‘Put Jesus first.’

I like listening in on the conversations of wise people … and a lot of them are blessing my comment threads right now. There’s some discussion going on about what it means to “wait,” with a lot of people saying insightful stuff in a better way than I ever could dream of saying it. (Check out the comments here if you’ve missed them.) I’ve been so encouraged.

But it’s brought up another discussion and some questions about another phrase that, much like the “waiting” thing, I misunderstood for years. And years.

“Put Jesus first.”

OK, seriously. What does that even mean?

I was told by parents, teachers, leaders, friends to “put Jesus first,” and that was perfect advice. It’s still the best word today for anyone anywhere. It’s the Sunday School answer, but if you know what it means, it … works.

And if you don’t, it sounds cliché, keeps you frustrated or lulls you into a blissful spiritual sleep.

Mine was the last of the three.

I thought it was a one-time decision. Will I put Jesus first? Yes. I will. So what did I think I meant?

It’s crude, but it’s honest: “I’m a Christian, I live in a way I think would be generally pleasing to God, and if someone put a gun to my head and told me I had to renounce my faith or die, I’d choose to die.”

Seemed ambitious enough.

The decent Christian life, I’m committed to that. The dying thing, well, I know what I would do, so I won’t worry about that until the event (astronomically unlikely in the West) actually happened. The middle bit is the part where you read your Bible, pray, go to church, make good decisions and coast.

A blissful spiritual sleep.

And then, at the prompting of very wise people, I started reading the hard bits of the Bible. The parts where Jesus said you have to deny yourself and take up your cross daily and follow Him. To die to self as He died for us.

“Deny yourself.” There’s no way to get around the fact that that means EVERYTHING in life has to be less important than Him.

“Daily.” That sounds like daily. Not like once, and then the dying thing later.

For a long time, I thought if I was making the decisions I felt He wanted me to make, He was first in my life. Doesn’t make much sense, though, if at the end of the day I’m not satisfied with the one thing I say is most important to me.

I’m not saying we don’t naturally want anything else. Of course we do. We were designed to want food, so we eat. We’re designed to make families, so we want to.

I’m just saying denying ourselves means everything we want takes a backseat to our desire for Him.

And it does that because we want Him more. Not because that’s what He wants from us.

Some say OK, practically, what does this look like?

I for one would like a checklist. I like that. It’s cut and dried. People asked Jesus for that all through the New Testament. The rich young ruler asked what he had to do to have life with Jesus, and Jesus told him to sell everything he owned and give it to the poor and follow Him.

But He didn’t say that to everybody. He just knew that guy’s heart.

All through the New Testament, it was less about the decision and more about the heart behind it.

Putting Him first. It’s the easiest thing to do and the hardest thing to do.

What He really wants is my heart, not my decisions … for me to want Him so much that the other stuff becomes secondary. And for me to actively want that every day. It’s not passive. It’s not coasting. But it’s also not drudgery. We love Him. And so we get out of bed, and we follow.

It takes intentional thought and prayer … but the floodgates open up and the hunger for Him and His Word grows more and more. Give Him a blank check with your life, and ask Him what He’d like to do with it and you’ll find He’s eager to take you up on it … and show you more of Himself. Read His Word, the Bible. Talk to Him daily and ask Him how He wants you to spend your days and your relationships, how you personally can bring Him the most glory, how we can enjoy Him today and how we can tell others about Him and how much He means to us. It becomes a daily conversation, a journey with Him rather than a tally of major and minor decisions. The decisions start flowing out of relationship.

It takes discipline, and at the same time it’s incredibly freeing.

It’s desire.

When you seek God for God, offering everything (not in mental assent like I did, but in actuality), you’ll find He’s there to answer the door.

Doesn’t mean times will be easy … in fact, He says they’ll be hard. But He also said we have Him with us always, and that He is the reward at the end.

And He’s worth everything.

Burma sunset

20 Comments on “‘Put Jesus first.’

  1. I feel like I’ve stumbled upon your blog at just the right time. My spirit feels everything you’ve written, down to it’s very core. Thank you, so so much.

  2. After reading your post on waiting, I had similar thoughts to what you express here. Thanks for putting it into words for me =)

  3. The title of this post caught my eye, because my husband and I often discuss how ridiculous of a statement “put Jesus first” really is. He should be the CENTER of everything! Great words. God has obviously given you a voice to speak His truth. Keep it up sister!

  4. Ahhhh… My soul has peace and joy after reading this. So much freedom when He just wants my heart and not my decisions. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”

    Blessed to be encouraged of the truth from a sister. Blessed you’re sharing your heart and thoughts. Thanks, girl. Praise God.

  5. Just started reading your blogs. they are incredibly encouraging and challenging! I love the way you express things so simply, without all the big words and theological concepts, it really helps me see things more clearly. thanks! :)

  6. I found your blog from a friend who shared your “I don’t wait anymore” post on Facebook. I’ll say that it was a really refreshing read…even the comments. I look forward to continuing to follow your blog and to hear what God is doing with your life. Also, I put a link to your blog on mine so that you get a little more traffic (not that you needed any more!) I enjoyed everything you mention in this one as well!

  7. I’m so glad to have found your blog. Thank you for sharing what you’re learning with us. I just read the book “Radical” by David Platt and I feel like it echos some of the frustration you’ve worked through. I recommend it to you and your readers!

    • Laura, Radical will alter and perhaps completely change the way you see the world and your place in it. I would encourage you to go to radical.net and download the sermons. They are tough, convicting and life giving and I think you would really enjoy them! A really good friend and I sat through these teachings every week at Brook Hills and afterwards would sit almost silently staring at our food and each other trying to figure out what we were to do next! I would also suggest http://www.multiplymovement.com

  8. Grace,
    Hard to say anything without being trite, but I wanted to tell you what an encouragement I’ve found your blog to be. This post echoes so much of the Lord has been teaching me in the past couple years. “Find in me thine all in all” the old hymn says. As a single guy who yearns for a biblical relationship someday, I’ve found myself challenged recently by a particular question; do I pursue my relationship with God in the same way that I’d pursue a relationship with a person? I hope that I wouldn’t “coast” in that relationship. Certainly, no one does at the beginning . . . they pursue each other. Why should my relationship with Him who is closer to me than any person will ever be be any different? You hit the nail on the head . . . “we get out of bed, and we follow.” It’s so intensely active. That’s something I’m not used to, yet, but it’s something the Lord has actively confronted me with. Thank you, friend, for sharing what God has taught you. May the Lord bless you, and I want to just echo what you’ve said. You’re right, it’s not always (or even often?) easy, but there is a joy, a secret contentment, that comes when you can see things that He has led you to give up for Him, not “out of necessity . . . for God loves a cheerful giver.” We love Him (actively!!!) because He first loved us.

    “I gave, I gave my life for thee, what hast thou given for me?”

  9. Spread Out! Think Big!
    Isaiah 54 : 1- 6
    “Sing, barren woman, who has never had a baby.
    Fill the air with song, you who’ve never experienced childbirth!
    You’re ending up with far more children
    than all those childbearing women.” God says so!
    “Clear lots of ground for your tents!
    Make your tents large. Spread out! Think big!
    Use plenty of rope,
    drive the tent pegs deep.
    You’re going to need lots of elbow room
    for your growing family.
    You’re going to take over whole nations;
    you’re going to resettle abandoned cities.
    Don’t be afraid—you’re not going to be embarrassed.
    Don’t hold back—you’re not going to come up short.
    You’ll forget all about the humiliations of your youth,
    and the indignities of being a widow will fade from memory.
    For your Maker is your bridegroom,
    his name, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
    Your Redeemer is The Holy of Israel,
    known as God of the whole earth.
    You were like an abandoned wife, devastated with grief,
    and God welcomed you back,
    Like a woman married young
    and then left,” says your God.

  10. Amen and amen. He is worth it all all and more…Glorious One who suffered and died for people who didn’t even love Him. Thank you for the reminder.

  11. I totally agree! Love your blog, btw. I keep looking for an “about” page =) And I LOVE all of your pictures from around the world – looks like we’ve had some of the same adventures (Petra, etc). We are so blessed to be able to experience so much of this amazing world that God created!

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