Intentional Acts – Superpowered Gratitude

Intentional Acts or Obligated Ones

Have you initiated any intentional acts of gratitude to others this week? It seems it is sometimes easier to offer a greater amount of gratitude to strangers that owe us nothing than to people who we may feel are simply due reciprocal gratitude acts. This is especially true in families. It is odd that the people we most likely love the most are those that we are least likely to show deep gratitude for. We tend to just take them for granted. Perhaps we feel so secure in their love that we think our gratitude is clear through our obvious obligated acts. However, intentional acts of gratitude grossly differ from obligated ones.

I read this morning that Jesus: His life is airing on the History Channel through Easter and that The Chosen, a series that will depict the radical ministry of Christ, will debut online April 15th. Apparently, Jesus is popular with our culture. Interestingly, the article pointed out that 73 Americans identify themselves as Christians. But while almost 3 of every 4 Americans say they are Christians the Barna research reports that only 55% attended church in the last 6 months.

Christ is considered one of the world’s most famous people even if His church isn’t. And popularity often comes with devoted followers, some serious and some just caught up in the moment. As we enter, the next 2 weeks before Easter, we can clearly see the division between the devoted followers and those who were just caught up in the celebration and excitement if we follow scripture. The difference lies in what is true and intentional and that which appears as some sort of obligation or perceived reciprocal act in hopes of gaining something in return.

True Intentional Acts of Devotion

True intentional acts of devoted gratitude, however, come from the heart and hold no hidden agendas, and this is where our focus verse leads us this week.

Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping His feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.

John 12:3 (NLT)

Mary is the sister of Lazarus. If you remember your Bible stories, Jesus called Lazarus out of the grave with a new life not too long before this dinner invitation. Because of this incredible act along with many others, people began following Jesus. This resulted in acts of devotion and for some, these acts were over the top and increasing in many ways. Perhaps many acts although seemingly intentional were done in hopes to gain something from it. However, some were simply and purely intentional acts of true and utter devotion.

Mary is one of the later as she moved beyond simply believing and into a radical devotion with an intentional act as she pours a very expensive bottle of oil onto the feet of Jesus and cleans them with her hair. To understand this intentional act more fully it is important to understand the costly expense of this oil and how dirty the feet of ancient people were as in both of these, lie the significance of what she did.

The Significance of the Devoted Act

Nard, which is another name for spikenard plant, was and still remains a very expensive oil. The scripture tells us that it was worth a year of wages at a labor’s pay grade. This is the wage equivalent to several tens of thousands of dollars in today’s terms. Mary, however, was extremely grateful that Jesus resurrected her brother and thought nothing of this intentional act of devotion.

During ancient times, spikenard was considered a precious oil used not just in perfume but in medicine and religious practices across a vast territory ranging from India to Europe. It dates back to Egyptians who viewed it as a luxury oil and in addition, it is referenced in Homer’s Iliad. The oil is also known to season foods during the Medieval times of Europe and as a flavoring of a spiced wine and beer drink. It is commonly used as a cleaning oil for the body which is why Jesus mentions that Mary did this in preparation for His burial, even though she didn’t understand what He meant.

In addition, Nard is not easy to obtain. The oil of Nard is derived from the root or rhizomes of the plant that grows in the Himalayas of Nepal, China, and India. It is found at elevations above 10,000 feet. It remains an imported oil even today. To purchase the amount of oil that Mary used in this intentional act of pure devotion would cost about $1200 today. This would certainly be an amount of money that most people would not clean feet with.

Intentional Acts are Seen in Overflowing Love

As we view the significance of this oil and this utter intentional act of devotion on Mary’s part, we see that faithful followers move from just believing and committing obligated acts of gratitude to full acts pouring their heart and soul out for the Savior. It is to be clearly understood however, that it is God’s grace through our faith that saves our soul and not acts of devotion, love, or generosity. However, it is the later intentional acts that demonstrate publicly true faith.

When we realize the depth of God’s grace and the full forgiveness of our sin, we, too, should shift from obligated acts of devotion to true intentional acts as Mary did. And although these full intentional acts do not secure our place in eternity, God desires them as it shows our true and full devotion to Him which deepens not only our commitment to Him but our relationship as well.

Overflowing love, like Mary’s, should be the result of our faith and forgiveness of our sins. Living a life of intentional attitudes of devotion to Christ for all He has done for us should clearly mark our lives. Christ willingly went to the cross to pay for our sins and it is His intentional acts of devotion to us that allow us to live eternally with Him.

Only One is Worthy

In our broken world today, sometimes it is difficult to see through the shadows the light that Christ offers us. Because of the hardships, we often show our devotion to the tangible things of this world that make our current life easier in the immediate. But it is important to remember that we are not of this world. (John 15:19, John 17:16) As we examine our faith closer especially in the days of the Easter countdown, let us remember there is only one that is worthy, whole, and has the ability to open the scroll as Chris Tomlin sings in his song, Is He Worthy?

Won’t you challenge yourself to examine and consider what intentional acts of devotion you display to God and how your true heartfelt acts of devotion will deepen not only your faith but your relationship? Allow your convictions to move you into an act of intentional devotion being motivated to put fear to the side and willing to do anything that shows your heartful love for the Savior. Surround yourself in the comfort of knowing that it is by the grace of God that you are saved and that intentional acts of devotion are not required but accepted fully as your gratitude is superpowered.

Love in Christ,

E.J.

Postscript

You have to live intentionally as one with a unique purpose and determination.

Sunday Adelaja

Extra Study

Matthew 26:6 – 13, Luke 7:37 – 38, Mark 14:3- 9

What are Your Thoughts?

Have you considered the difference between obligated devotional acts and intentional acts of devotion? Does your life reflect intentional devotional acts to Christ? Share your thoughts on the ways pure intentional devotional acts to God can firm your commitment and deepen your relationship with Him.

Join the Discussion

Credits
Denison, J. (2019, April 5). Two new TV series about Jesus: Why is Christ more popular than the church? Retrieved from Denison Forum: https://www.denisonforum.org/columns/daily-article/two-new-tv-series-about-jesus-why-is-christ-more-popular-than-the-church/

Ruggeri, C. (2017, June 27). Spikenard Stimulates the Immune System and Relaxes Both Body & Mind. Retrieved from Dr. Axe: https://draxe.com/spikenard/

How God is working through your life?