A man cannot serve two masters… (Matthew 6:24)
Those are the words the Lord planted in my head on a Sunday morning when Pastor Gary was teaching out of Matthew 9, a passage that does not include – and has little to do with – that verse at all.
So, acknowledging that the Lord had something specific to say to my heart, I let it float around within me the rest of the afternoon. Then, later on at Prayer Night, Pastor Steve shared Romans 12:1 and made this point:
We try to live in a way that is holy before God, but still acceptable to man.
Huh…we can’t live one way before God, yet still try to live for man. Sounds familiar.
Sounds like how we can’t serve two masters; how we can’t choose ourselves and still, authentically, choose God.
For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with getting caught up in the busyness of life. In fact, I would even say that I created the busyness for a while. I liked how it made me feel. Well, I liked how it made my ego feel because my body and my relationships – with God and people – weren’t loving it at all. The “glorification” of busyness in my life seeped into ministry over time. Suddenly, I found myself losing God in the midst of ministry because I was so focused on myself.
So keep all of that in the back of your head for a second, and follow me into Mark 1.
Verses 32 to 36 tell us that Jesus had spent hours performing miracle after miracle; healing the sick, casting out demons. It literally says “the whole city was gathered together at the door.” Before daybreak, He went out alone to pray. He may not have even slept that night. He may have healed the last one at the door and then left with urgency to be alone with His Father. We’re not sure. We just know that He without saying a word for the purpose of spending time in prayer.
When we get down to verse 37, it says “And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, ‘Everyone is looking for You.'”
In other words – Jesus, what are you doing up here alone? People need you!
I have lived much of my life putting that kind of pressure on myself. The kind of pressure that has a voice whispering to me, “What are you doing resting? People need you. Your job needs you. Ministry needs you.”
- God didn’t put that pressure on me.
- My job didn’t put that pressure on me.
- My family and friends weren’t putting that pressure on me.
That pressure was coming from me.
I don’t believe Jesus felt that pressure internally in this passage, and I don’t believe the disciples made Him feel any pressure either – even with their franticness.
You know why? Because the Scriptures show me time and time again that Jesus knew where His strength came from. He knew that it was only through the Father that this ministry went on. He knew where to find true rest. And He prioritized His relationship with the Father above all things. Above His disciples’ feelings. Above Himself. And yes, as Mark 1 shows us, even above ministry. No opinion of man was changing that.
And His choice was to present Himself as a living and holy sacrifice that was acceptable to God, and God alone. I mean, look at this:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
He chose the Father above it all. The Son of God – a perfect, blameless, God-in-the-flesh and -entitled-to-the-throne being chose God rather than Himself.
We have to choose, too.
And the choice isn’t between God and family, or God and work, or God and ministry, or God anything else. It’s between God and you; you and your desires, your thoughts, your opinions, your “rights”, your plans. If we’re being brutally honest here, it’s between a holy God and our innately sinful can-do-no-good-without-God self.
And once we choose, we have to keep choosing.
If Jesus found it necessary to get alone with God in the midst of His ministry and miracles; if Jesus denied and humbled Himself; if Jesus chose the Father…
Well, then I better lay my heart before the Lord and ask Him to show me how to choose Him above all else, too.