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Sunday, November 10, 2013

Be prepared to have your normal Christian priority paradigms shaken up!

You've heard it said, and I have said it myself, that as a Christian, your priorities should be:
Before I try to explain why this is a problem, let me explain that for the last few days I've had the privilege of sitting under the amazing teaching of Andrew Farley, author of such famous books as "The Naked Gospel," during the 2013 Grace to the Nations Conference being held at my church.

I got to spend four days soaking in the Gospel of grace. I'll be attempting to extrapolate some of what he shared about grace and applying it to the context of marriage. As you know if you've hung around here much, I have come to learn that there are literally hundreds of marriage lessons embedded in the Gospel. One of the most significant is the message of grace.

Grace is as central to marriage as it is to the Gospel.

A New Look At Priorities

So on to the discussion of priorities.

The main problem with the "make God your first priority" paradigm is that it fundamentally separates your life into two parts: spiritual and secular. The problem is that the Bible doesn't separate things that way. Everything is spiritual. Everything.

Now, the Bible does indicate a division of things along the lines of spirit and flesh, but that's not the same thing. Not at all. We are to have our entire being, and everything we do, ruled by the Spirit and not the flesh. (We have lots of wrong ideas of what "flesh" is too, but that is a whole other post.)

So when we have the mindset of putting God first on our list, it causes us to mentally separate everything we think of as non-spiritual from participation by the Spirit. Instead we should see that it's all spiritual.

It's all God's

So when I'm on a date with my wife, that is spiritual. When I'm sharing a meal with the family, that is spiritual too. When I'm mowing the lawn, balancing the budget or sitting in traffic, it's all spiritual. Yes, even when we have sex, it's spiritual. It's all God's domain, and in all of it, I am to be ruled by the Spirit of Christ that lives in me.

The danger in "God first" thinking is that it allows us to compartmentalize God; to keep him in a box, so to speak. The things we think of as "God stuff" (quiet times, church meetings, Bible study, etc.) is not holier than the "non-God stuff" because it's all God's stuff.

Now don't misunderstand me. I'm not downplaying the importance of any of these things. It's all good and helpful. The point is that it`'s not holier, it's not better, than all the other things in our lives.

You Can't Earn Holiness

The other danger of the "God first" notion is that it can put us on a quest to earn holiness. You see, doing "God stuff" doesn't make us holier or win us brownie points with God. His love and grace toward us are not a function of how much God stuff we do. How many times do you feel unworthy to approach God when you've neglected your quiet time, felt like you haven't spent enough time in the Word, or prayed like you know you should?

The problem is we can't be any more righteous or holy than we already are, because the Bible makes it clear that we are already the righteousness of Christ. Because of Jesus, by free gift, without our quiet time efforts, we are as righteous as Jesus. Right now. Nothing we do can earn us more righteousness or love or blessing or favor from God. Similarly, nothing we do can earn us less.

So let me give you an alternative priority picture.

It's a pretty radically new way to look at my priorities. But I think I really like it. What do you think? 

By the way, make a note of where this leaves your spouse on your priority list!


Unknown said...

I see one more danger. by now prioritizing 1-4 we fall onto some of the same traps. Normal thinking is 1 then 2 then 3 then 4. May if submit that it be much like your logic 1 & 2 & 3 &4. We are a whole not parts.

Unknown said...

Maybe another way of saying it is Spouse 1A, Family 1B, Work 1C, all else 1D

Scott said...

Thanks David. Good point!

Madalynn jaques said...

I remember my big brother telling me this YEARS ago before I even KNEW my husband. And when he said, "God should be in everything and your spouse should come first" I thought he would surely be struck down right then and there. Since being married for 8 1/2 months now, I see what he meant. And it's so true. I find some of my favorite moments with God are the moments I spend with my Husband while we're eating dinner together, or cuddling on the couch, or asking each other for the millionth time if we've paid the electric bill. I really love this post, and I'm glad that I am not the only person who sees life this way. :)

Cassie from True Agape said...

I like how you explained that! I think people saying to put God first was really intended to put Him in everything like you showed at the end, but it just doesn't happen like that sometimes. Thank you for the reminder!

Anonymous said...

Interestingly, I don't see a problem with spouse/marriage being ranked as more important or foundational. It's more of a matter of not compartmentalizing any of our relationships with God from all the rest.

Paul Byerly said...

Scott - Great post, very thought provoking.

The spiritual/secular split is so deeply ingrained in Western culture that we fail to even see it most of the time!

Scott said...

Thanks Paul. So right. It's very deeply engrained!

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