Mary and Martha hosted Jesus in their home, but Martha started to get annoyed, and she confronted Jesus. You know, when we read that story, we think, wow, that was pretty foolhardy of Martha to do that. But the story of Mary and Martha is oh so practical. We look around us and see others who aren't working quite as hard as we are, and we get annoyed just like Martha. But the point of this story isn't division of labor.
As Dr. R.C. Sproul points out, it's a division of priorities. We're going to continue now our study of the gospel according to St. Luke, and we're in the end of chapter 10. And I will be reading beginning at verse 38 and reading through verse 42. Now it happened as they went that he entered a certain village, and a certain woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. She had a sister called Mary who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His Word. But Martha was distracted with much serving as she approached Him and said, Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?
Therefore, tell her to help me. And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part which will not be taken away from her.
Again, this is a very brief passage, the one that is filled with profound significance as it gives us a word from Jesus Himself to His beloved friend, Martha, presumably there at Bethany. Again, this comes to us through the superintendence and inspiration of God the Holy Spirit, who is a God of total truth. And I ask you to receive it as such this morning.
Let's pray. Again, our Father and our God, we look to You as the fountainhead of all that is true and all that is good and all that is beautiful. And we pray that that truth which is revealed to us this day in this Your Holy Word may grip our souls and influence profoundly the way we live out our faith before You. For we ask it in Your name.
Amen. This morning's sermon is intended to be a very practical one, not one that's going to be heavy with theology or philosophy or that sort of thing. But we'll deal with some of the fundamental principles by which we are to live out the Christian life. We were told by Luke, and it happened as they went, that he entered a certain village.
Now let me stop here. There are some questions here. He doesn't tell us what the village was. He doesn't tell us how many of them went to the home, whether the whole group of disciples and Jesus came to Mary and Martha's house for dinner, or if all of the disciples went with Jesus to Bethany and then they separated and Jesus alone went to the home for supper. We don't know these details.
And so in many ways we have to guess. Presumably the Mary and Martha that are mentioned here are the Mary and Martha that we meet elsewhere, particularly in John's gospel, the brother of Lazarus whom Jesus raised from the dead, and they often hosted Jesus in their home at Bethany, just beyond the slope of the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem. So in any case, we're told that he entered this village, and a certain woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.
Presumably she's the older sister, as the house is assigned to her. And she had a sister called Mary who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard his word. The crux of the matter comes up in verse 40, but Martha was distracted with much serving. Now, what was the distraction? Was she distracted because she was left in the kitchen to prepare a meal for Jesus and for her sister and herself and brother perhaps, or even greater responsibility to prepare a meal to feed all of the disciples if it was the whole number that had come with Jesus into the home? Or is the service that is being in view here not simply the preparation of the meal, but perhaps the cleanup afterwards?
Vanessa and I were talking about this passage this week because she just glared at me because, no, I'm not going to say everything that we had in our course. But when we began our ministry at Ligonier, we began it as a study center in the mountains in western Pennsylvania, and much of the format of it was patterned after Francis Schaeffer's LaBrie. In fact, Dr. Schaeffer had a hand in helping us get that study center started, and we followed some of the practices that had been done in LaBrie, principally this, that our resident students stayed.
We had several families there that were host families, and the students would stay with the resident families and sleep in their homes and have meals at their tables. And every night at dinnertime, the topic of discussion would be theology around the table. Following the practice that Martin Luther had in the 16th century in Wittenberg where he would meet his students for what he called Tischreden, or table talk.
So now you know where the title of our magazine came from, table talk. Well, we would spend time after dinner, after the dishes were clear, continuing the discussions about theology around the table, while the women, the host wives, would retire to the kitchen to clean up the dishes. And on more than one occasion, as we would have staff meetings, the women would raise the question, now why is it that we don't have the students helping out with the dishes? And then we'd have to go to this text in the New Testament and explain to them that as important as it was to clean up after dinner, it was even more important to spend this time discussing the truths of God. Well, that message that had not yet gotten across to Martha, and so Martha was distracted with much serving. Now let me stop here in saying that service is an extremely important virtue in the Christian life. In fact, service is considered one of the means of grace.
The means of grace are those instruments, those things that God gives to his people to assist them and help them in their personal growth in righteousness and conformity to the person of Christ. And so we serve not simply to do good things, but as we serve each other and serve others in this world, we're aiding in our own spiritual growth, in our own sanctification. And so it's not a bad thing that Martha was so busily engaged and, as it were, distracted by service. But obviously, she was becoming more and more annoyed as she was left to do all the service while her sister was sitting out there having a nice, wonderful conversation with Jesus. So finally, her annoyance reaches its peak, and she comes to see Jesus. She approached him, and listen to what she said, Lord, so far so good, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore, tell her to help me. Lord, what's the matter with you? Lord, she comes and calls Jesus, Lord, and then proceeds to rebuke him and say, what's the matter with you? Why aren't you having my sister out here helping me instead of having me do all the work?
I want you to go tell her to give me a hand with these things. So now she's telling her Lord what he's done wrong and then now tells her Lord what he needs to do to correct the matter. So listen to Jesus answer. Martha, Martha, now if you've heard me preach on Matthew 7, you know the significance of this address. Because over in the other building when we were going through the Gospel of Matthew, I preached a sermon where at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, I said the scariest thing that Jesus ever taught was when He said at the end of that sermon that on the last day many would come to Him saying, Lord, Lord, didn't we do this in Your name? Didn't we do that in Your name?
And so on. And then He says to them, Depart from Me. I never knew you.
Please leave. I don't know who you are. And I pointed out on that occasion that there are about 15 times in sacred Scripture where people are addressed by the repetition of their name. Some of you will remember that. And that those workers of lawlessness who on the last day would claim to know Jesus, they would say on the last day not simply, Lord, but they said, Lord, Lord, indicating a deep personal relationship of affection as God addressed Moses that way, Jacob that way, Abraham that way, and so on through the Scriptures. Well, here there's only about five or six times in the New Testament where anybody is addressed by the repetition of their name. And this is one of them indicating that when Jesus rebuked Martha, He did it in the most tender fashion possible. He looked at her, Martha, Martha, you're worried. You're so troubled about many things.
I can see that. But you have to understand something. One thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part. Now notice that Jesus didn't say, Martha, Mary has chosen the good part and you've chosen the bad part. Jesus is not saying that serving the way she had been serving was a bad thing to do.
This is not a contrast but a comparative analysis. Basically what He's saying is what you have been doing, working to prepare all of these things and serving is a good thing. But the better thing, the higher thing, the higher calling is the one that Mary has undertaken.
Now what I want us to think about this morning is this. Why did Jesus say that? Why was it better that seemingly Mary neglected the regular duties of preparation and service to spend time in conversation?
Well, beloved, we know one thing. This was not chit-chat. This was not idle conversation. She was conversing with the Son of God.
She was attending His teaching. She was devoting herself to a means of grace that was far more powerful than even service itself. Let me refresh our memories a bit by going to the book of Acts in the early church. It gives a description of how things were going at the end of the second chapter of the book of Acts.
I'll read these words. After Peter's sermon, with many other words, he testified and exhorted them saying, Be saved from this perverse generation. And then those who gladly received His word were baptized.
And that day about 3,000 souls were added to them, and they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers. Now here in this little brief description, we get a clue as to how the first century church spent its time in worship and in the assembly. They came together, first of all, to devote themselves to the apostles' teaching, as well as for fellowship, as well as for the celebration of the Lord's Supper, as well as for the offering of prayers and the giving of the sacrifice of praise in worship. But one of the things that marked that early church was their dedication and devotion to the teaching of the apostles. You know, on Sunday morning, we don't just have worship. I believe and I think our whole session believes and our whole ministerial staff believes that the single most important thing that we do in this church is corporate worship on Sunday morning. There's nothing more important for our souls than to be here on Sunday morning for worship.
The author of Hebrews in chapter 10 exhorted the people of that day not to neglect the coming together in the assemblies of the saints. He realized that as a rule in this church, as well as other churches, that on any given Sunday morning, 25 percent of the members are absent. That could be they're out of town. It could be they're ill.
There's a host of possible reasons. But the average person is not sick one out of four weeks. But yet the average member of the church misses a quarter of the assemblies of worship for the people. And I remember when I was teaching in a seminary in Philadelphia that the president of that seminary was a former bishop from Australia. And he told a story one day about a curate that he had in the cathedral back in Australia. And one day the young curate came to work and he hadn't shaved. And so the bishop asked him, he says, why don't you shave?
And he said, well, every morning I get up and wait for the leading of the spirit. If the spirit leads me to shave, I shave. And if the spirit doesn't lead me to shave, I don't shave. And this morning when I got up, the spirit didn't lead me to shave. And so the bishop said to the young minister, he said, well, look, why don't you make it easier for yourself and for the spirit of God? Instead of traveling with the Holy Spirit every morning for directions on whether you should shave or not, why don't you, just as a matter of principle, decide to shave every morning?
And so the young man took it to heart. Now, what's the point of that little story? The point of that little story is this, that our attendance in church on Sunday morning should not have anything to do with whether we feel like it. God calls us to solemn assembly as His people, as His congregation, and we are to be here if we possibly can. And so I challenge you to make it a matter of principle.
Say no to the inclination to sleep in one out of four times. But be here and make sure that you're here not just for your soul but for the whole people of God who encourage each other by mutual presence and fellowship. But most importantly, I don't know about you, I need to be in worship on Sunday morning. I love to be in worship on Sunday morning, but not only do I love it, I need it.
You know, we don't have enough of it. It's not like we're overwhelmed with too much time in the presence of God and too much study of the things of God. Now, in addition to that, we've just started a new calendar year, and one of the things of great importance that we do at St. Andrews is offer a wide variety of courses of education for adults as well as for children in our Sunday school program.
And if you look in the bullet and you'll see the different courses that are available to you. Now, right now, we have approximately 25% of our people in Sunday school. Is that right, Kevin? Twenty-five percent.
That's one out of four. Now, maybe that's where those people are that don't come, you know, that they come to Sunday school instead of church. But again, if you notice the pattern, not only in the first century church but throughout church history, that people who grow in grace not only are always in worship, but they are devoted to study, to grow, to show themselves approved, not so that we can gain knowledge to be puffed up and arrogant and proud by our theological acumen or something like that.
And no, but we need to have our souls fed. So I'm suggesting to you, I'm urging you that you give all of Sunday morning to your Christian development, to Christian life, not only worship, but also make it a point to be involved in learning the things of God. This is what Jesus calls the better part. This is what Martha was doing. Martha said, I'm going to let the dishes get dirty for 15 minutes. I'm going to let some of these things that press upon me every day that have to be done, the chores and so on, I'm going to leave them be because Jesus is here.
And I have a chance now to learn from Him. And so while Martha was grousing and complaining and feeling annoyed at her sister, Mary was basking in the presence of Christ. That's how we grow. These are what we call the means of grace, again, that God has given to His people for their sanctification. I talk a lot about justification, and we can't be sanctified unless we're first justified.
But we're justified unto sanctification, that God saves us, that we might be changed, that we might be brought into conformity with Him. And I've told you this before, the Old Testament tells us, as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. And it's not that the Old Testament writer confused the organs of the brain and of the heart. We think that thought takes place in the brain.
Well, the Old Testament author understood that. When he says, as a man thinks in his heart, what he was getting at was this. We have all kinds of ideas that race in and around our mind and in one ear and out the other and so on. But then we have what are called core beliefs.
The word core is the word for heart. And so a core belief is one that gets beyond your immediate consciousness and penetrates into your heart, into the very core of your being. What you really believe is how you live. And that's why repentance in the New Testament is called changing your mind. Until we get the mind of Christ, we'll never begin to live like Christ. That's why Christian education is so important, not to pass a test, not to get a degree, but that our core thinking may be informed by the mind of Christ.
And so again, I ask that this week you will give serious consideration to increasing your study of the things of God and taking advantage of those courses that are made available to you here at St. Andrews. Finally, Jesus said, Mary has chosen that good part which will not be taken away from her. If we choose to spend that time with Christ, if we choose to devote ourselves to being His feet, to get everything we can from His teaching, whatever we get won't be taken away. That's God's promise for you. And when we concentrate on the teaching of Christ, when we sit at His feet, we will begin to arrange our priorities correctly. As Jesus says in Matthew 6, all these things will be added unto you. Today on Renewing Your Mind, we have heard a challenge to put Christ first in our lives.
This is from Dr. R.C. Sproul's verse-by-verse series through the Gospel of Luke. As we finish up chapter 10, we still have more than half of the book to go. So that means our resource offer today will be a helpful study companion for you through the rest of the series. Contact us today with a donation of any amount and we'll provide you with a digital download of Dr. Sproul's commentary on Luke. It's an opportunity to learn from a trusted teacher and theologian as he leads us through God's Word and shares his perspective on living faithfully for God's glory. You can request this digital resource with a donation of any amount to Ligonier Ministries. Our offices are closed today, but you can give your gift and make your request online at renewingyourmind.org. You know, I connected with Ligonier Ministries 32 years ago because my pastor shared his copy of Table Talk magazine with me.
And it's not a stretch to say that simple act was life-changing for me and for my family. That's why I would appreciate it if you would share this daily Renewing Your Mind program with your friends. Once you're at our website, look for the Share button right in the middle of the page. You can post a link to Facebook or Twitter or even email a link to a friend or family member. Look for that Share button at renewingyourmind.org and you may never know what impact that may have. Next week as we continue Dr. Sproul's study in the Gospel of Luke, we will concentrate on a simple prayer that Jesus taught His disciples. I hope you'll join us for that next Sunday here on Renewing Your Mind. Thank you.
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