Sermon Options: November 7, 2021

September 2nd, 2021

MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN

RUTH 3:1-5; 4:13-17

Fiddler on the Roof includes a scene where the heroine implores the town matchmaker to find the right marriage partner for her. “Matchmaker, matchmaker, find me a match.” Would-be matchmakers should take lessons from Naomi. The brief love story of Ruth and Boaz reveals some excellent pointers on how to make a match; but more important, it contains vital decisions involved in having a marriage blessed by God.

I don’t think marriages are made in heaven, but the Lord of heaven will bless a marriage that honors his will. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33 NKJV), doesn’t just apply to what we eat, drink, or wear.

I. Heavenly Matches Consider Earthly Realities

There is little doubt that Naomi’s matchmaking was partly motivated by her own need for security (vv. 1-2). Cultural realities motivated her search for a near kinsman to perpetuate the family identity and retain ownership of her husband’s land. Isn’t God also concerned about earthly realities such as security, family, and compatibility?

A Gallup poll stated 47 percent of marriages now end with mutual incompatibility as the reason for the dissolution of the relationship. Most of the people who claim this were once madly in love.

We are warned “if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (Tim. 5:8 NKJV). Emotional, spiritual, and physical security stabilize marriage and enable the union to fulfill God’s purpose.

II. Heavenly Matches Observe Life Actions

The untypical kindness of Boaz did not go unnoticed by Ruth (2:13). Apparently Boaz had also checked her out, “for all the people of my town know that you are a virtuous woman” (3:11 NKJV). In a moment when less principled people would have given in to lust, these two patiently waited. Ruth accepted his word and laid at his feet without fear (3:14a). Desire did not dethrone duty (3:13). The early hours of the morning brought renewed concern for their reputation (3:14b).

Every relationship involves risk. Observe life actions before you risk yourself to another.

III. Heavenly Matches Wait for the Lord’s Blessing

Naomi told Ruth to “sit still, my daughter, until you know how the matter will turn out” (3:18 NKJV). That’s good advice for all who seek a match. It is a good word for those who seriously court another, and sound wisdom newlyweds should heed. Heavenly matches take time.

“So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife” (4:13 NKJV). Taking and becoming are continuing decisions of commitment. Insecurity visits again when the skin sags and wrinkles come. “Will he love me after the mastectomy?” “Will she be there when memory fails?” Browning penned the hope: “Come grow old along with me, the best is yet to be, the last for which the first was made.”

All of creation was blessed through the union of Ruth and Boaz. From their son Obed came Jesse, then David, and ultimately the Savior of the world. Think about the future blessings jettisoned by couples who give up on their relationship at the first “big fight.”

Your marriage may not have been “made in heaven” but it can become a heavenly match. (Bill D. Whittaker)

THE WELCOME MAT

HEBREWS 9:24-28

Do you have a welcome mat at your door? There is a difference between a welcome mat and a doormat. A doormat is a woven cloth on which you wipe your feet, leave the mud, or remove your shoes. Although it may look the same, a welcome mat says something quite different. It says, “We’re glad you’re here! You are among friends.”

In our journey from earth to heaven, from the temporary to the eternal, we are received into glory with a welcome mat placed there by a loving Savior. There is something better than a pot of gold at the end of life; because of the work of Christ there is a welcome mat receiving us into heaven with an enthusiastic reception. Christ welcomes us. We are welcomed into a relationship with God, we are welcomed into eternal life. We are welcomed into a forever fellowship with Christ.

How does the work of Christ welcome us into heaven?

I. Christ Appears for Us (v. 24)

Do you know what a sanctuary is? It is by definition a holy place, a shelter, a house of worship. It is a place where God and man have direct contact. According to Hebrews, Christ has not entered a man-made sanctuary. The writer clearly states that Christ did not enter the tabernacle, the temple—nothing built by human hands. Instead, Christ entered the one true sanctuary: heaven itself. Christ entered the place of God. It was there that Christ had directed communication with the Father.

When matters are serious enough, we desire that kind of communication. We want to talk directly. Maybe it’s a big business deal, or a wedding proposal, or multinational negotiations; when the matters are of grave concern, we desire direct communication. No substitute for the real thing will do.

Christ has entered heaven, into the presence of God, to appear for us. Christ used direct communication to plead our case before God. Christ has taken our needs, our problems, our fears, and our pains to God. What joy there is in knowing that Christ has already paved the way for our journey. He has appeared for us!

II. Christ Sacrifices for Us (vv. 25-26)

In verse 25, the writer of Hebrews refers to the Old Testament sacrificial system. Year by year, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies on the day of Atonement and offered sacrifices for his sins and for the sins of the people. The sacrifice that was required was the blood of animals. In contrast to that system, Christ has made the one and only sacrifice. Instead of the sacrifice of animals, Christ offered the sacrifice of himself, which was sufficient for all our sins. Notice the key phrase of verse 26: “to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.”

To be a good host, to truly welcome someone into your home, you must make some sacrifice. There is the effort of cleaning the house, doing the cooking, preparing the table, working in the yard. Effort must be made for everything to made right. I remember as a child one of the most dreaded phrase in our home was, “The deacons are coming.” Each year my parents would host a deacon/spouse cookout in our home. There was always much cleaning and preparation to be done. You couldn’t mess up the dishes, walk on the floor, or enter into the forbidden living room. Everything had to be just right.

Christ has made everything just right by his sacrifice. By offering his life before God, we are no longer enslaved by our sins. We are no longer guilty under God’s law. We are free. By his sacrifice, Christ has made it possible for us to be in God’s holy place in fellowship with holy God.

III. Christ Saves Us (vv. 27-28)

The writer of Hebrews reminds us of the Judgment Day of God. There will be an ending to this life. We will be held accountable for what we have done or for what we have failed to do. Judgment will come. But verse 28 reminds us that Christ has removed our sins. He is coming again, not to remove sins a second time as though his first sacrifice was not complete. Instead, he comes to bring salvation.

The Day of Judgment, for those of us who are people of faith, will not be a day of fear but rather a day of grace. It will be a day in which we will be reminded that Christ loved us enough to die in our place. Instead of eternal punishment, Christ says, “Welcome, you are among friends.”

My brother and I had fought all day. Mother had made the eternal proclamation, “Wait till your father gets home.” We did so with great fear and trembling. He came in to make his I’m-about-to-spank-you speech. He pulled back the edges of his coat and said, “See this belt?” He had on sans-a-belt slacks, no belt in sight. We laughed until we cried. He did, too. How about that? We thought we were about to really get it, but instead we spent the day in laughter. We received something we did not deserve: grace. Christ saves us from what we deserve.

The road to God is made open by the work of Christ. The welcome mat is out at the end of our journey. Christ is there, offering us an enthusiastic reception. (Jon R. Roebuck)

WIDOW’S MIGHT

MARK 12:38-44

Nearly everyone likes to be identified with prestige and success, even in the church. Chapel attendance at one seminary more than tripled the day Robert Schuller was guest preacher; everyone wanted to see this Christian celebrity. Give any boy in the Sunday school a choice whether to be a king or a shepherd in the Christmas pageant, and you know which one he’ll choose. The number at weekly Bible study will be higher when you study Joshua than when you get to Jeremiah.

Something in each of us gravitates toward those who have power; their stories allow us to enjoy their reflected glory and thus feel a little better about ourselves. Even if the powerful are oppressive and cruel, as in the cases of Pharaoh and Herod, we take satisfaction in comparing ourselves favorably to them.

This tendency in human nature makes it difficult to “get into” the story from Mark’s Gospel. Jesus began by condemning those who enjoy their power and prestige. Their trappings of success—things to which any of his listeners might aspire—would be the means of their condemnation before God.

If that was not enough, Jesus drew their attention to a poor widow whose meager offering was all she had. He held her up as an example to his listeners. They were difficult words for them to hear. They knew a widow’s economic standing was barely above that of a slave’s. They received meager charity: being allowed to glean after the reapers had finished with a field. As Mark 12:40 indicates, widows were routinely swindled by the more powerful. Far from having a “big name,” this widow’s name wasn’t even known.

I. Our Temptation Is to Stand with the Powerful

It is relatively easy to hear this story from the standpoint of those who stood beside Jesus. They looked at the widow, perhaps joined in praising her for her generosity. They could have exhorted one another to be more generous in their contributions to the temple, felt good about their increased level of giving, and might even have resolved to do something to lessen the widow’s deprivation. They could have done all this without changing their self-understanding and protection of their own interests. But our Lord calls his listeners to do far more than write a larger check next time.

II. Our Challenge Is to Stand with the Widow

In contrast with those who watched the scene, or who contributed out of their abundance, the widow who gave all she had knew that her only hope was in God’s mercy. Like the widow of Zarephath who gave the last of her sustenance to God’s prophet, this woman committed all that she had to divine keeping. There is, among such people, the realization that “our help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Delusions of prestige and self-sufficiency may blind us until all other helpers fail, and comforts flee.

Standing with the widow means coming to the realization of our neediness. It also means acting on that realization: abandoning self-protecting strategies in favor of radical obedience in following Jesus example. It is taking risks for and with Christ. And it means doing so with humility and thanksgiving, trusting the Lord’s purpose and promise rather than human gain. The widow’s might is the providence and love of Almighty God; worldly ideas of success pale in comparison. (Carol M. Noren)

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