Put God First!
Isaiah 29:9-14, Daniel 12:10, 1 Corinthians 2:6-16
Today’s world is under Satan’s influence. Unless someone is called to be a part of God’s true church, they cannot understand the Bible. God reveals many things in the Bible that are considered foolish by the unconverted. The Bible says a person must be wise in order to understand. God must give the ability to understand the Bible to humans; they aren’t born with it. He gives wisdom by revealing to His church the truth in the Bible. The church preaches it faithfully. Those that are called hear the truth being preached and respond to the message. It changes their lives. Those that are not called are likened to being in a deep sleep, unable to receive the knowledge of God, unable to be reasoned with.
Most people fear the opinions of people around them more than God’s opinions. They don’t want to be different than their peers. They will not change their lives to obey God when that means going contrary to friends and family. It is easy to claim to love God above all else, but when it comes to being different—maybe laughed at or rejected—then many decide it is too hard to follow God. And God will not reveal His truth to anyone who respects men more than Him.
The religious leaders of Christ’s day were categorized by God as “blind.” They did not understand God’s Word. They put the traditions of men ahead of Scripture. It is the same today when a church makes policies that contradict what the Bible says. When this happens, Jesus told His disciples, “leave them alone.” You can’t convince someone who is blind to “see,” they simply aren’t able to (Matthew 13:11-16, John 9:39-41). Better to leave it alone and move on. Don’t try to convert the unconverted. Only God can do that.
Mark 7 tells the same story. “The traditions of the elders” were regarded as more important than Scripture. This is why Jesus ignored their complaints about His religious teachings. Jesus upheld keeping God’s law, even if that meant breaking man’s traditions.
In early New Testament times, Jewish leaders tried to exert as much pressure as they could on members of the Christian church to return to Judaism—to regard the authority of the Levitical priesthood as the highest on earth (Book of Galatians). Christians of that age had to remember that Jesus was a higher authority than men on earth (Book of Hebrews). The Bible is God’s Word—it is the highest authority men have. If obeying the Bible means rejecting religious tradition, do it.
Colossians 2:8-13, 15, 19-22
True religion comes from God and Christ, not from men. Verse 8 mentions traditions of men as something to be on guard against. We should not think that men can overturn the Word of God by using the excuse that they are “in authority.” All true Christians must reject erroneous traditions that aren’t in line with the doctrines found in the Bible.
Matthew 21:23-27, 33-46; Matthew 23:1-3, 14-15, 29-39
Jesus told the Pharisees that they were about to “lose their jobs” as the religious leaders of God’s people (Matthew 21:43, 45) because of not putting God and His Word first. Jesus, representing God, was foretelling the coming of the New Testament church in which members would truly fear God, not men, and ultimately would form the world-ruling government under Christ in the millennium—they will not cave in to peer pressure, they will not deviate from following God! This is in fact the one defining trait of God’s people.
Acts 4:1-2, 5-7, 10-12; Acts 9
The priests and their families were unwilling to follow the church which Christ was building through His apostles. Now, members of the church were taught that Jesus’ heavenly priesthood carried more authority than that of the Levitical priests on earth. When Saul was converted, he switched his allegiance from the human high priest who resided in Jerusalem (a physical descendant of Aaron)—over to the High Priest who is in heaven at the right hand of God, Jesus Christ.
True Christians put God first. They fear God more than they fear men (Isaiah 51:7-8, 12, 66:5, Proverbs 29:25). Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong set a tremendous example of this. In his Autobiography, he tells how his life reached a turning point early on after he was converted. He had become a paid minister in the Sardis church, and was required—in order to continue receiving his salary—to preach whatever he was ordered to preach, which meant being unfaithful to God's Word. He had to decide whether he was going to take the money, in the name of feeding and caring for his family, or to act on faith and do what the Bible commands ministers to do: preach the truth exactly as God reveals it (2 Timothy 4:1-5). [The Autobiography of Herbert W. Armstrong (Chapter 30, "The World Tomorrow Broadcast Begins," sections "The Double Cross" and "The Crucial Test")]
Mr. Armstrong chose to refuse the salary and to preach the Bible faithfully. He wrote in his autobiography that a more important decision had never been made! For the rest of his life, because of living by faith and rejecting peer pressure, the efforts which Mr. Armstrong put out in God’s service bore incredible fruit—accomplishments that were only possible because of God’s blessing upon them.
The thing to do as a true member of God’s church is to obey the Two Great Commandments (Matthew 22:36-40). Put the First Great Commandment first by obeying God always, no matter what the reaction of other people may be (Luke 14:26, Matthew 10:37, Acts 5:29). Secondly, love neighbors, friends and family—seek to avoid giving offense, while living God’s way among a world that goes completely contrary to Him (1 John 2:3-5, 15-17).
Remember always to put God first!
This Bible study was given by Matthew Kalliman on 7/5/07