My prayer seemed correct: “Lord, teach me so that I can teach others in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and all the world.” My marching orders were obvious. Or, so I thought.
One way or another I had missed a very important part of these passages. In Acts, I failed to see the power of, “…has come upon you….” Sure the Spirit indwelt me at salvation, but I was remiss in letting him come over me. He hadn’t grown on me. I wasn’t deeply acquainted with him. I had the proverbial cart before the horse. Matthew was careful to state the most important part of the verse: “Teach them to observe all that I commanded you.”
The Bible is full of imperatives, i.e. strong intentions. In the strictest sense of the word, Jesus issued several imperatives. But when the religious leaders asked him to pinpoint a command, he isolated the most important truth in the Bible: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). The next verse notes, “This is the great and first commandment.”
As Matthew concludes his thoughts, he begins with an imperative: “Go.” He follows this with another: “Make.” Yet, he distinguishes these imperatives from, “Observe all that I have commanded you.” Specifically, Jesus’ one command was, “You shall love the Lord your God. This is the great and foremost commandment.”
Very simply: According to Jesus, my purpose in life—my highest calling, the most important matter in the mind of God—is that I love him. As important as it is that his message spreads throughout the world, the one priority that trumps all others is that I love him first and foremost.
My priority must not be the things of God—witnessing, prayer, Bible study, etc.—rather, my priority must be God himself with the supreme purpose of knowing him. To state the obvious, as I get to know God, the things that are important to God are going to be more and more part and parcel of my life. But in making first things first, the proper order forms: My Christian life flows out of my relationship with Father God rather than my relationship to him flowing out of my Christian life for him.
Do you recall the biblical story where Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” For emphasis, he repeats the question two more times. Each time Peter responds affirmatively, and each time Jesus says back, “Feed my sheep.” Notice that Jesus never asked Peter if he loved sheep, only if he loved him. Jesus knew that as Peter loved him, his instruction regarding care for his sheep would be fulfilled.
As one who has devoted himself to caring for people, I can honestly say that ministry is important to me. God’s people—his sheep—are my working priority. But I realize the only way I will ever effectively minister is if I know, love, and seek first the Minister himself. It is from this forged relationship that all things pertinent to his heart flow outward to people.
These days, when I sit down with the Scriptures I pray a more focused, honest, straightforward prayer. It is a prayer without an ulterior motive. Instead of looking for something to take away, I come to Scripture to spend time with the one who loves me—the one I have come to love from spending time with him considering his book.