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Faithlife Corporation

Good is Enemy of the Best

Notes & Transcripts

“Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him as a guest. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he said. But Martha was distracted with all the preparations she had to make, so she came up to him and said, ‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do all the work alone? Tell her to help me.’ But the Lord answered her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things, but one thing is needed. Mary has chosen the best part; it will not be taken away from her.’” [1], [2]

A saying frequently heard among the faithful living in the southern United States asserts, “Good is enemy of the best.” It is a pointed way of saying that it is possible to settle for what is good while sacrificing what is best. Settling for what is good, though less than the best, means that we are willing to accept what is inferior. In our text, we have the account of Jesus arriving at a home where he was to be entertained. Two sisters lived in this home—one sister was eager to honour the Master through providing the expected hospitality; the other sister seized the opportunity afforded by Jesus’ presence to spend time listening to the Master. One of the sisters was commended for choosing what was best; the other was tacitly rebuked for choosing what was less important.

Charles Hummel penned a booklet that popularised a phrase that was known among Christians, though not used as often as it should have been. The title of the book in question was “Tyranny of the Urgent.” [3] The booklet addressed the failure to prioritise needs in our lives. Our lives are incessantly invaded by urgent demands. Dinner is interrupted by the incessant ringing of the phone; we feel compelled to answer because it might be important. So, we set aside the important need for family time enjoying conversation and a meal to answer the urgent. We elevate the urgent over the important. Energy and vital resources are consumed by the urgent.

I contend that it is a feature of contemporary Christian life that we routinely choose the good at the expense of the best; we surrender to the urgency of the moment. We are undoubtedly doing “good” things, delivering “good” messages, living “good” lives; however, we are not choosing what is best; we are neglecting the best. The message this evening is designed to challenge us to review the choices we make and the manner in which we conduct our lives in order to discover what is best and to encourage those who hear to do that which is best.

One of the dark sayings Jesus delivered to those who thought to follow Him is that cautioning against presuming that doing good things will suffice to merit His commendation. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’” [MATTHEW 7:21-23]. How shocked many will be in that day! Indeed, Jesus says those appealing to their goodness will be many! Yet, they are deceived.

At Judgement, the Master warns that many people will appeal to their deeds and to their message—deeds that are undoubtedly “good” and a message that is “good.” Despite their protestations, they will be cast away from the Son of God because they chose what was good rather than what was best. They defined what was acceptable in their own sight rather than accepting God’s definition of “good.” Consequently, they will be condemned because they did not accept God’s standard of righteousness. These lost souls will fall under the censure that Paul pronounced: “Being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” [ROMANS 10:3, 4].

However, what can be said of those who are born from above? How shall these individuals fare in the choices exercised in life? Because they follow the Master, do they not have responsibility to choose what is best, refusing to settle for what is merely good? How shall they stand before the scrutiny of the Reigning Son of God?

One passage of the Word that should give pause to any serious Follower of the Way is that found in 1 CORINTHIANS 3:10-15. “According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

However one may attempt to interpret this particular portion of the Word, one truth stands out—choices in this life have consequences before the Son of God! What we choose will either result in glory to God, receiving His commendation, or our choices will result in loss of commendation because they exalted ourselves. Either our choices honour God, or they do not. Either we pursue His glory, or we pursue our own honour.

What a tragic statement concerning many of the religious leaders of Israel in the days in which the Master walked the dusty roads of Judea. Despite having performed many signs in their presence, many leaders did not believe in the Master. John says this failure to believe was “so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled.” Then, the Apostle of Love cites two passages found in the Book of Isaiah—ISAIAH 53:1 and ISAIAH 6:10.

“‘Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,

and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’

Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,

‘He has blinded their eyes

and hardened their heart,

lest they see with their eyes,

and understand with their heart, and turn,

and I would heal them.’”

As an aside of some significance, even the failure to believe the Master was prophesied long years before, demonstrating God’s sovereignty at work. How humbling!

John then adds this commentary: “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God” [JOHN 12:37-43]. Religious leaders, those responsible for revealing the mind of God to those who looked to them for direction, believed Jesus was the Christ but did not confess. The reason is revealed by John as loving glory that comes from man more than they loving the glory that comes from God! Is this not is a major factor motivating choices that religious people make to this day?

Martha chose what was inferior because of feeling the press of duty. Others choose what is inferior because they fear what someone might think of them. What justification can we give for opting for what is good rather than what is best?

CHOOSING THE BEST RELIGION — On one occasion I was told that approximately five new religions are started each day in the Bay Area of San Francisco. Having lived there and ministered in San Francisco, I can believe this assessment to be true. Multiply that statistic by the number of people claiming to be “spiritual,” though rejecting the Faith, and you realise that technically, each person can be a religion unto themselves. Within Christendom, we approach the Faith cafeteria style, picking what we like and discarding what we dislike; in effect, we witness a la carte religion as result of this approach.

Nevertheless, there are numerous major religions—Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism, Baha’i, Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Neo-Paganism, Rastafarianism and so forth. It is impossible for any one person to be expert on such a smorgasbord of religions. Then, under each heading of the various religions, there are subsets reflecting minority, sectarian views. Within Christianity, there are numerous sects emphasising differing doctrinal positions and a multiplicity of cults that distort essential truth to their own condemnation. How does one “choose” which religion is best.

Intuitively, we know that the religion we choose is not simply important—it is vital! Thus, people often agonise over choosing the religion they will follow. To simplify matters, I often advise people who ask how they should worship, that there truly are only two religions—“do” or “done.” We could just as accurately identify the two religions as “true” or “false”; however, I choose to focus on the manner in which the various religions direct adherents to approach God. Reducing the issue to the essentials, all religions endeavour to come before God, or at least come before a god of the religion’s own making. How the religion directs adherents to approach God distinguishes all into one of two categories. Either a religion attempts to compel the god sought to accept the worshipper, or the religion approaches on the basis of grace. Either a religion exalts the efforts of the worshipper, or the religion drives the worshipper to seek mercy from the one worshipped.

When reduced to such a simple matter, the answer to one’s search becomes easy—choose the religion that is true. Suddenly, the matter is reduced to a logical search for what is pleasing to God. At this point, I assume that one seeks to know the True and Living God rather than attempting to create a god of one’s own choosing. Jesus said, “Those who want to follow the will of God will know if what I teach is from God or if I teach my own thoughts” [JOHN 7:17]. [4] The Master then explains the criterion by which one can assess their search. “The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood” [JOHN 7:18].

Undoubtedly, there are moral people who follow religions other than the Christian Faith. Perhaps there are Muslims who truly want to do what is right and who endeavour to act conscientiously. No one questions that among Sikhs, Hindus and Buddhists are individuals who strive to act with integrity and do what is right. However, one need but ask how the god sought in these various religions is to be satisfied. If worshippers neglect one tenet or another of their religious practise, will the god they seek accept them? If they fail to maintain even one aspect of their religion, can they truly satisfy the god whom they seek?

The same question must be posed to professing Christians, including those in the various cults: if you neglect even one facet of your religious practise, will God accept you? Can the Jehovah’s Witness hope to be permitted to live on the restored earth if they fail to perform the prescribed duties delivered from Brooklyn? Can a conscientious Catholic hope to be redeemed if they fail to participate in auricular confession, fail to partake of the Mass or fail to recite the appropriate prayers at least once each year? For the professing Christian who holds to baptismal regeneration, whether administered to infants or to adults, will God accept the individual who fails to be baptised according to the views held by that individual?

What does the Bible say? A succinct answer is provided in Paul’s Letter to Roman Christians. “What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:

‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,

and whose sins are covered;

blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.’”

[ROMANS 4:1-8].

Salvation is of grace, according to the Word of God. You recall the Apostle’s statement found in the Ephesian encyclical, “By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” [EPHESIANS 2:8-10].

In a crucial sense, I have spoken in a decidedly strange manner in speaking of choosing one’s religion. In a sense, we don’t choose religion; rather, we are called by God. Redeemed people stood before the Cross of Christ and saw a sign over a door that read, “Whosoever will” [see REVELATION 22:17 KJV] Having entered through that door, these redeemed souls looked back and saw a sign on the inside of that same door that read, “Foreknown before the foundation of the world” [see 1 PETER 1:20]. We speak of choosing to believe; however, after the fact we know that God was at work calling us.

We rejoice in the Master’s words, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” [JOHN 10:7-11].

We humbly bow in amazement at His testimony, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd” [JOHN 10:16]. We don’t know who His sheep are; however, He knows and He calls. What we do know is that when they have come to faith in Him, they will seek out His people.

Jesus was at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus; we don’t know the precise timing of this particular visit. I suspect it was at a point perhaps midway through His earthly ministry; assuredly, it was before He had raised Lazarus from the dead. Jesus would visit in that home again after Lazarus had been raised from the dead. The account of that visit is provided in John’s Gospel.

“Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, ‘Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?’ He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me’” [JOHN 12:1-8].

What is interesting in light of the text is that it is obvious that Lazarus, Mary and Martha are followers of the Messiah. Despite choosing to follow Him, we note that Martha is still busy serving, Lazarus is prepared to learn and Mary worships. That activity that garnered commendation for Mary still marked her life. That which was good, though not the best, still marked Martha’s life. For the moment, it is sufficient to note that they clearly had made a choice to identify with the Master. They made their choice despite potential danger. The danger is witnessed when we read, “When the large crowd of the Jews learned that Jesus was there, they came, not only on account of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. So the chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus” [JOHN 12:9-11].

CHOOSING THE BEST CHURCH — I am speaking to professing Christians, for the most part. Having confessed Christ as Master, we are to seek out a church. Though technically we who are followers of the Master are appointed to do His will, we recognise that we speak of choosing where we will attend and where we will serve.

There are many reasons people may give for choosing the church they attend. Christians may choose a church for the sake of their children—they want to expose them to the truth or they want them to be influenced toward righteousness. Some choose a church for the sake of friendship—we are comfortable around some people, we long for their approval or acceptance. Many choose a church for social benefits—some see attendance at a particular church as beneficial in gaining status in the community or in climbing a particular social ladder. Others choose a church because it places few demands on them—perhaps they want to be religious, but they don’t particularly want to feel as though what is taught from the pulpit places undue demands on their time or on their talents. Undoubtedly there may be other reasons one could give for choosing to attend a particular congregation—inertia (we’ve always gone there and we don’t want to be bothered by having to choose another congregation), intellectual sloth (we don’t want to be challenged to think) or any of a number of additional reasons.

Perhaps the reasons mentioned are good reasons—they are assuredly “good” in the mind of those making the choice; but bear in mind the axiom that “good is enemy of the best.” What is the best choice for a church where we will invest our lives and seek to hear the voice of the Master? The easy answer is also the obvious answer—the best place to worship is the place that God appoints for us to be.

We must be impressed by the Word of the Lord through Moses to Israel when they were instructed about where they should worship. “You shall seek the place that the LORD your God will choose out of all your tribes to put his name and make his habitation there. There you shall go, and there you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, your vow offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herd and of your flock. And there you shall eat before the LORD your God, and you shall rejoice, you and your households, in all that you undertake, in which the LORD your God has blessed you.

“You shall not do according to all that we are doing here today, everyone doing whatever is right in his own eyes, for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the LORD your God is giving you. But when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety, then to the place that the LORD your God will choose, to make his name dwell there, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present, and all your finest vow offerings that you vow to the LORD. And you shall rejoice before the LORD your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male servants and your female servants, and the Levite that is within your towns, since he has no portion or inheritance with you. Take care that you do not offer your burnt offerings at any place that you see, but at the place that the LORD will choose in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I am commanding you” [DEUTERONOMY 12:5-14].

Notice the repetition in the Lord’s command. “You shall seek the place that the LORD your God will choose.” “There you shall go.” “There you shall bring your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution that you present.” “There you shall eat before the LORD your God.” “There you shall bring all that I command you.” “There you shall offer your burnt offerings.” “There you shall do all that I am commanding you.” “There” is the place that God directs, and not the place that you choose. The principle applies even under the terms of the New Covenant.

The summary statement that follows the account of the message delivered at Pentecost reads, “Those who accepted what Peter said were baptised. That day about 3,000 people were added to the group” [ACTS 2:41]. [5] Perhaps someone dissents from applying the verse in this manner, arguing that there was only one congregation precluding participating in another assembly for worship. Consider the teaching of the Apostle to the Corinthian congregation.

Addressing the matter of spiritual gifts, Paul summarises with this statement, “All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills” [1 CORINTHIANS 12:11]. Then, he teaches that the Body of Christ is composed of various members, just as the human body is made up of differing members. Again, Paul summarises, “God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose” [1 CORINTHIANS 12:18]. Finally, Paul states, “God has appointed in the church” [1 CORINTHIANS 12:28], indicating that one’s presence in the assembly is not due to serendipity, but the result of sovereign choice.

God chooses your gift and appoints where that gift is to be exercised. He seeks to glorify His Name through you in that place where He appoints you to worship and serve. Your presence is not accidental; God Himself appointed you to build others, to encourage others and to console others [see 1 CORINTHIANS 14:1].

It is an axiom of the Faith that we are responsible to seek the will of the Lord in all things, including where we shall worship. We can be certain that God will not appoint us to worship where the truth is distorted or even ignored. God will not appoint us to worship where His Name is dishonoured. God will not appoint us to worship where He is incidental and the act is of greater importance than He Himself. Is this not the basis for the apostolic command, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” [1 CORINTHIANS 10:31]? The principle is expanded when Paul writes the Colossians, “Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” [COLOSSIANS 3:17].

Surely, where our lives are planted and those whom we permit to instruct us in the Word fall under this rubric. Individually, we are taught in the Word to present our best to the Lord. This is why we dress up to come before the Lord. This is the reason we prepare diligently before we perform a task on behalf of the congregation. This fact accounts for the necessity of showing respect through waiting quietly before the Lord whenever we gather for worship.

We Christians invest more energy and thought in selecting a physician, or a mechanic, than we do in finding where we should worship. We want the best physician possible to tend to our bodies, even though these bodies are decaying daily. We want the best mechanic we can find to work on our vehicles, despite the fact that we know the car or truck will wear out. However, we are more reactionary than we are proactive in discovering the will of the Lord in finding the place of worship that will honour Him. Again, good is enemy of the best.

CHOOSING THE BEST SERVICE — Within the congregation of the Lord, there are always jobs that require filling. With time, church leaders tend to assume the role of job recruiters, seeking out people to fill the jobs and to fulfil the duties that the congregation have assumed are necessary to continue church life as it is known. The attitude appears to be, “We have this position, and somebody has to fill it.” This approach to church life has always seemed topsy turvy in my estimate.

I hold the opinion that there should be a sunset provision for every committee and for each job. If a committee can no longer be justified, the committee should be disbanded. Seldom will committee members disband the committee; the church as a whole will be required to act. Similarly, when a job can no longer be justified, then there should be no effort to fill that particular position within the congregation. When nobody is willing to fill the job, let it go. Does this imply a risk that church life could become chaotic or uncomfortable? Absolutely!

As an example, if the church building is to be cleaned by volunteers and nobody signs up for the task, perhaps the refusal to participate in the duty says that those gathering have little pride in the facilities. Perhaps it would benefit them to worship in a messy auditorium for a time. There is a risk that some visitors will leave in disgust after one service; but the long-term impact on the congregation may be more positive than negative. Either the assembly will accept responsibility to care for the house of God, or they will dwindle and die. If they take joy in worshipping in a neat facility, then a positive transformation can come out of the action.

The same thing can be said of every task that makes the church a welcoming place. Kitchen duties, clean-up after the morning coffee time, clearing the parking area of snow and ice, maintaining the approach to the building—all are tasks demanding participation by all.

Alternatively, if these tasks are ignored, it says to visitors “We don’t care.” Soon, the church will gain the deserved reputation of apathy. Those approaching the building will catch the distinct whiff of death wafting over the group. It becomes well-nigh impossible to maintain passion or excitement—even about the Good News of Christ’s salvation—when the congregational attitude fairly shouts indifference. Under those conditions, it is fair to say that if the congregation shrivels and dies—and it will, perhaps it is best to let it disappear since they had scant desire to honour the Lord with their time.

What about ministries, as we are prone to call them? We received a charge from the Master: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” [MATTHEW 28:19, 20]. Surely, this means we are responsible to extend the Kingdom of God by every means possible. Again, the Risen Saviour charged those who would follow Him, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” [ACTS 1:8]. Shouldn’t a congregation initiate “ministries?”

The closest thing to eternal life, other than eternal life, is a church committee or ministry. We initiate a “ministry,” never realising that a ministry can outlive its purpose. It was de rigueur in an earlier day to have a bus ministry. However, churches learned that a bus ministry required teachers for the children brought into the services, bus captains, drivers and even mechanics. All these required commitment. Lack of commitment ensured the death of many bus ministries.

Not every activity called a ministry needs to be continued ad infinitum. Nevertheless, each Christian needs to fulfil his or her ministry that was received from the Holy Spirit! When you were saved, the Spirit of God gifted you with a unique gift. That gift was entrusted to you so that you could invest it in the life of the Body. Your responsibility is to fulfil that particular responsibility arising from the gifting of the Holy Spirit. When you fulfil the service God entrusted to you, you will build, encourage and console your fellow believers. Having said this, each believer bears responsibility before the Lord to perform those routine tasks that ensure God is not disgraced and that the service of the Lord is not hindered. Again, each member of the Body is to be ready to fulfil those routine tasks that ensure a service honours the Lord and ensures that those exploring worship are not repelled.

What is important to note is that the fulfilment of the ministries assigned by the Spirit of God arise from worship in the presence of the Son of God. An example of this truth is revealed in the call of Isaiah. “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;

the whole earth is full of his glory!’

“And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!’

“Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.’

“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me.’ And he said, ‘Go’” [ISAIAH 6:1-9].

No one is prepared to serve who is not prepared to worship. Until we have worshipped, we cannot know what pleases the Master. Therefore, Isaiah learned the will of God as he worshipped. Likewise, seated at the feet of Jesus, listening to Him, Mary was prepared to serve. Martha, busy at what she thought to be necessary duties, was unprepared to serve. We tend to look at the busyness of people, judging their suitability to serve by how involved they are. If we are looking for those who will serve, we should be reviewing their knowledge of the Master—knowledge gained through time spent at His feet.

CHOOSING THE BEST LIFE — One famous preacher has published a book entitled, “Your Best Life Now.” [6] The book is a self-help manual as indicated by the sub-title: “7 Steps to Living at Your Full Potential.” The seven steps may be summarised as:

1. Enlarge your vision;

2. Develop a healthy self-image;

3. Discover the power of your thoughts and words;

4. Let go of the past;

5. Find strength through adversity;

6. Live to give;

7. Choose to be happy.

As is evident, the book is in the genre of “The Power of Positive Thinking,” delivering the Word Faith message.

Speaking graciously, though seeking to be candid, if you are not a follower of the Saviour, this is quite likely your best life now. For there is nothing beyond that holds any hope of joy for you. Jesus spoke very pointedly of those who do not know the Son when he said, “Whoever believes in [the Son] is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God” [JOHN 3:18-21]. John appends this commentary, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” [JOHN 3:36].

If, however, you are a follower of the Master, this is not, nor shall it ever be, your best life now. A far better life awaits the child of God. Jesus warned His followers, “In the world you will have tribulation” [JOHN 16:33]. This blunt statement anticipates the Apostle’s warning, “All who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” [2 TIMOTHY 3:12, 13]. We are not currently living in Paradise. In fact, the conscientious Christian faces opposition because she or he is a follower of the Christ!

Jesus warned, “I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake” [MATTHEW 10:16-22].

Peter contrasts our present situation with that to come when he begins his first letter. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” [1 PETER 1:3-9]. This is the reason Paul could say, “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” [PHILIPPIANS 1:21].

Martha had sacrificed the permanent on the altar of the temporary. Perhaps she had done so unwittingly; but she had done so, nevertheless. Mary was looking toward eternity; Martha was focused on the immediate. Consequently, Martha let a golden opportunity slip away. I’ve spoken to you, believing that “good is enemy of the best” and believing that God longs for His own to choose what is best. What about your religion? Is it the best? Or is it decidedly inferior in the sight of God? What about the church you attend? Is it the best? Is it the one to which God appointed you? Or is it inferior because it was the one you chose despite knowing His will? As to the service you now perform in the Name of the Master, is it the best service? Or is it a service that is better described as a duty, and thus, inferior? Finally, is this your best life now? Or do you live in the hope of the resurrection, knowing that you have a home prepared in Heaven?

If you are redeemed by the grace of God in Christ the Lord, your best life lies in the future. Know that Jesus, the Son of God, came to earth, lived a sinless life and then presented His life as a sacrifice because of your sinful condition. God testifies to all who will receive His Word, “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” [ROMANS 5:6-8]. Now, God calls us to faith in the Risen Son of God. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” [ROMANS 10:9, 10].

And our prayer for each one is that they would receive this message, believing the Son of God so that they are born from above and into the Family of God. Do it now. Amen.

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers, 2001. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[2] The NET Bible First Edition (Biblical Studies Press, 2006)

[3] Charles Hummel, Tyranny of the Urgent (InterVarsity Press, 1994)

[4] GOD’S WORD Translation (Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, MI 1995)

[5] GOD’S WORD

[6] Joel Osteen, Your Best Life Now (FaithWords, New York, NY 2004)

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