The Bare Soul - January 20, 2013
Following on Purpose

The following is the message text and audio recording of a sermon titled "Following on Purpose" delivered to the homeless
at the Kansas City Rescue Mission Chapel on January 24, 2013.

Following on Purpose - January 24, 2013

Ruth 1:16 - But Ruth said, "Do not urge me to leave you or turn back 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."

A pastor friend of mine from Zimbabwe endured great hardship as a child refugee during the civil war in the 1980s. Listening to him recount the brutality of the opposing forces and how it affected his young life were shocking. (He tells one story how he faked his own death by smearing blood on himself and hiding in a pile of corpses until the militia had left.) However, the murder of his father and the forceful separation from his godly mother did not keep him from trusting in God. When he was finally brought to a Christian school where his education was sponsored by a wealthy American couple, he flourished with grateful attention to both his studies and to growing as a Christ follower. Today, he is a respected seminary professor, pastor, and a beloved example of what a survivor of extreme oppression needs to do in order to rise from the ashes. His understanding of where he has come from and his gratitude to his benefactors are testaments of his godly character.

This brief synopsis of a rather lengthy story is one that ends with great hope for the future. Similarly, the story of Ruth is possibly the most beloved story in God's word regarding self-sacrifice and love toward her benefactors. In this small book of only four chapters, we find a woman bereft of her husband with no visible hope of familial redemption. Her mother-in-law Naomi cannot promise her a husband, only a life of poverty as one who gleans behind the reapers in her home town of Bethlehem. (In comparison, this would be like those who are on welfare in our society today.) However, Ruth took every opportunity to submit to Naomi and obeying her advice to seek mercy in the fields of a close relative, Boaz (Ruth 3:12). This ultimately led to her redemption by this kinsmen redeemer which brought her in to the place of joint-wealth with her new husband (Ruth 4:10). From this union, King David himself would become the great, great grandson of Ruth and Boaz (Ruth 4:17).

Greatness often springs from lowly beginnings. We certainly see this typified from a manger, to the cross, to the empty tomb! Whether Jesus Christ Himself or Ruth or my pastor friend, obedience through humility was their key to rise from the proverbial ashes. Perfect, godly submission always results in extraordinary outcomes. These results will always be first for the benefit of God and others. My pastor's agenda in going to school was first to help his family out of poverty. Ruth's was to help her beloved mother-in-law with sustenance to live through her gleaning. Jesus' goal was to empty Himself of God and redeem mankind (Philippians 2:7). In all these instances, holiness (or setting ourselves apart for God) is never for our own edification. True holiness is never enthroned as a spectacle of grandeur, but it is lived out in mundane ways for others. The bi-product of sanctification truly is a life of peace and joy, but this was not God's main desire in making us holy. Like Ruth, our desire should be to cling to God at all cost. Then, He will reveal His grand plan as we follow.

Sanctification's ultimate result is to draw all our attention from ourselves to others. The only way that can happen is by first looking to Jesus who is passionate for mankind. In the beginning, we will find our focus to be firmly transfixed on the Savior, as Ruth was toward Naomi. In time, however, we find we begin to see the Savior in others as we minister (e.g. Boaz). Likewise with my pastor friend. His physical redemption from poverty and eventual death to self meant a way out, first for him, then his family and then for so many others which he has touched through Christ. Like Ruth, he said to the Lord, "your people shall be my people and your God my God." This attitude allowed him to follow on purpose with a clarity of mission and with deep gratitude. This afforded him as well as Ruth to see beyond what God could do for them and to recognize the image of God in others. Through this godly transformation of following the Savior, it created a godly heritage for many through selflessness. Hence, the world has become enlarged for God through their simple act of obedience by following on purpose.

Gracious God, may we all  understand that to follow You is to empty ourselves of our goals, agendas, plans, or expectations. Help us to give to You totally so that you can make us holy vessels to provide for others. Like Ruth and this pastor, may we live for You so that we might live for others. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

 

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