First Things First

Tiny baby sleeping on adult arm.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

My husband is in construction and has been part of building many hotels in the Middle East. He knows how important the foundations for the buildings are. When a builder builds a house, the first thing he does is lay the foundations. If the builder fails to do the foundations, then the house he builds will eventually start to crack and crumble, not to mention that it will probably come crashing down with the first storm that comes its way. The thing is, not only is it important to lay foundations, but the foundations laid must be proportionately accurate in its different materials.

In the same way, it is important as Christians that we start our Christian walk with a strong foundation, but the foundation which we build is equally important. I believe the reason why many Christians crumble, fall apart and live defeated Christian lives when the storms of life hit, is because either they never laid a foundation or their Christian lives were built on wrong teaching and/ or understanding. A relationship with God built on correct revelatory truths will develop into an un-shakeable and powerful faith. It won’t matter what storm or how many storms comes your way, you will stand firm and steadfast grounded in your Father’s love.

In light of the ‘Law of First Things’, I believe the first thing we need to know in our hearts and minds is that GOD IS LOVE and that HE LOVED US FIRST. These are fundamental truths and are foundational. It is upon this vital foundation which all else builds, develops and grows.

1 John 4:8 (AMP)

He who does not love has not become acquainted with God (does not and never did know Him), for God is love.

God is love! Think about that for a minute. Scripture does not tell us that God is hate, it clearly tells us that God is love. He is the full measure and picture of perfect love and therefore He can only move in the form and shape of His perfect agape love. Our Father cannot help but love us because it is who He is – HE IS LOVE! Even when He disciplines us as His children, it will always come blanketed in His love. Our Father is so committed to our well- being and success in life that He will only ever discipline in a way that will ultimately benefit us, help us grow as people and will inevitably work towards our being able to prosper in all aspects of our lives as well as draw closer to Him.

God does not fall in and out of love with us based on our behaviour – He loves us irrespective of our behaviour. His love for us does not come attached with a list of conditions – His love for us is unconditional. In the same way, if you are a parent, you know that you love your child irrespective of their behaviour and you would never tell them that your love for them will be based on fulfilling certain conditions – that would be cruel and damaging! God’s love for us does not go up and down from one day to the next. Our love for Him may go up and down, but never His love for us – His love for us remains constant 24/ 7, year in and year out, and that is why we can trust and confidently rely on Him as our Father who will never leave us nor forsake us.

1 John 4:19 (AMP)

We love Him, because He first loved us.

The most straightforward of scriptures can sometimes hit you hard between the eyes of your heart.

God loved us first and first is first. Nothing comes before first. First is not second or third. I think you get my meaning. God loved us first before we knew Him or anything about Him. While the world was drowning in sin and going to hell in a hand basket, the Father, out of His love, gave His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, who died on a cross for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8); and so the greatest love story was openly and graphically displayed with the shed blood of Christ running down Calvary’s hill. We certainly didn’t do anything to deserve such love, if anything we really deserved the wrath and judgement of God, but instead we received the grace, love and mercy of God and Jesus received the wrath and judgement of God for us in our place.

There were many times I had read 1 John 4:19 and yet somehow it never penetrated my heart that God’s love for us started with Him. There were times I heard the words, ‘God loves you’, and my mind said, ‘yes, okay He loves me’, but the revelation of God’s love for me didn’t take its journey from my mind to my heart. I think we hear it so often that it has almost become a cliché. Of course, it’s anything but a cliché, it is an absolute truth. Having a head knowledge of God’s love for you is a good place to start, but head knowledge must become heart knowledge because a mere head knowledge of His love for you will not suffice, it will not empower you to walk in your God-given identity, purpose, authority and power. I have come across Christians who know the Bible from cover to cover, can quote scriptures left, right and centre, but they are as dry as a stick, ready to be used to make coals in the barbeque. I don’t believe they have ever had a heart encounter with Papa’s love. The revelation hasn’t hit them hard between the eyes of their hearts. They need a good long drink of God’s awesome love.

I remember in the early days of my Christian walk reading scriptures like the following:

Matthew 22: 37-39 (KJV)

Jesus said unto him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

Mark 12: 29-31 (AMP)

Jesus answered, “The first and principal one of all commands is: Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord; And you shall love the Lord your God out of and with your whole heart and out of and with all your soul (your life) and out of and with all your mind (with your faculty of thought and your moral understanding) and out of and with all your strength. His is the first and principal commandment. The second is like it and is this, you shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”

These verses troubled my heart. I would ask God, ‘How do I make myself love you with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength. How do I make myself do that? I want to love you, but I don’t know how.’ I felt God was commanding me to do something that I could not deliver. If I were to be honest, I knew that I didn’t love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and that broke my heart. It would leave me wondering what was wrong with me. The thing is, is that when we look at these verses they clearly command ‘first’ and so in my mind I believed I was called to love and show God my love for Him first. Well, these commandments certainly are “first” if you are living by the Old Covenant Law. These verses in the Gospels were quoted from the Old Covenant scripture in Deuteronomy where Moses is giving the house of Israel the Law as it had been instructed to him by God.

Deuteronomy 6: 4-6 (AMP)

Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one lord (the only Lord). And you shall love the Lord your God with all your (mind and) heart and with your entire being and with all your might. And these words which I am commanding you this day shall be (first) in your (own) minds and hearts;

Under the Old Covenant Law, God commanded man to love Him with their entire beings and with all their strength. Man was dependant on himself to love God and show his love for God by living perfectly according to the law. Man had to ‘do first’ in order to receive from God.

Right now you may be thinking to yourself; but Jesus made these same commands of us in the Gospels which are in the New Testament? Okay, yes you will see before Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, “New Testament” in your Bibles, but the New Covenant wasn’t put into effect until blood had been shed and the blood of Jesus was only shed when He went to the cross. A covenant has to do with the shedding of blood and His blood was only shed at the cross. Therefore prior to His blood been shed, the Old Covenant was still in effect until Jesus went to the cross. Jesus manifested perfectly grace and truth through His life, but He taught according to the law because He had not yet gone to the cross. If Jesus opposed the law in His teaching, He would then have sinned against His Father and hence He would have then disqualified Himself as the perfect sinless Lamb to the slaughter. Do we disregard everything prior to the death, burial and resurrection of Christ? ABSOLUTELY NOT! There is a wealth of information, knowledge, history, creation, council, the Psalms, wisdom in Proverbs, prophecies of Christ’s birth, life, death as well as His second coming and so much more from the first word in Genesis to the last word in the Old Testament. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is what we refer to as the Gospel dispensation. It was a transformational period of time which brought a gradual ushering in of the ‘New’ (agreement) and an end to the ‘Old’ (agreement). It was a period of renewing people’s minds to a new and better way of living, it was an invitation into a relationship with a loving God through Christ and an end to tedious religious rituals and rules in order to be right with God. The death, burial and resurrection of Christ marks that time in history which brought the final close to the ‘Old’ and the start to the ‘New’, therefore the Gospel dispensation is a mixture of Old Covenant Law and New Covenant Grace. Paul, the apostle said the following:

2 Timothy 2: 15 (AMP)

Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

It is so important when we spend time in the Word of God that we rightly divide the word of truth. I don’t want to spend too much time here, but in order to glean accurately from the Word we must be aware of which side of the cross we are reading from. We must learn to ask questions like, ‘Who is speaking, who are they speaking to, what is being said, what are the circumstances around what is being said, why are they saying what they are saying and so on. Are they looking towards the cross and the coming of Christ or are they looking behind them at the death, burial and resurrection of Christ? When we do this, we will gain deeper understanding and revelation in the scriptures. When reading through the Gospels, it will help us to understand the things Jesus was saying and why he was saying it, in other words – when he was applying the law and when He was applying grace. We must always look at scripture through the lens of grace and the finished works of Jesus at the cross remembering that as born again children of God we are not living according to the Old Covenant Law, but we live under the New Covenant of Grace and faith. We are not living pre-cross, but post cross. We must separate Old Covenant Law from New Covenant Grace.

Sometimes when we look at God in the Old Covenant and then look at Him in the New Covenant, it almost seems like somehow God changed somewhere in the middle – maybe He went for anger management classes or something? The fact is, God did not change, He is the same God, yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13: 8). God has always been a God of love, grace and mercy – God did not change, the covenants changed. In other words, the agreement upon which we relate to God changed, a better agreement based on better promises (Hebrews 8:6).

From the very first drop of blood that ran from Jesus’ body, it ran bellowing loudly to the world, “I love you, I love you, I love you!”

Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection was the end of the Law (Romans 10: 4). It was the end of man having to love God first in his own strength. The New covenant ushered in something new and it was this, it was God saying to the world, it is not about your love for Me, but rather NOW it is all about My love for you. What better way to usher in the New Covenant of Grace and faith by God commending His love towards us through His Son at the cross.

1 John 4: 10 (KJV)

Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

It really isn’t about our love for Him, but rather His love for us –

John 3: 16 (KJV)

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.

The key, my friend, is not to try to love God in your own strength, but rather to simply open your heart and receive His love first. The key is to accept, believe and receive His love for you. You don’t need to do a thing to make Him love you, he already loves you! How can you earn the love of a God who already purposed to love you before the foundations of this world long before you even existed? Once you know in your heart how much He loves you, you will then receive the capacity to love Him in return with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. You cannot give away what you have not first received yourself and understood in your heart. Big difference!

C.S Lewis once made this comment: “Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first and we lose both first and second things.”

So often we get the cart before the horse and try in our best efforts to earn what Christ has already paid for us to have instead of just receiving and resting in His finished works.

Open your heart, receive God’s love for you first and that will stir your heart to love upwards and outwards.

It’s so simple – we love Him because He first loved us.

Read on: ONLY BY FAITH MY FRIEND!

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