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Posts tagged ‘sermon’

Sermon – Aspects of Covenantal Love

Aspects of Covenantal Love

(Song of Solomon 8:5-7)

Preached at Poulner Baptist Chapel 5th July 2009

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Schedule

Introduction

1. Dependency (Song of Solomon 8v5a)

2. Data (Song of Solomon 8v5b)

3. Desire (Song of Solomon 8v6)

4. Devotion (Song of Solomon 8v7)

How can we respond?

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Sermon – Life Under The Apple Tree

Life Under the Apple Tree

(Song of Solomon 2:3-14)

Preached at Poulner Baptist Chapel

25th January 2009

Dave G Roberts

Introduction

1. The Beloved’s Portrait of the Lover (SoS 2:3-6)

2. The Beloved Encourages Others about the Lover (SoS 2:7-9)

3. Lover is like no other and wants to hear your voice (SoS 2:10-15)

Recapitulation

Conclusion

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Psalm 66

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Psalm 66 – True Joy!

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Tonight we are to study Psalm 66, which is a prayer of joy. The reason for this is, because where ever hope can be found, there is always joy. This is particularly true of the Christian life. As christians, our great hope is knowing that through the Lord Jesus Christ we will have salvation. Salvation is freedom. Freedom from injustice, freedom from sin. It is freedom from our prison of looking after our self, to a new life of entrance into self-forgetful worship & service to God. It is freedom from the limits of pain, decay, death, and entrance into a new world of life, immortality, beauty and joy without end. That is the hope of the Christian, and that is why we can have joy as Christians. But joy, is not just for the future. Joy is also for the present, for the here and now. But, what is joy, and what place should joy take in our life today. But first we will look at Psalm 66, and see where joy fitted into the life of the Psalmist.

All together now-applause for God!

Sing songs to the tune of his glory,

set glory to the rhythms of his praise.

Say of God, “We’ve never seen anything like him!”

When your enemies see you in action,

they slink off like scolded dogs.

The whole earth falls to its knees-

it worships you, sings to you,

can’t stop enjoying your name and fame.

5-6 Take a good look at God’s wonders-

they’ll take your breath away.

He converted sea to dry land;

travelers crossed the river on foot.

Now isn’t that cause for a song?

7 Ever sovereign in his high tower, he keeps

his eye on the godless nations.

Rebels don’t dare

raise a finger against him.

8-12 Bless our God, O peoples!

Give him a thunderous welcome!

Didn’t he set us on the road to life?

Didn’t he keep us out of the ditch?

He trained us first,

passed us like silver through refining fires,

Brought us into hardscrabble country,

pushed us to our very limit,

Road-tested us inside and out,

took us to hell and back;

Finally he brought us

to this well-watered place.

13-15 I’m bringing my prizes and presents to your house.

I’m doing what I said I’d do,

What I solemnly swore I’d do

that day when I was in so much trouble:

The choicest cuts of meat

for the sacrificial meal;

Even the fragrance

of roasted lamb is like a meal!

Or make it an ox

garnished with goat meat!

16-20 All believers, come here and listen,

let me tell you what God did for me.

I called out to him with my mouth,

my tongue shaped the sounds of music.

If I had been cozy with evil,

the Lord would never have listened.

But he most surely did listen,

he came on the double when he heard my prayer.

Blessed be God: he didn’t turn a deaf ear,

he stayed with me, loyal in his love.

1. Psalm 66 and joy

a. Joy and the Earth (vs. 1-4) Listen again from another translation to that beginning! ” Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth! Sing to the glory of his name! Offer glory and praise! “. The majority of scribes and leaders of Israel normally only gave praise to God silently and in meditation. This was of course acceptable to God. But here among a great number of peoples the whole earth is encouraged to shout with great joy to God. This also was acceptable to God, and it is quite natural for great crowds of people to shout in harmony. If praise is to be widespread, it must be vocal; joyful sounds stir the soul and cause great thanksgiving spread throughout the people.

God is to be praised with both the voice and the heart. Oh, great joy when all the earth will worship God in joyful harmony. One day, all the earth will sing the praises of God, in every language. The whole earth, everyone, is encouraged to sing of the glory and power of God. The psalmist encourages the worshipers to turn their praises to God. The honour of God should be the focus of our praises. It is our glory to give God glory. We turn in joy and admiration to a God who one day will cause all the earth to fear and tremble before him. One day all the earth will bow down to worship God. For those who are enemies of God, who have never believed in him, they too will be forced into submitting worship to Him They are forced to worship Him out of His power and submission, not because they choose to. But their worship will not be like the saints. The worship of the saints, of those who truly believe in Him, will be of truth, love and pure joy and service. The joy of the earth will be to praise God.

b. Joy and the nation of Israel (vs. 5-12). After the selah, possibly a brief pause in the song, the psalmist now exhorts joy because of what God has done for Israel. He has done mighty works for his people the nation of Israel. Did not God start the nation from Genesis 12 and Abraham? Did not God lead His people out of the Egyptian exile by parting the Red Sea with His mighty hand so that his people could walk to freedom? Does not God rule forever by his mighty power? God watched over that nation of Israel, making covenants with Abraham, Moses and David promising that He will be their God and they will be His people.

The people of Israel were people of joy, because they could look and see what God had done for them, and have a sure hope of what He will do for them in the future. God took Israel through hard trials and exiles. The psalmist here continues to encourage the people to loud praise and joyful noise of God because silver and gold do not become pure without some refining, without being put through fire. God kept the feet of Israel from slipping, even though they turned their back on him. God always kept a remnant of believers for himself. In Israel, God sent them into exile to their enemies for punishment of their rebellion against him, but finally He led them into the promised land, flowing with milk and honey (v 12). That is why Israel could have joy, because of the hope they had in their God.

c. Joy and the psalmist (vs. 13 -20) The psalmist’s joy starts with a sacrifice. Something that cost him. A sacrifice of vows and burnt offerings. What he said he would do, he will do. He gave God promises, and he wants to fulfil his promises before God. Because of his great joy, the psalmist tells others of the source of his joy. He gives testimony to the love of God: how he confessed his sins to God, and how God had listened to him and answered his prayers. The Psalmist told the people to come and hear his story. Listen to what God has done for me. They had all seen God’s work, but they also needed to hear that He was a gracious god, So the joy of the psalmist involves sacrifice, testimony and praise,

2. Applying it to ourselves.

As we have just seen the psalmist’s joy involved sacrifice, testimony and praise, So how can we apply these things to ourselves,

a. Sacrifice – As christians we should always give our best to God. The psalmist never presents a starving goat to God as a sacrifice, but well fed animals (v 15) of the best fields, Of all we have, whether small or large, we are actively encouraged to give God the best of it. It was not a waste to burn the fat upon the altar of God, nor to pour out the precious ointment upon the head of Jesus. Sacrifices show our heart love to God. Making sacrifices, shows gratitude to God in action, Joy comes from giving to God.

b. Testimony, – Giving our testimony to people should cause us to have great joy. Telling people what God has done for us, should cause everyone of us to have even greater joy than we have already. Telling others of God’s mercy, grace and love is all part of our joy. When we lead someone to Jesus for the very first time, not only do they feel great joy and peace in their heart, but we feel great joy inside of us. The joy of God bubbles up inside of us and demands that we praise our God the Father.

c. Praise, – Praising God lifts our heart, soul and spirit when we are feeling down. The whole earth one day will praise Him and have great joy; the nation of Israel praised Him for the things He had done for them and had given them much joy, The psalmist praised God, and there was great joy in his heart. He had many reasons to praise God, God listened to His prayers, took his sacrifices and worship, forgave him when he had confessed his sins, God had not withheld his love from him. Surely the praise of God’s people causes great joy to be spread amongst them.

Now that is all very well you may be thinking, but just what is joy? Is joy happiness, or is it more? Here are what some people have said of joy. “We are all strings in the concert of God’s joy” – Leon Bloy. “The joy that Jesus gives is the result of our being at one with Him” – Oswald Chambers. Many people, including some Christians confuse joy with happiness, however there is a vast difference. As C.S. Lewis once wrote: “Joy is never in our power, and pleasure is. I doubt whether anyone who has tasted joy would ever, if both were in his power, exchange it for all the pleasure in the world.”

As humans we only feel happiness or pleasure depending on our circumstances, while joy is always separate from our circumstances. Happiness is a surface emotional response to good things; while joy is a deep-down heartfelt response that endures whether good or bad things happen to us. The world says happiness is looking out for number one and negotiating your personal good in all you do. The greatest good is their own happiness, however the happiness doesn’t last long so the search for happiness continues in its circle.

Joy however, is the result of sacrificial love. It is for the good of others, not for ourselves, which is to be our judge of joy. When we give away our will, for the sake of others, we receive the joy that Jesus desired for us. Happiness and joy are radically different. In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis described his pursuit of joy. He tried to find it in humanism, communism, eroticism, and lots of other human philosophies and searches. But they only led him to places where joy had already been. He did not find joy for himself until he realised that joy would come only as a result of putting Christ first in his life. Joy, unlike happiness, is never an end in itself. It is only as we make Christ our overwhelming first priority that joy, almost without our knowing it, comes. If we seek joy, we will lose it, because it cannot be caught. People of the world seeks happiness not joy. Joy is given only by Christ and serving him. Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus had the endurance to go through the pain and suffering because he had the end in view. He was affirming his purpose for the redemption of the world, and so he never lost sight of the joy that was set before him. Joy would come to him out of suffering because he gave himself for the redemption of mankind.

Jesus prayed that his disciples would have joy: “I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they (his disciples) may have the full measure of my joy within them.” (John 17:13). The joy of Christ is transferred to us as we go about the task of serving him in this world. Joy is the second fruit of the Spirit. Joy is to be a quality about us just as it was a quality of the Lord Jesus Christ.

However, sometimes we don’t feel as if joy is part of us. We begin to ask ourselves if we have lost the joy of our Christian lives. We look around at the world we live in and see all the misery and injustices; we see the waste of human life in cancer and HIV Aids, and we don’t feel very joyful. But when we do that, we are confusing happiness and joy. If we have lost the joy of our Christian life, we need to put back into perspective what God is calling us to do and consider if Christ is still truly first in our lives. Joy is Jesus Over Yourself. We can never truly lose joy, but we can misplace it if our priorities get out of line. Joy is not something to be worked at or toward. It is not a goal to be reached, nor is it an end in itself. Joy is the result of our relationship with Christ. A relationship of Jesus Over Yourself. Joy was sacrifice, testimony and praise to the Psalmist. It is for us too in the last days before His coming again.

As this is now the night before Easter week, let us end with that comment from the writer to the book of Hebrews in regards to Jesus and joy. “Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” As E. Underhill said: “This is the secret and meaning of joy, We shall no longer strive for our own way; but commit ourselves, to God’s way, submit to His will, and in doing so find joy and peace, -.

Go out with joy, today!

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Romans 1 – God of Salvation

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A God of Salvation

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Please do open your bibles to the book of Romans and chapter 1.

Reading firstly from Romans 1:16-17

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed-a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”

And now from Romans 3:21-24

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

Introduction

Paul in this letter is writing to Roman believers a synopsis of his beliefs, and to church leaders in Jerusalem where he would have to make an adequate explanation of himself. The language and concepts shared in these passages are that the Gospel of God is that salvation is for all who believe; righteousness of God; universality of both salvation and judgment; and that salvation and righteousness are available through faith. The adversative “But” in Romans 3:21 heralds the solution, but the text in between these verses highlights humanity’s unrighteousness and need of God’s righteousness.

1. The Problem

All have sinned” (Romans.3:23). Our inherent sinful nature of unrighteousness comes to all mankind from the first rebellion against God by Adam. To be with God eternally we need to be declared righteous, for unrighteousness cannot enter the holy and righteous presence of God. So for humanity, created in God’s image (Genesis.1:26) to re-enter God’s presence, each person needs to be declared righteous and thereby justified. Justification is the transformation from a condemned criminal to that of an heir awaiting a majestic legacy. If God doesn’t punish unrighteousness, then God would have to destroy not only us, but also Himself. Holiness is an absolute attribute of God, which requires the punishment of any impurity or unrighteousness (that is sin), and if unrighteousness remained unpunished, God would cease to be God and we would cease to be human. Ergo, since the first rebellion God has had a Gospel plan to restore righteousness to man.

2. Initial Questions

2a. What is the Gospel plan?

The Gospel is one, which Paul is separated to according to his own words in Romans.1:1. Paul announces it is the power of God for the salvation of all in Romans 1:16. The Gospel is the good news that God has provided the means for rebellious humanity to be rescued from His wrath and judgment. The Gospel is a two-fold message: it is deliverance from the final judgment resulting from God’s anger against sin and a crediting of righteousness upon sinful man. Not only will humanity be saved, but has been saved. This Gospel creates faith (Romans.1:16-17); brings life (Romans.1:16) and judgment (Romans.2:16)

2b. What is wrath?

When we think of wrath, it is usually of an uncontrollable rage or temper tantrum. God’s wrath does not portray the human weaknesses of vindictiveness, or an uncontrolled pique. We can dismiss such ideas, since due to His forbearance, God’s anger and judgment has been smouldering since the first rebellion of Adam and Eve. God’s wrath invokes justice (Romans.2:5).

2c. What is righteousness?

There are three meanings to this key phrase of Paul’s: “righteousness of God”. Firstly, righteousness is an immutable characteristic of God, in that whether it is a righteousness that judges or a righteousness that saves, it is still God’s righteousness. Secondly, that His righteousness demands God actively keeps the promises He has made. Thirdly, that His righteousness makes us righteous. So, who needs this righteousness?

3. God’s Judgment

When we describe God’s judgment, similarly there are three aspects to it, all of which give a total and clear picture. For God’s judgment to only have one or two of these characteristics, would mean it was not the judgment of a holy God. God’s judgment is inescapable, righteous and impartial.

 

3a. Inescapable

We are inherently self-righteously hypercritical of others. Paul tells us that this makes us hypocritical and we have no right to stand in condemnation over people, as what is common in all humanity is a universal sinfulness or separation from God (Romans.2:1). We set unachievable high standards for others and yet remarkably low standard for ourselves.

 

3b. Righteous

God will judge according to what each person has done (Romans.2:6). While we may be justified and declared righteous by faith, we will be judged based on the works we do, to earn rewards. Our faith is to be supported by good works (Galatians.5:6; James.2:18). Paul here shows two destinies. Eternal life, glory, honour, peace and immortality for those who enduringly desire to perform good works (Romans.2:7,10). Juxtaposed to this are the self-indulgent and disobedient who shall incur God’s indignation, wrath and righteous judgment (Romans.2:8-9).

 

3c. Impartial

God shows no favouritism (Romans.2:11), so whether Jew or Gentile, both can be saved and be declared righteous. God is eternally just and righteous. It is a reflection of His mercy, that nobody can claim God is unfair.

4. All have sinned and need God’s righteousness

4a. The Gentile is in need

Gentiles, non-Jews, require this righteousness of God. Unrighteousness is universally endemic as all humankind has rebelled, “fallen short of God’s glory” (Romans.3:23) which has been passed down since the original sin in Genesis. Whilst God has given the Jew the Law, how has God revealed Himself to the Gentile? He has revealed Himself and His invisible attributes, fully to all humanity through their individual conscience (Romans.1:19) and His creation (Romans.1:20).

In Christ, God has now revealed Himself fully in visible form (Colossians.1:15-17) so that humanity has even less of an excuse not to worship God, follow Him and be obedient to Him. Whether it is through ignorance they did not glorify Him (Romans.1:21); through foolish wisdom (Romans.1:22) or self-indulgence (Romans.1:25); God allowed man free will and gave them over to their desires (Romans.1:26, 28). This is viewed in non-heterosexual practices (Romans.1:26-27) being viewed as an abasement and denial of God. It is noticeable also through idolatrous attitudes and actions. Humanity began as creations’ pinnacle but ended up beneath creation when man started worshipping creation instead of the Creator (Romans.1:23).

Gentiles are without excuse (Romans.1:20) and their actions decree their eternal destiny. Having suppressed God, God thereby debased man’s mind to all kinds of wickedness (Romans.1:28) so that humankinds temporal pleasure may be appeased, and of which, are still in evidence today.

4b. The Jew is in need

Jews had the Law and boasted in it (Romans.2:23). However, possession of the Law was of no consequence to God and Paul claims it is practicing the Law, which matters. Their religion was an external action but not an internal attitude. Jesus’ regular denunciation of the Pharisees reflects this. Adultery, robbery and idolatry (Romans.2:21) were perfectly possible for a Jew to commit secretly according to the Sermon on the Mount.

Instead of being God’s light to the nations, Jews were dishonouring God (Romans.2:24; Isaiah.52:5). Packer in his book “Knowing God” reflects: “The Law cannot save us, for its only effect is to stimulate sin and shows us how far short we fall from God’s righteousness.”

If not the Law, then surely through circumcision a Jew will be declared righteous! After all, the circumcision is the mark of God’s covenant with Israel (Genesis.17).

Again, Paul says no. Circumcision avails nothing if the Law is not kept (Romans.2:25). An uncircumcised Gentile who keeps the law is more acceptable to God than a circumcised Jew who breaks the Law. A Jew is one who inwardly experiences God, not one who exhibits external worship alone (Romans.2:28-29).

Paul continues. All humanity has rebelled against God, both Jew and Gentile. Paul cites Old Testament verses to back his claims that all men are unrighteous before God’s wrath (Romans.3:10-18). There are no excuses. Just like the excuses we come up for when caught speeding in our cars.

5. Salvation for all

5a. Revealed for all who believe by faith

All people are under God’s wrath and are therefore condemned. This wrath, Carson writes is brough forth by universal human wickedness”. We are in need both of rescue and to be justified before God. Paul, continuing with the adversative “But now” (Romans.3:21), explains that God has also provided us with a righteousness that is available immediately so that we may be saved from His wrath. The Law as we have seen condemns any who do not keep it. Yet combined with the Prophets, the Law bears witness to this righteousness. How do we achieve this justification? Faith, succinctly described by JI Packer in “Knowing God”, reminds us, “is a self-abandoning trust in the person and work of Jesus.” By exhibiting faith in Jesus, as it is due to him, we have been declared righteous and have a legal status of being justified, if we choose it. Can we earn it? We have seen how both Gentile and Jew have failed in trying to achieve salvation (Romans.3:23). Nevertheless, we need to believe in order to receive the righteousness we have asked for. This grace (Romans.3:24) declares believers “righteous at the beginning of their course, not at the end of it”. This gift, which is free, enables believers to be justified through the act of redemption (Romans.3:24).

 

5b. God’s Wrath Propitiated through Redemption.

Redemption implies ransom. It is the purchase of a slave, simply to set that slave free. It involves a ransom payment. God’s grace pays God’s justice on our behalf so that righteousness can be declared. God’s grace is the origin of our justification. This redemption, results from God the Father presenting Jesus Christ as a sacrifice to appease His wrath. Our redemption involved the death of Jesus as our payment. God’s righteous wrath now averted and appeased through this act of propitiation, means we are therefore liberated as a demonstration of His righteousness (Romans.3:25-26). All humanity are slaves or prisoners to sin (Romans.3:9), and it is from this slavery the Gospel declares we have been delivered. The full consequences of this redemption will not be experienced until we have overcome and persevered to gain our eternal inheritance (Romans.8:23-25).

 

Conclusion

Is there any difference today? People are still blasé and ignorant of God, having suppressed the truth. People still declare that the existance of God cannot be proven by rational science and advanced knowledge. People are still both hypercritical of others and therefore hypocrites. It is to this world, we are to apply our theology. This gospel of salvation, which justifies us in order to declare us righteous, thus sparing us from God’s condemnatory wrath, is the one we are to use to spread the good news, that God’s righteousness is free by faith, to all who humble themselves, admit their guilt and ‘lost-ness’ and ask God for forgiveness.

For those who would already call themselves a Christian, you are to tell others about this salvation and you are to serve Him, where ever you are and where ever you go! Jesus is the one you are following and its on His terms alone that you are His disciple. If you view Him as a superhero, somebody who you call upon only when you need something or even as your boyfriend, then beware: Jesus will not be mocked – He wants all aspects of your life to be submitted to Him!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor who defied Hitler, wrote these words “When Jesus Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die. Discipleship is not an offer that man makes to Jesus Christ, nor is it hero worship, but intimacy with Christ.” Want to be intimate with Jesus Christ? Worship him alone and exhibit your faith to all you come into contact with! Too often Christians and churches side with the rights of the powerful and elite, while forgetting the poor, oppressed and marginalised. Too often Christians and churches neglect to feed the hungry, seek justice for the oppressed and help the poor. There are enough Christians and churches in the UK to make significant positive change to their local communities. Too often Christians sit around on their backsides discussing good theology while in that same community people die of loneliness & neglect.

You say you have faith in Jesus Christ and are dedicated to Him! Good! Then show it and this community will be transformed to the glory and praise of Jesus Christ! Go tell somebody this good news of Jesus Christ. Won’t you go tell somebody this very day, this week, this message of salvation? Salvation, as a free gift and available to all who ask, because nobody can earn it or buy it. The price has already been paid – by Jesus Christ alone on a Roman cross two thousand years ago. If you ever hear people say Dave Roberts has died, tell them that is false. Tell them Dave Roberts is now more alive than ever before.

For those who would not yet call themselves Christian, you need to bow your knee before Almighty God. If you want to turn to God there is no need for delay. He is ready and willing to take you as His own right now. You only have to ask Him to forgive you and to give you help on the journey ahead. It is a partnership between God and yourself. When you place your faith in Jesus, becoming utterly dependent upon Him, you turn to God. You don’t need to do or change anything to become a follower of Jesus!

However once you have made that decision, you leave behind your spiritual isolation and rebellion against Him.

As you live each day, becoming more involved with Jesus day by day, you will find yourself changing. You will stop doing those things that separated you from Him. You will find yourself doing things that please Jesus and develop your relationship with Him. God asks that you accept his guidance and management of your life. His point of view and His strength become your point of view and your source of strength. You turn your mind, will and heart to Him for all you do.

If you want to become a Christian there are three simple steps to follow. Firstly, admit that you have done wrong against God and His ways. Secondly, believe and trust in Jesus. Call on Him, receive, trust, obey and worship Him, recognizing Him for who He is and what He has done. Lastly, confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. Once sin has been confessed, and Jesus is believed in and trusted as Saviour, then you are a Christian. Now you are ready as Peter writes in the Bible, “to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Welcome to the family of God. God has chosen you; Jesus has paid for you and has put His mark within you through His Spirit. Come and talk to one of us after our final hymn! Lets pray.

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Four Portraits of Jesus Christ

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Jesus in the Four Gospels

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In the New Testament, we have four accounts of the life of Jesus Christ which are Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. These are called Gospels. But what is a Gospel, how are the four accounts different or similar and what were the main points each writer sought to communicate.

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Correct thinking leads to correct action – 1 Timothy 1

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Correct thinking leads to correct action!

Sermon I preached, based on 1 Timothy 1, at Durrington Free Church on 21 July 2013…

Sermon – Ruth

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The Character Of Ruth

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Please do turn in your bibles to the book of Ruth 1

There are perhaps two reasons why we study about people in the Bible – to learn how not to do some things like being deceitful, and how to do the right things like this mornings example Ruth. So this morning we are going to look together at the book of Ruth and discover who Ruth was, what is her story and how we can learn from her as we seek to live a godly and righteous life in Britain in 2009. Tonight we will be looking at the character of Rachel and how she fits into salvation history and how we can learn lessons from her. But on with this morning and Ruth!

Perhaps the key verses for the book of Ruth, which would help us summarise this short story are as we read in Ruth 1v15-18:

The book of Ruth is a cameo story of love, devotion and redemption set in the black days of the Judges. It tells the story of a pagan woman giving up everything to cling to the people of Israel and to God Himself. Shows her faithfulness when the nation was faithless.

Doesn’t that sound a nice lovely story and wouldn’t it be good just to leave it at that, and not learn more about the character of Ruth. The greatest thing about Ruth, that we are going to learn about is, her obedience. Indeed elsewhere in Scripture it says that obedience is better than sacrifice. The story of Ruth as we have seen celebrates the gentle beauty of love and loyalty between individuals, and it shows the positive power of obedience to God for both personal fulfilment and wider blessing. By committing herself to Naomi, as well as to Naomi’s God, Ruth found satisfaction in service. Instead of losing her identity by her voluntary and complete submission, Ruth’s place in Israel and history is confirmed. There are four things about her obedience, that we living in 2009 would be wise to copy as we seek to follow this God with obedient lives that are worthy of Him.

1. WOW! obedience.

Firstly, her obedience is surprising – it has a wow factor to it! The harmony between Ruth and her mother-in-law is even more appealing when we consider the two unusual facets that could have driven them apart.

  • Firstly, Mahlon, the natural connecting link between Ruth and Naomi was dead (Ruth 1 :3-5). Nothing specific is mentioned about the way the two women got along with each other while he was alive during those years in Moab. Instead, the story begins with the development of their relationship after Mahlon’s death and at the time of the women’s departure for Judah.
  • The second part of this wow, is that could have driven them apart was that Ruth was from Moab. A brief review of the history of this neighbouring nation proves that its land and people were clearly off limits for the Jews. The founding father Moab was the result of Lot’s incestuous union with his older daughter (Genesis 19:37). Though Moab was not on the list of nations to be entirely destroyed by the Israelites under Joshua, its worship of false gods were offensive and troublesome (Numbers 25). Judges 3 relates that Eglon the king of Moab, received power from the Lord to punish Israel for eighteen years. When the people of Israel again cried out to God, the Lord raised up the judge Ehud, to kill Eglon and defeat Moab, to bring peace for eighty years.

The story of Ruth as we have heard already, is placed at the time of the Judges. Elimelech’s decision to take his family into Moab to escape the famine in Israel probably occurred at a time when Moab was subdued, or at least not hostile towards Israel. However, God, had told the Israelites not to marry into the surrounding nations or join in their worship of false gods. The fact that Naomi’s sons chose Moabite women shows that they ignored this instruction. It also indicates the attraction of foreign influences to the Israelites, which God wanted them to stay away from. But we also see mercy in grafting into his line of blessing one Moabite because of her faith and obedience to Him.

Naomi had two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. In view of their position as Moabite widows, it may seem that Orpah’s decision to return to her own mother’s house was more natural than Ruth’s when Naomi announced her determination to go back to Bethlehem in Judah. We could even argue that Orpah, after politely offering to accompany Naomi, was acting in accord with her mother-in-law’s wishes by remaining in Moab with her own people. Ruth, however, clung to Naomi and refused to leave her. But Orpah’s obedience was shallow, as her offer to go with Naomi was done out of duty not of love, and Naomi probably saw this and declined Orpah’s offer. Ruth however, remained to finish her story and claim a place in the genealogy of David and also of Jesus (Mt 1 :5).

2. Witness in obedience.

Secondly there is a witness in obedience. Ruth did more than merely remain with Naomi; she was in fact her main support, both during their journey and after arriving in Israel, even though she was a stranger in Bethlehem. News of her faithfulness obviously spread quickly as it went before her into the fields of Boaz. When she asked why as a woman not from Israel was being treated so kindly, Boaz replied because of her support and friendship of Naomi You can see that in Ruth 2:11. Though directly attracted by her outward beauty and manner, Boaz was already -aware of her reputation for loyal love and service. We see this when Boaz tells her, “All my fellow townsman know that you are a woman of noble character” (Ruth 3:11).

Here we see the powerful testimony and witness of Ruth’s relationship with Naomi. Her unselfish devotion to one person, characterized by her obedience, made her appealing to another person and to a whole community. However, Ruth did not abuse -or flaunt her obedience as long-suffering, but held it in her heart as love. She was not looking for praise or pity, and she seemed genuinely surprised that her service of Naomi had been seen and recognized. Not once did she complain about the leadership of Naomi or her own circumstances. Instead of bitterness there was beauty, in her attitude as well as on her face. Ruth found her obedience fulfilling. Her immediate and ultimate rewards far outweighed anything she could have anticipated. Her obedience was a wow surprise but it was also a testimonial witness that had gone out before her.

3. Wholeness of obedience.

But just how did Ruth’s obedience come to have such a tremendous impact on those around her? It all started with a personal commitment, a permanent decision that brought her peace and provided her with direction for all that followed. On the border of Moab, Ruth had told Naomi of her commitment (Ruth 1:16-17) as we read earlier. Ruth’s commitment was absolute. Rather than constraining her, this new commitment gave her new purpose and opportunity to develop her character. When they arrived in Bethlehem, Ruth volunteered to pick up the leftover grain (Ruth 2:2). When she returned to Naomi, Ruth shared her grain with Naomi and told her about her day. Then it was Naomi who sensed God’s direction and gave Ruth detailed instructions as to how to approach Boaz, which Ruth obeyed perfectly (Ruth 3:1-6). Ruth 4:17 indicates that after Ruth’s future and family were secure, Naomi was included in the household redeemed by Boaz, for when the neighbours noticed how much she cared for Obed they said “Naomi has a son.” Truly the deepest love, trust and respect were at the centre of Ruth’s & Naomi’s relationship, bringing both of them mutual fulfillment.

As Ruth obeyed Naomi, so she obeyed Boaz, both at their first meeting and later at the threshing floor. She won both the admiration of Naomi and Boaz as much by the quickness of her unquestioning responses as by her completeness in carrying out commands. Ruth won respect because she offered her respect in the form of obedience. Her obedience was total and complete. Not through coercion, but by love and adoration.

4. Worship by Obedience.

Then finally, Ruth’s obedience was also worship. How is this? The result of Ruth’s obedience was Obed, the child fathered by Boaz as kinsman-redeemer, the one would inherit the family land and name in place of Naomi’s dead husband and sons. Obed in Hebrew means “worship”. Is not obedience really the outward action that derives from the inner response of faith love, and trust practised in regard to individuals and God? Jesus said “If you love me, you will obey what I command!” (John 14:15). Ruth’s acts of obedience throughout this her story, are also practical acts of worship of the God she had made her own by faith.

So Ruth’s obedience has four factors to it: the wow factor, the witness factor, the wholeness factor and finally the worship factor!

Conclusion

Let us ask God to work in us, changing our weak attempts at obedience into acts of divine worship. We find delight in serving the Lord, instead of indulging in resentment over sinful leaders. The result will be inner freedom and release from bitterness, and also a powerful story to those in authority and to onlookers as well. Just as too Ruth’s obedience of Naomi, moved Boaz and all Bethlehem, the Holy Spirit will enable us move others (Colossians 3:23-24). While we obey others we can joyfully remember that it is God alone who is worthy of complete obedience. When our confidence in Him is reflected in our submission to others we become living stories to our trust in God’s perfect plan. If we follow the example of Ruth, perhaps someone will notice our stories and find the witness, the wholeness, and the worship in our lives of obedience and praise God because of us. And, remember this from 1 Samuel 15v22 “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

So go from here and be obedient to our awesome and holy God! Through obedience to Him as revealed in Scripture, you will be growing and changing into the very likeness of Jesus Christ whom you follow. Through obedience, you will be able to enduring and be persistent in your Christian lifestyle and evangelism. So much so, that people will ask you for the reason for the hope you have and portray.

Finally, you may well be here tonight but are not yet a follower of Jesus Christ. If that is indeed you, please do not leave here tonight without making yourself known to one of the leaders, or to me, and we will gladly talk more about this Jesus to you.

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