Studies in Ruth - Self-Denial and Discipleship

There is only one requirement that Jesus has for those who wish to become His disciples: it is to deny the self and take up one's cross and follow Him. It implies that everyone has his own cross, but they aren't able to carry it because of a lack of self-denial. The cross is the mission that one has in his own life; it is that which he needs to bear, to carry when following Christ.

My Lord is there and He’ll show me
The cross to take, the path to go.
The cross is the mission that He gives me,
The meaning of life He lets me know.

As long as one is holding on to self, one cannot carry the cross. And, if one can't carry the cross, one cannot follow the Lord.

There are many things that we keep holding on to and wish that the Lord will not take away from us, things that we are not willing to part with; they are the idols of the heart. It might be a job, a material asset, a relationship, an earthly dream/wish, or even a ministry. As long as we have not given them to the Lord in a real way - not just verbally, not wishing that He would not take it away and after the test give it back to us - as long as we have not denied attachment with these and given it all to the Lord, we can't be His disciples.

We study today again Ruth. In Chapter 2, Boaz has this to say about her:

"It has been fully reported to me, all that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband, and how you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom you did not know before.
"The LORD repay your work, and a full reward be given you by the LORD God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge." (Rut 2:11-12 NKJ)

Whatever happened in Ruth's life was no longer an accident after she denied herself, took up the cross - it was her cross (Naomi might die after a few years, but the young Ruth would have to bear her own cross for an entire life). That she came to Boaz's field was divinely arranged, though she perhaps never felt it that way. She had no expectations, no plans, no more dreams. She only thought about fulfilling her duty towards her mother-in-law. But, Boaz saw that and he knew that the Lord would repay and fully reward her, because she had left everything completely and come under the wings of God.

Ruth and Naomi had nothing so she had to go and glean the leftovers from the harvesting. The Law of Moses instructed that one should leave the ends of the field for the poor and should not go after what has fallen behind; they should be left for the poor to glean.

`And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger: I am the LORD your God. (Lev 19:10 NKJ)
"When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow. (Deu 24:21 NKJ)

It might have looked very humbling for a young woman like Ruth to come to such a position. There could be rational questions. Was it necessary? She was young, should she waste her life like this? And, even Naomi would have no problem if she went away and had a better life. But, such thoughts didn't find place in her mind. She had denied herself and taken up the cross.

What had Ruth let go off?
1. She let go off her old family-ties. She didn't consider the attachment to parents or siblings as greater than the cross and the pursuit of Naomi's God. It didn't mean that she rejected them; it only meant that she let go off her old family-identity. She had found a new family when she married Naomi's son; now, Naomi was her mother. The same thing applies to the Christian life. Jesus said that "everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name's sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life." (Mat 19:29 NKJ) When someone told Jesus once that His mother and brothers had come to see Him, He turned to His disciples and said, "whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother." (Mat 12:50 NKJ) Volumes can be spoken on this theme. It is a sad sight today to see some Churches built on "Family-name". In India, earthly family-name is idolized very much. This then extends to caste. In the South, especially, I've heard of churches that are caste-oriented. They may call Jesus as their Lord, but they have not even learnt the first step of discipleship: to deny self and take up the cross.

2. She let go off her old nationality ties. She was a Moabitess. That couldn't be changed. However, she didn't allow Moab to come along with her. She left it and let it go. With regard to Christianity, the New Testament Church took some time to get out of the hold of its Jewish-ties. It took many years. The New Testament churches were never divided on the basis of language, culture, or nationality. The Church at Jerusalem was not divided into Greek Church and Hebrew Church, for instance. Language was not the idol. Neither was it the uniting factor. They were united in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Greeks and the Hebrews worshiped together and were in the same fellowship of one body. Sadly, in modern times linguistic and cultural nationalistic divisions prevent the Body from being a true witness of the Lord. The salt is useless as long as it stays with salt and in the salt bottle. It must go out and fulfill its meaning of existence by spreading the Gospel to the ends of the earth.

3. She let go off any personal dreams and vision of her own. It might be natural for any young girl to have dreams that she deeply cherishes. With the death of her husband, perhaps all dreams came crashing down. Still, there were other rational possibilities in which her dreams could become real again. There was time. Her sister-in-law Orpah had taken that earthly chance. But, Ruth didn't need any such chance, because her dreams were already laid on the altar. They no longer belonged to her. She had no dream of her own. She had denied her self. It aches the heart in modern days when preachers talk and testify of personal dreams, not in the sense of glorifying God, or at least saving souls for the Kingdom of God, but with regard to buildings and projects and pursuing the pleasures and luxurious excitements that the world invents for the seekers of pleasure. On the contrary, our Lord Jesus wasn't enamored by the things of the world. When the devil offered to give them to him, He rebuked him to go away. He said to one that foxes had holes and birds had nest but He had no place to put His head. The earth didn't have a place for the Owner of it. Man had converted land into a material asset, amassing as much land as he could, more than sufficient for a single human and claiming them by name and buying or selling them. Jesus didn't have half a denarius to pay His tax; buying a land was out of question for Him. But, He didn't need any land either. The same is said about Abraham in Hebrews 11. The Promised Land for him actually was not the geographical area in Palestine. He lived in tents all his life. The Bible says that He looked to a city in heaven. One can't deny self unless one has a clear vision of heaven.

4. She let go off any right to comfort or easy life whatsoever. The Bible tells us that she worked till evening. She was hard working and diligent. She was not someone who'd be satisfied with the little. She was not task-oriented or target-oriented, to sit back after the target was reached. She worked as long as it was day. She kept working as long as there was time. Jesus said about Himself, ""I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work." (Joh 9:4 NKJ) There is no retirement age for the disciple. There is no vacation time for the servant of God. He must work while it is day.

There are many other things that we can learn from Ruth's life. The above four in the list is just a small part of what she possessed in her character. One can go and look at her life and would find the thing that he/she needs to deny today. Ruth chapter 2 is an account of a whole day in the life of Ruth. It was a day filled with surprises, blessings, and a full basket in the end. It was a day of filled with the favor of God, because it was a day that a girl entered with self-denial and when God saw that this vessel had emptied herself totally, He poured into her all that He had in overflowing measures. It was a day with the Lord.