The new year is a great time to begin new habits, new goals, and renewed hopes for the coming months.
To accomplish these things, it’s important to have some kind of “plumb line” that keeps our aim true.
Paul did this in his letter to the Colossians when he said, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (Col. 2:2 NRSV).
In a sense, Paul was aligning his whole life by the passion to know nothing but Jesus and the crucified lifestyle. Everything in his life would turn on this reality.
Jesus spoke of things we can bring into alignment in our lives. These have been described by Dr. Frank Damazzio as “The Seven Firsts of Jesus”. One way to see what is first in our lives is to ask a simple question: What is the first thing that pushes all nonessentials out of the way? This is important because if we don’t have first things first, then second and third things will replace first things in importance.
That said, here are seven things that (through God’s grace) we can align this coming year:
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you
(Matthew 6:33 NRSV)
We must align our priorities according to the new order, new way of thinking and living identified with the kingdom.
Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye (Matthew 7:4-5 NRSV).
Our harshness is always in proportion to blindness to our own faults. Looking in the mirror first is the best antidote for a critical spirit.
Our fruit bearing.
You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean
(Matthew 23:26 NRSV)
It would be odd to serve guests bowls of soup, then in the same bowls only wipe the outside and proceed to serve dessert in them. Aligning our hearts in growth means to focus on the inside, not the outside.
Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. (Matthew 28:1).
It’s one thing to say we “serve the Lord”, but quite another to “seek the Lord”. We can become defined by church attendance or acts of service, while our default instinct is to put ourselves first.
Leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:24 NRSV).
Jesus here was pointing out that reconciliation always comes before worship. Holding on to offenses threatens our relationship to God; God only demonstrates His presence in an atmosphere of unity.
Our Warfare. (Our authority)
Or how can someone enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house (Matthew 12:29 NRSV).
We must first deal with the unseen spiritual elements that assail us before we deal with physical challenges. This begins with closing every door, window, and crevice to our hearts that might allow “the strongman” to come in. In doing so, we are addressing spiritual battles in a spiritual way.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment (Matthew. 22:36-38) NRSV.
Our passions are perhaps one of the greatest challenges in our relationship to Jesus. They are ever fickle, easily distracted, and run hot and cold. Putting our heart, soul, and mind into pursuing God brings our passions into alignment.
When we align these seven firsts Jesus spoke of, our lives will no doubt begin sensing that wholesome feeling not unlike the one you get when vertebrae in your back are put back in place, but on a greater spiritual dimension.