And this one completed the series.
Listen to What I Have Been Learning – August 13, 2017 – Pastor Dan Ledwith by West Church #np on #SoundCloud
And this one completed the series.
Listen to What I Have Been Learning – August 13, 2017 – Pastor Dan Ledwith by West Church #np on #SoundCloud
My posts Special Graces in Common Places, Personal Confessions, and Lessons from Spiderman were actually a sermon series I gave on August 6th and 13th. For those who are more audible than visual, here is the first recording.
Personal Confession (Matthew 19:13-15) Dan Ledwith August 6, 2017 by West Church #np on #SoundCloud
Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there (Matthew 19:13-15 (NIV).
Jesus here was not in the synagogue or any formal place of worship. He was out and about with His disciples. The disciples were fine with the Pharisees coming and debating divorce with Jesus in verses 1-12. But they drew the line at parents bringing little children for Jesus to bless and pray for. Youth ministry maybe, but Children’s ministry? That was a waste of Jesus’ time! After all the real stuff is adult ministry right!
I know what they were feeling. I often call my three girls monkeys. They can be loud, wild, unpredictable, and sometimes (let me be honest) they can act like wild animals! It seems like our house has not been clean and in order for more than a day or two in a row in the last 15 years! They can be loud, weird, messy, and downright distracting. I’m not alone in that right? This isn’t just me is it?
Don’t you parents love the idea of a nursery and children’s church going on during the service, so you can relax and worship and listen to the message without having to constantly answer questions, take your kids to the bathroom, listen to them ask when the service is going to be over, or bending over to pick up all the crayons that just spilled all over the floor?
Not only did Jesus think it was a good use of His time, He also used them to teach how His disciples needed to view the kingdom of God. It wasn’t about needing to be all grown up, or being all together, or even understanding it all. It was all about grace. Jesus graciously reaches out to us even when we cannot reach out to Him. As those children were dependent on their parents for everything they needed, we need to be learning that we are no less dependent on Jesus for everything we need. When we start picking and choosing who is worth sharing the Father’s love with we are missing the point. Jesus not only rebukes His disciples for thinking that way but adds, do not hinder them.
When you look through the Gospels for how Jesus taught His disciples, you see that common and every day experiences like this were often what served as the springboards for His lessons. Scripture was His textbook, and life was His classroom. Over and over again we see that Jesus took advantage of “everyday life” to teach His disciples.
When Jesus’ disciples saw Him talking with a Samaritan woman in John 4:27-38, that led to lessons on missions.
In Mark 10:35-45, when a fight broke out among the disciples because James and John wanted to have the highest places of honor in Jesus’ kingdom, Jesus turned that quarrel into an object lesson about leadership.
When the disciples called attention to the beauty of the Temple buildings in Matthew 24, Jesus used that as an opportunity to teach them about the end times.
When Jesus passed through a vineyard on the way to Gethsemane, He used the grapevines as an illustration of how we are connected to Him and how we bear His fruit (John 15:1-17).
It is my contention that Jesus has not changed His methods, and that through the Holy Spirit, He is doing the same for us; giving us special graces in common places, lessons that He wants us learning to help us work out the grace that He is constantly working into us (Philippians 2:12-13).
I have been learning God knows no distinction between the so-called “sacred” and “secular” parts of your life. It is all one sacred life to Him. Therefore, it is crucial to understand that His Spirit is no less active with you and on your behalf when you are resting at home, working at the office, or playing with your kids than when you are at church, or praying, or reading your Bible. As Jesus discipled His first disciples throughout their everyday life and experiences, He does the same thing with us.
As Jesus is constantly discipling us through our everyday life so that we can be learning to love Him and love others better (Matthew 22:36-40), we need to be learning how to be listening to Him so that we can join Him in helping others do the same (Matthew 28:19-20). These special graces that the Spirit gives are not only lessons for you, they are for you to share as you disciple others.
Learning to listen for God’s voice, to see His special graces in the common places of everyday life, means learning to tune your ears to the Spirit’s voice.
The indispensable starting point for doing that is reading and studying Scripture. The Spirit’s voice is heard in every word of every page of all sixty-six books of the Bible.
The things you will be learning in the everyday will not add to Scripture, which is God’s revealed and inerrant revelation of Himself to the whole Church in all times and in all places.
Rather they are to help you discern that the God who has revealed Himself in Scripture is constantly at work in your life, and speaking into your life—in both the big things and the small things—and to show you how the truths we have in Scripture are lived out, played out, and affirmed in every area of life.
The resurrection assures us that that forgiveness is real. That the way back Home is real.
The death of Jesus tells us the price that needed paid to make that happen. It brings into stark clarity how hopelessly bad things are. At the cross the Law took all it demanded. Forgiveness isn’t possible unless justice is satisfied. That’s the rub. That is why it is so important.
The resurrection tells us that the Father accepted that payment. The resurrection is the triumph of grace. The way to the Garden is open again. Your Homecoming is being prepared.
That is the new birth that Peter was talking about.
The Christian life is not free of troubles or trials. There are plenty. Those troubles are being used by God to get you prepared for heaven. You are being remade; remade in the image of Christ. There is work to the Christian life. But it is not working to earn, it is working to learn.
Good Friday teaches us the first big lesson that God wants us learning: that I am not, nor was I ever meant to be enough. The cross shows us where we end up on our own. The cross shows us the end of the line if we try to be enough on our own. If we are held accountable for our actions and have to pay for the sins we have made then we are in trouble, big trouble!
Easter assures us about the second and most important truth God that wants us learning: that Jesus is enough; and that in Him, though Him, and because of Him, you will always have enough. The resurrection means that Jesus was not just a good guy. His life was not just “more righteous than most,” it tells us that He was most righteous! He lived a life of loving His Father with all of His heart, soul, mind, and strength and loved His neighbor as Himself. And He lived it perfectly.
The cross teaches us that Jesus loved us enough. The more you need to forgive the more you need to love, because love is what it takes to make you willing to pay the price to forgive. Forgiveness is free for the offender but not for the giver, is it? There is always a cost to it. The higher the offense the higher the cost. What kind of love therefore was necessary for Jesus to be willing to step in and pay His Father what we owed? It was not a small price. It required God becoming a man. It required living a perfect and sinless life in world full of temptation, headaches, and heartaches, where He was misunderstood, mistreated, rejected, misjudged, and nailed to a cross. And that wasn’t the worst of it. He had to suffer the justice of God for us. It wasn’t the cross that made Jesus cry “My God, My God why have You forsaken me?” It was experiencing the justice of God, the wrath of God for all our sin.
The good news of Easter is, because Jesus prayed that prayer His children never need to. Because Jesus entered that truly God-forsaken place, Christians will never have to go in. If there is one sure description of Christians, it is that they are a people who are never forsaken by God. You can have complete assurance and peace knowing that God will never leave you or forsake you because Jesus prayed a prayer that will never be necessary for any Christian to pray ever again.
Because truth was not compromised, grace now runs free to the Bullock’s of the world (and in case you are wondering, we are all Bullock). All that is needed to get it is to see that grace and truth that the Father offers through Jesus, and accept it. If the Father has opened your eyes to see it, take it. It is His free gift of love to you. And all that guilt and shame from the bad things you have done which hound, accuse, and imprison you will be gone. You will be free. You can come Home.
Back in n Isaiah 43:19 (NIV) God said,
See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.
The new thing that God was doing was fixing what was broken, it was about getting rid of death. It was about making a way Home.
All those “bad things” that Bullock was talking about are the things blocking our way Home.
The more we are expected to love, honor, and obey a person the greater the offense right? If I walked down from here and punched David in the nose, I’d be in trouble right? If I punched a police officer in the nose, would I be in more trouble? You bet! What if I walked up to the President of the United States and punched him in the nose, would I be in even more trouble? Yes. You see what I’m getting at. The same action can have greater consequences depending on our obligation to love, honor, and obey them. People, the reality is that we have all punched God in the nose. And we have done it over and over and over again. And our obligation to love, honor and obey God is a lot more than what we owe to POTUS isn’t it. In fact it is an infinite obligation.
The truth is God is holy, good, righteous, and just. The truth is, the Law is no joke; it is God’s revelation of His character, who He is, and what He expects of us. The truth is if He does not uphold that Law in every way, then He would cease to be holy, good, righteous, and just. He can’t make exceptions.
All that trying to live by the law does, is show us that we can’t. It doesn’t matter if it is God’s Law which is holy, righteous, and good (Romans 7:12), or the laws of your community, or even your own personal laws. All law does is show us that we can’t follow it right. That is what Paul was getting at when he said, “I found that the very commandment that was intended to bring life actually brought death” (Romans 7:10). There is no way for us to get back, to make up, to make things right, to get rid of our bad things.
All of redemptive history is about recovering what was lost in the garden. It is about getting back to the garden. It is about getting back Home to the Father.
The way back to the Father is what the Gospel is all about. It is what Easter is all about. The key to the hope we have is the resurrection of Jesus. It is so central in fact that Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:19 (NIV) If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. If you take the resurrection away, there really is no point to our being here this morning.
What we all need is grace.
What is grace? Grace is a one-way love that is willing to come to you and rescue you from the suffocating weight of guilt and shame; a love that is not based in merit, or in what Jesus can get from you. By one-way love I mean it is love that is not built on the expectation of getting anything back. It is not loving to get something, it is loving to give something; not because the love is deserved, but in spite of the fact that it is not. Grace is love that has nothing to do with what is deserved, or what is fair, or a return on investment. It is one-way love. God’s forgiveness is an act of grace in which He chooses to love us in spite of our sin, mess, and brokenness—because He wants to; not because He has to, or ought to—but simply because He wants to.
God’s forgiveness is not blind. His forgiveness does not mean overlooking sin. Forgiveness is not choosing to not see sin, or hurt, or guilt. For God to forgive, He must see our sin for what it is. He has to look into our hearts and see everything. God’s forgiveness is not about ignoring sin or excusing it. It sees it head on.
God’s forgiveness means after He looked head on at all the sin we committed, and took into account what justice required, He cancelled the debt. God’s forgiveness means that He chooses not to charge us with justice, but to bless us with grace.
That isn’t done by forgetting about it, or brushing it off, or sweeping it under the rug. It is done by taking it to Christ. It was done by nailing Him to the cross. Jesus paid your debt for you. He satisfied the justice of His Father and gave His life for you. So instead of being dead in sin, we are now alive in Christ.
Forgiveness is an act of gracious one-way love in which God decides to look at us and relate to us through the righteousness of Christ. When God forgives us He no longer holds us legally accountable for our sins in any way. It means that God has fully restored the relationship between Himself and the believer. So as far as God is concerned, you are not only guiltless, you are righteous.
When God forgives you, it is life changing. Forgiveness is life changing because…
…it sets you free. Like with the adulterous woman in John 8:2-11, forgiveness frees you from your past. It sets you free from guilt. It cancels your debts. It frees you from judgment.
…It is life changing because forgiveness heals. Forgiveness draws out the poison of anger, regret, hate, and sorrow. Because of this, forgiveness makes it possible for relationships that had been mortally wounded to heal and begin to grow again like in the reconciliation between Joseph and his brothers in Genesis 50:15-21.
…It is life changing because forgiveness changes your heart. Forgiveness can accomplish what years of “do’s and don’ts” cannot. Grace moves in your heart to make you want to do the right thing. Just look at the story of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10.
…Forgiveness meets our deepest need: love. We are all like the Samaritan woman Jesus met in John 4:1-42. We all fail. We all fall. We fracture others. We get fractured ourselves. Over and over again. There comes a point when we realize that no amount of self-help, positive thinking, or hard work on our part changes these realities. Everyone is broken, the only difference is in the varying degrees of brokenness in which we find ourselves.
I have been learning that the more broken you realize you are, the more the world, the flesh, and the devil tell us that we are not only unable to love, but that we are unlovable. The only antidote for this cancer of shame is love. Forgiveness is love in its most sacrificial and costly form. It is love that is not given as a reward for good behavior, good decisions, or being a good example, but is love that is given in spite of not being or exhibiting any of those things. It is love that is not driven by expectations, or weights, or measures. It is love given simply because it is chosen to be given, it is love that rushes into our bruised and broken souls and eradicates the cancer of guilt and shame.
Forgiveness transforms you. It does not leave you the same.
The good news of Easter is the Father has made a way to be both just and forgiving (1 John 1:9). The truth is He sent His Son into the world that He and Jesus created as a new part of that creation. Jesus was born like us, grew up like us, lived like us, worked like us, suffered like us, and died like us. But the best truth is that He did not love like us, or sin like us, or fail like us. He loved perfectly. He lived justly. The truth is that because of that perfectly just life, He was able to die for us, to atone for us, to substitute Himself for us. Because of His perfect love for His Father and for us, He was willing to redirect the curse of the Law and the just wrath of His Father for our sin onto Himself (Romans 5:6-11).
The following three posts comprised my Easter sermon this past Sunday at Cliftondale Congregational Church in Saugus, MA. Part 2 will post tomorrow and part 3 on Wednesday. If audio becomes available I will link to that as well…
One of the shows that Mandi and I like to watch is Gotham. It is a very interesting show set in DC Comics’ fictional Gotham City. The show focuses on the adventures of Det. James Gordon, who in the future, will be the same Commissioner Gordon who becomes a main ally of the Batman. But that is a long way off. Bruce Wayne (aka Batman) is just a young boy.
However, Gotham is already in serious trouble, and the idealistic Det. Gordon finds himself the lone uncorrupt cop in the city. While all the cops are bad, they are bad to varying degrees, and Gordon eventually finds an ally (or someone he believes he can make an ally) in his partner, Det. Harvey Bullock.
In the episode, “Everybody Has a Cobblepot,” we discover that the Police Commissioner (who is in the pocket of Don Falcone, the head of the mob) is keeping files on all the bad things the cops have done, and uses them as leverage to keep them doing whatever he wants.
Near the end of the episode, Bullock explains to Gordon the rationale for why he did his “bad thing,” and the struggle he still has with it all these years later.
You know…you tell yourself, “I’ll just do this one bad thing. All the good things I do later will make up for it.” But they don’t. There is still that bad thing.
That gets to the heart of all of us doesn’t it? In thirty-two words, Bullock lays his finger on the problem we all find ourselves in as fallen and broken people. When we do something bad—be it intentional or unintentional—we tell ourselves the same thing. We rationalize that we needed to do it so that we can be in a position to do good things, or (more often) that we will be able to make up for it (or at least offset it) by doing good things in the future.
We want to do something to make things right; to make ourselves right.
But inevitably we fail again.
And then again.
And then again.
Now we are not just working to make up for one bad thing, but many bad things. And we find ourselves lost in a horrible downward spiral of trying to show that, in spite of our “bad things,” we are really “good.”
But it doesn’t work does it? No matter how hard we work to “do good things,” they don’t erase the bad things do they? We know that we cannot fix ourselves. We can’t make up for the bad we do by any amount of community service or pious penance. The bad things don’t go away. We may get good at rationalizing them, hiding them, denying them, justifying them, or burying them, but they never go away by our own efforts.
While Det. Bullock is left with no solution, God wants us to know there is a solution for us. “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).
1 Peter 1:3-9 (NIV), spells out what that grace is.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
Peter starts his letter by praising God for what He had given in Jesus. It was not something they needed to pay for, or earn, or measure up to. It was simply given. It was a gift from the Father to them. That gift is a living hope of an inheritance in heaven. It is a living hope because it is a hope that is founded in Jesus. It lives because Christ lives. Because of the resurrection they could be confident that that hope was sure. It couldn’t be taken away. It couldn’t be lost. It couldn’t be broken. It couldn’t weaken or waste away.
Peter reminds them that that inheritance is not here; it is in heaven. There are lots of blessings and joys that it brings now, but the full enjoyment of it awaits in heaven. Peter assured his readers that it was being protected for them in heaven and that—even though it did not look like it right now—they were being protected and prepared for it here. They would come into that inheritance. It was a sure thing.
They were being prepared for that inheritance now. While there was cause for great rejoicing, the fact is that living by faith takes work. Hard work. Sometimes it felt like that inheritance was a pipedream. They were suffering. They were poor. They were being persecuted. It is easy to be faithful and obedient when everything is going your way. It is quite another to be faithful and obedient when things are going backwards no matter how hard you try.
Yet while they were going through all sorts of headaches, heartaches, problems, and challenges, these Christians, Peter noted, still had this joy about them, an inexpressible and glorious joy. As they were doing the hard work of living by faith, Jesus was working His grace deep into them. That grace could be seen, felt, and experienced in a love and joy for Jesus that changed them so much that the way Peter described it is a new birth. They are not what they were. They are something new.
Part 2 comes tomorrow.
The book of Ruth is a simple, beautiful, and poignant story of how a Moabite widow comes to be the grandmother of King David, and therefore a great grandmother of Jesus.
Chapter 1 opens explaining that a famine in Israel forced Elimelech, his wife Naomi, and their two sons leave their home in Bethlehem and go to the country of Moab. Things had to be really bad for an Israelite to move to Moab, a country with a long history of hostility towards Israel.
There may have been food there, but Moab did not end up being a happy place for them. After several years, Elimelech died. Naomi still had her two sons who married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth. But after only a few more years, both Naomi’s sons died too. So there were three widowed women living together.
News eventually reached Naomi that the famine in Israel was over so she prepared to return to her home town of Bethlehem. Orpah and Ruth insisted that they go with her, but Naomi urged them not to, for she had no more sons to give them. She encouraged them to stay in Moab so they might marry again. Orpah listened to Naomi, but Ruth insisted on going with her. When Naomi again urged her to stay behind, this was Ruth’s reply:
Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if anything but death separates you and me (1:16-17).
When Naomi saw that Ruth was committed to her, she let her come back with her to Bethlehem.
When they arrive, it’s clear that the famine is indeed over, but they have nothing but the clothes on their back. So Ruth determines to go into the fields to look for grain that was left behind or dropped while it was being harvested so they could eat.
The field she ended up gathering in belonged to a man named Boaz. When he came by to check on the work of the harvest in his fields, he noticed Ruth following after his harvesters. “Who does that young woman belong to?” (2:5). he asks them. His foreman answered, “She is a Moabite who came back with Naomi. She asked to glean behind the harvesters. She’s been in the field all day” (2:6-7).
The truth is, Ruth probably stood out like a sore thumb. Not because she was a poor person following the harvesters picking up after them, there were probably others; but because she was a Moabite.
The Moabites, as I alluded to earlier, were longtime enemies of Israel. They were the people who hired Balaam to curse Israel in Numbers 22. The Moabites seduced the Israelites into worshipping Baal by having their women invite the men to join them in temple prostitution in Numbers 25.
The Moabites were the enemy, and there was one picking up food in his field! When you have that context in your mind, it adds a whole new layer to Boaz’s question in 2:5, “Who does that young woman belong to?” Boaz didn’t seem to be bothered that she was a Moabite. He noticed a young woman and wanted to know her story.
Then he goes up to her and tells her to stay in his field and to gather as much as she can; that he would protect her and keep her safe. He praises her for her care of his relative, Naomi and for her willingness to leave her home and her country and her people to do it. Then he invites her to lunch!
When Ruth finally comes back to wherever she and Naomi were staying, she has 30 pounds of barley and a doggie-bag from lunch! Naomi asks the obvious question, “Where did all this come from?” When she hears that the field Ruth had been working in belonged to Boaz, hope starts to bud again in her heart.
“The LORD bless him!” Naomi said to her daughter-in-law. “He has not stopped showing his kindness to the living and the dead.” She added, “That man is our close relative; he is one of our guardian-redeemers” (2:20, NIV).
You couldn’t permanently sell your land in Israel. But if things got bad you could sell your land for the time between then and the next Jubilee year. The worth of the land was greater or less depending on how close the next year of Jubilee was. In the year of Jubilee, the land you sold reverted back to you. However, God set it up in His Law that a close family member could redeem it and give it back to you before the next Jubilee by paying the remaining value of the land off. Boaz was a close relative of Elimelech and could invoke that on their behalf.
So Naomi encourages Ruth to stay in his field and not go elsewhere lest she run into people who were not as kind. So she continued to work in his fields throughout the barley and wheat seasons. But nothing happens.
Chapter 3 opens with Naomi orchestrating a move to encourage Boaz to act as the guardian redeemer. Her plan was simple. Get Ruth all dressed up, made up, and beautified, and when Boaz is sleeping after “eating and drinking,” go in to wherever he was, uncover “his feet” and lay down with him. If that sounds suggestive, it is because it is! And it is very ironic. While the Moabite women were seducing the men of Israel to break God’s Law in Numbers 25, here Ruth is seducing Boaz in order to entice him to obey God’s Law!
And it works! Boaz is startled in the middle of the night and wakes up to a sweet smelling Ruth who is dressed to impress! His response says it all:
“The LORD bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character” (3:10-11).
Boaz promises that he will act as her guardian redeemer and will take her to be his wife. But there is a hitch that needs addressed first. Boaz wasn’t the closest relative. The only way he could act was if the closer relative refused to.
Ruth 4:1-10 tells us what happens the following day,
Meanwhile Boaz went up to the town gate and sat down there just as the guardian-redeemer he had mentioned came along. Boaz said, “Come over here, my friend, and sit down.” So he went over and sat down.
Boaz took ten of the elders of the town and said, “Sit here,” and they did so. Then he said to the guardian-redeemer, “Naomi, who has come back from Moab, is selling the piece of land that belonged to our relative Elimelek.
I thought I should bring the matter to your attention and suggest that you buy it in the presence of these seated here and in the presence of the elders of my people. If you will redeem it, do so. But if you will not, tell me, so I will know. For no one has the right to do it except you, and I am next in line.”
“I will redeem it,” he said.
Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the land from Naomi, you also acquire Ruth the Moabite, the dead man’s widow, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property.”
At this, the guardian-redeemer said, “Then I cannot redeem it because I might endanger my own estate. You redeem it yourself. I cannot do it.”
(Now in earlier times in Israel, for the redemption and transfer of property to become final, one party took off his sandal and gave it to the other. This was the method of legalizing transactions in Israel.)
So the guardian-redeemer said to Boaz, “Buy it yourself.” And he removed his sandal.
Then Boaz announced to the elders and all the people, “Today you are witnesses that I have bought from Naomi all the property of Elimelek, Kilion and Mahlon. I have also acquired Ruth the Moabite, Mahlon’s widow, as my wife, in order to maintain the name of the dead with his property, so that his name will not disappear from among his family or from his hometown. Today you are witnesses!”
Ruth was rejected by the closest relative. While the prospect of getting the land was good to him, she was a deal breaker. Think about that.
Ruth was poor.
She was a foreigner.
She was a widow.
She came at a cost.
The point is that Boaz saw all that, and redeemed her anyway.
The lesson for us is that Jesus loves us and redeems us like Boaz loved and redeemed Ruth.
Like Ruth, we are not in a position to redeem ourselves. Ruth’s care for and commitment to Naomi was commendable, but it did not change the fact that she was destitute and dependent on the mercy of others to survive. Try as she might she would not be able to redeem herself.
We are in the same position are we not? We may look good when we compare ourselves to one another, but when we measure ourselves against God’s Law, we realize that no matter how good we may think we are, we aren’t that good. I hear people say, “I give God my best!” Well He isn’t getting much then is He! Like Ruth we are enemies. We are poor. We are in debt. If we are not redeemed we will die in that poverty and be held accountable for what we owe.
What Boaz was for Ruth, Jesus became for us. In order for us to be redeemed He became one of us so that He could act as the ultimate guardian redeemer.
We were enemies.
We were poor.
We had a debt that only God could pay it was so big.
Jesus saw all that, and redeemed us anyway.
The big difference being that we did not do anything to entice Him to do so. Ruth had the noble character to catch Boaz’s attention, but she had to seduce him in the middle of the night to get him to act.
Not so with Jesus. We didn’t do anything to catch His attention. We didn’t seduce Him to. Heck, not only did we not ask, but we didn’t want Him too. John says in John 1:10-11 (NIV), He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Isaiah says in Isaiah 53:3 (NIV),
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
Jesus acted as our guardian redeemer when we rejected Him. It was one-way love. It was all grace.
What should we take away from this?
First we should respond with joy and thanksgiving! If you are in Christ, if you have accepted Him as your Lord and Savior, you have been redeemed! Your debts have been completely paid. Be it ever so serious, no matter how grievous, your guilt has been expunged! Not only has your debt been paid and your slate wiped clean, you have been adopted as sons and daughters with full rights to Jesus’ estate. Heaven and earth are yours! The Father sees you, relates to you, and loves you with the same love and joy He has in His Son. And He has promised to love you, protect you, provide for you, and see you safely Home.
Or perhaps you have doubts about that. Maybe you’ve wondered away. Maybe you’ve said some things, or done some things, that you regret. And you wonder if Jesus still wants you. To you your Guardian Redeemer says,
I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you (Isaiah 44:22, NIV).
If that is you, take a moment to let that call sink in to your soul.
Perhaps you have not done so yet. Perhaps you say, “I’m too broken. I’m too damaged. I’m too far gone. I’ve done too much.”
Let me tell you something. I know that every person in here has done something that they are so ashamed of, that if I were to repeat it here in front of everybody you would most likely head for the nearest bridge. But you need to know, that the grace that Jesus can fit on the head of a pin is more than enough to redeem you ten thousand times over. His arm is not too short. His mercy has no limits. There is no sin, no guilt be it ever so great, that can stand even one second under the omnipotent force of His grace.
You have probably heard of John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
But have you heard of John 3:17? For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
Jesus is not out to get you. He’s out to redeem you.
Perhaps you have been told that you are hopeless. Perhaps like Ruth you’ve met people like the unnamed guardian redeemer who could have helped you out, but passed you up. Perhaps you have heard the equivalent of “I cannot do it, it would endanger my estate.”
The good news is, you don’t have to convince Jesus to redeem you. You don’t have to earn it. You don’t have to be good enough. You don’t have to get it all right. You don’t have to have all your ducks in a row first. You don’t need to prove yourself worthy. You just need to ask Him too. You just need to answer His call. He is not going to say “No.” He is not going to make you wait. He is not going to make you show what He gets by getting you.
That’s what the story of the lost sons in Luke 15 was all about. How did the Father respond when he saw his son who wished him dead and took his inheritance and blew it all walking on the road?
While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him…the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate (Luke 15:20-24, NIV).
What is waiting for you is not judgment but celebration. You will not be rejected or turned away. You are not going to find Jesus too busy, or out of sorts, or in such a mess that He cannot help. If that is your picture of Jesus, you need to throw it out. It is not true. Jesus is not only able, not only ready, but is eager to redeem you. Go to Him. You’ll be glad you did.