Summary: All of us need a Fresh Encounter. Without any apology, Richard Blackaby was my inspiration for developing this message. Everyone needs a "First Encounter" with Jesus followed by a "Fresh Encounter"...It's life-changing.
* Have you ever had an experience which you would call an ‘encounter?’ Encounters are those events in your life which you ‘remember!’ I’ll never forget the time I almost stepped on a cotton mouth moccasin. I’ll never forget when, at age 10, I ran into a barbed wire fence severely cutting my left shoulder & the left side of my face.
* However, all encounters are not & have not been bad. While a Senior in High School, one Saturday evening I was at home watching TV and saw an advertisement about the Oak Ridge Boys being in concert at William Carey College the next afternoon. Mom & dad said, ‘yes’ so I went to the concert. The pre-group for the Oaks was a local male quartet called, “The Trailsmen.” They did a number of songs and I was impressed with these guys for all kinds of reasons. However, they soon became a vague memory. Fast forward 7 months. I went to a friend’s church for revival and guess who was leading the services? It was the Trailsmen. About 2 weeks later I joined the Trailsmen and still today have contact with them & connections around the country. It happened not because of the first encounter but the second one or the ‘fresh one.’
* Next weekend we have set aside 3 days for a time together which I am calling, “Fresh Encounter.” It is one thing to have encountered Christ for Salvation, but it could well be another thing to have a ‘fresh encounter’ with Christ. What if you are only ONE FRESH ENCOUNTER AWAY from doing something extraordinary for our Lord & His Kingdom? Some people ask about giving an ‘altar call’ at every service & state they are afraid people will come too often. Personally, I am more afraid of one coming too seldom & rather than too often.
* A fresh encounter with the Lord might be exactly what you need to raise your faith, raise your service, and yes, raise your life to the next level. Our story today is a familiar one. Sadly, sometimes familiar stories lose their impact in our lives. So let’s take a fresh look story.
* It begins “Six days before the Passover.” Now do you know which Passover this is? Jesus has lived through many Passovers, but this is the one he’ll die at.
* Then it says, “Jesus came to Bethany.” Do you know where Bethany is? It is just a few clicks from Jerusalem. It is almost as if Jesus came to Bethany to see (or say good-bye to friends) as His face is now set toward Jerusalem. In previous years, it seemed that everytime He got close to Jerusalem the opposition was too hot for Him to hang out there. Now He was headed there, where He would die for the sin of the world, for you and for me.
* On His way there, it seems He stops at Bethany to see this family. His friends were a family of three, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. This was not the first time Jesus and His disciples had stopped by. Scriptures record at least one other occasion (Luke) 10 they had come, dinner was served, and basically had the same configuration of guests. From looking at these two events, we can learn much about our need for & the impact of a “Fresh Encounter” with Jesus. I bring your attention to 4 people in this room & see how their fresh encounter changed them.
1. We begin with Martha, She teaches us about “Service to Jesus”. What is Martha doing? She is doing what we always find her doing, she is serving. Yet her serving is different on this day- largely because of her “Luke 10” experience. Think about it. In that recorded first encounter, the gang came in, Mary took her seat at the feet of Jesus, & Martha (with the gift of service), began to serve. Those with the gift of service are the workers & she was working.
* In fact, Dr. Luke writes that she was distracted by her much serving. How exactly does this happen? The danger for the gift of service is that they tend to judge others by what they’re NOT doing.
* If you think about what happened in that first encounter, you’ll see Martha welcoming everyone into her house & immediately beginning to serve. Why? Because that what she does, it’s almost like ‘Who she is.’ On the other hand, Mary, taken by being in the presence of the Lord, takes a seat at His feet. Here’s the picture; a house full of company & only one of the two ladies of the house doing anything. Martha walks in sits down some food, gives Mary a look that says, “I could use some help”, Mary is oblivious to anything but Jesus, and so Martha returns to the kitchen ‘mumbling’ about how she should really use some help. (Probably the guests could now hear the pots and pans at war in the kitchen!) When she returns there is a hush in the room because everyone knows something is wrong with Martha. Now she puts it to Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care that “MY SISTER” has left me to serve alone?” Some of you are saying, “Well yeah, that’s right!” Yet, Martha (like so many of us) has done what she does not want to do. She has stolen the attention of the crowd. Now, no one is looking or focusing on Jesus – they have their attention on Martha.