Defining Decisions

Adversity and Redemption  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:43
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There are decisions that become defining moments in life. Those decisions that have negative outcomes can always be repented and returned from.

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Over the next few weeks I am going to be preaching a sermon series. I have titled the series Adversity and Redemption. All the sermons come from the book of Ruth. This week I have titled the message Defining Decisions.
There are decisions made in the course of life that end up defining us. Sometimes they are recognized by people on the outside. In whispered hushed tones they talk about some defining decision that changed a person’s life. When the individual’s name is brought up in conversation inevitably the defining moment or decision is mentioned.
Do you know Susan?
Oh, yes, I know Susan. Did you know she abandoned her children and husband to run off with a co-worker?
Susan’s decision has defined her.
The most terrible of defining decisions are the ones we allow to define our own life.
Defining decisions do not have unlimited and unrestrained power over us when we are willing to repent.

The Book of Ruth

The book of Ruth is found in the Bible following the book of Judges and just preceding the first book of Samuel.
It is significant and different from other books in several ways. First it is only one of two books named after a woman and in which a woman plays a significant role as a main character. The other book is Esther. Ruth was a gentile, but through her commitment and loyalty to her mother in-law came to play a key part in the lineage of King David and in the lineage of Jesus Christ.
Part of the original Hebrew Bible, every year this book would be read aloud to all the people at the feast of Pentecost. Feast of Pentecost was a celebration of the harvest.
The key theme of Ruth is one of redemption. A kinsman redeemer, Boaz, redeems a family member, Ruth and by extension Naomi, who are incapable of redeeming themselves. The book of Ruth connects the theme of redemption to the harvest festival of Pentecost, foreshadowing the revival of the new testament church, Pentecost, that you and I are meant to experience.
Judges ends with this verse.
Judges 21:25 NKJV
25 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
Israel was supposed to be in a Theocracy. God leading His people. Instead, everyone did what was right in their own eyes. They were rejecting the leadership of the Lord.
Elimelech, as Naomi’s husband is task with leading the family in following the leading of the Lord.
Ruth 1:1 NKJV
1 Now it came to pass, in the days when the judges ruled, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem, Judah, went to dwell in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons.
They make the decision to leave behind Bethlehem because there was a famine. It makes reasonable sense. Famines are hard. Tough to eat when there is a lack of food and plenty of mouths.
But they are leaving where they are supposed to be. They are part of God’s chosen people. They are not Moabites.
The name Elimelech means God is sovereign. El - God. Melech - ruler or King.
A sovereign God allowed a famine in a time of rebellion so that His people would turn to Him.
Some famines in your life are allowed by God to turn you in a certain direction. Usually in a direction that brings you closer to him. But we have to choose, is this famine going to bring me closer to God, or am I going to run from the famine?
Elimelech and Naomi leave Bethlehem for Moab.
The outcome is not what is expected over the course of roughly a ten year period in Moab. Naomi loses her husband. Her sons marry Moabite women. Then her sons die also.
Ruth 1:3 NKJV
3 Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left, and her two sons.
Ruth 1:5 NKJV
5 Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died; so the woman survived her two sons and her husband.
The decision to leave Bethlehem in favor of Moab became a defining decision in the life of Naomi. She is defined by her grief at losing a husband and two sons. She is defined by losing her inheritance of land in Bethlehem.
She is so defined by this decision and it’s outcome that it marks her heart and soul. In verse 21 she says don’t call me Naomi - pleasant, call me Mara - bitter. The results of my decisions and my life have turned me bitter.

Decisions that define

Addiction - the result of a decision to experience something. Drugs, alcohol, pornography…unintended outcomes. But a decision that comes to define. “I’m an addict.”
Divorce and a destroyed family - the result of a decision. Adultery, unwillingness to work at marriage. Defining “I’m a divorcee.”
Abandoning God - I used to have peace that passes understanding in life’s challenging situations. I have chosen not to turn to the giver of peace.

Blame God

Too often people blame God for the results of decisions made without God.
Ruth 1:13 NKJV
13 would you wait for them till they were grown? Would you restrain yourselves from having husbands? No, my daughters; for it grieves me very much for your sakes that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me!”
God did this to me.
Ruth 1:19–21 NKJV
19 Now the two of them went until they came to Bethlehem. And it happened, when they had come to Bethlehem, that all the city was excited because of them; and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 But she said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, and the Lord has brought me home again empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the Lord has testified against me, and the Almighty has afflicted me?”
I went out full, but God brought me back empty. God is the reason my decision had this outcome.
Life has made me bitter. The results of decisions have made me bitter. I had everything, but God took it from me. He was judging me because of my decision.
Naomi misunderstood two things.
First that the things of this life are not what make us full.
Second the outcome of decisions are not God’s judgement of our sin. The outcome is the results of our sin.
Romans 6:23 NKJV
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
1 Corinthians 15:56 NKJV
56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.
James 1:15 NKJV
15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
Every person you have lost and mourned because of death was a result of sin.
Romans 5:12 NKJV
12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—
It may or may not have been because of your own direct sin or because of their sin. But it was definitely because of sin.
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Defining decisions do not always have to continue defining. Sin can be dealt with.
There is always an opportunity of returning from the decision made. Sin can be turned from.
Ruth 1:6 NKJV
6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the country of Moab that the Lord had visited His people by giving them bread.
Naomi says I have heard that God has visited His people. I used to be there. I used to be one of the ones called “His people”.
So she arose that she might return from Moab. The word return (shub) is used 15 times in the four chapters of Ruth. The process of redemption always starts with a “return”. Scripture calls it repentance. To turn away from sin and return to God.
Naomi is returning to her people, returning to her God. She is repenting of the decision to leave Bethlehem.
You can always repent of your decision. You can always repent of your sin.
Repentance is an expected part of the redemption process.
John the baptist preached repentance.
Mark 1:15 NKJV
15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Jesus commanded repentance.
Luke 13:5 NKJV
5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Paul led people to repentance.
Acts 17:30 NKJV
30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,

God’s goodness

Chapter one of Ruth ends with Naomi and Ruth getting back to Bethlehem.
Ruth 1:22 NKJV
22 So Naomi returned, and Ruth the Moabitess her daughter-in-law with her, who returned from the country of Moab. Now they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest.
This is a picture of the goodness of God and his blessing of the process of returning.
Naomi is still bitter. She is still helpless and in need of redemption. But because she has repented and returned to Bethlehem. God has prepared a harvest for her to be a part in reaping.
A barley harvest that they had not been present for the planting. They had not been there to pull the weeds and protect the seedlings. They weren’t around for watering the crops on dry arid days. But because she had heard “God has visited his people with bread”, because she returned from where she had went. The Lord had a harvest waiting on her.
We always reap what we sow.
Galatians 6:7 NKJV
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap.
But God is so good that when we return to Him. We can reap the good things immediately that we had no part in sowing.
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