Great question. Just to set the foundation scripturally for this question we can look at Mary and Martha. Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus were good friends of Jesus. He often used their house as a respite to get away from the crowds and relax among friends. That in itself, is an important characteristic of Jesus that we often miss. He wants a PERSONAL relationship with you and me. Not a superficial one, not a religious one, not a politically correct one and NOT a convenient one where we call upon Him and tell Him what we need and what we want Him to do! We can actually see all these truths in His relationship with this family. “Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home.  She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord's feet, listening to His word.  But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’  But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things;  but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’“ (Luke 10:38-42) Please note carefully what Jesus said to Martha, “but only one thing is necessary,” that is for ALL of us my dear brothers and sisters. That “one thing” is what this study is all about!
We are all familiar with this family and have heard many teachings but have you received the truth in this teaching and allowed it to transform your life? First off let me say that Martha’s desire to serve Jesus was not wrong. However when “our agenda” comes before the Lord, there is a major problem! The other conflict we see here are the personalities of Mary and Martha, they are very much opposite in nature. They both loved Jesus but their personalities and interactions with people were very different. Mary recognized the power and authority of Jesus and desperately refused to let circumstances interfere with her listening to Him and taking in every word He said. Martha on the other hand wanted to take care of his physical needs. Being a servant is a good thing but one with this gifting often misses the personal relationship and may neglect the necessity for “sitting at the feet of Jesus” to be filled, renewed, refreshed and to be taught! It can be easy to fall in love with serving and that actually becomes an idol of pride in our lives. Jesus addressed this to the Church of Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-5 when He warned them of their sin. “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:4)
Want proof? It’s in the text! Martha actually was rebuking the Lord for not sending Mary into the kitchen to help her! “...and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’ Notice that first she accuses Jesus of not caring and then presumes she has corrected Him to the point He has to agree with her, then tells Him what to do! Wow! We are all so guilty of this in one way or another. If you don’t think you’ve ever done this I would challenge you to examine some of your prayers, or how you treat other people. Do you think you know better than they do what they should be doing? Is your focus on your plan and how to get it done? Have you ever considered that your plan may not be God’s plan? Have you ever realized that it is not our place to tell God what to do but to be obedient to what He teaches? That never occurred to Martha because she didn’t take the time, as Mary did, to listen and learn from Him.
There is something very special about the way Jesus responded to Martha. ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things;  but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’ Let’s break this down so we really understand what Jesus was saying. When Jesus repeats something twice we need to really pay attention. He was making sure He had Martha’s attention because He was also going to teach her that her perspective of the situation was not correct. The word “worried” means to be anxious and troubled with many cares or concerns. It also points to her wanting to promote her interests rather than what may concern or benefit others who are present. Wait, it gets worse. Jesus points out that she is bothered by so many things. The word bothered actually means to make a noise or an uproar, her thoughts are turbulent and she is causing great confusion and creating a disturbance because she is so conflicted by her desires. In other words, Martha is creating a scene to try and get everyone to do what she wants done regardless of anyone else’s desire; even the desires of Jesus.
I’m sure this response caught Martha totally off guard but Jesus then used the moment of silence to teach her that “listening” and “entering into a relationship with Him” was the most important part of this whole visit and Mary was doing just that. She had chosen to honor Jesus and to seek His truth. It is because of Mary’s desire to draw near to Him every opportunity given to her that she hears and understands what even the disciples missed. This simple truth laid the foundation that held her steady turning the turbulent times that were ahead.
So my dear friends, let’s review the question we started with, “Can you accept when your control of your life is being challenged or are you willing to submit to the leadership of the Holy Spirit?” Can you trust in the Holy Spirit to defend you when you are attacked and have peace just as Mary did?
I started with the story of Mary and Martha for a specific reason. I have been thinking a lot about what made the disciples different (not only the Apostles but all the believers who gave up what little they had to follow the teachings of Jesus even after His crucifixion). They were very different from the Sanhedrin, the Sadducees and the Pharisees, the religious leaders of those days. What made Jesus and His followers so different? And do those who call themselves believers today have that same transformation that gives clear vision and trust to walk on the narrow way as Jesus instructed?
Jesus taught His disciples, "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.” (John 15:10) "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing *." (John 15:5) So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;  and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free." (John 8:31-32) "He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him." (John 14:21)
In this instance I felt led to state verse 10 first. Why? Sometimes we need to hear that Jesus loves us and WANTS to be in a personal relationship with us. Jesus uses a very personal illustration of His relationship with His Father. He kept His Father’s commandments, which were given to all the Jewish people through the Torah and the Prophets and the Writings that we call the Old Testament. Even if the Jewish people were not observant Jews they knew what the laws of God were. They weren’t suggestions. Through Moses the Lord gave very detailed instructions on how the people could be blessed or cursed. I greatly encourage you to read Deuteronomy 28 as a start to a great journey of understanding into the heart of God. So Jesus taught that because He loved His Father He was obedient to everything His Father told Him to do, resulting in an intimate relationship. Therefore, we are expected to have that same relationship with Jesus Christ in order to abide in an intimate relationship with Him. He has already given us the Holy Spirit to reside within us. How much more intimate can He get? "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; “ (John 17:22) This is His desire for each one of us. Our Lord desires to be in an ACTIVE love/covenant with you and me, that is the result of surrender/submission of a bondservant. That intimacy that comes through obedience makes the conditional become reality. If that relationship is truly real we will be lead by the Holy Spirit and we will be set free from the death of sin and deceit. We will see truth in the light of Scripture. I’m not saying we will be perfect but we will have understanding of the times and will not want to walk in the flesh (to place ourselves in a position of power) but we will desire to seek the leading of the Holy Spirit in ALL things. Living in this manner we will be walking out one of my favorite passages of scripture, “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.” (Psalms 119:105)
I wondered for years why Jesus didn’t say in verse 5 that He was the root and we were the branches but then I realized that we had to understand Him through the analogy of the grapevines in a vineyard, which is very different from the anatomy of a tree. I don’t know if you’ve ever grown grapes. Growing up my grandmother had a grape arbor that ran between her house and ours. Out of the root grows a vine, not a trunk. So Jesus was using very specific terms and illustrations that the Jews would understand. God is the root and Jesus is divinely connected to the root as the vine. Each branch can only come from the vine and will then produce grapes if it is healthy. If it is not fed properly it does not produce healthy grapes and it is pruned (cut off) and thrown away. There are two truths here we need to understand. The first is that even though we may be connected to the vine (Jesus) if we neglect the nutrients (Scripture, prayer, obedience and a loving relationship with Jesus), we are going to be non-productive and our fruit will neither be sweet or abundant to bless others, in other words there will be no fruit of the Spirit. The second truth is that we cannot do any of these things on our own, it has to be done by the Holy Spirit and we receive it because we are in right alignment with the Lord.
What made the teachings of Jesus so different that the religious leaders were opposed to Him? Why all the conflict? Didn’t they also teach the Torah? Yes, but there was a major difference that was very evident. The religious leaders had turned away from application of the truth of the Scriptures to following the traditions of man so that they were the rulers and they told God basically what He could or could not do in their society (or so they thought). Some of the sects of the leaders did not even believe in miracles or in resurrection. They simply believed that when you died that was the end of life. In addition, as much as they hated the Romans, the Romans gave them complete authority over the Jewish people and the Temple so they became “rulers” and elevated themselves to a position of power. Are you beginning to see the problem? I pray the Holy Spirit opens up understanding to you because we are living in the same deception today and most people are comfortable following a dead religion without power.
When Jesus taught, the truth of what the Scriptures truly meant came alive and exposed the religious leaders of their deceit and corruption. But greater still, it brought the people into a relationship with the Living God, the One True Almighty God. God sent Jesus to be the Light in a dark world to expose sin and unrighteousness. "While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world." (John 9:5) Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." (John 8:12)
Many followed Him to receive miracles and were greatly excited when He would feed the masses with a few loaves and fish, but when it came to taking a stand with Him, they all fled out of fear. They had all deserted Jesus except for John who accompanied Jesus’ mother Mary throughout the proceedings and crucifixion. Have you ever wondered about that? (Please keep in mind that Jesus also warned them that this was going to take place in John 16:32-33, "Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.  These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." I believe that they had to be broken completely. They had to be stripped of all they thought they knew and understood (traditions of man) so that they would be transformed according to the truth into the new man. Everything they had come to believe in the 3 ½ years of walking with Jesus was now gone in their minds because they had relied on human understanding throughout their entire time with Jesus. So, while they had built a personal relationship and been given insight into the things of the Kingdom of God, they had to be broken, just as you and I need to be broken, to be able to be receptive to the Holy Spirit’s leadership. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
When the same power that was in Christ was evident in the Apostles great persecution came because the rulers knew their time was limited, their sin was continually being exposed. Please understand that the Apostles didn’t expose the Sanhedrin and Pharisees sins, they were filled with so much fear that they actually were exposing themselves!
“Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:  Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord;  seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” (2 Peter 1:1-4)
God has a divine plan for every believer. First of all we are to become bondservants. And there lies the struggle in today’s believers. Many are willing to serve but on their own terms of when and what positions. A true bondservant does not seek position or fame. While they may be the leaders they are submitted to being led by the Holy Spirit and being a vessel to bring God glory. “To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours”, reminds us that the power is of God and not of ourselves. It does not mean that we will see the same kind of miracles and healings that God performed through the Apostles but it does mean that His power will work through us as He desires in any way He desires. Verse 3 reminds us that God is Jehovah Jireh, God our Provider, nothing is too difficult for Him. `Ah Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and by Your outstretched arm! Nothing is too difficult for You,” (Jeremiah 32:17) By His grace He has given us the Holy Spirit which will lead us in the right path, no matter how difficult. "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you.” (Isaiah 43:2)
Listen to these words the Lord gave to Isaiah the Prophet, “The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.  The Lord GOD has opened My ear; And I was not disobedient Nor did I turn back.  I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.  For the Lord GOD helps Me, Therefore, I am not disgraced; Therefore, I have set My face like flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed.  He who vindicates Me is near; Who will contend with Me? Let us stand up to each other; Who has a case against Me? Let him draw near to Me.  Behold, the Lord GOD helps Me; Who is he who condemns Me? Behold, they will all wear out like a garment; The moth will eat them.” (Isaiah 50:4-9) This, of course, was prophesying of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.
Now let’s look at the words of Jesus regarding His ministry and see the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. "I have many things to speak and to judge concerning you, but He who sent Me is true; and the things which I heard from Him, these I speak to the world." (John 8:26) So Jesus said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.  And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him." (John 8:28-29) Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.” (John 5:19) "For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak.  I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me." (John 12:49-50) "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” (John 14:10)
If we take the Word of God seriously these are convicting statements that should have great impact on our lives. Do they? Jesus asked that same question in Isaiah after the prophecy. Now listen to the next verse, “Who is among you that fears the LORD, That obeys the voice of His servant, That walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.” (Isaiah 50:10) The ONLY light comes through the Lord Jesus Christ. Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, "I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life." (John 8:12)
I hear the Lord bringing correction to those who are called by His Name. Most prayers today are our petitions and asking the Lord to show us how to carry out our plans. I believe the Apostles saw the error in this when they became overwhelmed in ministry immediately after the baptism of the Holy Spirit of fire which filled them with known tongues to be vessels of the Lord to reach all people. (Jesus had given them the filling of the Holy Spirit before He ascended to heaven. So Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you."  And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said* to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21-22)) “So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, "It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.  "Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task.  "But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word." (Acts 6:2-4)
Bear with me here a minute so we get the whole picture. When Jesus prayed to the Father prior to His crucifixion He clearly stated how a life of a believer was to be lived out. "But now I come to You; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves.  I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.  I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;  that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17:13-21) (I highly encourage you to read all of chapter 17.)
Brothers and sisters, I truly believe that the church today does not teach the true meaning of sanctification because they have watered down the Word of God to such an extent that it does not apply in their theology. Sanctification is a necessary work of the Holy Spirit if we are going to fulfill the call which the Lord has called us. Each one has a special place in the body of believers but the sanctification is the same for EVERY believer! So let’s look at what it truly means to be sanctified. The simple definition used mostly today is to be set apart. While that is true, in the natural thinking of man, one can be set apart and do works without any change in his thinking, his actions, his words or his life. This is NOT sanctification according to scripture. Let’s look at the definition of true sanctification. We first must be willing to consecrate ourselves to the will of God. What is consecrate? To willingly submit our entire being to His leadership. 2 Corinthians 5:15, “and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.” We acknowledge that without Him we can do nothing of spiritual or eternal value (John 15:5) and that we rightfully do not own anything. Yes, everything...our house, our spouse, our children, our jobs, our time, our vehicles, our money. Please read Luke 18:18-27 again. Remember the widow’s gift? Luke 21:1-4 - “And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury.  And He saw a poor widow putting in two small copper coins.  And He said, "Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all of them;  for they all out of their surplus put into the offering; but she out of her poverty put in all that she had to live on."
Sanctification is consecrating ourselves and everything in our lives over to God. It is separating from profane things and submitting to His leadership. It is to be purified and freed from the guilt of sin (repentance, cleansing by the blood and deliverance of the strongholds in our lives), renewal of the mind to learn the things of God and be obedient. To truly want to be a holy vessel for God’s use. “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1) “Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance,  but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior;  because it is written, "YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY." (1 Peter 1:13-16) The Apostles and believers lived in this way as best they could because of their great love for Him. Most of them were very poor, they didn’t pray for riches, their desire was to share with others the miracle of new life they had received when they believed He was the Messiah! They became a family and cared for one another. Their lives CHANGED! "Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE," says the Lord. "AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you. And I will be a father to you, And you shall be sons and daughters to Me," Says the Lord Almighty. (2 Corinthians 6:17-18)
That is the challenge the Lord has laid out for you and me today. Is there any change in how we live now than before we said we accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior? Is the fire still burning to spend time with Him, to love on Him, to hear His heart for you? Have you received the sanctification that comes from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?
Abba Father, thank You for Your Word today. It is challenging and life changing. Please forgive us for our affiliation with the world so that we are not separated from the influences of the world so that we can be the vessel you desire us to be. We bow our knee and repent of our sin and thank You that You hear us and have granted us forgiveness as we continually are open and honest before You to acknowledge our sin. Thank You for the washing away of our sin by the blood of Jesus Christ. Without His sacrificial blood we would still be in sin and would be lost. Open our eyes to see Him high and lifted up, sitting at Your right hand, interceding for us. It humbles me to know that I am known by You and prayed for to guide me in Your ways. Here I am Father, I love You with all of my heart and ask You to do a new work in my heart today that rivers of living water would flow to others around me as I lift You up. Thank You Lord Jesus for Your amazing love that sustains me daily! All this I pray in the blessed name of Jesus Christ! Amen.