Now let’s bring it altogether. Jesus is first in the church, he’s the head of the church, he is first period, he’s the beginning, he’s first over creation as well as first in the new creation. Finally, what does it mean for Jesus to have first place in everything practically in your life and mine?
This has got to be, on the one hand, the simplest truth that can set you free, and, on the other hand, one of the most challenging truths in all of Scripture.
When students come to me asking for career advice, this truth really is liberating because my simple answer is, do whatever you want to do as long as Christ is first. Simple advice but hard to live out. You can choose to be a pastor or a missionary and still miss the mark because you failed to put Christ first. Because church or saving souls or ministry or feeling important were more important than Jesus. Or you could choose to be a banker on Wall Street or a CEO in Silicon Valley working 80 hour weeks and still put Christ first because you prayed before every decision, before every meeting you, opened up your Bible. So in that sense, a secular career can be more honoring to Christ than someone who goes into full time ministry.
Putting Christ first can be so simple and liberating. Choose a career that you enjoy, that you’re good at and remember to keep Christ first so that as you achieve higher levels of success, you can thank Jesus for your success and when you hit some rough patches, you can cast your burdens to Jesus. But whether you are experiencing good or bad times in your life, remember to keep Jesus first.
Putting Christ first can also be challenging because He has to be first in everything. This is not metaphorical language. This is about as concrete as it gets. Jesus has to be first literally in everything. Jesus has to be first in your career. Are you choosing a career path just because it looks good on a resume or are you pursuing it because you want Jesus to be first? It’s tough, right? It’s challenging.
Jesus has to be first in your family. First in your marriage. Don’t just settle for a happy marriage, free of conflict where you get along. That’s such a low view of marriage. That’s easy. Is Christ first place in your marriage means “Are you seeking to make your spouse more like Jesus?” Now that’s challenging.
When you are thinking about dating, don’t just look for the cutest girl or the handsomest guy. Find out, is Jesus first place in the person I am considering for marriage? If not, why would you want to date this person? Just for looks or personality? Looks fade and you don’t see someone’s true personality until you marry them so don’t be fooled by these things. Look for people who put Jesus first before you date them.
Is Jesus first in your parenting? Before you teach them Kumon, are you teaching them about Jesus?
In your finances, is Jesus first? Do you thank Him for your daily provisions? If Jesus has blessed you with far more than you need, are you looking to hoard it for yourself, or are you praying about how you can be a blessing to others through your generosity?
Is Jesus first in terms of your future? Is He Lord of your future? How can you tell? Are you anxious? Anxiety stems when you think, everything rides on me, it’s up to me to work hard and make things happen. If Jesus is Lord of your future, you are freed from anxiety because you are trusting Jesus. Your only concern is that Jesus remain close to you, that you remain close to Jesus, so that wherever you go, you’re content.
What happens when you put these other things first in place of Jesus? What happens when you put career first ahead of Jesus? Or family first, or marriage first, or kids first, or finances first or your future first? What happens if you put any of these as first place in your life? You will be disappointed. Guaranteed.
I can testify that whenever I put Jesus first, I was never disappointed. Jesus never disappoints. Don’t bow down to creation. Don’t ever bow down to created things. Everything I mentioned is just part of creation so we should never bow down to any of them. Bow down to Jesus only. Put him first. Everything else is a distant second.
It is fitting that Paul ends this hymn of praise to Jesus with the gospel.
21 Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds because of your evil actions. 22 But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him— 23 if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become a servant of it.
Maybe at one point, Jesus was first in your life. When I was a sophomore in college in 1993, 20 years ago, and I bowed my knee to Jesus and accepted Him as my personal Savior and Lord, to the best of my knowledge, Jesus was first. It’s easy to make Jesus first when you are a single college student with no family, no wife, no kids, no job, no financial worries. It’s another thing entirely to make Jesus first when you are married and you have family, kids, a job, when you are making money and your decisions affect not only YOUR future but also the future of your loved ones. There is a world of difference between me saying that Jesus is first as a 19 year old in college and me saying Jesus is first now as I am approaching my 39th bday.
While it is true that salvation happens in an instant, at a particular moment in time, God saves you in Christ, however, we also need to understand that salvation is a process. I have learned this over 20 years that it’s not easy to make Jesus first in the practical details of life. It’s easy to make Jesus first in theory, in the privacy of my heart and mind. But Christian life is a living faith. We have to make Jesus first place in every area.
Jesus reconciled you through his death and resurrection if you repented of your sins and placed your faith in Christ. Brothers and sisters, now that we have been saved, it’s our responsibility to remain grounded and steadfast in our salvation.
v23 – if you and I are saved, we need to REMAIN grounded and steadfast in the faith, in the gospel. Some of you need to confess that Jesus was first at one time in your life many years ago, but since, other idols have crept in and taken first place. Jesus was first when you initially surrendered your life. But it’s been a while since you have surrendered your life in areas that actually matter.
I encourage you to give your life to Jesus every day. Surrender is a daily activity. Make him first. As you approach the Lord’s Table in the moment, prayerfully examine your heart to see if Jesus first.