By William C. Sexton
Problems of priority seem to plague most of us. We fail to do “first” things first; consequently, we fail to achieve what would be otherwise reached. For example, if we are to reap a harvest, seed must be planted at planting time; the person who fails to plant seed will fail to reap.
The Bible points to some things that must be done “first,” if desirable achievements are to be realized. We shall call our attention to some of the “first’s” of the Scriptures:
l. Knowing the Origin of the Scriptures is essential to a proper understanding and appreciation of them (2 Pet. 1:20-21). Peter said, “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scriptures is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old times by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
Without this “first” acknowledgment relative to the source from which the writings called “scripture” came, one is not equipped to pay careful enough attention to what is said. I see many reading the Bible who have not achieved this “first”; consequently, they have not learned the fundamental lessons needed. We challenge each reader to ponder the affirmation of the Scriptures in regard to their origin. Either accept it, or suspend your faith in it till you can; but when you can and do, then your study and response to its teaching will result.
2.Seeking God and His Kingdom ‘:first,” above everything else, is essential to achieving salvation and serving to one’s full potential (Mt. 6:33ff). We have trouble doing this, do we not? Yet, several times the point is made that this type of activity is what brings God’s blessings (cf. Heb. 11:6).
There seems to be, in our time in particular, a cynical response to this type of affirmation. Some will openly chide those who claim that such priority is to be given to religious participation, as though it were an ideal but unrealistic and unachievable goal. Consequently, it appears that, to many religious professing people, zeal is something to praise but never possess or exhibit in one’s religious life. Beloved, such an attitude and response is destructive to the professor of religious belief; also, such is influential in a lasting negative way to the observer of religious practices. So, we challenge you to think of the danger of manifesting this type of feeling toward religion. The religion of Christ is -not some idealistic, impractical set of suggestions; the religion of the Son of God is demanding (cf. Lk. 14:25ff) and rewarding: it is a way of life, asking no more than one can give, but calling for all of you and. me!
3. Cleansing of the inside is essential to the acceptable character in the Lord’s sight (Mt. 23:26). Jesus came to seek the lost (Lk. 19:10) so they could have their sins washed away by His blood (Heb. 9:22; 10:1-14). Only that type of cleansing is real, lasting, and beneficial to the person stained by sins (1 Pet. 1:18-21). However, to reach the cleansing power, one must be touched in the depth of his being, be pricked in his/her heart (Acts 2:37; Mt. 5:3, 4, 6) feel the poverty mourn, and hunger and thirst for righteousness.
That person must have his/her intellect enlightened of the true character of God to see that He can not tolerate sin; in Him there is no darkness (1 Jn. 1:5). The emotions, also, must be quickened to desire and long for right! He must turn away from sin, die to it (Rom. 6:lff). The will must be activated, so as to allow God’s rule to govern in his behavior (cf. Mt. 21:28-29; 2 Pet. 3:9-10). Obedience will be an indication of one’s heart-rendering commitment (Rom. 6:17-18; Pet. 1:22-23). Expressing that trust and completing that transitional move is achieved in confessing (Rom. 10:9-10) and being baptized “into Christ”(Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:3-4). Coming forth as a “new” creature (2 Cor. 5:17; Col. 2:12; 3:1-10) is manifested by the behavior and felt in the mind and heart by the truly converted, translated person (Col. 1:12-13).
The person who has gone through the “form,” but denies the power thereof in his conduct is to be recognized for his true unregenerated state (2 Tim. 3:1-5). Beloved, there are many who claim to be saved who have not performed the acts required by God; but, likewise, many who have observed the “form” deny the power of God’s word tb change their conduct and character.
4. Knowing that “scoffers” are to route is a “first” for Christians to be successful in fighting the fight of faith (2 Pet. 3:3ff). Peter said that we need to recognize “first” that such would come and to be aware of their willing “ignorance” of certain facts in the history of mankind.
There are, evidently, many who find it out of harmony with their concept to suspect certain “false teachers,” who would come acting so humanistically and knowledgably. Various efforts to deceive are used by anti-divine messengers. If we do not take into account the various efforts to divert attention and deceive the hearts of people relative to the fundamental truths, then we will be swept off our feet and conditioned for an eternity of destruction (Rev. 20:10 – remember that the key words are “false” and “deceived”).
5. Commitment of the “first” order is essential if one is to be a real disciple of the Lord (Lk. 14:25ff). One must leave everything to a secondary priority position if he is to “come” to the Lord and be His disciple. He cannot “love” the parents, family members, marriage partner, ‘nor even one’s own life more than he loves Christ (see Mt. 10:37-39). To this necessity, many fail to commit themselves. They ignore the need, rightness, and essentiality of such.
Beloved, if one is not willing to commit self to the Lord “first,” then he has a priority problem of the first magnitude, it will drown one in the sea of instability; there will never be the clear-cut confidence of what “ought” to be done, because the decisive facture will be missing. God deserves to be “first” (Mt. 22:37). Have we responded or have we been lured by the prospect of achievement but been unwilling to take the final step of commitment?
None of us can be boastful because we have done this, but it is necessary that each of us assess our condition in light of the divine standard given for that purpose. If we have not really committed our lives to Him, then let us recognize it. Then we need to ask if we really do want to commit ourselves to Him to do His service. Otherwise, we will go through life deceived, be disappointed at the judgment, and suffer the fires of hell eternally.
Beloved the Lord calls fur us to come. We can see the need to come. The question, then, is that of priority; ha\e we really placed “first” things first?
Truth Magazine XXIV: 18, pp. 299-300
May 1, 1980