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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - Picking Your Priority

Craig Smith - Picking Your Priority

Craig Smith - Picking Your Priority
TOPICS: The Big Ten, Priorities

Hey. Welcome to Mission Hills. So honored to have you with us this weekend as we dive into our new fall series on the Ten Commandents. And I realized that we created a little bit of confusion with this. I know because I got some emails this week. People said, “Hey, like we just spent all summer dealing with the Book of Galatians, which is all about grace, right? Like you just told us over and over again that belonging to God depends on believing in Jesus. It’s not about the rules and now you’re gonna pull a whole 180 and like we’re going back to the rules?” Like what gives, right? There’s a method to the madness. Okay? Here’s what we need to understand. Rules don’t create relationships. They regulate them. That make sense? Rules don’t create relationships, they regulate them. They keep them moving in the right direction and they keep them from going off the rails so that they can be everything that they’re supposed to be.

Listen. Twenty eight years ago, this November, I married the love of my life, her name’s Coletta. And when we got married, I found that there were some rules that came with the marriage relationship. Some of them I knew about, some of them, I was a little surprised by, okay? Like some of the ones I knew about like, okay, because I’m married, I don’t date other women, right? Like that’s pretty forward. Nobody’s shocked, right? Like there’s no husbands out there going, “That’s where I went wrong.” Okay? No, no, no. Okay. I don’t date other women. I don’t spend time alone with other women. I don’t entertain attraction to women either in person or on a screen. Okay? So those are some basic kind of rules.

There’s some rules that I didn’t expect. Like every single day of my life, I submit to having more pillows in my life as a married man than I ever thought possible. Can I get an amen from any other guys out there? You with me on this one? Like I had no idea. I had no idea. That was just one of the rules that I submitted to, there’s just gonna be a lot more pillows than I was expecting. And more kinds of pillows, right? I mean, there’s throw pillows, which you are not allowed to throw. Like that’s another rule I had to find out about. There are sham pillows which are the only ones that are appropriately named in my mind. That’s a different story though.

Now, imagine for a second that I wasn’t married and I decided I’m gonna follow all those rules. You know, I’m not gonna date anybody else, I’m not gonna think about anybody else, I’m gonna go to HomeGoods and buy out their pillow section, would I have a marriage relationship? No. Because rules don’t create relationships. They regulate them. They keep them moving in the right direction and they help them to be everything that they were intended to be. And that’s really the right lens for looking at the commandments that we find in Scripture, and especially, it’s the right lens for thinking about the Ten Commandments. They don’t create the relationship. We can only have a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. God loves us. He sent his Son to die for us. He paid the price of our sin. He rose from the dead. And when we put our faith in him, we begin a relationship with God. It has nothing to do with the rules, but then the rules help regulate that relationship we have and they help it be everything that it can be.

And now here’s… I think, it’s good news actually, to say that the rules aren’t necessary for the relationship but it’s actually even better news that the rules are leading us to somewhere in the relationship that we all wanna be. Here’s the thing we need to understand. The Ten Commandments, this might be counterintuitive, but the Ten Commandments are all about joy. Do you know that? All of God’s commands are really about joy. They’re about allowing us to experience a relationship with God that is filled with joy. That is what God wants for us and the rules are actually about helping us get to that place where we experience that. I love the way that Jesus said it. He described this relationship between the rules and joy. He said, “If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remained in his love. And I’ve told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” I love that. Jesus isn’t just interested in a little joy, but in complete joy. He’s interested in lives that are literally filled to the brim and spilling over with joy. And what he says is the commands keep us where the love is. The commands keep us where the joy is.

So as we begin this series of the Ten Commandments, let’s just ask a diagnostic question. This is the question. How’s my joy level? Think back over the last year and a half, we’ve been dealing with this global pandemic, and political strife, and racial tension, all these kinds of things, anybody feeling like you’re just overflowing with joy at the moment? Like really the last two years have just produced more joy in you than you ever thought possible and you’re having a hard time containing it? Anybody? I’m not getting a lot of takers on that one. Anybody feel like your joy level is running a little bit low right now and can be honest with each other? If you’re watching online, go ahead and type in the comments, yeah, my joy level is running a little bit low.

I wanna tell you something that I’ve discovered in my own life. Joy isn’t rooted in circumstances. And so if your joy is running low and the temptation is to go, “It’s because of these circumstances,” we’re actually misunderstanding what joy is and we’re misunderstanding what actually makes it possible. In fact, here’s what I’ve come to understand in my own life, that when I find that my joy level is running low, I can’t blame it on circumstances. I can almost always trace it back to some way that I’m living in a way that is stepped outside of the place where joy is. And the Ten Commandments are actually a really, really helpful frame for helping us understand how to stay inside the place where love is, where joy is. And throughout this series, you may find that one or more of these places are things where you’ve actually stepped over the boundaries. You’ve moved into a place where joy is not possible. Joy we’re longing for just isn’t to be found there.

Sometimes when we step over the boundaries set by the Ten Commandments, it’s obvious, we know that we’ve done it, right? Like there are commandments that are pretty straightforward. Like don’t commit adultery, don’t kill other people. And it’s pretty easy to go, “Yeah. You know, I haven’t done that.” But sometimes the reality is what those commands point us to or principles, ways of embracing life as God intended it to be that we’ve actually begun to…we’ve violated those principles. We’ve moved outside what those principles are pointing to us towards, we’ve moved into a place where joy is not really available to us, and we haven’t necessarily seen that that’s what’s happened. So as we go through this series, you’re gonna find, you’re gonna find that you’re challenged at several places to step back inside the place where love is, where joy is.

So with that context in mind, why don’t we go ahead and dive into the first two commandments. If you wanna grab your Bible, start making your way to the Book of Exodus. We’re gonna be in Exodus chapter 20, verse 1. The Ten Commandments are given to us first in the Book of Exodus, Exodus, the second book of the Bible. And it’s named the Book of Exodus because it’s about a leaving, it’s about a departure, an exit, okay? At a certain point in their history, the people of God, the Israelites, had been enslaved in the nation of Egypt. They were slaves in Egypt for several centuries, but at a certain point God sent his man, Moses, down to Egypt, and through a series of miraculous events that God performed, the Israelites were set free. They were set free from their bondage to slavery. They traveled from slavery into the desert towards the Promised Land and as they were traveling towards the Promised Land, they came to a mountain called Mount Sinai somewhere in the Arabian Peninsula, probably. And as they got to that mountain, Moses went on top of the mountain and God came down to the mountain and he gave his people the Big Ten. He gave his people the rules. He gave his people rules that were ancient. I mean, Western morality’s based on these rules. Most scholars, even if they’re not religious, will say that these ten rules form the foundation for the way that the Western world thinks about ethics and morality. They’re ancient rules, but they’re ultimately for joy, and as we set out of the series, they’re rules for modern joy. It’s a long time has passed since those people were camped at the mountain, getting these rules from God, but nothing has really changed. These rules tell us where the love is, they tell us where the joy is. We have ancient rules for modern joy and God gave them to them saying this…and God spoke all these words, “I am the Lord, your God who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” So that’s our first rule. That’s the first ancient rule for modern joy, “You shall have no other gods before me,” he says.

But before we dig into that commandment, we actually need to start with what God starts with. Because I want you to notice, he actually doesn’t start with the rule. He starts with two statements about himself, doesn’t he? He starts with two descriptions of who he is and these descriptions are really important because they set the context for understanding the commandments. And, in fact, if we don’t understand this context, we will be confused about the commandments. We’ll turn them into something they were never intended to be. So here’s the two things God says about himself. Number one, he says, “I am the Lord, your God.” Now, that’s the English translation. Almost every English translation I know follows the same tradition in translating the original Hebrew there. But it’s not a literal translation. It’s a traditional translation. The literal translation is not, “I am the Lord, your God.” The literal translation is, “I am Yahweh, your God.” And if you don’t know the word, Yahweh, here’s what you need to understand. The word God is a little bit generic. It sort of speaks of all kinds of divine beings, real and imagined. Yahweh way is not a generic word. Yahweh is a very, very specific word. It’s really, it’s the proper name of God. God is giving them his proper name.

He says, “This is my name, guys. I’m trusting you with my personal name. It’s very personal information, I’m giving you. He says, “I am Yahweh.” By the way, some of you are gonna really like this. This is kind of a bonus for those of you who like this kind of thing. The Hebrews considered the name Yahweh so sacred that they didn’t say it out loud. And so, in fact, when they came to the word Yahweh in Scripture, instead of saying the word, Yahweh, they would say Adonai, which is the Hebrew word for Lord. And almost all English translations sort of follow that tradition today. Instead of writing out the word Yahweh, we actually translate the word as Lord, even though it’s not exactly what it is. If you’re ever reading through the Bible and you come across the word Lord but it’s all in caps, that’s actually code for you’re actually seeing the proper name of God Yahweh there.

By the way, this is…somebody of you will really like this. Hebrew is only written with consonants. They only write the consonants originally. You just kind of had to know what the vowels were. So to keep people from accidentally saying the word Yahweh, what they did was to remind them, they put the vowels for Adonai, the Hebrew word for Lord, around the consonants for Yahweh. And if you pronounce the consonants for Yahweh and the vowels for Adonai, what you get is the word Jehovah. It’s not a real word. And I’m sorry. I know I’m messing up a bunch of Bible studies right now, but if you’re ever reading a Bible study that like says, “Well, this is what the word Jehovah means and this is what Yahweh way means and this is what Lord means,” they actually haven’t done their homework because Yahweh way is the real word. Adonai is another keyword for Lord but Jehovah is just those two words smooshed together. It’s not a real thing. It was a reminder, hey, when you see this, don’t say it out loud.

And why did they consider it so sacred? Why were they so hesitant to say the word out loud? Because in the ancient world, names had power and to give someone your name was to give yourself to them and it was an invitation to intimacy. And so for God to give the Hebrew people his name, Yahweh, was an invitation to intimacy, it was an invitation to relationship. We would see that same thing reflected in the fact that he doesn’t say, “I am Yahweh. I am the Lord, the God.” What does he say? He says, “I am Yahweh the Lord, your God.” You see that invitation to relationship? He doesn’t just wanna be God. He wants to be your God. And this is an unbelievable treat if we think about it for a second, especially when we remember who this is, right? This is the God who created a universe so vast we can’t even begin to imagine it, right? And he flung stars across the heaven so vast that we can’t even grasp the outside edge. We can’t even understand the size of our solar system, let alone the hundred billion galaxies filled with the hundreds of billions of stars. We can’t even begin to deal with that. This is the same God who did that. This is the same God who created life and life is so complex that at the molecular level, it’s so intricate and so incredibly well-designed that we can’t even begin to understand how it functions at that level. So whether it’s the macro or the micro level, we’re talking about a God of infinite wisdom, and intelligence, and power. And this God, the God, you understand this, the God wants to be your God. Because the invitation that he makes to the Hebrews is the same invitation he’s been making to every one of us ever since then. He says, “I wanna be your God.” It’s an invitation to intimacy. It’s an invitation to relationship. Just think about this for a second, the God wants to be your God.

How can we skim past that? Like we can fly on to other things. This is so important and it’s such a foundational understanding of everything else that comes in this list of rules. The God wants to be your God and he’s done everything possible, everything necessary to make that relationship a reality. He says…this is the second thing he says about himself, he says, “I’m the Lord, your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” And please do not miss this. Before he gives the do’s and don’ts, he tells them what he’s already done. You see that? Before he gives them laws, he reminds them of how he’s already loved them, what he’s already done for them. This is so important because if we don’t get this right, we’re gonna see the commands as something that they’re never intended to be. It’s so easy to look at the commands and go, “This is the checklist, right? This is how I get on God’s good side. This is how I earn God’s love. This is how I get God to be committed to me because I show him I’m committed to him by doing these things and then he’ll be committed to me, right?” No. What God shows here is he was already committed to them before he gave them any commandments. He has already done for them so much before he ever asked them to do anything for him.

Listen, this is the principle and we see it throughout history. God’s commitment to us comes before his commandments for us. You hear me, church? This is so important. If you don’t get this right, you’re gonna misunderstand the commandments. God’s commitment to us comes before his commandments for us. We not only see it here, we see it throughout Scripture, most famously in the death of Jesus. God loves us so much he sent his own Son to die on the cross to pay the price for our sin so that everything that separates us from God could be removed. God did that for us. And when did he do it? Here’s how the Apostle Paul says it. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus didn’t come die for us after we cleaned ourselves up, he didn’t come die for us after we committed that we were serious about doing our best. Jesus died for us while we were still living in rebellion against him. That’s commitment to us way before any commandments for us.

We see the same thing in the life of Jesus. At one point Jesus looked at his disciples and he gave them a command. He said, “A new command I give you, love one another.” But look at this. “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” He didn’t just say, “Here’s the new command,” He demonstrated his own commitment to love before he called them to a commitment to love one another. It’s a principle we see over and over again in the Bible. God’s commitment to us comes before his commandments for us. And it’s so important that we get this right because if we don’t, again, what’s gonna happen is we’re gonna look at the commands and go, “That’s how I get in the front door. That’s how I get on God’s good side. That’s how I get God to love me.” And God says, “No, no, no. My love came way before my laws.” Rules don’t create relationships. They regulate them. They allow us to stay where the love is, where the joy is. And it’s with that context in mind that we can come back and we can deal with this first commandment.

He says, “You shall have no other gods before me. Now that I’ve told you what kind of God I am and what I’ve already done for you and how much I’m committed to you, now I want you to pay attention to this command so you can stay where the love and the joy is. You shall have no other gods before me.” And you might underline the word “before” there, it’s a very important word. It’s phrased in a kind of an interesting way. God says, “Don’t let any other gods come before me.” This is about priority. And it’s interesting, He could have easily said, “Hey, there are no other gods, so why would you look to anything else?” But he didn’t say that. he said, “Just don’t put anything else before…don’t put any other gods before me.” There are other places where he says there are no other gods.

There are other places where he declares that fact, Deuteronomy 32:39. He said, “See, now that I, myself, am he,” meaning the God. He says, “There is no God besides me.” You notice that, that word, “besides” there? It’s not before there, it’s, there’s no God besides me. What he’s saying there is literally in the original Hebrew is there’s no god with me. In other words, God’s kind of going, “Hey, guys, I’ve been looking around and yeah, there’s no one else up here. Like I’m it. I’m the only one.” Okay? But it’s interesting in the first commandment, he doesn’t say that. He doesn’t say I’m the only God, He doesn’t say there’s no other gods beside me. He says, “You will not have any other gods before me.” And what we need to understand is the way he phrases that is part of understanding it. What he’s telling us is this, is the first commandment is about making God your priority. The first command is to make God your priority, it’s to put God first.

Now, why does he say it like that? Why does he say put me first if there are no other gods? Here’s what God knows and that we sometimes forget, God knows that the world is filled with wannabe gods competing to be our priority. Even though there are no other actual gods, the world is filled with wannabe gods competing to be our priority. There are pretend gods. There are spirits who pretend and there are things that we promote to the status of gods. Well, it’s filled with them, spirits that pretend and things that we promote to the status of gods. And God says, “You need to take all of those and they need to take a backseat to me.” And we get this one wrong all the time. There’s spirits who pretend… See, here’s the thing. What I’m about to say is not super PC, I know that, but we’re not a PC-driven church, we’re a Bible-driven church. And the Bible is very clear that there are other religions out there that are nothing more than human ideas dressed up as divine revelation. That there are things out there that are nothing more than human ideas and they’re like, “Nobody’s gonna listen to Bob, so I’m gonna tell them God said it.” There’s no spiritual power, there’s nothing to it, the Bible often calls them philosophies. Political ideologies would probably fit into that category, but the Bible is also clear that there are other religions out there that are absolutely in touch with other spiritual forces. There is spiritual power behind some of those other religions out there. The problem is those powers are not God’s powers.

In that same passage where God said, “There are no other gods besides me. I’m the only one up here,” He also said this, he said, “They sacrifice to demons.” Now, some English translations render that as false gods, but the Hebrew word literally is demons. “They sacrifice to demons which are not God, gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your ancestors did not fear.” Wait a minute. He said there’s no other gods. Well, and what’s he talking about now? He’s talking about spirits that pretend to be gods and he says they’re demons. God created angels. There were a group of angels that rebelled against God and they became what we call demonic forces and they love to trick people into thinking that they’re God. They love to invite worship. They love to get people to make them the priority and sometimes there is real spiritual power around that. The problem is these things don’t have the power of God and they absolutely do not have the love of God. They have no lasting joy or peace to offer us. And yet Christians often are guilty of kind of Frankensteining their faith, kind of mixing and matching, sewing together a faith that’s partly real God and partly these pretend gods.

I was on an airplane several years ago and I was talking to a woman and at a certain point we got kind of into spiritual stuff and she said, “Well, let me tell you about my spiritual life.” And here’s how she identified herself. She said, “I’m a Quaker Mormon.” And I was like, “No, you’re not.” Because that’s like saying you’re a Siamese poodle. They’re two radically different things. They don’t go together. The Quakers believe in the God whose story is told in the Bible. Mormons believe in the caricature of that God. Mormons believe in the caricature of that God where that God is actually a human being just like us at some point. He became God and then got his own planet. That’s a caricature of the true God and the man who peddled that claims that he got it from an angel. And I’m gonna tell you, I’m not sure that he was lying about that. He might very well have gotten that from an angel, but I will tell you this, it was not one of God’s angels, they’re these things that God calls demons.

But before we are too hard on her, I think we need to understand that Christians do this all the time. I can kind of tell you how many times over the years I’ve had conversations in church where somebody would come up to me and go, “Hey, Pastor. Really glad we’re here today. But hey, I was reading my horoscope this morning and I had a question.” And I’m like, “What?” Spec the truck up. If you’re reading your horoscope on the way to work, interesting, you’re practicing astrology. That is spirits pretending to be God’s, okay? But I consistently encounter people without even realizing they’re doing it, Frankensteining their faith, meshing it together with false spiritual forces, people that, you know, they’re as quick to consult a psychic as they are to read Scripture. People who are as quick to play with a Ouija board, looking for insight than to go to God in prayer. It happens quite a bit. And so I actually think this is a really important question, knowing that there are spirits who pretend, I think, as followers of Jesus or as people who wanna make God our priority, we have to ask ourselves this question, “How am I Frankensteining my faith? How am I Frankensteining my faith? Where in my life am I saying, well, God’s my priority, but I’m also looking to these other things, these false spiritual forces, these false sources of hope.” They’re only pretending and bringing those into the mix as well. How am I Frankensteining my faith? We need to deal with that question.

There are spirits who pretend. There are also, and this is probably the bigger issue for most of us, there are things we promote to the status of gods. There’s a whole laundry list of them, sex, money, success, political ideologies, political parties, political figures, our careers, fame, influence, experiences. I mean, the list can go on and on. And the things on the list aren’t necessarily bad things, the problem is they’re not God things. And yet we often promote them into the place of God. And we would say, “Well, I’m not worshiping them. I’m not treating them like God because I’m not worshiping them, right? And I would say, “Yeah. We’re not praying to them, but we’re absolutely prioritizing them.” And the reality is that’s what worship is. Do you know that? At the end of the day, to worship something is to prioritize it. It’s to make it first.

And, by the way, there’s a weird thing that we do in our culture when we talk about priorities. And the weird thing is we talk about priorities, plural. The word priority is supposed to be a singular word because the word priority means first. So the idea of talking about priorities means multiple firsts. Does that make any sense to you? When was the last time you were in a competition and multiple people came in first and you felt good about that? No, because the reality is if you have multiple things that are first, there’s really no first, right? And the reality is as much as we like to talk in our culture about getting your priorities straight, the sentence itself is broken. When we say, “Get your priorities in order,” we’re saying, “Get your firsts in order.” Wait, what? Hey, here’s the reality, here’s the brutal reality, if you have priorities, you don’t have a priority. If you have priorities, you don’t have a priority. God says, “Have no other gods before me.” Have no other priority. God says, “Make me your priority.”

And sometimes I think we hear that and our natural inclination is like, “Well, that’s kind of selfish of God, right?” What’s wrong with God? Is he an egomaniac? Is he just incredibly insecure that he has to come first? And what we fail to understand is that God says, “Pick me because I love you.” God says, “Pick me because I’m the only one who can actually give you the life that you’re longing for, the life that you were designed for, but it’s a life that’s only possible when you pick me as your priority.” See the reality is this, unless we pick the right priority, nothing else will work. Unless we pick the right priority, nothing else will work.

Years ago, I think it was like, I don’t know, five or six or seven, I saw an illustration of this. It was so powerful that I still remember it. You got a life. And there’s a lot of stuff that goes into our lives or it should, God should be the biggest one, but God, we definitely need to get God in there somehow. We got other big priorities though. You know, we’ve got relationships, we’ve got careers, we’ve got, you know, personal health, taking care of ourselves. I mean, lots of different things that they’re kind of big deals after God, but then the reality is that we have a whole lot of other things that just kinda like they just take up our day, right? And here’s the way most of us do it. We don’t actually pick our priorities. We just kind of deal with our circumstances as they come. And yeah, it’s messy. Anybody ever feel like they drop balls? Yeah. And then we come along and we’re like, “Okay. But I got these other really important things. You know, I got to deal with my marriage. I got to get my relationships in order. I got to take care of myself, or my career,” whatever it is. And then…

Okay. I should get this. Lid, close it all up. All right, good. So like, oh, geez. Yeah. It just doesn’t work. And sometimes we think, “Well, you know, God wants to be our priority and then he wants to push everything else out.” And that’s not true. Actually, God’s okay with all that other stuff. God wants to make it work. And so God says, “Put me first. Make me your priority and then I’ll help you figure out this marriage and relationship stuff, I’ll help you figure out this career stuff. Taking care of yourself, I’ll help you figure that out. Then all this other stuff, you know, we’ll find places for that too.” He’s not looking to push it all out. You’re just learning to sift it so that it fits. And even though some of those other things we dropped, he’s like, “No, we can make room for those too.” God wants to make your life work. But if he’s not the priority, nothing else is gonna work.

He’s not going to push everything else out. He’s looking to make it fit in a way that actually brings peace and significance. And here’s the reality, some of us need to recognize there’s something in our life that has taken his place and it needs to be demoted. So we ask the question, “How am I Frankensteining my faith?” that’s for the spirits who pretend… For those things we promote, here’s the question we need to ask, what needs a demotion in my life? What needs to come after God? Not because God is selfish but because it’s the only way the other stuff’s going to work in the way it’s supposed to. What needs a demotion in my life? And if you’re not quite sure how to answer that question, maybe you’re going, “There might be some things, but how do I sort that out?”

Here’s a couple of other questions you might ask. One of them is, “What does my calendar say?” What does your calendar say about your priority? It’s amazing to me how often people will come to me and they’ll go, “Yeah. If it’s not on my calendar, then it just doesn’t happen, right? I live by my calendar. If it’s not on my calendar, it just doesn’t happen. And I’ll sometimes go, “Hey, can I see your calendar?” And I always get really nervous. Never give a pastor your calendar. And then you kind of flip through it and you’re like, “What’s interesting, I mean, you say that God, you know, God’s your number one priority, but he’s literally not on the calendar anywhere, I mean, not daily time with him set on your calendar, like weekly time of worship set on your calendar.” “Oh, yeah. I do those.” And “No, no. You just told me if it’s not on the calendar, I don’t do it.” Isn’t that interesting? Our calendar often reflects our priority. What about your calendar? Does it reflect the importance of God in your life?

How about this? What does your bank say? You’ve got a forensic accountant come in and look at all the ways you’ve spent money over the last 10 years, what would it reveal about your priority? You can ask the question, what shakes everything else when it gets challenged? I’m gonna be honest with you, for me, I realize that when somebody criticizes me or gets upset with me for something I’ve said or haven’t said or whatever it is, like that shakes everything in me. It shakes my confidence, it shakes my mood, it shakes my joy, it shakes everything. And what that means, let me just be honest with you, what that means is that my need to be liked has gotten out front of my God. What I’ve really realized is that that shaking that goes on in my life, that is the temper tantrum of a petulant wannabe God. What is it for you? What is the one thing in your life that if it gets threatened shakes everything else? Maybe it’s your finances, maybe it’s a relationship. Maybe it’s your kids or your…it’s your career or something like that. That thing that if it looks like it’s not gonna work out exactly what you’re hoping, suddenly everything looks like it’s falling apart. Listen, that is a temper tantrum from being thrown by a petulant wannabe God.

Maybe the last question is what would somebody who knows me well say about my priority? That’s a risky question, but if you really wanna figure out what needs to be demoted in your life, you might ask somebody in your life that question. Here’s the reality, we often find that our life is a mess because we’re picking the wrong priority. And some of us, as I did that first thing, you’re like, “Yeah. Things just don’t fit. Things aren’t going everywhere. Things are falling apart. I can’t get any traction. I can’t get any movement.” Like I’ve been there. I know exactly what that is like. But if that’s what you feel about your life, then you might need to say something to yourself, something that I’ve had to say at different points in my life to myself, sometimes you have to look in the mirror and you have to say this, you have to say, “My life’s a mess because I keep picking the wrong priority. My life’s a mess because I keep picking the wrong priority. It’s not because God’s not good. It’s because I haven’t let him be God. I haven’t made him my priority.” It’s a tough thing to say, but it’s the thing we have to say to ourselves. You might need to go home, you might need to look in the mirror and you need to say, “My life’s a mess,” or maybe you just need to do what I do, “Dude…” I don’t know how you talk to yourself. That’s how I talk to myself, “Dude, your life’s a mess because you keep picking the wrong priority.”

And the reality too is sometimes we don’t even pick the right priority or the wrong priority. We don’t pick priorities at all. We just kind of deal with things as they come. And in other words, what’s really happening is circumstances are choosing our priority for us. But in one way, though, whether it’s deliberate or unconscious, we’re putting something in the first place that’s not capable of dealing with the other things. The only priority that’s worth picking is the one that can bring everything else together under the way that works, right? Listen, you can’t go to work and ask, you know, “What does my 3-year-old want me to do here?” You can’t go home and look at your husband, or your wife, or your boyfriend, or your girlfriend and go, “What does my work want me to do here?” You know, the only priority should be the one thing that can bring everything together. So that’s how we know that kids and careers should not be the priority. What should?

Well, God begins the Big Ten with a very simple but incredibly important statement. He says, “Pick me. Pick me as your priority. Pick me because I love you.” The reality is the picking the right priority is the only way to true peace and lasting joy. I love the way Jesus said it. He said, “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and they beat against that house, and yet it did not fall because it had built its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose up, the winds blew and they beat against the house and it fell with a great crash.”

Here’s what I don’t like about that. The storm came against both houses. Picking the right priority does not exempt you from the storms of life. I wish it did, but the reality is that putting God first, picking God as your priority is not a hard right turn onto Easy Street. I mean, you see what’s going on in Afghanistan right now as our brothers and sisters in Christ are being persecuted, their lives are in incredible danger right now? It’s not because they didn’t put God first, it’s because they put God first. The reality is there are a lot of wannabe gods out there, whether they’re pretending or we promoted them, and they lash out when we stop making them our priority. Our brothers and sisters in Afghanistan are experiencing that right now. But here’s the thing, there’s a huge difference between facing difficult circumstances and falling apart in the face of them. And God’s promise is if you put me first, I’ll get you through this and I’ll bring you to joy. I’ll even bring you joy in the midst of the storm. Here’s the reality. God is the only priority worth picking. He’s the only voice out there saying pick me because I love you and I have joy for you. Because how do we do it? How do we start picking God as our priority?

Well, number one, we’ve talked about it a little bit, you can demote something. Identify that thing that’s been getting out front of God and demote it. Sit it down and go, “Hey. We got to have a hard conversation. I’m gonna have to let you go. Maybe I can find a job for you in the mailroom, but you don’t get to be boss anymore.” Identify that thing and demote it. Okay? Number two, you can join us for the rest of this series because really, the next nine commandments in very practical ways, work out what it looks like to make God the priority. That’s why this was the first one because it’s foundational for the other nine. So make sure you don’t miss that over the next few weeks. Another thing you can do is you can schedule time with him. We mentioned that already. Maybe literally go into your calendar and schedule time when you’re gonna spend time reading God’s Word, or praying daily, or worshiping weekly, being part of a small group, which, by the way, is another thing we can talk about.

Before I do that, let’s talk about this. Let’s talk about serving. Another thing you can do to start putting God first, you can start serving. Start actually putting not only your, you know, finances in God’s control, but also your time in God’s control. Being on mission with him. I love it, I got a text this week from a friend of mine here at Mission Hills, and he’d be embarrassed that I’m sharing this, but I was so proud of him, he texted me and he said, “I’m watching all the stuff going on in Afghanistan and like maybe I could sponsor some Christian refugees from Afghanistan to come here and I can get them set up and help them kind of get life going here. Do you know who I could talk to about doing that?” And I was like, “No, but I’ll find somebody and I’ll let you know and we’ll get this figured out.” But what I love about it was he wasn’t just going out and pointing out, “Oh, these are bad decisions. This was handled badly. This is a bad thing that’s happening,” he’s going, “How can I do something good?” He’s looking to serve as the church. I love that. What he’s doing, he’s making God a priority. He’s making God the priority. Serving in the church or as a church is a powerful way to start making God the priority. And then I said, “We’ll come back to it. This is important.”

Another thing you can do is you can join a community that’s making God their priority. We talked about it a few weeks, you can join a small group that’s making God a priority so you can push each other on towards doing that. Last option I’ll share with you just…this is all just some stuff to kind of get the ball rolling. Another thing you can do for some of you is you can say yes to following Jesus. Because I know some of you are listening to this message and God’s never been the priority. Maybe you’ve been part of a church in your life and maybe you haven’t. Maybe this is your first time with us but you’ve never made a deliberate decision to say to God, “I’m gonna put my trust in you.” Remember who we’re talking about, is the God who loves us so much, he sent his own Son to die for us, raised him from the dead and gives us the opportunity to be forgiven of our sin, adopted into the family of God, and to live with God forever simply by putting our faith in what he has done for us already. And if you’ve never made that decision, today is the day to make that incredible and incredibly important first step in making God your priority. Would you pray with me?

God, as people who have put our faith in Jesus and have that relationship, we just confessed to you that there are ways that we have allowed other things to get out in front of you. For some of us, they’re spirits who pretend and for many of us, they are things we’ve promoted, but we recognize them. We confess them to you right now. We ask for your forgiveness. And we’re grateful knowing that your love comes before your law. Your commitment to us comes before your commands for us and so we can be confident that every time we identify those things, we’ve allowed out front, you are quick to forgive us. And we ask for strength of your Holy Spirit to start making steps to make you our priority because you’re the only priority worth picking.

As followers of Jesus too, we take a moment right now, we just pray for those listening to this message around the world who have never taken that incredibly important first step of getting into that relationship with you. And if that’s you, if you’ve never made that decision to trust Jesus, today’s the day. Everything that God promises in Scripture comes from the relationship. And it’s a relationship he’s inviting you into right now. It’s a relationship you can begin simply by saying yes. You’re just gonna say something like this, just have this conversation with God in your heart right now:

God, I’ve done wrong. I’ve sinned. I’ve made a lot of other things my priority. I’m sorry. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross to pay for my sin. I believe you rose from the dead and I’m ready to say yes to faith in you. Jesus, I’m gonna trust you. I’m gonna seek to make you my priority. I receive forgiveness, adoption into God’s family, and eternal life. Amen.

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