What Matters Most
If Jesus is your Lord, then everything you do is significant with regard to your relationship with him. He cares about your whole life, not just your church-going habits. But is there any way to know what Jesus thinks is MOST important?
Consider a related question. The New Testament can be an intimidating book, with all of its commands, doctrines, stories, and examples. Is there a way to find out the MAIN point of all that God has said and done?
A LADDER OR A TARGET?
The Christian life has often been presented as a ladder to heaven. Every rung is portrayed as being just as important as every other rung. If you miss one rung, you're lost.
This view has two main problems. First, we can?t live this way. The Christian life is not based on our ability always to do the right thing, because we can?t. The Christian life is based on Jesus having done the right thing and our trusting him. If we could always do the right thing, we wouldn?t need Jesus.
The second problem is that this is not how the teaching of the New Testament is presented. The message of the New Testament is that following Jesus is not so much a ladder as it is a target. Following Jesus involves central issues and also less important matters. Please note: even the less important things are still on the target and need to be obeyed.
Jesus said we are to be "perfect" as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48, all references NIV). He told us, for instance, that we will give an account for "every careless word" (Matthew 12:36). But Jesus also said to "seek FIRST his kingdom and his righteousness" (Matthew 6:33, emphasis mine). Everything involved in following Jesus is important, but everything is not as central.
WHAT IS MOST IMPORTANT?
What is at the center of the target? Jesus said the greatest command is, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." The second greatest commandment is, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus said that all the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:37-40). These are not the only two commandments, but they put into focus all the other commandments. Everything else relates to these two because everything we do, in one way or another shows either love for God and others or a lack of love for God and others.
THE MAIN ISSUES
Consider these examples of more important things. When a person becomes a Christian, the central issue is whether that person has faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Repentance, confession, and baptism are all essential to becoming a Christian; but they make sense only as they are related to faith in Jesus. Being baptized without believing, for example, would just be going through the motions.
Here is another illustration of the point. Christians would agree that the New Testament and church are important. But the heart of the gospel is not the New Testament or the church. The gospel centers on Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Jesus gives significance to the church and the New Testament. All are essential; Jesus is the more central.
THE WEIGHTIER MATTERS
It's easy to "major in the minors" in matters of religion. It's easy to go through the motions without having your heart in it. We get concerned with questions such as, "Did we get it done?" and "Did we do it right?"
But Jesus said there are "weightier matters"; justice, mercy, and faithfulness. These we should do without neglecting the specifics that God commands (see Matthew 23:23). Jesus is concerned about the specifics of what we do, but he is more concerned about our attitudes and the basic commitment of our hearts. Right actions will come when the heart is right. On the other hand, we can do "right" outward actions without ever dealing with the heart. God is not fooled by that. The person you really fool is yourself.
THE BULL'S EYE
Keep as the central purpose of your life to love God with all your being and to love others as though they were you. With these as your bull's-eye, you are more likely to fulfill God's will for your life and to have a Christian life that is the joyful journey God meant for it to be.