Willingly and Wholly Devoted?

BurgerAndFries

My mother and I are preparing for an upcoming women’s Bible study centered on the theme, “FROM DEMONS TO DELIVERANCE AND DEVOTION: THE TESTIMONY OF MARY OF MAGDALA”.  Mary of Magdala (or Mary Magdalene) is mentioned multiple times throughout each of the four Gospels (Mt. 27:56, 61; 28:1; Mk. 15:40, 47; 16:1-13; Lk. 8:2; 24:10; and Jn. 19:25; 20:1-18).  This is quite remarkable being as the authors of the Gospels wrote them with distinct emphases for their original audiences and functional themes, yet they each understood the testimony of Mary of Magdala to be relevant to their Gospels’ specific audiences and themes to each make repeated mentions of her. 1

The accounts of Mary of Magdala in the Gospels are pretty evenly split between descriptions of her individually and descriptions of her with a group of women.  It is interesting to note that in the places where she is mentioned with a group of women her name heads the list.

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Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their [Jesus’ and the Twelve Disciples’] support [or care] out of their private means” (Luke 8:2b-3, NASB95).

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These women devoted themselves to Christ, and accordingly, to the work of His ministry.  They attended to Christ, ministering to (serving) Him out of their substance – of their possessions, what they had.  Scholar Ben Witherington II writes in his socio-rhetorical commentary of the Gospel of Mark, “the women [among whom Mary of Magdala is included] are disciples, for they are clearly described as those who both followed and served Jesus in Galilee, two things that characterize discipleship”.

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“There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome.  When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and minister to [or serve] Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem” (Mark 15:40-41, NASB95).

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Discipleship…I thought that we were talking about devotion, so which is it!?!

Devotion and discipleship are not either-or’s.  Devotion and discipleship are both-and’s — they are like both hamburgers and french fries (or sweet potato fries, if you’re like me), both spaghetti and meatballs, both oreos and milk, both coffee and mornings, both leather jackets and Fonzie — they go together!  A disciple refers to “one who puts himself [or herself] under the teaching of someone else and learns from him”.2  Discipleship refers to “follow[ing] the precepts and instructions of another”.3  Such definitions imply willing devotion on behalf of the disciple.  In order to be a disciple, an individual must be willingly devoted the one and therefore the teachings of the one of whom he or she is a disciple.

Mary of Magdala and the group of women who accompanied her were willingly and wholly devoted disciples of Christ.  Jesus had delivered them and they did not forget that!  They had received grace and in gratefulness they responded graciously.  They were those described alike “good soil”; they had heard the word in an honest and good heart, and held it fast, and bore fruit with perseverance (Luke 8:15).

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Are we “good soil”?

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Are our lives seen as works of faith and labors of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father (1 Thessalonians 1:3, NASB95)?  Is it obvious that we have been delivered by Christ and are disciples who are willingly and wholly devoted to Him?  Do we respond graciously in gratefulness to the grace we have received?  Will we follow Christ and serve Him wherever, however, whenever He instructs?

“YOU live among the least of these: the weary and the weak, and it would be a tragedy for me to turn away, all my needs YOU have supplied. When I was dead YOU gave me life. How could I not give it away so freely? I’ll follow YOU into the homes of the broken, I’ll follow YOU into the world, and meet the needs for the poor and the needy, GOD, I’ll follow YOU into the world…I give all myself, I give all myself, and I give all myself to YOU” (Leeland, Follow You <– Click to view the music video)!

Victoria

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ENDNOTES:

1.  The original audiences and functional themes of the Gospels are typically considered to be as follows:

–  the Gospel of Matthew was written with a Jewish audience in mind, emphasizing Jesus as the Promised Messiah and Expected King who fulfills the Law, Prophets, and Writings;

–  the Gospel of Mark was written with a Gentile audience in mind, emphasizing Jesus as the Sovereign Savior and Servant who suffered on our behalf taking the penalty for our sin upon Himself;

–  the Gospel of Luke was written with an specific individual (Theophilus) and general Gentile audience in mind, emphasizing Jesus as reliably and verifiably Perfect God Perfect Man; and

–  the Gospel of John was written with a unbelieving audience in mind (John 20:30-31), emphasizing Jesus as the Eternal Word, Wonderful Truth, and Everlasting Life.

Please note that while the Gospels as literary works have distinct original audiences and functional themes, they maintain a consistently unified theological purpose– Jesus the Christ is the Son of the Living and Loving God and Eternal Risen Savior of Jews and Gentiles (all men and women alike) through His absolute and gracious sacrifice for us sinners in utmost need of Him, to those who believe He gives forgiveness, redemption, and life through His Precious Spirit – and their message is equally meant for us!

2. Kenneth S. Wuest, Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English Reader (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1997).

3. Ibid..

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Satis…what?!?

Highway

SATISFICING according to Oxford Dictionaries pertains to the decision and pursuit of a course of action that is perceived will satisfy the minimum requirements necessary to achieve a particular goal.  This interesting term is a synthesis –or what we would refer to in Italian as a “mescolanza”– of the words satisfy and suffice.  It basically describes the natural tendency of humans to be lazy.  Believe it or not, I encountered this term when studying decision making in the context of international political relations.  But it made me think, “Does the Bible say anything about satisficing?” and “If so, what does the Bible say about it and how it applies to my life?”

A particularly relevant scripture I came across is Proverbs 15:19, “The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway” (NASB95).  The structure of this scripture is in line with the antithetical parallelism which is a distinctive feature of Hebraic poetic literature.  Antithetical parallelism is the contrasting of ideas, such as “The Lord lifts up the humble; He casts the wicked down to the ground” (Psalm 147:6, NKJV82).  Proverbs 15:19 contrasts the way (Heb. derek) of those who are lazy or sluggish (Heb. āṣēl) to the path (Heb. ʾōraḥ) of those who are upright or conscientious (Heb. yāšār).

Why are laziness and a hedge of thorns contrasted with uprightness and a highway?

The descriptions offered in the context the scripture suggest that laziness is foolish and senseless for although a course of action may be perceived to satisfactorily suffice with ease it is actually a course of inaction, reluctance, restriction, and hardship.  In other words, satisficing hinders and hurts.  Just think about this…how appealing does stumbling barefoot in a hedge of thorns sound?

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Satisficing hinders and hurts.

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In contrast, uprightness (or conscientiousness) is wise and sensible.  Those who refuse to satisfice pursue a course marked by diligence, excellence, precision, enthusiasm.  The New Living Translation conveys this contrast especially well: “A lazy person’s way is blocked with briers, but the path of the upright is an open highway” (Proverbs 15:19).

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In whatever we do, we should faithfully aspire and endeavor to do it wholeheartedly in the Name of the Lord Jesus, all to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:15).

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Wait just a minute there!  Didn’t you say that it is the natural tendency of humans to be lazy?  So doesn’t that mean that for us to NOT be lazy would be unnatural?

My friend, this is yet another reason we need Christ to give us a new nature.  WE CAN DO WHATEVER WE DO WHOLEHEARTEDLY IN THE NAME OF THE LORD JESUS ALL TO THE GLORY OF GOD ONLY BY THE GRACE OF GOD.  That is why all the glory is to God and God alone–because neither you nor I could wholeheartedly serve God and faithfully walk in “uprightness”, which is adverse to our natural tendency to satisfice, of ourselves without the Divine Intervention of Jesus Christ!

Serve Wholeheartedly By The Grace Of God!

Victoria

Humility – A Dirty Word

The Request of James and John…

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”  36 “What do you want me to do for you?” He asked.  37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at Your right and the other at Your left in Your glory.”  38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said.  “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”  39 “We can,” they answered.  Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at My right or left is not for Me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.”  41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.  42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  43 Not so with you.  Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant,  44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”  – Mark 10:35-45 (NIV84)

This scripture begins with Mark 10:35, “Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him.  “Teacher,” they said, “we want You to do for us whatever we ask.”  Let’s stop for a second…this is going nowhere good.

Jesus, do whatever we say, ok?

Can you imagine what would come next if our spouse, our kids, our friends, or those we work with asked us that question?  But these brothers, John and James, were bold.  They wanted the premium seats, the ones right beside Jesus, where He is enthroned as King.

Disregard the other ten, and let us take the first places, Jesus.  Ok?

This begs the question: which would be on the left and which on the right since the person on the right had the higher honor, but they were willing to fight that one out later.  The bottom line… they wanted to be first.  They believed that they deserved it.  Perhaps they felt that they were more intelligent, even more loyal than the others.

Or maybe it is easier to identify with one of the other ten disciples… watching someone covet what you would like, but are not bold enough to request yourself.  The NIV translation indicates that the disciples became “indignant” with James and John.  This does not imply that they felt Jesus was being betrayed and they empathized with him, but that THEY wanted the premium seats, the power and honor for themselves.

In the words of one pastor, “They may as well have asked for a 20 scoop ice cream cone.”  Such audacity.  Such arrogance.  If they only knew what they were requesting!  If they only knew what was to come!  If they only knew the cup that Jesus begs His Father to take from Him!  But they don’t.  They only knew what they want- the first, the most, the best.

How does Jesus respond to this?  He knows they do not understand the situation. The text doesn’t share any emotion from Jesus.  Was He annoyed that He had given His all to these people and they still quest for power and not His Father’s kingdom?  Was He angered that He was about to sacrifice His life for people who would betray Him and seemingly just want to use Him for His power?  Or perhaps He is compassionate, understanding the human condition.  Maybe He accepts that we all fall short and that it is His role to bridge that gap so that sins may be forgiven and we may have eternal life.

His response is simple: you guys just don’t get it.  Furthermore, He says that it’s not His decision who is to His left or right, and “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.  For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45, NIV84).

Humility is almost a dirty word in our society.  We equate humility with lack of self-worth or with letting people walk all over you.  But, according to Jesus, that is not humility at all.  Humility is powerful and strong.  It is the way of Christ.

Micah 6:8 says, “And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (NIV84).

In order to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with [our] God”, we must first look at ourselves.  We must purge ourselves of the things that are not of God.  Humble ourselves to HIS will.  Ooops… I said it.  HIS will.  Not, Lord, I really need a new job or please bring me more money… but if it is Your will please open these doors.

Jesus is trying to teach us to be servants to others, but we cannot do that without submitting to Him and His will.  We are to be servants, not the seat of power.  We are not to seek prestige, but to “walk humbly”.

 Carrie (Guest Contributor)

The Lord Our Righteousness

““1 Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture!” says the Lord. 2 Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: “You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,” says the Lord. 3 “But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. 4 I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,” says the Lord.

5 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. 6 In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called:

THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”

– Jeremiah 23:1-6, NKJV

Verses 1-2:  Jeremiah opens his prophecy with a rebuke from the Lord.  He continues by warning the “bad shepherds”, those who were ruling Israel at the time, of the judgments that would befall them if they continued leading God’s people astray.  These evil leaders were leading the people of Israel, but instead of leading them in the direction God wanted, they were taking them down in the opposite direction.

Who are the people God has placed in your life to lead?  Are you being the role model that God wants you to be?  Let us make sure that we are leading God’s flock in the right direction, while remembering that we are accountable to God for our actions.  Because if we do not attended to His flock, He will attend to us for our evil actions!

Verses 3-4: Jeremiah continues his prophecy by stating that God will gather His remnant to Himself, will lead them, comfort them, and bring them into a time of blessing where they will, “Be fruitful and increase.”

The Lord knows what He is doing─ He knows what we need, He will take care of us, and He will bring peace to our souls.  So we have nothing to worry about or to fear in those times of testing because the Lord WILL take care of His Sheep.  In verse four, the Lord says that He will set up good shepherds in place of the evil ones.  Shepherds who will love on us, feed us the word of God, and lead us in the right direction.

Verses 5-6: Verses five and six add a new layer (or theme): Messianic prophecy.  We are shown the difference between the corrupt leaders and the coming Messiah who IS Loving and Powerful.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd who will do away with the corrupt leaders once and for all.  Jesus will rule as the Most High King of Kings and His name IS, “The Lord our Righteousness.”

Guest Blogger

servanthood…

Earlier this week, I was presented with a challenge, a challenge to explore, and ideally, implement practical applications of biblical leadership.  Wait a minute there! I thought that this blog was supposed to be about servanthood, not leadership!  Well, yes and no.

Let me rewind just a bit…

Some weeks ago, I was listening to Brant Hansen (DJ on Air1 Radio) when he made a comment which compelled me stop everything else I was multitasking on and turn my full attention to what he was talking about. (Don’t worry Brant, it was a good thing!)  Paraphrasing, he said, ‘We have such an immense amount of books on leadership…why don’t we see such books written about servanthood?’

During the discussion earlier this week when I was presented with the challenge concerning biblical leadership, one of the men expounded upon the concept, highlighting, “The more leadership you assume the more of a servant you ought to become”.  The examples of biblical leadership we have indicate that leadership should be synonymous with servanthood.

Take Jesus for instance.  He is our Prime Example!  In John 13, Jesus stood before His disciples, laid aside His garments, girded Himself with a towel, took a basin and water, and assumed the lowliest responsibility of a servant.  The Lord washed His followers’  feet!  Then He said, “You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am.  If then the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet” (John 13:13-14, NASB).

We tend to picture leadership as:

When leadership as biblical leadership looks more like:

Which seems to be upside-down, but in reality is actually right-side-up!

Are you telling me that I have to join the circus to learn how to balance people on my head!?!  Not exactly.  While it is not specifically necessary to join the circus, it is necessary to assume servanthood if you are to assume leadershipStill, where’s the hope in that!?!

Matthew 20:25-28 records Jesus teaching, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and give His life as a ransom for many” (NLT).

The Lord God, Jesus Christ is NOT in any way some pompous, egotistical, oppressive tyrant!  He is Almighty God who willingly, humbly, lovingly  took  the very nature of a servant ─ to serve  u s!  You see, as we hold up (lead-serve) others, we are emulating Christ because He holds us up (leads-serves us)!  Moreover, as we serve others, we ARE serving Christ because we are doing so in obedience to Him!

I now pass the challenge on to you!  Will you so choose to explore and pursue a practical application of biblical leadership during your week?

Victoria