At the beginning of a new year, many people reevaluate their priorities, recalibrate their goals, and make resolutions for self-improvement. Setting priorities means deciding what comes first, and we naturally make this determination according to what is most important to us.
Suppose it’s Sunday morning and you’re debating whether to show up at church. There’s a football game to watch in the afternoon, or maybe there’s dinner with friends in the evening. But there’s also a paper due on Monday and you need to reserve some time to work on it. What do you do?
Many times in our experience, “first” doesn’t mean that Sunday morning services, morning quiet time with the Lord, and Bible studies are scheduled before anything else and are untouchable. Rather, “first” often means that our time for the Lord is the first thing we carve out of our schedule to make room for our studies, work, social life, sleep, time at the gym…and so on.
The Bible makes some striking statements about our priorities as believers—about what comes first for a Christian—and it’s worthwhile to take some time early in the new year to prayerfully consider them.
God wants Jesus Christ to have the first place in everything.
Christ is “the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15); that is, He is supreme among all God’s creatures. Christ is also “the firstborn from the dead” (1:18); that is, He is first in resurrection, the first among God’s new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).
Why? “That in everything He might be preeminent” (Col. 1:18).
Another translation says, “That in everything He might have the supremacy”, and yet another says, “That He might have the first place in all things.”
This point applies not only to believers—it applies to everything and everyone. Christ is preeminent now; eventually, He will be acknowledged as preeminent by all men (Phil. 2:9-11).
One of the titles of Jesus Christ in the New Testament is “the First and the Last.”
If this isn’t a clear indication of what place Jesus Christ should have in our lives, then nothing is: the Word of God calls Him “the First.”
In Revelation 22:13, Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (The title “the First and the Last” is also used in Revelation 1:17 and 2:8.)
If a plumber says his services are “from A to Z,” it doesn’t mean that he does “A” and “Z”—it means that he takes care of “A,” “Z,” and everything in between. Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet; omega is the last. Christ desires to be, quite literally, everything to us!
Jesus said that we should “seek first the kingdom of God.”
Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).
In context, “these things” are food and clothing—necessities of the human life. The Lord acknowledges our necessities as legitimate concerns, but makes it clear what should come first. In this age and economy it is nearly a necessity to seek a college degree. But what is our heart set on?
We should love the Lord with “the first love.”
In Revelation chapter 2, the Lord had one thing against the church in Ephesus: “You have left your first love” (v. 4).
Many translations of this verse say something like, “…the love which you had at first.” This is not incorrect, but it does limit the meaning to first in time.
The more literal translations say, “the first love.” In Luke 15:22, the same Greek word for “first” is almost always translated as “best”—the father commands his servants to bring out the best robe for the returning prodigal son.
Thus, we might understand Revelation 2:4 to say, “You have left the best love,” that is, a love that surpasses our love for anything besides the Lord Jesus.
When we have the first love, we will spontaneously have the “first works” (v. 5). Without love our work results in nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3); our work “in love” results in the building up of the Body of Christ (Eph. 4:16). Small wonder, then, that the “great and first commandment” is that we would love the Lord our God with all our heart (Matt. 22:37-38)!
We love the Lord because He first loved us.
The Lord does not expect us to forsake all other things by tomorrow or even to generate the “first love” on our own. Rather, “we love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We don’t abandon all other loves because of our effort, but because we see something better—some One preeminent.
Watchman Nee writes*, “While believing in God can save us from sin, only loving God will deliver us from the world. Brothers and sisters, we must allow God’s love to enter into us. Once the love of God enters, the world simply slips away.”
Dear Lord, may we freshly experience Your love for us this year! Cause us to love You more and more until we love You with the first love, the best love!