Living by Spiritual Priorities

Scripture: 1 Kings 3:3-14
Date: 06/05/2021 
The key to success in life is aligning your priorities appropriately. Our destiny depends on understanding what priorities are.

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Living by Spiritual Priorities

Pastor Doug Batchelor

June 12, 2021

Amen. Good morning. Welcome… for any who might be visiting the Hilltop Adventist Church, we’re so thankful that you’re here today and worshipping God. Always want to welcome those who are still worshipping with us online. Of course, we’ve had friends who are online members worshiping with us online since long before the pandemic, so I want to greet those as well.

Today, we’re going to be talking about what I think is one of the most important subjects because we’re talking about priorities. So, what could be more important than a priority, right? And I think that the key to success in life is aligning your priorities appropriately. I think that in eternity, looking back, we’ll see that people’s eternal destiny turn one way or the other and it pivoted on understanding what the priorities are. Not understanding those things can be eternally fatal.

A Scripture, I’m sorry, the sermon title rather is: Living by Spiritual Priorities and I’d like to invite you to go to a Scripture we’re going to open with. It’s in 1st Kings chapter 3 and verse 3… first book of Kings… now, King Solomon has just become king… David has passed away and early on in his kingdom, he was showing his love and his dedication for the Lord and you can read in… I love this part… 1st Kings chapter 3 and verse 3 and it says, “Solomon loved the Lord…” and that’s one of the most important things you could read. “Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of David his father…” and then it says in verse 4, “the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there.” There’s no temple yet, Solomon, of course, built the temple… “for that was a great high place and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar.” Wanted to begin his reign showing his love and dedication for God. “At Gibeon, the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night: and God said, ‘Ask what I shall give you.’” So, God says, “What do you want…. ask” and, you know, just… this is way better than finding a genie in a bottle that gives you three wishes. Of course, that’s not true, this is God saying, “What shall I do for you?” What is the first thing that you would seek? What would you ask for? To get a blank check from God, what do you ask for? Solomon… he responds in a wise way. Verse 6, “You’ve shown great mercy to Your servant David my father, because he walked before You in truth and in righteousness and uprightness of heart with You… You’ve continued this great kindness for him, and You’ve given him a son to sit on the throne, as it is this day. Now, O LORD my God, You’ve made Your servant king instead of my father David, but I am a little child; I don’t know how to go out or come in. And Your servant is in the midst of Your people whom You have chosen, a great people, too numerous to be numbered or counted.” Of course, that’s what God had promised Abraham. Here’s his request, “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I might discern between good and evil.” He wants to know the difference between right and wrong. “For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” And the speech pleased the Lord, that Solomon had asked this thing. Then God said to him: “Because you’ve asked this thing, and you’ve not asked for long life for yourself, nor have you asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but you’ve asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and an understanding heart, so that there is no one… there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall there be like you any that will arise after you. I’ve also give you that what you did not ask for both riches and honor, so there shall none… anyone like you among the kings all the your days. So if you walk in My ways, and keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David, I will lengthen your days.”

I’ve given you a wise and understanding heart… given you riches and honor and I’ll give you a long life.

How did all that come? By having the priority of… what did Solomon ask for? “I’ve got this kingdom. I need to know the difference between right and wrong… good and bad… to judge Your people.” He sought first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and because he sought first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, everything else came to him because he had his priorities right. You can see why this is such an important theme. If we get our priorities wrong, everything else goes wrong.

Now, I struggle sometimes with priorities. In fact, in preparing for the message today, I thought, like a good Pastor, if you’re going to study and preach about a word, look the word up. So, I get online and I type in the word “priority” and it pops up. You know, Merriam Webster’s got this definition thing I go to… but in order to watch that for free, there’s Ads on the side and, you know, there’s an Ad on the side that says, you know, “A surefire way to get rid of age spots…” or something. I’m looking… I’m going… click… and then when I’m learning about the age spots, it says, “Have you heard that Elvis Presley has been reincarnated as a jungle sloth?” I said, “Well, I don’t believe in reincarnation but that’s pretty interesting, I’ve got to find out what in the world are they talking about…” click. Now, that didn’t happen exactly like this but that kind of thing has happened to me before… anyone else? You’re trying to study and you get distracted from the main thing and they call it “click bait.”

They’ve got these crazy things that says, “Find out what really happened to the Brady Bunch.” Well, that’s from my era, I thought, “Did something happened? I don’t know…” and I don’t want to be, you know, not knowing these things and so… I’ve got a strong curiosity and all of a sudden, I find myself clicking and ten minutes later, I’m going, “What… what… what did I come here for? Oh yeah ‘Priorities’. I was going to look up the definition for ‘Priorities.’” And I’ve wasted ten minutes of things that just really didn’t matter.

Heard about a hunter… he was a bear hunter and someone told him that we’ve got a really good bear dog and these bear dogs, you know, their job is to track and to tree the bear for the hunter. So, he takes his dog out on its first run and he sets off through the woods and the hunter brings him to where he knew there was a bear trail and the dog sniffs around and he gets a scent of the bear and he takes off running and pretty soon there’s a crash off in the brush and the hunter can tell that he’s on the heels of a bear but as the dog is running off after the bear, a deer runs across…he spooks a deer and it jumps across the trail and the dog looks at… he smells the bear but he figures a deer in hand is better than a bear in the bush and so he turns… he starts following the deer and in the process of chasing after the deer, then a rabbit goes across the trail and you know what he does… rabbits are more fun… and then there’s a squirrel and when the hunter finally catches up with his dog, he is barking down a mouse hole. Starts out hunting for bear in the trees and he’s now looking for mice in a holes and it’s a progression of distractions from the priority of the mission.

The devil is working full time to distract the church with “clickbait” to get us going from the bear to the mouse. So, we’re not really pursuing what is important.

I remember years ago, when I went to 3ABN. It was maybe about 30 years ago and started doing some taping. They had in their old satellite room… I’d stay in the guest room and they had a sign above the door and it said, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” So well, that’s profound. “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing…” and that, of course, would be Jesus, friends, amen.

Audience: Amen.

I don’t know about you… do you sometimes have problems focusing on what is really important? And we get distracted by things that don’t really have eternal consequences.

By the way, “a priority…” I did look it up… something that is regarded as more important than another.

Now, in the message today, I’m going to go through about a dozen different priorities and you might say, “Pastor Doug, if there are a dozen, then none of them are really priorities.” You think if there’s a priority, it’s one thing… but I’m talking about different areas in our lives and in the Scripture and these are all backed up by Bible.

Number 1 Priority - Take Care of Your Body: Now, you might be thinking, “Why would you pick that first?” Because if you lose your mind, none of the other priorities matter, right? If you die, none of the other priorities matter. You experience life and you fulfill all the other priorities in your body… and so, one of the most important things you can learn is: take care of yourself so you are around to evaluate and process the other priorities.

First Corinthians 3:16 and 17, “Don’t you know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.” Be careful what you eat. Be careful what you drink. Make sure you get enough rest. You need to sort of take control of your schedule and your health so that you can serve God with all of your heart and love Him and serve your fellowman but you’ve got to start with that natural love for yourself… take care of yourself and I have to work on that all the time as a priority and some people get angry with me because I say, “I… I need to rest at a certain time or I’m no good to anybody and I need to eat at a certain time.” Sometimes, I’d be at the office and they’d say, “Could we have one more meeting that will last half an hour?” I go, “No.” “Why you’ve got something else?” “Yeah… lunch..” and I’m religious about it because I eat breakfast at lunch time so I’m pretty hungry. You can ask the folks at Amazing Facts offices at 12 o’clock. “It’s rare if Doug is still here… he’s going to go and eat his bowl of cereal...” which brings me to another point. Sometimes, out of love for God and my fellowman, I turn down invitations to eat because you can’t always be eating out all the time and have control of your health and even though a lot of people are great cooks, it’s just… you know… you never know and it’s always different and you know your body… you’ve got to be on a schedule so take care of yourself. Get appropriate rest. That’s why the Sabbath is so important. Take care of your body.

Ephesians 5:29, “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourished it and cherished it, just as the Lord does the church.”

1st Corinthians 6:20, “You were bought with a price; glorify God in your body and in your spirit…” I talk about rest, eating and drinking appropriately, you need to exercise. If you’ve got a job where like me, you have a sedentary job and so many people used to work on the farm… they don’t anymore… they work at a desk. You need to be religious about saying, “I’m going to have set times where I’m going to get up and I’m going to walk or I’m going to run or I’m going to do something to make sure the heart is pounding and I’m getting that aerobic exercise and take care…” You’ll live a lot longer and that is the number one priority in many ways is… take care of yourself. Now, the other priorities I’m sharing… they may not be in exact order… they’re just a little bit rare but they’re all important.

Another one, Number 2 - Prioritize Your Time… because while… if you lose your house, if you lose your money, if you lose your clothes, you can buy more. If you lose your time, you can’t buy any more. You’ve only got so much time and so you need to be careful how you spend your life because what you do with your time is what you’re doing with your life. You… Ben Franklin said, “Time is the stuff that life is made of. If you waste your time, you are wasting your life.”

Now, this is something I think is really important in our day and age because… especially with the young people. There is a critical moment in your life when you’re young, when your minds are so sharp. You don’t know how sharp your minds are. You don’t realize it until you get old… that when you’re young, you don’t have to think hard to think. You know, you’re just… it’s real easy and you’re able to learn. Take those prime years of your life and fill your mind with good things. Store wisdom in your mind because it’s a little harder later and yet, I see so many young people squandering hours of time texting frivolous nothings on their phone and surfing through clickbait and playing video games and they do it for years and then they get to midlife and you wonder why they’re, you know, as far as maturity, they’re sort of imbeciles because they’ve not take those valuable years… they’ve wasted their time that God gave them and it’s a distraction of the devil.

Now, also, for those of us that are older. Exodus 18:14, Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law comes to visit his 80-year-old son-in-law, so, Jethro, he’s up there himself. They’ve come out of the land of Egypt… this is in the book of Exodus as I mentioned chapter 18 and verse 14 and Moses is now judging the people. He’s got this nation of slaves that are a little disorganized, you know, the Egyptians aren’t telling them what to do anymore and there’s about two million of them. We don’t know… but they had about 600,000 soldiers so you do the math… if there’s other old and young and women and children and they’re lined up all day long… Moses is sitting there and he’s listening to the various disputes and he’s trying to tell them what God wants them to do and Jethro comes to visit his son-in-law and he watches in amazement… all day long as he sits there and does that and he doesn’t interrupt but at the end of the day, he pulls his 80-year old son-in-law aside. He said, “What is this thing that you’re doing” verse 14 Exodus 18, “for your people? Why do you sit alone, and all the people stand before you from morning till evening?” And Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a difficulty, they come to me, and I judge between one and another; and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.” So Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “The thing that you’re doing is not good. Both you and these people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out. It’s not good for you.” This is the health issue again. He said, “Moses, you’re going to wear out physically… that’s not a good idea.”

Some of us think that we’ve got to be in charge of everything and if you try to be in charge of everything, you’ll do nothing very well. That was profound.

Audience: Laughter.

If you try to do everything, you’ll end up doing everything poorly and so, he said, “This is not the way to do it.” He said, “Why don’t you get two million people… is there no other wise men in the whole country? No one else knows the Lord but you?” He said, “Pick out rulers of thousands and hundreds and fifties and tens and delegate responsibility and you can then use your time more carefully and do things God has called you to do…” and so, it’s important to prioritize how you use your time. Ephesians 5 verse 15, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” We’re surrounded by all kinds of evil distractions and we need to prioritize our time. Redeem the time we’ve wasted time. Make the most of the time you have left and learn good things and serve God. Psalm 90 verse 12, “Lord, teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

As I was mentioning to the young people, “Fill your minds with things that are going to help you and others and whatever you learn in this life, you take with you into eternity. So, never stop studying.”

Next one, Number 3 - Focus on Eternity: When you’re thinking about priorities, keep the eternal perspective of what really matters. Jesus warns us back in the days of Noah, Matthew 24:37… that’s how it will be in the coming of the Son of Man. “As in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage…” none of those bad in themselves… “until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and took them all away.” They did not prioritize seeking first God’s kingdom. They became preoccupied with the cares of life and eternity caught them unprepared. This is what Jesus is saying. They’re doing, you know, eating and drinking, you’ve got to do… they’re building, buying and selling, planting and next thing you know… eternity… and they weren’t ready. Luke 21 verse 34, Jesus said, “Take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly.” Every day, realize that this could be your last day. I know that’s kind of a somber thought, right? That can make you a little moody if you’re always thinking, “Could I die at any moment?” But I think in the big picture, you need to realize, it’s true that none of us knows exactly what our expiration date is and that life is a gift and some of us play Russian Roulette with eternity and we figure, “Well, I should make it to, you know, 75 or 80, that’s what the average is, so, I’m going to goof off until then...” and, you know, the Lord kind of catches a lot of people unprepared. So, live your life with the eternal perspective of seeking first God’s kingdom and His righteousness and plan on that.

When you think about what’s happening in the world today, the way some people are living their lives… someone said, “It’s like straightening the pictures in a house on fire or rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic as it’s sinking.” That’s misplaced priorities and the devil tries to distract us with things that don’t really matter. So many people in the world are so distracted. It’s amazing to me how many people are preoccupied with Hollywood and what the movie stars… what the sports stars are doing and they just spend all their time living vicariously some other fantasy life and those people’s lives are pretty out of order as it is and it’s just a big distraction. He gets us so focused on something that doesn’t really matter… that Jesus says the thing that really matter, we rarely think about.

I heard about this man that… he worked in a factory that sold electronics and they had expensive electronics and so whenever the employees left… they had hundreds of employees… whenever the employees left the business, they had to pass through Security that would make sure they weren’t purloining the products. Well, in the same factory, they had a lot of shipping coming in and shipping going out and in that process, they ended up with extra shipping packing material they didn’t need. So, they were… they had just tons and tons of Styrofoam peanuts. You all know what I’m talking about. So, one of these employees went to the boss and he said, “You’re throwing out all these extra Styrofoam peanuts…” he says, “I could use them, I make beanbags and I’d like to take some home and put them in beanbag chairs and stuff.” He said, “You can have all you want.” He said, “Just tell Security.” So, at the end of the workday, once a week, he would take a wheelbarrow filled with these Styrofoam peanuts by Security... they’d say, “We’ve got to check this” and the Security guard going… he reaches around… he’d feel through the Styrofoam peanuts to make sure he wasn’t stealing any electronics and then he’d wave him all through and then he’d have all of these Styrofoam peanuts stuck because of static electricity to his arm and he would shake them off and next week, he comes again with a another wheelbarrow full of Styrofoam peanuts and he says, “I’m taking a stick this time.” He takes a stick and he goes around and he says, “Okay, you’re good to go.” He does that for several weeks and they found out the guy had stolen seven wheelbarrows.

Audience: Laughter.

Everybody was looking for electronics. That’s… it’s a big diversionary trick and this is what the devil does. He diverts our attention from the things that really matter.

Number 4 - Priority in Worship: Now I’m talking to the choir literally here because you’re here to worship God. But it isn’t just once a week… as important as this is… but really everything in the last days is going to be about worship. It’s going to be about those who worship God and those who worship the Beast. Just as the battle between Cain and Abel was over true and false worship, the big battle in the last days is going to be about worship and yet, I know people that say they’re Christians and they’re members in the church and they do not have family worship. They don’t have private devotions and they don’t come to church or they come irregularly. Well, once every two or three weeks… and they’ve got lots of excuses… they say, “Well, I couldn’t come, our hamster had the hiccups and so we had to stay home, we didn’t know what might happen to him…” and you’d be surprised and I’d say, “We missed you…” and they’d say, “Oh, well, you know…” Friends, it’s got to be a priority. The Bible tells us… you can read here in Hebrews 10:25, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting...” that’s what I’m doing right now... “exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the Day…” capital D… “the Day of the Lord approaching… exhort…one another…” we need to come together. “This is a commandment?” It’s a commandment, Leviticus 23:3: “Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is the Sabbath… a solemn rest, a holy convocation.” Now, I know that with the recent pandemic and the medical concerns… and there are valid reasons for us to not to all cluster together. Praise God that’s beginning to evaporate and we’re turning to some sense of normality but some people got in the habit of just staying at home… watching online and it wasn’t because they’re weak shut-ins… it’s real easy… and God wants us to come together. You know what really impressed me is even during this… once we opened up and started having Services albeit, you know, they were measured and careful sanitary Services, I saw some old folks who were in the high-risk category… before the vaccines were distributed… you couldn’t keep them away. We’d say, you know, “You Folks might want to stay home.” “Not me… not on your life… I’m going to come together all my life… I’m going to come and worship God…” and you’d see them… they’d get out of their car in the parking lot… all the handicap parking was full or something by the young healthy people… they’d get out of their… and they’re hobbling with great difficulty to get here… and then you talk to some family and they’ve got the hamster with hiccups or it might rain in a week, so, they’re not sure. People do what they want to do, have you noticed that? People find a way to do what they want to do. Do you think that if you don’t have enough faith to get to church once a week, you’re going to have enough to get to heaven? If worship is not a priority to you now, what do you think is going to happen when the real test comes in the last days and there’s a battle over worship and you can’t buy or sell and you’re running for your life… if you can’t make it to church… what group are you going to fall in? I just don’t want you to deceive yourselves Friends, it’s got to be a priority now if it’s going to be a priority then. Priority… Worship.

I read King Henry the Sixth of France, he asked the Duke of Alba if he noticed the recent eclipse and the Duke said, “No, I have no time to look up.” Some people are so preoccupied with what’s happening here, they have no time to look up.

Number 5 - Priorities in Devotions: Now this is connected with worship but I’m really talking more about your personal devotions now.

First Timothy 4:13, “Till I come, give attention to reading… exhortation… doctrine.” Paul said to Timothy. You know, the story in Daniel chapter 6, Daniel is being told that if he’s caught praying to anyone but King Darius for 30 days, he’s going to be killed… going to the Lions’ Den. Well, Daniel had a habit of personal devotions. He probably read where King David said in Psalm 55:17: “Morning, evening and at noon will I pray and lift up my voice…” and so he had regular times of prayer and even though he knew a death decree had been signed for anyone who dared to pray to anyone but the king, Daniel… as his custom was… let me read it to you from Daniel chapter 6 verse 10, it says, “And in his upper room, with his windows open towards Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and he prayed and gave thanks before his God, as his custom was.” He had a habit to prioritize personal devotions. You can read in Daniel 9, he read the Bible. He says, “While I was reading the prophecies of Jeremiah…” Daniel read his Bible and he prayed. You might say, “Pastor Doug, I wish I could do that… I’m just so busy.” Well, I think Daniel was like the Prime Minister of Persia and he found time. People do what they want to do. I think Martin Luther said, “If I don’t pray three hours a day, I can’t get anything done.” You’d think it would be the other way around but it seems like God blesses the time you do have, now, I’m not telling you… you have to pray for three hours a day. I’m just telling you what he said. But God blesses the time you do have if you commit that time to God. It’s like He’ll bless the other 90% when you’re faithful with that 10%.

Private Devotions: Acts chapter 6 verse 2, the apostles called the disciples together because as the church began to explode with growth following Pentecost, thousands were baptized… 3,000 one time… 5,000 another time… and they had a fund for distributing food to the poor widows because the Bible says, you know, we need to help take care of the widows and the orphan and there was a squabble going on between the Hebrew converts and the Greek converts… and they’re called the Hellenists… and the disciples were having to referee and distribute food and Peter finally looked at them and said, “Hey look, this is not what Jesus called us to do.” Now let me read this to you. “The twelve… the apostles summoned the multitude of disciples and said, ‘It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among yourselves seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, who you might appoint over this business…’” they’re called Deacons… “but we will give ourselves continually to prayer in the ministry of the word.”

What place should prayer in the ministry of the word have? The apostles understood… in order for us to do the work in the church that we need to do, we need to have a priority of time to pray and to study the Word and to preach the Word and I think all of us need to make that decision in our own lives. I’m not just talking about the importance of Deacons here, I’m talking about… all of us like the Apostles need to say what in our life is making us so busy that we don’t have time for prayer and the ministry of the Word… in every member’s life. It’s got to be a priority.

If you’re going to be a witness, you can’t give what you don’t have, amen. Jesus said to Mary… she was sitting at Jesus’ feet… and Martha said, “Lord, will You tell her to get and help prepare dinner?” By the way, Luke chapter 10 verse 42, Jesus said, “No, I won’t.” He said, “Martha, Martha, you are troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which I will not take away from her.”

Sitting at the feet of Jesus: We all need that time in devotions. That needs to be a priority because here’s how it works. You need to obey God. You can’t obey God if you don’t love God. It starts with love. You’re not going to love God if you don’t know God. You’re not going to know God if you don’t take time with God. If you do take time with God… to know God is to love God. The more time you spend with God, the more you’ll love God. The better you love God the better you will obey God. Did that all make sense?

Audience: Amen.

It all goes back to how much time you spend with God. It needs to be a priority. It’s not going to happen unless you make it happen but show me a church that’s backsliding, I’ll show you a church that’s neglecting their personal devotions, prayer and ministry. We all need to have that relationship with the Lord if we’re going to be ready for the last days.

Connected with that is priority in holiness... and oh wait, I’ve jumped one…

Number 6 - Priorities in Stewardship: See, you’re responsible for how you spend your time and the Lord says… you’re also responsible for what you do with your stuff. Exodus 22 verse 29, “You shall not delay to offer the first of your ripe produce and your juices. The firstborn of your sons…” now does it say… the last one or the first? Seek ye first… it’s talking about priorities here. “The firstborn of your sons you shall give to Me.” It’s what Abraham did with Isaac. He put his son on the altar. That doesn’t mean you have to kill him, I’m just saying that nothing was more important than God.

Proverbs 3 verses 9 and 10, here’s a key to success. “Honor the Lord with your possessions, and the first fruits of all your increase.” So, is the plan, at the end of the month, after you’ve paid your Credit Card and for all the things that you bought on time, so you probably didn’t need…if there’s anything left, I’ll make a donation. Have you ever noticed that when you come to church, a $20 bill seems like so much but when you go to the Mall, it seems so small, isn’t that right?

Nehemiah 10:35, “And we made an ordinance to bring the first fruits of our ground and the first fruits of all of our fruit trees, year by year, to the Lord.” All through the Bible, it talks about giving the first, even in the Garden of Eden or just outside the Garden, Cain and Abel. It says, “Abel brought the firstlings of the flock.” So, this is something that goes pretty far back... the idea that you show your love for God by making Him first… and that should not only be in our time and in our devotions but in our stewardship of our stuff. In the way you prepare your Estate, if time should last, and you anticipate, you know, “I may get old and die.” You probably should do this either way. Stewardship… have an Estate Plan.

It breaks my heart sometimes, I see people… I understand love for your children but, you know, the Bible says… you need to love God even more than them and people will leave their entire estate to lost children who will squander it like prodigals… and nothing to God… and it’s about priorities. Shouldn’t something go to God’s work? If it’s really a priority… if it’s not, you know, then it’s not, you know, why are we doing all this? But if God is real… if eternal life is real… if Jesus really died for our sins… and what’s more important than that?

Number 7 - Priorities in Holiness: Jesus said in Matthew 5 verse 8, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” That’s what I want, Friends, don’t you?

Matthew 6:33, our Lord said, “Seek first the kingdom… and His righteousness.” God is calling us to holiness. Hebrews 12:14, “Pursue peace with all people and holiness.” Pursue it… make it a priority. Pursue holiness… without which no one will see the Lord. Now, first we get that holiness in justification but then as we pursue it, we have it through sanctification. But God is calling us to holy lives.

Matthew 23:23, Jesus said the religious leaders, “You’ve neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith…” and He called them, “blind guides, you strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” That’s mixed up priorities isn’t it? They were straining their water lest they accidently swallow a gnat that was unclean but then they’d sit down and eat camel steak… which was unclean… mixed up priorities.

You know, one of my favorite verses is Micah 6 verses 6 through 8, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with your God?” God is calling us to lives of seeking first His righteousness… His holiness.

Then there’s a priority of love: Matthew 22 verse 36, “Teacher, what is the great commandment in the law?” Let’s prioritize them. Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart… all of your mind… all of your soul… all of your mind… this is the first and the great commandment and the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love for God is a priority.

John 13:34, “A new commandment I give you that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” That’s right there, we’ve got our work cut out for us don’t we? To love each other the way Jesus loves us. That will always be a goal you’re reaching for but we should, and then, you know, on the screen, you’ll see I’ve put a picture of Jesus among the seven candlesticks because there’s this example in Revelation 2, the messages to the seven churches, He says a lot of wonderful things about the church of Ephesus. “To the angel…” and this is Revelation 2 verse 1, “To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, ‘These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands: “I know your works, your labor, your patience… that you cannot bear those that are evil… that you’ve tested those that say they are apostles and they are not, and you found them liars, and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name’s sake and you’ve not become weary.”’” It says a lot of good things. They’re working hard… they’re standing for the truth… they’re laboring… they’ve got patience… they’ve got endurance… all those things we need… but you know what His criticism is? They mixed up their priorities. He said, “Nevertheless I have this against you… you’ve left your first love.” Then He tells them… they must repent. You know what that means? Leaving your first love is a sin… and He’s calling us to repent of that. He says, “Go back and do the first works. You remember how you were searching for me with all of your heart and you found me and you were excited and were sharing me and you’ve… I know you can’t maintain that honeymoon all of the time but you sure don’t want to lose love in your relationship with the Lord or in our relationships with each other.” So, while we’re talking about the importance of love, that’s also in the family. Loving your family is a priority for the believer. Titus 2 verse 4, “That they admonish the young women to love their husbands.” I thought I’d throw that in there first “and to love their children.” Notice he first puts husband before children… you all are listening?

I need to include Ephesians 5:25, Husbands, love your wives, as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her.” That’s a lot of love. Jesus died for the church, so… and this is verse 28, “So husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.” He who loves his wife loves himself. You’ve heard the expression, “Happy wife… happy life.” Is that true?

Audience: Yes.

And it… and if Mama ain’t happy, nobody is happy. You’ve heard that too, right? So we must have a priority of love. I heard about this lady, she said to her husband, “You never tell me that you love me.” This old rancher, he told her… he says, “I told you when I married you 50 years ago, if I change my mind, I’ll let you know.”

Audience: Laughter.

So, you might want to do it more often. When two people get married, they make a covenant of love and Jesus has made a covenant of love with us. Love is a priority. When we choose to love the Lord, it means, forsaking all others… it’s exclusive… and love in the family is exclusive… it’s a special… it’s a priority love, am I right?

Now, all of this really goes back to a principle of priority. God requires first place. Now, does that make you think that He’s an egomaniac or that He’s being selfish… self-centered? God knows that because we came out of Him and that we are designed by Him and wired for love. God is love. If we do not love, we self-destruct. If we don’t love God, we’ll try to fill that vacuum with something else. It’s always sin in some form or another. If your heart is not focused on a love for God, then you will substitute with sin. So, He commands us to love Him not for His benefit but for our benefit. Of course, He wants our love.

Exodus 20: Of the Ten Commandments, what is the first Commandment? “You will not have other gods. Not only will I be first, I will be only.” That’s a priority.

Matthew 10: Jesus said… Matthew 10: 37, “He that 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.” God is telling us that He requires first place in our lives.

Luke 14:33: “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all, he cannot be My disciple.” That’s a priority… putting everything on the altar for Christ.

1st Corinthians 2 verse 2: Paul said, “I have determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Would you say Paul had his priorities right? The priority for Christ was Jesus and Him crucified in all of his preaching.

Number 8 - Prioritize the Future: And what I mean by this is do not spend your time looking back. We’ve all made mistakes, we all have regrets. There are things that can just destroy us if we focus on them. Paul said, Philippians 3 verse 12, “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do…” that’s a priority word… “forgetting those things that are behind… reaching forward to those things that are ahead, I press towards the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus...” seeking first God and His kingdom, amen. Sacrificing everything else, if that’s what it takes… that you might make that a priority. Jesus asks in Mark 8:36, “What profit is it if you gain the whole world, and lose your soul?” If anything distracts you from that eternal benefit, what good is it?

I’ve heard… you’ve probably seen the fiddler crabs. They look like they’re fiddling. They’ve got one big arm and then one little arm. The interesting thing is that if they get into a fight with another sea creature or octopus or another crab, they will release their arm so they can escape with their lives. Jesus said… if anything is going to separate… if your right hand offends you, cut it off… your eye… pluck it out… if you’re focusing on something… of course this is not literal, don’t anyone go home and do this. Your foot… this is talking about your vision, your actions, your direction… your foot… He says, “Cut it off… what good is it if you go into hell with your… all your body in great shape.”

It’s like… and I heard about this funeral. Someone’s going by the coffin, they look at the body and they say, “He looks so good.”

Audience: Laughter.

That always struck me as kind of oxymoron. So, prioritize the future. By the way, you know, the crab will grow another arm.

Luke 9:62, “No one putting his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom.” So, Jesus is telling us… there must be a priority of our vision which leads me to priority of mission. We’re almost done now.

In the book of Nehemiah… Nehemiah has been serving the King of Persia. He hears about the terrible conditions of Jerusalem. The temple had been built but the walls are broken down. There are no gates… the enemies can come and at pleasure, they’re being ransacked by the Arabian enemies and others and Nehemiah gets permission from the King of Persia to… and he gets the funds to go and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and Nehemiah is a man with a mission. He gets there and his entire focus is… he believed, “God has called me to build up the city.” By the way, all of us are being called to some extent to build up God’s kingdom. Amen.

Audience: Amen.

He was going to seek first the kingdom of God and in the process of building the walls… and they ran into all kinds of problems but they just pushed on through. There was garbage in the way and all kinds of things they had to deal with… he pushed on through. The enemies began to get worried that he was building up the walls… they said, “You know what? Maybe they’re not going to be such a pushover anymore. They may even be a threat to us. They’re doing a great job building those walls again and setting up the gates and…” they began to tell Nehemiah… their enemies… they said, “You know, we need to talk. We need to talk about this and then make sure you know, there could be a war and we just need to talk…” and they’re trying to do everything they can through intimidation… through plotting… through rumors… and I love what Nehemiah says here, this is Nehemiah 6 verse 1, “Now it happened when Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and the rest of our enemies heard that I had rebuilt the walls, and that there were no breaks left in it though I had not set up the gates…” they trying to stop this from happening… “that Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, ‘Come, let’s meet together among the plain of Ono.’ But they thought to do me harm.”

If anyone ever asks you to meet in the Valley of Ono, what is your answer? “Oh no…” right? That’s easy to remember this.

Audience: Laughter.

“They thought to do me harm. So I sent messengers to them, saying, ‘I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?’ But they sent to me this message four times, and I answered them in the same manner. ‘I am doing a great work… I will not come down.’” There is somebody who’s got their priorities right. He said, “I am going to focus on building the wall. Let’s talk about it… now, I’m going to build the wall, I’m not going to come down to talk to you. God’s called me to do this. I’ve got a mission and the devil wants to distract me from my mission. Why should I stop doing this work for God and talk to you about the work?” You know, many people just talk about mission… they don’t ever do mission.

You know what I love about this verse? It reminds me of the time when Jesus was hanging on the cross and He was doing a great work for us up there and His enemies said, “If you’re really the Christ, come down and then we’ll believe...” and through His silence, Jesus said “I’m doing a great work I’m not going to come down to you.” He stayed on. Could He have come down? He could have come down but because of the mission, He had to save us, He did not.

Number 9 - And then finally - the Priority of a Soul: The value of a soul is hard to estimate. I understand that insurance companies have what they call a VSL: Value of Statistical Life.

You know, if somebody dies in a wrongful death, depending on what their age and their education and different things… they get this formula… they’ve picked out what you’re worth. In America, and I have an update here recently, it’s ten million dollars is the approximate value of a soul and, you know, if you’re real old, the value goes down. If you’re real young, you’ve got more potential, there’s more value. Unfortunately, if you’re in Australia, you’re only worth 2.2 million. If you’re in Russia, you’re only worth 60,000 according to their insurance companies. Something’s wrong with that. But if you want to know the value of a soul, you look at what’s paid for it… that’s how you decide what is something worth. In the business world, what do they say? “Whatever someone will pay for it… that’s what something’s worth.”

What are you worth? What did Jesus pay? Matthew 12:12, “Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep?” Jesus tells about David risking his life to save a sheep. Jesus said, “Don’t fear, you are of more value than many sparrows.” And you know, I appreciate the importance of taking care of the environment, I do, I believe in that. God put Adam in the garden to take care of the garden and I think God will destroy those that destroy the earth but you know, Jesus did not die to save dogs and cats and sheep. He died to save people made in His image. You are of more value than sparrows and sheep. “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down his life for his friends.”

What gives us value? Galatians 2:20, “I live by faith in the son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” So how much are you worth? Let’s word this a different way, “What is the most valuable thing in the universe?” Well, it would be God and if all things were made by Christ, then God’s Son is the most valuable thing because He gave His life to save us… and so the most valuable price that could be paid for you or for anything is Jesus and that He gave His soul.

You know, we’re living right now in a country and even in the church where we get distracted with lesser matters. The devil’s got a million distractions. Our mission is to make sure the main thing stays the main thing and that Jesus stays the priority and that we keep our eyes focused on Christ.

Matthew 28:19 and 20, Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” Nothing is worth more than a soul. The last words of Jesus should be a first priority for believers.

Daniel tells us, “Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the firmament and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” Seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness turning others to righteousness is seeking first His righteousness. We’ve got a mission: reflect His righteousness in our lives… lead others to the Savior, amen.

Audience: Amen.

You know, I was reading a story about Leonardo da Vinci. There are several stories when he painted that epic painting… that mural of the Last Supper there in Italy and a friend was coming to admire his work in progress and there… he’s almost finished and he looked at it and he focused on the cup. You know, Jesus blessed the cup with the wine and he focused on the cup and he said, “Leonardo, that cup is so beautiful, it’s so vivid…” and he said, “It’s just wonderful…” and Leonardo took his brush and he wiped out the cup. He said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I want you to see the face of Jesus, if the cup is distracting from Jesus, I don’t want the cup.” He repainted it dull. You know, it tells us in Hebrews chapter 12 verse 1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” People who are running a race… they are focused on one thing… the finish line. Amen.

Audience: Amen.

How do they run it? You lay aside every weight. If anything is preventing you from running that race, what profit is it? Looking unto Jesus. How do we run the race? Fixing our eyes… not on the cup… not on the Styrofoam peanuts… but fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith who for the joy that was set before Him… the joy of saving you and me… He endured the cross... despising the shame… and He’s now sitting down at the right hand of the throne of God. Jesus our Savior is at the right hand of God and God loves you… He wants to save you… and He’s saying, “Please do not get distracted by all of the glitter and the delusions and the clickbait in the world today.” This is one of the hardest things for the church… is to make sure the main thing… stays the main thing… amen.

Audience: Amen.

We’d like to fix our eyes on Jesus and I’d like to invite you to stand. We’re going to sing together our closing song. It’s different from your hymnal… we changed… it’s 547 in your hymnals and we’ll also have it on the screen. Be Thou my Vision… we’ll sing the first, second and the last verses.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;

Naught be all else to me, save that thou art

Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,

Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;

I ever with Thee, and Thou with me, Lord;

Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;

Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

High King of Heaven, my victory is won,

May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!

Heart of my heart, whatever befall,

Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

How many of you would like to just join me in praying and say, “Lord, help us to keep Jesus as our priority… Your kingdom… Your righteousness… forgive us for when we get distracted by the things that just don’t matter.”

And if there are any here who have not made that decision to say, “Lord, I want to accept You as the foundation… the rock… in my life.”

Then, you can do that right now and join us as we pray. Let’s ask Him, “Father in heaven, we’re so thankful that you’ve put this value on our souls… that you love us so much that you gave Your Son that we might have eternal life, Lord, nothing could possibly be more valuable than eternal life and yet Jesus faced eternal death that He might save us. I pray that each person here will make a decision to prioritize their lives with Christ as the very center. Forgive us for the distractions, Lord, sometimes it’s just in insult that we ignore You and I pray that You’ll help us to stay focused. Give us the Holy Spirit to show us those times when we’re chasing rabbits and missing the main thing. Bless each person, Lord, with Your joy and Your Spirit now, and we commit ourselves to you and pray this all in the name of Jesus, amen.”

God bless you Friends, have a blessed Sabbath. Please remember as you go that we did not take up the offering in the Service. Ushers will be at the door for your tithes and offerings. God bless you.

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