In light of our recent study of the church at Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-7, who or what have you determined is your most important love in life?
We know the Christian answer is to say that Jesus is our first love – and He should be.
Yet the reality of the matter is that everything else (mostly good and meaningful things) constantly crowd into the place where Christ alone deserves to be in our priorities.
I realize this is a continual threat for me in ministry. It’s so easy to fill my life with activities that look noble and necessary and even at times sacrificial, but still fail to love Christ with my time and priorities from the heart.
Fortunately for us, He is gracious and forgiving. He remembers that we are frail children of dust and feeble as frail. Most of us are just like Martha in Luke 10:38-42.
Remember Martha’s problem?
Martha was so busy doing things to serve the Lord and others. In fact, she wasdistracted with much serving. Note that: distracted with serving the Lord.
Serving is such a blessed and noble activity. It shows great love to serve others. To some people, serving is the highest form of love – it’s like their predominant love language.
This is such a valuable ministry in the church and in society at large. Those who serve are usually above reproach. Yet Jesus has a word for those who help by serving and laboring.
If Martha was distracted with the noble activity of serving Jesus and others, then there must have been something more worthy of her focus and attention than even the value of serving.
From what was Martha distracted?
Let’s go back to the text in Luke 10:39 where Martha’s sister Mary is described as one “who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching.” Mary’s priority of listening to Jesus and neglecting everything else was a great annoyance to Martha.
Martha even asked Jesus to rebuke her sister for the choice she had made. But instead of rebuking Mary for sitting at His feet, our Lord gently and lovingly rebuked Martha.
Jesus said to Martha in verse 41, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”
When spending time at the Lord’s feet and listening to His teaching and just loving Him is the highest goal and priority, then even noble and good things can become distractions to us. Even worthwhile activities can leave us anxious and troubled about many things.
I have certainly had that experience. In fact, I fight this battle on a daily basis.
So how do we repent when we realize that we’re like the church at Ephesus or like Martha in our distracted serving or duty-bound ministry mentality?
How do we make Jesus our first love amid all of our tasks and responsibilities?
First, we need to remember that making our devotion to Christ our number one priority and chief value doesn’t mean we never serve others or do the other activities that are necessary to life.
Instead, we make our time reflect our priorities and values.
What gets the first part of my time? What do I seek to accomplish first? What should get the first part of my time that I may “sit at the Lord’s feet and listen to His teaching”?
How can I show my love for Jesus through my priorities and other activities?
How can I show my love for Jesus in the way I love the people in my family and those who are closest to me?
How can I show my love for Jesus by putting worship with God’s people and devotion to family above recreational activities and leisurely pursuits and entertainment?
Any time we do any activity, we are doing that activity to the neglect of something else. How can I show my love for Jesus by what I deliberately neglect until later?
What are we neglecting that we need to prioritize in our lives beginning today?
What are we doing and pursuing that we need to purposefully neglect or spend less time doing in the days to come?
Every new day is filled with subtle challenges and threats to our most important love.
Growth in this area requires patience and humility as we grow into the men and women Jesus created us to be for Himself.
Now, what’s the next thing you need to do right now that will demonstrate that Jesus is your first love and the most important priority in your life? Choose the good portion which will not be taken away from you.
By His grace,
In this series, Pastor Grant explains what the Bible teaches about how every Christian comes to faith in Christ. This teaching will strengthen your faith and help you better appreciate God’s active involvement in your conversion beginning in eternity past!
God’s Testimony of Your Salvation
The Great Invitation Series
Sometime during my visit to Colorado over the Christmas season, I lost a link in my wrist watch. The watch broke and fell off my wrist. I took it to a watch-smith, but the price seemed too expensive for such a small part.
Ever since then, I’ve been going through my daily routine “watchless” never quite sure what time it is. What started out as an annoyance has actually been a growth experience for me.
Time and time management have always been big factors in my life. I used to work in radio – an environment in which every second had to be used and marketed.
Ever since grammar school days, my personal discipline in the area of time management could be measured in seconds. I’ve always enjoyed being on time for things.
Now that I’ve been without a watch or immediate access to the time of day for a few weeks, some new thoughts have been impressed upon my mind. It’s possible that I had elevated clock time accuracy beyond its overall importance to my life as a follower of Christ.
For example, it’s a fact that neither Jesus nor His apostles ever wore a watch. They lived and worked by the light of the sun. Their days were ordered not simply by the hour, but instead by priority. They had to put first things first. Such thoughts ordered their days.
Then the question dawned on me: What would I do first at any given moment if it didn’t matter what time of day it was?
Would I spend more time in the Bible as a devotional act if the hour was irrelevant? Would I go to bed earlier or try to get more rest at night? Would I spend more time playing with my son before leaving for the office? Would I allow personal visits and conversations to go longer if the amount of time wasn’t being measured?
These questions make me wonder if being efficient hasn’t subtly come at the expense of something greater than efficiency. How many tender moments have I missed with those who are closest to me and dearest to me simply because I’ve been driven and redirected by the clock?
Don’t get me wrong—wise time management is a good and necessary thing. We must be wise in our use of time. And there is great virtue in giving our time in service to others as a regular way of life.
My concern is that the good thing (time management) doesn’t compete against the better thing (personal relationships and unhurried devotional introspection).
This needs to be true of pastors perhaps more than any other group.
After all, the pastorate isn’t a regular 9-to-5 job. The pastorate isn’t like a factory job. There’s no time-clock a pastor punches in and out of for the day. The pastor’s role is united to the pastor’s entire life. It’s a character-based calling requiring many hours of hard labor each day which flavors every hour of every day.
The pastor is to reflect biblical priorities in both his labor as well as his leisure. He must embody pastoral fitness, first in the home and then in the church. He must apply biblical doctrine and wise use of God’s resources both in the pastoral office as well as in the world.
Because the pastoral calling is a way of life based on godly character and not merely a job or a set of duties, the home is the greatest reflection of a man’s fitness for the role. According to Scripture, how a man spiritually directs his own family precedes his labor for the church.
The problem for many pastors in America is that the biblical perspective is at odds with our western view of industry and efficiency. Author Eugene Peterson says pastors are busy because of vanity and laziness. Pastors, of all people, must guard against busyness out of vanity.
It was a favorite theme of C. S. Lewis that only lazy people try to do everything. By lazily abdicating the essential work of deciding and directing and establishing values and setting goals, the lazy person lets other people do it for him. He tries to please too many people.
Then we find ourselves frantically, at the last minute, trying to satisfy a half dozen different demands on our time, none of which is essential to our vocation. We do this to stave off the disaster of disappointing someone.
Busyness is the easiest sin to defend among believers. Outside of the home, have you ever heard someone rebuked for their overcommittment? It’s rare.
I’ll probably get a new watch in the days to come – or repair one of the old ones I have. However, now more than ever, I desire to use time (especially as a pastor) with a different motivation in the years to come.
I want to be a pastor who tends his family well, since the Lord made this the litmus test for how the church is to be shepherded. I want to be a pastor who feeds on Scripture to live and preach well. I want to be a pastor who listens to others. And I want to be a pastor who prays.
Remembering that the hands of Jesus are sovereign over the hands of time,
Since our Providence church family is reading through the New Testament beginning in Luke’s gospel and Acts in 2011, I wanted to provide you with some helpful background information. This will make Luke’s gospel more understandable and (I hope) aid your application of this truth.
To begin with, Luke is the longest Gospel. Luke-Acts contain the largest number of verses by any author in the New Testament. He was a Gentile and a second-generation Christian (someone who did not see or know Jesus during His earthly life).
Luke writes the most grammatically correct and polished koiné Greek of all the New Testament writers, with the possible exception of the author of Hebrews. Greek was apparently his mother tongue. He was also highly educated and a physician (cf. Col. 4:14).
Luke’s Gospel emphasizes Jesus’ love and care for those whom the Jewish leaders never even noticed: women (e.g. Mary, Elizabeth, Anna, Mary and Martha, etc.); the poor (cf. Luke’s Beatitudes, Luke 6:20–23 and teachings on wealth, cf. 12:13–21; 16:9–13, 19–31); the socially, racially, and religiously ostracized: immoral women (cf. 7:36–50); Samaritans (cf. 9:51–56; 10:29–37; 17:11–16); lepers (cf. 17:11–19); tax collectors (cf. 3:12–13; 15:1–2; 18:9–14; 19:1–10); criminals (cf. 23:35–43); rebellious family members (cf. 15:11–32); the poor (cf. 6:20; 16:19–31); and Gentiles in general (cf. 13:29; 14:23).
Luke records the eye witness memories of Mary and also her genealogy (i.e. 3:23–38). His Gospel is based on interviews and investigative research (cf. 1:1–4).
According to historical accounts, Luke was a native of Antioch of Syria. He was a physician; a single man; a close associate of the apostle Paul; he wrote from Achaia; and died at age 84 in Boeotia (East central Greece, Northwest of Attica).
Luke used terms related to medicine, cures, diseases, etc. at least 300 times. Also, Mark’s negative comments about physicians in Mark 5:26 are omitted in the parallel in Luke 8:43 (perhaps as a “professional courtesy”).
Luke’s Gospel is primarily targeted to Gentiles (non-Jewish people):
- It explains Jewish customs.
- The gospel extends to all people (cf. 2:10).
- It quotes prophecies which refer to “all flesh” (cf. 3:5–6 which is a quote from Isaiah 40).
- The genealogy goes back to Adam (i.e. affecting all humans, cf. 3:38).
- It has many examples of God’s love for Gentiles (e.g. Luke extends the boundaries of those welcomed to the Messianic banquet, 13:29).
- It uses Old Testament examples that announce God’s love for Gentiles (cf. 2:32; 4:25–77).
Luke’s Great Commission asserts that forgiveness must be preached to all nations (cf. 24:47).
All of the Gospels were written to target specific groups of people for the purpose of evangelism (cf. John 20:30–31)
1. Matthew to Jews
2. Mark to Romans
3. Luke to Gentiles
4. John to all peoples
Luke uniquely mentions the mission of the Seventy (cf. 10:1–24). For the rabbis, 70 was the number denoting all the languages of the world (cf. Gen 10). By Jesus sending out 70 preachers of the good news, this would communicate that the gospel is for all people.
Luke 21 is similar to, but slightly different from, Matt. 24 and Mark 13, concerning the imminent return of Christ and the end of the world. However, Luke speaks of the progress of world evangelization, which takes time for the church to accomplish (cf. 24:47).
Also Luke (like Paul) emphasizes that the Kingdom of God is here now in seed form (cf. 10:9, 11; 11:20; 17:21), but is fully realized only at the return of Christ in a future consummation.
Luke quoted the OT more sparingly than Matthew, and when citing OT passages, he nearly always employed the LXX, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures.
Furthermore, most of Luke’s OT citations are allusions rather than direct quotations, and many of them appear in Jesus’ words rather than Luke’s narration (2:23, 24; 3:4–6; 4:4, 8, 10–12, 18, 19; 7:27; 10:27; 18:20; 19:46; 20:17, 18, 37, 42, 43; 22:37).
Starting with 9:51, Luke devoted 10 chapters of his narrative to a travelogue of Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem. Much of the material in this section is unique to Luke.
Jesus’ journey to the cross is the heart of Luke’s gospel, and it features a theme Luke stressed throughout: Jesus’ relentless progression toward the cross to bear the sins of His people.
This was the very purpose for which Christ had come to earth (cf. 9:22, 23; 17:25; 18:31–33; 24:25, 26, 46), and His purpose would not be thwarted. The saving of sinners was His whole mission (19:10).
As we read Luke and Acts together in 2011, let’s remember Luke’s perspective and realize that he, like us, never saw Jesus in the flesh. He wrote as a second generation believer. He wants us to understand the facts of Jesus’ life and ministry on earth and to know that JesusChrist is God, our Savior, and our eternal King.
The gospel of Christ is historical; it is real, it is factual, it is supported by eyewitness testimony as well as external evidence. The gospel is life-changing and powerful to all who believe unto salvation. God’s Word changes our thoughts and therefore it changes our lives.
Looking forward to our journey together,