Teaching

Ruth 4

The book of Ruth’s big, beautiful, theological message can be summed up like this, so I read, 

God cares for needy people like Naomi and Ruth; he is their ally in this chaotic world. He richly rewards people like Ruth and Boaz who demonstrate sacrificial love and in so doing become his instruments in helping the needy. God’s rewards for those who sacrificially love others sometimes exceed their wildest imagination and transcend their lifetime.

We’ve talked each and every week about Jesus in the book of Ruth. He said, didn’t He, that all Scriptures bear witness to Him, and all Scriptures testify of Him. Throughout Ruth, He has been pictured, previewed, and foreshadowed mainly by Boaz and this role of the kinsman-redeemer. Think about just how many ways this little book points us to Jesus…

  • The kinsman-redeemer had to be a family member. Boaz was a relative of the family and people in need (4.3). 

Jesus added humanity to His eternal deity so that He could be our human kinsman and save us (Philippians 2.7ff.).

  • Boaz, as kinsman-redeemer to Ruth, was not motivated by self-interest, but motivated by love for Ruth. 

Jesus’ motivation for redeeming us is His great love for us (1 John 4.10).

  • Boaz, as kinsman-redeemer to Ruth, had to have a plan to redeem Ruth unto himself – and some might have thought the plan to be foolish. 

Jesus’ plan for redeeming us is looked at as being a failure and being foolish (1 Corinthians 1.18).

  • Boaz, as kinsman-redeemer to Ruth, took her as his bride.

We, the people Jesus has redeemed, are collectively called His bride (Ephesians 5.31-32, Revelation 21.9).

  • Boaz, as kinsman-redeemer to Ruth, provided a glorious destiny for Ruth. The bitter life of a childless widow left behind, the glorious life of the redeemed lay ahead.

Jesus, as our redeemer, provides a glorious destiny for us (1 Thessalonians 5.9-11).

It all comes back to the idea of Jesus as our kinsman-redeemer;

this is why He became a man, to redeem you (Guzik).

God might have sent an angel to save us, or some kind of supernatural other-worldly being, but they would not have been our kinsman. Jesus, in His eternal glory, without the addition of humanity to His divine nature might have saved us, but He would not have been our kinsman.

On the other side of the coin, God could have raised up a great person, maybe a great prophet or a fantastic, kind, caring priest. They could be our kinsman because they are like us, but they could never be our redeemer because they would be sinful, like us.

So then, it has to be Jesus, only Jesus, the eternal God who added humanity to His eternal deity. It has to be Jesus because He is both our kinsman and our redeemer.

All of this to say, that for you, and for me, and for us, it simply had to be Jesus. 

It just has to be Jesus.

So what do you do with this then? Yes, take a moment to consider how you are putting your love for others into action, like Ruth, like Naomi, like Boaz.

But more than that, today, right now, I would exhort you and charge you and command you with all the authority of the office and the role that I have to just sit quietly for a few minutes and consider this truth; that it simply has to be Jesus for your life

He is your kinsman having taken on flesh, He is your redeemer because of his eternal deity, and He fused those together, for eternity, so that He is the only way, the only truth, and the only life. It simply has to be Jesus for you and your redemption.  

If all of this is true, and it does simply have to be Jesus, then our aim today and every day simply has to be radical, life offering, self-sacrificing, obedience to Jesus. 

So I will challenge you, command you, exhort you, to take some time today, actually do this, sit, think, contemplate, cogitate, on this wonderful truth that it simply has to be Jesus, and then like Ruth, like Naomi, like Boaz, how are you going to put this into action? What are you going to do? 

I’d love to hear from you this week and for you to share with me what you are going to do when you truly realise and internalise this truth it simply has to be Jesus for your redemption.



Vines, Branches, the Church, and You

This year hasn’t really been all we had hoped so far, has it? We’ve just ticked over to the second half of the year and most of the world is living in limbo; some things are open, some things are closed, and some things are somewhere in between. No doubt your life is a mix of these states. 

If you are a believer in the risen Jesus and God’s Word to us that we carry in our Bibles, you are by extension a believer in a Sovereign and all-powerful God where nothing happens within His creation that He has not decreed or allowed to proceed. He either said it or sanctioned it. He either actioned or allowed it. Now, just because you believe in a God like this, doesn’t mean you always understand why He is proclaiming or giving permission (Romans 11.34).

So this is all happening, that we cannot deny. We know that God has a plan and a purpose behind it all whether we see it or not, and we know that for those who love Him, all things, both good and bad, work together for ultimate good (Romans 8.28). So, let me make a suggestion, just think;

Could part of this season be a shaking, stirring, and sifting of God’s people?

Jesus said in John 15 that “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” (v.2). Sadly, we’ve seen people fall away from engaging with church this last four months. Maybe that was you, maybe that is you, maybe not. Aside from numbers, statistics, and metrics, we’ve seen people be lethargic to connect, commune, and communicate with one another. Yes, there is a committed core of people who have risen to the challenge, but, for many, John 15.2 seems to be happening in real time. 

The sad reality of this is then expanded on in v.6 wherein Jesus says “If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.” Maybe you know some of those who have seriously disengaged this last four months, some of those who when the tree has been shaken have fallen away. Maybe that was you for a period. The second half of v.6 stands as strong motivation to hold on to the tree when it’s being shaken. 

Sadly though, we’ve seen those with a Friday-only-faith drift away, wither away, and slowly back away from the encouraging, edifying, and equipping covering that being part of a church of God’s people provides. This hurts. As those who know the Word, this hurts because you know, in essence, what they are choosing by removing themselves. Yes, this last four months has been altogether odd and strange. Yes, this has certainly not been ‘normal’. However, there are enough people who have risen to the challenge and clung to the tree to show that it is possible, and that whether we are experiencing lows or highs, plenty or hunger, that as individuals and as a community we can survive and thrive in all circumstances through the root and vine that strengthens us (Philippians 4.11-13).

What do we do with all this then? Well, as Paul writes to the Romans about the Gentiles being grafted into the family of God’s people (11.11-31), so we ought to try and emulate this in our earthly station. No doubt you know some who have slowly slipped away from the fellowship of one-another this last few months. We hold to the unshakeable hope that if they do not continue in their unbelief, [they] will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again (v.23). 

In this season of uncertainty, of change, and of shaking, stirring, and sifting, our task as believers is threefold;

  1. Let us see this season as one of pruning and let us be ready for the season of new growth that necessarily follows (John 15.2). Perspective is paramount. Endurance is essential. Don’t be left behind.
  2. Hold fast to the vine from which life comes. Apart from this vine, we can do nothing (John 15.5). The tree is being shaken. Hold on. We will never Philippians 4.11-13 if we are alone. 
  3. Reach out to those who, in all appearances, have fallen away from the branch or removed themselves from the root (John 15.2, cf. Hebrews 10.23-25).

Friends, our Sovereign, all-powerful, wise, and loving God is moving in the world and in His church right now.

The question for you is, are you moving with Him?

Pray BIG Prayers – Salvation

Maybe you don’t think you need to pray about this. Perhaps you already did pray about this when you were a child and have operated on the ‘I prayed a prayer when I was 8 so I know I am saved’ kinda thing. 

Since then, maybe you’ve just lived your life in your own way, pursued your own goals, chased your own dreams. Perhaps you haven’t really thought about ‘being saved’ since you prayed that prayer as a child. 

Just think – if that was someone else, would you hold them to something they said as a small child 30/40/50 years later? 

Just think – why do people renew their wedding vows?

Just think – why do you tell your kids you love them a thousand times a day?

Just think – is repenting of your horrible sinful hell-bound life of a handful of years really enough, if since then you’ve been doing your own thing?

No, I didn’t think so.

See, often, we think the prayer of salvation is a one-and-done thing: we pray it and move on knowing we have ‘ticked that box’ and don’t need to think about it anymore. But what does the Word say?

Since praying that prayer, sincerely, since repenting of a life lived for self and crying out to the Lord to be saved yes, your past present and future sins have been forgiven. But, have you prayed about your salvation since then?

In Ephesians 2 there is a great passage that talks about how we are saved by grace, through faith (vv.8-9). This means that there is nothing you can do to earn your salvation, the forgiveness of your sins, the removal of the consequences of your sins, eternal life. But, if we read a few more verses on, we see that we are to remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated…having no hope and without God…(v.12). When was ‘at that time’? That time was before you prayed for salvation, asked Jesus to cancel the record of debt your sin had accumulated, asked to be brought from darkness to light and to be born again. The Word tells us to remember that time, remember yourself pre-salvation. 

So, how does all of this lead to a BIG prayer? Well, remembering this ought to drive you to prayer in gratitude and for the endurance to keep going. If you have never prayed for any of this, then do! But, if you have prayed for this, received this by grace, through faith, then keep on praying for this. 

Today, there is a BIG prayer for you, whether this is the first time or the fifty-first time. It’s most probably the best place to conclude our look at BIG prayers.

First, if you have never prayed about this, try this BIG prayer.

Lord, I humbly come to you and admit that I am a sinner, that I have missed the mark in how you made me to live. I ask for forgiveness, and I thank you that you have made this available to me by the great and all-encompassing sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. I believe He died, and I believe He rose. Today I submit and commit to Jesus as the Lord of my life. Take me from darkness to light, from death to life, from old creation to new. 

If you are renewing your vows, so to speak, then try this BIG prayer.

Lord, I thank you that you have taken me from death to life, from darkness to light. I know that my eternal destination is to be in your presence for all eternity. I thank you and worship you for the life-giving forgiveness you have shown me, and continue to show me. I remember my life before, and I pray today that you fill me afresh with your Holy Spirit so that I keep on walking away from my old self, and towards you in the person of Jesus and in the manner He lived. 

Pray BIG Prayers – Wisdom

How often have you found yourself wondering what to do in any given situation? Maybe it’s parenting, or when you’re at work, or just trying to navigate all that life has to offer.

We read in James 1.5 that if we are lacking in wisdom, let us ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given [to] him. Great, so we’ve got some wisdom-from-above. This should help us make wise decisions, shrewd moves, and successful choices. Right?

I’m convinced that the wisdom that God gives generously to all without reproach is the first step in the process of being wise. 

Yes, Scripture clearly says that if we ask for wisdom in faith it will be given, but what do we do with it? How do we learn to apply it? Is it just downloaded to our brains and off we go? 

Some people won’t like this, but, Scripture also says that we are to think. Some may say ‘Well, I just pray about it.’, and that is good. Prayer is good. That’s not an incorrect statement to make, but it is a little incomplete. 

We read in Scripture that we are to think over what is given to us (2 Timothy 2.7) and then, after the thinking, the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 

What has been given to us, what are we thinking deeply about in order to best apply our prayer-given wisdom? The Word of God. The Word of God, useful for every possible situation we may find ourselves in (2 Timothy 3.16-17).

So, a process emerges:

  1. Encounter something difficult 
  2. Pray for wisdom (James 1.5)
  3. Search Scripture for similar circumstance (2 Timothy 3.16-17)
  4. Think over everything (2 Timothy 2.7a)
  5. Put it into action (2 Timothy 2.7b)

Today’s BIG prayer is the second step in this.

Father, I thank you that your Word teaches that Divine wisdom is available to me. As I am struggling to work through …… would you please help me to see this situation from your perspective, in the light of your revealed Word, and would you empower me to think over all of this so that I may know what to do. 

I pray, and know, that whatever course of action you direct me to take will glorify you and be the best possible outcome for me, and even if I don’t see it initially I trust you to guide me with your wisdom. 

Pray BIG Prayers – Help

Many of us have grown up in a culture where being self-sufficient is prized. The idea that you need to ask anyone for help is anything from slightly frowned-upon to outright taboo. 

Where would you put yourself on that scale? Do you feel strange asking for help? Dare you even ask anyone for help with anything, ever?

So much of our Christian faith (which, at it’s most basic, is believing that Jesus rose from the grave) is about admitting that we need help. We admit that we cannot do anything in the here and now to influence where we spend our eternity. We admit that we cannot guarantee our eternal destination by anything we do from our current earthly station. 

When we do it’s liberating, it’s justifying, and it’s saving. 

When we move away from self-sufficiency to dependency we are freed from the pressure of advancing our own little kingdoms. We take the burden off ourselves, and give it to someone else. We realise that as a stream, we are fed by a spring.  

Asking for help from a God who created the world, from a God who raised Jesus from the grave, from a God who is still present and active in the world today is not weak. Giving Him the burdens you carry, the worries you feel, the outcomes of your life is not weak. Admitting that you need help is not weak, it is quite possibly the strongest decision you can ever make. 

Modelling this for us, Jesus prayed many times for help (see John 17 for example). Today’s BIG prayer is asking for help.

Father, I know that nothing I can do in my earthly station can influence at all my eternal destination. This, along with all my fears, worries, and anxieties I give to you as a declaration that I need help. I cannot change the things that truly matter in my life, and I need you to help. I give you my life, all of it, and ask you to help me to use it well and that you would guide me to a path that leads to life everlasting.