FIRST--"Putting God First"
Matt. 6:31-33 "31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ 32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."
--I read recently of an old recipe for rabbit stew that started out with this instruction: "First catch the rabbit." The message being--if you don't get your priorities straight, you might starve!
In a German art gallery there is a painting by German painter Adolf Menzel. It's only partially finished, and had been intended to show Fredrick the Great speaking with some of his generals. Menzel painted the generals and the background, but left the king until last. He had outlined the king in charcoal, but then died before finishing.
So hanging on the wall of the gallery you have a painting that should have highlighted the king, but because everything else was put first, the king never got his rightful place. Many Christians come to the end of their life without ever having put Jesus into his proper place--center stage.
Priorities matter! And so often we get them all messed up and that's why our lives end up a mess as well! We put the proverbial cart before the horse, like a football fan I once read about…
Surprised to see an empty seat at the Super Bowl stadium, a diehard fan said something about it to a woman sitting nearby. "It was my husband's," the woman explained, "But he died." "Oh, I'm very sorry," said the man. "But 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."
Several times Jesus begins His teaching on a certain topic with the word, ‘FIRST.’ In the Sermon on the Mount alone, I counted 3 times where Jesus put a FIRST on something He wanted His followers to do.
On RELATIONSHIPS: First be reconciled with your brother.
On LIFESTYLE: Seek FIRST the kingdom of God.
On JUDGING OTHERS: First take the beam out of your own eye.
The word FIRST, by simple definition, means "to place one thing in front of everything else." We often use the word ‘PRIORITIES’ by saying--"I need to get my priorities in order".... This is the very thought Jesus had in mind when He told His followers to “Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.”
Now picture this scene with me:
As Jesus taught that day, He sat on a hillside. Before Him was a vast multitude of people who had followed Him there---A sea of faces representing a complete cross-section of humanity.
There were people of different races and different economic groups. There were people of different lifestyles and professions, different educational backgrounds and different world views.
While we tend to view them as being very different from us, they were very much like us in attitude and in the desires of their heart. They were people who had cares and concerns; people who were troubled and often worried about the future.
And Jesus, as God in flesh, knew all about their worries and concerns. And so He first told them...
Three times in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commands us not to WORRY… The word "worry" means "to be distracted, pulled aside, to focus on one thing when you should be focusing on another." Jesus said, "Don't be distracted from your focus on my kingdom by worrying over things your Heavenly Father will take care of!"
He talked about their worrying over food, clothing, and shelter and assured them that God the Father knew their need long before they ever had it. He told them that He who feeds the sparrows and clothes the grass of the field, and numbers the very hairs on their head, would meet the physical needs of their life as they looked to Him!
He also talked about the futility of worrying about a TOMORROW that hasn't arrived yet. Think about it: Today is the tomorrow you were worried about yesterday! So Jesus says, "don't allow WORRY to distract you from Putting God First!"
Then He gave us The NUMBER ONE KEY to victory in our Christian walk and to a truly fulfilling life...
"But seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Jesus's message is clear as a bell: Rather than wasting time and energy worrying about PROVISION and the FUTURE, spend your time focusing on a relationship with God! And He promised---if you put the kingdom first, all the things you're worried about will be taken care of by God!
Listen, some people say they tried Christianity and it didn't work for them. But Christianity is never tried and found wanting, as long as it is tried right! Christianity won't work without Him holding FIRST PLACE!
So in a nutshell, Jesus's advice on how to do life is...
III. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.
When spiritual things----like the kingdom of God, the Lord Jesus, the will and Word of God, and prayer----When these things are put FIRST, this is the good ground in which spiritual fruit grows, victory is assured, and God's purpose for us is fulfilled!
Only one thing is to hold first place in our life---God Himself! He didn't say it was to be the ONLY thing, He said it was to be the FIRST THING, the top priority, the number one pursuit, the primary focus. He's never to be put on the back burner, or treated as an afterthought, or serve as a "flat tire" God where He only hears from us when we're in trouble!
ILLUS: Old Wagon Wheel
When the kingdom of God is number one, and Jesus is on the throne of your heart,
and the Holy Spirit has hold of the steering wheel of your life,
and the Word of God is your number one instruction manual,
and we are bowed to His will in all things,
then all the other areas and issues of our existence will be transformed and blessed!
The fact of life is that.....if you don't intentionally put Jesus at the center of your life, other things will just naturally fall into ‘first place’ by default. It might be sports, or money, or fame, or a coveted career, or some person, a relationship, a habit....
You see---EVERYONE in this sanctuary has a FIRST THING you've placed above all others right now. And Jesus calls it your treasure---it is what you value above all else....it is whatever has captured your heart. Jesus said, "Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be" (Matt. 6:21).
Now, it's easy to find out what your treasure is by just looking at what you're chasing after more than anything else! I've learned that Where the heart is, the feet will closely follow.
--Your treasure is what gets most of your time, energy, effort, and sacrifice.
If your treasure is money then that's what you're chasing.
If your treasure is a person, then that's what you're chasing.
But if your treasure is God, then that's what you're chasing!
Now notice with me that Jesus put the word 'SEEK' before the word, ‘FIRST.’ The word ‘seek’ means to strive after'---It means a SERIOUS EFFORT is to be made. In other words---a growing, prospering, and productive relationship with God requires INTENTIONAL EFFORT.
Let’s be honest: What requires the most effort?
The things of the kingdom require effort, resolve, decision-making, and discipline…
I don’t think there is one person out of 10,000 who, if you called them up and asked them to go with you to a Cowboy's game with box seats, or to Del Frisco's Steakhouse for a ‘prime rib’ dinner would say:
“You know, wow....gosh, I'm Sorry, I’d love to, but to go with you would really cut into the time I've set aside to spend with God in prayer and the Word.”
That's because it is the very nature of man to seek to satisfy his own pleasures FIRST. So we must seek first the kingdom INTENTIONALLY with resolve to PUT HIM FIRST!
So....The bottom line of Jesus’ sermon is this---“Put first things first!” Each and every day let's resolve that My main thing today is to keep the main thing the main thing."
Colossians 3:1-3 says: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. 2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God."
This is the attitude of the person who puts God first, and resolves to keep the main thing the main thing!
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