In the 1700’s, Thomas Scott was a young man who felt a call to go into the ministry, but he didn’t know much about it. He became acquainted with John Newton, the author of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” who was pastoring a church at nearby Olney, England, at that time, and they began corresponding. Newton wrote to him: “The first lesson in the school of Christ is to become a little child, sitting simply at his feet, that we may be made wise unto salvation.” (Newton, Letters, p. 248) Newton’s words pierced Thomas Scott’s heart, and he became an evangelical Christian, who walked 14 miles on Sundays to preach to patients in a London hospital. He served in the ministry the rest of his life, and wrote a Bible commentary that was named after him. Undoubtedly that “first lesson” Newton gave him, made a strong impression, and guided him to that successful ministry: “simply sit at His feet.” That is the key to the effective Christian life. And that is just what we see in our passage here in Luke 10 today as well:
“Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with [a]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.’ 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.’”
Last Sunday we saw how Martha’s experience with Jesus can serve as an allegory of what happens in each of our lives with Him:
— First, like Martha, we must each personally ask Jesus into our lives
— But also like her, even when we have asked Him in, we are still “a work in progress” and have some changes in attitude and lifestyle, and so on, to make.
So this morning, as a followup, we are going to look at THE single most important thing that needs to happen in each of our lives after Jesus comes in. Martha didn’t regard it, at first, as the most important thing — and honestly, many of God’s people today do not see it as that important either. But that it SHOULD have the highest priority in our lives, Jesus makes very clear, both here and elsewhere in scripture. What is that “one thing”? It is what we see Mary doing here: Verse 39 says that Martha “had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.”
I. JUST WHAT DID MARY DO?
It says she “was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word.”
First of all, it says she “was seated at the Lord’s feet.”
This is a position of humility.
This is a position of worship.
And significantly, this was also a position of LEARNING.
In Acts 22:3, the Apostle Paul tells the Jews in his defense that he was “a Jew, brought up in this city, educated (literally) “AT THE FEET” of Gamaliel, the great Jewish teacher. So being “at the feet” is a place of humility, and especially of one who is learning from a teacher.
So this passage tells us that Mary was humbling herself to worship Jesus, and to learn from His word. This is the kind of person who gets God’s attention.
In the last chapter of Isaiah (66:1-2), God says:
“Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.
Where then is a house you could build for Me? And where is a place that [a]I may rest? “For My hand made all these things,
Thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord.
“But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.”
God says here, that He is a great King. Heaven is His throne. All the vast area of the earth is just His “footstool.” Who will He look to here on earth? Who will have His attention? NOT the great athlete or warrior (God says in Psalm 147 that He “takes no pleasure in the legs of a man”) but to the one who has a “humble and contrite spirit, and who trembles at (His) word.” THAT is who gets His attention. God doesn’t turn His face towards those we call “great”: the “Lebron James,” or Bill Gates or whoever. He says His face will be turned towards the one who humbles themselves before Him, and trembles at His word.
That gives hope to every one of us. You don’t have to be some “great person” in the eyes of the world, in order to be great with God. You just have to love Him, humble yourself to worship Him daily, and seek Him in His word. THAT is what Mary did. THAT is what got Jesus’ attention here — NOT all the “busy-ness” of Martha (that should be a good lesson for us today too! All our “busy-ness” doesn’t get the Lord’s attention; instead it is humble worship and attention to His word that catches His eye.)
This is what should happen in our lives every day. If you want an outline of what should happen in your devotional time at home every day, this is it, in summary: just humbly “sit at Jesus’ feet” in worship, and “listen to His word.” THAT is what needs to happen in that time:
1) Have a worship time in prayer; I might suggest that you read a Psalm, or a few verses of praise from the Psalms; then sing a worship song or two to the Lord; then give Him thanks — and then pray for the requests that are on your heart — keep a prayer list to use. Spend some time with the attitude of being “at His feet” in worship.
2) And then secondly, spend some time paying attention to His word. Have a book of the Bible that you are reading through, and don’t JUST “read” it, but really “sit at the feet of the Lord” and LISTEN to His word.
Did you notice the word “LISTENING” here? One of the things that characterizes Mary in this story is that she was REALLY LISTENING to Jesus’ words. As we know, it is very possible to “hear” something on a surface level, but not really pay that much attention to it; it is possible to “read” it, but not really internalize it. As we spend time in God’s word we need to ask ourselves, are we really “listening” to this like Mary did? Are you giving it your attention, to apply it, to DO it?
To help you with that, before you start reading, make sure you have a note pad ready to write down what the Lord is showing you as you read. Then read until you find something that God is speaking to you about, and write that down and pray about it. In fact, I was telling somebody the other day: that is my reading plan. I don’t read “so many chapters a day” or whatever: I read “until God speaks.” Until I get something that speaks to my heart or life: a teaching to understand, a sin to confess, something to pray for, a verse to memorize, or whatever. But read UNTIL … “until” God gives you something. And have your note pad, or iPad, or computer, or whatever you use, to write that thing down on, so you can remember it, go back and pray about it, and share it with others.
But these are the 2 basic things that need to happen in our daily time with the Lord EVERY DAY: 1) we need to sit at Jesus’ feet and worship, and 2) we need to listen to His word. IF we will do those two things, just like Mary did, it will make a HUGE difference in our lives every day.
I went to Kroger last Monday evening to get a few things for the week, and as I was checking out, the cashier asked me with a very weary voice, “So, did YOU have a good day today?” I said, “You know, actually I did. I got a lot done. I had a pretty good day!” She said, “Do you mind telling me how you were able to have a good day — on a Monday no less?!” (I was like, why don’t you just tee up an easy witnessing opportunity for me there!) I said, “Well, I started today by reading my Bible, and by spending some time with God in prayer. I begin every day that way, and it really makes a lot of difference in the day.” I would have loved to have talked to her some more, but of course we were in the checkout line, and she had to send me on, but she did say, “You know that WOULD be the best way to start the day,” and she thanked me for sharing. I’ve prayed for her, and for the other lady who was sacking groceries, and for the others who could hear us talk, that God would use that little conversation to draw them to Himself every day in His word and prayer. It really DOES make a HUGE difference, when we begin the day with God, doing just what Mary did here: sitting at His feet in worship, and listening to His word.
There’s a LOT more to be said about a daily prayer and Bible reading time — and if the Lord wills, we will spend some more time, starting in September, looking specifically at how Jesus taught us to pray, using His Model Prayer as an outline. But for now, these are the two basic things that need to take place in your time with God every morning: “sit at the feet of Jesus” in worship, and “listen to His word.” If you’re doing those two things in some fashion, then you are doing the most important things you can do in a day. In fact, that’s what I want us to look at next, which is just how IMPORTANT this time really is!
II. JUST HOW IMPORTANT IS IT?
How important was this “sitting at the feet of Jesus” that Mary was doing? Jesus showed us there that it was (and IS!) THE single most important thing we can do. And that is not an exaggeration!
Martha didn’t understand that at first. The Bible says that Mary was at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word, but :40 says “But Martha was distracted with all her preparations.” And she came up and complained to Jesus and told Him to tell Mary to help her. Now, we tend to be hard on Martha, but in her defense, you can understand how she felt some pressure: you’ve got this important celebrity from out of town visiting in your home; you’d like to do your best. You would like your sister to help you with it. I mean, in all fairness to Martha, it WAS a pretty big deal. It’s not like she was concerned about NOTHING!
But Jesus said it was not as important as what Mary was doing. He said, “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.”
Those words are so striking: “only ONE THING IS NECESSARY.” It could literally be translated something like: “Few things are necessary — really only ONE.” Jesus said, there is only ONE really “most important thing” in all of life — and it was NOT what Martha thought it was. It was NOT having the house just right. It was not having the meal just right. It was not being the perfect “Martha Stewart” or “Joanna Gaines” to her guests.
And the most important thing is not what a LOT of us think it is, either! We think we just “have to do all these things” we have on our lists — and we think they are SO important — but if Jesus were speaking to us face to face, just like He did to Martha that day, He might say the VERY same thing to many of us: “You do NOT *HAVE* to do all these things.” They are NOT that important. There are really very few things you just really HAVE to do — and Jesus says really, there is only ONE most important thing — and that is what Mary was doing here: sitting at the feet of Jesus in worship, and listening to His word. He says THAT is the ONE “most important thing.” Our relationship with Him is THE most important thing.
We talked last week about how after we ask Jesus into our lives, like Martha did, we still have a lot of work to do, spiritually. We are all still a “work in progress.” And THIS is one of those things that many of us need to work on: making our relationship with Jesus really the most important thing in our lives. Making the time that we spend with Him in worship and in His word, THE priority of our lives. Our daily time with Him is not some “little thing” we add on to our lives; it is THE MOST IMPORTANT THING!
It’s just like David said in Psalm 27:4
“One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord
And to meditate in His temple.”
David said here there was ONE thing he really wanted more than anything else. In Hebrew as well as in English, the verse begins with the word “ONE.” It is the position of emphasis: ONE thing I have asked from the Lord. And what was that “one thing”? It was really kind of “two” things, and interestingly enough, they are exactly what we see from Mary here in Luke 10. He said he wanted to be in the house of the Lord, to 1) “behold the beauty of the LORD (YHWH)” — that is just like “sitting at Jesus’ feet” to worship — and 2) to “inquire” in His Temple — to “inquire” can mean to “discern” the truth of His word — David was asking for the same things Mary was doing here: to worship the Lord, and to listen to His word!
It was the most important thing for David. It was the most important thing for Mary & Martha — and it is the most important thing for US too. Nothing else is as important in our whole lives, as sitting at the feet of the Lord, and listening to His word.
We’ve got to understand, first of all, that this should be the #1 priority of our lives, and then we need to make sure that we KEEP it as our #1 priority.
Hudson Taylor was a famous missionary to China in the 1800’s, and his son wrote a biography about him, called, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret. In this book he wrote:
“The hardest part of a missionary career, Mr. Taylor found, is to maintain regular, prayerful Bible study. ‘Satan will always find you something to do,’ he would say, ‘when you ought to be occupied about that, if it is only arranging a window blind.’” (Howard Taylor, Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, p. 239)
That is SUCH a true observation. Satan wants to distract you from your #1 priority of walking with God. As Taylor said here, even missionaries are not exempt from it — it is a temptation for everyone, regardless of who you are. And it is not just missionaries — it is true for EVERY Christian person. Because the devil knows how important your daily time with God is, he will always try to put SOMETHING in front of you to try to keep you from your time with God: even, as Taylor said, if it is just “arranging a window blind” — or sweeping the floor, or checking the news, or whatever. HIS job is to distract you. OUR job has to be to remember what is the most important thing: it is that time with the Lord, not ANYTHING else. And we’ve got to fight to keep it as our #1 priority.
This is what God created us for in the beginning. He made us to know Him, and to have a relationship with Him, and to live with Him eternally. Jesus said in John 17:3, “THIS is eternal life: that they may KNOW THEE, the Only True God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” Eternal life is KNOWING GOD. It is not “streets of gold” or pearly gates. God made us to know Him and love Him and be fulfilled by Him.
But our SIN separated us from God, Isaiah 59:2 says, and that is why Jesus had to come: to die on the cross and pay for our sins, not just so that we could be “forgiven,” not just so that we could “live our best life” here on earth, not just so that we could “go to heaven” — but so that we could come back to Him and KNOW HIM and have that relationship with Him that He originally created us for.
If you’ve never done it before, RIGHT NOW ask God to forgive your sins, and save YOU, and begin that relationship He wants to have with you.
But you’ve got to understand that your relationship with God is not just another component that you “add on” to your life. It is the reason you were born! It is the most important thing. Knowing Him is what eternal life IS! But just as we saw last week, that after we ask Jesus to save us, we still have a long way to go — most of us don’t understand that this relationship is supposed to be the most important thing in our lives. We don’t give it the time, and make it the priority that we should. And most of us have a long way to go in learning HOW to walk with Him daily the way that we should. This is why we want to spend some time next month on how to pray better, and spend better time with Him. Because it is the most important thing there is.
Worshiping Jesus and hearing His word is what our souls are really longing for:
— Jesus said “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from the mouth of God.” Jesus said we don’t even need food, or rest, or money, or popularity, or ANYTHING else, as much as we need worship and God’s word. It is the “one thing” we need more than anything else.
— Luke 24 says that after Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to some of His disciples on the road to Emmaus, and taught them about the things that Moses and the prophets foretold about Him, they said afterwards in :32, “Were not our hearts burning within us while He was speaking to us on the road, while He was explaining the Scriptures to us?” Their “hearts were burning within them” — a great description of what happens inside us when we worship the Lord, and sit and listen to His word. Our hearts are full, and satisfied, because that’s what we were created for. It’s what will ultimately satisfy us forever in heaven: we will just sit at His feet around His throne, and experience incomparable pleasures in His presence. And in the meantime, we can get just a little “taste” of that here on earth, as we learn to “sit at His feet and worship” and learn from His word in our own personal worship times with Him.
In the 1700’s, an Englishman by the name of Michael Kelly was visiting a German musician by the name of Christoph Gluck. He wrote:
“One morning, after I had been singing with him [Gluck], he said ‘Follow me upstairs, Sir, and I will introduce you to one whom all my life I have made my study and endeavour to imitate.’ I followed him into his bedroom, and opposite to the head of the bed saw a full-length picture of (George Frideric) Handel in a rich frame. (Handel, of course, was the one who wrote the famous “Messiah” and the “Hallelujah Chorus.”) Gluck said: ‘There, Sir, is the portrait of the inspired master of our art. When I open my eyes in the morning, I look upon him with reverential awe and acknowledge him” and he endeavored his whole to imitate him. (Christopher Hogwood, Handel, p. 249)
As Christians, we too want to behold our Master every morning; the One whom we endeavor to imitate. But it is no mere man that we worship — not even a George Frederic Handel — but the glorious, living, Son of God, Jesus Christ Himself. Let us say of Him, like Gluck did of Handel, “THERE is the inspired Master of our lives. When we open our eyes in the morning, let us look upon Him with reverential awe, and make it our study to hear His word and endeavor to imitate Him.”
Like Mary here in Luke 10, like David in Psalm 27, let us make it THE single most important goal of our lives, the “ONE” most important priority, every day, to sit at His feet in worship, and to listen to His word.
— What’s the ONE most important thing in your life, every day; the one thing you can’t do without?
Many of us, if we were honest, would say it is NOT what it should be. It is not God, the One we were made to know and love.
Some of us need to confess to God, even as Christians: You are not my “one most important thing.” But I WANT You to be; like the man in Mark 9, many of us could say: “Lord, I do believe; help my unbelief …”. I DO know You’re the most important; help me to MAKE You that important in my life every day.
— ask Him to help you spend time with Him every morning in worship
— ask Him to help you make really listening to His word a top priority in your life every day.
— ask him to help you put into practice some of the things we talked about today.
Or maybe you’d say, you’ve never really asked Him to save you, and take away the sin that has kept you from the relationship with Him that He made you for.
— Admit your sin to Him;
— Ask Him to forgive you and come into your life
— and if you’re doing that, tell somebody today, and make plans to be baptized
— then begin walking with Him every day in His word & worship, until the day you are with Him forever in heaven.