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Mary of Bethany saw who Jesus was and understood He was going to die for her. The cross was not “beautiful,” it was rugged and cruel, like this picture. But Jesus, despite the turmoil we see in Him, at the close of John 12, was going to that cross for love. Mary, alone among the disciples, realized it, so SHE GAVE HER ALL. SHE SURRENDERED. SHE LET GO OF SECURITY, APPROVAL, AND CONTROL for THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE. She understood what Isaac Watts wrote in “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross:”

Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small:

Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.



Tim Keller ties this whole story together in a sermon called Following Jesus. I’ll give you the link, but also share some nuggets from it, as it costs 2.50.  It’s a tremendous sermon, so here’s the link:


Keller opens with a true story that was sadly witnessed by helpless onlookers. They watched a man go over a dam in a canoe, saw the canoe flip, and the man thrown and caught in the whirlpool that formed after the dam. He struggled to stay afloat but finally died of hypothermia, and his body sank. The moment his body sank, just a minute later, it popped up further down the river where it was calm. If he hadn’t fought the rapids, he would have been saved. The whirling water he thought would kill him actually would have carried him to safety. Keller’s point is that the Christian life is counter-intuitive. We struggle to save our lives, to hold on to the stone idols that we think will rescue us, when they actually pull us down. If we would let go, and sink into the arms of Jesus, we would indeed experience victory. The victorious life is counter-intuitive.

The Christian life is a journey, and we will not be fully changed until we see Jesus face to face. But glory be — before Christ we were in a battle we could not win, now we are in a battle we cannot lose. One day He will complete us, and, as Hosea prophesied, take our bent for sinning away.

But for now, our stones can be chiseled down, even removed. We must, as Mary did, see Him as so beautiful, that we are willing to give all for this wondrous Savior.

1. Summarize what you have learned in this HEART OF FLESH journey. Write down some a few of your main take-a-ways as you look over the past five weeks.

2. What stone or stones were you asking God to remove? Have you seen progress? Give us a report.

3. When a Christian is defined as “someone who follows Jesus,” that is accurate — but often what is meant is following some of His teachings, such as being loving and caring. But read John 12:20-26.

A. What did Jesus tell those seeking Him in John 12:23-24. What did He mean?

B. According to the above, what does it mean to “follow Jesus?”

C. Memorize John 12:25 in the version that speaks best to your heart. As you are memorizing this week, keep sharing your meditations with us.

D. Think about your stone and why you want to hold onto it. It feels counter-intuitive to let it go. But why is it the wise thing to do? (This is an important question so you can speak to your soul in moments of temptation.)

4. Isaac Watts led the movement that gave freedom to sing not just Scripture, but lyrics the Scripture inspired. His point was that we don’t ask preachers to just read Scripture, to to say the words the Scripture inspires.  Share anything you learn about “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross,” any videos about it you like, any reflections you have on the lyrics.

5. What is your take-a-way this week?

On a personal note, I’ need you and your prayers for a big event in Jacksonville Tuesday. I need traveling mercies, quickening, and women with teachable hearts. I will, Lord willing, be speaking at noon Eastern time at an arena. Then I stay on with two of my dearest friends to have five days of Christian fellowship. We always seek each other’s wisdom and refreshment, so we need quickening for this too.

Love to each of you — eager to hear your ponderings.

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  1. I have a prayer request, please. My sister Christine is having surgery Monday to remove a benign tumor growing in the bone of her hip. It will be at 8am Monday morning, and she’ll be spending that night in the hospital. This tumor has been destroying the bone and causing her alot of pain for several months now (since last July). They must make an incision and go in and scrape out all the tumor, and they may need to pop the hip out of the socket if the synovium is abnormal and they need to remove that, too. We are praying that that part wont be necessary.
    Thank you all!

    D. Think about your stone and why you want to hold onto it. It feels counter-intuitive to let it go. But why is it the wise thing to do?

    Praying and reflecting this morning. I have a very large stone, I’m not sure what to call it, but it is my marriage, my relationship with my husband. It’s the biggest stone I have. It may be a stone of unforgiveness, but the reasons I hold onto it may be that I have grown comfortable with it. I live behind a self-erected wall and I withdraw and I’ve grown comfortable living behind it. Some of it may be that he has never recognized how he has hurt me in different circumstances.
    All I know is my love for him has died. I don’t hate, but it’s more like indifference.
    As I prayed, I asked what if I did everything right and was the perfect wife and loved perfectly, but I don’t have the kind of husband who is capable of returning that love to me? Jesus seemed to be saying, “but you’d be doing it for Me”. I’d be loving Jesus. So thats my answer as to why it’s the wise thing to do. How can I ever go wrong in doing something for Jesus?
    I’m praying for Him to show me how to take the first small step.

    1. Susan, you and I have a great deal in common in that it sounds to me like we have similar marriages. The best thing I ever did was to let go of my expectations and look to the Lord as my husband. I stopped trying to do everything and also stopped blaming myself. I began to spend a lot of time in the word and am still in the process of turning worry into prayer. A wonderful thing began to happen. He started to take some responsibility. We are still far from having the marriage I would like but we also don’t have near the conflict. I can find some things to be truly thankful for. I am different since a surgery that I had in that I am even less warm emotionally than I was before (which was not very, even then), and that scares me as I see it more clearly. But I find little promptings from the Lord to put down my study and go sit with him. So I do and find that it is just what he needed. The steps are a baby’s for sure but it is progress. I think the Lord will also show you small steps you can take will be just right. I will be praying, and also for your sister.

      1. Anne, that is great advice for Susan…I can use it myself, too, for our marriage. My prayers are with you both and for Christine monday morning. Let’s all pray for Christine about that time, like we did for Dee. I pray they don’t have to pop the hip out of socket and everything goes wonderfully.

  2. 1. Although I have been shamefully off track these weeks, God is forever wonderfully faithful and has drawn me closer to His Heart despite my failings.

    2. The stone I have worked on is spending scheduled time with Him. I’ve not done as well as I’d liked, but my five reasons (which God led me to memorize weeks ago) focus me when I come to Him in my chaotic scheduling. My times are deeper!

    3a. Jesus says we have to give up our lives to Him for true life to grow just like how the kernel produces life.

    3b. Following means life hidden in Jesus.

    D. Jesus can protect me and give me true life only when I turn to Him and Him alone!!

  3. Hey Ladies.. LOVE THIS.. A friend just sent this to me: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UL-uyjAYqXI If you can watch this, it is worth it..It is only 3 minutes long..It is Priscilla Shirer..