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THE CONVERSION OF RUTH

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles,
Lord’s Day Morning, November 6, 2011

“And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16).


The story is a simple one. There was a famine in the land of Judah during the time of the Judges. A man and his wife, Naomi, took their two sons and left Bethlehem and went to the heathen country of Moab. The two sons married heathen girls. Naomi’s husband died. Then her two sons died. Naomi was left with her two daughters-in-law, Orpah and Ruth. But neither of them had any children.

When Naomi heard that the famine had ended in Judah, she decided to go back to Bethlehem. Naomi told the two young women to return to their mothers, and she would go back to Judah alone. Both of the girls said, “Surely we will return with thee unto thy people” (Ruth 1:10). But Naomi urged them even more to go back to their own people. They both said they loved Naomi. They both wept. But Orpah kissed Naomi, and went “back unto her people, and unto her gods” (Ruth 1:15). Yet Ruth refused to leave her, even after Naomi urged her again to go home.

“Ruth said, Intreat me not [don’t urge me] to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16).

Here we have Ruth’s conversion experience. I will break the text down into four simple points.

I. First, Ruth was influenced by her godly mother-in-law.

Naomi had a great influence on Ruth because Ruth loved her. Ruth was from a pagan background. But her love for Naomi helped to break down her religious prejudices.

Nearly everyone who comes into the church from the outside world is converted through the love and concern of Christians. They understand very little of the truth. But they feel the love of the Christian people in the church. Last Sunday a young man who was a first-time visitor told me that he was not interested in becoming a Christian, but he was very friendly and told me how nice the person was who drove him to church, and how friendly our people were to him. Whether he comes back or not, for years to come he will remember that he had a good time in a Baptist church.

Most often those like Ruth, who come from a non-church background, become interested in our faith because the Christians were friendly to them, and they begin to love coming to church, as Ruth loved Naomi.

There is nothing wrong with that. When I was thirteen years old Dr. and Mrs. Henry M. McGowan took me, with their children, to a Baptist church. I would not be preaching here this morning, 57 years later, if they had not been kind and friendly to me when I was a lost and lonely teenager. I was at their house several nights every week. Mrs. McGowan often fed me dinner. I owe my soul to those dear people!

Jesus said, “Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23). People are compelled to come into the church by the tender love and kindness of the people in the church. Moody famously said, “Love them in.” Let us do our best to obey what he said!

Every Sunday a boy of about 10 or 12 walked several blocks to Moody’s church in Chicago. Each Sunday he passed a church, where an elder stood at the door welcoming the people who attended there. He noticed the boy that passed by, going to Moody’s church. One Sunday morning that elder asked the boy, “Why do you go all the way up to Moody’s church? Why don’t you come here?” The boy said, “No thanks. I’ll go to Mr. Moody’s church. They know how to love a fellow there.”

People were compelled to come in by the kindness of the Christians in that church. Moody famously said, “Love them in.” Let’s do our best to obey what he said!

II. Second, Ruth was tested.

Naomi said, “Behold, thy sister in law is gone back unto her people, and unto her gods: return thou after thy sister in law” (Ruth 1:15). Dr. J. Vernon McGee said,

Orpah made the decision to go back. Her decision for God had not been real, you see. She goes back to idolatry [and] we never hear of her again (J. Vernon McGee, Th.D., Thru the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1982, volume II, p. 93).

Dr. McGee said that Naomi urged Ruth to go back to her idols “to test her to see if she’s genuine or not” (ibid.).

And every one of you here this morning will be tested as well. You will see someone leave the church, as Ruth saw Orpah leave. You will think, “I thought they were sincere, but they left the church.” Isn’t that exactly the way Ruth was tested? Orpah and Ruth had both said to Naomi, “Surely we will return with thee unto thy people” (Ruth 1:10). Yet, like Judas, Orpah kissed Naomi, and then left her and went back to the world. Ruth saw her bad example, and it surely tested her.

Every person who is converted has had the same experience. Every one of us has seen some of our friends leave the church and go back to the sins of the world. Peter saw Judas leave. Paul saw his close friend Demas leave. Paul said, “Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world” (II Timothy 4:10). And if Peter and Paul had this happen to them, don’t you think that you will also have to go through this test, as Ruth did? The Apostle Paul said, “We must through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22). The Greek word translated “tribulation” is “thlipsis.” It means “pressures, afflictions, troubles, sufferings.” “We must through much [pressure, trouble and suffering] enter into the kingdom of God.” Even after we have been Christians for many years we must go through the pressure and suffering of seeing dear friends and even loved ones leave the church because they “loved this present world” (II Timothy 4:10).

Ruth passed that test when her close friend and sister in law left and went back to pagan idolatry. Will you pass that test and go on living for Christ when close friends leave our church? It is my prayer that you will. For many years, since I was in the Chinese church, I have loved that old song Mr. Griffith sang a moment ago.

The Master hath called us: the road may be dreary,
   And dangers and sorrows are strewn on the track;
But God’s Holy Spirit shall comfort the weary;
   We follow the Saviour and cannot turn back.
(“The Master Hath Come” by Sarah Doudney, 1841-1926;
     to the tune of “Ash Grove.”)

No matter what sorrows we go through, and no matter who leaves the church, the elect of God will say, “We follow the Saviour and cannot turn back.” How can you turn back if you have been effectually called? It is impossible for a true convert to turn back! Amen, and Amen!

III. Third, Ruth trusted God.

“And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16).

This was no quick “decision.” She had thought about it carefully for years. Ruth really wanted Naomi’s God to be her God. She had heard about God, but now she actually believed in God Himself.

At some point you must come face to face with the living God. It can’t always be fun and games, just coming to church because you like to be with the people. At some point God Himself must become important enough to you to change the whole direction of your life – no matter what anyone else says or does!

Ruth’s life was forever changed by encountering God Himself. Dr. J. Vernon McGee said, “You will find [Ruth] mentioned in the very first chapter of the New Testament [Matthew 1:5]. She’s in the genealogy that led to Christ” (ibid.). I believe that Ruth was truly converted at this moment, when she said,

“Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16).

A real conversion changes the way you live and it changes the whole direction of your life. But, remember, you must come to God through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ said, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). Why? Because the Apostle Paul said,

“There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5).

Jesus Christ died on the Cross to pay the penalty for your sins, and to shed His Blood to cleanse you from all sin. You must come to Jesus to find peace with God. But there is one last point that comes out of our text.

IV. Fourth, Ruth joined God’s people.

She said to Naomi, “Thy people shall be my people” (Ruth 1:16). She boldly cut herself off from the Moabites and became a Jew. That is exactly what she needed to do to be saved in that dispensation. Ruth was really converted! The Apostle Paul said,

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty”
       (II Corinthians 6:17-18).

Come out of this sinful world. Come all the way into the church. Many people hang halfway into the church, and halfway into the world – and they wonder why they don’t experience real conversion! Come all the way in every Saturday night, every Sunday morning, and every Sunday night. Come all the way in – to Christ, and to the local church. Say, with Ruth, “thy people shall be my people.” Amen! And amen! Stand and sing hymn number 7, “The Master Hath Come.” Sing it!

The Master hath called us; the road may be dreary,
   And dangers and sorrows are strewn on the track;
But God’s Holy Spirit shall comfort the weary;
   We follow the Saviour and cannot turn back;
The Master hath called us: though doubt and temptation
   May compass our journey, we cheerfully sing:
“Press onward, look upward,” through much tribulation;
   The children of Zion must follow their King.

The Master hath called us, in life’s early morning,
   With spirits as fresh as the dew on the sod:
We turn from the world, with its smiles and its scorning;
   To cast in our lot with the people of God:
The Master hath called us, His sons and His daughters,
   We plead for His blessing and trust in His love;
And through the green pastures, beside the still waters;
   He’ll lead us at last to His kingdom above.
(“The Master Hath Come” by Sarah Doudney, 1841-1926;
     to the tune of “Ash Grove.”)

(END OF SERMON)
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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Ruth 1:8-16.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“The Master Hath Come” (by Sarah Doudney, 1841-1926).


THE OUTLINE OF

THE CONVERSION OF RUTH

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16).

(Ruth 1:10; 15)

I.   First, Ruth was influenced by her godly mother-in-law,
Luke 14:23.

II.  Second, Ruth was tested, Ruth 1:15, 10; II Timothy 4:10;
Acts 14:22.

III. Third, Ruth trusted God, John 14:6; I Timothy 2:5.

IV. Fourth, Ruth joined God’s people, II Corinthians 6:17-18.