A message for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH for Sunday, November 21, 2021:
I don’t have to go to the office for my job very often right now, but the idea of going there is still tough to do. I love the ability to work from home, but I also know that there will be a full-fledged hybrid work schedule that will begin next year. Knowing this, I’ve concluded that it is important to take the silver lining approach to make my trips to the office a more pleasant experience. First, I just take the main roads without getting on the freeway, which is an automatic stress reducer. I’m there in just about a half hour, and there isn’t a lot of traffic at all. I also take my time and stay true to the speed limit. If another car or group of cars want to zoom by me, they can have at it.
In observing the behavior of other drivers on the road, you get a picture in your mind of the personalities of these drivers by looking at the condition of the cars they drive. More often than not, these are people who you would never allow to borrow your own car. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see these drivers who are always in a rush as if running late for work or an appointment. They are often occupied with a number of thoughts as they go while studying their phones at traffic stops or, even worse, driving while looking at their phones. Some are talking out loud with no one else in the car, and some are on the phone yelling at someone else about something. The cars that they are driving also have characteristics that fit their personalities. All four wheels are missing their hubcaps. All four of them. There are also dings and dents in different places on their cars, and they can’t get them fixed right away because their insurance deductible is too high.
Now, this is my imagination expressing what I see during my morning commutes. I look at visible indicators of drivers and my perception of their personalities and make a determination about how life may be going for them. How accurate my assessment is, in those brief moments, can’t really be tested out without further information or discussions, which are not possible.
While I can’t learn more about them, I can spend a lot of time in personal reflection as to who I am today and make my own notes as to how my life is going. It’s interesting how many of us have a public façade but have an entirely different life underneath it. Only you can address this part of your life.
Have you ever neglected your own self-care or reflection because you were fearful of what you might see about yourself?
Let’s take this opportunity as a way of looking at how we once were before we got to know Jesus. Let’s go beyond the appearances that I discussed before: minds clouded with too many thoughts, distractions, outbursts of anger, carelessness and failure to overcome circumstances. These are characteristics of a ragged existence.
A ragged life.
The word ragged is an adjective. It’s a description of clothing that is tattered and worn out, but it can also describe a person’s behavior and outlook in this manner: imperfect, uneven, exhausted and worn out.1
A ragged life is an unsteady life. It’s an unstable life. It’s an inconsistent life. It can be exhausting over time, and it can feel like you are treading concrete.
People who are always in a rush and can’t seem to relax or slow down are looking at their own circumstances with the hope that they can turn things around on their own. A prolonged state of raggedness contributes to despair and hopelessness.
For the ragged, help is indeed available.
Raggedness needs redemption. Jesus Christ is our Redeemer.
Isaiah 44:6 ESV
Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.
I readily admit that before I acknowledged Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior, I was one of the ragged. The Holy Spirit had to reveal to me my raggedness for what it was and what it was doing to me before I was willing to put it all in front of Jesus.
Satan will make you go along in your way without revealing your own raggedness. It takes the power of the Holy Spirit to reveal how desperate you really are.
I had to bring my raggedness to the feet of the cross. I needed His redemption.
Our remedy, as believers, is our faith, hope and trust in Jesus Christ. It doesn’t resolve every personal issue that we have, but it does resolve some very important issues:
1. It reveals and addresses our sin.
Raggedness is a more than state of mind. It is a state of being. Our words and actions are reflective of our sinful nature. When we are not following Jesus Christ, we are ultimately following someone or something else, and that leads to sin and fleshliness.
Thankfully, at the moment you decide you want to get away from raggedness and give your matters to Jesus, He immediately responds and shares His love for you without regard as to where you were coming from.
1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
1 John 1:7-9 ESV
7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Jesus is ready to act for those who sincerely seek His forgiveness and guidance. Believers in Jesus are much more conscious of this because of the presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit identifies the sin that creates the raggedness, and your repentance leads to forgiveness. Jesus simply tells us to “Go and sin no more.” Amen.
2. It makes us righteous before God.
In order to overcome raggedness, it is necessary to trust in someone other than yourself, and that someone is Jesus. It is an act of stepping out on faith.
Hebrews 11:6 ESV
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
So what about this faith? Faith is an exercise that requires consistent application and conscious repetition.
Stepping out in faith is something that requires practice. Imagine when you enter a very dark room with no light for the first time. For those new in their faith, this is a very similar analogy to going to an unfamiliar, uncomfortable place. As you practice your faith, you obtain more experience, and you can enter that same dark room with more and more confidence knowing that you can navigate more effectively without tripping or bumping into furniture.
Our faith requires a regular workout as we trust in Jesus Christ. In the truest sense of stepping into the unknown:
2 Corinthians 5:7 ESV
For we walk by faith, not by sight.
Just as stated at the end of 1 John verse 9, we are deemed righteous before Jesus because we make the decision to say “I don’t want to be ragged anymore.” The righteousness before God is rooted in obedience and in our faith, and not in how much we are doing ourselves.
Romans 4:1-3 ESV
1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
Here’s the thing to remember here…in our flesh, we always try to do more and try to achieve more in an effort to escape our state of raggedness. You can’t do anything on your own strength to make yourself righteous before God. God wants to see you exercise more than your mind and muscles. He wants to see your faith and your obedience.
Romans Chapter 4 spends a good amount of time speaking about Abraham’s faith, but look at what it says here in versus 19 through 25:
Romans 4:19-25 ESV
19 He (Abraham) did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. 20 No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Now, it would be neglectful for me to omit mentioning the raggedness of Abraham as he went through his journey with God, and while Abraham was far from perfect, we see here that as time went along, Abraham’s faith grew as he spent more time with God, and it was his faith that propelled him to be the father of many nations. God challenged Abraham to see where his faith was and how much it had progressed. Our lesson here is that God challenges us in our moments of raggedness and wants us to rely more upon Him in faith rather than rely upon our own abilities.
In order to be righteous before God, we must exercise our faith more and more each day.
Is Jesus challenging you in this area? If you don’t recognize His challenges, I’ll just put it out here that you’re not looking for them. Don’t ignore the promptings of the Spirit. It’s time to listen and accept the challenge. Righteousness before Him is yours as you choose to follow Him in faith and remain faithful.
3. It settles our destiny.
It is belief in Jesus, and only Jesus alone, who controls our eternal destiny.
John 5:24 ESV
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
Acts 4:12 ESV
“And there is salvation in no one else (but Jesus), for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
We are assured of eternal life because Jesus promises it, and He keeps all of His promises.
1 John 2:23-25 ESV
23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also. 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father. 25 And this is the promise that he made to us—eternal life.
John 14:23 ESV
Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
We want the eternal life that Jesus speaks of where we will have our home with Him. We don’t want the eternal torment as referred to in Luke Chapter 16 where the rich man found himself.
Luke 16:24 ESV
And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’
(This is one of those moments where we need to let people know that there are consequences when you deny your Creator.)
Matthew 12:30-32 NLT
30 “Anyone who isn’t with me (Jesus) opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.
31 “So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.
As this section addresses the eternal aspect of our relationship with Jesus Christ. This is where our fervent prayers for our family members, friends and other loved ones need to implore the Holy Spirit to confront their lives of raggedness and to move them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
The danger of raggedness with non-believers is that they often believe that they are “good enough” and that they are “doing just fine,” and they certainly don’t see themselves as ragged. “What? Who me? No way!”
This is why you need to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I’ll leave it there.
Believers in the Lord Jesus Christ should have the confidence that their destiny to be with Jesus is secure.
John 10:27-30 ESV
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
Do you recognize Jesus’s voice when He speaks to you? Are you secure in your relationship with Jesus? He does not want anyone to settle for a ragged life. He wants everyone to live the abundant life through Him.
We all have experienced struggles and sufferings. This is a common experience for all mankind. Jesus gives us the ability to endure these sufferings and come through them on the other side.
He wants the best for you.
Jesus has more than enough ability to cure our raggedness.
The more that we desire to get away from our ragged state, the more that we will move towards our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
Jesus turns our raggedness into righteousness.
Copyright © 2021 Melvin Gaines
1 ragged. (n.d.) American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011). Retrieved November 16 2021 from https://www.thefreedictionary.com/ragged