Summary: At the first of the year it seems good to think of the “first things” God wants us to do. Following are most of the NT scriptures with the word “first” in them.
Matthew 6:31-34 and other Scriptures
One week a Sunday school teacher had just finished telling her class the Christmas story, how Mary and Joseph went to Bethlehem and how Jesus was born there. So the teacher asked, "Who do you think the most important woman in the Bible is?"
Naturally the teacher was expecting some to say, "Mary." But instead, a little boy raised his hand and said, "Eve." So the teacher asked him why he thought Eve was the most important.
And the little boy said, "Well, they named two days in the year after Eve. You know, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve." -- C. Edward Bowen, EMPHASIS, Nov./Dec. 1999, p. 60.
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At the first of the year it seems good to think of the “first things” God wants us to do. Following are most of the NT scriptures with the word “first” in them.
A. Prayer and Thanks
1Ti 2:1-6: I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.
* Prayers and Thanksgiving for everyone, especially our country’s leaders – whether you like them or agree with them. Perhaps especially, if you don’t. For Paul, this was the terrible Nero.
Why? 1) that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
2) It is good, and what pleases God, and
3) Particularly because the Gospel can be spread more easily in peaceful times.
So Paul follows his own advice in Romans 1:7-8:
To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.
One Christmas, a mother decreed that she was no longer going to remind her children of their thank-you note duties. As a result their grandmother never received acknowledgments of the generous checks she had given.
The next year things were different, however.
"The children came over in person to thank me," the grandparent told a friend triumphantly.
"How wonderful!" the friend exclaimed. "What do you think caused the change in behavior?"
"Oh, that’s easy," the grandmother replied. "This year I didn’t sign the checks."
* We need to give people thanks and appreciation.
As most of you know, Time Magazine’s 2003 Person of the Year went to the American soldier. Looking back on 2003, I would have to say our church’s Person of the Year award would be similar. It would go to all you in our volunteer army who filled ever so many roles to make our church the special place it was and is. Thank you so much.
B. Pleasing God
2Co 8:1-5 And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will.
* Even in “severe trial” the Macedonian churches gave generously. Why? Because they gave first to the Lord; their great desire was to please the God they loved with all their heart and soul. They did what Jesus taught:
Mt 22:35-40 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
Out of this love of God we love our neighbor; and the greatest thing we can do for our neighbor is to introduce them to Jesus.
C. Preaching the Gospel
1. Clearly and Faithfully
1Co 15:1-9 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.