Life in the Spirit Ministries March of the Message Newsletter June 2022
On A Personal Note,
We are coming into a new season in many ways. One of those ways pertains to the pandemic. While in some places in the United States there are still problems yet, for now we have been mostly unaffected here in the south. When the pandemic first began I stepped in and assumed the role of overseer for our church. I felt that we needed to be brought together in a spirit of oneness with our hearts more clearly focused on Jesus. I was able to do that because COVID made it impossible for me to continue to travel and bring the Word to many other groups around the country and world. But with this new lull in the pandemic and things coming back to normal I can now step back out of being the overseer and revert back to the ministry I was doing before this. This means that as Life In The Spirit gears up I will be gone more from the local Body here in Denton but able to be with some of you whom I haven’t hugged in a long time.
With that in mind I would like to ask if you will begin to pray for my upcoming trips to Arkansas at the end of this month and Ireland in July. But also if you would pray for the other trips that are yet in the planning stage. With that in mind I wish to say “Thank you” for those of you that continued your support through the pandemic. I tried to get you to keep your money for your own needs but some of you just wouldn’t have it! But I know that this came about through you because of your faithfulness to Jesus and to the message of Christ and Him crucified. You are not just fellow laborers to me but carriers with me in glorifying the Lamb around the world.
Love you forever,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The story of Mary of Bethany gives us a picture of one of the most intimate moments in Jesus’ life recorded in the Bible. The account in Luke imparts to us an additional portion, but this time from Jesus’ heart unto hers. He declared that she “loved much.” He was referring to the heart that was behind all of her deeds.
I realize that over the last few years you have heard from me many times concerning this story of Mary of Bethany. You might have every reason to skip over reading the article in this newsletter. I would like to ask you to not do this, if only for this one month. I so want us to all be touched by this fresh seeing in this story. I long for us to be moved by Jesus’ response and understanding of what took place then. He didn’t merely see the actions of a committed Christian. He was not moved by the extent of her sacrifice alone. In all that she did He saw that she “loved much” and it deeply reached His heart. I hope this article will bless you. Thank you!
Ministry To Jesus — “Loving Much”
Luke 7:37-50, “And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.”
In verse 39 we have a Pharisee who immediately begins to judge the situation. He does so in his heart but never speaks out his thoughts publicly. He thinks: “This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.” My thought toward him is that if he were a man of God he would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is ministering to Him in a way few others chose to do. And I wonder if the Pharisee ever considered that the reason Jesus was not to concerned about her actions was because He doesn’t look on the outward appearance but on the heart?
But in verse 40 we get a much better response from Jesus than my flimsy attempt. “And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.”
This Pharisee had just surmised that Jesus wasn’t a prophet based on what He was allowing. The words that were in his heart, which he never spoke forth, were cruel and critical. But now, when he speaks publicly he calls Jesus “Master.” I assume that the Lord is not judging him after his outward appearance either but based on his heart also. So, He begins to say to the Pharisee:
Verse 41: "There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. Verse 42: And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both."
To this point the emphasis has been on forgiveness of a debt owed. In his heart the creditor just forgave, not taking the amount into consideration. Neither earned nor deserved the forgiveness given. But, in the latter part of verse 42 a change comes about in the emphasis. Jesus takes it off of forgiveness and places it on the response of those who were forgiven. He says, “Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Verse 43: Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. Verse 44: And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Verse 45: Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet, Verse 46: and anoint my head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.”
Both were forgiven but one had a much greater response toward the Giver. Notice that the emphasis toward her from the other accounts have nothing to do with sin but was about Him. However, listen as Jesus makes mention of sin in this account of the incident. Verse 47: “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much." To Jesus the issue was not about sin or the amount of it but where her heart was in relation to His heart toward her. She didn’t come for forgiveness but because of love, first in His heart and then in her heart. Also take note of the last part of verse 47 along with verse 48:
“...but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. Verse 48: And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.” Sin and forgiveness hadn’t been discussed until this point in Luke, although the Pharisee had referred to her as such in his heart-thoughts. However, once sin had been brought up, now others were ready to challenge the Lord too, but again, not openly.
Verse 49: “And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? Verse 50: And he said to the woman, “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”
What actually moved Jesus to forgive her of her sins? In none of the accounts of this story in the Gospels did she ever ask or bring it up. The thing that precipitated her forgiveness of sin was not her asking for forgiveness, penitence in rectifying everything she had ever done wrong, or deciding not to sin anymore. But Jesus told them what it was! Verse 47: “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much.” It had to do with the amount she loved Him. This “amount” was determined by all the things she did directly TO HIM which signified her care for Him. This is in accord with the nature of the Godhead toward One another. In contrast, Simon did invite Him into his house (the way Christians invite Jesus into themselves) but there was almost no emphasis on His care, needs, or concern. Both Simon and Mary had received God’sgreatest gift of His Son coming to them, but the Pharisee did not “love much.”
Most look at all the accounts and think the Lord was moved by her costly sacrifice of the perfume—in other words, what she gave up for Jesus. Her outward sacrifice certainly involved her costly perfume, but the thing that drew Jesus' heart to her was not the costly perfume but the quantity of love (much) that she had for Him. It was her heart for Him as seen in the myriad of love-blessing poured forth toward Him.
Consider this: she was being ridiculed, looked down upon, thought of as unholy or unfit to approach Him this way and that her approach was even unorthodox and unbecoming.
The disciples who later wrote of this event are to be commended on one front. In re-telling this event they were willing to highlight someone else’s love for Him in a way that showed their own hypocrisy and dearth of love. They expose themselves as those who displayed more love for the poor than for Him. They did so in the presence of “much love” and the sacrifice of costly “things” but complained about it. Their immediate stance was to take any tokens of “much love” and convert it to “ministry money.” They seemed to have love but it was for the poor while they robbed the Lamb of His due. Oh the shame!
And yet, here, after so many years, the Holy Spirit, who is the third Person of the Triune God, falls upon these same disciples and, through them, demands a re-telling of the story. Here, the Holy Spirit stands up for Jesus when no disciples would do so and puts the emphasis on “loving Jesus much.” In so doing, He shines the light on those who love ministry more than the lavish pouring out done by a sketchy woman whose entrance into the scene may have brought them embarrassment and shame. In fact, this may have precipitated them bringing up a “more religious and noble” use for the money in order to change the moment in the eyes of the religious Pharisees. Who knows how many times we have done the same thing just to save face religiously so as to not be embarrassed by the actions of others who poured out upon Him?
Counting and enduring the cost is no small thing, as mentioned in the scriptures. In the story we are presently examining the true cost can easily be missed. Too many only equate it with the costly perfume she is giving up. But Jesus saw the cost and sacrifice she was willing to endure in terms of rejection, mockery, and possible isolation as being the thing that erected an ongoing memorial in His heart. In other words, again we note that Mary's act had nothing to do with the worth or expense of the perfume, but of the depth of desire and therefore cost she would face in getting close to Jesus. To her, honoring and loving on Jesus on the basis of His self-giving death was worth whatever ridicule or bad light she might be seen in.
Because the disciples only responded to the loss of money as what was waste, they never saw the heart of the matter. In what way was it loss? To them it was loss in terms of ministry and to the people to whom their ministry was focused. Jesus constantly put others first before Himself but when someone else decided to put “Him first” He defended her and the value of her ministry, but not because this was an occasion to put Himself first. His words were also pointed to the ignorance of the disciples as to the nature of her kind of ministry. They felt the poor were being cheated, but, in a sense, you could say that the Lord had been cheated, for none of His followers had ever seen such ministry as Mary’s way before. But she did not do it that men might see her generosity, but that Jesus might be poured out upon by a heart of extreme love. She “loved much”! For her it was about Him. When they said it was too much, she probably thought it was too little.
Jesus said that she not only did it primarily for Him but also for His burial. By understanding His self-giving in death and how He would not spare Himself, she felt that, in her small portion, she should not spare either. Since nothing was spoken beforehand about her motives, then how are we to know that her inward heart was being motivated by “heart love” as well as His selfless love? That answer is easy. He would know by the same manner in which He knew the Pharisee’s unspoken words. Jesus hears all the “stuff” going off inside of us. In church we think He listens with joy concerning every word we breathe. Sadly, the noise of all the negative things going off in our heads may override the few gracious things we speak aloud in service.
She was bold to pour out on Jesus even if she was to receive condemnation while others were being bold enough to condemn her. She did what she could! She did what she did probably not expecting approval, but did the disciples ever really take to heart the focus of Jesus’ words about her at the time?
If self is guiding our perspective and view then fear of how we will appear to others, dread that we will be rejected, ostracized, or disapproved of all enter into how we go about counting the cost.
But there is a greater reality than the fragrance reaching around the world. The fragrance of the perfume filled the room but the fragrance of her love and self-forgetfulness ascended into Jesus’ nostrils as well as into eternity and forever stands as a memorial to what God honors most. As for those there in the room with her, they may only see a harlot at Jesus' feet. But for Jesus, even that apparent unholy or unacceptable moment was bathed in heavenly glory.
What privileges she enjoyed that day! The head that would soon wear a crown of thorns, she was blessed to anoint it with oil. The feet that would soon have heavy spikes driven within she washed with tears and used her hair to dab them dry.
She did what no one seemed to do up to that point. She met the need of the Lord on the basis that was most important to Him, which was concerning His death. She met His need by “loving much.” Surely she caught wind of it the time before when she sat at His feet and heard heart-cries instead of sermons or doctrines. At that time, it was the fragrance of His Words that filled the room and pierced the veil of her heart. She remembers that He held back nothing, so why should she? Now it was her turn to pour out what was inside of her. To her, she became her alabaster box and Jesus saw how valuable He was in her heart. It was clear to Him that she “loved much.” Jesus saw her heart/view of Him and said, “...this that this woman hath done shall be told as a memorial of her.”
And from that day forward her "good work" would stand as an everlasting memorial. And each remembrance of that day by Jesus would be as if she broke a fresh alabaster box on Him. She shined in His heart beyond the event. To Jesus, she was not just a person with a physical body or a person who represented Him in the earth, but was the spiritual embodiment of His definition of "bride." Again, Jesus told the ministers, “This that this woman hath done shall be told as a memorial of her.” They favored ministering to the needy on behalf of Jesus, but her favorite place was at His feet. To Him her tears broke an alabaster box. Her kisses broke an alabaster box. Her desire to be with Him in this way broke an alabaster box.
The disciples spoke of the value of what was wasted, but what she valued and would always carry with her was His acceptance of her manifested heart, His words of approval, along with His belief in the value of her kind of ministry. These things would be, to her, the highest, most glorious fragrance that filled the room that day. ***
"It was the fragrance of His Words that filled the room and pierced the veil of her heart. She remembers that He held back nothing, so why should she?"
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