Priorities and the Most Broken Commandment

By COGwriter

This article is essentially an expanded compilation of parts of the free online book The Ten Commandments: The Decalogue, Christianity, and the Beast and an article by the late evangelist Dibar Apartian titledWhat are Your Priorities? published in the Good News magazine in March 1981 (and he is quoted often in this article, even when not directly named).

What is the most broken commandment?

Well, Sabbath-keepers tend to think the fourth commandment.

Various ones would tend to think the tenth commandment, regarding lust/covetousness.

But the one broken most often is the first commandment.

It is all about priorities for everyone, and it is broken pretty much everyday by pretty much everyone.

While the Sabbath is violated each week by most people, the part about working the other days is actually observed by most.

Here is a link to a related sermon: The Most Violated Commandment and Priorities.

The First Commandment

Should human life be focused on the physical?

Certainly, most in the world live like life should be.

Oh yes, they have their religious rituals and traditions.  And many pray.

But when it comes down to it, God is not what is really important to them.

Yet for Christians, that is not to be the case. Jesus said:

31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33, NKJV throughout unless otherwise noted)

As far as what righteousness is, the Bible teaches, "all Your commandments are righteousness" (Psalm 119:172; see also The Ten Commandments: The Decalogue, Christianity, and the Beast).)

Do you put God first as Jesus taught?

Decades ago, I remember someone telling me that God should not get in the way of my career. He claimed to be Christian of some type. He obviously did not believe in seeking first the Kingdom of God. But Christians should.

Notice that the Apostle Paul wrote:

14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:14)

The upward call (KJV "high calling") is beyond materialist interests.

Much higher.

Jesus taught:

48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)

If you are violating the first commandment and have the wrong priorities, you are failing in the goal of perfection that Jesus set.

Paul also wrote:

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, (Philippians 2:5-6)

Jesus understood deification and Christians should as well (see also What is Your Destiny? Deification? Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God?). Notice further what Paul wrote:

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

You are to strive to think like God.

Here is the first commandment from the Book of Exodus:

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 “You shall have no other gods before Me. (Exodus 20:2-3)

This is the first commandment. It is first for a reason. And it is the one that is broken the most often.

Now, because of the reference to God bringing the children of Israel out of Egypt, some have concluded that this command, as well as others, was only for the children of Israel.

However, that view overlooks the fact that versions of this command were in place before there were children of Israel as well as after Jesus was resurrected. Furthermore, consider whether or not you have ever really come out from the false ways and traditions of this world and have also truly repented of your own lusts and sins. We all must come out of spiritual Egypt (cf. Revelation 11:8).

Notice some of what God said to Abraham:

7 I am the Lord, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans (Genesis 15:7).

1 I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. (Genesis 17:1)

The Bible also says:

5 Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws. (Genesis 26:5)

The same Hebrew word translated as ‘commandments’ here, mitswotaay, is also mentioned in Exodus 20:6 when the Ten Commandments were listed.

The passage in Genesis shows that not only did Abraham obey, he knew what God expected. And this was centuries before the Ten Commandments were given at Mount Sinai (see also The Ten Commandments: The Decalogue, Christianity, and the Beast).

Christians, too, are admonished to be obedient (1 Peter 1:13-14).

What About Adam and Eve?

God is the One we are supposed to obey (Acts 5:32).

Do you realize that’s one of the definitions of God?

Whoever you obey most is your god. Whatever you serve could be your god. It might be your automobile. Maybe it’s an idol. Maybe it’s your boss or family. Whatever it is, that’s your god if you obey it and disobey the God of the Bible (cf. Acts 5:29).

16 Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Romans 6:16)

Putting things before God has a long history with humanity. We see the following from the Garden of Eden:

1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" 2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.' " 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:1-6)

Adam and Eve had another god in place of the true God. Adam and Eve violated the first commandment. Eve heeded the voice of the serpent (Genesis 3:13) and Adam heeded Eve (Genesis 3:17).

The Greatest Commandment

What is the greatest commandment? Jesus was asked about that:

35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:35-37)

Many people say that they love God, but God is not truly real to them. They put other priorities above obeying God.

Consider the following that Joshua stated:

14 “Now therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the Lord! 15 And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:14-15)

Do any Christians really believe that they should serve false gods?

Yet, even though Jesus referred to the first commandment as the greatest commandment, this is the commandment that is violated the most.

The Bible teaches:

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; 6 In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

However, most will not do that. Instead, most are wise in their own eyes and tend to trust themselves. The Bible warns:

7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. (Proverbs 3:7)

Those that are wise in their own eyes and not properly trusting God are violating the first commandment.  

Christians are to pray that GOD’s will be done (Matthew 6:10) and have Jesus’ attitude of “not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42).

As was the case in Jesus’ time, many accept ‘traditions of men’ which nullify their commitment to the commandments of God (cf. Matthew 15:3-9) and will not risk being put out of their compromised churches because “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).

If people actually would keep the first commandment, there would be no more crime. No illegitimate births. No sexually transmitted diseases. No murders. No thefts. Politicians would tell the truth. The world would be a much better place.

The first commandment is that important, and actually more important than that. Its obedience would result in vast abundance and peace. Society would change and spiritual peace would reign.

While Satan would still try to influence people in this age (Ephesians 2:2), people would follow the admonition of James:

7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (James 4:7-8)

The world would be a so much better place if people would heed the first commandment.

Priorities

Your very salvation depends upon the priorities you set in your life as a Christian.

Do you know how to set priorities? When several things need to be done, are you able to decide which ones should come first in order of importance?

Suppose you're sitting peacefully in your living room watching the news on television. Suddenly you notice that the room is filling with smoke. Your house is on fire!

What do you do first? Do you get down on your knees and ask God for His help in stopping the fire? Do you call the fire department? Do you dash through the other rooms of your house to see if some other member of your family is caught in the fire? Do you run outside to get the hose and try to put the fire out?

All of those things may be necessary, but what do you do first? That is the big question!

Hopefully, you immediately pray and then take steps to help yourself and others.

Let's take another example. One evening, you are in the middle of housecleaning. Your rooms are in disorder and neither you nor the other members of your family look presentable. The phone rings. It is your employer. He tells you that he will be over in a few minutes because he has something important to tell you.

What is the first thing you should do? Do you hurriedly put the house in order? Do you change your clothes and put on something more appropriate for the occasion? Do you check the kitchen to see if there is something you can offer your boss when he arrives?

Once again, all these things may be necessary, but what must you do first? It's a question of setting right priorities.

Priorities play a major role in our lives. We all have good intentions, at least most of the time. But what really counts is executing an intention at the appropriate moment — doing the right thing at the right time. As Solomon wrote, there's a time for everything under heaven (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8).

Spritual growth results from learning to put first things first.

Right and wrong priorities

Remember the story of Martha and Mary, the two sisters Christ visited? Both sisters liked and respected Christ very much; both of them did what they thought was most important when He came to see them.

38 Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving, (Luke 10:38-40a)

There is nothing wrong with "much serving," is there? All of us are called to serve — Christ Himself was the greatest servant of all. However, in this instance, priorities were at stake.

40 ... and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me." (Luke 10:40b)

Notice that Martha accuses of Jesus of not caring about all the work she is doing.

Jesus responded:

41 And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. 42 But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41-42)

It isn't that Jesus wanted Martha to overwork and did not want Mary to help. But that was not the time for that--it was a time to listen to the message.

Just then, the most important thing Mary and Martha could do was listen to Christ's teaching.

When Christ called His disciples, some of them hesitated. Others followed Him right away because they had their priorities straight:

4 When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, "Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."

5 But Simon answered and said to Him, "Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net." 6 And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!"

9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men." 11 So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him. (Luke 5:4-11)

Peter and his fishermen friends had witnessed, a few moments before, an astonishing miracle Christ had performed). Simon Peter and his companions had their priorities right. Upon hearing Christ tell them, what to do, they left everything and followed him. No wonder James, John and Simon later became apostles!

However, not everyone reacted the way these three men did. Not everyone had the right sense of priorities. For instance, various ones who had expressed a desire to follow Christ did not share His priorities:

57 Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go."

58 And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."

59 Then He said to another, "Follow Me."

But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father."

60 Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God."

61 And another also said, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house."

62 But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:57-62)

Again, there is nothing wrong with saying farewell to those dear to you. But much more was involved in this particular case. First, God didn't come first on this man's list of priorities. Second, you can almost detect a feeling of sorrow in his answer. He seemed to regret being called there and then and perhaps hoped his loved ones would convince him not to leave them for the sake of the Gospel!

Others stopped following Jesus when He made statements they did not like:

41 The Jews then complained about Him, because He said, "I am the bread which came down from heaven." 42 And they said, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, 'I have come down from heaven'?"

43 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, "Do not murmur among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except He who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and are dead. 50 This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world."

52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, "How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?"

53 Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down from heaven — not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever."

59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?"

61 When Jesus knew in Himself that His disciples complained about this, He said to them, "Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who would betray Him. 65 And He said, "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father."

66 From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. (John 6:41-66)

Be careful that you do not turn away from the true Church of God because you do not like one or more statements.

Notice what happened next:

67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also want to go away?"
68 But Simon Peter answered Him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (John 6:67-69)

Peter and all the disciples (other than Judas) had the right priorities. They knew that the religion of the Pharisees and Saducees was not the right one--but that despite lack of understanding parts of Jesus' teachings, that Jesus did.

Hopefully, you know that the Greco-Roman-Protestant churches are not the true Church of God. And consider that most Christians in the end will be Laodicean. Be faithful and support the true Church, the best remnant of the Philadelphia portion of the Church of God. For information on both of those, please read our free online booklet: Where is the True Christian Church Today?

Have the right priorities. Do not turn away from the true church, because something does not fit your preferences or traditions.

Priorities and your calling

Do you remember the circumstances of your calling? How did you first react? Did you perhaps want to bury someone or something before deciding to really follow Christ? Did you hesitate to turn away from the world, finding it hard to choose between those of your household and Christ? What was your attitude then — and what is it now?

(For more on your calling, check out our free online booklet: Is God Calling You?)

Unfortunately, some Christians are still burying their dead fathers! Some are still looking back and trying to pursue their personal ambitions before deciding to follow Christ! Others just cannot handle being part of a Church of God without close congregations and/or one that gets so much improper criticism thrown at it.

Time is running short. Rearrange your priorities before it's too late!

If you put first things first, God will always take care of your needs. This doesn't mean you should neglect your part and stop taking care of your household. It simply means that you are to put first things first — be filled with God and His Work. You must endeavor to please Him with your attitude and growth.

As Christ said, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things [all that you need] shall be yours as well" (Matthew 6:33, ESV). Do you believe this promise of God? If so, live by it!

If you were baptized, that baptism was symbolic of your decision to put God first in your life, no matter what the circumstances. Do you still feel the same way today? You accepted the condition to love God more than anyone or anything else, "with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind" (Matthew 22:37, ESV). This is the greatest commandment of all. Does it have first priority in your life? And after that, does the second great commandment — loving your neighbor as yourself — have all priority in your life (verses 38-39)?

As you, can see, even love has priorities! First, you must love God, and then love your neighbor. This doesn't mean you should neglect loving your neighbor because you love God first. It's just a matter of priority. Actually, if you really love God — if you obey His commandments and do His will you automatically love your neighbor, because you cannot love God without loving your neighbor (1 John 4:20). Remember not to neglect anything on your list of priorities.

God came first in Abraham's life

If you had a child whom you loved with all your being — if he or she was your only child, and you had eagerly waited and prayed for years for this child — would you be willing to give your child up?

Abraham was put to such a test. Humanly speaking, it didn't make much sense:

2 Then He said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you." (Genesis 22:2)

Why did God give Abraham such a seemingly cruel order?

Abraham must have spent a sleepless night struggling with his thoughts, wondering why God demanded of him such a sacrifice. He loved God, for sure. But he also loved his son Isaac very much. He had to choose between his love toward God and his love toward his son. The choice was all the more difficult since he did not understand its purpose.

Nevertheless, whatever his thoughts and concern, he set his priorities right:

3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. 5 And Abraham said to his young men, "Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you."

6 So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. (Genesis 22:3-6)

Would you have done this? Would you have obeyed God to the point of being willing to sacrifice your only son, whom you loved?

Continuing:

7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, "My father!"

And he said, "Here I am, my son."

Then he said, "Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?"

8 And Abraham said, "My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering." So the two of them went together.

9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.

11 But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!"

So he said, "Here I am."

12 And He said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."

13 Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, "In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided."

15 Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said: "By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son — 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." (Genesis 22:7-19)

(By the way, this is NOT a specific test we expect God will do again for people, so do not deceive yourself that you need to kill some relative.)

Abraham passed the test.

How about you? Does God come first in your life, before anyone else, even members of your family?

Jesus taught:

34 "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; 36 and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.' 37 He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. (Matthew 10:34-37)

Many are unwilling to 'rock the boat' with relatives in order to truly live as a Christian (more on Christianity can be found in the free online booklet: Christians: Ambassadors for the Kingdom of God, Biblical instructions on living as a Christian)

This does not mean you are not to honor your parents (cf. Matthew 15:4-6) or try to cause trouble — we are to strive “ to live peace ably with all men ” (Romans 12:18). Jesus and Paul are basically saying that those who are converted may face difficulties with family and friends..

If you cannot put God first in your life today, how can you put Him first tomorrow, when things will get tougher?

David's priorities

Kings David and Saul had totally different attitudes. David's attitude made him a man after God's own heart (1 Samuel 13:14), whereas Saul's attitude caused him to be rejected. Have you ever considered that one of David's most important qualities, far outweighing his mistakes, was his sense of priorities?

Saul was jealous of David and had gathered 3,000 men out of all of Israel to seek David and kill him. Strangely enough, the circumstances changed, offering David a unique chance to capture and kill Saul when the latter was resting in a cave:

4 Then the men of David said to him, "This is the day of which the Lord said to you, 'Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you.'" (1 Samuel 24:4a)

What an exceptional opportunity! After all, the two men were at war with each other — Saul had proved himself to be merciless.

It would have been only natural, humanly, for David to kill Saul and justify himself by saying that God had promised to make his enemies fall into his hands. But David didn't reason that way:

4 ... And David arose and secretly cut off a corner of Saul's robe. 5 Now it happened afterward that David's heart troubled him because he had cut Saul's robe. 6 And he said to his men, "The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord's anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord." 7 So David restrained his servants with these words, and did not allow them to rise against Saul. And Saul got up from the cave and went on his way. (1 Samuel 24:4b-7)

Why? Why should David's heart smite him? He didn't commit any crime! No, but on his list of priorities obedience to God came first.

There you are! Even though Saul wanted to kill him, David refused to do any injury to the king. Respecting God's anointed came before fighting for his own life. David's tremendous attitude is an example to all of us today. Is there any wonder why he will be a king in the soon-coming Kingdom of God? As for Saul, he carnally sought his own selfish interests, going after power and personal exaltation. That's why God rejected him.

Obey God rather than men

The disciples of Christ, before receiving the Holy Spirit, did not have the necessary power and faith to fight the enemy. They forsook their Master and fled when the Roman soldiers arrested Him. The promise they had made to Christ, a few hours earlier, to never forsake Him was not engraved on their list of priorities.

But after their conversion, the disciples learned their priorities. Faithful to their mission, they preached the Gospel, despite threats and persecution.

On one occasion when they were brought before the council, the high priest condemned them:

26 Then the captain went with the officers and brought them without violence, for they feared the people, lest they should be stoned. 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest asked them, 28 saying, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man's blood on us!"

29 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: "We ought to obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. 31 Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him." (Acts 5:26-32)

A question of priorities! The disciples' lives were at stake, but they were willing to follow Christ's instructions even if it meant death. They had learned that from Jesus:

38 And he who does not take his cross (Greek: Stauros--stake) and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 10:38-39)

On your own list of priorities, do God, His Church and His Gospel come before your own life? Or do you perhaps desperately cling to your own life for fear of losing it? Remember Christ's words! Unless you get your priorities straight, you may end up by losing your life.

Bible study and prayer

True Christians should be aware that Bible study and prayer are two indispensable tools in your growth to become a Child of God. But how often do you use these tools? How much time do you spend with God and His Bible each day?

Some in the Church of God consider Bible study a hard chore! They don't seem to find time for it in their daily schedules. They don't realize that the more they study the Bible, the more they learn about the will of God and the way to please Him.

If you are truly Christian, the Bible must have priority over other readings and studies. You are doing yourself a favor when you study the Bible. Bible study is a privilege, not a chore or a task.

And how is your prayer life? Do you look forward to speaking to God every day? Do you actually enjoy praying? Or has prayer become for you just a routine, a duty that you have to perform?

For more on prayer, check out our free online booklet: Prayer: What Does the Bible Teach?

If your priorities are straight, prayer should automatically come into your life. For some, it becomes the happiest moment in the day, because it enables you to spend some time with the Supreme Creator of the whole universe, the almighty God who loves you and finds time to listen to you. Think of it! If He has time to listen to you, why wouldn't you find time to talk to Him?

Remember to also to regularly fast, keep the Sabbath, and keep God's Holy Days (see also Should You Keep God's Holy Days or Demonic Holidays?).

It takes much effort to faithfully respect your priorities. It takes thinking and hard work. If the Church today is not quite ready for Christ's return, it is because, as a whole, we don't push hard enough and often lose our sense of priorities.

In a world that has cut itself off from God, Satan wants you to reverse your priorities or cast them aside altogether. Don't let that happen! Follow God. Obey Him, put Him first — and you will be much happier.

Tithing

Tithing is a law. It's a blessing. When you tithe, you don't do God a favor; you do yourself a favor.

How do you pay your tithes? What's your attitude? Do you pay the first tenth of your check as soon as you receive it, or do you pay it only after you have paid your other bills?

Dibar Apartian wrote:

I remember Herbert W. Armstrong telling us during a ministerial conference that he always pays his tithe first, as soon as he receives his check. His other bills have to wait. The first check he writes is always to give God what is God's.

What a wonderful example for all of us to follow! Put God first in your life. Some of God's people have lost the blessings that result from paying tithes, because they bargain with God. They have lost their sense of priorities. They don't realize that tithing is a privilege and a blessing, not a burden.

Today, some people try to abide by the letter of the law and not the spirit. They try to bargain with God when paying their tithes. They will cut corners to see how much they can save, or how little they can possibly give. With that attitude, tithing becomes a chore and not a blessing. God loves a cheerful giver and He is able to provide you with every blessing (II Cor. 9:6-7). Are you a cheerful giver?

Many will not give as they should.

17 Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the Lord your God which He has given you. (Deuteronomy 16:17)

Remember:

7 God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)

Many love money more than God--they need to change their priorities:

6 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:6-12)

Many do not have the right priorities and love the things of the world too much more than God.

Furthermore, many do not have faith to tithe:

6 "For I am the Lord, I do not change; Therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob. 7 Yet from the days of your fathers You have gone away from My ordinances And have not kept them.Return to Me, and I will return to you,"Says the Lord of hosts. "But you said, 'In what way shall we return?'

8 "Will a man rob God? Yet you have robbed Me! But you say,'In what way have we robbed You?' In tithes and offerings. 9 You are cursed with a curse,For you have robbed Me,Even this whole nation. 10 Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, That there may be food in My house, And try Me now in this,"Says the Lord of hosts, "If I will not open for you the windows of heaven And pour out for you such blessing That there will not be room enough to receive it. (Malachi 3:6-10)

Yes, giving is a demonstration of faith:

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe — and tremble! 20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. (James 2:14-26)

And yes, when you give to CCOG, you do help support getting food to the hungry as much of what we receive in goes to support the poor in Africa--both spiritually (literature, church services, ministerial travel) and physically (food, mattresses, Holy Day support). Even though ministers are entitled to be paid (cf. 1 Timothy 5:17), because of the distresses (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:26) and needs in Africa and elsewhere, I do NOT take a salary from CCOG nor does my wife. Paul, himself, decided not to get paid by the Corinthians even though he had that as a right (1 Corinthians 9:3-12)

Will you really trust God? Will you give tithes and offerings as you should? See also Tithing Questions and Some Answers.

For more on faith, check out our free online booklet: Faith for Those God has Called and Chosen.

The purpose of your calling

Do you really know and understand the purpose of your calling? Did God call you specifically in order to save you at this time, or to entrust you with a certain task in this world? That's a question every Church member should ask himself — and understand the answer.

You were not called just to be saved, but to be part of a team to do a job. That's a priority — a priority for your being called! Your own salvation for the moment is not a priority; your fulfilling the task is. If you faithfully do your part and persevere until the end, you will be saved. However, if you neglect your share and turn away, God will raise someone else to do your part.

(For more on your calling, check out our free online booklet: Is God Calling You?)

We in God's Church today are the firstfruits. In a sense, it's like having received a birthright from God. We are the first ones called before the big harvest, with a mission to prepare for that big harvest--by fulfilling the commissions of Jesus.

We are to truly love our God AND our neighbor:

37 Jesus said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.' 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' 40 On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." (Matthew 22:37-39).

5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.

6 "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 8 You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9 You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)

18 you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18)

We are to be Philadelphian Christians (Revelation 3:7-13)--we are to love others by support getting out the message of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 24:14) and all that Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).

Those interested in facts would realize that we have made our booklet The Gospel of the Kingdom of God available in about 100 languages (go to www.ccog.org to see a list of all the languages and the related materials). We also have had sermons covering ALL that Jesus commanded in the New Testament:

MATTHEW Here are links to twelve sermons covering the 28 chapters of Matthew: Matthew 1-2: Greek or Aramaic, Jesus, and the Star?, Matthew 3-5: John the Baptist, Temptations, and the Beatitudes, Matthew 6-7: Charitable Deeds, the Rosary, Prayer, the Golden Rule, and Faith, Matthew 8-10: Married Clergy, Faith, Coming Persecution, and the Ecumenical Agenda, Matthew 11-12: John the Elijah, Sodom, Unpardonable Sin, & 3 Days and 3 Nights, -14: Parables, Mustard Seeds, Birthdays, and Faith, Matthew 15-16: Tradition, Signs of the Times, and The Rock & Peter, Matthew 17-18: Transfiguration, Elijah to Come, Taxes, and Forgiveness, Matthew 19-20: Transgender? Divorce? Purgatory? The first shall be last?, Matthew 21-23: 'Palm Sunday,' Come as You Are?, and the Greatest Commandments, Matthew 24: Temple Destruction, Sorrows, Tribulation, and the Return of Jesus, and Matthew 25-28: Midnight Cry, False Christians, Resurrection, & Teaching what Jesus Taught.
MARK Here is a link to a sermon covering all of Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Mark: What did Jesus teach in the Book of Mark? Here is a link to six sermons covering all the verses in the Gospel of Mark: Mark 1-2: Author, Prophecy, & Miracles, Mark 3-5: Healing, Demons, and Parables, Mark 6-9: Tradition, John’s beheading, Elijah, and Restoration, Mark 10-12: Marriage, Divorce, Needle Eye, Greatest Command, & Taxes, Mark 13: Temple, Four Horsemen, Troubles, Great Tribulation, and Gospel Proclamation, and .
LUKE Here are links to eight sermons covering the entire 'Gospel of Luke': Luke 1-2: John the Baptist, Mary, and the Census, Luke 3-6: John the Baptist, Jesus’ genealogy, Satan’s Influence, and the Sermon on the Mount, Luke 7-9: Miracles, Purpose of Parables, Kingdom of God, and Women Supporting the Ministry, Luke 10-11: The 70, Doing the Work, the Good Samaritan, Prayer, and Signs, Luke 12-13: Priorities, Delayed Fruit Bearing, Little Flock, Prophecy, and the Narrow Way, Luke 14-16: The Lost Sheep, the Prodigal Son, the Rich Man and Lazarus, Luke 17-20: Faith, the Kingdom, Gathering, Prayer, & Rewards, and Luke 21-22: Giving, Sorrows, Persecution, Tribulation, Fig Tree, and Violence. The last sermon also covers Jesus' words in the Book of Acts.
JOHN Here are links to a seven-part sermon series covering the entire 'Gospel of John': John 1-3: Anti-unitarian, Wine, Being Born Again, & Heaven, John 4-6: Jesus and the Samaritan Woman, Miracles and the Bread of Life, John 10-12: Sheep, Hirelings, Lazarus/Soul Sleep and ‘Palm Day’, John 13-15: Footwashing and the Words of Jesus, John 16-18: Truth, Trinity, and Pontius Pilate, and John 19-21: Do not only try, do what God wants.
REVELATION This is a link to a sermon covering words Jesus spoke as recorded in the Book of Revelation and in first and second Corinthians: Revelation: Jesus’ Final Words.

And we have done that while ALSO providing much support to the poor (Galatians 2:10; Romans 12:13; cf. James 2:14-16; Hebrews 13:16; Isaiah 58:7; Proverbs 28:27), including widows and orphans (James 1:27), particularly in poorer regions like Africa and Asia. That is Philadelphian.

In the end time, the Bible shows most actual Christians will not have the right priorities.

Some will have the problems of those of Sardis:

1 "And to the angel of the church in Sardis write,

'These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: "I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. 3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you. (Revelation 3:1-3)

Those of the Sardis Church Era did not have the right work or the suffiicent love of the truth.

However, most Christians will be Laodicean, and Jesus shows that they do not have the right priorities:

14 "And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write,

'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: 15 "I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. 16 So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. 17 Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' — and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked — 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. (Revelation 3:14-20)

Laodiceans do NOT truly share God's priorities. If you want Jesus to dine with you, perhaps you should consider really helping others dine, both spiritually and physically. Like those of Sardis, they were not interested enough in the truth.

Christians are to have more of "the love of the truth" (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:10,13).

Too many, instead, make excuses and/or otherwise compromise.

They do NOT put sufficient value on the work that God wants done--according to Jesus, that is essentially limited to the Philadelphian Christians in the end time (cf. Revelation 3).

Notice also something from the Old Testament:

13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man's all.
14 For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil. (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

God is to be the top priority and He is concerned about the work that people are involved in.

Dibar Apartian wrote:

Unfortunately, some have sold — or are selling — their birthrights, just like Esau did. But once Esau lost it, he ended up despising it. In like manner, once you lose your sense of priorities, you lose your sense of values. Don't neglect your birthright. Don't disdain it. Set your priorities straight.

Perhaps one of the hardest priorities of all is to humble yourself, and count others better than yourself (Phil. 2:3).

Let's look at Philippians 2:

1 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4)

Satan wants you to be puffed up. God wants you to be humble. Satan will do everything in his power to make you feel that you are better than others. But God wants you to count others better than yourself. That's the difference between God's teaching and the teaching of the world under Satan's influence.

As God's people, we need to learn our priorities. The, Bible is our manual. The Teacher is God, through the writings of the prophets and the apostles. Whatever the circumstances, let's live to please God. That's our first and foremost priority!

Why Love God?

Why should you love God? Well:

17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. (James 1:17-18)

Every good gift is from God. Furthermore, Jesus was “the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29). God has a plan for us: to glorify us as He glorified Jesus (cf. John 17:22).

God plans to put the universe under subjection of His resurrected children (Hebrews 2:5-10)!

Additionally, consider:

9 We love Him because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Romans 5:8-9)

Despite the problems you may have, you have great promises:

28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

6 … He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; (Philippians 1:6)

God made us. All good gifts come from God. Despite our sins, He sent Jesus to die for us (John 3:16). If we truly love God all things will work out for our good, and thus, God will be faithful until the day of Jesus and glorify us. We have a lot to love God for!

False Confidence

We are to look to the God of the Bible. Yet, many throughout history have turned to astrology, witchcraft, and spiritists instead (Isaiah 47:13-15). That is not something that God’s people should do:

19 And take heed, lest you lift your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun, the moon, and the stars, all the host of heaven, you feel driven to worship them and serve them, which the Lord your God has given to all the peoples under the whole heaven as a heritage. (Deuteronomy 4:19)

10 There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before you. 13 You shall be blameless before the Lord your God. 14 For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the Lord your God has not appointed such for you. (Deuteronomy 18:10-14)

Christians do not read horoscopes, etc. (see also The Bible and Astrology). We look to the Bible (Isaiah 8:10; 66:5). Christians do “not follow cunningly devised fables” (2 Peter 1:16).

First Commandment Before Sinai, from Jesus, and After Jesus’ Death

"Sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4, KJV). Every sin is a violation of the first commandment.

God, from the time of Adam and Eve, wanted that to be kept.

And even after them, the Bible shows the first commandment was in place before Mt. Sinai:

“I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur” (Genesis 15:7); “I am Almighty God, walk before me and be blameless” (Gen 17:1); “I am the God of your father--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves” (Genesis 35:2). “and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD” (Exodus 12:12). “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; for in the very thing in which they behaved proudly, He was above them” (Exodus 18:11). “This also would be an iniquity deserving of judgement, for I would have denied God who is above” (Job 31:28). “Then Job answered the LORD and said, ‘I know that you can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from you’” (Job 42:1-2).

Jesus taught and expanded the first commandment:

“You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Matthew 4:10). “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and the great commandment” (Matthew 22:37). “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment” (Mark 12:30). “You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve” (Luke 4:8).

After Jesus was resurrected, the New Testament taught the first commandment:

Paul said, “God, who made the world and everything in it...they should seek the Lord” (Acts 17:24,27). Paul also said, “I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law” (Acts 24:14). “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (2 Corinthians 6:16). “you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). “Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15); which is another way of saying, put nothing in the world before God. “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God” (Revelation 14:9-10). “Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image” (Revelation 20:4). “But the...unbelieving...shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

The first commandment is not only the most important one, it is the one that is most commonly violated.

Jesus expanded the understanding of this commandment by stating that truly loving God is the greatest of the commandments.

It is wrong to rebel against God by violating the first commandment:

22 Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices,
As in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
And to heed than the fat of rams.
23 For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,
And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. (1 Samuel 15:22-23)

God expects His people to obey Him.

We should love our Creator and heavenly Father. The first commandment is a reminder to do so.

This is the commandment that is broken most often every day by basically everyone.

Be on guard to not violate it.

Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33)—put your trust in God (Proverbs 3:5-6) and strive to keep the first commandment.

If you truly keep the first commandment, you will violate any of the others!

Here is a link to a related sermon: The Most Violated Commandment and Priorities.

Thiel B. Priorities and the Most Broken Commandment. COGwriter (c). http://www.cogwriter.com/priority.htm 2018 0512

Back to home page