Priority of Firsts

Godliness is the priority of the redeemed. Yet, godliness is not obtained by man’s actions. Godliness is experienced and lived by first recognizing that God, the source of godliness, is calling. It is priorities that determine one’s character. What is most important to a person is the first in thought, actions, finances, and belief.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. — Matthew 6:19-24

For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. — Matthew 6:32-34

The words of our Lord, Jesus Christ, in Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount show his priorities. The kingdom of God is the theme of this discourse which shows that Jesus places his God first in all that he says, does and is.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” — Matthew 6:21

Jesus emphasizes the priority of firsts here. Whatever is first in one’s heart is what that person treasures the most. If it is God, then his kingdom will be first in that person while anything other than the kingdom of God that is first will itself be first for that person. Treasure is considered precious because of its value. Jesus explains that God’s kingdom if the most valuable of treasure and anyone who considers it the most valuable will see great light.

Likewise, the master of the slave commands to be first in the heart of his servant. Jesus makes clear that divided loyalties represent hatred. There can only be one master, not two.

“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” — Matthew 6:24

Paul’s first letter to Timothy expounds on this teaching from our Lord. He emphasizes the priority of firsts to Timothy in expressing the value of godliness over irreverent, silly myths (1 Timothy 4:7). Theological and doctrinal issues not rooted in the truth of the gospel are distractions from the true treasure, godliness. Godliness is to take priority over all other things, even the good things of teaching. Paul encourages Timothy to teach godliness by being godly. All work and effort of gospel work is to be rooted in Christ — first. Anything else, including irreverent theological debates and doctrinal teaching, will distract from the one main treasure, Jesus Christ. For through Christ and his gospel is the only hope of godliness. Being near God and reveling in his pleasure is the priority of the believer. Whatever is first is what will be pursued. Whatever is first is what will be obtained. Paul entreats Timothy, and Christians today, to have the priority of firsts. Godliness is of the most value and most worthy of pursuing.

“Desire without knowledge is not good,
and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” — Proverbs 19:2

The wisdom of the Proverbs is rich with the truths expressed by Paul to Timothy. Desire is only valuable if what is desired is rooted in God’s knowledge and wisdom. Any other desire by default is of false value and not worthy to obtain much less pursue.

“Whoever gets sense loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will discover good.
A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.” — Proverbs 19:8-9

The truth expressed in this proverb is reflected in Paul’s advice to Timothy in 4:6-7. Teaching the truth of God’s kingdom requires first a desire to continue understanding what has been taught in faith. Anything other than the truth of the gospel is to be avoided at all costs because the true nature of teaching the gospel is to pursue godliness. False testimony or teaching will only lead to destruction and foolishness. The teacher of such things will only see death instead of life. The value of godliness, according to Paul and Solomon, deserves one’s complete devotion. To half-heartedly speak truth is akin to full rejection of the gospel and godliness.

Christ Jesus the Son lived a full life of godliness and holiness. The truth of the gospel is that the kingdom of God is the only thing worthy of one’s energies and pursuit. The irony here is that although the fallen sinner is called to seek out godliness, the sinner cannot obtain godliness at all on his own. It is impossible to do, yet commanded by God. The solution comes in Christ in that he obtained complete godliness as a man. He was godly in every way despite his human condition. God makes this possible because Christ and God the Father are one. Jesus commanded, and showed by example and teaching, that godliness is obtainable, yet only Christ himself could make this possible. Embracing Christ fully, not half-heartedly, is the only way to live the truth of the gospel and be fully redeemed and godly.

Full commitment to Christ is the only solution to godly living. As our society continues to promote selfish ambition, it is imperative to teach and live the truth in complete surrender and obedience to Christ. Christian living is not a consumer item to be tossed away when it is no longer in style or convenient. Full commitment is required, because the gospel truth is the only thing worthy of ones full attention and acceptance.

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One Comment

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  1. This is so very true Pastor Bryant. Thank you for taking the time to remind us that we are here to serve God and not ourselves.
    God Bless you and your teaching,
    Carolyn

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