution came from the fact that not everyone gets converted; and, once they figure out what the gospel really says about them, they hate it with murderous rage. But, in another and more important sense, persecution comes from the providence of God.

Where Persecution Sends the Gospel: wherever the Lord is saving next
When Acts 8:1 says, “throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria,” we remember Acts 1:8, “you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Suddenly, we see this persecution not as phase 1 of Satan’s counterattack but as phase 2 of Jesus’s evangelism plan. His gospel is never stationary or dormant. Often, He humiliates His enemies by making them the driving force by which He takes it to the place of its next success.

What Persecution Sends There: apostolic message, power, and joy
The apostles didn’t go along. We know that Philip the deacon is about to become quite the evangelist (Acts 8:4–13, Acts 8:26–40). But it seems likely that it is at this point that elders, too, were ordained. When this persecution brings the gospel to Antioch (Acts 11:19–20), there are already elders in Jerusalem to receive the gift in Acts 11:30

It seems likely that with the apostles staying with the believers in Jerusalem (end of Acts 8:1), other elders were ordained for the ministry of the Word throughout Judea and Samaria. And what a ministry it was! “Those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the Word” (Acts 8:4). Persecution didn’t silence the gospel. It multiplied where it was preached. And of course, what is preached in “the Word” (end of verse 4) is Christ Himself (end of Acts 8:5). 

The apostles didn’t go, but the apostolic message did. And God attested to this by apostolic signs (Acts 8:6-7, cf. Acts 6:8), and especially by apostolic joy (Acts 8:8). 

When persecution arrives, it is not so much the end of one era of God’s saving as it is the beginning of the next one!

Whom/how do you tell about Jesus wherever you go? Where might persecution force you/other believers to go? What will you be praying to happen there? How might you serve its happening?

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us for when we lose heart at the prospect of persecution. Thank You for Your patience and wisdom in this age in which You are causing Your salvation to flourish to the ends of the earth! Grant unto us courage and zeal for the gospel, and attend new evangelism by the powerful working of Your Spirit, so that new cities would be filled with the joy of the salvation of Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP46 “God Is Our Refuge and Our Strength” or TPH424 “All Authority and Power”

Friday, May 20, 2022

Bearing God's Name Weightily upon Our Lives and upon Our Lips (Family Worship lesson in Exodus 20:7)

What is the third commandment, and why can’t you be forgiven without following it? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. Exodus 20:7 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In this verse of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that we were created and especially redeemed to bear God’s Name upon our lives in His image and upon our lips in His worship—and that if we never take our sin and His glory seriously, then we can never be saved because we will be despisers of Christ.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.05.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 20:7

Read Exodus 20:7

Questions from the Scripture text: What shall we not carry (“take”) in the wrong way? Whose/which Name? What relation does He have to us? In what way shall we not carry that name? Who will punish the breaking of this commandment? What will He not do for them (cf. Matthew 12:31)? 

As creatures made in God’s image (cf. Genesis 1:26), man has always had a special responsibility to display and apply Lordship of God in all the creation (cf. Genesis 1:28).  But rather than view subjection to God as a display of His Lordship, man attempted to be Lord over himself (cf. Genesis 3:5–6). Still, marvelously, even from among sinners, God has chosen to save some to be His own special people (cf. Exodus 20:2). This amazing note rings out of each of the first five commandments: “before Me” (Exodus 20:3), “Yahweh your God” (Exodus 20:5), “Yahweh your God” (Exodus 20:7), “Yahweh  your God” (Exodus 20:10), “Yahweh your God” (Exodus 20:12).

So, while all humanity has a special duty among the creation for the honoring of God’s Name, those whom He has redeemed have a special duty even among humanity for the honoring of God’s Name. He gave man speech, so that we could call upon His Name, and the capacity for worship so that we would praise His Name. And He has redeemed sinners so that they will call upon His Name for salvation, and so that they will praise His Name for redeeming them (cf. Revelation 5:9). 

What a weighty thing is the speech of a Christian! It is on this basis that the Spirit warns us against any improper use of our mouths whatsoever (cf. James 3:9–10). But that which is true so intensely with respect to our mouths is also true of our lives as a whole. The people of God are always to be a reflection upon the God of the people (cf. Deuteronomy 4:6–8). 

If we are not careful and intentional about how we speak and how we live, then we treat the Name of God as an empty thing.

If we come thoughtlessly or heartlessly to worship itself, then we treat the Name of God as an empty thing.

If we use the gospel as an excuse for remaining the same, rather than as an assurance that the pursuit of holiness will ultimately succeed, then we treat the Name of God as an empty thing.

If we treat empty pleasures as if they are joyous and the worship of God as if it is dreary, then we treat the Name of God as an empty thing.

If we use the Name of God to add force to our empty words, rather than as a reminder that we are always before Him and dependent upon Him, then we treat the Name of God as an empty thing.

If we use that which is foul or crass to add weight to our words, rather than carefully choosing what comes out of worship-lips, we treat the Name of God as an empty thing. 

If we treat worship as a superstitious magic by which we act in the spiritual realm, rather than an engaging of God Himself; or if we treat worship as a way to feel a certain way, rather than a felt interaction with God; then, we treat the Name of God as an empty thing.

But there is something greatly dangerous about treating the Name of God as an empty thing. By “the Name of God” we mean every part of how He communicates Himself to us. And if He is not divinely weighty unto us, there is no way that we can be saved. His divine weightiness is what makes us see the true guilt of our sin. His divine weightiness is what makes us see the true salvation that there is in the Savior.

Whenever we speak or live irreverently—and especially whenever we do this in worship—we expose the kind of thinking that demands us to ask, “will God really hold me guiltless?” Yahweh will not hold him guiltless who takes His Name in vain!

When are you most tempted to be silly or crass? What most hinders your reverence in worship?

Sample prayer:  Lord, how marvelous that You have put Your glorious Name upon our lips and upon us ourselves! Grant unto us to speak and live as those in whom You have invested Your glorious Name, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP8 “LORD, Our Lord, in All the Earth” or TPH174 “The Ten Commandments”


Thursday, May 19, 2022

What Believers Want (2): To Participate in God's Working in Others (2022.05.18 Midweek Sermon in Romans 1:11b–15)


God's people should highly value participation in God's work in one another's lives.

(click here to DOWNLOAD video/mp3/pdf files of this sermon)

Don't Predict the Timing of the Day of the Lord; Always Live Prepared for It (Family Worship lesson in 1Thessalonians 5:1–11)

What enables us to be ready for the last day? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. 1Thessalonians 5:1–11 looks forward to the second serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eleven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that what prepares us for Christ’s return is not knowing its timing but knowing Him Himself: trusting in Him, loving Him, and being sure that everything He does succeeds.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2022.05.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Thessalonians 5:1–11

Read 1 Thessalonians 5:1–11

Questions from the Scripture text: What have they asked about (1 Thessalonians 5:1a)? What does he say about their need for further instruction (verse 1b)? How does he summarize his teaching about this (1 Thessalonians 5:2)? What will people be saying at the day of the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:3)? But what comes upon them on that day? What difference in condition makes this experience of the day different for believers (1 Thessalonians 5:4)? How should we live, if we don’t want the surprise to be of the sort in 1 Thessalonians 5:3 (1 Thessalonians 5:5)? How do 1 Thessalonians 5:7-8a describe the sort of life that is not guided by light? What three things keep someone living for Christ and eternity instead of self and pleasure (verse 8b)? To what have those who are unwatchful and self-indulgent been appointed (1 Thessalonians 5:9a)? To what have those who live watchful, self-controlled lives been appointed (verse 9b)? What has Christ done for us (1 Thessalonians 5:10a)? To secure what for us (verse 10b, cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:17)? What do we do for one another, when we remind each other of life in fellowship with Christ now and forever (1 Thessalonians 5:11)?

Some information is available to us. The apostle did not want the Thessalonians to be ignorant (1 Thessalonians 4:13) about what happens to believers at death and about the order of events on the last day (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17). So sometimes, comforting one another is by reminding each other of what we know truly from the Bible.

But some information is not available to us. The timing of the last day is a secret and will arrive as a thief (1 Thessalonians 5:2). So, sometimes comforting one another is by reminding one another that we already have fellowship with Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:10), so that we build one another up into walking with Him (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Those who focus on “timing” when it comes to “last things” distract from the main issue: that we are always to live as those who belong to the world of light, not to this world of night (1 Thessalonians 5:5). We are not to try to figure out the timing, but to live as those who are always ready. It’s those who live in darkness that are overtaken by the day to their harm (1 Thessalonians 5:4). 

There are people who think that they are peaceful and safe, living uncarefully and self-indulgently, as if there will never be any consequences (1 Thessalonians 5:3). Spiritual sleep-walkers and drunks, they are not watchful or sober (1 Thessalonians 5:6). Even in the church, they use the language of grace to make it sound like sin is no big deal. They are not urgent about the coming of the day and the need to be prepared for it.

The Spirit here teaches us that living without desire for the last day, and urgency about being prepared for it, does not come from the gospel. It is faith, love, and hope (1 Thessalonians 5:8) that actually makes a man live soberly—self-controlled, intentionally for the returning Savior. 

Trusting Him, knowing His love to us, living from love for Him… these are a breastplate. They guard the heart from the deadly arrows of complacency and self-indulgence. The hope of salvation—rejoicing already in the completion of our redemption that occurs in the last day—is a helmet that guards us from the mind-destroying temptation to live for the pleasures of the moment. 

Hearts and minds protected by the gospel produce not careless living, but zealous and diligent living for Christ. A gospel life is opposed to vain speculations about when the return will come, because it is too busy living constantly as one who belongs to the next world, as one who is ready at any moment for that world to break into this one. It considers fellowship with Jesus the great thing in eternity, and so it is obsessed with fellowship with Him as it lives in time (1 Thessalonians 5:10). This is what He died to secure (verse 10a)!

How should thinking about the last day make you live? What part of eternal happiness can you have now?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for reminding us, like You did for the Thessalonians, that Your return is unpredictable. Forgive us for being more concerned with figuring it out than we are with being ready for Your return and with living like those who belong to You. Give us that faith and hope and love that enable a watchful, sober life. And make us to enjoy fellowship with Jesus both now and forever, which we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP98 “O Sing a New Song” or TPH389 “Great God, What Do I See and Hear”


Wednesday, May 18, 2022

What Matters Most to God: Him Himself and Coming to Him Only in the Way That He Has Provided—Christ! (Family Worship lesson in 1Kings 13:33–14:20)

Why is God furious with Jeroboam, and why doesn’t He seem to care much about the king’s endeavors and successes? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. 1Kings 13:33–14:20 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twenty-two verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that what matters most of all is receiving and coming to God Himself only in the way that God Himself has chosen because that way, ultimately, is Christ! Coming in our own way is to cast God Himself behind our backs.
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2022.05.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Kings 13:33–14:20

Read 1 Kings 13:33–14:20

Questions from the Scripture text: How does Jeroboam (not) respond to the stunning sign (1 Kings 13:33)? Instead, what did he again (!) do? Whom did he consecrate? For whom was this the sin (1 Kings 13:34a)? In order to do what (verse 34b)? What happened at that time (1 Kings 14:1)? What did Jeroboam ask his wife to do (1 Kings 14:2)? To go where? To see whom? What is she to bring as a present (1 Kings 14:3)? What does Jeroboam hope Ahijah will tell her? What does Mrs. Jeroboam do in 1 Kings 14:4a? What do we learn about Ahijah in verse 4b? Who fills Ahijah in (1 Kings 14:5a)? What does he tell him to do in response to what (verse 5b)? What did Ahijah hear (1 Kings 14:6)? What did he tell her to do? What did he ask her? What kind of news does he have for her? To whom is she to go (1 Kings 14:7)? From Whom is she to speak? What has God done for Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:7-8)? What had David been like? But what has Jeroboam been like (1 Kings 14:9)? What has he done to the LORD? What will the LORD do to Jeroboam’s house (1 Kings 14:10)? To what extent? What will happen to his male offspring (1 Kings 14:11)? What must Mrs. Jeroboam do (1 Kings 14:12a)? And what will happen when (verse 12b)? Who will do what for Abijah (1 Kings 14:13)? What unique privilege will he have? What was found in him? Whom will the LORD raise up (1 Kings 14:14)? To do what? Whom else will the LORD strike (1 Kings 14:15)? And what will He do them? Why? How does 1 Kings 14:16 summarize this judgment? Why will He do it? What does Mrs. Jeroboam do in 1 Kings 14:17? And what happens when? And what do they do to/for him (1 Kings 14:18a)? According to what (verse 18b)? What gets a one verse historical summary in 1 Kings 14:19? How long a period does this cover (1 Kings 14:20)? Who succeeds him?

Jeroboam’s military and domestic accomplishments are just a footnote to his story (1 Kings 14:19). The main thing was the manner in which he had worshiped God (1 Kings 13:33–34; 1 Kings 14:9, 1 Kings 14:15–16). Men and nations come and go. What is done with them will eventually come to nothing. And the main thing in every one of our works is whether it glorified God (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:31). But worship is different. In worship, we either have God Himself before us, or we cast Him behind our back. 

Of course, man cannot reveal God to himself, so the way of having God Himself before us is by coming in that way that God has commanded. The stakes are even higher when we realize that the way that God has commanded us to come is Christ. The way that God sets Himself before us is Christ. Those things on earth that belonged to the worship of the church under Moses all pointed forward to Christ. And those things that are commanded on earth for the worship of the church under Christ are those things in which Christ Himself leads the worship from glory. So, having our desires drive the manner of worship is both to  cast the true God behind our back (1 Kings 14:9) and to come without Christ. This is dreadful indeed!

However powerful a man thinks he is, he cannot escape the fact that being wholehearted toward God is the standard against which his works will be judged (cf. 1 Kings 14:8). In the saga of “the throne vs the Word,” we continue to see that there is no contest. Jeroboam and Mrs. Jeroboam have the wealth with which to bribe (1 Kings 14:3), the authority of the throne in Tirzah (1 Kings 14:17), and the cleverness (?) of disguise (1 Kings 14:2). Ahijah is physically blind (1 Kings 14:4b), dwelling in the old place of the tabernacle after the tabernacle is no more (verse 4a). But he has the word of the LORD (1 Kings 14:5), which makes all the illusory advantages of the powerful queen evaporate as he says, “Come in, Mrs. Jeroboam!” in 1 Kings 14:6

But whereas there is no king so great as to protect him against guilt, there is no sinner so small that he is not a candidate for grace. The sick child Abijah (1 Kings 14:1) ends up being the only descendent of Jeroboam that gets a proper burial and mourning (1 Kings 14:131 Kings 14:18). Why? “Because in him there is found something good toward Yahweh God of Israel in the house of Jeroboam.” Even in a child! Even in a wicked house! Grace is surprising, because that is the nature of grace. It comes entirely from God, not at all from its object. 

What encouragement this is for us in an idolatrous age. “O Lord, though the whole visible church cast You behind their back, grant that by Your grace, I would desire You as You truly are and have given Yourself!”

What an encouragement this is for our little children. “O Lord, though they be small and weak, grant that by Your grace there might be found in them something good toward the LORD God of Israel!”

Tradition can be a dreadful thing. It is the way that new ways of casting God behind the back trap generations of the people of God in a way that they never escape (1 Kings 14:16, cf. 1 Kings 15:34, 1 Kings 16:2, etc.). But the grace of God is a more powerful thing—yanking unlikely suspects out from under the idolatries of the church and the judgments they provoke.

What worship does Jesus lead from heaven? What makes this the best? How can we come to desire it?

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us for wanting to worship in our own way, like Jeroboam: for deceiving ourselves that we worship You when in truth we are casting You Yourself behind our back. And forgive us for our illusions of power and effectiveness, when in reality a blind prophet sees more clearly than a disguised queen. Forgive us our sins, bringing us near to Yourself through Christ. And, grant that by Your grace there might be found in us something good toward You—which can come only through Christ, in Whose Name we ask it, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH174 “The Ten Commandments”


Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Theology Simply Explained — WSC35 What Is Sanctification?

Sanctification is the work of God's free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.
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From the Greatness of Our Sin, through the Greaterness of God's Grace, unto Great Joy (Family Worship lesson in Psalm 51:1–8)

How can a believer contend with the greatness of his remaining sin? Pastor leads his family in today’s “Hopewell @Home” passage. Psalm 51:1–8 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these eight verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that because the cause of forgiveness is found entirely in God and not at all in us, we are freed to admit fully the extent of our sinfulness, because there is sufficient cleansing from Him in Christ to bring us all the way through to limitless joy!
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2022.05.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 51:1–8

Read Psalm 51:1–8

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom is the Psalm addressed (superscript)? Who wrote it? On what occasion? What does it first ask (Psalm 51:1a)? According to what (verse 1b)? What is his second request (verse 1d)? According to what (verse 1c)? What is his third (Psalm 51:2a)? Fourth (verse 2b)? What does he see is a circumstantial condition for this (Psalm 51:3)? Against Whom was his sin (Psalm 51:4a)? Whose sight determines what is evil and judges what David did (verse 4b)? What would God have been just and blameless to do (verse 4c–d)? When did David’s sin begin (Psalm 51:5)? What sort of truth does God desire (Psalm 51:6a)? Who gives it (verse 6b)? What does David need to have done before he can have inner truth (Psalm 51:7)? What effect will this have (Psalm 51:8)? 

So often in Scripture, David is a sign (a type) that God has given us to point us forward to Jesus (the Antitype). This might cause us to wonder why the Lord would let him fall into such great sin. Among other things, it’s a strong warning to us and a lesson to the growing Christ (cf. Luke 2:52) about how badly we needed His perfect righteousness and full atonement. But it’s also a lesson for us in how to interact with God when we have sinned greatly. 

The more we grow, the more we realize the magnitude of every single sin. But even those who have made some progress in grace are susceptible to committing the most scandalous and heinous of sin. What can we do, when we see the magnitude of our sin? This Psalm brings home to us what it is like to address our great sin by way of God’s greater grace.

The Pervasiveness of Our Sin: Forgiveness Comes from God Alone
It seems obvious that forgiveness comes from God alone. Only God has the authority to forgive sin. But this is more than that. The origin and cause  of forgiveness is in God alone. What can David plead? What reasoning can he give God for forgiving him? The reasons aren’t in David. They’re in God. God’s covenanted/steadfast love (“lovingkindness,” Psalm 51:1b). God’s “multitude” of “tender mercies” (verse 1c). What’s in David aren’t reasons for him to be forgiven—only reasons that he needs forgiveness: “transgressions” (verse 1d), “iniquity” (Psalm 51:2a), and “sin” (verse 2b). We’re tempted to come with some good thing from us (how sincere we are this time, how sorry we are, how much better we’re doing or will do, etc.). But these all need their own atoning. We must come on the basis of what’s good in God, not what we want to think is good in us.

This connects back to Psalm 50. God isn’t rightly worshiped by receiving what He needs (He needs nothing!). He is rightly worshiped by giving us what we need. And we need nothing more than forgiveness! It glorifies His character to forgive us, and we can come armed with His character. When He commands a saint to pursue sanctification, He says, “be what you are!” And when we ask Him to forgive us according to His love and mercy, we are in a sense praying, “Be what You are!”

The Nature and Reality of Our Sin: Sin Is against God Alone
In Psalm 51:3a “acknowledge” translates a word that is often relational. Taken with verse 3b, the sense seems to be not that David is admitting sin so much that David is reporting how intimately acquainted he is with it. It’s not an aberration that appears every once in a while. It’s a constant companion, ingrained in his experience, something “besetting” and “indwelling” that is left over from his nature in the first Adam. “Always before me” uses a preposition that means “opposite” or “toward” or “corresponding to.” It’s the experience of the apostle in Romans 7:13–24.

Do you know what/Who else is always with you? God. The Creator and Sustainer of all things. The One Who has bound Himself to His people by covenant. Has David sinned against others? His sins against Bathsheba, Uriah, Joab, the army, and the entire nation have been great. But not by comparison to how constantly and intensely his sin is against God (Psalm 51:4). When you know you’ve wronged someone, and they say something about it, you acknowledge their justness in doing so. How much more, when God says something to us about our sin (verse 4c–d)!

And this isn’t just with reference to the last day. Every time Scripture convicts us, or providence confronts us (even through the mouth of another), our hearts ought to admit before God His own justness accusing us (even, sometimes, when others are falsely accusing us).

The Origin of Our Sin: Our Original Nature
Rather than arguing “it’s not my fault that God made me this way,” David’s reasoning in Psalm 51:5 is “this must be my fault, because sinful is what I was from the start, and how I have conducted myself ever since.” How desperately we need to recover “this is how I am” as admission of guilt rather than some sort of vindicating excuse! God’s righteousness demands righteousness from the heart (Psalm 51:6a), and when God grows someone in righteousness, He initiates that work in the heart (verse 6b).

The Solution to Our Sin: God’s Cleansing
“Hyssop” in Psalm 51:7 is not announcing some herbal remedy for sin, but reminding us of the branch dipped in the blood of the lamb (cf. Exodus 12:22, Hebrews 11:28). Despite attempted commentary to the contrary, it’s not the most physically effective way of applying cleaning fluid. 

But God’s atonement is perfectly effective for removing guilt (Psalm 51:7)! The removal of all sin, the removal of all guilt, turns what we had made an occasion of greatest grief into what God has made an occasion of greatest joy and gladness and rejoicing!

What do you contribute to your forgiveness? Why is your sin so bad? Where does it come from? How does it end up being a bringer of the greatest gladness?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we bless Your Name for Your glorious steadfast love and mercy! Glorify Your grace by bringing us near through the sprinkled blood of the Lamb, our Lord Jesus Christ. We are always before You, and our sin is always before us, so we look to You not only to take away our guilt but to produce in us Your righteousness. You would have been right to condemn us, but instead You have cleansed us in Christ. So, make us to come before You with that joy and gladness and rejoicing that is in Him alone, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP51A “God, Be Merciful to Me” or TPH51C “God, Be Merciful to Me”

 

Monday, May 16, 2022

The Second Commandment: God Alone Defines, Receives, and Enables Worship—in Christ Alone! (2022.05.15 Evening Sermon in Exodus 20:4–6)

God alone can give God to us or enable us to give ourselves truly to Him, and the way that He has given us to come to Him is through Christ.
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Stephen's Defense: the Old Testament Taught Us That Jesus Would Be Our Prophet and God (2022.05.15 Morning Sermon in Acts 6:8–7:60)


The proper way to honor Moses is to recognize Jesus as the promised Prophet. And the proper way to honor the temple is to recognize Jesus as the One True God.

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Why should I Be Interested in Church History? 1 of 2 (2022.05.15 Sabbath School)

"Why Should I be Interested in Church History" in the RHB series, "Cultivating Biblical Godliness."—1 of 2
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2022.05.16 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 6:8–7:60

Read Acts 6:8–7:60

Questions from the Scripture text: With what is Stephen full, and what does he do (Acts 6:8)? From what Synagogue do some rise against him (Acts 6:9)? What can’t they resist (Acts 6:10)? What do they do instead (Acts 6:11-13)? What specific charge do they make in Acts 6:14? What does the council see in Acts 6:15? Who asks what (Acts 7:1)? With whom and where does Stephen begin, instead of Moses (Acts 7:2)? What had God said in Acts 7:3? What had God done in Acts 7:4? What didn’t God give Him (Acts 7:5a)? What did God promise (verse 5b)? When would this happen (Acts 7:6)? How (Acts 7:7)? Who did God give what in Acts 7:8? Who came from him? What did these men do (Acts 7:9)? Who was with him? What did God do for him (Acts 7:10)? Then what happened, and how were the persecutor fathers spared (Acts 7:11-16)? What time drew near in Acts 7:17? And what was done to God’s people (Acts 7:18-19)? But whom was God pleased to deliver, and how (Acts 7:21-22)? What did Moses do and think in Acts 7:23-25? But how was he treated for this (Acts 7:26-28)? With what result for Moses (Acts 7:29)? How much later is Acts 7:30? What happens then, and where (Acts 7:30-34)? What did God use Moses to do for the persecuted Israelites (Acts 7:35-36)? What promise of God had Moses prophesied in Acts 7:37? What else had Moses and the congregation received (Acts 7:38)? What did the Jews’ fathers do with Moses and with the Law (Acts 7:39)? What did they do in their hearts? What did they ask Aaron to do (Acts 7:40)? In what did they rejoice (Acts 7:41), despite pretense to the contrary (cf. Exodus 32:5–6)? How did God punish them for this (Acts 7:42)? As what did He consider their sacrifices, and to what did He give them over for it (Acts 7:43)? What had the fathers had (Acts 7:44)? And where did they bring it (Acts 7:45)? How long was it used? Why (Acts 7:46) and how (Acts 7:47) was the tabernacle replaced? But why was the temple not an end in itself (Acts 7:49-50)? What does Stephen call them in Acts 7:51? In what more important organs are they uncircumcised? Whom have they resisted, how often? Whom are they like in this? With what question does Acts 7:52? Whom had the Jews’ fathers killed? Now of Whom have these Jews become what? What did they receive by messengers (Acts 7:53)? What haven’t they done? What effect does the sermon have upon its hearers (Acts 7:54)? How do they act upon this conviction? With what was Stephen full (Acts 7:55)? Where did he gaze? What did He see? Whom did he see doing what? Whom did he tell about this (Acts 7:56)? What did he call Jesus? Where, specifically, did he say the Son of Man stood? With what five actions did they now respond to this (Acts 7:57-58)? What did Stephen ask Whom to do what to him in Acts 7:59? Then what did he do (Acts 7:60)? And what did he ask the Lord not to do? And then what?

As a portion of the apostolic ministry was now handed off to the new deacons, the Holy Spirit attended the deacons’ ministry with the same displays of power in wonder (Acts 6:8) and truth (Acts 6:9–10). Since most, if not all, of the deacons were of Hellenistic (Greek, cf. Acts 6:1) background, the synagogue mentioned in Acts 6:9 would have been their “home church” before joining the apostolic church. Since they couldn’t resist the wisdom and Spirit by which Stephen spoke (Acts 6:10), they convinced some false witnesses to say that Stephen spoke blasphemous words against Moses, God, Jerusalem, and the law. This is charged language, designed to result in Stephen’s execution, but as the council considered their prisoner, he bore such a look of fearlessness and holiness that it was as if he belonged to the heavenly world and could neither be affected by the attacks of men nor be thought guilty of such wickedness as they claimed.

The high priest proceeds to ask a short question, “Are these things so?” to which Stephen responds with a 52 verse counter-accusation. The basic answer was that from the call of Abraham until Christ, the called people of God are the ones who have been against God, His servants, and His ways.

Persecuted deliverer one: Joseph (Acts 7:1–16). The age of the patriarchs was considered by the Jews with great reverence. But sometimes “the good old days” aren’t so much good as merely old.  That “great time” from Abraham to Moses was primarily marked by trying to survive in Canaan and then the ten brothers abusing the one brother through whom God was going to save them.

Persecuted deliverer two: Moses (Acts 7:17–50). Now, Stephen moves on to the more specific accusation of being against Moses, against this holy place, and against the law. Moses’s first foray into delivering Israel (Acts 7:23-26) ended with him being rejected (Acts 7:27-28) and fleeing (Acts 7:29). But God still used the rejected ruler and deliverer (Acts 7:35) to bring them out (Acts 7:36).

But it was Moses who said to look for a Prophet like unto him, and that this Prophet they should listen to in place of Moses (Acts 7:37). Yes, there was a season for being governed by the right regulations that God gave by Moses (Acts 7:38), but Israel was rejecting those regulations from the time at the mountain (Acts 7:39-41), through the time in the wilderness (Acts 7:42, cf. Amos 5:25–27), until even the exile (Acts 7:43). And yes, through Moses, God gave a holy place (Acts 7:44-45)—but one which God Himself authorized to be replaced (Acts 7:46-47). But these places were always earthly and temporary, as Solomon himself prayed at the first replacement (Acts 7:48, cf. 1 Kings 8:27) and the prophets continued to say (Acts 7:49-50, cf. Isaiah 66:1–2). As Moses had taught them to expect (Acts 7:37), when the Christ came, He would put an end to the ceremonial law (cf. John 4:21–26, Hebrews 7:11–12). 

Persecuted deliverer three: the Just One (Acts 7:51–53). The promised prophet came, Jesus the Just One. But because Israel did not have the inward spiritual reality of the outward signs that God had given them (Acts 7:51), they committed the same errors as their spiritually dead ancestors. Whenever the Spirit spoke by a prophet, they persecuted him and even killed many (Acts 7:52). The law itself they never kept (Acts 7:53), and when the One Whom that law told them to expect and hear actually came, they betrayed and murdered Him instead (Acts 7:52).

The New Prophet, Holy Place, and Worship Law (Acts 7:54–57). The council and his accusers were plenty angry at this counter-accusation that it was actually they who were against Moses and God (Acts 7:54). But they turned murderers when Stephen told them about the Spirit’s giving him the vision of the glory of God (the new Holy Place), and Jesus (the new Prophet), standing at the right hand of God (leading the New Worship) in Acts 7:55-56

But note the final difference. They claimed to be the defenders of Moses, when they were the true rejectors of Moses. The final display of the fact that Stephen was righteous and they were wicked comes both in his faith and his forgivingness. He’s not afraid to die; like Jesus, he is content for his soul to depart and be with the Lord (Acts 7:59). And like Jesus, he’s eager to forgive, even praying for his murderers to be forgiven (Acts 7:60). Rather than the apostolic signs and wonders with which this account of Stephen began, his faith and this forgivingness are the marks of a true follower of God, and His Great Prophet Jesus, Who leads the new and forever-worship in glory!

Whose worship regulations should we follow? How do we do that? Where should we worship? How can we go there? Who is the Great Prophet? Whom does He use to address us with His Word? How does your heart respond when that Word steps on the toes of your religious traditions? In what ways do you see the eternity-prioritizing faith of Stephen (Jesus!) in yourself and your family? In what ways do you see the persecutor-forgiving forgivingness of Stephen (Jesus!) in yourself and your family?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for sending Your own Son as the last of the prophets. Thank You for His forever-priesthood and once-for-all sacrifice. Thank You for His leading our worship from His place in glory. Forgive us for treasuring traditions instead of listening to Jesus. Forgive us for being obsessed with the specialness of earthly places that are soon to be replaced and destroyed. Forgive us for clinging to this world instead of being content to have our souls depart and be with you. And forgive us for our unforgivingness, we ask, through Him in Whom we have been forgiven, even Jesus Christ, our Lord, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP110B “The LORD Has Spoken to My Lord” or TPH271 “Blessed Jesus, At Your Word”