Most believers are familiar with the Biblical story that contrasts Martha’s busyness with Mary’s choice to sit at Jesus’ feet. There is no complicated theology here, just a simple story. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Biblical passage challenge people’s sense of practicality the way this one does.
The Bible gives much insight into the love and goodness of God, and these truths are incredibly positive and reassuring. But it’s a mistake to isolate personally gratifying scriptures and treat these truths as if this is all the Bible has to say about God; as if he is always this way and cannot be any other way.
The definition of cherry-picking is to choose and take only the most beneficial items from what is available. This approach to the Bible is a temptation that is quite easy to fall into, but it results in a distorted view of God himself, and an inaccurate assessment of where we personally stand with him. If we value an honest and healthy relationship with the Lord, we must persistently seek and welcome everything that God says to us throughout the scriptures.
A mystery is something that is veiled and not easily understood. The word mystery is used over twenty times in the New Testament. One example is in the last part of Ephesians chapter five. This passage is expounding on the relationship between husbands and wives, but at the end it takes a surprising turn and finishes with an astounding revelation.
This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:32 ESV)
Paul reveals an amazing truth, referring to it as a mystery. But this doesn’t mean that God is trying to keep something from us. It’s a mystery because it’s something so wonderful and so profound that it’s difficult for us to grasp. It’s so beyond our ability to comprehend that God must reveal it to us by his Spirit.
Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to earth to seek and to save that which was lost 1. However, in the Bible we never see Jesus inviting people to pray a prayer to “receive” salvation. Throughout the four gospels we see Jesus calling people to follow him, and it’s this commitment to follow Christ that leads to salvation 2. How we understand and respond to Jesus’ call will have eternal implications.
Let’s examine some Biblical examples of Jesus calling people to follow him, and the different ways that they responded.
The four gospels of the Bible give us amazing insight into the life of Jesus. We get to see the Son of God living among us as the Son of Man. He models perfectly what it means to love God and to love others. He also models perfect obedience that honors God 1. For all eternity we will marvel at how God’s amazing love caused Him to make the ultimate sacrifice that restores us to right relationship with Him.
As believers we should diligently study the gospels and take to heart the example and teachings of Jesus that are recorded there. However, we are also called to engage in a right-now relationship with the risen Christ. In order to have a healthy relationship with Jesus, we must understand who he is right now, who he is beyond the gospels. Freezing Jesus in time and seeing him only as he was in the time of the gospels will have a negative effect on our present-day interaction with him.
It’s common for most churches to be led by an individual who is recognized as the senior pastor of that church, and that person is usually addressed as Pastor so-and-so, or sometimes just Pastor. This long-established practice is considered a way of showing love and respect. While love and respect are strongly encouraged by the Bible, addressing a select few within the church by official titles actually goes against the teaching of Jesus. Challenging a practice that is born out of good intentions may seem like nitpicking, but Jesus specifically addressed this issue for good reasons and we should give careful though to what he said rather than shrugging this off as something trivial.
If a doctor knows his patient has a life threatening disease that can be successfully treated, is he being negative if he tells them their condition, or is he negligent if he keeps quite? If someone knows there are dangerous road conditions ahead, are they being negative if they warn fellow travelers, or are they negligent if they keep quite? I think everyone would agree that in these life-or-death situations, the right thing, the responsible thing, would be to speak up and clearly communicate the truth.
However, in matters of eternal life or death, we don’t seem to have the same clarity. Today’s Christian culture seems to operate from a deep conviction that above all else God wants us to say positive things. This misconception has rendered the church impotent when it comes to speaking life-or-death truths that desperately need to be heard.