When I gave my heart to Jesus more than thirty years ago, I tried to put Him first in my life. He had saved me from self-destruction and I was truly liberated by His Loving Spirit. It felt so good to me that I wanted to share Jesus with everyone – my family, my friends, and my working colleagues. I was totally transformed and completely captivated by Christ. He meant everything to me and I wanted to do all that I could to please Him.
Revelation 1:17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: "Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.
My zeal for the Lord got me into all sorts of crazy situations. I would try to witness to drunks and homeless people, heavy metal concert goers and football supporters. I was reckless and undisciplined, zealous and fanatical at times. I think I did more harm than good, but I truly believed that Christ wanted me to prove to the world that I was a Christian.
Then I went to seminary for six years and almost had my faith knocked out of me. My professors and lecturers wanted to show me how clever, academic, and intellectual they were. They had done biblical, linguistic, and archaeological research. They had pored over obscure texts and ancient writings. They could parse Hebrew and speak New Testament Greek fluently. They were clever people, but Christ wasn’t first in their lives. Their work, their opinions, and their ideas were of primary importance. Sadly, somewhere along their academic paths they had lost their simple faith in Christ. He had become a vehicle, a stepping stone, and a bridge to higher rewards and greater achievements. They had forgotten who motivated and influenced them in the first place; they had set aside Christ as being their First Love.
The day I finished seminary, I threw six years of notes in the bucket. I never needed them again. By the grace of God, Jesus was still first in my life. Throughout my 22 years of ministry, I have tried to preach the Gospel and lead other people to Christ.
I am not pious or perfect. I still make mistakes and create disappointments. I am as selfish as anyone else and sinful, too. But despite my faults, what I hope to accomplish is this: that Jesus will always be first in my heart, so that when I come to die, He will be the last thought in my mind.
I firmly believe that if we all put Jesus first in our lives, a lot of the troubles, issues, and worries that we endure, would all diminish and fade into the background. I guess that’s why He called me to be a preacher all those years ago – so that I can help others find Jesus and experience the same liberation that He once brought to me.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, help us to place You first and last in our lives. Be the first in our thoughts each morning, and the last in our prayers each night. Encourage us to help others experience the same. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor at Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. if you would like to comment on today's message, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org