There is a saying that goes like this “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again!” Not many popular secular idioms or proverbs can be expressed in a Christian context but this one certainly can because rather than feel condemned and give up when we appear to fail, God’s will is that we should trust him by depending on and partnering with him. This is what His “try again” means.
What we did not succeed in may not have been God’s will in the first place anyway or the timing was not right and we were just trying to help God along to accelerate something we really wanted. As this was in our own strength it did not work out.
God is a God of second chances. When we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). This is because our God is in the business of rebuilding damaged lives. Through the Prophet Jeremiah after telling Israel how much He loved her as a nation he went on to say “will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful” (Jer.31:4).
Likewise God took us, new covenant believers from the kingdom of darkness to His kingdom through Jesus for the purpose of restoring to us once and for all the fellowship with God that humanity lost when Adam and Eve sinned.
Mary Magdalene’s expression of love to Jesus testifies to us that she had come to understand the depth of “everlasting (Jer. 31:3) love God had for her to the point of casting out seven demons from her (Luke 8:2/Mark 16:9) through Christ.
Mary Magdalene had been given a second chance in life, her sins had been blotted out to be remembered no more and she knew that she was no longer condemned because she lived for God through Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1-3).
Mary Magdalene expressed her heartfelt gratitude for her salvation by living for God through Christ Jesus. It was effortless because she loved Jesus and had made a conscious decision to live abiding in Him. Here are some of the examples of how she did so:
1.She was among the women who travelled to different towns or villages with Jesus and his disciples tending to their upkeep or financial needs (Luke 8:1-3). I would say that although she and the other women who were often with Jesus were not classed as “disciples of Jesus” as the twelve men were, they were also Jesus’ disciples if we understand the definition of the word “disciple”.
2.Mary Magdalene (see “note” at the end) is specified by name to have been a witness to three key events, the
a.Crucifixion: Mark 15:40, John 19:25, Matt. 27:56.
b.Burial: Mark 15:47, Matthew 27:61
Also brought spices with two other women to anoint Jesus’ body (Mark 16:1).
c.Resurrection – discovering the tomb was empty:
Mark, Matthew and Luke indicate that Mary Magdalene was among the women who saw the empty tomb. John (20:1) mentions her as being the first to discover the tomb empty. The longer ending of the last chapter of Mark’s gospel (sometimes left out) mentions that Jesus appeared to her first on her own following his resurrection.
Mary of Bethany
Mary of Bethany (see “note” at the end) is another woman who with Mary Magdalene and other women were often with Jesus and met his needs. Her utter devotion to Jesus was expressed in the Gospels as follows:
1.She chose the best thing to do as stated by Jesus when she preferred to sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to his discourse instead of help her sister make preparations, presumably food.(Luke 10:38-42).
2.Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus with expensive perfumed oil and wiped his feet with her hair. John is the only account that identifies this Mary as the one who is sister to Martha and Lazarus (John 12:3 & John 11:1-2 are connected and the mention of Martha, suggest this Mary is the one of Luke 10:38-42).
Mary of Bethany had reason to devote her life to Jesus the way she did, savouring his every word and providing for him with the other women and using expensive oil on his feet. This is because she had been saved from a sinful life and was well known as such. This is evident in the Apostle Luke’s account of the anointing of Jesus in which he says that she was a sinner (7: 36-37)
Her actions were touching: “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”. (Luke 7:38 KJV)
Jesus describes that the reason why she loved so much was because she had been forgiven many sins. He added that her demonstration of faith had saved her (Luke 7:47). In the accounts of the Apostles Matthew (26:6-13) and Mark (14:3-9) regarding the anointing of Jesus’ feet, the following was said by Jesus to show the immense blessings Mary of Bethany would receive for what she had done “I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her”. This is a principle of God; He honours those who honour Him (1 Sam 2:30 NIV).
It is highlighted in Luke 8:1-3 that the women who travelled with Jesus and his “recognized” disciples who were all male from place to place were ones “…who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out—and many others..” Society at the time did not consider women as disciples or ones to be instructed in the way men were. Their place of subordination in society was accepted.
Yet God considered women and particularly women who had infirmed and ungodly backgrounds prior to abiding in Christ, worthy to sit at his feet or follow him as disciples and be the first to see the empty tomb or receive the angelic visitation and announcement that Jesus had risen. Jesus often went against the status quo to make the point that God’s ways are higher than that of man (Is 55:8-9) as well as only spiritually discerned by those who abide in Him through the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2).
God will always make a way for us to find God, abide in Him and serve Him and reap of the fruits for doing so regardless of our past lifestyle or our gender, race and social/economic class status.
In Jesus’ time, being possessed by seven demons would have make one wonder of Mary Magdalene “what on earth was she involved in to have been in such a state!” and Mary of Bethany’s past life of prostitution would have also caused eye brows to have been raised. However their testimony of deliverance should have highlighted to onlookers then as it should to us the kind of God we serve. He will not be more favourable with the one whose sin is defined as less serious in the eyes of man. To God sin is sin.
Having understood this, we ought to desire to each have the immense heart of gratitude Mary Magdalene (delivered from demon possession) and Mary of Bethany (delivered from a well known reputation as sinful, possibly prostitution) had regardless of how we or society have rated our sins. In other words, we are to see every type of sin as a great obstacle between us and God and so being forgiven our sins (whatever they may be and how many) is a major act of deliverance by God’s mighty “hand” through Jesus’ death burial and resurrection. This transition from the kingdom of darkness or Satan to that of God should be seen as the greatest escape of our lives and this is no exaggeration!
Thus in viewing our sins and deliverance in this manner inevitably puts us on a par with Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany for as they did, we instantly see the immense privilege we have as chosen to be children of God living under His grace and mercy while enjoying His provision, guidance and protection. We are therefore more likely to respond in total devotion as these women did.
A totally surrendered life is one that is greatly aware and impacted by the depth of love God has for us to the point that He sent his only begotten son, Jesus Christ to suffer death for us. Let us examine ourselves today, brothers and sisters; Does our confession equate our devotion? By our fruits people will know whether we are truly His.
“For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.(Eph 3:14-21 KJV)
Cece Winans Alabaster Box (You-Tube Worship)
You are blessed, determine to stay blessed,
©Deborah E. Nyamekye 26/11/2015
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