Are You Putting Jesus First?
Are you putting Jesus first? What is your passion? What really excites you? What provokes your interest, stimulates your thoughts, motivates your life? Is it your job? Could it be your boyfriend or girlfriend? Possibly it’s your spouse or your grandchildren. Maybe it’s your favorite sports team, your musical interests, your music, favorite food, or your hobby. Whatever it may be, this enthusiasm for something on earth really isn’t worth living for!
Most people believe in God or at least they have some conception of God. Many also believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior of the world. If you believe these facts, let me encourage you to do a little thinking. Even if you don’t believe in God or the Lord Jesus Christ, I also ask you to think through what the Bible says about life and the reason for our existence.
If God is real—and He is—then He must be the most important reality of the universe! He is the one who created all things, including you! He also sustains all things or causes all things to continue in the world of nature. This means that He is the real reason why you even exist and why you are alive today. He gave you the gift of sight, the ability to hear, the capacity to speak, and the mental powers to think and reason and choose. The Bible says that “from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36). Since you live because of God the Creator and Sustainer of this universe, it is clear that your life must be lived for God as the very foundation of your creation.
The Bible speaks of these very truths. Paul explained these foundational facts to the philosophers in Athens in the ancient country of Greece. He said, “[God] Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:25-28). We can see that Paul speaks of God’s creation of all life, His sovereignty over the nations of the earth, and His involvement in all that He has created. Indeed, God must be recognized and acknowledged. Our whole life must be lived for God!
Not only must our life be focused on God, we must also come to know that Jesus Christ the Son of God is the very center of our life. Because of sin or personal disobedience to the will and ways of God, we all are cut off from a relationship with Him. Your sins “have made a separation between you and your God” (Isaiah 59:2). The Bible says that we are “alienated” from God because of our sins (Colossians 1:21). This means that we are spiritually dead and under God’s righteous judgment. “You were dead in your trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). “You are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5). Our condition was utterly futile and hopeless!
But God, in His grace and mercy, gave His Son to deliver us from such a dreadful condition and from future judgment and punishment. Jesus came to this earth, suffered and died for our sins, and God raised Him from the grave three days later! The Bible says that “Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), and in this way He “rescues us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). If Jesus, the divine Son of God, died for your sins, you may personally may be rescued from God’s judgment, the judgment that you deserve because of your sin! So much could be shared with you about these wonderful truths, and this is what we’ve done in other pamphlets and booklets that are available to you, for free, as well as on our website (www.Truediscipleship.com). But we have seen enough to understand why the Lord Jesus Himself must be the very center of our earthly life. It can’t be sports, music, education, TV, family, food, clothes, or anything else, but it is God Himself and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is utterly vital that you understand what we are saying here for, if you miss this, you will miss out on the most important thing in life. If you fail to understand this matter, you will lose out on the reason for your life and, sadly, you will miss out on your future of inexpressible love, deep peace, and incomprehensible joy for all eternity! So please consider what we are saying here.
You must come to see that earthly things have either secondary importance to you or may even be a hindrance to your relationship with God. Some things in life actually separate you from God—such as immoral sex, greed, pleasure-seeking, pride, materialism, lust, wastefulness, and hatred. Other matters may weigh you down with distractions and compromises and you should avoid them. The Bible says that we must “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 12:1).
What do we mean? TV offers an occasional good program, but most of the programming takes your interest away from spiritual things or even leads your heart away from God and His perfect will. Most music today is not holy and upbuilding, for it puts evil and compromising thoughts into our mind that lead us from God and His truth. Much of the secular education today is so filled with evolution, humanism, secularism, worldliness, and moral compromise that this too leads our minds astray. Paul the apostle wisely warns us, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
The key is to see the dangers around you that would lead your mind away from God and His will. These dangers cause one to be “led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). Where is your heart? Is it fixed on God? Is it focused on Jesus Christ? Or is it centered on the many distractions the world has to offer? James says, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God” (James 4:4). The world is your enemy and it can pull your heart from God, the Lord of heaven and earth! It is impossible to love the world and love God at the same time. “Do not love the world nor the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. . . . The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).
Test yourself for a few moments. Suppose that you want to do something or go somewhere. It may not be clearly sinful—such as watching a compromising TV program, buying a luxury vehicle, going to a pornographic movie, traveling to the casino in Las Vegas, getting drunk in the tavern, or going to a party to take drugs. No, it may be something less obvious. Yet you recognize that it is not pleasing to God or it violates the teachings of Jesus. What do you do? Do you go ahead and follow your own will—or do you surrender your will to the will of the Lord Jesus? What or who do you put first in your decisions of life?
When it comes to using your time, do you follow your desire to use it for your personal pleasures, or do you use it to please Jesus? By this you can know whether you are putting Jesus first in your choices. Suppose you get your paycheck and have a bonus. Do you spend the excess to gratify your own desires, or do you use it in a way that would please Jesus, your Lord and Savior? Again, we see how putting Jesus first has a very practical effect in life. Maybe you are in a clothing store and find a shirt, a dress, or a coat that appeals to your taste. Do you succumb to this temptation, or do you buy the article of clothing that you believe would please Jesus Christ? In hundreds and even thousands of decisions like this, we can know something of whether we are giving the priority to Christ Jesus—or whether we are clinging to our own autonomy and insisting on our own way.
How Can We Put Jesus First?
You may be wondering, “If we must put Jesus first in our life, how can we actually do this?” A few teachings from God’s Word will help us to answer this. First, we must deliberately determine to put Jesus first in all things. It is a decision of the mind and heart. We must begin to see the Lord Jesus the way He really is. We must see the truth about Christ who is “the way, and the truth, and the life” who is the only way to God in heaven (John 14:6). After Paul says many things to show the exalted position of the Lord Jesus, he wrote that “He [Jesus] Himself will come to have first place in everything” (Colossians 1:18). This means that “in everything he might be preeminent” (ESV). Do you recognize Christ’s preeminence and are you living with this in mind at all times? If we do, it will have a profound effect on how we order our lives.
Second, do you recognize that Jesus is our very life? Paul said that Christ “is our life” (Colossians 3:4). Is He your life? Is Jesus your passion, your focus, the love of your heart? Or are you like most people (even religious people) who embrace sports as their life, or maybe music, their job, their family, education, TV, food, clothes, or any one of many different pursuits? Paul declared, “For to me, to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21). Are you able to say that living to you means Jesus Christ? With this chosen focus, you are able to make many decisions easier and without compromise.
Third, are you consciously seeking first God, His kingdom, and His will? Jesus tells us to “seek first” God’s “kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). This doesn’t mean seek second, third, fourth, or eighteenth! Jesus meant what He said and He plainly tells us that we must seek first God’s kingdom (His reign in our life and in the world) and His righteousness (what God considers to be right). Is this your sincere purpose in life? Jesus said that He has a Kingdom (John 18:36) and no one who practices sin will enter that wonderful rein of King Jesus (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21). Are you seeking God’s kingdom by renouncing all known sin and living in holiness and purity?
Fourth, are you seeking things above rather than things on earth? Since we live on the earth, it is understandable that we need to be concerned about having enough food to eat, having clothes to wear, having a job for an income, and having transportation to go where we need to go. However, these kinds of things dominate the thinking of most people (cf. Matthew 6:19-34). In contrast, Paul writes, “If you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:1-2). We must seek the things above and set our mind on the things above. We do this because Jesus is above and He wants us to be living with Him in mind at all times and in all circumstances. Let you mind be fixated on God, Christ, the Spirit, heaven, the Paradise of God, spiritual riches, and all of those things in the heavenly realm!
Fifth, do you put Jesus before any human relationship? The Lord Jesus will accept no rivals to our affection for Him. He declared, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37). This is not hard to understand, but it can be hard to practice. God does want us to love our husband or wife, our son and daughter, our mother and father, our brother and sister, as well as our friends and others whom we know. But no other person must take the place of the Lord Jesus! If we place anyone before Jesus, we are unworthy of Him and can’t be His disciple or follower. Christ went so far as to say these startling words: “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26). Our love of Jesus must be so intense and so dominating that all other “loves” in our life seem like “hatred” by comparison! Therefore, if you ever must choose between your beloved husband or wife, your parents, or a close friend, be willing to place Jesus first in your life and thinking!
Sixth, do you put Jesus first in your use of time? We all have 24 hours in a day and 168 hours in a week. How do you use this precious gift from God? Paul gives this instruction: “Be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time” (Ephesians 5:15-16a). Although people do have many valid uses of their limited time—such as earning a living, sleeping, eating, exercising, and nurturing one’s spouse and children—still we generally have time left over each day. For example, the average person devotes some 18 to 30 hours a week to TV; if this is eliminated, this would provide much more time to directly seek the Lord Jesus. So much of our precious time is wasted—just thrown away on nonessentials, on passing things, on worthless activities, on that which will one day pass away! Choose to use every possible moment of your life for Jesus! As one popular preacher challenges us, “Don’t waste your life!”
Seventh, do you seek Jesus first in the use of your money and possessions? The Bible says that our money is given to us as a “test” of our faithfulness and a gauge of our heart. God’s Word says that we should give as much as we can to the work of the Lord. We are to prove the sincerity of our love (2 Corinthians 8:8), are to allow God’s grace to work through us in the giving that we do (8:1, 7; 9:8, 14), and are to cheerfully give from our heart (9:7). Nearly everyone selfishly uses money for his own pleasure-seeking and for his own materialistic pursuits. After paying for our daily necessities, most people assume that what remains is for them to use in any way they want. Instead, God gives us money and material possessions to be used for the cause of the Lord, and the follower of Jesus should seek Him first in the amount he gives to the work of the Lord as well as to bless the lives of others by meeting their spiritual and material needs. Use as little on your own living expenses and devote as much as you can directly related to God’s kingdom.
Are You Putting Jesus First in All things?
Where is your heart? Your heart is an accurate barometer of your devotion to the Lord Jesus. If our heart is on Jesus, if we love Him with all of our heart, if we serve Him with all of our heart, if we obey Him with all of our heart, then we will be putting Jesus first in all things. What does God say? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).
This is likewise true for the Lord Jesus Christ. We must sincerely love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. So important is this that “if anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22). This means that one who fails to love Jesus will “experience God’s displeasure and wrath” (NASB Study Bible). This shows how vital it is that we put Jesus first in our life!
Search your own heart. Consider all aspects of your life and ask whether your lifestyle demonstrates a heart of love and devotion to Jesus:
- · How do you use your time?
- · How do you spend your money?
- · How do you use your possessions?
- · What do you read and watch?
- · What do you listen to?
- · How do you relate to your husband or wife?
- · How do you relate to your children and parents?
- · How do you relate to your friends and extended family?
- · How do you perform on the job?
- · What kind of house do you have and how do you use it?
- · What kind of car do you have and how do you use it?
- · What does your speech reveal about you?
- · What do you enjoy doing?
- · Does your eating and clothing reveal a life centered on Jesus?
- · Are you in earnest about sharing Jesus with as many as you can?
These are a few of the questions that you can ask yourself to reveal something of your heart. If you truly love Jesus and put Him first in your life, your family and friends and fellow-workers will know it. You won’t be able to keep this perspective of your life a secret. Everyone will observe your radical commitment to the Lord Jesus, your sincere devotion to His will, and your desire to share the good news of His salvation with others!
If we really love someone, we won’t be able to keep this a secret. Others will know of this affection for another person. In a much greater way, if we love Jesus and put Him first in our life, we will want others to discover the wonder and glory of the Lord Jesus who has touched our own life in such a dramatic way. We are to proclaim the good news about Jesus to others (Mark 16:15) and this will come naturally as we interact with others (Acts 8:4). They will be able to see the way we speak of Jesus, our Friend, our Savior, and our Lord. They will observe how He directs our life and influences all that we do. They will detect that we order our life according to His divine Word.
Are you allowing compromise to enter your life? Are you allowing your devotion to another person to dominate your time and thinking? Are you so busy with other things—some of which may be good and proper in their place—that you don’t have the time to devote to seeking Jesus, His will and truth? Are you constantly thinking about your job, your education, your hobbies, and your interests, therefore Jesus is pushed to the periphery of your life and He seldom is considered in your daily activities? Have you adopted certain habits that grieve the Lord Jesus; have you been willing to disobey certain of His teachings because of laziness or because you are ashamed of them? Have you been more interested in currying the favor of the world around you that you are unwilling to walk a radical life of entire devotion to Jesus? All of this reveals a divided heart, one that is not putting Jesus first in your life!
Begin to Put Jesus First Today!
Now is the time to repent and begin again. If you have never bowed the knee to Jesus, be willing to come to Him in repentant faith and express this by dying to your sin, being buried in baptism, and rising to walk a new life of uncompromising commitment to Jesus. If you have already come to Christ, but have compromised His ways, now is the time for you to sincerely repent and confess your sin to God so that you may have complete cleansing and forgiveness.
Jesus will one day return in glory. We don’t know when—but it may be very soon! “Be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42). “The Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at among all who have believed” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10).
When Christ Jesus comes back in power and glory, those who belong to Him and love Him will be caught up to meet Him in the air, “and so we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18). Are you prepared to meet Jesus, your Lord and Savior? You will be if you have been truly saved and if you are putting Him first in your life! I challenge us to believe in Him, love Him, serve Him, obey Him, and anxiously look for His coming. Put Jesus first in your life today and throughout your life—and in for all eternity!