Take a few moments and think about how busy your life is. What are some of the things that are pulling at your time and energy right now? Have to prepare dinner or where to go for lunch? Stop and look @ our lives – we are busy!
Many of us are busy with our careers/jobs, family/friends, holidays/hobbies, school/ministry, each pulling for our attention, our time, our focus. We often feel like we are being pulled in every direction and in the end, we know something has to give.
Usually, our lives are not that bad. But needless to say, we are busy. So what are we building our lives around? What are the things that center our lives today? We all live our lives centered on something, but the question is, is it the right thing? Take a moment to think about it. Ask yourself, “What is the main thing in my life?”
Another way to put it: what are you passionate about? What do you think about or talk about whenever you get the chance?
Our lives are filled with a lot of good things. All of these things I’ve listed are good things, but none of them is the most important thing our lives need to focus on.
In the movie, “Movie City Slickers,” we discover a group of middle aged men who take a yearly adventure to revitalize their lives. In one scene, Billy Crystal’s character, “Mitch Robbins” has a discussion with “Curly,” played by Jack Palance. He asks Curly about life, its meaning and purpose. Curly’s response is that each of us needs to discover the one thing to bring meaning to our lives.
As Christians, we too need to discover that one thing that gives our lives direction and perspective. For Christians, that one thing is the gospel.
1 Corinthians 15:1,3 says, “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand… For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures”.
What does Paul say is of first importance? The Bible says there are many areas of ministry and areas of service, but only one truth should define our lives, one simple truth should motivate our work and affect every part of our lives. Christ died for sins.
We should be passionate about it, not just sharing it with others, dwell on it and rejoice in it. We need to allow it to color how we see our world. This should be our priority, our focus and in a strange way, it should be our slogan in how we live life.
Speaking of slogans, have you noticed how saturated our lives are with ads?
You deserve a break today… McDonalds
Plop, plop, fizz, fizz… Alka Seltzer
Good to the last drop… Maxwell House
Don’t leave home without it… American Express
Everywhere we go, we are inundated with ads telling us what is newer and better and how each thing will improve our lives. There is nothing necessarily wrong with newer or better, but sometimes we get confused and make the words synonymous and interchangeable, which they aren’t.
Sometimes newer isn’t better. Think about the iPhone. Each year, a couple models are introduced, each supposedly superior to the previous superior model. But within a couple months, they deem it obsolete. Also, new things don’t last as long! Think of cars or even appliances – people are constantly saying, “They don’t build them like they used to…”
The pursuit of new and better are common in the church as much as in the world. Cutting edge ideas and teachings like the Prosperity gospel, contemporary worship styles and new songs, Creationism verses Evolution, Godly marriage, gifts of the Spirit, new eschatological theories…
There is constant shifting in the church from what we should focus on or how we should do things. It is like jumping from one bandwagon to another whenever someone gets on their soapbox. Now don’t get me wrong, many of these things are important and need to be addressed, but should they be the focus or the motivation of the church’s ministry?
What Paul is stating in 1 Corinthians 15 is that it should be the cross that motivates and shapes our lives and ministry. Recent trends have seen churches move away from Bible as their authority and allowing the world and culture to dictate how they minister and what message is preached. This has led to compromises in both faith and practice, all because people have forgotten what should be first in the Christian life and focus.
It is the gospel that should be motivating us and energizing us to service. It is the gospel and the cross that give us focus and passion to achieve God’s will. Unfortunately, in many churches, the gospel has taken a back seat. It seems to me to be a growing trend as we move into a more post-modern or post-Christian society.
The gospel is the only message that brings hope to the hopeless, peace to the tormented, security to the fearful, strength to the weak and more.
D.A. Carson said this, “I fear that the cross, without ever being disowned, is constantly in danger of being dismissed as the central place it must enjoy, by relatively peripheral insights that take on far too much weight. Whenever the periphery is in danger of displacing the cross, we are not far removed from idolatry.”
New things will come along. Some seem good and better, but according to God, only one thing is best – God sent His Son into the world to live a perfect life and went to the cross to bear the wrath of God for sinners like you and me.
This is the main thing, the essence of what it means to have first things first in life. It was Paul’s purpose in life.
There are a lot of important and good biblical things to believe and live, but this is the one truth that stands above all others and should impact our lives the most.
Jerry Bridges says about the gospel, “The gospel is not only the most important message in all of history, it is the only essential message in all of history. Yet we allow thousands of professing Christians to live their entire lives without fully understanding it and experiencing the joy of it.”
John Stott goes further and says, “All around us we see Christians and churches relaxing their grasp on the gospel, fumbling it, and in danger of letting it drop from their hands altogether.”
Maybe you’re saying, “Brian, I already know this. I’ve been a Christian for a long time.” I believe it and have even shared it.
You may be that person, but I’m here to ask and challenge you and say, “Belief is one thing, and sharing is another, but today, is the cross, the gospel your primary focus in life?”
We may have believed it, accepted it and maybe even shared it, but are you experiencing and living it day to day?
I believe many of us don’t experience the fullness of the gospel for many reasons. Firstly, the cares of the world pull at us constantly. Secondly, Satan may have a stronghold in your life that you feel you can’t overcome. Thirdly, we may not fully understand what Jesus has truly done for us.
Scripture says that in Christ we have forgiveness (Matthew 6), freedom (John 8), peace (Romans 5), hope and power (Colossians 1) and eternal life (Matthew 10). All of these should be experienced in the life of a Christian.
For all Christians, my hope is that you not only heard the gospel message, but you have responded and accepted what Jesus has done for you. But I would also challenge you to move beyond believing and accepting and allowing the cross to be your focus and template for how you live and serve.
So why do we need to hear about again? George Orwell noted that “sometimes the duty of the intelligent is to restate the obvious.”
Sometimes the most obvious truths are the ones we need to be reminded of most often because we sometimes take the gospel for granted.
Many good things can occupy our lives and time, but in the end, none of those things can make up for the most important thing in life. Nothing can replace the gospel in our lives. As much as we fill our lives with stuff and busyness, the importance of the gospel and the cross must always have priority.
And that is one of the reasons why I believe communion is so important for us as Christians. It is an opportunity for us to, in the words of Susan Powter, “to stop the insanity.” It is an opportunity to stop and step back from the things that pull at us all week, and to refocus our lives on what truly is important.
Many of us wear crosses as part of our jewelry, and some would say it is a reminder of their faith. My prayer is that it might not only be a reminder of what Jesus has done, but a reminder that He is still doing and working in each of our lives. May gospel, the message of the cross, the gospel, take its rightful place in our lives as the first priority and may we allow the message through the work of the Holy Spirit, change our lives so that we may become the men and women of God He desires.