A lot has happened and changed in the last year. Trips to India, weddings, birthdays, more traveling, moving, holidays, changing church families, family illnesses and deaths, job-changes… It’s easy to become distracted, loose focus and become shadow-minded instead of Kingdom-minded. At least, it has been for me! So before a trip to Chicago back in October, and again more recently, I really had to have one of those literal “come-to-Jesus-talks” with myself and the Lord. I felt self-absorbed, anxious, and caught up in my own business. Prior to that time, I had been reading the Gospel of Luke and the most impacting motif caught my attention: The only life that counts is the one alive in Jesus. C.T. Studd said it so well in his famous poem: “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” The traveling, the birthdays and job changes – as real as all those experiences felt – will fade away and be forgotten against the glory of Jesus.
I let the weight of that sink in and it was a heavy truth to bear.
Numerous times throughout Luke’s account, Jesus declares that if you want to drink the sweet waters of eternal life, you’ll be required to lay it all down. (Lk 9:24
) But what I think most of us miss is that we read these sorts of verses as inconvenient “laws” or restraining commands from a stern Jesus – rather than good and life-saving advice from a good and loving God. Jesus did not tell his disciples that they must lay down their life simply because pain and suffering are just a part of God’s will for their existence, so they needed to suck it up if they wanted to be more holy. It was out of grace he warned his disciples they must lay down their life because he was about to goto the cross to permanently crucify the sinful nature. And unless they had the Eternal One living inside them, they would inevitably perish inside their finite and sinful bodies (Jn 8:24
). That was not a recommendation for another aesthetic way of life – it’s a statement about reality.
When we accept Jesus as our Savior from death, we’re acknowledging the historical fact that He nailed our sinful flesh to that dreadful cross for all time. It’s gone. It’s dead. It’s as Paul says in Romans “unemployed.” (“We know that our old self was crucified with Him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” Rom 6:6) This is not an arbitrary or “too-holy-for-you-to-understand” command from Jesus — it’s true, life-giving advice from the Author of Life Himself! In laying our temporal lives down for Jesus’ sake, we gain the eternal life with Him (Mat 10:39). Making the decision to “eat, drink and be merry” forfeits not just your right, but your ability to inherit this humanely unattainable gift. And the death Jesus is referring to is more real and permanent than simply falling asleep or checking out.
If the plane you intended on traveling to Europe in had crashed and sunk to the bottom of the sea, would you still expect to to rely on it to get you to Europe? Wouldn’t you rather find another mode of transportation? In the same way, Jesus announced to everyone: “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” (Jn 6:63
) He proclaimed and demonstrated the crashing and sinking of our fleshly vessels. So why do we still rely on something that was crucified 2,000 years ago to get us into the heart of the Father?
Finding a way out by letting Him in
In Luke 10:38-42
, it says that Martha welcomed Jesus into her home. There are probably more, but these are the three motives I found used most often for welcoming Jesus in the Gospels:
Not necessarily in a negative context, but Jesus was invited due to cultural customs or expectations such as perhaps the wedding feast at Cana (Jn 2:1-2)
. People are not usually impacted in an intimate or personal way by Jesus’ presence under these circumstances.
): Jesus was both intriguing and intelligent. Some had honest reasons for wanting to hear more from him, some did not. The individual’s presuppositions about Jesus determined whether they would accept or reject Jesus upon finally meeting him. Those who merely wanted to test Jesus were not necessarily interested in eternal life or acknowledging him as Lord. And those who came on account of a miracle could easily be offended by Jesus’ teaching, so they were not necessarily devoted to following him either. (Jn 6:22-60
3. A sincere desire to host and enjoy the presence of Jesus as a guest
). Zacchaeus received Jesus “joyfully” into his home. He was so joyful that he confessed he would repay anyone he had wronged fourfold. He let himself be transformed by inviting Jesus into his earthly and spiritual home. Those who sincerely just wanted to enjoy Jesus left their old lives behind and became new creations. (Lk 5:27-39
In the case of Martha, she might have initially invited Jesus to her home out of a sincere love for Him, (since we at least know that Jesus was fond of Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus [Jn 11:5
]), but she quickly becomes distracted with “much serving” (Lk 10:40
). Soon the act of welcoming a friend became nothing more than a hectic performance and cultural expectation. And in an encounter such as that, Jesus was hardly the center of attention in Martha’s life.
Martha was busy with this show of hospitality and lost sight of the forest for the trees. The King of Kings was sitting in her very home. The Light of the World was pouring forth life-giving bread and from heaven, and she missed it. She missed it! Oh Martha, Martha! If only you had known Who it was that was speaking in your presence! And when she expressed hurt that Jesus was not commanding her younger sister to help her, Jesus very directly and very gently tells Martha that she is “anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” (Lk 10:41
) Luke described Martha as distracted, but Jesus more specifically explains she is tangled with burdens that are keeping her in bondage from enjoying the treasure of knowing Him. “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Lk 10:42
) Jesus compassionately tells Martha: “Oh Martha, you are burdened with many chains. You are hindered by what is perishing. Stop paying attention to what Mary is or isn’t doing, and start enjoying me being here with you. Mary has let me into her heart, and you can not make me leave that place.” He is either the All-Consuming Fire in your heart or He isn’t.
“There is but one life to live, ’twill soon be past, and only what’s done for Jesus will last.”
Playing the game of Christianity
I do want to take a moment and clarify: There is nothing inherently wrong with opening your home to guests and tirelessly working to meet their needs and show them kindness. You may touch many people with your hard work. But your hard work – unless it’s done out of self-sacrificing, wholly desirous love for Jesus – will not stand the test of the Refiner’s fire. Performance died a humiliating death on Calvary 2,000 years ago. Your humanistic social justice works were nailed to a crude wooden cross and hang there still. But Jesus… Jesus is more alive than any man, and He is presently sitting in Victory at the right hand of the Father and will be for all eternity. “For the death He died he died to sin, once for all, but the life He lives He lives to God.” (Rom 6:10
Also, many times I hear Christians trying to use Mary’s example in scripture to justify their mission to “sit at the feet of the Lord” rather than be responsible for The Great Commission, aka The Great “Go-mission”. I’ve personally found many Protestants, in particular, favor hiding behind this one instance in the gospels so they may continue in their disobedience towards healing the sick, cleansing lepers and casting out demons. To those of you in that camp with ear to hear: “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” (Jm 2:26
) The pharisees spent plenty of time in the synagogue and had extensive intellectual understanding of the scriptures – but they were identified by Jesus as disobedient “white washed tombs.” When we talk about bearing fruit, we need to put on (and keep on!) our Kingdom-helmets and think from an eternal perspective. Mary was bearing fruit for Jesus in this case because there was an inward submission to the Lordship of Christ – not some external religious gesture. So some of us need to grow up spiritually, move on from our religious demonstrations and step into the royal identity God has given us.
There is too much at risk to play the game of Christianity. Your pride, time and possessions combined are not worth half as much as another man’s soul. And how trivial to let them stand in the way of something with such enormous consequences. As Harry Ironside once said: “No one who really wants to count for God can afford to play at Christianity.”
He is the Lord and there is no other
There is freedom in laying it all down. If you let go of your life-raft, there is an aircraft carrier waiting to rescue you from inescapable death. Where there is true life there is joy, and both can be found in Jesus. When we say “yes” to the King of Kings there’s no turning back. Jesus will have dominion. The early church recognized that and they made it their mission to see that it came to pass – beginning with their very own life. Jesus is not just a savior from death or hell or sin or a bad test grade – He is The Lord and there is no other. It is inevitable that every single particle in this universe will bow it’s knee, submit to the authority of Jesus, and confess that only He is Lord of all. When that day comes, we too will bow our knee and say “We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.” (Lk 17:10
Don’t miss the surpassing value of Jesus in the midst of this busy and distracting world. Come and lay down your life at the feet of the Author of Life. Lay down your to-do lists, what other people expect of you and be set free by the One who defeated death and put the powers of this earth to open shame (Col 2:15
). Ask yourself what the One thing is and don’t look back. Say “yes” to the One who was obedient to the Father unto death so that everything according to His own Word should finally be fulfilled (Mt 5:17-18
). Say “yes” to the One in whom all the promises of God find their Yes! (2 Cor 1:20
Jesus refresh our hearts and minds with your Living Word. May we all be reminded of our role in this epic mission you have charged us with and triumphantly say in the words of the old hymn: ” I surrender all! I surrender all! All to thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all!”