People over Perfection: John 10:38-42

Focus Passage: Luke 10:38-42 (GW)

38 As they were traveling along, Jesus went into a village. A woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 She had a sister named Mary. Mary sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to him talk.

40 But Martha was upset about all the work she had to do. So she asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work all by myself? Tell her to help me.”

41 The Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha! You worry and fuss about a lot of things. 42 There’s only one thing you need. Mary has made the right choice, and that one thing will not be taken away from her.”

Read Luke 10:38-42 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Have you ever wondered whether or not you made the right choice when faced with a difficult decision?

In this passage, I want to focus specifically on what we can learn from Jesus and His response to Martha that Mary has made the “right” choice.

The setting of this passage describes two opposite personalities: a detailed and task-oriented personality, and a relationship driven personality. Often, we look down on Martha because she was so focused on the details, but I don’t think that was what Jesus was talking about when He was making this statement. If this were the case, we could make the argument that God likes some personalities better than others – which is an argument that doesn’t sit well in my mind.

However, while we have two opposite personalities present in this scene, we also have a clear priority given by Jesus. Martha’s personality says that one shows love, respect, and appreciation through acts of service and by serving well. Mary’s personality says that one shows love, respect, and appreciation through quality time spent and by giving attention to the person.

Jesus didn’t tell Martha to stop serving; a response like that would have been counter to her personality. Instead He tells her to stop worrying about getting all the details perfect and to leave Mary alone. The priority Jesus makes clear for us is this: Relationships are more important than appearances. Loving/Helping people should be our priority.

Sure the details matter, and without people focused on getting the details right, we would waste a lot of unnecessary time, but when given the choice, a personal relationship should always come before the details of a task.

This comes easier for some people than for others. I can easily relate with Martha, because I have the task-driven, detail-oriented personality. God is helping me see the importance focusing on the relationship over my natural tendency to ignore relationships in favor of focusing on getting it right. I have come a long ways, but I know there is still a long way to go. What I do know though is that relationships are more important than details and people are more important than perfection.

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Finding the Elusive Narrow Gate: Matthew 7:7-20

Focus Passage: Matthew 7:7-20 (CEV)

Ask, and you will receive. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. Everyone who asks will receive. Everyone who searches will find. And the door will be opened for everyone who knocks. Would any of you give your hungry child a stone, if the child asked for some bread? 10 Would you give your child a snake if the child asked for a fish? 11 As bad as you are, you still know how to give good gifts to your children. But your heavenly Father is even more ready to give good things to people who ask.

12 Treat others as you want them to treat you. This is what the Law and the Prophets are all about.

13 Go in through the narrow gate. The gate to destruction is wide, and the road that leads there is easy to follow. A lot of people go through that gate. 14 But the gate to life is very narrow. The road that leads there is so hard to follow that only a few people find it.

15 Watch out for false prophets! They dress up like sheep, but inside they are wolves who have come to attack you. 16 You can tell what they are by what they do. No one picks grapes or figs from thornbushes. 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that produces bad fruit will be chopped down and burned. 20 You can tell who the false prophets are by their deeds.

Read Matthew 7:7-20 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Part of me wonders about a concept Jesus shared near the end of His famous “Sermon on the Mount”. In this two-verse idea, we are able to see a contrast between two different ways of living, and two ultimate conclusions – but I wonder if part of this idea is lost in translation or has been left out, because it doesn’t seem to fit a number of other things that I see shared in the Bible and visible in the world.

While sharing this famous sermon, Jesus tells the crowd, “Go in through the narrow gate. The gate to destruction is wide, and the road that leads there is easy to follow. A lot of people go through that gate. But the gate to life is very narrow. The road that leads there is so hard to follow that only a few people find it.” (v. 13-14)

What makes me wonder about this statement and idea is what Jesus means when He talks about a gate to life vs. a gate to destruction. Are these gates figurative for eternal life and eternal death, or is this something else? If only a few people find and go through the gate to life and this gate refers to eternal life, then what of the billions of people who call themselves Christian, and the multitude that cannot be counted in the book of Revelation? Is eternal life the best way to understand this concept Jesus is sharing, or is Jesus trying to teach us something different here?

Part of me wonders if Jesus is actually sharing a statement about those who are able to find the life that God has set out for them to live. There are plenty of people who simply live following the crowd, but not nearly as many people break apart from the crowd to live a life that is counter-culturally focused on obeying God’s will.

I wonder if the life that God created us to live is one that leads us to an amazing life in this world that also leads into an incredible, eternal life in the next world. If this is the case, then most people, while they have placed their belief in Jesus, are living and walking down a road that leads to destruction. Their lives are like a walking time-bomb that could explode and harm them at any given moment. I wonder if this broad group includes those who are not living for Jesus, regardless of whether they have given their hearts to Him.

But a case could be made against someone who says they are a Christian, but who has not truly given their heart to God. There may be millions of people like this, and this group of self-professed Christians actually cheapens what the Christian name is all about.

A case could also be made against those who simply refer to themselves as “believers”. They have taken Christ out of their identity. If we look at the name “believer”, it could refer to any number of things. I can believe that if I water and fertilize the grass in my yard, it will grow. Believing that grass grows with proper care is a far stretch from believing in Jesus and identifying my life with His.

I don’t know the way to the narrow gate, but I am intentionally looking for it. Jesus tells us that it is a gate that is hard to find and a gate that is counter-cultural, so these are the places I will start. It might not take me down a popular road, but living a life with God is the only life that brings true life, in both the present and the future. A life with God is the only path that leads to eternal life.

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Flashback Episode — Demanding Signs: Matthew 16:1-4


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Throughout Jesus’ ministry, the Jewish leaders as a group actively opposed Him. I don’t think that these leaders believed they were opposing God’s Messiah, but instead, I think they has wrapped their beliefs up so far in their tradition that when God sent Jesus as His chosen Messiah, He didn’t fit the description they had created.

However, the Jewish leaders could not deny that Jesus was special, that He had the ability to work miracles, and that He focused on helping those who were hurting. But what they could not wrap their minds around was how Jesus fit into their mold – because if Jesus didn’t fit into their mold, they couldn’t trust that He was from God.

It is with this backdrop that we come to an event where two opposed religious groups team up and ask Jesus for something. We will be looking at this event from Matthew’s gospel, and it is found in chapter 16. Starting in verse 1 and reading from the New International Version, Matthew tells us that:

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.

He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.

What I find amazing in this passage and event is that Jesus criticizes these leaders for wanting a sign, before telling them that they will actually get a sign, but that the sign will come in the form that they did not expect.

Likely up to this point, no one had thought of Jonah’s rebellious life and attempt at running away from God as a Messianic symbol, but after Jesus made this connection with these religious leaders, the connection is clear. Jonah himself probably wouldn’t believe it if he knew that his attempts at running away from God would be used as a sign pointing out the Messiah.

However, the challenge Jesus shares with these leaders is one that should prompt us to pause. Jesus says in verse 4, “A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it…” Part of me wonders if Jesus really meant to say that a wicked generation demands a sign. If this is the case, then these leaders, who were trying to test Jesus by challenging Him to give then a sign from heaven, would be implicated, but those living at various points in history who are diligently seeking God and looking for the ways God is moving around them would not be guilty. I can understand a framing of Jesus’ statement that looks like this.

But while the heading in my Bible titles this section as a demand for a sign, the wording of the verses themselves speak more on the looking and seeking a sign rather than demanding a sign.

When we look a little deeper at what Jesus is describing in these verses, specifically in the context of these leaders’ request, we find an interesting clue about what Jesus is speaking out against. The leaders who had come to Jesus came with the idea that if Jesus would perform a miraculous sign for them, then they would choose to believe in Him.

This is a key distinction between the two angles of how Jesus responds. In Jesus’ own words, evil and adulterous people demand to see signs and miracles before believing, whereas other people who are paying attention don’t have to demand signs or miracles because they see what God is doing all around them. Those who are paying attention to God’s moving and working have all the evidence they need for their faith, while those who demand to see miraculous signs will never be truly satisfied with what they see.

But tucked within these leaders’ demand for a miraculous sign is another trap that is less visible on the surface. I don’t even believe the leaders themselves realized it was there. The demand to display a miraculous sign is very similar to one of the temptations Satan brought to Jesus in the wilderness. In this temptation, Satan takes Jesus, places Him at the highest point of the temple, and challenges Him to jump off, quoting a scripture about God promising to protect Him.

The subtle temptation in both of these situations is for Jesus to do something miraculous to draw attention to Himself. The trap present here is that Jesus did not come to draw attention to Himself, but instead to give glory to God the Father. Everything Jesus did was intended to point people to the Father and to give people an accurate view of the Father. The Father poured His Holy Spirit out onto Jesus to validate this mission, and even at a few key points in Jesus’ ministry, the Father speaks His approval of Jesus.

Those who are always looking for and seeking signs will ultimately be disappointed. While Jesus does point these leaders to a sign that they can look for, the sign Jesus gives them is nowhere near the one they wanted to receive or the one they expected.

The sign Jesus points them to look forward to is a sign that is outward focused. People cannot raise themselves from the grave, but God can do so if He chooses. Jesus wasn’t the one to bring Himself back to life. Instead, God raised Jesus from the grave and in this way God was giving this miraculous sign to validate Jesus’ ministry.

In our own lives, we should not look for or seek after miraculous signs in order to build a foundation for our faith and trust in God. Instead, we should build our trust in Him based upon what He has promised us, and then keep our eyes open to what God is doing around us. There are plenty of signs available for us to see, but we must be paying attention and willing to acknowledge God’s interest in being involved the world today. It is easy to discount coincidences as simply that, but what if every coincidence was instead providence that gives us additional evidence that God is moving in the world today?

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I want to leave you with:

Continue seeking God first, and choose to place your foundation on His promises and on what Jesus has done for each of us. Don’t look for miracles or signs to build your faith on, but instead look for these things as a way to validate the commitment you have already made.

Also, continue studying the Bible for yourself to personally grow closer to God each day. Through prayer and personal Bible study, we are able to invite Jesus into our lives and hearts and let Him transform us from the inside.

And as I always end each set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short, back away from, or chicken out of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Season 3 – Episode 20: Cam discusses the time where leaders of both the Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and demand that He show them a sign.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

God by Our Side: John 8:21-30

Focus Passage: John 8:21-30 (NIrV)

21 Once more Jesus said to them, “I am going away. You will look for me, and you will die in your sin. You can’t come where I am going.”

22 This made the Jews ask, “Will he kill himself? Is that why he says, ‘You can’t come where I am going’?”

23 But Jesus said, “You are from below. I am from heaven. You are from this world. I am not from this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins. This will happen if you don’t believe that I am he. If you don’t believe, you will certainly die in your sins.”

25 “Who are you?” they asked.

“Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Jesus replied. 26 “I have a lot to say that will judge you. But the one who sent me can be trusted. And I tell the world what I have heard from him.”

27 They did not understand that Jesus was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, “You will lift up the Son of Man. Then you will know that I am he. You will also know that I do nothing on my own. I speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what pleases him.” 30 Even while Jesus was speaking, many people believed in him.

Read John 8:21-30 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

As I read the gospels, I am surprised at the number of times Jesus foreshadows His death on a cross. Very early on in His ministry, He talks with Nicodemus about this, and He also alludes to this in a conversation He has with a group of Jews a little later in His ministry.

In this later conversation, Jesus says, “You will lift up the Son of Man. Then you will know that I am he. You will also know that I do nothing on my own. I speak just what the Father has taught me.” (v. 28)

In the verse before this, we learn that the crowd was confused by what Jesus was saying about His Father. In this statement, Jesus begins to unpack the idea that everything He was doing and would do while on earth was intended to share what the Father is like. This even includes the crucifixion which is what Jesus is hinting at when He talks about being lifted up.

Jesus concluded this conversation by saying, “The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what pleases him.” (v. 29)

Even when it appeared as though He was standing alone, Jesus knew the Father was with Him. In Jesus’ mind and heart, alone was simply a way of describing the time that He had to be with His Father. He was never without the Father’s companionship. Because of the words Jesus says, John tells us that “even while Jesus was speaking, many people believed in him.” (v. 30)

Jesus’ closing statement has amazing relevance for us if we are willing to apply it. If we choose to place God first, to believe in Jesus, and to live a life that gives God glory, even if we end up standing for God “alone”, we are never alone because God is with us and He is always by our side. He is with us because we do what pleases Him!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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