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Saturday, April 29, 2023

A Faithful Ministry Solemnly Testifies All Truth to All People [Family Worship lesson in Acts 20:21]

What does a faithful ministry declare to whom? Acts 20:21 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In this verse of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that a faithful ministry declares all of God's Word to all of God's people.
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2023.04.29 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 20:21

 Read Acts 20:21

Questions from the Scripture text: To what sorts of people did the apostle minister (Acts 20:21)? What two categories make up the whole of what is helpful? Unto Whom is this repentance? Unto/into Whom is this faith? Whose is He?

What does a faithful ministry declare to whom? Acts 20:21 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In this verse of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that a faithful ministry declares all of God's Word to all of God's people. 

We began considering, in Acts 20:20, how an apostolic shepherding ministry is first and foremost a ministry of the Word preached and taught, in public and from house to house. That thought is completed in Acts 20:21 as the apostle reminds the Ephesian elders of the tone of his message, the audience of his message, the content of his message, the aim of his message, and the focus of his message.

The tone of his message: solemn testimony. “testifying.” The word used here is a derivative of the word for “witness” or “testify” from which we get the word “martyr.” It has a prefix attached to it that increases the solemnity of its meaning. His preaching and teaching to them was always weighty, never light.

The audience of his message: every sort of person. “to Jews, and also to Greeks.” Here are the bookends of humanity. People of every sort. From within the church and from without. Those who have had the Word and those who are new to it. Those who grew up in the faith, and those who had to be converted to it. Of every linguistic background, national background, and religious background. Once these have come into the church, they became objects of his special, ministerial attention. He didn’t stick to “favorites” in the church, or avoid those that were less pleasant to deal with. Anyone whom the Lord added to the flock received a full ministry.

The content of his message: the whole of Scripture. “repentance and faith” is another one of those “bookends” type statements that covers the whole. “Faith and repentance” is another way of saying “what man is to believe concerning God, and what duty God requires of man.” It is what the Scriptures principally teach. In other words, the apostle had taught them the whole Bible. This will be covered again when we come to Acts 20:27. But the “whole counsel of God” can be summarized as “repentance and faith.” Everything in the Bible falls into one of those two categories.

The aim of his message: personal response. The apostle was not just telling them the duty that God required; he was calling them to set their entire minds toward God in doing that duty. Each man’s mind is set either upon God or upon a creature. All unrighteousness and ungodliness of men is a function of suppressing the truth about God in unrighteousness. All righteousness and godliness is a turning back toward God, a change of mind to live not just by truth but by THE truth, rather than the lie (cf. Romans 1:18–25). Personal response in repentance. That is the aim.

But it is not just the truth of God’s divinity that requires a response of godliness in repentance. The truth of God’s salvation requires a response of faith. Faith is toward Jesus Christ—Yahweh Savior, Who came as the Christ. Faith is not just agreement but dependence. Not just agreement with Who Jesus is, but dependence upon Him to be that. Not just agreement with what Jesus has done, but dependence upon what He has done for us. Not just agreement with how His Spirit applies it to us, but dependence upon His Spirit to apply Him to us. Personal response in faith. That is the aim.

The focus of his message: God Himself. Repentance and faith are personal responses. Even more than that, they are responses to a person. Though every detail of how we are to obey is important, the point of the commandments is that they are applications of the implications of the character of God. Repentance is not merely repentance in the abstract. It is repentance toward God. 

Similarly with faith. Our Lord Jesus Christ is not merely a collection of ideas and benefits upon which we depend, but a Person upon Whom we depend. Indeed, this vital connection, this union, that we have by this dependence is behind the pronoun “our.” For those who believe, He is “our” Lord Jesus Christ. Faith is not merely faith in the abstract. It is faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

How has your application of God’s commands responded to the reality of Who He is? How has your dependence upon Christ responded to the truths of what He has done to save? What ministry has God given you to keep giving you repentance and faith? What use are you making of it?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for Your sufficient, complete Word. Grant that by Your Spirit we would live in repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, which we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry before You Come” or TPH170 “God in the Gospel of His Son”

Friday, April 28, 2023

Perceiving God's Glory in the Law, the Gospel, and the History of Redemption [Family Worship lesson in Exodus 34:1–7]

What glory does the Lord display to His people? Exodus 34:1–7 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these seven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God displays to His people the glory of His law, the glory of His nearness, the glory of His grace, and the glory of His justness.
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2023.04.28 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 34:1–7

Read Exodus 34:1–7

Questions from the Scripture text: To whom does Yahweh speak in Exodus 34:1? What does he tell him to cut? Who will write on them? What will He write? What else must Moses do (Exodus 34:2)? When? To where must he come? To present what, to Whom, and where? Who may also come up (Exodus 34:3)? Who mustn’t be seen, where? What else mustn’t be seen? What does Moses do in response to all of this (Exodus 34:4)? When Moses comes to the mountain, what happens in the cloud (Exodus 34:5, cf. Exodus 33:9)? What else does Yahweh do? What, specifically, does He proclaim? What name does He repeat twice (Exodus 34:6)? What title once? What three, initial character traits does He proclaim? In which two does He declare Himself to abound? What does He keep for whom (Exodus 34:7)? By forgiving what three things? What does He not do at all? What does He visit upon whom? Until when? How does Moses respond to this declaration (Exodus 34:8)? At what speed? To what extent? 

What glory does the Lord display to His people? Exodus 34:1–7 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these seven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God displays to His people the glory of His law, the glory of His nearness, the glory of His grace, and the glory of His justness. 

Moses had asked to see Yahweh’s glory (cf. Exodus 33:18), and Yahweh had basically said that all that there was to His glory to see(and especially hear), He would show to Moses (cf. Exodus 33:19–23). Now, Exodus 34:1–7 relates how the Lord displayed that glory in four things in particular: His law, His nearness, His grace, and His justness.

The glory of God’s law. Almost half of this passage is spent on the new tablets of stone. The writing of new tablets is important, because these are “the tablets of the Testimony” (cf. Exodus 31:18; Exodus 32:15). When Moses had seen that Israel had broken covenant with God, he had broken the previous set (cf. Exodus 32:19). Now, as the Lord’s display of glory is connected with considering the nation as His own people (cf. Exodus 33:13), He displays that glory in part by providing a new set of tablets. He tells Moses to cut them and bring them, and Yahweh will write upon them. This is also connected to the display of His glory, because we remember that the commandments are the life-applications of the implications of God’s divine glory.

The glory of God’s nearness. The nearness of the Lord is highlighted in in Exodus 34:2 (“present yourself to Me there”), Exodus 34:5 (“Yahweh descended in the cloud and stood with him there”), and Exodus 34:6 (“Yahweh passed before him”). God is present everywhere, but when He makes His near presence knows, He makes special display of His glory. He has done this most of all in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory as of the only-begotten of the Father. In this entire section of Exodus, the key issue is whether He will go up in the midst of the people, making them to know the nearness of His presence among them.

The glory of God’s grace. Here is, if we may say it reverently, God’s favorite part of His glory. For, what does He proclaim, when He proclaims His Name? “Yahweh, Yahweh, God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth. “Goodness and truth” translates words commonly translated “steadfast love and faithfulness.” In the Greek translation of this passage that the first century church used, the phrase is the same as “full of grace and truth” in John 1:14.

Not only are these two attributes the ones in which He here declares Himself to abound, but the previous three attributes were of similar kind. His preference for this aspect of His character is also seen in the imbalance between “keeping mercy for thousands” in Exodus 34:7a and “the third and fourth generation” in verse 7b (cf. Exodus 20:5–6). This preference is also seen in Romans 9:22–23. There, the Lord does will to show His wrath and make His power known, but that gets put on pause in order “that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy.”

The glory of God’s justness. Finally, the Lord does emphasize His justness. Although He forgives iniquity and transgression and sin, He does not do this by “letting go unpunished” this iniquity and transgression and sin. The verb for “let go unpunished” is doubled here, with a negative particle. It is very strong. And it reminds us that forgiveness comes not through injustice but through full propitiation. The wrath of God is poured out fully upon sin. The Lord Jesus has endured it as sinners’ covenant head, which Exodus 34:7 makes clear is the Lord’s righteous and just way of covenant dealing. This was dreadful news for us in Adam, but it is good news for us in Christ, and every Christian father desires that his children would come out of his headship and into Christ’s.

For each of these displays of God’s glory, how is Christ the greatest instance of that particular display? How are you responding to each of these glories of God in your life? How are you responding specifically to Christ?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for showing Your glory to Moses. And thank You for showing it even more to us in the Lord Jesus Christ. Grant that, by Your Spirit, we would see and respond to His glory more and more, AMEN!

ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH73C “In Sweet Communion, Lord, with Thee”

Thursday, April 27, 2023

How Christians Must Think of Themselves [2023.04.26 Midweek Sermon in Romans 6:11]


Christians are to concur with God's justifying and sanctifying declarations about themselves.

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

Recognizing and Responding to the Twisted Thinking of Our Laziness [Family Worship lesson in Proverbs 26:13–16]

Pastor teaches his family a selection from “the Proverb of the day.” In these four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us how to recognize the wickedness and stupidity that is behind our laziness.
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Courageous and Covenantal Kindness [Family Worship lesson in 2Timothy 1:15–18]

What hopes can there be in times of general apostasy? 2Timothy 1:15–18 looks forward to the second reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that in times of general apostasy, one man’s faithfulness may bring mercy to his whole household.
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2023.04.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Timothy 1:15–18

Read 2 Timothy 1:15–18

Questions from the Scripture text: What does Timothy know about whom (2 Timothy 1:15)? And whom, particularly? What does he pray for whom (2 Timothy 1:16)? Whom would this include? What has the head of their house done? When? Indicating what about his heart? Where had he arrived (2 Timothy 1:17)? What did he do there? For whom now, more specifically, does the apostle pray mercy (2 Timothy 1:18)? From Whom? When? Of what, further, does the apostle remind Timothy? 

What hopes can there be in times of general apostasy? 2 Timothy 1:15–18 looks forward to the second reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that in times of general apostasy, one man’s faithfulness may bring mercy to his whole household.

Courageous kindness. Timothy already knows the data in 2 Timothy 1:15. Phygellus, Hermogenes, and the vast majority of believers in and around Ephesus have turned away from Christ’s apostle. In the context, we are reminded that this is to turn away from Christ Himself, and the life and immortality that are in Him (cf. 2 Timothy 1:8-12).

The focus of the passage, however, is not in the one verse on the many, many who have turned away, together with their cautionary tale. The focus of the passage is in the three verses on Onesiphorus and his household. 

Onesiphorus had left his household back in Ephesus (cf. 2 Timothy 4:19) to come to Paul’s aid in Rome. Even though everyone back in Asia had turned away from Paul, and in Rome Paul was a prisoner in chains, Onesiphorus went to Rome for him, sought him out “very zealously,” found him, and refreshed him. Not just once but often. This was in keeping with how he had served Paul previously, back home in Ephesus, “in many ways” (2 Timothy 1:18b). 

Covenantal kindness of Christ. The apostle doesn’t just pray that Onesiphorus would find personal mercy, but that the Lord would grant mercy to his entire household. When we consider that Paul is writing as an apostle of Christ under the inspiration of the Spirit, we understand that he is indicating not just the heart of a grateful Christian but the heart of a merciful Christ. 

God deals with us covenantally, showing us kindness for the sake of our covenant heads. This way of dealing with men in history mirrors the Lord’s way of dealing with believers eternally in Christ, Who becomes their everlasting head through faith. So, the apostle prays that the Lord would grant mercy to Onesiphorus’s household. The implication is also that Timothy would hope to have a household, and that he would hope that the Lord would reward his faithfulness not only by mercy to Timothy but by mercy to that household.

Covenantal kindness of Christians. The other implication of Paul repeating these prayers in a mentoring letter to Timothy is that he expects Timothy to join Paul in praying this for Onesiphorus and his house. Indeed, the apostle expects his protégé to join action to prayer. Onesiphorus is currently in Rome, where Paul may minister to him. But Onesiphorus’s household is back in Ephesus, where Timothy may show extra kindness to him for the sake of their husband/father/master. 

In addition to neighbor love, there is a special brother love that Christians owe one another for the sake of their covenant head, the Lord Jesus Christ. Covenantal considerations extend beyond particular households of mere men to the household of God.

The ultimate mercy, of course, is the mercy that is in “that Day.” That phrase in 2 Timothy 1:17 repeats its use in 2 Timothy 1:12 and keeps the focus on eternal and spiritual mercy. Salvation is the most important mercy from God to seek in behalf of our household. Salvation is the most important mercy from God to pray for others and for their households. Salvation is the most important mercy from God to seek in our labors for others and for their households. Salvation is the most important mercy from God to seek for the household of God.

Who are in your household now? Who may be in your household later? Who has shown you, or your household particular kindness? How are you repaying them? How are you repaying their household?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for your kindness to Paul through the ministry of Onesiphorus, even when so many others had turned against him. Forgive us for when we fail to recognize when a brother needs us to stand courageoulsy with him or to seek him out zealously to refresh him. Thank You for teaching us to think covenantally and to be kind to children for the sake of their fathers. Forgive us for when we have failed to seek mercy covenantally with respect to others, or even with respect to our own households. Grant that our hearts and minds would be conformed to yours in this, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH406 “Jesus, With Thy Church Abide”

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

How Revival and Reformation Can Lead to More Revival and Reformation [Family Worship lesson in 2Kings 22]

How can revival come, and what may it look like? 2Kings 22 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twenty verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that revival may begin in smaller mercies, as the Lord brings the response of the life by the moving of the heart.
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2023.04.26 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Kings 22

Read 2 Kings 22

Questions from the Scripture text: Who was what age, when he became what (2 Kings 22:1)? How long did he reign? Who was his mother? What did he do (2 Kings 22:2)? In Whose sight? In what ways did he walk? What didn’t he do? In what year of his reign does he send whom, where (2 Kings 22:3)? To whom does he send a message to count what (2 Kings 22:4)? To do what with the money (2 Kings 22:5)? And what are these overseer workmen to do with it (verse 5)? To which workmen, specifically (2 Kings 22:6)? What does he say needn’t be done and why (2 Kings 22:7)? What happens as a result of this work (2 Kings 22:8)? Whom does Hilkiah tell and give it? What does Shaphan the scribe do with it (2 Kings 22:10-11)? To whom does Josiah give instruction in 2 Kings 22:12? To go to Whom and do what (2 Kings 22:13)? For what three parties to inquire? What has he discovered is great? Against whom? On account of what? To whom do the inquirers go (2 Kings 22:14)? In behalf of Whom does she speak (2 Kings 22:15)? To whom? What is the first and main response (2 Kings 22:16)? Why will God bring this calamity (2 Kings 22:17)? To whom does God address a personal word (2 Kings 22:18)? What has God seen about him, through what action (2 Kings 22:19)? What has Yahweh already done? And what will Yahweh do for Josiah in response to hearing him (2 Kings 22:20)? 

How can revival come, and what may it look like? 2 Kings 22 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these twenty verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that revival may begin in smaller mercies, as the Lord brings the response of the life by the moving of the heart. 

The influence of a godly grandpa, 2 Kings 22:1–7. Josiah was 8 when he became king (2 Kings 22:1), which means that he was 6 when grandpa Manasseh died (cf. 2 Kings 21:18–19). For those six years, he would have known the man of 2 Chronicles 33:12–17 as his grandfather. And though father Amon would have been 16 at Josiah’s birth and set in his ways, grandfather Manasseh in full repentance mode can be expected to have done much of the upbringing of Josiah with a keen interest in his soul. 

As Daniel and his friends would soon demonstrate in Babylon (cf. Daniel 1, Daniel 3, Daniel 6:10, Daniel 9:21), such an upbringing can (by God’s grace!) have a profound and lasting spiritual effect. For two years after grandpa Manasseh died, Josiah lived under the wicked reign of his 22–24 year old father (cf. 2 Kings 21:19–23). 

God’s praise of Josiah’s character and reign is already glowing in 2 Kings 22:2 (and will be even more glowing in 2 Kings 23:25). When he’s 24 (2 Kings 22:3-7, cf. 2 Kings 12:4–15), he adds renovation of the temple itself to his reforms—something that grandpa had not accomplished (cf. 2 Chronicles 33:15–17). 

How one reform leads to another2 Kings 22:8-13. The Lord has already shown Josiah great grace. The Lord gave Josiah a grandfather whose experience of sin and of repentance was poured into his own life. The Lord gave Josiah to follow and grow in his grandfather’s ways rather than his father’s. And now the Lord adds at least four more glorious gifts of grace to these others. 

First, He gives the recovery/discovery of the book of the law (2 Kings 22:82 Kings 22:10a). 

Then, God gives Josiah to hear the Word read (verse 10b). 

Then, God gives Josiah to respond to that Word from the heart (2 Kings 22:11). 

Finally, the Lord gives to Josiah to look for hope in the very God Whose character is declared in the Law.

In a similar way, prayer for revival and reformation of worship are often blessed by God as He answers those prayers through His powerful Word, with which He has filled biblical worship. What we must seek from Him is the grace to respond not merely with the curiosity and responsibility of a Hilkiah or Shaphan, but with the broken-hearted, torn-clothed seeking of God’s face Himself. It was His Spirit Who gave this response to Josiah. It is the same Spirit to Whom we look for the same response in us.

The timeline of answered prayer for reformation2 Kings 22:14-20. The Lord’s answer to Josiah is that because Josiah heard the Lord with a tender heart (2 Kings 22:19a), He will also hear Josiah (verse 19b). He reminds us that the nation is beyond the point of no return (2 Kings 22:16-17, cf. 2 Kings 21:12–15). What Josiah had heard in the Word (2 Kings 22:13) was true. 

We saw in 2 Kings 21:17–26 how Manasseh’s late repentance couldn’t undo the damage done to the nation, but now we see that there is mercy for households in repenting parents and mercy for individuals in their own repentance. The Lord will spare Josiah in mercy (2 Kings 22:20). But a big part of that answer had come already through Josiah’s reforms and Josiah’s tender-heartedness. The Lord had been doing this work that would answer Josiah’s prayer for decades before he was brought to pray it! Indeed, the prayer itself was part of the answer.

Whom would you hope to affect in godliness, if the Lord were to give you a great reformation of life? What parts of the reviving work (reformation of worship, hearing the Word, movement of heart, earnest prayer) that He did in Josiah have you seen in your own life? How can you get what remains?

Sample prayer: Lord, thank You for the amazing difference that You used Manasseh’s repentance to make in Josiah’s life. Forgive us for not seeking our own repentance more, or seeking the spiritual good that might come by it to others. Forgive us for lacking Josiah’s zeal to reform worship or his tenderheartedness at Your Word. Grant that Your Spirit would continue to strive with us and bring revival to our lives and to Your church in our day. Make us urgent in prayer, and answer it in Your grace, we ask through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH178 “We Have Not Known Thee as We Ought”

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Every Sin Deserves God's Wrath and Curse [Shorter Catechism 84 Simply Explained]

Pastor walks his children through Westminster Shorter Catechism question 84—especially explaining the implications for us of the fact that every sin deserves the wrath and curse of God.

Q84. What doth every sin deserve? Every sin deserveth God’s wrath and curse, both in this life, and that which is to come.
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Glories Things God Has Spoken of the Church [Family Worship lesson in Psalm 87]

What is so glorious about the church? Psalm 87 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these seven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God Himself is the glory of the church, and He makes her the home and fountain of the holiness of all His holy people.
(click here to DOWNLOAD mp3/pdf files of this lesson)

2023.04.25 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 87

Read Psalm 87

Questions from the Scripture text: Who wrote this Psalm (superscript)? Especially for what (cf. Psalm 87:7a)? What does Psalm 87:1 describe? Whose foundation? In mountains of what is it found? What/where (Psalm 87:2a) does Yahweh love? More than where/what (verse 2b)? Than how many of them? What are spoken (Psalm 87:3)? Whom does verse 3 address? From what places will the Lord enroll people in Zion (Psalm 87:4a–b)? To what extent (Psalm 87:4-5b)? How can such naturalized (new-nature!) citizenships occur (Psalm 87:5c)? Who records this new/renewed status (Psalm 87:6)? How does Psalm 87:7a convey that this is the public worship of the temple (cf. Psalm 87:2a)? What do all the temple-worshipers think of the church and her public worship (Psalm 87:7b)?

What is so glorious about the church? Psalm 87 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these seven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God Himself is the glory of the church, and He makes her the home and fountain of the holiness of all His holy people. 

Where God’s glory is displayed, Psalm 87:1–3. There are two great places where God has appointed to be worshiped: the church and the family. He may be worshiped anywhere, and all of life is to be lived in wonder at Him and devotion to Him, but these are the two institutions that He has specifically established for His worship and for the discipling of His people that comes by that worship. 

And even among these two, the Lord has a favorite. “His foundation is in the holy mountains.” He has displayed His glory especially at Sinai and Zion/Jerusalem, holy mountains where He gathered His church—and earthly expressions not only of the third heaven, where the assembly of the firstborn now gathers, but even the New Jerusalem, that great and holy city which will descend on the last day. So great is God’s preference for public worship that He loves it more than all of the family worship of Israel taken together (Psalm 87:2). This is a glorious thing that is spoken, indeed (Psalm 87:3)!

We love private worship, and well we should, for God loves it. We love family worship, and well we should, for God loves it. But God loves public worship exceedingly more, and so will we, as our hearts and minds are conformed more and more to His.

Where God’s people are derivedPsalm 87:4-6. The list of countries in Psalm 87:4 is a who’s who of dangerous and devilish enemies (‘Rahab’ refers not to the prostitute, but is a vicious nickname for Egypt). The Lord makes Himself known among the nations, but these of whom He speaks in verse 4 are coming to know Him in a way that changes their country of origin. Instead of being “born there” in verse 4, they are now noted by others to be “born in her” in Psalm 87:5. They have a new birth from “the Most High Himself.” 

Then, in Psalm 87:6, it is God Himself Who makes a legal declaration about her as He registers the peoples. There are two ways that this happens among men, and both are pictures of what happens as the Lord builds His church: adoption and marriage. Both bring one into the full status of a family as if he had been born there. 

Believers must be strangers and aliens to their former homelands by comparison to their new allegiance to Christ. The church is their home because God is their home. The church is their family because God is their family. cf. Psalm 45:10; Ruth 1:16–17; Luke 14:26; Matthew 10:37; Ephesians 2:19; Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 11:9–10Hebrews 11:13–16.

Where God’s people are discipledPsalm 87:7. Finally, in verse 7, it is God’s people themselves who declare their origin to be in the church. The singers and players on instruments are priestly clans, who lead the public worship of the temple, which establishes the setting as public worship. Further, these are those who lead and facilitate the prayers and songs by which the Lord trains His people’s thoughts. 

Believers are to say of the worship assembly of God, and especially of God Himself, “All my springs are in you.” Having begun by the wisdom and power and life of God, let us not think that we will grow in wisdom or strength or life, except in those ways by which God Himself grows us. Specifically, as Christ the “singer and player on instruments” of the New Covenant as admonished us (cf. Ephesians 5:18–21; Colossians 3:16–17; Hebrews 2:12; Psalm 19, Psalm 119), let us seek especially His grace to us in the means of those grace, means which He has ordained to comprise His public worship.

Where is God most glorified? In church. Where do Christians belong? In church. Where do they grow? In church.

How does the church’s place in your life, your week, your hopes, and your heart reflect its glories in this Psalm?

Sample prayer:  Lord, Your church is glorious. Your glory is visible everywhere, but You display it most of all in the assembly of Your people. You have given us a new birth into Your city. You have adopted us into Your family. You have betrothed us into Your household. And You have made Your church the place where You cause the life of Christ to grow in us by the work of Your Spirit in the means of Your grace. We bless Your Name for this and ask that You would strengthen and gladden us now in that very worship assembly, through Jesus Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP86B “Your Way, Teach Me, LORD” or TPH5 “Hear My Words, O LORD”

Monday, April 24, 2023

Divine Lessons in Prayer [2023.04.23 Evening Sermon in Exodus 33:12–23]


We must learn from God how to pray.

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The Content and the Contexts of a Faithful Ministry of the Word [2023.04.23 Morning Sermon in Acts 20:20]


The ministry of the Word must include both preaching and teaching, in both the church and the household.

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Jesus Teaches that Our View and Use of Wealth Reveals Our View of Him [2023.04.23 Sabbath School; Biblical Theology of the Diaconate #31]

If we cling to the treasures of this world, it shows that we have not discovered Christ as our only treasure and abundant treasure. When we treasure Him, we will become like Him, Who poured Himself out even for His enemies.
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Transforming Conduct by Transformed Convictions [Family Worship lesson in Romans 6:11]

How are Christians to think about their lives, in relation to their sin? Romans 6:11 looks forward to the sermon in the midweek meeting. In this verse of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that Christians are to concur with God’s justifying declaration about themselves and its impact upon their new nature.
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2023.04.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 6:11

Read Romans 6:11

Questions from the Scripture text: What phrase relates our action in Romans 6:11 to Christ’s action in Romans 6:10? How should we account ourselves with relation to sin? How should we account ourselves to God? In Whom are we to account ourselves this way? What does this say about the way by which we are able to do this? What does this say about the purpose for which we are able to do this?

How are Christians to think about their lives, in relation to their sin?  Romans 6:11 looks forward to the sermon in the midweek meeting. In this verse of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that Christians are to concur with God’s justifying declaration about themselves and its impact upon their new nature.

The key to changing the way that we live is to change the way that we think. Before we get to the “letting and presenting” of Romans 6:12-13, there must first be the “reckoning” (imputing) of Romans 6:11. Just as in the saving work of God justification is the origin of all sanctification, so also in the serving work of the Christian properly conducting ourselves must originate in properly considering ourselves.

“Likewise.” Why has the Spirit carefully reminded us about the complete, definitive, permanent end to Christ’s death? Because what has happened in Christ’s resurrection (Romans 6:9-10) is the pattern for how we are to consider ourselves (Romans 6:11). The word means “thusly” or “in the same manner.” 

Just as a permanent transition has been made with Christ, we are to acknowledge and assert that in Christ, we also are permanently transitioned. Jesus went from placing Himself under sin’s claim in His death to living under God’s claim forever in His resurrection. “Likewise” our permanent transition is one from sin to God.

“Account yourselves.” Impute. It’s the same word as when the Lord justifies us. Make a definitive, determined judgment. Just as God definitively declared us guilty in Adam. Just as God definitively declares us righteous in Jesus Christ, we must definitively declare ourselves dead to sin. 

Unlike God, our declarations do not determine reality. Rather, we have a duty to declare what He has determined. We have a duty to acknowledge and assert what He has already declared. Our judgments must concur with His judgments. There is an unacceptable arrogance in a defeatism that disagrees with God’s verdict. The Christian does not have the prerogative to consider himself to be continuing under sin’s power. God’s judgment must form the basis of how we consider ourselves (Romans 6:11) and thereby the basis of how we conduct ourselves (Romans 6:12-13).

“Dead to sin on the one hand.” There can be no “alive to God” without “dead to sin.” It is a double verdict. If you cannot have wealth and God as co-masters, then you certainly cannot have sin and God as co-masters! The old life is ended. It is a former life. It does not bleed over into the current one. That which remains from it is not a part of our nature but something that afflicts our new nature. 

Our new self grows, just as Jesus Himself increased in wisdom and favor with God and men. We are dead to sin once for all, but we are alive to God more and more forever. The key to expressing this new nature more and more (Romans 6:12-13) is to acknowledge and assert (Romans 6:11) that the old has gone, and the new has come.

“in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Finally, we no longer consider ourselves in ourselves. Believers have been brought out of ourselves and into union with our Lord Jesus Christ. Personally: in union with His person; this is not only the strength of a new reality but the joy of a new relationship. Powerfully: since we are in union with Him, we now live by the strength of Him Who brought us into that union by His Spirit in the first place. Purposefully: for His praise in Whom we are able to live this way. cf. Colossians 3:1–4.

What must precede the actual walking in newness of life? What way, specifically, of considering ourselves?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for the reality of Your justifying us through faith in Christ Jesus, so that we may walk in newness of life. Grant that, by Your Spirit, we would concur with Your judgment, in Christ Jesus, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”

Saturday, April 22, 2023

The Word-Work of a Shepherd [Family Worship lesson in Acts 20:20]

Of what does the primary ministry of an elder consist? Acts 20:20 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In this verse of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that biblical shepherding is primarily a ministry of the Word, which must include both preaching and teaching, and must occur both in the congregational assembly and in each particular home.
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2023.04.22 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 20:20

Read Acts 20:20

Questions from the Scripture text: What didn’t the apostle keep back (Acts 20:20)? How much of it? In what two ways did he convey these helpful things? In what two places? 

What must a complete ministry of the Word include? Acts 20:20 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In this verse of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that biblical shepherding is primarily a ministry of the Word, which must include both preaching and teaching, and must occur both in the congregational assembly and in each particular home. 

Since keeping back nothing helpful means fulfilling entirely the ministry of the Word, what does the apostle remind these elders that he has done with that word?

The ministry of the Word includes the whole range of application and instruction. There are many New Testament words for the ministry of the Word. The two that the Spirit uses here covers the gamut. “Proclaimed and taught” is what we mean when we frequently say “preaching and teaching.” They sound similar, but there is a very important distinction. 

In preaching, the minister is a messenger, a herald, an ambassador. He addresses you directly with something personal. It demands response. Even more, the Lord Himself is addressing you through the minister. The Scriptures are always living and active, but it is especially in that proclamation from heaven that we experience them that way (cf. Hebrews 4:12 in the context of Hebrews chapters 2–4, 12). 

In teaching, the minister is an educator. He instructs and explains. He communicates doctrine and facilitates understanding of how it fits together. There is a body of knowledge that every person needs, and the Lord’s way of giving it to them is not merely (or even primarily) through personal study. Someone who does “personal study” of Acts 20:20 should come to the conclusion that Jesus has provided him with instructors, and he must seek to be instructed by them. 

Neither of these—the preaching or teaching—should be left out of any ministry of the Word. If there is preaching without teaching, then ministers are culpable if the Lord’s flock turns out to be empty-headed. If there is teaching without preaching, then ministers are culpable if the Lord’s flock turns out to be cold-hearted. Either one of these conditions is spiritually deadly. A deficient ministry of the Word will produce a body that is either cancerous (overgrowth of that which is not true) or comatose (everything in place but inactive).

The ministry of the Word must be conducted in the context of both discipling institutions that the Lord has established. There are two great institutions that the Lord has ordained, within which His Word is ministered: the church and the household. As the apostle reminds the Ephesian elders of his own exemplary ministry, he emphasizes that his ministry neglected neither one of these institutions. He preached and taught “publicly and from house to house.” 

To the church, the apostle preached in the assembly of the people—in the gathering of the congregation. As we learn from the chapters of Hebrews referenced above, this is especially an element of the public worship of God. As they gather, believers are to hear the Lord Jesus declare God’s Name to them as His brethren (cf. Hebrews 2:12). In the public worship (cf. Psalm 95:1–7c), they are to hear His voice (cf. Psalm 95:7–11; Hebrews 2:1, Hebrews 3:7–4:15, Hebrews 12:22–29). 

But Acts 20:20 tells us that the apostle’s ministry in the assembly was also one of education and instruction. The preaching in the public worship must be doctrinal preaching. It is by hearing and believing Jesus, Whom they hear via the preacher, that members of the congregation are brought to faith (cf. Romans 10:14–15). Jesus tells them particular things about Himself that they believe from Him, in response to which they believe upon Him. And it is through the renewing of their minds that He transforms believers (cf. Romans 12:2). His Word, by which He makes His people holy, is a Word of truth (cf. John 17:17; 2 Timothy 2:15; James 1:18). 

Then, there is the ministry from house to house. In the day and time of the author, ministry in the assembly has fallen on hard times, but ministry house-to-house has fared even worse. It is nearly non-existent. Morning and evening family worship has ever been the duty of husbands and fathers in the church (cf. Deuteronomy 6:6–7; Ephesians 5:26, Ephesians 6:4). Day by day, they are to lead their family through the Word of God, with a special view toward their family’s spiritual Sabbath care (cf. Exodus 20:10). 

Now in Acts 20:20, the apostle reminds the elders of his own ministry in each house. They are to continue this house-to-house ministry in his absence. Both preaching (addressing the household in behalf of God) and teaching (seeing to the household’s assimilation of Scripture content and doctrine) are ministries that elders are to oversee and participate in. Obviously, the most frequent shepherd in the home is the father/husband, but what he does is to be facilitated and overseen by the elders.

What has God given you that is able to give every sort of help that you need in the Christian life? Which do you have a greater need to get more of and attend more to: preaching or teaching? How is the elders’ ministry in the assembly being combined with their ministry in your home? 

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your sufficient, effective, instructive Word. Grant that nothing helpful from Your Word would be missing from the ministry that we sit under. Thank You for calling and gifting shepherds among Your flock—and specifically for the ones that You have given our congregation. Grant that our congregational assemblies, and each of our Christian homes, would be places where Your word is proclaimed and taught—which we ask in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry before You Come” or TPH170 “God in the Gospel of His Son”

Friday, April 21, 2023

Glorious Freedom from Sin's Power in Our Glorious Christ [2023.04.19 Midweek Sermon in Romans 6:8–10]


Christians are believers who know that Christ's life is sure, eternal, and glorious, so their freedom from sin's power is glorious in Him.

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Some Sins Are Worse Than Others [Shorter Catechism 83 Simply Explained]

Pastor walks his children through Westminster Shorter Catechism question 83—especially explaining and applying how some sins are worse than others.

Q83. Are all transgressions of the law equally heinous? Some sins in themselves, and by reason of several aggravations, are more heinous in the sight of God than others.
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Hearing God Face to Face [Family Worship lesson in Exodus 33:12–23]

What encourages God’s people to ask great things from Him? Exodus 33:12–23 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these ten verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God’s people learn what to ask of Him from His own Word, and what they learn to ask is marvelously glorious.
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2023.04.21 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 33:12–23

Read Exodus 33:12–23

Questions from the Scripture text: Who speaks to Whom in Exodus 33:12? What had Yahweh said to him? But hasn’t Yahweh said? With what two statements does this lack of information seem to conflict? From Whom has Moses taken the statement in the first part of Exodus 33:13? What does he ask to be shown? Whom does he ask to know? What is his final request in verse 13? What will Yahweh send (Exodus 33:14)? Who will be the One to give them rest? What does Moses say about this (Exodus 33:15)? Why is this necessary (Exodus 33:16)? What sort of people must they therefore be? What will Yahweh do (Exodus 33:17)? Why—what two things does Yahweh now repeat (cf. Exodus 33:12)? Now what request does Moses make (Exodus 33:18)? What does Yahweh say He will make Moses to see (Exodus 33:19)? What will He make him to hear? How is it that Yahweh can be gracious and compassionate (cf. Romans 9:14–16)? What can’t Moses see (Exodus 33:20)? Why not (cf. John 1:18, John 14:8–9)? Where does He tell Moses to go (Exodus 33:21)? What will pass by (Exodus 33:22)? Where will Yahweh put Moses? How will Moses be covered? Then what (Exodus 33:23)? What will Moses see? What won’t he see?

What encourages God’s people to ask great things from Him? Exodus 33:12–23 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these ten verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that God’s people learn what to ask of Him from His own Word, and what they learn to ask is marvelously glorious. 

The Lord has told Moses that His Angel would go before Him (Exodus 33:2), but He has made it clear that, as of now, He will not go with Him (Exodus 33:3Exodus 33:5). As we have seen, this is cause for mourning (Exodus 33:1-6), but as we have also seen, the Lord has a special favor toward Moses, speaking face to face with him as a man speaks to his friend (Exodus 33:11). So, it is on this basis that Moses prays that in His personal mercies to Moses (“show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight”), Yahweh would show national and covenantal mercy to Israel  (“consider that this nation is Your people”). 

Where did Moses get the idea to ask that he would know the Lord and find grace in His sight (Exodus 33:13)? The Lord Himself has said, “I know you by name, and you have also found grace in my sight” (Exodus 33:12). And He will say it again (Exodus 33:17). Since we don’t have recorded the instance of God’s saying this that is previous to Exodus 33:12, the implication is that the Lord Himself has said it in that speech described at the end of Exodus 33:9 and beginning of Exodus 33:12.

The prayer request is a great one—not only that the Lord would be present to them (Exodus 33:15Exodus 33:14a), but that this presence would be favorable (end of Exodus 33:13Exodus 33:14b). The Lord’s answer in verse 14 uses the verb form of Noah’s name. Although the Lord’s presence may be a consuming presence as unto the rest of the world in the flood, He promises here that His presence will be a redeeming presence to give them rest, as it was unto Noah.

The Lord’s response encourages Moses to continue praying the same thing, again in Exodus 33:15-16. He takes a further cue from the “Noah” reference, coupled with the “found grace in my sight” language (cf. Genesis 6:8) to pray specifically regarding the distinction that the Lord’s grace would make between Israel and “all the people who are upon the face of the earth” (borrowing language from Genesis 6–7).

Again, the Lord repeats a promise (Exodus 33:17) and again Moses prays as provoked by that promise (Exodus 33:18). Unto what end is the Lord’s grace and fellowship, except that we would know His glory? Moses specifically uses a verb for sight (“show me” in verse 18), and the Lord promises to make that goodness (Exodus 33:19a) and glory (Exodus 33:22a) pass by. 

But it is not by his eyes but by his ears that the Lord will give Moses to know His glory. The Lord will cover Moses while the goodness and glory pass (end of Exodus 33:22) and make him to see some remnants and effects (Exodus 33:23), but this will not be the great revelation of the Lord. Rather, it will be in Yahweh’s proclamation of His own Name (Exodus 33:19, cf. Exodus 34:6–7) that He will most fully reveal Himself.

There is a play on words here. The Lord tells Moses that he cannot see the Lord’s face (Exodus 33:20Exodus 33:23), but we have just heard the Spirit emphasize that Yahweh spoke t Moses face to face (Exodus 33:11; cf. Numbers 12:8, Deuteronomy 34:10). It is by the Word that we “see” God’s face. And this is most true when the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. It was then that the Spirit says that men “beheld His glory” (cf. John 1:14). No one has seen God at any time, but it is in Jesus that God is fully revealed (cf. John 1:18) to such an extent that Jesus is all that one can see or will ever see of God Himself (cf. John 14:8–9). And it is by the hearing of the plain word that the Lord currently gives us to “see” Jesus’s face, and the glory of God in that face (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:2–6).

Would you have the great glories that God has promised? Then what you should look for and pray for is to know God in Jesus Christ by the hearing of His Word! This is the ultimate gift of God’s grace to us.

How are you building the skill of praying according to God’s Word? What sorts of things, then, do you pray for?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for giving us to be known by You and to find grace in Your sight. Grant unto us to know You and find rest and favor from You in Jesus Christ, through Whom we ask it, AMEN!

ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH73C “In Sweet Communion, Lord, with Thee” 

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Biblical Mandate for Systematic Theology [Family Worship lesson in 2Timothy 1:13–14]

What is the purpose of the official ministry of the church? 2Timothy 1:13–14 looks forward to the second reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these two verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that a great part of the official ministry of the church is to guard patterns of words.
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2023.04.20 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Timothy 1:13–14

Read 2 Timothy 1:13–14

Questions from the Scripture text: With what command does 2 Timothy 1:13 begin? Of what does this prototype consist? What sort of words? From whom had Timothy gotten them? By what mechanism had he gotten them? What two principles must characterize the way that he holds to this pattern? Who is at the center of a life that is sustained by this faith and driven by this love? What is this pattern called in 2 Timothy 1:14? To whom had the precious deposit been entrusted? What was Timothy to do with it? To Whom was he to entrust his own keeping of the precious deposit? Where does this Holy Spirit dwell—in whom (n.b. how many)?

What is the purpose of the official ministry of the church? 2 Timothy 1:13–14 looks forward to the second reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these two verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that a great part of the official ministry of the church is to guard patterns of words.

Pattern of sound words2 Timothy 1:13a. We live in an age when ministry in the church is often about worship or activities that induce certain feelings in people. The church has forgotten that it lives first before the face of God, and that even before the face of the world, the great thing that it has to offer is God Himself. So the question is not how we can get people to feel a certain way about us, our church, or even our God. Rather, the great question of ministry in the church is just what it is that God has given us to do, what is it by which God communicates Himself. 

So as the apostle is urging his protégé to conduct his ministry faithfully as Paul comes to an end of his own course, he urges Timothy about particular words. He doesn’t urge him to a Word-centered ministry. He cares much about the particular words themselves. He has given Timothy a pattern of words, a model and example of what particular words to use, and he expects Timothy to follow it.

What fuels this particularity about words: faith and love in Christ Jesus2 Timothy 1:13b. Why can’t we all just respect that each has his own faith? Why get so particular with doctrine, when it’s all just about love? Such phrases sound sweet at first, but it is the saccharin, nutritionless sweetness of manmade, synthetic ideas. 

True faith in Christ Jesus cares very much to get the identity of Christ Jesus correct. Faith is not holding on to trust; this is faith in faith, not faith in Christ Jesus. Faith is holding onto Christ. And it matters very much whether we are holding onto an actual Being Who is the Creator of all things and the Redeemer of those who trust in Him, or whether we are holding onto a figment of our imagination, an artifact of our emotions, or simply the lies of mere men.

And true love for Christ Jesus cares very much about Him Himself. True love for Christ cares very much to be truthful about Him. True love for Christ cares very much to know what actually pleases Christ. It does not foist upon the Lord whatever makes us feel good and expect that He must therefore approve of it. Do we have true faith and true love? 

Then we will care to be particular and Scriptural, even about the words of our theology and the patterns in which we arrange those words. This is the principle behind catechizing, and why times of reformation and revival have often produced excellent catechisms or recovered their use.

Who maintains these patterns of sound words2 Timothy 1:14. Are such patterns of words kept by the church or by the Holy Spirit? Yes. Ministers of the gospel, like Timothy, are charged with keeping “that good deposit,”—“that good thing which was committed to you.” But believers can do nothing in their own strength. 

Apart from Christ we can do nothing (cf. John 15:5), so the apostle reminds Timothy that he has the very same Spirit dwelling in him as has dwelt in Paul—the Spirit of Christ Himself, by Whom we abide in Christ Himself. It is this Spirit Who has given the Scriptures (cf. 2 Timothy 3:14–17; 2 Peter 1:20–21), by Whom the Lord Jesus Himself has given pastor-teachers as His method of stabilizing His people in those Scriptures (cf. Acts 20:28; Ephesians 4:11–14). For this purpose, the Spirit dwells with believers and in believers, so that He will be to us the Spirit of truth by Whom the Lord Jesus is always with us to keep us loving Him (cf. John 14:15–18). The pattern and the power of ministry is not up to the minister. It has been determined by Christ: keeping sound words as those who are kept by the Spirit.

What has the study of sound words played in your walk with Christ? Whom is He using to facilitate this, and how have you availed yourself of their ministry? Whom do you trust to make this effective?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we thank You for keeping Paul by Your Spirit, and keeping Timothy by Your Spirit, and that now You have come to us by the Spirit Who dwells in us. Forgive us for trying to do things our own way—either by minimizing doctrine or being loose with it. And forgive us for trying to do things in our own strength—rather than by Your Holy Spirit Who dwells in us. By Your Spirit, grant that we would keep the good deposit that has been entrusted to Your church, for we ask it through Christ, AMEN!

ARP23B “The Lord’s My Shepherd” or TPH406 “Jesus, With Thy Church Abide”

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

2023.04.19 Hopewell @Home ▫ 2 Kings 21:17–26

Read 2 Kings 21:17–26

Questions from the Scripture text: To whose other acts does 2 Kings 21:17 refer? What particular types of acts are mentioned here? But where would you have to look to find their record? With/like whom did Manasseh lay down/die (2 Kings 21:18)? But where was he buried? Who reigned in his place? How old was he (2 Kings 21:19)? How long did he reign? Who was his mother? What did he do (2 Kings 21:20)? In Whose sight? As who had done? What walking, and what service, comprised this evil (2 Kings 21:21)? Whom did such service forsake (2 Kings 21:22a)? What way of walking did this reject (verse 22b)? Who did what in 2 Kings 21:23? Where did they kill him? Then what did the people of the land do to them (2 Kings 21:24)? And whom did they make king instead? What else were immaterial to this account of Amon (2 Kings 21:25)? Where was he buried (2 Kings 21:26)? Who reigned in his place?

If a conversion late in life receives the same eternal mercy, why should we seek the Lord early? 2 Kings 21:17–26 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these ten verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that late conversions do not undo the damage that we have done, in this life, to ourselves, others, and God’s church. 

In 2 Chronicles 33:12–17, we read about Manasseh’s repentance, restoration, and reformation. So why does 2 Kings 21:17 refer only to “the sin that he committed” as a summary of “the rest of the acts of Manasseh”? Because for the nation, and even for his own seed, the damage had been done. When Amon “walked in all the ways that his father had walked” (2 Kings 21:21a), it was that “he served the idols that his father had served, and worshiped them” (verse 21b). 

All Amon’s childhood, his father had been wicked. The damage had been done. Our sins do more than incur guilt before God. They cause and breed all sorts of harm. The Lord “visits the sins of the fathers upon the children” (cf. Exodus 20:5; Numbers 14:18) not only by punishing providences but by the sinfulness of the son, and especially his walking in similar sins. 

What an urgency there is upon fathers to be converted! What an urgency there is upon fathers to grow in grace! Our children do not have time to wait until we come to profess to know the Lord or come to live like we know Him. And as Exodus 20:5, Numbers 14:18, etc. indicate, this is especially true when it comes to our worship life. How many hours of worship will they miss on how many Lord’s Days? How many family worship times that either never happen, have no Word in them, or have no heart in them? It is not just education in theological truth that they miss but the experience of God Himself. Instead of being brought before Him by a worshiping, teaching, interceding, singing, pleading father, whose life in between the worship times is devoted to the Lord, these children are hardened in the same sins.

But Manasseh wasn’t just a father but a king. Even his reforms could not bring the people themselves all the way back (cf. 2 Chronicles 33:17), and the ruin of the nation was already determined (cf. 2 Kings 21:11–15). Just as much as with households, nations and churches under men’s authority cannot afford for those men to spend a life provoking God.

Is there extraordinary mercy with God for even the worst of sinners? Yes, praise God! And Manasseh is an example of that (and one of the keys to understanding how it was that the Lord brought Josiah his grandson to such faith). But in our passage, just here, Manasseh is also an example of the real and dreadful consequences of sin. Even if you could know (you can’t) that you might be converted later, the cost of waiting is too high. Come to Him now! Even if you could know that you might be sanctified later (how can you know that, if you do not care so much to be sanctified now?), the cost of waiting is too high. Return to Him now with all your heart, and by His grace, give Him all that you are, in dependence upon Him! 

What are you (or those that you love) missing out upon with God, while you wait to commit (or recommit) your whole life unto Him? How would your life’s story so far be a reminder of what good the Lord might bring about through someone to whom He has shown mercy? How would it be a warning of what damage may be done, even by those to whom the Lord would yet show great mercy? By what means and what responses might the rest of your life come to be more of an encouragement than a warning? How are you seeking those from the Lord?

Sample prayer: Lord, You showed great mercy to Manasseh at the end of his life. But, we tremble to consider how it was too little, too late, to recover his son Amon, or his nation, Your own people. O Lord, we too have dragged our own feet in repenting from our sin and being wholehearted toward you. And we cannot know whether the damage that we are doing will ever be repaired. Forgive us, O Lord! And help us! Grant that this day would be day of wholeheartedness, and that it would be our repentance, rather than our sin, that has the lasting effect upon our families and church. O Lord, help our young men in particular, to seek You early, to remember You in the days of their Youth, to be faithful saplings that grow up to be mighty oaks in Your world and church. Make them and us to abide in Christ, so that we all abiding in Him, might bear much fruit, we ask in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH178 “We Have Not Known Thee as We Ought”

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Seeing and Knowing Mediatorial Mercy [2023.04.16 Evening Sermon in Exodus 33:7–11]


To sinners who know that they deserve to be abandoned, the Lord gives them have hearts that are moved by the knowledge that they have an accepted mediator.

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Keeping Back Nothing Helpful [2023.04.16 Morning Sermon in Acts 20:20]


A shepherd under Christ—whether pastors in the congregation or husbands and fathers in the home—must keep back nothing helpful. And the great help that Christ requires him to provide is the Word.

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Jesus's Teaching on Treasure [2023.04.16 Sabbath School; Biblical Theology of the Diaconate #30]

We traced through the Sermon on the Mount to find that those who have God as their treasure allow neither wealth nor worry to control their lives.
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2023.04.18 Hopewell @Home ▫ Psalm 86:11–17

Read Psalm 86:11–17

Questions from the Scripture text: With what petition does the psalmist begin (Psalm 86:11a)? For what purpose does he need this lesson (verse 11b)? What one thing does he desire would characterize every motion of his heart (verse 11c)? What does such a heart especially do (Psalm 86:12a)? What does that whole person do (verse 12b)? What attribute of God makes this response an absolute certainty (Psalm 86:13a)? In what action of God is this most clearly seen (verse 13b)? What is the situation that we finally (in Psalm 86:14!) learn has occasioned this prayer/psalm? Who is more determinative of David’s condition and outcome (Psalm 86:15)? Which five of His attributes are highlighted here? Of which does it say that God is full? In which two does it say that He is abundant (verse 15)? For what four things does Psalm 86:16 ask? What two things does the psalmist call himself here? What does he ask to have made visible in Psalm 86:17a? For whom else to see (verse 17b)? So that what may happen to them? What will both the psalmist and his haters know, when God’s goodness to him is made visible (verse 17c)?

What do believers who are in trouble want most from God? Psalm 86:11–17 looks forward to the opening portion of morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these seven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that believers who are in trouble desire to know God’s counsel, so they can praise God’s character, having experienced God’s comfort. 

God’s counsel, Psalm 86:11. David wants God’s counsel for his mind (verse 11a) and his behavior (verse 11b)—his whole soul (verse 11c). The prayer that the Spirit teaches us here focuses on our own minds, our own behavior, our own life. There is a way that Yahweh’s Word teaches us to walk. 

When we’re in trouble, clear thinking is of utmost importance, biblical thinking is of utmost importance. It may be surprising for us to learn that Bible study, doctrinal study is important for believers who are in trouble. This is because we need to know how to walk, and the right way to walk isn’t the way that manipulates circumstances or people, but the way that is according to God’s truth. 

Trouble endangers our hearts of going after many things, when they should be going after just one thing: the fear of the Lord. And the way to unite our behavior and our thoughts is by His Word.

God’s characterPsalm 86:12-15. Circumstances change. People are unstable. But one thing is always true: God and His glory (Psalm 86:12b). If our whole heart is about praising Him (verse 12a), then our life and its purpose will be forever. And what a glorious character is His Whom we praise! His covenanted love is great (Psalm 86:13a). He is a God of compassion and grace (Psalm 86:15a), of patience and a multitude of covenanted love and faithfulness (verse 15b).

The murderous (Psalm 86:14b) got that way because instead of having their lives be about beholding this God (verse 14c), they are proud of themselves instead (verse 14a). What a dangerous thing is pride—that it hides the glory of God from view by the smokescreen of our own faux glory! David’s great danger in his trouble isn’t that he might suffer at the hands of the wicked, but that he might become like them.

Here is one of the great benefits of having God as Savior (Psalm 86:13b). For us, His character is not merely a conceptual truth (Psalm 86:15), but and experienced reality toward us (Psalm 86:12a). If we keep His salvation ever in mind, it will keep His character in our minds, and protect us from slipping into that life like the wicked’s where God is not always at the forefront.

God’s comfortPsalm 86:16-17. As this prayer of David closes, it reaches a fever pitch of urgency. The plea to “Turn! Have mercy!” (Psalm 86:16a). The self-description as “servant” and “son of maidservant” (verse 16b–c). The request for an indication, any indication, of God’s goodness toward him (Psalm 86:17a). All he is asking for is to get a little help or comfort (verse 17c) that will be a reminder of that ultimate deliverance that is sure to come. This will put his attackers to shame (verse 17b). What a blessing it is, when the Lord shines a ray of His comfort into the believer’s darkness, for it reminds that behind those clouds the sun of God’s love toward him always shines at full strength!

What trouble are you in? How has this driven you to more study of Scripture and theology? What has this study done to inform how you think and act in the midst of your trouble? What comforts, even the tiniest, has the Lord given you in this trouble? How much comfort will you have when it is completed?

Sample prayer:  Lord, come now and help us to worship You according to Your Word. We desire that in all that we do, especially Your worship, we would have one heart to fear Your Name and to praise You. You are a God of compassion and grace, of patience and a multitude of covenanted love and faithfulness. Now, in Your worship, make us to know how great is Your steadfast love toward us. Help us and comfort us by Your Spirit’s showing us good today, we ask, through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP86B “Your Way, Teach Me, LORD” or TPH5 “Hear My Words, O LORD”

Monday, April 17, 2023

2023.04.17 Hopewell @Home ▫ Romans 6:8–10

Read Romans 6:8–10

Questions from the Scripture text: What happened to believers (Romans 6:8)? With Whom? How do we respond to that death? What do we believe we shall do? With Whom? Whom do we know about (Romans 6:9)? What do we know has happened to Him? What does He no longer do? What doesn’t death have, over Whom? What did Christ do (Romans 6:10)? To what? How many times? How many more times will occur? What does He do now? Unto Whom does He live?

What do Christians believe, and know, about their freedom from sin?  Romans 6:8–10 looks forward to the sermon in the midweek meeting. In these three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that Christians know that their freedom from sin is in a Christ Whose life is sure, eternal, and glorious.

Freedom from sin in union with Christ, Romans 6:8. “If we died with Christ, we believe.” Those who are dead believe. There is no way to die to sin, except in union with Jesus Christ. There is no union with Jesus Christ, except through faith. If—then. If we died, we believe. We believe into Him. And how could it ever have been that we would only die with Him but not also live with Him? 

Yes, His death frees us from sin’s guilt and even sin’s power, but what about sin’s presence? There is more to Christ than His death—everlastingly and gloriously more. And there is more to our freedom from sin in Christ than freedom from its guilt and power—everlastingly and gloriously more.

This is part of the Christian faith. We believe it. We believe more than that we have been forgiven through Him. We believe that we shall also live with Him. We believe that we will be with Him. Forever. Sinless. Do you believe this, dear reader? 

Freedom from sin, completely and forever, Romans 6:9. “knowing that.” In Romans 6:8, it was believing. Now in Romans 6:9, it is knowing. Knowing is part of faith. In Romans 6:6, we knew that our old man was crucified with Him so that we would no longer be slaves of sin: bearing our sin’s guilt, He died, to deliver us from sin’s power. In Romans 6:9, we know more about the Christ in Whom we were crucified: He has been raised, and there’s no more dying to do, because death has no claim upon Him to rule over Him. 

The believer knows that his delivery from sin’s power in our heart is as completed as Christ’s delivery from death’s power in the grave. “Christ dies no more.” There is a finality and forever-ness here that must encourage a believer in his battle with sin. Do you know this about Christ’s death, dear reader?

Freedom from sin unto a glorious new realityRomans 6:10. “the life that He lives, He lives to God.” In Romans 6:4, we read that Christ was “raised from the dead by the glory of the Father,” and that this shapes how we walk in newness of life. Christ’s resurrection announced, “God is glorious”! Our walking in newness of life announces, “God is glorious”!

Now in Romans 6:10, the “once for all” punctiliar aspect of Christ’s death is set over against His living. His living isn’t just for a point of time. It is forever and ever. And every moment of this “forever” is a “living unto God.” Every moment of the resurrected Christ’s life, delivered from death, forever and ever, declares that glory of God by which He has been raised. This is also the purpose of our having been delivered from sin. Every moment that we are not under the power of sin declares that glory of God by which we have been freed.

What do you believe about your union with Christ and fellowship with Christ? When does that come up in your thought life? What do you know about Christ’s death and resurrection life? How does your life reflect a desire to display God’s glory in your deliverance from sin’s power?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for investing Your glory not only in delivering Christ from death’s power but also in delivering us from sin’s power. Forgive us for all of our selfish living, in which we aim at something less than Your glory, by which we have been delivered. Grant that by Your Spirit, we would walk in newness of life, to bring You glory, as we hope forever to do in Christ, through Whom we ask it, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH433 “Amazing Grace”

Saturday, April 15, 2023

2023.04.15 Hopewell @Home ▫ Acts 20:20

Read Acts 20:20

Questions from the Scripture text: What didn’t the apostle keep back (Acts 20:20)? How much of it? In what two ways did he convey these helpful things? In what two places? 

Of what does the primary ministry of an elder consist? Acts 20:20 looks forward to the morning sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In this verse of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that biblical shepherding is primarily a ministry of the Word, which must include both preaching and teaching, and must occur both in the congregational assembly and in each particular home. 

In Acts 20:18-19, we learned that the apostle’s example to the elders was one of the lowliness of the minister, but the Lordliness of Jesus, Who is worth all effort and suffering, and Who uses lowly servants in His Lordly power. The next two verses turn the focus to the ministry by which the Lord exercises this power through His servants: the ministry of preaching and teaching.

Every help is in the Word. The apostle introduces the proclaiming and teaching of the Word by describing this ministry as “keeping back nothing helpful.” In other words, the Word has in it everything that is necessary to carry believers through their Christian walk in this world. As he would later write, the Old and New Testament Scriptures are sufficient—even abundant—to furnish the man of God for every good work (cf. 2 Timothy 3:14–16). 

There are other, ordained means of grace (namely, especially, the sacraments and prayer) by which the Lord has appointed to make effectual to the believer what His Word says. But the Word contains everything helpful. Faithful shepherding (whether of an elder in the congregation, or a husband/father at home) will be full of the Word, adding nothing to it, and certainly leaving nothing out of it (cf. Acts 20:27).

In every way. There are many New Testament words for the ministry of the Word. The two that the Spirit uses here covers the gamut. “Proclaimed and taught” is what we mean when we frequently say “preaching and teaching.” They sound similar, but there is a very important distinction. 

In preaching, the minister is a messenger, a herald, an ambassador. He addresses you directly with something personal. It demands response. Even more, the Lord Himself is addressing you through the minister. The Scriptures are always living and active, but it is especially in that proclamation from heaven that we experience them that way (cf. Hebrews 4:12 in the context of Hebrews chapters 2–4, 12). 

In teaching, the minister is an educator. He instructs and explains. He communicates doctrine and facilitates understanding of how it fits together. There is a body of knowledge that every person needs, and the Lord’s way of giving it to them is not merely (or even primarily) through personal study. Someone who does “personal study” of Acts 20:20 should come to the conclusion that Jesus has provided him with instructors, and he must seek to be instructed by them. 

Neither of these—the preaching or teaching—should be left out of any ministry of the Word. If there is preaching without teaching, then ministers are culpable if the Lord’s flock turns out to be empty-headed. If there is teaching without preaching, then ministers are culpable if the Lord’s flock turns out to be cold-hearted. Either one of these conditions is spiritually deadly. A deficient ministry of the Word will produce a body that is either cancerous (overgrowth of that which is not true) or comatose (everything in place but inactive).

In every setting. There are two great institutions that the Lord has ordained, within which His Word is ministered: the church and the household. As the apostle reminds the Ephesian elders of his own exemplary ministry, he emphasizes that his ministry neglected neither one of these institutions. He preached and taught “publicly and from house to house.” 

To the church, the apostle preached in the assembly of the people—in the gathering of the congregation. As we learn from the chapters of Hebrews referenced above, this is especially an element of the public worship of God. As they gather, believers are to hear the Lord Jesus declare God’s Name to them as His brethren (cf. Hebrews 2:12). In the public worship (cf. Psalm 95:1–7c), they are to hear His voice (cf. Psalm 95:7–11; Hebrews 2:1, Hebrews 3:7–4:15, Hebrews 12:22–29). 

But Acts 20:20 tells us that the apostle’s ministry in the assembly was also one of education and instruction. The preaching in the public worship must be doctrinal preaching. It is by hearing and believing Jesus, Whom they hear via the preacher, that members of the congregation are brought to faith (cf. Romans 10:14–15). Jesus tells them particular things about Himself that they believe from Him, in response to which they believe upon Him. And it is through the renewing of their minds that He transforms believers (cf. Romans 12:2). His Word, by which He makes His people holy, is a Word of truth (cf. John 17:17; 2 Timothy 2:15; James 1:18). 

Then, there is the ministry from house to house. In the day and time of the author, ministry in the assembly has fallen on hard times, but ministry house-to-house has fared even worse. It is nearly non-existent. Morning and evening family worship has ever been the duty of husbands and fathers in the church (cf. Deuteronomy 6:6–7; Ephesians 5:26, Ephesians 6:4). Day by day, they are to lead their family through the Word of God, with a special view toward their family’s spiritual Sabbath care (cf. Exodus 20:10). 

Now in Acts 20:20, the apostle reminds the elders of his own ministry in each house. They are to continue this house-to-house ministry in his absence. Both preaching (addressing the household in behalf of God) and teaching (seeing to the household’s assimilation of Scripture content and doctrine) are ministries that elders are to oversee and participate in. Obviously, the most frequent shepherd in the home is the father/husband, but what he does is to be facilitated and overseen by the elders.

What has God given you that is able to give every sort of help that you need in the Christian life? Which do you have a greater need to get more of and attend more to: preaching or teaching? How is the elders’ ministry in the assembly being combined with their ministry in your home? 

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for Your sufficient, effective, instructive Word. Grant that nothing helpful from Your Word would be missing from the ministry that we sit under. Thank You for calling and gifting shepherds among Your flock—and specifically for the ones that You have given our congregation. Grant that our congregational assemblies, and each of our Christian homes, would be places where Your word is proclaimed and taught—which we ask in Jesus’s Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP119W “Lord, Let My Cry before You Come” or TPH170 “God in the Gospel of His Son”

Friday, April 14, 2023

Mediating, Moving Mercy [Family Worship lesson in Exodus 33:7–11]

How can a sinful people interact with God? Exodus 33:7–11 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that for a sinful people to interact with God, they must do so through an accepted, honored mediator.
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2023.04.14 Hopewell @Home ▫ Exodus 33:7–11

Read Exodus 33:7–11

Questions from the Scripture text: Who took what in Exodus 33:7? Where did he pitch it? At what distance? What did he call it? Who were seeking Whom? Where did they go? Who, specifically, went there (Exodus 33:8)? When he did, who else took what posture? Where? To do what? Until when? What would descend when Moses entered (Exodus 33:9)? Where would it stand? Who would talk with Moses? What would all the people see (Exodus 33:10)? Then what would the people do in the door? With whom did Yahweh speak (Exodus 33:11)? In what manner? Who else was there? When?

How can a sinful people interact with God? Exodus 33:7–11 looks forward to the evening sermon on the coming Lord’s Day. In these five verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that, for a sinful people to interact with God, they must do so through an accepted, honored mediator. 

The mercy of God to give them a mediator. The tabernacle, whose designs Yahweh had given on the mountain, was not yet built. That one would proceed in the midst of the people. How marvelous that the glorious God would one day come down upon it in His glory cloud and inhabit it with the most intense communication of His presence, right in the midst of His people!

But here is another marvel. We can see the depth of their sin and the danger of their condition in the fact that this tent of meeting is outside the camp. This is emphasized by its placement “far from the camp” in Exodus 33:7. But even for such a people as this, the great God Whom heaven and highest heaven could not contain, or even the Tabernacle or later the Temple, comes and meets with His people in Moses’s personal tent. Moses is a sinner like they (cf. Exodus 32:32b). But his role looks forward to Christ, and the Lord meets with His people through Moses (Exodus 33:7b) at Moses’s tent.

The mercy of God to enable them to see that He has provided a mediator. When Moses arises to go there, each man arises and watches him (Exodus 33:8). Why, what do they see? When Moses enters, the glory cloud descends and stands at the door (Exodus 33:9). They do not see Yahweh talking with Moses. But they can see that Yahweh is talking with Moses (Exodus 33:10). They can even see that when Moses returns to the camp, his understudy would remain. One day, Moses the Lord’s servant will be dead, but the Lord’s presence to His people and power for His people will not die with Moses (cf. Joshua 1). Even while he lives, Moses cannot be on duty 24/7, so Joshua stands in, when necessary (Exodus 33:11b). 

But we have a Mediator Who, even in His human nature, has been so glorified as to never need sleep, to never need a break. We cannot see the Lord Jesus mediating for us on the throne of glory. But His death, resurrection, and ascension have been witnessed by men on earth. And, His Spirit enables believers to perceive by faith that He is mediating for us, always living to intercede for us by the power of His indestructible life (cf. Hebrews 7:25). 

The mercy of God to affect them by their knowledge of the ministry of the mediator. The Lord has continued that work in their hearts that we saw in Exodus 33:1-6. There, they mourned at the thought of the Lord not going with them. Here, they have hope for a resolution to their mourning. He is still present to their mediator. He is still speaking with Him face to face as with a friend (Exodus 33:11a). 

Moses is not merely receiving ideas in his mind or hearing words in his ears. The Lord is manifesting Himself before Moses’s face in the tent and communicating to him in that way. And the knowledge that this is happening in Moses’s tent causes each man to bow down in the door of his own tent. 

It is one mercy from the Lord to know what Jesus is doing for sinners in heaven. It is another mercy from the Lord for each one of us to have our own heart affected by what Jesus is doing for me. By what God is doing for me in Jesus. Indeed, Jesus Himself has called us His friends (cf. John 15:15)—first the apostles by the Spirit, and then the entire church by their Spirit-inspired Scriptures, blessed to us by the same Spirit. And His Spirit makes us to know God’s glory in the Lord Jesus’s own face (cf. 2 Corinthians 4:6), and even to grow by this personal knowing of Him (cf. 2 Peter 3:18). It is a weak, sickly sort of Christianity that is unaffected by these things, but we may look to the same Spirit to work in our hearts as He was working in the hearts of Israel here.

How often do your heart and mind go to the fact that the Lord Jesus is interceding for you in glory? How deeply does this affect your heart? Who can give you greater frequency and effect? By what means does He do so? What use are you making of the means? To Whom are you looking to bless them to you?

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for giving us Your own Son to be our Mediator. Grant that Your Spirit would move our hearts with this knowledge we ask, through Christ, AMEN!

ARP32AB “What Blessedness” or TPH73C “In Sweet Communion, Lord, with Thee”

Thursday, April 13, 2023

How to Live as Sheep of a Mighty Shepherd [2023.04.12 Midweek Sermon in 1Peter 5:1–11]


We do things God's way, Christ's way, because it is His, and He is bringing us to glory.

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Counterproductive Pride [Family Worship lesson in Proverbs 13:10]

Pastor teaches his family a selection from “the Proverb of the day.” In this verse of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that pride puts us at odds with those whom the Lord has given us for our good.
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