Martha was busy with “serving” Jesus. That is a good thing. Numerous Scriptures speak of the importance of serving the Lord. Nothing that Jesus said here diminishes that. But He pointed out to Martha that her sister Mary had chosen “what is better” — that is, she “sat at the Lord’s feet listening” to Him.
It is possible to be greatly involved in ministry, in active service to the Lord, and yet end up spiritually dry, caught in what one pastor called the “barrenness of busyness.” Effective service to the Lord is not the end in itself, but rather is something that proceeds from something “better” — that is, from a close, personal, relationship with Jesus Christ that you maintain daily. That, not service, not ministry, is the one thing that matters, the one thing from which all other Christian activities draw their inspiration, direction, and effectiveness.
Yes, Jesus later sent His twelve close disciples out to minister. But before that He brought them into close relationship with Him. He chose the twelve “that they might be with him.” And from that closeness with Him, the disciples were equipped to be sent out to minister for Him.
Before reading another sentence, please take a few moments right now and ask yourself: Am I living in a close relationship with my Lord Jesus Christ? Do I commune with Him often each day? Am I devoted to Him, or just to ministering for Him? Remember, Jesus hasn’t changed. He desired to “be with” His followers then, and He desires that with close fellowship with you now.
Peter and the other disciples got it right. As others drifted away from Jesus, they realized that it was Jesus alone who had the words of eternal life. And they committed themselves to following Him, listening to Him, learning from Him, serving Him, and (when ready) ministering for Him. Don't be like those early disciples who “turned back” from pursuing Jesus and following Him closely. Our place in eternity depends on our commitment to Him.
Three times Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” Three times Peter replied yes, He did love Him. Some bystanders asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment in the Law. His reply was: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38). If it is a preeminent thing to love God the Father, how can we not also deeply love His Son as the Father Himself does? — “You [Jesus] are my Son, whom I love” (Mark 1:11).
Jesus desired Peter’s love. He desires our love for Him too. Christianity is not at its heart a set of doctrines and codes of conduct (although it certainly is important and good to know the Bible and to live accordingly). But most importantly, our Christian faith is a love relationship with our Savior, not just mental consent to truths about Him. So it is proper to ask ourselves another question: Do I truly, deeply, with sincere devotion love Jesus? Or is my faith just a mental conception of Him?
I’ve entitled this message “Only One Thing Matters.” When our brief time on this earth comes to an end, all that will count beyond the grave is whether or not we have received the salvation that God offers through His Son to us sinful people.
And the words of Scripture make it very clear that there are not many roads to God, as some erroneously believe. No, the Bible states very clearly that there is only “one mediator between God and mankind,” and that is Jesus Christ. He said of Himself, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Again, we must ask ourselves a question: Have I trusted for my salvation entirely on God’s grace in the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ for our sins? There is no room for good works as a condition of salvation. By contrast, the Bible definitively declares, “By grace are ye saved through faith …  Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV) and “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Titus 3:5, KJV). Have you been forgiven your sins, reconciled to God, and made a child of God through sincere repentance for your sins and faith in Jesus Christ? If so, you have made the one decision that matters for all eternity.
Let me briefly reinforce that point one more time. The jailer in Philippi asked the apostle Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul told him the one and only thing that would do it — “Believe in the Lord Jesus.” Not your church, not your Christian friends and family, not a lifetime of good works. No, salvation is found only in the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Only through Him can we for all eternity become members of the family of God.
Great blessings come upon us as we place Jesus in His deserved central role in our lives. Once we were alienated from God the Father by our unforgiven sins. Now reconciled to Him by Jesus our Savior, we find that through Jesus “we have…access by one Spirit unto the Father” (Ephesians 2:18, KJV). We begin to sense and to adopt into our lives the wonderful mindset of the apostle Paul who said he resolved to make his central focus Jesus Christ and all that His death on the cross means for us.
Because of Jesus we can walk free of the guilt of our sins — “He himself bore our sins.” Because of Jesus we can receive divine healing of our diseases and infirmities — “By His wounds you have been healed.”
Give honor to the Son of God! Trust me, you won’t get out of balance by doing so, because God the Father is honored and glorified when Jesus is honored and glorified — “…in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11, ESV).
This is a key verse that reveals one of the fatal errors of every false religion. They diminish the person of Jesus Christ. Only Christians understand the importance of honoring “the Son just as they honor the Father.” Jesus is the Son of God, the Second Person of the holy trinity, and as such He is to be honored and worshiped even as God the Father is. As mighty as the angels of heaven are, even they are commanded by God the Father to worship Jesus His Son — “…when his firstborn Son came to earth, God said, ‘Let all the angels of God worship him’.” (Hebrews 1:6, TLB)
Lest anyone fail to grasp the fullness of Deity that is in Jesus Christ, ponder His answer to Philip, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Why? How? He didn’t say that He was the Father. Rather, as Hebrews 1:3 states, Jesus knew that He was “the exact representation of [God’s] being.”
God the Father sent His Son to earth to live, to minister, to die for our sins, to rise from the dead, and to ascend back to heaven at the Father’s right hand. And while on earth, as the “exact representation of [God’s] being,” Jesus revealed the Father to us. The NIV captures this idea well in John 1:18 — “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” Do you, like Philip, desire to know God the Father? Then look at His Son, who perfectly represents the Father to us.
Begin to read the Bible with a new and greater insight. Why? Because Jesus told His disciples that the Scriptures testify about Him! Now we have the advantage of having the 27 books of the New Testament. But when He spoke these words to His followers, they had only the Old Testament. Your reading of the Old Testament will take on new and more inspirational meaning when you begin to see Jesus spoken of symbolically and prophetically in book after book.
Please allow me a few closing remarks about the one thing that matters in time and eternity. And that is having a personal, saving relationship with the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
Take stock of your life. Is Jesus absolutely at its center? If not, make whatever changes are needed to ensure in your life “that in all things he might have the preeminence.”
Have the things of this world and its cares, its worries, and its appeals sidetracked you from a dedicated walk with the Lord? If so, deeply ponder Christ’s words, lest you “gain the whole world, yet forfeit [your] soul?” A very wise saying was heard once at a rich man’s funeral. Someone asked, “How much did he leave?” Someone else replied, “All of it!” There is a lovely poem that puts this in perspective: “Only one life … ’twil soon be past … only what’s done … for Christ will last.”
Take on each day with this prayer on your lips and in your heart. “Lord, whatever comes my way today, may I do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Commit yourself, your time, your energies, your resources, to the lifting up of the name of “Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36).
The apostle who is often known as “Doubting Thomas” came to profound faith when He saw the resurrected Savior face to face. He cried out, “My Lord and my God!” The apostle John said that he and Christ’s close disciples had looked upon and touched the Lord with their hands (1 John 1:1).
We 2,000 years later have not had this privilege in person. But Jesus has promised a special blessing to us, who “have not seen [Him] and yet have believed.” Keep your faith in Him strong and vibrant, spending time with Him each day in prayer, in worship, and in His Word the Bible. And Jesus promises that you will be blessed!
One day we will finish our time on this earth and will experience the indescribable joy of seeing Jesus and God the Father face to face in heaven. Meanwhile, wise believers will dedicate themselves to “grow[ing] … in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Find a good, bible-preaching, Christ-honoring, Holy Spirit-filled church where you will grow in your faith. Make time each day to seek the Lord personally in His word and in communion with Him in prayer. Surround yourself with godly companions, so that you may encourage and uplift each other in your walks with the Lord.
Finally, be very vigilant to resist the devil’s strategies to sidetrack your walk with Jesus. Through his cunning in the Garden of Eden, Satan induced Adam and Eve to turn from their obedient walk with God, and to this day we suffer the tragic results of that original sin of our first parents.
The same Satan today will use every trick in his arsenal to lead you “astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” Resist him, steadfast in your faith and committed unswervingly to honoring Jesus Christ as the King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16). And I can assure you from God’s holy word that one day you will stand before the Lord Jesus and will hear these joyful words: “Well done, good and faithful servant … Enter into the joy of your master” (Matthew 25:21, RSV).
©2016, James H. Feeney.
Pentecostal Sermons and Bible Studies
by Pastor Jim Feeney, Ph.D.