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Saturday, 20 December 2014

The Real Thing!

P.A.Thatcher
GCC Morval Carol Service 2014
The Real Thing:


Christmas Message:

Inspired by a visit to Looe by the Coca Cola truck. The truck was a great let down but the company made great promises on the day and in the past through their advertising slogans some of which are listed below: 




  • Refreshing, reviving and sustaining.
  • Good all the way to the end.
  • Pure as sunlight.
  • The best friend ever.
  • All that is necessary.
  • The passport to satisfaction.
  • The highway to anywhere.
  • For all people.
  • Makes all things better.
  • Brings happiness. Life begins here.

WHOEVER YOU ARE, WHATEVER YOU DO,WHATEVER YOU ARE; THINK OF ME BECAUSE I AM THE REAL THING!

ALL OF THIS IN A BOTTLE OR CAN!!




  • WONDERFUL.
  • COUNSELLOR.
  • MIGHTY GOD.
  • EVERLASTING FATHER.
  • PRINCE OF PEACE.
  • KING OF KINGS.
  • GREAT HIGH PRIEST.
  • GOOD SHEPHERD.
  • AUTHOR OF LIFE.
  • SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.
  • SON OF GOD.
  • IMMANUEL; GOD WITH US.
  • JESUS: SAVIOUR.

HE IS ALL OF THESE THINGS, FROM CONCEPTION TO BIRTH. THROUGHOUT CHILDHOOD, YOUTH AND ADULTHOOD JESUS OF NAZARETH WAS GOD BECOME HUMAN BUT YET WAS DIFFERENT TO US IN THAT HE NEVER EVER SINNED!

Coca Cola are single handedly responsible for changing the face of Christmas into what we have today. They managed a number of years ago to dress Santa in red and white in line with their logo colours and made Father Christmas into the jolly, bearded little fat man that he is today. That is a powerful force from one of the richest multi-national companies if the world. They apparently are richer than a number of smaller countries and therefore could make a difference but they do not. 
The claims above are messianic in that they are promising satisfaction, reality, happiness and life itself. They are they claim the way forward but all they have in reality contributed is to the shape of nations (caramelised, fizzy sugar solutions are adding to the obesity problem that the Western world is plagued by) and also the decay of many a child's teeth.
I have nothing against Coca Cole but they made great promises for Looe and people flocked to see a spectacle that did not deliver. But it is Christmas and our attention must go to: 


THE PURPOSE




JESUS IS THE LAMB OF GOD WHO TAKES AWAY THE SINS OF THE WORLD.




We are reminded at this Christmas season what it really
cost for God to become Man, so that we could experience the riches of His grace: “For
you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your
sakes He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich” (2 Cor.8:9, ESV).
What a gift!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

The real reason for the season.



Reading: Genesis chapter 3:1-24

This is not the usual text preached from at Christmas-time but it is I believe the text that reveals to us the real (original) reason for the season. I haven't as yet this Christmas seen the poster that many churches display declaring Jesus to be the reason for the season. Whilst I fully appreciate and understand what it is they are saying it is not quite accurate. It is not seriously wrong but there is a far more fundamental reason for the season which we shall discover from this most disturbing of bible passages.

The background as I am sure you will know is that God has finished His incredible work of creation in 6 days and has instituted the day of rest into the very heart of his creation and so we have a 7 day week set and ordered by God the Creator. He has looked over His creation and declared it to be very good. As the pinnacle of all creation He had created man; Adam being the first. Adam was given straight away a task of work to do and as such God's pattern for man was that he should be a worker just as God Himself is, therefore work is instituted by God as part of man's purpose. Adam had to name or categorise all of the animals as God caused them to pass him by displaying God and man working together. Adam was the solitary human whilst all of the animals had their mates. As Adam was about his work he found none from amongst the animals to be a suitable helper which reminds us that a dog might be a faithful friend but it cannot ever be our best friend. It was when Adam realised his loneliness that God created especially for him someone who was just right for him. God put Adam to sleep and took a rib from his side and out of that He made Eve. There is so much significance in this that we do not have time to explore it today other than it is right to say that God created man and woman to be together, Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve. Marriage is between man and woman and it is also meant to be one man for one woman but as we shall see things have gone so badly wrong that everything is now confused. In fact the bible tells us that after this event the whole of creation is now groaning under the effect of sin.

Adam is blessed with Eve and Eve is blessed with Adam, they are designed to be together in what we call marriage, that is still God's ideal for today and as Christians we would do well to celebrate marriage wherever it takes place. I hope you all pray for each others marriages and keep an eye out to protect each other from infiltrators!

But what has this got to do with Christmas?

Simply put the event that follows is the reason for Christmas! Sinful man is the real reason for the season! If it were not for Adam and Eve following Satan's beguiling words rather than the Word of God Almighty there would have been no reason for the Son of God to come in the way that He did. If you notice in the passage that we read that after Adam and Eve sinned the Lord was walking in the garden in the cool of the day. That is after Adam should have completed his daily task of caring for creation. The Lord was walking to meet with His people, the Lord that manifests Himself in human form is Jesus who was, and is and is forever-more the same; Immanuel. God is there and Adam and Eve have done a runner, they are scared and are hiding in fancy dress behind the bushes; how futile sin makes man's thinking. Fancy believing you can hide from the Creator God! I hope that there is nobody here that thinks that they can hide from the Creator even in the seats of the Mustard Seed, as we shall see God is never fooled by your thin disguise. You may have sowed together the leaves of respectability or even Christianity but if sin or self is your motivator then God sees right through it and so you the sinner are the real Reason for the Season.

God so loved His people that He sent His Son Jesus into the world to save them from their sins, remember the instruction to Joseph! He had the privilege to name the Lord of glory with the name Jesus which means saviour.






Therefore we have in this passage:

  • Adam on the run (followed by)
  • The call of God (and a declaration of)
  • The cost of salvation.

This passage records the enormity of sin and it's universal affect on both God and all of creation. It is man who was the pinnacle of all creation that is responsible for all of the wrongs in the world. Therefore he is most affected excepting Satan; by all that his sin has caused! From that day on the world was never the same, all of creation was affected by what we might term as a minor mis-demeanor. In reality it was far more than a minor slip, it was the greatest catastrophe the world has ever known. Every single particle of creation is affected! That is the enormity that sin is to God. It is a total abomination and the very fact that He has allowed it to continue speaks greatly of His grace despite man's total depravity.

Let us briefly consider:

Adam on the run:

Adam is what the theologians might call the federal head of sinful humanity; it may have been Eve that took the first bite of the fruit but it is Adam who is responsible as far as God is concerned because he is the head of the family. Consequently in Adam's case he was also the federal head of all humanity the result of which is that the very nature of all (bar One) who follow is marked by sin rather than Godliness. The New Testament refers to him as the first Adam because from this moment on a new Adam was needed in order that God might perform an act of Grace which far surpasses what we can ever imagine.

Immediately in his foolishness Adam thought that he could run away from God. He had not yet learned what the Psalmist knew; there is nowhere to run that is outside of God's presence be it in the depths of the sea or on the highest mountains and I suppose we can now add depths of space as many astronauts have testified to, God's glory and as such His presence is with all of His creation:

He is OMNIPRESENT!

Adam along with Eve also had their first craft session together, their nakedness had the result of their nakedness becoming dirty and so they were now ashamed to come naked into the presence of a Holy God. Therefore they put their creative skills to the test. Out of newly decaying fig leaves sewed together they tried to cover their nakedness. What a sham it is to try to hide from God what you really are. We have all inherited Adam's infectious disease and as such each one of us is guilty of falling short of God's standard of perfection. The due punishment for such sinfulness is eternal death, the result of which is that from birth to grave we are naturally dead to God and alive to sin. That is Adam's legacy to us which we dutifully pass on to our children. We are impotent in it, we cannot help but to sin but we are culpable for it! Therefore in the same way that Adam was on the run from God then so are we.

Do you recognize yourself in this, if so there is hope because this is the real reason for the season. God loves sinners and does not want any to perish.

The next thing that we observe is:

The call of God:
God is not only omnipresent He is also omniscient, which means that He is all knowing. He knows all about you, your every thought and motive. He knows what you need long before you do, He also knows your foolish wants and desires. He knows your wrong ambitions, your wrong dealings with others, your pride, your lust, your anger! In fact He knows you better than you know yourself. Therefore at the time when Adam was foolishly hiding God knew exactly where he was. The Psalmist tells us that God laughs at the foolish antics of man. God continues to laugh in the face of yours and mine foolishness but despite that He does the most amazing thing. He calls out to Adam “where are you?” It was a rhetorical question that resulted in Adam exposing his real shame none of which was hidden by his pathetic wilting leaf patterned skirt! Interestingly he was more afraid of his nakedness than of his sin, things never change. Mankind is more concerned about minor indiscretions than the fact that they have turned their back in pride on a Holy God.

God from this moment begins to reveal an amazing work of grace that He had put in place even from before He had created the world. Creation was a great miracle but now He is about to begin an even greater work. This one He will not rest from until He finally gathers his church into glory.

The work?

Re-creation: this is a massive job which brings absolute and perfect satisfaction to God, to heaven and also to those whom He re-creates. He calls sinners everywhere to repent.

God first of all pronounces judgement upon Adam and Eve and all sinners who follow after him after first convicting them of their sin. He also marks all of creation with the curse because man has negated his privileged position and as such cannot expect as a sinner to live in a perfect world whilst he is totally depraved. His influence would very soon ruin all of nature. Likewise Satan is cursed but he is also told that judgement will come upon him one day from a man born of a woman. This is the prototype gospel, it is the first announcement of God's intention to save and to rescue those whom He loves. The Old Testament will progressively fill it out over many years until eventually fulfilment is found in Jesus who came in this season, the reason for which is that He save His people from their sins.


Finally man barred from the tree of life, no longer can they find their own way into the presence of God. They are barred from His presence. There is nothing that man can do to gain favour from Him, therefore we are lost in our sins but our God by His grace calls out to us. But sinners cannot enter His presence and so there is an impasse!

There is a cost that is necessary to get over the impasse.

The cost of Salvation:

Remember that man made the best effort that he could think of in order to cover his shame and that had no affect at all! What God does next is a pointer to the way that the impasse would be overcome. From that moment on a sacrifice would be necessary for sin to be covered. God in the act of killing an animal showed that the death of an innocent victim was the only acceptable covering for the shame of sin. The animal was an innocent victim chosen by God to cover Adam's shame; many years down the line God's Chosen One would be born in this season to be the sacrifice that completely covers the sin of all who will believe. All of the sacrifices on Jewish altars never once saved anyone from sin but they spoke very loudly of the One Perfect Sacrifice who is the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world as declared by John the Baptist. God the Son who had walked at the beginning of time with Adam and Eve would be born one day in Bethlehem and at that time re-creation finally begins.

The real reason for the Season?

Sinners

The remedy is He who is revealed in the season? He is Immanuel which means God with us, He is the lamb of God who is called Jesus because He does more than cover our sins, He takes them as if they were His very own and He personally pays the price. He had to die, He was an innocent victim chosen by God to take our sin and in it's place to give us His righteousness.

The real reason for the season?
Us

We hang our heads in shame before a Holy God who by grace paid the ultimate cost for us. We love the season because with it comes our only hope.   

The reality of the season is that the Baby Jesus is fully God who is with His people and who knows His people.It is He who saves His people from their sins through His sacrificial death upon the cross. The reason for the season is us but the remedy to the cause is revealed in the season it is God becomes man and pays the full price for our sin!

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

2 Peter 2:12-21 Wholesome thinking about the truth (tell me the old,old story!)

P.A.Thatcher
Grace Community Church,
Morval, Cornwall
Sunday 9th November 2014

Wholesome thinking about the truth:

(Tell me the old, old story!)

2 Peter 1:12-21

Before we look at the passage and seek to find truths contained within I would like to thank Jim for the series so far and also for the opportunity to open up this passage for us as the church gathered here. I have to confess at the outset that this passage was preached on my recent visit to South Wales by our good friend Tom Holland. In saying that the emphasis was very different to what my brief is today but it was both stimulating and helpful for my preparation for today's message.

Finally last weeks message set the scene perfectly and was endorsed by Gill's testimony that followed concerning her love for the bible. All of these things having gone before are the springboard for all that is to now come.

The flow of 2 Peter so far has been that Peter has encouraged his readers to make their calling and election sure. He has reminded us that we are saved as a sovereign work of God's grace and that if we are to be effective as servants of Jesus Christ then we must work at our knowledge and understanding of all that being a Christian entails. I am a scientist by profession and so I love equations and finding the balance that makes the equation work. This first chapter of 2 Peter is to the scientific mind a great example of a balanced equation. It begins with a greeting that is for the people of faith and continues to remind us that if we are that people then certain things are true of us. That is a bit like A+B of the equation then we move on into vs10 where we have part of the product of A+B in that as we learned last week there is a responsibility to make sure that A+B are in place but the final part of the equation which adds up to C is that there is a declaration to be made also which is found in verses 12-15.

You will see that verses 10 & 12 both begin with a “therefore” this in scripture ought to cause us to ask the question:

What is the therefore there for?”

This is where our subtitle “tell me the old, old story comes in!” Peter is in the last days of his life, he knows that his unceremonious end as promised by the Lord Jesus is soon to take place and so he has vowed to do something. He is not busying himself with putting right all of the mistakes that he has made. That of course is important but for Peter and I believe all believers there is a legacy of far greater importance than reputation that needs to be passed on. Even in his latter days Peter's thinking is wholesome and is a great example to us and a timely reminder of what is truly important.

Now to the passage in hand. Peter tells us that we need to be wholesome in our:

  1. Respect towards others.
  2. Testimony of faith.
  3. Presentation of scripture.


1: Wholesome in respect towards others.

Verses 12-15:

I am greatly privileged to be getting older in age. Many might scoff at that but scripture clearly teaches that as we get older we continue to have a gospel responsibility. That is nowhere more to the fore than we see from Peter's words in these verses. I am sure that we have all been guilty of saying to our children (just as our parents did to us) “I have told you a thousand times before, my repeating is for you benefit!” “I will keep banging this gong until you have got it!!”

The poppy is a reminder of disastrous days that have gone before and hopefully a warning not to go there again!

This is exactly the sentiment of what peter is saying in these verses. Catherine Hankey had the same sentiment when she penned the following words:

Tell me the old, old story
of unseen things above
of Jesus and His glory
of Jesus and His love.
Tell me the story simply,
as to a little child,
for I am weak and weary'
and helpless and defiled.

Tell me the story slowly,
that I may take it in-
that wonderful redemption,
God's remedy for sin.
Tell me the story often,
for I forget so soon:
the early dew of morning
has passed away at noon.

Tell met story softly,
with earnest tones and grave;
Remember!I'm the sinner
whom Jesus came to save.
Tell me the story always,
if you would really be,
in any time of trouble,
a comforter to me.

Tell me the same old story,
when you have cause to fear
that this world's empty glory
is costing me too dear.
Yes, and when that world's glory
is dawning on my soul,
tell me the old, old story:
Christ Jesus makes you whole!”

Peter long before Catherine Hankey said I will tell you the old,old story often in order to stir you up to be the Christians that God intended of you. It is not vain repetition or an incantation. It is the story of salvation that we need. The gospel of course to Peter was all embracing it begins with Moses and continues throughout the law and the prophets and finds perfect fulfilment in Jesus of Nazareth and He has adopted us into the family of God and as such we need constant reminders as to the cost and implications of our salvation. Peter unashamedly said I will keep on keeping on with the old, old story because you need it.

He says that he intends to make it his dying breath, we can imagine that day when he went to his own cross, curses came from his lips at the cross of the Saviour because Peter was a complete and utter failure but at his own cross he has become victorious! Death no longer had a sting for Peter, he was entering into glory and so we can imagine the words he had for his executioner and for the spectators gathered!

But he has also made provision, he had made every effort to leave a legacy for others to know the old, old story and that is what we have in front of us now!

Praise God for Peter's legacy; but what of yours and mine? Are we as focussed on the importance of the old, old story for the benefit of others?

We must be wholesome in our thinking towards others.

How do we accomplish this?

It starts in the church:
  • This is the place where we gather together in order to learn what the old, old story is and this inspires us to worship God aright.
  • It comes from this pulpit which is to be more like a poppy or a memorial stone where memories are brought to the fore in order that lessons from the past might be constantly before us. This is much more than a lectern, I have heard many things from lecterns but from this place there is only one subject: The old, old story! This stage is not a place of performance it is in reality holy ground where the old, old story is proclaimed, taught and made ever new to all who will hear. This lectern you see speaks of Jesus and His love and nothing else. Therefore says Peter let me tell you the story in order that you might take it in so that in your time of trouble you might remember God's remedy for sin. That Peter was coming to the end of life, this Peter is getting old and so we together say keep on keeping on telling the old, old story because as I get older I need it to be told me more and more and so I will tell it until I cannot any longer and then will rely on you to keep reminding me.
  • Our wholesome thinking concerning truth reminds us of this great responsibility to others, they need the old, old story therefore you must tell them.

2: We must have a wholesome presentation of our testimony:

Verses 16-18


It is amazing in this day and age that people would rather believe fantasy than they would truth. Some believe that a fairy tale concerning a man that comes down a chimney with presents on 24th d
December is absolute truth and yet completely discount as impossible the truth that God became man, was born of a virgin and dwelt amongst men and that He died and rose again not simply as a present but that in order He might present beneficiaries of His coming and sacrifice to God as perfect and holy.

People believe the most bizarre of things and yet reject out of hand God's truth.

Peter was saying that they did not fall for fanciful myths carved out of the thumbs of intellectuals or of anybody else but that they testified to the TRUTH. They declared and made known TRUTH.
They persuaded people as to the truth of the power of Jesus Christ:

  • The power of His incarnation.
  • The power of His humanity.
  • The power of His sufferings.
  • The power of His death.
  • The power of His resurrection.
  • The power of His ascension.
All of which Peter had been an eye witness, this is fact and he testified to it. He said earlier in this chapter (vs 3) that “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.”

Peter testified to the truth of the:

  • Lordship of Jesus Christ.
  • The humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is Jesus which means Saviour.
  • God's anointing upon Jesus, He is the Christ, the One and only sent by God.

That was the testimony of Peter, to Him it was the old, old story fulfilled and made new in the person of Jesus Christ. All that Peter knew of the scriptures had found fulfilment in Jesus and His New Covenant people which is the church and so the old, old story has a completely new focus. It is all about Jesus whom Peter knew and loved and now witnessed to.

He had seen His majesty as recorded in Matthew 17:1-8. He had seen Him on the mount of transfiguration. He along with James and John had never seen Jesus like this before. Peter certainly had a story to tell. They were on the mountain with Moses and Elijah, both of whom had had their own mountaintop experiences.

Moses had seen God's back and reflected the glory of God, his face shone so brightly that he had to veil it for days afterwards because it was too much for sinful people to bear. Jesus who is greater than Moses shone brilliantly throughout and as such fulfils completely what Moses pointed to.

Elijah's mountain top experience was very different, we all remember his meeting with the prophets of Baal and Ashtoreth where by God's help they were defeated, but Elijah had another mountain top experience recorded in 1 Kings 18. He met with God at the top of Carmel again and on this occasion he met in humility, prayer and faith. He prayed for an end to God's judgement upon the people and asked for rain to come. Elijah interceded on behalf of the people and god answered favourably

On the mountain in the presence of Peter, James and John; Moses and Elijah faded away in the presence of Jesus. Peter was a first hand witness to the glory and supremacy of Jesus and so many other things and so has every right to testify to them and so that is what he does.

There is no other name under heaven by which you must be saved!” That was Peter's testimony, it is also ours. It might be an old, old story but it is God's remedy for sin. God said of this Jesus “He is my son in whom I am well pleased!” Peter heard it and we know it and so like Peter we must testify to it!

Revelation 12:11 tells us that it is by the word of our testimony and the blood of the Lamb that the devil is defeated, which reminds us that testimony is vitally important.

What is testimony?

It is the old, old story of Jesus and His love as we have experienced it.

That is important but there is something of even greater importance:

Our wholesome thinking about the truth must come primarily from the scripture; therefore we would do well to:

3: Present truth from scripture:

There is something even more sure than an eager desire to encourage the church with the old, old story. It is even more sure than testimony of the great things that god has done no matter how spectacular they are. It is the clear presentation of scripture. Scripture is a lamp on the dark way of life. By scripture lives are changed, hearts are renewed, sins are forgiven it is wholly reliable and perfectly true. It is now as other sacred books the thought of whoever, scripture is God's book.

Paul says in 2 Timothy 3:16 that it is exhaled by God who through the Holy Spirit inspired men of old to write down the old, old story of Jesus and His love. It tells of Him who from before the foundation of the world purposed to enter into this world, His glory veiled and to do a great work that none other could do. You wee there was no other good enough to pay the price of sin, He Only, could unlock the gates of heaven and let us in.

God inspired the prophets to speak of Jesus, He inspired the priests to declare Jesus through the sacrifice by which forgiven sin was pointed. He inspired Kings to be like Jesus and to declare Him by their life, their word and their authority.

You see the bible is all about Jesus. Moses and Elijah just like us were sinners who were blessed by God and empowered by His Spirit to speak of Jesus: See Hebrews 11:23-26 & 33

But they were not God's Beloved Son!

Peter says that we would do well to pay attention to the Word of God, which is all about Jesus. Just as we need a torch in a dark place. It is foolishness to close your eyes to it's beam. Don't be a fool today, listen to this old, old story because it is all that you need in life, it is the way of salvation and the way of life.

Do you love the bible as Charlie Simpson did?

Sermons and bible studies are vital, do you agree. The preacher and teacher needs to rely on the old, old story, the musicians and all who take part must do so also because we need it.

I beg of each of us to “Tell me the old, old story!


(This message was preached in the church where I currently worship and is available to hear at:  www.gracecc.org.uk/sermonfiles/whols/10_Wholsmtruth_091114.mp3


5

Ruth part 9: Understanding the blessing.

To anybody following this blog I apologise for the lack of new material over the last few months, the studies have been prepared ad delivered but I have not been able to type and post due to personal circumstances. It will be completed in the near future.

Ruth Part 8: Understanding the process.

To anybody following this blog I apologise for the lack of new material over the last few months, the studies have been prepared ad delivered but I have not been able to type and post due to personal circumstances. It will be completed in the near future.

Ruth part 7: Understanding Boaz

To anybody following this blog I apologise for the lack of new material over the last few months, the studies have been prepared ad delivered but I have not been able to type and post due to personal circumstances. It will be completed in the near future.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Ruth part 6: Understanding the situation.






Ruth 1:19-2:4
So the two of them went on until they came to Bethlehem. And when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”
So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabite her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
Now Naomi had a relative of her husband's, a worthy man of the clan of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. And Ruth the Moabite said to Naomi, “Let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after him in whose sight I shall find favour.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.” So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech. And behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem.


There is much in this passage for us to learn from. Naomi and Ruth have arrived in Bethlehem and are greeted by the people but they must start a new life together. They both have a different perspective on situation that they find themselves in. Therefore we will consider:

  • Naomi's situation.
  • Ruth's situation.
  • The townspeople's situation.
  • The true situation.

Whatever circumstances that we find ourselves in we always see the situation through our own perspective and that is highly coloured by all of our life's experience up until that time. It is also affected by many other issues, for example our expectation of other people's viewpoint concerning our situation, the future that will be affected by it, how it fits in with our belief system and our particular theology etc. There are a multiplicity of factors that build up our understanding of the situation that we find ourselves in at any one particular time. It might be worth just pausing this moment and just consider the situation that you find yourself in and list all of the factors that are influencing your understanding of what you are experiencing. This is not a mindless exercise but is helpful in our understanding as to what happens in the rest of the experience of these two ladies.


Naomi's situation:

We have by now come to know Naomi quite well. We can understand something of what makes her tick and if you are anything like me you are by now appreciating this somewhat complex character that tends to wear her heart on her sleeve. Upon her return home the first thing that we see is that she does not put any spin on her situation, by now that is no surprise to us. As Naomi meets the townspeople she is open and honest about her situation she hides nothing of her situation and her understanding of what is happening to her. The background as we already know is that with her family they had gone to Moab to find a new life and whilst there she had experienced the death of her husband and both of her two sons. He grief is obviously immense and she is now having to make decisions that are new to her and are outside of both her cultural and personal comfort zones. As a woman she is having to make decisions that are usually the domain of the man and also she is deciding what is right for her (and by now Ruth) from a perspective of destitution. From our 21st century perspective we might be tempted to think that things could have been quite easy for Naomi. We have our social services etc. to fall back on but things were quite different for Naomi, she could guarantee nothing. It is true to say that the Law of God made provision for the poor in the land but that was dependent upon the faithfulness of the people of God and as we see from the last verse of Judges there would be a great probability that the people would not be obeying God's word! Naomi could guarantee nothing from the townspeople. Naomi's situation was not simply that she was stepping back into her home town but what she was walking into was uncertainty.

Put yourself now into her situation and consider what your thoughts, expectations and reactions might be.

Naomi simply did not know how her people would react to her after all much water had passed under the bridge both for her and for them. There was friends to catch up with and family to explain the deaths of loved ones. It was going to be re-living the whole sad story over and over again. On top of that “would she be accepted ?”

Where and how would she live, how would she pay the food bill etc. there was also Ruth to explain away and also to provide for. She had no Social Services or National Health provisions to fall back on! For Naomi it was a time of great stress and so it is no wonder that she appears a little prickly when she meets up with friends who were clearly delighted to see her again.


Application:
This whole episode ought to help us when we meet up with believers who have gone through hard times. We have already considered Naomi and tried to understand her but it is important for us to see Naomi as a type of hurt and damaged believer similar tom many that we meet with on a regular basis. Even though Naomi was clearly hurt and full of self pity along with accusation to God being the cause for her situation the townspeople were gracious, loving and kind towards her. Sadly it has been my experience of Christians and also from time to time showing little or even no compassion for the Naomi's that belong to them. This book of Ruth is far more than a lovely love story it is also a paradigm as to how hurting believers when they are in the deepest of distress should be loved, helped and accepted by God's people.

Ruth's situation:

For Naomi this was a returning but for Ruth it was to be a new experience. She had observed and belonged to a family of faith in Moab. She had seen Naomi in her grief and had decided to be with her and to belong to her people but more significantly to follow God Almighty. Now she was about to enter into the place of faith and worship. This situation is akin to a believer walking for the first time into the church! We can imagine Ruth's anticipation and expectations. Would they all be as lovely and caring as Naomi and her husband and boys? She had been impressed by their lifestyle and their faith in God. She had also been impressed by their God and called into relationship with Him. She was now about to experience what it is like to be in fellowship with God's people.
What she observed I am sure will have gone a long way to put her heart at ease. The friends of Naomi were clearly delighted to welcome her back home. They refused to do as Naomi suggested by calling her bitter and thus to enter into the temptation to blame God for all that has gone before. They simply accepted Naomi as she was and as we shall see in later studies they were supportive to her throughout her settling in process and joined in her delight at the outcome of the experience! Also how would the accept her? She was an outsider! Was she a “gold digger?” who was after something from the family? She was after all a Moabite and not one of them! As a foreigner in their midst, would she be accepted. Again we shall see in a later study how she was accepted but for our purposes now we simply record that the townspeople, friends and family took Ruth to heart and fully accepted her.

Application:

As Christians and also the church we have much to learn from the example of how the friends and townspeople accepted Naomi and Ruth. They were a great example for what had been God's directive to His people for many years previously in that they accepted and helped the grieving, the poor and the broken hearted and they also wholeheartedly accepted alien or foreigner who joined them!

This is an important lesson to all believers everywhere but there is more. Ruth at first was an observer but she became a recipient of all of the benefits of belonging. Eventually she became a vital link in the purposes of God and is found entrenched in revelation history by belonging to the family line of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we entertain strangers we are never quite sure who they are and what purpose God has for them. We must learn to be hospitable to all who God puts in our way. Just for a moment imagine how all of this might have worked out if the people of Bethlehem had rejected either Naomi or Ruth or even both! At times we are guilty of being quite unnaccepting: We must be hospitable and accommodating of people just as these people were and as our God is to us.

The townspeople's situation:

again there is much for us to ponder and learn about how the townspeople reacted. It is important for us to consider what happened in Bethlehem on that day. Not only did Naomi return but Boaz's wife to be was coming to town. God had all of this in His plan and purpose and as we can now appreciate there was so much more for the future involved. What to many would have been the return of Naomi and all that entailed was in fact of a far greater order for which they were intrinsically involved. Their reaction could have had disastrous consequences but as it happened they were an amazing example of how to get it right.

For a moment consider how it all came about. The “grapevine” would have gone ballistic, Naomi was on her way and have you heard the news. Elimelech, Mahlon and Chilion are dead and she is accompanied by one of her Moabite daughter's in law, the other one deserted her and stayed at home. All of this was potentially juicy gossip but the townspeople would have none of it, they were simply pleased to have Naomi back and accepted her and Ruth into society as it had now become. We could speculate much and it is worth doing so in a discussion group as to how it could have been but there is a wonderful example and lesson here for us that is often missed in our studies in Ruth, it is the importance of the corporate acceptance of the backslider and also the new convert. The townspeople were a perfect example.

Application:
It is simply to be more accepting of those who return from backslidings and also to help them as they return without taking on board all that has gone before. We are to be helpful and not a hindrance to their re-settling in. We shall once again see from future studies what effect that had on this whole episode.

The true situation:

It is simply that God is in this, He is working His purposes out. The protagonists of the story did not see what God was doing through ordinary circumstances that affected each of them but we are privileged to see what His purposes were through them. They were in the dark and yet were faithful, we are equally in the dark as to what will become of our daily circumstances but the one thing that we learn from all of this is that whatever befalls us god is working His purposes out through us!

I wonder how our story will be told.

Will it be one of faithfulness or failure?

We have a great responsibility to be faithful in all that we do!

Are we?






Saturday, 7 June 2014

Ruth part 5: Understanding the call to faith:



Ruth 1:1-18

Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited his people and given them food. So she set out from the place where she was with her two daughters-in-law, and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother's house. May the Lord deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me. The Lord grant that you may find rest, each of you in the house of her husband!” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. And they said to her, “No, we will return with you to your people.” But Naomi said, “Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.” Then they lifted up their voices and wept again. And Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her.
And she said, “See, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.” And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.

There is much of what is called gospel preaching today that leaves me more me than a little concerned. There is so much emphasis on style, equipment, venue, and what to me has become a watered-down message. Evangelists or gospel preachers seem to need to be slick, often decked in gold with manic grins and whiter than white teeth. There seems to be great faith in the messenger but little faith in the power of the gospel to which the Apostle Paul says it is the power of God for the salvation of sinners!

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

It seems that this vital truth is being eroded in our day of friendship evangelism, I must at this point defend myself and say that I am most certainly not against friendship which for the believer must always be about evangelism. How can we possibly have a friend that we are not concerned that at death we will go separate ways. I would suggest that the church is not called to friendship evangelism but is called to equipping the saints to befriend people in order that they might declare the gospel in the most natural of ways within the context of the situation.


How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?

Churches today are falling over themselves to be “seeker sensitive” so much so that it is not unusual for some to survey their “targets” in order to discover what they might want a church to be. We find no such license in all of scripture! In fact the opposite is true, the church is to trust only in the declared Word of God, firstly for the believer for their own edification and understanding but also for gospel presentation to a lost and dying world outside of our own four walls. Our problem is that we believe that we must bring people into the church in order that they be saved and that the evangelist is the resident preacher therefore we need to be attractive in order that they come and join us.

This account in the book of Ruth turns all of this thinking on it's head, it is not all about popularity and perceived attractiveness but all about God's call upon the lives of those whom He has chosen to save.

Ephesians 1:3-10

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

The church must return to faith in the power of the gospel in order that there might be true gospel blessing within our land. But there is hope, even through hopeless preaching God by His grace is pleased to save those to whom He is calling:

Therefore we need to understand the call to faith.

From our passage we will consider:

  • Naomi's gospel.
  • God's calling.
  • Ruth's response.

Naomi's gospel:

If we allow our minds to wander a little in order that we understand something of what was going on in Moab on that day then we will see something of a paradox. Naomi was guilty of preaching something that she did not believe. She was guilty of playing the hypocrite and was saying with her mouth something that she did not believe in her heart. There she was at the beginning of her journey back home to Bethlehem. Naomi was a well taught Jewess who clearly was open to the work and leading of the Lord. The very reason that she was heading back home was because she had heard that God had once again visited His people in blessing and now the famine was over. That was enough for Godly Naomi, she wanted to be home again.

Ruth and Orpah have made the decision to follow Naomi, they are in effect going to church with her! The Old Testament nation of Israel is the forerunner of the church (a massive subject for a blog somewhere down the blogging line!!!) and so as Ruth and Orpah decide in their own spirits that they will go with Naomi that in itself is a good thing but it is not evidence of God's call to faith for either of them as we shall soon see.

They go a little further and this is where we observe Naomi's hypocrisy, she fully believed that there was only hope of salvation in the Lord God but was willing to persuade her foreign daughters-in-law to return to the false gods of Moab. Naomi was guilty of sending sinners back into their sin and leaving them with no hope. At this point both Orpah and Ruth are displaying more love to Naomi than she was to them. But through this we observe something that is both outstanding and most helpful to us as we present the gospel.

Gospel preachers are not in any way effective in the call to faith!

If they were then both Orpah and Ruth would have returned to Moab.

However Naomi's spoken gospel may have been somewhat pathetic but as we have previously seen her lifestyle was impressive in that it caused both Orpah and Ruth to love and respect her greatly and as we shall see from Ruth's confession it was much more than simple friendship. Naomi's friendship was vitally important but as far as gospel effectiveness it was totally impotent!

That flies in the face of much of what the church is trying to do today. We need to encourage friendship with all that we rub shoulders with but always with an eye to the truth that friendship or social concern are not sufficient for the salvation of souls they are simply evidence of our faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. They are signposts to those for whom God is calling to Himself. Therefore we must now consider:

God's calling:

This is where many get upset with gospel truth but from what happens next in our passage we cannot deny the truth. We have considered how Ruth and Orpah heard the Word of truth through Naomi over the years but it is what God was doing that is of vital importance.

Naomi's gospel preached to Orpah was effective, she heard the call to return to Moab and her own way and followed. Thankfully we do not know what became of Orpah but if she remained in that condition then she has gone to a lost eternity, but she may have at some time repented. Thankfully that is God's work.

Ruth on the other hand displays perfectly what Paul taught in the passage from Ephesians 1:

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time.

God is sovereign over all things, there is nothing that is not under His control and supervision and that includes the salvation of all of His people for whom He has a plan and purpose. We know that God had a clear plan for Ruth which has great implications for the whole world. She was great grandmother to King David and as such is in the direct birth-line of the Lord Jesus Christ. You cannot get much more important than that!

God had predestined that Ruth would at this very moment have a different faith to that of Orpah. Ruth would see beyond the inconsistencies of Naomi and her poor gospel presentation and see the Lord Almighty and that she would in faith make the greatest declaration of faith that is possible.

God was effectually calling Ruth!!!

God's plan for the future of mankind was one notch closer to completion and all in a time of uncertainty and wrong decisions. It was a time that was completely in God's perfect plan, a time when discipline of the nation was completed and God was working His purposes out.

None of this was about either Naomi or even Ruth but it was all about God. Ruth as we shall see became a wonderful servant of God and she was instrumental in finally being a Godly blessing to Naomi.

We have much to learn about God's working out of His purposes but one thing which we can see is that even though we might get much wrong God never makes a mistake. Therefore when the Lord Jesus Christ tells us that He is building His church then that will remain true even in days of wrong understanding and poor gospel presentation. That does not give us the license to carry on but it ought to humble us enough to take off the bling and the spin that comes with popular evangelicalism and trust wholly and only in the power of the gospel.

Ruth's response:

This goes down in history in much the same way that the Apostle Paul's conversion does. There is much that we learn from what Ruth declares but it is all in the context of what has gone before. We have just learned that God had effectively called Ruth and so now she can believe.
  • Where did that faith come from?
  • Orpah never experienced it! Why did she not respond as Ruth did?

Paul teaches in Ephesians 2: 8-10 the reasons why:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

With this in mind consider Ruth's words to Naomi:

But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the Lord do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

God's grace had clearly worked in her heart, it was a gift to her personally and one for which Orpah was not party to. Ruth was not only willing but her whole hearts desire was for a completely different life. She wanted the life that Naomi had. It was not the call to poverty but to wholehearted trust in Naomi's God. She now belonged to Him and also to His people. At that point she did not know them but she knew that she belonged. Now she really wanted to go to church where she had blessings to come beyond what she could ever imagine.


But what of Orpah?
This is a problem for us as mere humans. We are conditioned by our fallen nature and by education and culture. Modern man believes so much in himself and his own ability and goodness that he will never understand that before God we are all desperately wicked and so nobody deserves grace to be extended to them. That is absolute and we simply have to believe it. God is perfectly good and all that He does is perfectly right therefore when Paul (and the rest of scripture) teaches us that God by grace chooses whom He will to be saved then He only makes right decisions. Orpah allowed Naomi's persuasive words to influence her decision, she chose not only to return home but to her gods also. She deliberately chose to stay in the comfort zone of false religion rather than follow the more difficult way of faith. The reality is that she was lost from grace because she was not one of God's elect. His decision was right concerning Ruth and also for Orpah. This whole episode helps those of us that witness to others in that salvation does not depend upon our clever and persuasive arguments but entirely upon God's grace. Naomi was a poor preacher but her message was used effectually for the salvation of Ruth and for Orpah's decision not to follow the Lord.

We learn so much from this passage:
  • We must be better proclaimers of the truth both in life and in word.
  • We must trust wholly in God's Word which is more powerful than our clever ideas can ever be.
  • We must understand and believe that God is Sovereign in all things, even the salvation of those whom He loves.
  • We must believe that He effectively calls all whom He chooses to salvation.
  • We must believe that faith is a gift given in order that we can be saved.
  • We must when believing become a part of the local community of believers which for Ruth was Naomi's people and for us are Jesus' people who are better known as the local church!