Nothing more important.

33305178-3F1D-4E0E-A778-276CF16390EF

No man can redeem the life of another
or give to God a ransom for him —The ransom for a life is costly,
No payment is ever enough—
that he should live on forever and not see decay.
– Psalm 49:7-9

But God will redeem my life from the grave;
He will surely take me to himself.
– Psalm 49:15

It’s been weeks now since I found myself stuck on John 3:3 where Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” As I mentioned in an earlier post, I believe the reason I kept coming back to this verse is because being born again is the most important thing of all. For each and every one of us. There is not, there can never be, anything more important. Our lives on this earth will be over before we know it — it is our eternity that matters most. Where will we spend it? It is one of the three most important questions anyone can ask themselves: 1) How did I get here? 2) What is my purpose? and  3) What happens to me after I die?

So, painfully slowly, over the past few weeks I’ve tried to glean from Scripture the basic points of being born again:

  • What does it mean to be born again?
  • Why do I need to be “saved”? Saved from what?
  • I’m a moral person. Why can’t I just do good deeds and make things right with God?
  • Who is Jesus?
  • What is Jesus?
  • How can one man pay for the sin of everyone who ever lived?

And the truth is, I’m overwhelmed. After all, I’m just a secretary. I’m not a biblical scholar, I’m no one special, and certainly not someone others ever listen to about anything important. People far more educated than I am have devoted volumes on these topics; people who know the Bible backward and forward. I have to Google most verses that come to my mind because I can never remember what book or chapter they were in. 

But then I remember that this is not about me. I know in my heart of hearts that there is nothing more important than being saved. Than being washed clean by the blood of Jesus through his sacrifice on the cross. I know who and what I am without Christ, and I don’t like that person very much. I also know who and what I am IN Christ, and that nothing is better or more fulfilling and beautiful than belonging to Him. Governments come and go, fads come and go, but Jesus is forever. He said, ‘Before Abraham was, I AM!” (John 8:58)

I am also overwhelmed with how to write out these points, because the Bible is a bottomless well of information and it is all about Jesus. From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21, every verse in one way or another tells its portion of the greater story of Jesus, our Lord. 

God is our refuge and our strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
He lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The LORD Almighty is with us;
The God of Jacob is our fortress.

– Psalm 46:1-7

Only God knows if anybody even reads this, but if you do my prayer is that you will be encouraged if you are a believer in Christ, and that you will come to know him and be made alive in him if you are not. There is nothing more important.

So from here on out, until I’m done with the nagging issues that John 3:3 put on my heart, I will basically just write out Bible verses that I found on the various topics. Please read them and ask God to show you if they are true. No matter what religion you are, or even if you are an atheist, if you ask the God who created the universe to guide you to truth, you WILL find what is true. For it is written:

“ASK and it will be given to you; SEEK and you will find; KNOCK and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)

Jesus said those words. He also said,

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I waited patiently for the LORD;
He turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
Out of the mud and mire;
He set my feet on a rock
And gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
A hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear
And put their trust in the LORD.

– Psalm 40:1-3

All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version of the Bible.

Born Again? Why?

John 3:3: Jesus said: “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” 

My last four journal entries were just reprinting the book of Ruth. It’s a good story, and I wanted anyone who might not have access to a Bible, or who might not take the time to go look it up, to be able to read it in its entirety. In it we see people who were lost and then were found, who were as good as dead and then made alive again, who were empty and then made full. And, overall, it is a story about love. That in a nutshell is the story of the entire Bible.

Jesus said no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again. He describes that further in John 3:5: No one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but Spirit gives birth to spirit.

Okay, so it makes sense that flesh gives birth to flesh. We came from our parents, they came from their parents, and so it goes back through the millennia until the very beginning. What happened then?

According to Genesis, all human beings on the planet are descended from the same two people, Adam and Eve. (Adam means “man” and Eve probably means “living”, according to my NIV text notes.) So if flesh gives birth to flesh, then we are all in a sense born of Adam. So far, so good. So why do we need to be born again?

Genesis chapter 3 describes how man sinned against God and the world fell. Everything that was made beautiful and perfect and eternal, was now under a curse and the penalty was death. 

Eve sinned first, but Adam is held to blame. I’ve heard different takes on this, but the most reasonable reason is that, as the head of the house, he could have stopped Eve but didn’t. He could have ordered the serpent to be quiet, for he was given authority over all the animals (Genesis 1:28), but didn’t. He listened. The serpent (Satan) tempted him with the same temptation that led to the devil’s own fall, “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5), which echoes Satan in Isaiah 14:14, “I will make myself like the Most High.”  

For whatever reason, the first man thought it was a good idea to want to be like God himself. He wasn’t content with living in a breathtakingly beautiful, fruitful, peaceful, happy place as long as he had to be subject to God. He wanted to take God’s place, even if he didn’t fully understand at the time exactly what he was doing. (Maybe he did? I don’t know. Scripture gives us the bare facts here, not the inner workings of Adam’s mind.) 

But on that day, instead of becoming a god himself, man became cut off from God because of sin. Physically, he began the process of dying that day, and since he was a spirit being as well as a physical being, then apparently his spirit was as dead as his body. That became his nature. And since we all descended from him, we all inherited that nature. If we just take a look at the world around us, or take an honest look into our own hearts, we can see how painfully true that is. The desire to dominate others (in essence, be a god over them), has infected every government that has ever been on this planet, from the ancient Mesopotamians until today.

Galatians 5:19-21 says: The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality; impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  If any one of us has indulged in any one of these, even if just for a moment and in our own minds, then we have demonstrated that we have the sin nature we inherited from Adam. And, therefore, we are cut off from God, in our spirits as well as our decaying bodies. God is perfect. In his kingdom is not even the slightest hint of imperfection or sin. If he allowed one speck in, then what would stop his kingdom from becoming the cesspool that we have turned planet Earth into? We are cut off from God; there is an unbreachable chasm between us and God. Read the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31: “…between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” – Luke 16:26.  I take one of the meanings of that to be that no amount of good deed-doing can ever bridge that chasm, since it says NO ONE can cross it.

That leaves us dead, lost, forsaken. Hopeless. We’re cut off from God. We sin and we can’t stop sinning no matter how much we want to. We can’t make it right. We deserve to die and we deserve to be right where the rich man found himself after death.

BUT WAIT . . . God said to the serpent in the garden, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Genesis 3:15).  Hmmm, interesting! Adam isn’t a part of this scenario, it is between Eve and the snake. Her seed will be bruised, but will crush the head of the serpent. That means to kill it, to defeat it. How can Eve have a seed that doesn’t come from Adam?

… And that is where Jesus comes into the picture. 

… “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” What’s that all about?

I love this stuff! The greatest story ever told, for sure. And it is OUR story. See you next time!

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved . . . For, everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  – Romans 10:9-13

Good Bible/Bible Study Resources (English language):

educatingourworld.com

answersingenesis.org

blueletterbible.org

biblegateway.com

True Love Will Never Fade

Ruth Chapter 4
Conclusion and then some final thoughts

1 Now Boaz went up to the gate, and sat him down there: and, behold, the near kinsman of whom Boaz spake came by; unto whom he said, Ho, such a one! turn aside, sit down here. And he turned aside, and sat down. 2 And he took ten men of the elders of the city, and said, Sit ye down here. And they sat down. 3And he said unto the near kinsman, Naomi, that is come again out of the country of Moab, selleth the parcel of land, which was our brother Elimelech’s: 4 And I thought to disclose it unto thee, saying, Buy it before them that sit here, and before the elders of my people. If thou wilt redeem it, redeem it: but if thou wilt not redeem it, then tell me, that I may know; for there is none to redeem it besides thee; and I am after thee. And he said, I will redeem it. 5 Then said Boaz, What day thou buyest the field of the hand of Naomi, thou must buy it also of Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of the dead, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance. 6 And the near kinsman said, I cannot redeem it for myself, lest I mar mine own inheritance: take thou my right of redemption on thee; for I cannot redeem it. 7 Now this was [the custom] in former time in Israel concerning redeeming and concerning exchanging, to confirm all things: a man drew off his shoe, and gave it to his neighbor; and this was the [manner of] attestation in Israel. 8 So the near kinsman said unto Boaz, Buy it for thyself. And he drew off his shoe. 9 And Boaz said unto the elders, and unto all the people, Ye are witnesses this day, that I have bought all that was Elimelech’s, and all that was Chilion’s and Mahlon’s, of the hand of Naomi. 10Moreover Ruth the Moabitess, the wife of Mahlon, have I purchased to be my wife, to raise up the name of the dead upon his inheritance, that the name of the dead be not cut off from among his brethren, and from the gate of his place: ye are witnesses this day.11 And all the people that were in the gate, and the elders, said, We are witnesses. The LORD make the woman that is come into thy house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build the house of Israel: and do thou worthily in Ephrathah, and be famous in Bethlehem:12 and let thy house be like the house of Perez, whom Tamar bare unto Judah, of the seed which the LORD shall give thee of this young woman. 13 So Boaz took Ruth, and she became his wife; and he went in unto her, and the LORD gave her conception, and she bare a son. 14 And the women said unto Naomi, Blessed be the LORD, who hath not left thee this day without a near kinsman; and let his name be famous in Israel. 15 And he shall be unto thee a restorer of life, and a nourisher of thine old age, for thy daughter-in-law, who loveth thee, who is better to thee than seven sons, hath borne him. 16 And Naomi took the child, and laid it in her bosom, and became nurse unto it. 17 And the women her neighbors gave it a name, saying, There is a son born to Naomi; and they called his name Obed: he is the father of Jesse, the father of David. 18 Now these are the generations of Perez: Perez begat Hezron, 19 and Hezron begat Ram, and Ram begat Amminadab, 20and Amminadab begat Nahshon, and Nahshon begat Salmon, 21 and Salmon begat Boaz, and Boaz begat Obed, 22 and Obed begat Jesse, and Jesse begat David.

THE END.

I hope anyone who reads the story of Ruth loves it as much as I do. After the lust, greed, violence and utter selfishness of most of the the characters running around in Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings, in the middle is this little oasis of peace, love, goodness, and family. What does it have to do with being born again, though? Scholars and preachers can dig deep and find all kinds of serious theology in this book, and it is worth taking the time for serious study. I think at its heart, though, it is about being lost and being found, at being dead and then being made alive. And that is what being born again is.

Naomi called herself Mara, or “bitter.” She was cut off — no husband, no children, no grandchildren to carry on the family name. It is a terrible thing in our time; it was beyond tragedy back then. Naomi was as good as dead. Yet through her kinsman-redeemer, Boaz, she became alive again. She and her dead loved ones were grafted into the lineage of David and, therefore, of Christ himself. You could say her redeemer made her new.

Ruth was a foreigner, a stranger. She came from Moab to Israel with nothing. But when she left Moab she left those foreign gods behind and became a seeker of the God of Israel. She told Naomi, “your God is my God.” She asked Boaz to cover her. And he did. He loved her, and married her. She became the great-grandmother of King David and an ancestor of Jesus Christ. She, too, was made new.

Boaz is obviously a type of Christ. A kinsman-redeemer, as Christ is our great Redeemer. Naomi represents Israel and Ruth the Gentile world. The Redeemer loves us all, and came to save us all.

Next time . . . Yeah, but you still haven’t said what being born again actually IS, have you?

Well, we will have to look at some more of Scripture and we what we can find out.

If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved…for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Romans 10:9-13

The ol’ “cover me with your cloak for you are a kinsman-redeemer” trick

1B84C304-E07A-40FA-BAA7-359FBC16615B
I’m sure Ruth was beautiful, but I don’t know if she was as pretty as my cat.

When we left off, Ruth was spending the harvest time gleaning in the fields belonging to Boaz. There were provisions in the Torah for this very thing: “When thou cuttest down thine harvest in thy field, and hast forgot a sheaf in the field, thou shalt not go again to fetch it: it shall be for the stranger, for the fatherless, and for the widow: that the LORD thy God may bless thee in all the works of thy hands.” – Deuteronomy 24:19

Boaz honored this command, and went above and beyond it, telling his reapers to deliberately pull out stalks for Ruth to glean.

I’m thinking maybe he liked the girl…
Ruth chapter 3

1 And Naomi her mother-in-law said unto her, My daughter, shall I not seek rest for thee, that it may be well with thee? 2 And now is not Boaz our kinsman, with whose maidens thou wast? Behold, he winnoweth barley to-night in the threshing-floor. 3 Wash thyself therefore, and anoint thee, and put thy raiment upon thee, and get thee down to the threshing-floor, but make not thyself known unto the man, until he shall have done eating and drinking. 4 And it shall be, when he lieth down, that thou shalt mark the place where he shall lie, and thou shalt go in, and uncover his feet, and lay thee down; and he will tell thee what thou shalt do. 5 And she said unto her, All that thou sayest I will do. 6 And she went down unto the threshing-floor, and did according to all that her mother-in-law bade her. 7 And when Boaz had eaten and drunk, and his heart was merry, he went to lie down at the end of the heap of grain: and she came softly, and uncovered his feet, and laid her down. 8 And it came to pass at midnight, that the man was afraid, and turned himself; and, behold, a woman lay at his feet. 9 And he said, Who art thou? And she answered, I am Ruth thy handmaid: spread therefore thy skirt over thy handmaid; for thou art a near kinsman. 10 And he said, Blessed be thou of the LORD, my daughter: thou hast showed more kindness in the latter end than at the beginning, inasmuch as thou followedst not young men, whether poor or rich. 11 And now, my daughter, fear not; I will do to thee all that thou sayest; for all the city of my people doth know that thou art a worthy woman. 12 And now it is true that I am a near kinsman; howbeit there is a kinsman nearer than I. 13 Tarry this night, and it shall be in the morning, that if he will perform unto thee the part of a kinsman, well; let him do the kinsman’s part: but if he will not do the part of a kinsman to thee, then will I do the part of a kinsman to thee, as the LORD liveth: lie down until the morning. 14 And she lay at his feet until the morning. And she rose up before one could discern another. For he said, Let it not be known that the woman came to the threshing-floor. 15 And he said, Bring the mantle that is upon thee, and hold it; and she held it; and he measured six [measures] of barley, and laid it on her: and he went into the city. 16 And when she came to her mother-in-law, she said, Who art thou, my daughter? And she told her all that the man had done to her. 17 And she said, These six [measures] of barley gave he me; for he said, Go not empty unto thy mother-in-law. 18 Then said she, Sit still, my daughter, until thou know how the matter will fall; for the man will not rest, until he have finished the thing this day.

… Did Ruth just propose to Boaz?!?

… Will the other kinsman get in the way and thwart true love?

… Is Naomi as bitter and desolate as she claimed?

STAY TUNED TOMORROW for the action-packed conclusion to this lovely story!