Posted: Jan 05, 2024

God, marriage, kids, work. If you ask most Christians what their life-priorities are, they’ll parrot this well-rehearsed list.

Talk is cheap.

Our actions expose our belief systems and what we love, not merely our talk. When I was bondage to lust, and for some time after, my true priorities often looked like this:

Marriage and family

Life was all about me. Oh, I knew how to squawk the right Christian words to throw people off course, but inside I knew the truth. There’s no way a porn and sex addict can say that God’s first in their life when they’re binging on that stuff. It’s like having a mistress while married and trying to say your wife is the love of your life.

The greatest command is to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, in that order (Matthew 22:36-39). The heart drives everything. The challenging part about the greatest command is obedience. Every once in awhile we’ll sing “I surrender all” at church. I don’t like singing that song. Who can honestly say they’ve surrendered all before God? The only way to know our level of surrender is when we’re tested by obedience, pain, or loss. Until the crisis hits, “I surrender all,” is little more than a set of nice words.

There will be times when God exposes an area of our life and gives us an action step to take that forces us to the edge of the cliff of faith or leaves our flesh screaming “no!” How we respond reveals our heart.

We’re commanded in James 5:16 to confess our sins to others and pray with them on an ongoing basis, we’re told in Proverbs 18:1 not to isolate ourselves, and we know from the book of Acts that the early church was devoted to fellowship (in addition to prayer and teaching). How are you doing with obedience in this area of accountability, prayer, and connection with other believers?
Most of the Christians I know are isolated.

I was given more than a normal person’s share of drive; if there’s a Type AA personality, I’m it. For years, secular work was an idol I paid homage to… until my wife and I held our second son as he died, 5 days after he was born on March 11, 1997. That intense, soul-searing pain destroyed my work-idol. Then in the mid- 2000s I allowed ministry to have too much space in my heart. God broke me of that one with another big dose of pain. I don’t know how anyone can say they’ve surrendered to God without the blessing that comes from suffering. We’re too self and comfort-driven to go that far on our own.

I’m sure I sang “I surrender all” in church those years. What a poser.

We’re commanded to be devoted to prayer in Colossians 4:2. In the past I prayed a few minutes in the morning… but… devoted to prayer? Maybe if something blew up in my face… for the minute or two it would take to pray about it.

In the past I would immerse myself in hours of entertainment; sports, video games, watching TV, going to the movies, including the latest must-see Christian movie. What did all those hours binging on entertainment reveal about my priorities, especially when compared to my prayer life at the time?

We can’t go all out with God and be all in the world with its short-lived pleasure and entertainment. How we spend our time and treasure reveals the true love of our heart and what our priorities are. Pastors have told me that 20% of their flock give 100% of the donations to their church. What does that say about the priorities of the other 80%?

Early last week God asked me to fast for one day. I didn’t want to fast, but I did. Obedience is critical; it separates the men from the boys, the doctrine-heads who talk a good game from the passionate God seekers; the lukewarm from those who are intent on living their utmost for His highest, as Oswald Chambers puts it.

We’re told to be devoted to good works (Titus 3:8) and that faith without works is dead. The Christian is meant to serve his life as broken bread and poured out wine to others.

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 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? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
James 2:14-17

I don’t think God had binge-watching Netflix or even The Chosen in mind here. The things that have the most impact for eternity involve people, hours in prayer, or both.

“Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.”
Colossians 3:1-4

We have couples who come to us for help and healing from a spouse’s porn addiction, usually the man’s. Not long into the process the man is told he must meet with a group or individual for support, accountability and prayer at least once a week, every week. Some men eject from the program at that point, revealing that porn is a bigger priority to them than their wife… and God.

How about believers who are living with someone from the opposite sex out of wedlock, or dating unbelievers? What does that say about their priorities? Can they honestly say God is their first love when they’re living a life of compromise and sin?

I struggle with the question of whether many churches have their priorities straight. Last year a group of pastors held a conference on cessationism. I wanted to throw up. Massive waves of youth have been exiting the church for decades, porn and other forms of sexual sin in the church continue to explode, suicide is the number 2 killer of teens, sexual and spiritual abuse in the church are rampant, and they’re spending time on a conference on a non-essential issue like cessationism??

The early church’s priorities were prayer, fellowship, and teaching, and they changed the world (Acts 2:42). They had no megawatt audio-visual systems or buildings. Just each other and God. How many of our modern churches can honestly say they’re devoted to these same 3? Been to a prayer meeting lately?

James 1:22 gives clarity on those who have made God their top priority:

“But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves.”
James 1:22

If you’re at church and they start singing “I surrender all,” be careful.
God might call you on it.

Which is what He will do in eternity.   “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.”
2 Corinthians 5:10

If your priorities are out of line or you’re in a place where you’ve lost your first love, take extended time in silence before God to realign them. Then make the changes He gives you. An easy place to begin with is examining your prayer life.

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: ‘The words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands. “‘I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.”
Revelation 2:1-5