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Posts tagged ‘witness’

Issues – Standing Alone

Issues Facing Christians Today

Standing Alone

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Jesus speaking and from the Gospel of John 15v18-21 If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first. The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you. Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you. They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the One who sent me.

As Christian Disciples, those who proclaim that they follow Jesus Christ as the Son of God, we have a new identity. What are we to do with it? The Bible is very clear that we are to stay faithful to Jesus Christ, particularly when it is difficult! It means staying faithful to Jesus and His will, regardless of opposition and alternatives. By doing this we are standing alone and being faithful to Him. Satan brings pressure to bear on Christians to reduce their standards and commitment. Christian Disciples undergo challenges from those that either don’t like or understand us. We are constantly tempted to do wrong things or we are tempted not to do right things. Either way, we are tempted to sin against our God. So we are to be separate from sin but not separated from a sinful society. This is what Jesus meant when He said we are to be “In the world but not of the world” (John 17:15-19). The key to standing alone is to have constant identification with Jesus Christ in lifestyle and words. It is to have a permanent reminder that we serve a faithful God and that Jesus Christ is to be our Master. When we sin, either actively or passively, it is because we have some form of memory loss about who we are, if we call ourselves a follower or disciple of Jesus Christ, the one and only Son of God.

Hindrances to standing alone

As we live the Christian life, as Christian Disciples we will face hindrances to identifying with Jesus. Here are three major areas that as Christian Disciples, we all undergo.

Firstly there is an inborn fear of what others will think – fear of being different and being laughed at.

Then there is the fear of losing friends. To have the right friends however, a person must be willing to have enemies. Jesus made friends on the basis of who would accept Him and His message. We may be excluded from the company of those who reject Jesus (Luke 6:26).

Another one is the desire to be like those in the world. In Psalm 73 David envied the success of the godless, until he realized their destiny was disaster; and that he had God and needed nothing else. Always taking what is best is no sacrifice.

How to stand alone

So if they are some of the hindrances, what are some of the keys in battling these hindrances? As Christian Disciples we have to remember God’s way of life is superior. It is a life filled with abundance according to Jesus in John 10:10! Then we realise that acting as light & salt in the world, you are co-operating with God and He is being glorified according to Peter in 1 Peter 4:12-14). Remember; if you give people no reason to ask about the hope and faith you have in Jesus, they probably won’t ask! Jesus said in His final words before His ascension in Matthew 28:18-20, that we are to expect persecution for being his Disciples. If that’s how we identify with our lifestyle how do we identify verbally with Jesus?

How to verbally identify with Christ

Never apologize for what you know and believe to be a superior way of life. However, that does not mean to be smug and arrogant about it because we are commanded to walk humbly and meekly. Then just be natural about it. As a college principle told me a long time ago and I still remember the words “Let your spiritual life be natural and your natural life be spiritual.”

One way to do this is to project the idea that you are not your own boss – Jesus is your Lord and let him take both the strain and glory. Remember that those who reject you also reject Jesus.

Making right decisions in questionable areas

Imagine you are in a situation and you have to make a correct decision in a questionable area. What do you do? Why not ask yourself questions and tell yourself statements such as:

  • Does it bring glory to God? (1 Corinthians10:31)
  • Can I thank God for this activity – could Jesus accompany me?
  • Does it build Christian character? (1 Corinthians10:23)
  • Will it cause another Christian to sin/stumble? (1 Corinthians8:9-13)
  • It should not control me habitually (1 Corinthians6.12)
  • If in doubt, throw it out. (Romans14:22-23)
  • Ask other people for advice. It is important what other people think.
  • Abstain from all appearances of evil (1 Thessalonians5:22)
  • Rely on the Holy Spirit to help you! Ask for His help and guidance!

Ask yourself the following questions, writing them down if you can, and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together. For more to do and think about please do read for yourself, John17:15-19.

Q1 – Have I given every area of my life to Christ in order to be faithful to Him?

Q2 – Am I prepared to be holy and obedient to God in all circumstances?

Q3 – Am I willing to sacrifice my desires for God’s Will, so that I can clearly be seen identifying myself with Jesus in lifestyle and in words?

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10. Church Begins – Final Journey Completed

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10. Church Begins

Final Journey Completed

Acts 27:39 – 28:30

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Acts 27v39 – 28v6 When it was day, they didn’t recognize the land, but they noticed a certain bay with a beach, and they decided to try to drive the ship onto it. Casting off the anchors, they left them in the sea, at the same time untying the rudder ropes. Hoisting up the foresail to the wind, they made for the beach. But coming to a place where two seas met, they ran the vessel aground. The bow struck and remained immovable, but the stern began to break up by the violence of the waves.

The soldiers’ counsel was to kill the prisoners, so that none of them would swim out and escape. But the centurion, desiring to save Paul, stopped them from their purpose, and commanded that those who could swim should throw themselves overboard first to go toward the land; and the rest should follow, some on planks, and some on other things from the ship. So it happened that they all escaped safely to the land.

When we had escaped, then they learned that the island was called Malta. The natives showed us uncommon kindness; for they kindled a fire, and received us all, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out because of the heat, and fastened on his hand. When the natives saw the creature hanging from his hand, they said one to another, “No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he has escaped from the sea, yet Justice has not allowed to live.” However he shook off the creature into the fire, and wasn’t harmed. But they expected that he would have swollen or fallen down dead suddenly, but when they watched for a long time and saw nothing bad happen to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.

Along the journey, eventually the ship arrived at Malta. Everybody was safe and secure, but tired and bedraggled (Acts 27v39-44). The Roman centurion did not want to kill the prisoners he was guarding, because he wanted to keep Paul alive (Acts 27v24, 43). This group of people stayed in Malta for three months and all we know of their stay in Malta, is two quite remarkable events.

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9. Church Begins – Final Journey Commences

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9. Church Begins

Final Journey Commences

Acts 27:1-38

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Acts 26v19-32 “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared first to them of Damascus, at Jerusalem, and throughout all the country of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, doing works worthy of repentance. For this reason the Jews seized me in the temple, and tried to kill me. Having therefore obtained the help that is from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would happen, how the Christ must suffer, and how, by the resurrection of the dead, he would be first to proclaim light both to these people and to the Gentiles.” As he thus made his defence, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are crazy! Your great learning is driving you insane!” But he said, “I am not crazy, most excellent Festus, but boldly declare words of truth and reasonableness. For the king knows of these things, to whom also I speak freely. For I am persuaded that none of these things is hidden from him, for this has not been done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” Agrippa said to Paul, “With a little persuasion are you trying to make me a Christian?” Paul said, “I pray to God, that whether with little or with much, not only you, but also all that hear me this day, might become such as I am, except for these bonds.” The king rose up with the governor, and Bernice, and those who sat with them. When they had withdrawn, they spoke one to another, saying, “This man does nothing worthy of death or of bonds.” Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.”

The Gospel of Jesus Christ has spread throughout the Roman Empire, and Paul was imprisoned in Caesarea. The Jewish leaders wanted Paul tried and executed, and Festus was willing to go along with that idea. However, Paul, ever guided by the Holy Spirit, appealed directly to Caesar! Paul was a Roman citizen and any Roman citizen had that right! So after what we call the three missionary journeys, Paul is now on a final journey – to Rome! We jump forward now to Acts 27 to look at this final journey.

Final Journey Begins

Luke records the course of the voyage in detail, and we can feel just how people travelled back in that time. The prisoners were probably put on the boat at Caesarea. They sailed up the coast of Sidon, to the east and north of Cyprus. At Sidon the centurion in charge of Paul, “in kindness…”, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs’ (27v3). Now as far as we know, Paul had never visited Sidon although perhaps he had met Sidonese people on his travels. This was to be the last time he would have had the fellowship and family worship of a Christian home and a wider company of believers. Strengthened and encouraged by this group of Christians, Paul was ready for any trouble that lay ahead for him.

After two weeks sailing, they landed at Myra, in what is now southern Turkey. They then changed ships, for one heading towards Italy, and their next stop was Crete. The time of year was now late October, and the weather was quickly getting worse (27v10). The captain and owner of the ship thought that it was wise to seek a new place in which to stay for the winter. Paul foresaw the disaster, and said so. Paul, it must be said, did believe that God was ruler of the winds and waves and would get him to Rome come what may. He was simply stating that it was better to be safe rather than sorry, to arrive in Italy safely in spring rather than not arriving at all. Paul’s advice set the scene for the events that happen later on in the voyage in which God once again confirmed Paul’s discernment and calling by miracles and mighty works, even if it had no immediate effect on those responsible for the decision to sail on regardless.

The sailors were not fools however. They waited until the weather improved before starting to sail from Crete (27v13). Their optimism was soon blown away by a strong wind, which started to blow them towards Africa. Day after day after day, for two weeks they ran with the wind, hoping that the wind would stop, and at the same time seemingly waiting for the ship to sink. The sailors were probably starting to reflect on their life and commitments, or the lack of commitments. During this time, Paul intervened to encourage their disheartened spirits.

Encouragement

  • A call for faith (27v21-26) – By this time, everybody on board must have been aware that Paul was right in his warning not to sail on. He said they should keep their courage, because no-one would lose their life, even if the ship was damaged beyond repair. But why should they believe this? Because God had sent an angel to assure Paul that he would arrive in Rome, to stand trial before Caesar. Paul had faith in God that it would happen just as he had promised. They should take courage. All people, whether Christian or not, are in the same boat of life. All people share a common life of ups and downs. Godless sailors lived because of godly Paul. Yet it is up to us as Christians to share a message of hope to all those who do not believe. These sailors, even though they were blessed by God to survive this disaster, may not survive the next voyage of disaster, and then they would end up in hell. Regardless of their blessings, they stayed lost if they didn’t come to Christ in faith. For Paul, however, to live was Christ and to die was gain (Philippians 1 :21). Whatever trials we face as believers, we must hold fast to the glory of Jesus. The real issue, Paul tells his shipmates, is not whether we live or die, but what will you do with Jesus? Paul spoke of God’s promises and his faith in God. He invited them to believe in God, just as he did.
  • A call for unity – stay together (27v27-32) – Their crisis came fourteen days out of Crete. They were about to land at Malta, in conditions that were worse than awful. Some sailors were trying to sneak off in the life-boat. Paul, however, insisted that all hands were necessary if any were to be saved, and the centurion prevented them from escaping.
  • A call for effort – The promise of God, always includes the means to fulfil His promise. God doesn’t commend or give His power to the faithful, so that they may be lazy and not plan, when there is a definite reason to be careful. When God makes a promise to us, we must be responsible to receive his promise. God promises to save us, yet it is our responsibility to accept by faith His Son Jesus Christ. Paul always reminded them of God’s promise. He urged them to take food so that they would be strong when the time was needed for strength. He once again reminded them of the promise of God. He also witnessed to them, when eating, by giving thanks to God. Paul was a man of a God and a man of action, a man of the Spirit and common-sense, a man who combined spirituality with sanity, faith with works, a man who was heavenly minded and of earthly use.

Christians, should be the most practical people in the world, because the Lord has given us the real truth about the real world and its real needs. How do you respond to the world? Are you like Paul?

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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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Sermon – Ruth and Obedience

The Character Of Ruth

Right mouse click and save to download the MP3 file of this sermon.

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.

4 Aspects of Ruth’s Obedience

1. WOW! obedience.

2. Witness in obedience.

3. Wholeness of obedience.

4. Worship by Obedience.

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.

Thank you.

Right mouse click and save to download the MP3 file of this sermon.

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Video

God said No

God Said No

Testimony of what happened shortly before graduating college in 2007, which was a milestone to developing Partakers… What happened, you may think is my own presupposition, a sensational figment of my imagination or even a false memory!

But it is none of these things… It is without any doubt, at least to me, nothing short of a testimony of an ‘encounter’ with the Living God…

This event set us off on the path we are on with Partakers and our God is at the centre of it…

The Patient Obedience of Ruth

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The Patient Obedience of Ruth

Right mouse click to save this Podcast as a MP3.

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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