(Glorifying God devotions by Pastor Chris)
I saw this eye-catching banner outside an eating joint recently. “Eat first, talk later” is such an unusual name for a restaurant.
Yet, it is such a clever marketing ploy claiming its first concern is customer satisfaction above self profit. That is reason enough to try it once, at least!
We should also ask: “What are our first priorities?”
In Matthew’s Gospel, both John the Baptist and Jesus began their respective ministries with: “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near!”
Repentance for God’s people, Israel, did not simply mean feeling sorry for a sin or guilty for a wrong. It also did not merely mean changing our minds.
Its main meaning has to do with returning to God. “To repent” is “to return” to God with all our heart. This was at the heart of the prophet Elijah’s call to straying Israel.
That is why John the Baptist – who echoed Elijah – blasted the Pharisees and Sadducees by calling them a brood of vipers. This is what God has consistently hated: nominal faith and superficial repentance.
It is very possible to be a law-keeper like them but break God’s heart. It is very possible to turn up in church but not turn to God. It is very possible to turn up at the right events and do wrong in our hearts. It is very possible to “look the part” but not live the life of a God person.
I watched the movie Spotlight about The Boston Globe’s expose of paedophile and homosexual Catholic priests. What started as an investigation of one erring priest led to the horrendous discovery of thousands of abuse cases globally.
Each of those priests practised faked religion. They kept the law but broke God’s law of love. They turned up at Church to practise religion but did not turn to Christ to practise holiness. They looked the part but did not live it.
Just in case we feel smug, we must all search our hearts. Each of us is very capable faking and covering up our sinful hearts.
That is what Jesus came to do on the Cross – to grant us rebirth that our hearts would be turned to God forever more. That is the heart surgery we all need.
So, first things first. The true believer’s motto should be: “Christ first, church second”. I am not suggesting us to drop church and ministry.
I am praying and pleading we always need to get our priorities right. We must always commune personally, deeply and honestly with God before we do anything in his name.
Why? Ministry has a subtle way of worming its way into our hearts to be seen by others. This replaces our true need to be seen, searched and saved by God. And the real joy of being right with Him, rather than the fake happiness of being noticed by men.
If we have gotten used to putting needy children, distracting careers, draining crises, delusional comfort, busy church – indeed anything – before Christ, stop!
First things first. Draw near to Jesus and live again. That has been my secret to not giving up on the things of God. Try it.
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