In week 4 of Unfolding Enough we explored our approach to sin and our relationship with God. We learned through Christ’s work on the cross we have a right relationship with God and as we continue to grow in our love for God our lives are transformed.
This week we continue our study to discover, not only did Christ restore our right relationship with God, He also took full responsibility for our redemption.
Read Psalm 139:16
- What did God see before it was formed?
- What is written in God’s book?
- When you think about God knowing everything there is to know about you even before your birth, how does it make you feel? Or think?
Both the New International Version of the Bible and the New American Standard Bible use the word ordained to translate the original language describing the way God has formed our days. Ordained has two definitions, according to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary:
- To invest officially with ministerial or priestly authority.
- To establish or order by appointment, decree, or law
Before one cell in our anatomy was formed God saw us. Every detail and every moment. All of our days were established or ordered by God’s appointment before our lives began. Not one of our actions or any circumstance we face is a surprise to God. He knows it, He allows it, and in Christ He takes full responsibility for us.
Please note, this is not only Believers He sees formed in the womb and whose days are preordained. It is everyone.
God, in one sense of the word, takes responsibility for everyone, their days, and the way they live.
Read Lamentations 3:37-38
- What does God say about the things that happen in the world, both horrific and good?
If it happens, God has commanded it, allowed it, for His purpose and plan which is always, in the end, for His glory and the good of His people.
John 15:5 says: Apart from Him we can do nothing. Nothing happens without His say so because He gives everyone life and breath.
God is responsible for both good and evil.
When we do good by faith, He is responsible. That’s why Jesus gets all the credit at the end of the day. Whatever “crowns” or credit we receive in heaven, we will give it all back to Him. In Revelation we see a picture of this glorification of Jesus with the twenty-four elders falling down before His throne.
They cast their crowns before the throne saying, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
Jesus also takes responsibility for our sins. For everyone’s sins.
He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins — and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.
1John 2:2 NLT
There are two critical errors we can make when it comes to taking responsibility. One is taking credit for the good we do. It is all Him!
The second is taking responsibility for our own punishment when we recognize our sin and rebellion against God. Instead of receiving His grace we stand paralyzed in guilt and shame. We reject His loving offer of grace. Judas Iscariot is the poster child for this error. He hung himself.
The other end of the spectrum is depicted in Jesus’s description of the last days. He says:
“On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”
Matthew 7:22-23 NLT
They stole God’s glory, in essence saying, “Jesus! Look what we did!”
Both are deadly errors rooted in pride. Taking responsibility for what is not ours to take responsibility for. We are His. Everyone is His.
This week’s spiritual practice was Scripture memorization.
In John 14:25-26 we read about Jesus telling His disciples what would happen after He left them. He wanted them to know they would not be abandoned. There would be a Helper, an Advocate to journey with them along the way.
- Who is the Helper?
- What would the Advocate do?
Jesus told them Holy Spirit would come to continue to teach and remind them of all the things they learned from Him. Through this same Spirit we have our own personal tutor. One who teaches and reminds us of the things we have learned on our journey with God.
Memorizing Scripture is one way we plant God’s Word deep into our hearts and give the Holy Spirit an opportunity to reveal God’s Word in our daily lives.
- What did you notice about yourself as you memorized the words of Job this week?
- Have you experienced the Holy Spirit reminding you of something you learned or read in Scripture?
Several years into my walk with God, maybe even a decade into our relationship, I came upon this Scripture in John: The Holy Spirit will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
What?! The Holy Spirit will remind me of EVERYTHING Jesus has said? This is something I wanted. I understood Jesus as the Word made flesh therefore what He has said is in all of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. At that moment, I determined to read all His Word in its entirety at least once. Because, how was the Spirit to remind me of something I never read?
This verse in John was the catalyst for my first reading through of the Bible. I followed a one year reading plan and powered my way through. I read things I didn’t know and hadn’t heard anyone talk about before. I read things I didn’t understand and at times my mind wandered as I read. But, I trusted the Holy Spirit to remind me if I made the effort to read all of His Word… at least once.
My experience in reading through the Bible simply increased my hunger for more of His Word. More of His revelation. I have continued reading through, not again in one year, but reading through nonetheless in different translations and with a different focus each time. One time I read looking for His love, another time I attempted reading it chronologically (more or less), but always looking for Jesus throughout Scripture.
Now, I often experience the Spirit reminding me of what He says and revealing how His Word is being made flesh in my life through circumstances and relationships. His Story constantly speaking to my story and guiding my life.
As we studied the story of Ruth this week, you may have noticed little is said about Naomi’s faith during their time away in Moab. What we do know is Naomi had little choice in going. She followed her husband into a strange country. Everything about it must have felt foreign to her. She had no like-minded friends to encourage her, and no place to worship.
- How do you imagine Naomi feeling during the transition in a foreign land?
- What do you do when your circumstances leave you feeling estranged from what you know?
Though we cannot be sure how Naomi handled the move or made her way in Moab, we do know at some point she lost her husband and eventually her two sons. Suddenly she found herself responsible for two daughter-in-laws and no way to take care of them or herself. Naomi somehow heard the news the famine in her homeland was over and decided to return.
Read Ruth 1:8-13
- What did Naomi want her daughter-in-laws to do?
- What reasons did she give for them to return to their parents’ homes?
Re-read Ruth 1:13
- What did Naomi believe about her current circumstance?
Naomi’s explanation gives us insight into her faith. She believed God turned against her, and who would blame her. She was left with no one to take care of her, no way to take care of herself. She left her home with little choice, and returning home seemed like the only solution. Yet, she wasn’t willing to place her daughter-in-laws in the same situation she had lived. She urged them to return to their homes, their old way of life before marriage. One took Naomi’s advice but Ruth refused to leave her.
Read Ruth 1:19-21
- How did Naomi respond to the women in Bethlehem who recognized her?
Names were very important in the Hebrew culture. They signified more than the parents’ personal preference or something fashionable for the time. Names were connected with identity. Naomi left Bethlehem much like her name implied, “pleasant.” She returned calling herself Mara. It means bitter or sorrow.
- What does Naomi’s name change imply?
- How might this name change reflect her conversations with God?
This week we encouraged you to explore the meaning of your name, and consider asking God what His name for you might be.
- What did you discover about your name?
- What insight did you receive when you prayed about your name?
Whether we like the sound of our name or not, there is a name God has given each of us. Not by accident or coincidence or because it fit with the current culture. God’s name for us has meaning and can help us remember who God says we are, who He calls us to be.
Through Naomi’s story we learned about a kinsman redeemer. As God would have it, Naomi had a relative on her husband’s side still living in the land named Boaz. According to the Levitical law widows and the land they inherited were to be redeemed or purchased by the male next of kin. This was meant to ensure the continuation of the family line and maintain the inheritance God gave them in the Promised Land.
- What correlations do you see between Boaz and Jesus?
- Who is ultimately responsible for our inheritance of promised land?
We are much like Naomi in many ways. We too live in a foreign land, and though we may not be widowed or left without children, our circumstances often leave us homesick. We approach our homeland empty and full of sorrow for the sinful place we’ve come from. Yet it doesn’t keep us from returning.
Like Naomi we too may think all is lost and we don’t deserve our own name. So many of the names we call ourselves are simply nicknames for Not Enough. Names like Failure, Stupid, Overweight, Lazy, Unimportant, Old, Ugly, Loser, are just a few.
- What name do you often call yourself when you mess up?
- How is it a nickname for Not Enough?
In the end, we drag ourselves home cloaked in our new names feeling hopeless and doomed, bitter and sorrowful. But like Naomi we too have a kinsman redeemer willing to take full responsibility for us.
- Who is our kinsman redeemer?
- How did He take responsibility for us?
- Who is responsible for us now?
Jesus is our kinsman redeemer. He willingly took full responsibility for us when he died on the cross. He now sits at the right hand of the Father, but hasn’t left us responsible for ourselves. Instead we have a teacher and advocate called Holy Spirit dwelling in us.
Read Galatians 4:6-7
- Who are we according to these verses?
- What did God make us?
As God’s children and heirs we become God’s responsibility. Herein lies one of our most difficult battles. Most of our life growing up we were taught to be responsible or to take responsibility for ourselves. While it makes sense for parents to want their children to grow up and live productive lives, this can sometimes skew our own understanding of responsibility.
So we turn to our kinsman redeemer Jesus and accept the grace He freely gave on Calvary. We learn to embrace forgiveness for sin, and walk away from the cross taking on the responsibility of growing in faith.
- In what ways do you take responsibility for your faith?
- How does it make you feel or react to consider you are not responsible for anything in your life?
During a recent conversation one of my loved ones stated, “Well, God gave us a brain and we’re responsible for using it, aren’t we?” I instantly recoiled at his familiar words. A phrase I’ve heard many times throughout my life. Later, as I reflected on my reaction, I realized something. I can’t answer “Yes” to this question any longer. At least not in the way I have in the past.
The truth is I’m not responsible for using my brain in the way my family member implied. Yes, God gave me a brain and I am eternally grateful. Yes, there is conscious and unconscious stuff going on inside my head all the time. My brain is active even when I have little or no control in the sleeping hours.
So how do I answer? I’m only responsible for one thing with or without my brain. I’m responsible to seek God’s love. That’s it. Simple and yet so complex. I realize my brain is a gift of God, given to me to steward not possess. I choose to love Him, and trust He’ll do the rest.
Read Romans 7:18-25
Eugene Peterson paraphrases the words in Romans like this.
I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.
I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?
The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.
- What struggle do Paul’s words reveal?
- Have you ever felt like Paul?
- Who is our rescuer?
Paul speaks clearly to our struggle with responsibility by explaining his own. We can identify with his desire to do right, think right, be right. The more we try, the more we recognize our failure. We throw hands in the air and exclaim, “I give up!”
Unbeknownst to us, this is exactly where God wants us to be. Recognizing Jesus’s work on the cross was not just about forgiveness of sin, but about responsibility. Our kinsman redeemer died in order to provide for every single aspect of our lives.
The thought of not being responsible can leave us reeling. Firing questions in rapid succession: Now what? Can I trust God to be fully responsible? Can I trust myself? If I’m not responsible, then how do I live?
Let’s return to Naomi’s story.
Read Ruth 3:1-6
- What did Naomi tell Ruth to do?
- How did Ruth respond?
We must remember Ruth didn’t understand Naomi’s culture or her faith. She was now the foreigner living in a strange land. She followed Naomi to Bethlehem out of her heart’s desire to love, made herself available, and did exactly what Naomi told her to do.
Read Ruth 3:7-9
Following her mother-in-law’s instruction, Ruth laid at the feet of Boaz and asked him to cover her with his garment. This was not a request for more food or a blanket to keep warm. This was a marriage proposal. Ruth asked Boaz to take full responsibility for her.
- How do Ruth’s actions relate to our relationship with Jesus.
- Who is the bridegroom?
- Who is the bride?
Jesus made the way for His bride, that’s us, to know and have right relationship with God. When we lay ourselves at the feet of Jesus we each make Ruth’s request of Boaz. It’s a marriage proposal of sorts, a living in full knowledge God is responsible for us. We find ourselves stewarding all He has given with three words, “I am His.”
As the Bride of Christ, our lives are transformed. We learn to consider all we think, say, and do under the covering of His garment.
After twenty-five years of marriage, I now see how completely transformed I’ve become after I said my vows. From that moment on, every thought, word, and action took into account my marriage. No longer did I plan a trip or even go to the grocery store without letting my husband know. Everything about my life changed from the purchases I made to how I spent my time.
It’s the same way with Jesus. Once I embraced the idea that I am not responsible for my spiritual growth, I learned to be His in the same way I am my husband’s wife. I belong to Christ and am blessed to steward all He has given me.
Recognizing and living out the words “I am His” not only grows our relationship with Father, Son, and Spirit, it affects how we live in community as well.
Read Luke 6:38
Living in the full knowledge that God is responsible for us frees us from our own responsibility and instills in us a sense of stewardship. We don’t own one thing apart from God. As stewards, we are free to love others in ways we never imagined. Our time, energy, resources, and spiritual gifts become God’s provision flowing through us into the lives of others.
- How does the idea of stewardship change your thoughts about what you are responsible for?
- Do you worry there won’t be enough for your own provision?
- Is there an example of God’s provision flowing through your life to others you might share?
Read Ruth 3:8-18
- What do you see in Boaz’s response to Ruth’s request?
Boaz joyfully accepted Ruth’s request and rejoiced in her choosing him. He had a plan and provided for her until he could complete what the law required. His actions at the city gate revealed much wisdom and insight enabling him to carry out his plan and redeem Naomi and Ruth. To top it all off his plan not only saved Naomi and Ruth, but created a way for Jesus to enter the world.
Ruth’s story is our story. When we ask Jesus to take on the responsibility of our lives and claim “I am His” we relinquish our own plan-making to Him. His wisdom and insight work to redeem all we thought was lost, all we call bitter and sorrowful, everything we deem not enough.
Oh sister, do you see it? Really see it! His plan and purpose is working right now no matter your circumstance or situation. No matter what name you’ve given yourself or story you’ve attempted to live. Freedom comes when you relinquish yourself at the foot of the cross and become His responsibility. He will act. He will redeem. He will reveal all of your story as enough. In the unfolding the only thing required of you is to boldly claim, ‘I. Am. His.”