Guard Your Soul (Luke 10:38-42)

       
I have a love/hate relationship with my cell phone. It always amazed me how much this small device can do. This device is my navigation tool. I no longer need a map in my car because my phone is a GPS device. I can send an email, a text message, a tweet, or a Facebook post that can reach all the way to Africa from the comfort of my living room. I no longer have to wonder if the Krispy Kreme donuts are Hot and Ready because there is an app for that. I can get the score of every sporting event in the known world in a matter of minutes. And I even can make phone calls from my cell phone. I love my cell phone. But I also hate my cell phone. I hate my cell phone because I am addicting to my cell phone. Every time my phone buzzes or beeps, I am addicted to find out who or what is trying to contact me. Usually only to find that some company that I don’t really care about is having a sale that I don’t really care about, but it could have been something that I really should care about. I hate my cell phone because I distract from paying attention to my wife and my children. I find myself occasionally sitting in my living room or at the dinner table staring at the screen instead of staring at my family. Even if my phone is in another room, but I here that I have a text message, my mind is immediately distracted from my current conversation to wondering who is texting me and what do they want. There are even times when I imagine hearing my cell phone ring. My soul has become incredibly cluttered because of my lack of discipline and self-control with a cell phone. I love and hate my cell phone.

For all the blessings of technology, it has created a culture of anxious and stressed individuals. In an article in the Herald this week, regarding this over anxious culture, Psychologist Francine Toder refers to this anxiety to the “always on” syndrome. She has seen patients who are already “overwhelmed by life, and now their problems become much more complicated by all these new devices and nonstop data coming at them.”[1] Today we must protect our souls. There are obvious things we must guard our soul from, but today I want exhort to guard your soul from two things that I see in the text. Then we will look at what we are guarding our soul for. First we must guard our soul from Distractions

I. Guard Your Soul from Distractions

Verse 38, “Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.” Now remember back the context of this chapter. Jesus just sent out the 72 disciples and told them to enter a town and look for a person of peace. Luke 10:5, “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him.” Verse 7, “And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you.” So Martha welcomed Jesus into her house. She was a person of peace who graciously opened her home to Jesus and his disciples. And in opening her home, she was now responsible to provide food for Jesus and 12 hungry men. It is easy to give Martha a hard time in this text, but we cannot lose sight of how gracious and hospitable she is to bring these men into her home.

I use to teach High School in D.C. I started teaching because I wanted to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with students. I developed a relationship with a group of students and started to have a bible study at my house. And as these hungry teenage boys came into my apartment I was responsible to feed them. Let’s say these guys were happy when I met and married Ellen. It was a definite upgrade. The group grew to about 10 teenagers. And it is no small task to feed 10 hungry teenagers. And it is no small task to clean up after feeding 10 hungry teenagers. So let’s give Martha some credit. She was a gracious and hospitable woman that welcomed in Jesus into her house. I believe that she was a person of peace and wanted to show love and grace towards Jesus.

We pick up the story in verse 39, “And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” Luke says that Martha was distracted with much serving. As we just mentioned, Martha had a lot to do. Of course she is distracted with serving. She has to feed the entire household and had to entertain house guests. The word for serving used here by Luke is the Greek word diakonian which is where we get the word deacon which is the ministry of service. Serving is a good thing. The issue in this passage is not serving, but it is the heart in the serving. Mary was distracted from the reason for her serving. She was so focused on what needed to be done that she forgot who she was serving and why she was serving. She was distracted. She was preoccupied and troubled.

She was serving, but her heart was not focused on the Lord. She was more concerned with herself. Second half of verse 40, “And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” She forgot why she was serving and who she was serving. She lost sight of the privileged place in which she stood. Instead of realizing that she “got” to serve the Lord of lords, she changed to she “had” to serve. I think the attitude from “have to” to “get to” is a huge divide and yet can be crossed in a millisecond. Martha went from welcomed Jesus into her home to questioning his love for her. Have you ever been there? Have you ever started out with joy in serving only to have your joy turn to bitterness? Notice how Martha’s bitterness is directed. Her bitterness directed at Jesus. The very person she wanted to welcome and honor. So Martha’s bitterness affected her vertical relationship with God, but also her horizontal relationship with her sister. Martha was serving and Mary was sitting. Can you hear the disgust in her tone? How incensed she was at sister? “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”

Do you see how dangerous serving the Lord with the wrong heart can be? It affects your relationship with God and your relationships with your closest family and friends. Beloved, we must be on guard because it is subtle and dangerous and for it shows itself in so many ways. Be on guard you who are a regular tither against your bitterness towards those who may not give. It is a privilege to give your money to God. Be on guard you who serve in a ministry in the church against your bitterness towards those who are less active. Be on guard you who serve God in any way against your bitterness towards those who do not serve God like you. Guard your Soul from Distractions.

II. Guard Your Soul from Demands

There are many demands in our age for there are many demands in every age. One of the reasons our souls can become distracted and then embittered is simply because you are too busy. Listen again to verse 40 and following, “But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things.” Many of our souls are distracted, anxious and troubled because we have too many things going on. Can you relate to Martha? Have you ever felt overwhelmed and anxious with all the things you have on your plate? Have you ever felt too busy? So we have to ask ourselves, why are we so busy?

Pastor Kevin DeYoung recently wrote a book, “Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book about a (Really) Big Problem. He writes in his book that he believes that one of the reasons people are crazy busy is because they demand more of themselves than God does. We expect more out of ourselves than God expects of us. The good news of Jesus Christ says the demands against us have already been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. We were dead in our trespasses and sin and under the wrath of God. We could not meet those demands so God sent His Jesus Christ to meet the demands for us.

Friend, if you are here and you are not a follower of Jesus, let me tell you that Christianity is not a list of demands we must meet to please God, but it is the opposite. It is a list demands that has already been met in Christ so we no longer have to work at a frantic pace to be accepted, but simply to trust and believe in Jesus Christ. The only way we are accepted by God is through His Son, through the life, death and resurrection of the Son of God. Friend, consider this good news, consider how God has met the righteous demands of the law in Jesus Christ. He has done this for all who would turn from their sin and trust Him as Lord and Savior. God does not give us a list of demands, God gives us Himself. What a great God!!

And yet, we often revert back to our old ways of trying to win God’s approval. We think the more we do, the healthier we are spiritually. Pastor John Ortberg writes:

Not long after moving to Chicago, I called a wise friend to ask for some spiritual direction. I described the pace of life in my current ministry. The church where I serve tends to move at a fast clip. I also told him about our rhythms of family life: we are in the van-driving, soccer-league, piano-lesson, school-orientation-night years. I told him about the present condition of my heart, as best I could discern it. What did I need to do, I asked him, to be spiritually healthy?

Long pause.

"You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life," he said at last.

Another long pause.

"Okay, I've written that one down," I told him, a little impatiently. "That's a good one. Now, what else is there?" I had many things to do, and this was a long-distance call, so I was anxious to cram as many units of spiritual wisdom into the least amount of time possible.

Another long pause.

"There is nothing else," he said. "You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life."

I've concluded that my life and the well-being of the people I serve depends on following prescription, for hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day. Hurry destroys souls.[2]

So what makes us so hurried and busy? Analyze your schedule with the killer P’s. How much of your schedule grow out of the root of Pride?

People Pleasing – do you say yes to certain activities in an effort to please others around you? How much does the opinion of others affect your life? Guard your Soul from Demands Pleasing People.

Proving Yourself- Do you keep a certain pace of life to prove yourself to friends or family? How much of your activity is driven to prove yourself to that one person who seems to constantly disapproving? Guard your Soul from the Demands of Proving Yourself

Possessions – How much of your life is driven in the accumulation of possessions? A bigger house, a nicer car, etc. Guard your Soul from the Demands of Possessions.

There are more P’s to consider: poor planning, perfectionism, etc., but those are a good place to start. We must guard our souls from Demands if we are going to keep our souls for ultimate joy.


III. Guard Your Soul for Delight

The reason we must guard our souls is that we want ultimate joy. God knows what is best for us. We try to fill out schedule and our lives with activities and things that will bring us joy, but the best thing for us is right in front of us. Verse 39, “And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.” And verse 41, “But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” While Martha went from welcoming the Lord to questioning the Lord while Mary chose the good portion. There are many things that are good in this life, but one thing is necessary. Jesus Christ and His Word is the one thing that is necessary.

So if you want true delight that can never be taken from you, you must choose the good portion. This is what David says in Psalm 16, “The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.” Do not miss this. There is a reason God is called the good portion. V. 42, “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” God is the only thing that can never be taken from you. Money won’t last. Reputations won’t last. Your body won’t last. This earth won’t last. But your soul will last. You soul will last forever. But the only way your soul will find true delight is if you have that which cannot be taken from you. When you put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, the Bible says that God dwells in you through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the deposit guaranteeing us that God will never leave. Listen to Romans 8:37-39, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Mary chose the good portion. She chose to sit at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. Women were not allowed to sit at a Rabbi’s feet for instruction. Mary was breaking social norms by taking the initiative to go and sit at Jesus’ feet. The word used to describe Mary’s action even implies her initiative. Mary chose to feed on the Word of the Lord than other food that will not satisfy. Mary understands Moses words in Deuteronomy 8:3, “And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word1 that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”

This story is a great object lesson of the importance of a Christian disciple to rightly order one’s life around the Word of God. The Word of God is the food that truly satisfies and that will never be taken away. Listen to Psalm 119:57-64:

“The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your words. I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise. When I think of my ways, I turn my feet to your testimonies; I hasten and do not delay to keep your commandments. Though the cords of the wicked ensnare me, I do not forget your law. At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous rules. I am a companion of all who fear you, of those who keep your precepts. The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statues!

Beloved, we must guard our soul for true delight in guarding our time for the Word of God. Let me make three applications before I close.

First, you must order your daily life to ensure that you have time to sit and meditate on the Word of the Lord. Feeding on the Word of God is more important than food. Even when I am crazy busy I always make time to eat. The same must be said of our desire to feed on God’s Word. So if you are not regularly spending time in the Word, you have to reorder your priorities. You must cut things out of your life to ensure you do not neglect God’s Word.

Secondly, you should not only feed on the Word alone, but also with others. In our frantic pace, relationships suffer. One of the things we have instilled in our home is eating our family meals together at the table. We want to slow down and sit enjoy fellowship with one another. As we feast around the table, we also should feast on the Word together. We try to have regular family devotions every night when we spend time in the Bible together. Our family devotions suffer when our schedule gets too busy. We are too tired at the end of the night that all we want to do is go to bed. If we are not careful, what we are teaching our kids is that those others things are more important than the Word of God!! Beloved, this should not be.

Lastly, you should feed on the Word with the church. One thing that is primary for the Christian is the regular hearing of God’s Word. God commands pastors to preach the Word of God to the people of God for the glory of God. My primary role as a pastor is the preaching of the Word of God. There are many other good things that I can spend my time on throughout the week, but my job is stand up three times a week and feed you with God’s Word. This is why as long as I am your pastor I will preach God’s Word to you. This is what you need. You need God’s Word!! There are a lot of good things we can do as a church, but one thing is necessary. We do not want to be distracted from the best thing. The best thing a church can do is to preach the Word of God. The best thing you can do for your church is to hear the Word of God. This is how God has designed for your soul to be nurtured and cherished. God knows what you need more than you know what you need. Guard your soul for Delight, by guarding your soul to hear and obey God’s Holy Word. (Side note: if you have family or friends that attend churches that do not teach the Bible, encourage them to find another church. There are many good churches in this city that preach the Bible. Help them find one for the sake of their own souls).

Beloved, Martha was a gracious and hospitable woman that became distracted and anxious with much serving. Mary chose the good portion in delighting on the words of our Lord. Are you distracted or have you chosen the good portion?


[1] http://www.heraldonline.com/2013/10/16/5303958/tech-stress-builds-with-proliferation.html accessed on 10.17.13


[2] http://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2006/august/13764.html accessed on 10.19.2013

Steven Brazzell

Charlotte, NC