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Jesus First

Man holding heart with Jesus written on it

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:8-12 NIV)

There's just something about the name of Jesus. In Acts, chapter four, His name carries the power to heal a lame man. His name has power and authority over demons. His name brings peace in the storm. His name stands above all others because Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. Bill and Gloria Gaither were right. There's Just Something About That Name.

As one whose life has been transformed by Jesus Christ, I affirm that He is the Son of God, risen from the dead. I know Jesus is alive because He lives in my heart and changes my life. His love for me is unconditional, limitless, and simply astounding. Jesus took my place on the cross and died to pay for the sins I have committed. He took my death penalty (The wages of sin is death - Romans 6:23). He died for me while I was still a sinner living in rebellion against Him (Romans 5:8). He deserves to be the first and the most in my life, and I am striving to love Him with all my heart because He first loved me with all His.

Jesus deserves first place in my life. With our fallen sin nature, it can be easy to commit idolatry and put other gods before the One True God. We generally do not make little gold statues and burn incense or pray to them. But we can easily put other things ahead of Jesus. Things like money, sex and power. Material possessions. The core of all this idolatry, I think, is exalting myself above my King. When it's all about me, I can be sure Jesus is not sitting on the throne of my heart, directing my life.

I aim to live a life that is Christ-centered. I seek to intentionally live my life to honor the One who paid the price to redeem me from sin and death. I want to put Jesus first in all things. But I keep getting in the way. I mean to put Jesus first in my marriage, but then my selfishness causes me to take Shirley for granted or to respond to her sometimes as the Big Grump and hurt her heart. I desire to put Jesus first in my ministry, but it can be so easy to seek to satisfy the institutional needs of the church over the Kingdom priorities of Jesus.

One of the great joys and great challenges of being Pastor of a brand new congregation is that we get to set the DNA that will carry the church into the future. We know our mission: To make disciples of Jesus Christ who worship passionately, love extravagantly and witness boldly. We are not out to gain church members. We are out to help people become transformed disciples of the Savior. Our church will be all about making disciples of Jesus, and not disciples of Mike. We are CHRISTians, not MIKEians!

We embrace our vision: Grace Church is a caring community where people can CONNECT with God and others, GROW deep in faith, and SERVE as bold witnesses. If a ministry or activity does not help us and others Connect, Grow or Serve, then it is unbecoming of the church of Jesus Christ. Some old traditional ways the church has operated have to be put to bed permanently. Everything we do must intentionally facilitate connection to Christ and each other, spiritual growth in discipleship, or serving as witnesses to each other and to the community around us. Anything else simply wastes precious time and energy.

As we seek to live out our vision and accomplish our mission, we will practice the core value of putting Jesus First. We put Jesus at the center of everything. He is the One we worship passionately. He is the One whom we seek in every decision. We will strive to make Grace Church a Christ-centered church in all we do. After all, Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.

Our leadership team has identified five Core Values for our congregation to live by as we strive for our vision. We will look at the other four over the next four weeks. I'll just state them here as the framework of our core values at Grace Church:

  • Jesus First – we put Jesus at the center of everything

  • The Bible Directs – we look to Scripture as our foundation and primary lens for understanding truth

  • People Need People – iron sharpens iron, so we connect with people who challenge and encourage us in our faith

  • The Future is Now – We invest in the faith of the next generations so we have a future of hope

  • Contribute More than Consume – it’s not about us, it’s about others, so we find opportunities to serve inside the church, out in the community and around the world

One final word: living with Jesus First is more than an agreed-upon core value in a new congregation. It is a way of life that brings purpose and joy and fulfillment. There is no more peaceful way of life than a Christ-centered life. There is no more victorious way of living than living with Jesus first in all things. There is no greater adventure than walking by faith with Jesus Christ. Putting Jesus first leads to the life we were meant to live when the Living God created us to be His image-bearers and His beloved people. Let this be my heart's orientation: Jesus, you are first in everything. You are my Lord and my King. To God be the glory!


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