First, we need to realize that we don't put or make God first. He is first (Revelation 1:8). God is the creator of all and His glory is the reason for all (Romans 11:36). He is the sovereign King and Ruler over everything and everyone (Psalm 47:2–3; 1 Timothy 1:17). Whatever God ordains will be done (Psalm 115:3; 135:6; Proverbs 16:9; Daniel 4:35; James 4:15). God will be glorified by everyone, either in their salvation or condemnation (Romans 9:22–23). God's grace is glorified in the salvation of some and His justice is glorified in the destruction of others (John 3:16–18). There will come a day when every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God (Philippians 2:9–11; Romans 14:11). However, only those who repent and receive Jesus Christ in this life will enter into eternal life (John 14:6).
Those who receive Jesus by faith also receive the Holy Spirit (John 3:5–8; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13–14; Romans 8:9–11, 26; 1 John 3:24). Salvation is not solely about spending eternity in heaven, but living new life in Christ on earth (2 Corinthians 5:17; John 10:10). It is only through the Holy Spirit working in us (Philippians 2:13) that we are able to "put God first" in our lives.
For the Christian to put God first in his or her life means to live like Christ and to live for Christ (1 John 2:6). A Christian should pursue a holiness of conduct that is consistent with his or her confession of faith in Jesus Christ as Lord (Hebrews 12:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:7; 1 Peter 1:16; Romans 13:13–14). If we confess Jesus is our Lord then we seek to mortify sin in our lives and seek to live righteously by the power of the indwellling Spirit of Christ (2 Timothy 2:19; Romans 8:13; Ephesians 4:22–24).
We must not make Christ a category or even a priority. We are called to submit to His rule and reign over every area of our lives. Christ is to be THE priority, our reason and purpose for living. Scripture calls us to live as living spiritual sacrifices, not conforming our behavior to the sinful practices we see in this world but to be transformed by the Word of God and the Spirit of God in order that we might live holy lives (Romans 12:1–2). We are called to do everything we do with all our hearts as unto God, to please Him (2 Corinthians 5:9; Colossians 1:10). No activity is exempt from God's sight (Matthew 6:6). Colossians 3:17 says, "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." First Corinthians 10:31 carries a similar idea. Rather than "putting God first," we recognize that He has pre-eminence and we yield to His lordship over all aspects of our lives.
The first and greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matthew 22:36–38). Every part of our being must be directed by the love of God, with the aim of glorifying Him. We cannot and dare not compartmentalize Christ, lest by doing so we find ourselves to be hypocrites who Christ never knew at all (Matthew 7:21–23). Love for God and the desire to please Him ought to be diffused throughout our lives as sunlight is diffused throughout the sky, as water is diffused throughout the sea. We must never tolerate or make peace with a single corner or closet of the darkness of sin in our lives (1 Corinthians 4:5).
Positively, God's concerns and priorities must become our concerns and priorities. His commands are to be our delight (Romans 7:22). His mission is to be our mission (Matthew 28:18–20). If we are living our life for Christ and to be in His presence is our greatest joy then we have "put God first" (Philippians 1:21). Of course, we will never do this perfectly in this life but we will struggle, strain, fight, and run to make it so (Philippians 3:13–14). And when we fail, we know that God is faithful to forgive and cleanse us (1 John 1:8–9).
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