March 2019

March 2019

Basic Christianity: Jesus Comes First!

What’s the most important thing to you? You might get a lot of different answers to that question, depending on whom you ask. Some might say, “Success,” others, “Happiness.” Most, I think, would say, “Family.” That’s a good answer, as far as ranking our earthly blessings goes. Our families are far more important than our entertainment, our possessions, our careers, our hobbies, or just about anything else. In fact, most of the earthy blessings we enjoy exist for the sake of caring for and enjoying our families.

Some people, though, recognize that there are greater goods than their own families. Some have experienced failure, disappointment, and even betrayal among their family members. Some have had their families tragically taken from them. Some have found that the relationships they have with others who genuinely love them are more meaningful than the relationships they have with family members. Some might even be willing to give up their families and relationships for the sake of a greater good, such as the survival and wellbeing of their country.

But I hope that if someone asks you that question, he’ll get an entirely different answer. What is the most important thing to you? Every one of us should be ready with the answer: “God.” To be more specific, “Our triune God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Or, to focus our answer even more on that one point through which God wishes us to know and love Him, “Jesus.” Jesus is far and away the most important thing to us in the world.

That seems obvious, doesn’t it? But it is much easier to say than to practice. So many things clamor for our attention and our loyalty. Consider some of the things that I have personally witnessed drawing people away from Jesus: Wealth. Sexual immorality. Grudges. Sleeping in on Sunday mornings. Band competitions. Sports events. Resentment. Family.

Before you respond in judgment toward those who allow such things to come between them and Jesus, consider your own life. Is Jesus really the most important thing to you? If you had to choose between Jesus and your children, how readily would you give up your children for Jesus’ sake? Are you tempted to compromise on what you know Jesus actually teaches for the sake of maintaining peace with your loved ones? After all, Jesus Himself said, “Whoever loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37).

I remember talking with a man while I was in college. I told him I wanted to marry a Lutheran girl. He couldn’t understand why I would care whether my wife was Lutheran or not, or even Christian. Why does it matter, he asked, what your wife believes, as long as you love each other? And his response is not at all unusual. For most people, Jesus has to take a back seat to the relationships that really matter. But for Christians, Jesus always comes first. We can say with St. Paul the Apostle, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8).

Of course, by ourselves we are incapable of putting Jesus ahead of everything else. But as Jesus says, “What is impossible with man is possible with God” (Luke 18:27). Even the impossible task of loving Jesus more than anything else becomes possible for us when the Holy Spirit converts us by the power of the Gospel and grants us the gift of faith in Jesus Christ, so that we fear, love, and trust in Him above all things.

Again, it may seem obvious, but it’s not as easy as it sounds: We Christians are called to love Jesus more than anything else in the world. Jesus comes first.

That’s basic Christianity!

God's Blessings!

Pastor Neuendorf