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Day Sixty-One

Whom do you serve: Rules or The Ruler?

“…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve….” Joshua 24:15

            Two sisters: Mary and Martha – famous, yet perhaps even still underestimated in the fullness of what they truly convey.

I believe in a very real sense they represent two types of dependence. Indeed, I believe they clarify and address the issue posed by Paul’s question in Galatians 3:3: “Having begun [your new life spiritually] with the [Holy] Spirit, are you now reaching perfection [by dependence] on the flesh?”  I believe neglecting this question is a danger for all believers.  We begin our journey with Christ by faith, but as we proceed we allow works and the flesh to take the helm – and as a result we suffer great loss. Our dependence on the Spirit is transferred to burgeoning dependence on the flesh.  It is based on the misconception that the Holy Spirit will work among us on the basis of us doing what the Law demands, more than because of our believing or trusting on the message that we heard. (Gal 3:5)  We have then trusted our righteousness to be a product of our actions vice our faith in Jesus and the Gospel message.

Recall the story of the two sisters in Luke 10:38-42.  Jesus was coming to visit them in Bethany.  Martha was overly occupied with much serving and brought a complaint before Jesus about her sister and her lack of helpfulness.  I love the way my husband framed this in a recent sermon, “Martha was busy making sandwiches that the Lord hadn’t asked for.” Mary, however, was seated at the Lord’s feet and was listening to Him.

Now I have to confess, having been engaged in ministry over the last fifteen years I have seen the works mentality creep up in my own activity. Many times I have slid into a place where I’m sure I was making sandwiches that the Lord hadn’t called for.  It is in fact the very heart of the issue before us.  As a believer, a part of the Body, and one having a place within the Bride of Christ – my primary engagement is to be with the Lord.  He is the One to Whom we are betrothed, and all of our serving is to radiate out of our relationship to Him.  Another way to say that is, every serving that I do should flow out of obedience to Jesus and in the overflow of the abundance of His life in me. While there is perhaps no food shortage in the Body of sandwiches not ordered, there is indeed a shortage of the food that Jesus spoke of.  He said, I have food which you know nothing of. My food is to do the will of My Father.

Yet what we see in great volume within the Body of Christ is the same kind of service and serving that Martha was doing, which results in the greater works being left undone. Mary’s life seems to be aligned with the freedom spoken of in Galatians 4, speaking of the New Jerusalem, where there is a supernatural birth which gives rise to children of the free. This life is a product of living according to the Spirit of Life in Christ which sets us free from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:2). What we in the Body need to remember is that the covenant of promise (Abraham’s Destiny) supersedes the law.  The law came 430 years after the promise and its purpose was simply to build an awareness of our sin in preparation for the coming Messiah.

Recognize then, that the Law itself serves the purpose of the Messiah.  It causes us to see our need, though the law itself cannot save.  All of Martha’s sandwiches could not bring righteousness, for they only served her flesh. This is the reason she was angry with her sister – she wanted Mary to serve according to external rites so that she could glory in Mary’s subjection to the law and that wasn’t happening (Gal 6:12-14).  We are not justified and declared righteous by the law, but rather we are to rely on the Holy Spirit by faith and wait for the blessing and good for which our righteousness and right standing with God causes us to hope.  In other words, the law serves God – isn’t that what we should be doing too? Like Mary, or even like Ruth seeking the covering at the feet of her kinsmen redeemer, our true service and serving should be at the feet of our Master, waiting and receiving, and being awash in the fullness of His presence.  Not serving rules in bondage, but serving the Ruler of All – in freedom.

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