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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. Tony Evans » Tony Evans - Loving God First

Tony Evans - Loving God First

Tony Evans - Loving God First
TOPICS: Priorities

Did you know one of the greatest sins noted in the Bible is ingratitude? When we are not grateful, when we are thankless rather than thankful, we have insulted God. Romans chapter 1, talking about men abandoning God. He says, "And neither were they thankful". They did not recognize that every good and perfect gift comes from above. Anything good in your life and my life is a gift of God for which we ought to be grateful, but we live in a world today of ingratitude. Not only are we not grateful for God, we're not grateful for other people who benefit us, who God has allowed in our lives and our circumstances to help our lives be better.

You know, we regularly teach our children to say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you". We want them to develop the habit of being grateful. As a parent, I'm sure there've been times with your children where you've said, "Y'all kids aren't grateful. Y'all just complain all the time and you don't recognize what we do". You know why? Because we do it so consistently. You know, we feed them consistently, we clothe them consistently, we house them consistently. We do all these consistent things, and you can get so used to consistency that you become expectant. In fact, you can't even make a requirement rather than be grateful for the consistency.

Now, you know, whenever there's special events, the kids will say thanks. You know, Christmas, toys, birthday gifts, you know, something special that they want. They'll give thanks for the special, but thanksgiving is to be a lifestyle for every good and perfect gift whether it's the regular things we get or the special things that God gives us. How thankful are you? How thankful am I? How thankful are we? We when we go to God, we're told in Philippians 4, when we pray to pray with thanksgiving. Generally, when we pray and we're asking, we're saying, "God, I need this, I want that, help me with this," and we're asking God for something, and that's okay, but he says, "When you are asking for something, do it with thanksgiving".

In other words, don't leave thanksgiving out on an island by itself. Make sure you include thanksgiving with a request 'cause God wants to know that we are grateful for what he has already done, not just in anticipation of what we want him to do, because he has already done so much for us. He's done so much for us in our being able to live and breathe, and being able to have food to eat and clothes on our backs and roof over our head. Those are the normal things, so to speak, at least for most people. Some people in the world have to thank that as a special thing because it's not automatically guaranteed, but at the very same time, God wants us to recognize the fact that he is responsible for what we are benefiting from as a part of our request to him.

As you see what's happening in the world today, you see what's happening in the Middle East, for example. You see what's happening among people who are longing for their next meal or glad to be alive one more day. You know, they have a lot to be thankful for, but you and I never know what a new day will bring. We never know whether tragedy will strike, sickness will hit, an accident will take place in our lives or the life of a loved one. So we've gotta be just as thankful every day for the day because no other day is guaranteed. We can't brag about tomorrow. We gotta just make it through today and be grateful for the grace of God that's given us today.

So let's make gratitude a way of life. In fact, let's not be like Israel. God delivered them from Egypt, and they spent all that time in the wilderness grumbling and complaining, and that complaining was one of the reasons they didn't make it to the Promised Land, because they were so ungrateful for what God had done that they weren't able to get to what God yet wanted to do. Don't block your future with ingratitude. That's not recognizing what God has done with your past and what he's doing in your present.

Now, that does not negate the fact that there aren't trials and tribulations, there aren't difficult times that we're not happy about, that we're not, you know, really just bouncing off of the wall about. Those hard times are real and we don't ignore them. But you know what? Even to know you have a hard time, you have something to be thankful for, 'cause you got a brain to know it. You're still alive, so that means you're experiencing it. So even in the middle of what you're going through, there's a God worthy to give thanks.

So I want you this Thanksgiving to give thanks to God and then to stop making Thanksgiving a holiday and make every day a thanksgiving day because every day is a fresh, new opportunity to tell the Lord thank you. Thank you for waking me up. Thank you for providing me the air that I'm breathing. Thank you that I have wardrobe I can put on. Thank you there'll be food at the breakfast table. Thank you for the health of my family. Thank you that you kept me yesterday so I could be here today.

You know, we could go on and on and on and on and on. I'm not trying to cover all your bases. I'm just saying make thanksgiving your way of life. I need to make it my way of life. Encourage those in your sphere of influence to make it their way of life so that God is being thanked as a way of life, and when he sees that we are grateful people, he will give us the peace of God that comes with his presence because he knows we are a grateful, grateful people who love our God. God bless you and happy Thanksgiving.

Over and over again in scripture, God requires and demands to be first. One such place for which many of you are familiar is in Revelation chapter 2 where John the Revelator writes about a message to the church at Ephesus. To understand Ephesus, think New York. Ephesus was the New York City of Asia Minor. In the middle of this metropolitan city, a church was established. Ephesus Bible Fellowship had been established in this city, and the Lord sends a letter to the pastor at Ephesus Bible Fellowship called the angel, or the messenger, and he was to deliver that message to the congregation. I'm going to deliver the message that he gave to them, to us, since it was written for the church.

In Ephesians 2 we read, "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The one who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the one who walks among the seven golden lamp stands, says this". Of course, seven is the number of completion in scripture. So what he wants you to know starting out is Jesus is in the house right now. He starts out with a commendation, or a compliment. He wants to compliment the church first. He says in verse 2, "I know your deeds, your toil, your perseverance. You cannot endure evil men. You put to the test those who call themselves apostles and they are not, and you found them to be false". He says, I wanna commend you on some great things happening at your church. He says, "The first thing is I see your deeds".

Deeds are activities. "I see the work you're doing". In other words, you are a serving church. You folks are busy. You got folks serving over here and folks serving over there and folks doing this and folks doing that. "You've got the people engaged in ministry, and I see your deeds". He says, "You're not only a serving church. You are a sacrificing church because," he says, "I see your toil". He goes on and say, "I see your steadfastness because I see your perseverance". When the going gets tough, you don't quit. When the going gets tough, you don't throw in the towel. When the going gets tough, you keep on ploughing through, and you don't easily throw in the towel, quit, or give up.

"I see that. I like that about you. Not only do I see you are serving, that you are sacrificing and that you are steadfast, I see you are also separated because you don't tolerate evil. You will call sin a sin. You will identify folks who are renegades, who are living an unacceptable lifestyle and justifying it rather than repenting of it. I see that there is a standard that this church operates by, and that's great. I commend you for that". And then finally he says, "I also see you are a suffering church because," verse 3, "you have perseverance and have endured for my name's sake and have not grown weary, endured for my name's sake".

"You've gone through some tough times, some hard times. You've been rejected by the culture of Ephesus, and you are suffering being a Christian. I see that, and that's good. I wanna commend you the all the good things happening at this church, but," verse 4, but, "but I have this against you. You have left your first love". He says, "I just named five compliments, five things I like, but I have one problem and it's a biggie: You've left your first love".

Now wait a minute. "You just gave me, Jesus, five compliments, and you only finding one thing wrong". But think about it for a moment. You can serve God and not love him first. You can sacrifice for God and not love him first. You can be steadfast for God and not love him first. You can be separated in God's name and not love him first. You can be suffering in God's name and not love him first. Watch it, he didn't say, "You don't love me at all". He said, "You no longer love me first". In the busyness of life and ministry, Jesus Christ no longer held the front position in their lives and in the life of this church.

So you can be spiritually busy and Jesus not be happy because you've left your first love. What God is complaining about is that things have replaced his primacy in their lives so that Jesus Christ is no longer first. He has to compete with all the stones, even though you declare him to be the rock. One of the bad things about religion is it can camouflage relationship so that you think you have relationship because you have religion. "Because I go to church because I serve in the ministry because I do this," but I must have him first 'cause look at what I'm doing. He says, "You have left your first love. You don't love me first. You love what I can do for you. You love the blessings I can give you. You love the money you want from me, the jobs you want from me, the better lifestyle you want from me. You love what I can give you, but you don't want me, and you don't want me first, because you'll fit me in when you can".

What God is saying is, "Yes, you still love me, but you love me down the line. You love me, second, third, fourth, fifth, ninth, tenth, when I demand to be first". "God, what do you mean by that"? Well, the Lord says in Matthew chapter 10, he says in Matthew chapter 10, verse 37 and 38, he says, "Anyone who loves his mother, father, son, or daughter more than me is not worthy of me". So let me tell you what he means by first. Matthew 10:37 and 38. He says, "I want your commitment to me to outweigh your commitment to your family". In other words, "I wanna come in front of your family: your mother, your father, your sisters, your brothers, your daughter, your son, your mate. I want to be first, not second, not third. And the reason why I wanna be first is I am first. I am Alpha and Omega".

God does not want us to do with him what we do with human relationships. He wants to be first, that is, top priority, not relegated to a secondary position. Much that is missing in our lives is because God has been relegated. He's not been forgotten. We'll come to church. He's not been forgotten. He'll be referenced. But he's been forgotten in terms of his placement in our lives, and he demands being first. "You have left your first love. You've left me as first. You love me down the line". So after commending the Christians at Ephesus and the Christians here, where is he positioned in your life, in your schedule, in your plans, in our priorities?

Okay, you say, "Well, I want him to be first. What do I do to get him first"? Well, he tells you. He tells you three things to do to reposition God in your life, to make him first. "Therefore," verse 5, "remember from where you have fallen". He says the first thing to do to reposition God is remember, to recall from where you have fallen. We think of people falling, committing some great sin. He says, "Remember when I was priority in your life. Remember from where you have fallen. Remember when you were excited just to know your sins were forgiven. Remember when you were excited that eternal life was imparted to you and you ain't have all this stuff, but you had me and you had fire with me and for me and about me because I was the main thing". And then he says, "Repent". He says, "Remember from where you have fallen and repent".

Now, there's only one thing you repent of in the Bible, and that's sin. So guess what. Losing your first love is sin. It's not a bad habit. It's not even a mistake. God looks at you and me in spiritual rebellion when he's not first, and that explains everything. So many of God's people are living in spiritual rebellion, not because they're necessarily doing some overt, populous sin, God's just no longer first. And why does God tell us to repent? The only purpose God tells us to repent is to restore relationship and limit consequences. He wants to restore relationship. That's not just, I'm sorry, that's adjusting the schedule. That's deciding, "Yeah, I'm gonna get up 15 minutes earlier so that I spend time with God or block out some time during the day when I'm alert and awake to give some time with God. I am going to prioritize this. I'm going to restructure this".

Now you have repented. Anything else is confession, which precedes repentance, but it's not equal to the full definition of it. And God is calling us to repent. "To repent of what? What great sin? You just complimented me five times". "The sin of putting me in any other place but first". That sin, repent of that sin, change directions. Get off at the next exit. Don't just be discussing, "I'm going the wrong way. Let me keep driving".

Thirdly, he says, and repeat, because he says, "What I want you to do is I want you to do the deeds you did at first. Repeat". He says, "I want you to go back to what you did when it was just me and you, when it was just me and you. When you didn't have all these distractions and all these people and all these issues and all this agenda and all this schedule and all this business, it was just me and you. It was just me and you, and we did fine. In fact, because it was me and you, that's why a lot of this other stuff happened. A lot of this other stuff happened 'cause it was just us, but now that it's no longer just us and you just fit me in where you can, no wonder you're losing your mind. No wonder prayers aren't being answered. No wonder there's no experience of my presence or no experience of my power, 'cause it's not just me and you now. I'm not first. Yes, you've got more work. Yes, you've got more responsibility. Yes, you've got kids. Yes, you've got more responsibility at work. I've got that. So what that means is you've got to position me as first 'cause if you ever position me as first, you will discover I can help you handle all that other stuff. I can help you with the stones if you'll keep me the rock. But I can't be one among many. I must be first".

And when you make him first, he says, I like this verse 6. "You hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans. I like that. I like that you hate folks who are in rebellion, their deeds. You hate what they're doing. But he who hath an ear, let him hear". Okay, listen to that. "He that hath an ear, let him hear. He that hath an ear, let him hear". He's talking to the whole church, but then he says, "Even if the rest of the church is not listening, he that hath an ear". So if nobody else is listening but you, that's enough. Even though he is talking to the church, he knows everybody doesn't have an ear to hear. There's some people here who are gonna say, "God, look, I'm gonna give you what I give you. That's the best I'm gonna give you, and you're gonna have to accept that".

So you don't have an ear to hear. The others who don't have an ear to hear, "Look, I got too much on my plate. I'm too busy, I'm too tired, I'm too stressed, so this sermon is not for me". They don't have an ear to hear, but that's the individual that hath an ear to hear, he's not talking about your physical ear to hear. What I'm saying, everybody hears that. He's talking about your spiritual ear, the heart, that is, he that hath to hear what the Spirit is saying to the church. I'm talking to the church, but I'm looking for some listening ears, in the heart, who says, "You know what, God? I'm going to reorder my priorities so that you're no longer fitted in or forced in, you're first". That means getting up a few minutes earlier at 5. That means carving out, taking a portion of my lunchtime, fine, but time, when it's meaningful, I'm alert and I'm focused on you.

Now, you don't have to start with an hour. You don't have to start with two hours. Start with five hours. Start with five minutes. Just make it real. 'Cause it's hard to walk 10 miles until you take the first step. So start somewhere, 'cause I guarantee you, when you start to feel this thing, it's gonna grow. When you start to feel his presence, when you start to feel his reality, when you know that you're not only relating to him but he's relating back to you, and you're seeing prayers answered, power given, restoration taking place.

When you get to see him do his thing, oh, you're gonna extend your time. Some of us will never extend it, 'cause we'll never see it, because he won't be first. "But he that hath an ear, let him hear". And he closes with this: "To him who overcomes our grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. To he who hears, he will overcome, and I will grant to him to eat in the paradise of God".

Now, what was the paradise of God? It was Eden. It was where Adam and Eve were. They were in paradise. They were in Eden. In Eden was the tree of life. They got to walk with God. During the cool of the day, God was talking to them and guiding them until they sinned and rebelled. Guess what he says. He says that "the one who puts me first is an overcomer". Okay, now, in order to be an overcomer, you gotta have something to overcome. He says, "The one who puts me first will be an overcomer, and they will eat in the paradise of God".

Let me give you a great verse. It's in John chapter 14, verse 21. John chapter 14, verse 21. John chapter 14, verse 21. Because John 14:21 says, "The one who loves me, I will disclose myself to him". The one who loves me, I will unveil myself to. I will let him see me, feel me, and experience me if he loves me. You wanna experience more of him? Love him first. He says, "I will unveil myself".

That's the paradise of God. That's where God unveils himself and lets you see stuff you've never seen before, feel stuff you've never felt before, experience things you've never experienced before, 'cause he's unveiled himself. But how do I know if I really love him? Oh, it's simple. He says, "Because you will choose first to please me". He says, "You'll keep my commandments. You will seek first to please me". That will be, that will... and here's how you know, because when you have to choose between him and something or someone else, he wins. He says, "Now you love me, and I will unveil myself to that man, that woman, that boy or girl who loves me".
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