Being a member of a good local Christian church, or being a frequent attender, it’s a good thing… but it’s not the primary thing.
Liking and participating in a good church because you want your children to go to Sunday School like you did as a child, to have some connection to a faith system that they can run to when they hit hard times in life, these are good things… but it’s not the primary thing.
Joining the church choir because you have an interest and a talent in choral music, or you play a musical instrument and you like the wholesome atmosphere in which to develop and use your art, these are good things… but it’s not the primary thing.
Perhaps you have entered the ministry because you enjoy counseling and teaching, you have a knack for the intellectual atmosphere that some denominations have developed over their many years of study and you enjoy the predictability of the practice of traditions, these are good things… but it’s not the primary thing.
Or, perhaps you entered the ministry in a more Charismatic setting because your personality fits right in to an arena of creative expression in preaching, in music, and in the arts. These are good things… but it’s not the primary thing.
So what is this PRIMARY thing? Jesus spoke of it many times, and we will look at a couple of them.
The setting for this example is in the home of Martha who had a sister named Mary. Martha was very busy being the hostess preparing food and refreshments and serving her guests. Her sister Mary though wasn’t helping her serve, she instead was sitting at the feet of a special guest, Jesus, listening to His every word as He spoke to everyone.
Martha was so upset at Mary’s neglect of helping that she even asked her special guest to scold Mary for not being busy. Jesus however said something in return that likely made Martha upset, but likely made Mary feel encouraged:
“And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.’”
~ Luke 10:38-42
There are a lot of needful people and situations that we can spend every waking moment to serve and solve, and all of that service is good.
Mary, however, had recognized and chosen the PRIMARY thing: Being close to Jesus and taking to heart His every word.
- Martha was serving Jesus, but Mary was encountering Jesus.
- Martha was doing good things, but Mary was foremost doing the PRIMARY thing.
- Martha was being hospitable to Jesus in her home, Mary was being hospitable to Jesus in her heart.
- Martha was concerned about what her guests might think of her less-than-perfect hospitality, Mary was concerned with what Jesus wanted to do in her own life.
- Martha recognized the special influence Jesus had in their social gathering, Mary recognized the special influence Jesus was having in her own heart and soul.
- Martha was good at seeing people’s needs and recruiting others to jump-in, Mary was good at seeing the PRIMARY need and personally drawing near to Jesus for fulfillment.
The setting for this next example is based in the future. Jesus prophesied that on the Final Day when each person has their “day in court” before Him in Heaven to give an account for their soul, there will be those who will have been like Martha, but sadly never like Mary. They will have spent their life-strength in pursuit of really good works for their own salvation instead of spending all their strength in pursuit of knowing Jesus personally.
“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name and in Your name drive out demons and in Your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers!’”
~ Matthew 7:22-23
Really good works are never enough to erase our sin. When we do really good works with the motive of someday saying to Jesus, “Look at how much good I’ve done. I’ve cleaned myself up and reversed my life’s course to do good instead of bad,” our good works become evil because our motive was to exclude Jesus from our inmost being.
When Jesus will say, “I never knew you,” He will not be speaking of knowing about them informationally; He will be speaking of knowing them relationally.
So, today as you consider your own life, are you a Martha or a Mary? (Men, don’t fall into the trap of pushing this example aside based on Jesus’ use of the female gender to illustrate His point. His point is for both genders equally!)
Are you a pastor, minister, or priest that has given your life sacrificially to do magnificently good things in serving the needs of others, even in the name of Christ? I beseech you to make sure that you not only know the right doctrines about Christ, but that Christ knows you on the personal level, that your salvation is based upon Him knowing you relationally and that your great good works are simply the discharge of your ministry duties done in love for God and humanity.
Let’s be sure we have the PRIMARY thing activated and is being cultivated before we engage in seasons of practical and sacrificial service.
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