Let's Put First Things First
Matthew 6:33 says, "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousnesses; and all these things shall be added unto you." An important study is the use of the word "first" in the New Testament. I think it would do us all some good to consider the priority of items mentioned by the word "first."
1. The Priority In Our Understanding Of What Is Real Unconditional Love:
Concerning the world and His love 1 John 4:19 tells us "We love Him, because He first loved us." John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world, that He have his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
Concerning our relationship with God in Mark 12:30 Jesus said, "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all the mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment."
2. The Priority In Having Our Lives Clean Inside As Well As Outside
Matthew 23:26 says, "Cleanse first that which is within the cup and the platter, that the outside of them may be clean also."
It seems the Lord wants us to understand that the thoughts of our heart will inevitably controls the words that comes forth from our mouth and the actions of our lives.
3. The Priority In Our Awareness Of The Times In Which We Live
The primary opposing doctrine is the anti-god philosophy which is mentioned in 2 Peter 4: 3-4. "Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last day's scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation."
4. The Priority In Our Sharing The Gospel
1 Corinthians 15: 1-5 "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:"
That same gospel that was "delivered" unto Paul first then others is the same gospel that you and I are commanded to take to a lost and dying world.
Mark 16:15 "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
5. Priority In Our Prayer Life And Thankfulness
1 Timothy 2:1 "I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;"
In the day and age that we live in, most Christians spend less time with God in His Word, praying and simply thanking the Lord for His blessing than any generation before us.
6. Priority In Our Giving
2 Corinthians 8: 1-5 "Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God."
I believe the context of this passage is talking about Grace Giving or as we used to call it, Faith Promise Missionary Giving. Our gifts are acceptable to God when offered by first giving ourselves to Christ that enables us to give by faith. In fact, all that we are and all that we have including our time, talents, and treasures all belong to the Lord.
7. Our Priority In All Of Life's Decisions
Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, commanded that our first priority in every decision of life should be to do that which honors the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Matthew 6:33 "But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." It must be Christ first in every nook and cranny or our lives.
Paul says in Philippians 4:20 "Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
Let me close with this illustration from an unknown source.
Surprised to see an empty seat at the Super Bowl stadium, a diehard fan remarked about it to a woman sitting nearby. "It was my husband's," the woman explained, "But he died." "I'm very sorry," said the man. "Yet I'm really surprised that another relative, or friend, didn't jump at the chance to take the seat reserved for him." "Beats me," she said. "They all insisted on going to the funeral."
In closing, may the Lord have the priority in our lives and the ministries He has entrusted us with.
- Pastor David Carroll, Senior Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
What kind of burden do you carry?
In Matthew 11:20 – 30, some of the most scathing words pass from our Savior’s lips concerning those cities that had rejected the Messiah. The phrase “Woe unto thee” uttered against Chorazin and Bethsaida signifies a dreadful judgement. No doubt as the passage continues the same could be said of Capernaum as well. These cities that had been given ‘woe’ judgments are compared to Tyre, Sidon, and the famed city of Sodom. Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom were known for their opulence and prosperity but were pitiful centers of sinful activity. Those rich cities had received the judgement of God. Now the Savior was comparing those sinful cities to Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum; putting them on notice that they should have repented based on the great Light that they were given. As Matthew 4:16 tells us, “The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.” But yet even at this, these people rejected the Messiah. As the warning had gone out the precious words of our Savior are spoken as He lifts up a prayer and compels those who will listen to a life of holiness. Transitioning from those remarkable words the Savior begins to lift up a prayer and also gives us some needful instruction. Mark what the Savior says:
"At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight. All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:25-30)
In these verses we see that the Lord lifts up a Prayer of Praise. He praises His Father the ‘Lord of heaven and earth’. As the only begotten Son of the Father, He states His reason for the praise, “because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” The wise and prudent have the truth hidden from them. Those proud in worldly knowledge; those who by selfish desire, that have rejected the Gospel, have not the ability to see the truth. Paul stated such in
I Corinthians 1: 26, 27 “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;” In that same chapter Paul earlier states, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
(I Corinthians 1:21) Worldly wisdom will never lead people to our Savior Jesus Christ. But it is God who has revealed Himself unto us. It is in this that you and I should lift up a prayer of praise. God in His great love, mercy, and grace called us unto Himself. When is the last time you praised the Lord for revealing Himself unto you?
Jesus goes on to state, “All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.” We not only have the Prayer of Praise but secondly, we see the Path to Peace. The Lord emphatically tells us there is no way to the Father but through the Son. Those who will know the heavenly Father must come through the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, it is our Lord and Savior tells us “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) This path to peace can only be found through Jesus Christ. God’s Word declares for us that we are saved by God’s grace through our faith in Jesus Christ. (Ephesians 2: 8,9) As the hymn writer Dr. John Moore penned, “Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Calvary, Calvary; Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Jesus is very near.” Dr. Moore recounts for us that he wrote this hymn after being at the bedside of a Seamen who accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. Dr. Moore asked this young man, “Do you feel this burden on your back today?” speaking of the young man’s burden of sin. And as Dr. Moore recounts, “We prayed together and never shall I forget the smile of peace and assurance that lit up his face when he said that his burden was lifted!” It was from these magnificent words “My burden was lifted!” that Dr. Moore could not get past till he penned the blessed hymn Burdens are lifted at Calvary. The path to peace surely is the most blessed wonderous treasure. Let us never forget to give praise, glory, and honor to Him that sitteth on the throne for ever and ever!
We have found not only the prayer of praise and discovered the path to peace, but lastly our Savior tells us of an unusual rest; the Place for Perfecting. Many of us have observed that all men as they live upon this earth have burdens. There are financial burdens, physical burdens, social burdens, emotional burdens and most of all spiritual burdens. The burdens of life are upon us all. But yet the Lord gives us such great strength and encouragement. He states, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” This idea of taking upon you a yoke speaks of strenuous labor. But it is when we discover who our yokefellow is that we can find “rest unto” our “souls.” Jesus gives the invitation to all that are burdened with the deceitfulness of this world and the bondage of sin to “Come unto me.” The question then becomes, are you tired? Are you heavy laden? Is your back buckling under the pressures of this dying world? Our Savior says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;” So many today are searching for rest. Much to our dismay many Christians are still buckling under the weight of this world because they have yet to submit to the place for perfecting; the yoke of Jesus Christ. As Matthew Henry states, “We must come to Jesus Christ as our Teacher, and set ourselves to learn of him, Mat 11:29. Christ has erected a great school, and has invited us to be his scholars. We must enter ourselves, associate with his scholars, and daily attend the instructions he gives by his word and Spirit. We must converse much with what he said, and have it ready to use upon all occasions; we must conform to what he did, and follow his steps, 1Pe 2:21.” The place for perfecting will result in the Christian finding rest for his Soul. I often say that a Christian will experience the most satisfaction and joy from exercising their talents and spiritual gifts in service to the Lord giving glory and honor to Him. I wonder have we submitted to the labor Jesus has called us to? Have we submitted to learn of Him? He assures us His “yoke is easy, and [His] my burden in light.”
- Pastor James Grandinetti, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Matthew 28: 18-20 "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."
- The Components of the Mission
Mark 16:15 "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." - The Command of the Mission
Luke 24: 48-49 "And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high." – The Capability to complete the Mission
John 20:21 "Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." – The Commission of the Mission
Acts 1:8 "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." – The Carrying out of the Mission
In each of the above verses God’s Word outlines for us what has been labeled by some as the Great Commission. In each of the Gospel accounts given to us, including the book of Acts, the mission is laid out. Each of these verses present the mission but vary in the details given. The first verse listed is Matthew 28:18-20 and speaks to the components of the mission.
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
The components spoken of here suggest a multifaceted mission. Jesus speaking to the Apostles first presents His authority in giving the mission. “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Because of the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ he states that we are to “Go.” This dictates to you and I an action on our behalf. What are we to go and do? First, we are to “teach all nations.” The message we are to teach is none other than the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The context for this Gospel message is the individual and their need for salvation that can only be found through Jesus Christ. Next the Bible declares those who accept this Gospel message and our saved by God’s grace are to be baptized. As this verse declares, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost:” The proper order according to this verse is salvation followed by believer’s baptism. The semi-colon here suggests a connection to the third part of this continuing mission which is “Teaching them to observe whatsoever things I commanded you:” This third part of the commission includes discipleship and church membership. Teaching is done through the local New Testament church. The equipping work is accomplished for this continuing mission in part by those who are spiritually gifted to teach and preach God’s Word according to Ephesians chapter 4. These are the components of the mission. Secondly, we have Mark chapter 16, the command of the mission.
Mark 16:15 “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
This command is universal in audience as indicated by the personal pronoun “ye” which is plural. Not only is this command universal for every Christian but it is also universal in scope. The Gospel message is to be proclaimed by all Christians to all of the world. Thus, the Lord includes “preach the gospel to every creature.” There are no exclusive rights to the Gospel message. It is a message that applies to all men, regardless of nationality or ethnic background. It applies to all geography, wherever man lives the message is to be brought to him. We are to bring this message by going and delivering the message. Thus, it is said in Romans chapter 10 and verse 14 “…how shall they hear without a preacher?” As we move on down the list of verses we come to Luke chapter 24 were the Lord gives us the capability to complete the mission.
Luke 24: 48-49 “And ye are witnesses of these things. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high."
In Matthew 19: 16-29 the Lord encounters a rich young ruler who exclaims, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” Sadly, this young man in mistaken that heaven can be obtained through works. At the end of this narrative Jesus gives the assessment, “Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” This statement shocks the disciples as they perhaps reexamine this young man’s status in life in their minds. Here was a man that was successful in the world. Here was a man that was successful in religious matters, but yet the Lord had uttered these words, “how hardly…” Jesus’ disciples exclaim the impossibility of salvation: “When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?” To which Jesus replies,“With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” What a wonderful truth; the possible impossibility! Left to our own devices salvation is impossible, but through faith in Jesus Christ by God’s grace man can be saved. The same statement could be made for you and I concerning the monumental task of world evangelism, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” The possibility of completing this task does not lie in what man can do, but rather what God can do. And so, in Luke 24, our Lord and Savior gives us the indication that power to complete the mission will be sent from the Father, which is the Holy Ghost. As we continue examining these verses in the book of John we are given the commission of the mission.
John 20:21 "Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you."
Our mission of world evangelism is not a mission to be completed alone, but rather is a co- mission. As the Father has sent the Son so the Son sends us. This mission is not ours but rather we become co-laborers with God. We are ambassadors for Jesus Christ and as stated in 1 Corinthians 3:9, “For we are labourers together with God: ye are God's husbandry, ye are God's building.” Our mission is not our mission at all but rather His mission that we by His grace get to take part in. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33) Lastly, in the book of Acts we are shown the pattern for the carrying out the mission. As it was demonstrated from the very beginning:
Acts 1:8 "But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
According to Acts 2 the power of the Holy Spirit was given. Moving forward from Acts 2, the carrying out of the mission has been underway. It started in Jerusalem and moved into Judaea. From there the Gospel was carried to Samaria and through Paul’s labor went to the uttermost. But in every generation, there is a Jerusalem to be reached, a Judaea to reached, a Samaria that needs the Gospel. The Gospel is to continue on to the edge of the map, the uttermost. This is the carrying out of the mission. It starts from the local New Testament church and moves out to all nations; step by step and piece by piece. In totality the: who, what, when, where, why, and how is answered by these verses concerning the Great Commission.
- Pastor James, Community Outreach Pastor, Sharon Baptist Church
Sharon Baptist church is an independent, fundamental Baptist church located in Hampton, VA.
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