The Preeminence of Christ
and the Will
THE PREEMINENCE OF CHRIST AND OUR WILL
1. Can you say that “in all things Christ has the preeminence” in my life?
a. This is a matter of the will. It is a choice we make.
b. And while anyone can SAY those words, God will put this to the test repeatedly in our everyday lives.
c. Who has preeminence in your life? Regardless of what we might say, in reality, our choices in life demonstrate who really has preeminence.
2. Preeminence of Christ in our choices: that which we choose demonstrates our priorities and who is preeminent in our lives.
a. Do we give Christ an important place in our lives (a large piece of the pie, a certain %) or can we say Christ IS our life. Only then can we say that in all things He has the preeminence in our lives.
b. If Christ truly IS our life, then we will CHOOSE Christ over other “things.”
c. Our will is seen in the choices we make; and the choices we make demonstrate who or what has the preeminence.
3. We looked at several illustrations used for dealing with the self life in the Bible (yoke; altar; cross).
a. Each of these illustrations involves an act of the will.
b. One must be WILLING to submit to the yoke; WILLING to present his body a living sacrifice; WILLING to reckon himself to be crucified with Christ.
c. This can never be forced. If it is forced, it isn’t grace. It isn’t the love of God working in us. It isn’t real!
d. The law can beat a person into submission to a code… for fear of the consequences. The apostle Paul was “blameless” under the Law before he was even saved! His heart was not willingly submitted to God… but he DID obey the Mosaic Laws.
e. Children might obey their parents—because they fear the consequences of disobedience. But that does not assure that they have a submissive, willing, spirit.
f. Anger, resentment and rebellion might be simmering on the inside—even though there is outward conformity to the rules.
g. Many young people brought up in Christian homes come to church every week; go to Sunday school; and seem to be decent, obedient children… yet do so out of constraint… not willingly. And once they are out on their own—they never go to church or read their Bibles again.
h. A child can go through their adolescent years living in obedience to all the rules set by dad and mom, and SEEM to be submissive… yet deep down inside, be in REBELLION against their parents… There wasn’t one ounce of WILLINGNESS in their external submission.
i. A Jew could live under the law and be blameless… yet be living in REBELLION against GOD. They obeyed the law of Moses because they had to, but there wasn’t one ounce of WILLINGNESS in their external submission.
j. Forced submission to a law is not at all like willing submission to a person.
4. The WILL is essential to Christianity. The will is necessary in order to be saved.
a. Man consists of intellect, emotion, and will.
b. Intellect: A person might believe in his head all the facts of the gospel and still go to hell. Simon the sorcerer believed.
c. Emotion: A man might believe the facts of the gospel and be stirred emotionally; be moved to tears… and still go to hell.
d. Will: unless that men CHOOSES to receive Christ by faith, he is lost… even if his intellect has been convinced of the facts of the gospel… and his heart moved by the message.
e. He can still REJECT Christ the Person… and say, “I am convinced that it is all true. But I don’t WANT to be saved. I don’t WANT Christ in my life.”
f. God OFFERS salvation to all, but He doesn’t force salvation on anyone.
g. Faith must be evident in the whole man: intellect, emotion, AND will! Believing on Christ is ultimately a CHOICE.
• The gift is offered to you. Will you receive it or not?
• The invitation to come to Christ is extended to you. Will you come or not?
• The charge to receive Christ is commanded to you. Will you receive Him by faith or not?
5. And once saved, as a believer, the human will is still vital in our relationship to Christ.
a. Christianity is not a law… a code book. It is a relationship to a PERSON.
b. One can maintain a good relationship to a law without a spirit of willing submission, but NOT with a Person.
c. Christ is the Bridegroom and the church is the Bride. That is a relationship of love and grace.
d. In a love relationship, the wife is to submit to her husband NOT because of a dread or fear of the consequences of disobedience… because she fears getting beaten… What an awful relationship that would be!
e. In a healthy relationship, the wife submits willingly because she WANTS to… because she LOVES her husband and wants to PLEASE him. Of all the men in the world, her husband is the preeminent one to her.
f. In a healthy relationship the husband also loves his wife… and esteems her better than himself. And when their anniversary comes, he buys her a present, not because he is required to… forced to… but because he WANTS to. LOVE motivates this relationship.
g. The nature of love is such that it requires the WILL… love cannot be forced or demanded. Love WILLINGLY sacrifices self for the good of another.
• When the will is removed, the act of love is quite meaningless to the recipient. It is no longer love.
• Submission to Christ’s yoke cannot be forced.
• If it is forced… (if we go along with the will of God out of peer pressure; shamed into it; embarrassed to be the only one not going along with it…) then it is phony.
• It is not real submission. It is external conformity to rules. And that person will NOT find his yoke easy. It will be the most burdensome yoke imaginable… and he will seek every way imaginable to get OUT of that yoke.
h. But when it is a WILLING submission to Christ’s yoke motivated by a genuine LOVE for the Lord… because of the LIFE of Christ in us… then that yoke will be easy… and His burden light!
i. The will makes all the difference.
j. Christ does NOT have preeminence in our lives until we WILLINGLY submit to Him… not until we CHOOSE to say, “Not my will but Thine be done.”
k. His preeminence in our lives is an act of the will. It is a CHOICE on our part.
• Will we choose Christ to be the preeminent One in our lives… or will we choose SELF?
• Who do we love more? That’s the one we’ll choose.
• It is one or the other. There can be no compromise or middle ground.
• You can’t serve two masters. The one we obey is our true master. The other one is actually DESPISED. One HAS to make a choice.
6. Doing the will of God is characteristic of a true believer.
a. Christ came not to do His own will, but the will of His Father.
• Jn. 4:34 – “My meat is to do the will of Him who sent me.”
• Jn. 5:30 – “?I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.”
• Jn. 6:38 – “?For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”
• Matt. 26:39 – “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
b. This ought to characterize the life of a believer too.
• Matt. 12:50 – “?For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
• It is an identifying mark of a true believer… it is a proof of conversion… the fruit of regeneration.
• The believer no longer lives to satisfy his own will. Rather, he lives to do the will of God.
• In fact, the closer we get to Christ, the more we will be able to say: I delight to do Thy will O God!
• We will be able to say with the Psalmist, “I delight in thy statutes”… or with Jeremiah, “Thy words were found and I did eat them, and thy word was unto me, the joy and rejoicing of my heart.”
• God changes us from within. Believers delight in doing the will of God. That yoke is easy… delightful.
c. The new nature delights in God’s will… BUT—we all have to deal with another nature too: SIN.
• Rom. 7:22 – I delight in the law of God after the inward man… ?But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”
• Our delight in God and His Word will be challenged by our old nature which delights in self-will.
• This is an ongoing battle we face every day… a battle of the wills… my will vs. God’s will… Christ vs. self…
OUR WILL IS OFTEN PUT TO THE TEST
1. The language of the Bible is clear. Walking with God has always involved making CHOICES in life.
a. Josh. 24:15 – “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve.”
b. I Kings 18:21 – “And Elijah came unto all the people, and said, How long halt ye between two opinions?? if the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him. And the people answered him not a word.”
c. I Sam. 7:3 – And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, “If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only.”
d. Luke 16:13 – “No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”
e. Rom. 6:16 – “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”
f. Gal. 1:10 – “For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”
g. Jas. 4:4 – Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.”
h. I John 2:15 – “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
2. The everyday choices we make in life reveal to us if Christ is preeminent in our lives or not.
a. Is Christ LORD in your life? Do we give Him the place of preeminence?
b. Do we halt between two opinions? Are we double-minded? Are we tossed to and fro like a wave of the sea? Is our heart united or is our allegiance divided? Do we have a single eye?
c. God will allow situations to arise in our lives where we will be forced to decide between Christ and self; between the will of God and self-will.
d. While the contest is ALWAYS between Christ and self, the particulars may vary.
• It may appear to be a contest between Christ and other things: idols of our heart.
• Between Christ and a besetting sin; the things of the world; money; pleasing men; sports; music; family; education; career; entertainment; pleasure; hobbies; friends; popularity; health; travel; etc.
e. When those situations come upon us, we are forced to decide.
• Until we are actually IN that situation, we may not really KNOW if Christ is preeminent or not.
• We may think so… hope so… even say so… but the choices we make PROVES it (one way or another) and ends the debate.
• This is like the wife who THINKS she is submissive to her husband… because her husband always chooses that which pleases her… and she always submits. It is not until he chooses otherwise that her submission to him is challenged.
• She discovers that that which she THOUGHT was submission was really self-will.
f. Every new situation that comes up in life is a test of our will. Will we choose to please self or Christ? Will we choose to give Christ the preeminence or something else?
• Life is one long, continuous string of choices.
• And while the particulars may vary (Christ vs. skiing; Christ vs. money; Christ vs. friends; etc…) the bottom line and real test is always one of the WILL—HIS will or MY will.
• It is either “My will be done” or “thy will be done.” Choose ye this day! This is a choice: an exercise of will.
AREAS IN WHICH OUR WILL IS TESTED
A. Preeminence of Christ and our tongue…
1. The tongue is a tough animal to tame. No man hath tamed it!
a. The Bible also tells us HOW to use our tongues, and how NOT to use our tongues.
b. Obedience is a choice… an act of our will. We CHOOSE the subjects we speak about.
2. Do we glory in the Lord in our speech or do we glory in self? (I Cor.1.31)
a. What is the theme of our speech? Self?
b. Our accomplishments, deeds, talents, what we’ve done; where we’ve been; the important people we know?
c. Stop and listen to yourself sometime.
d. What is the preeminent theme of our speech, self or Christ?
3. What is the motivation behind our speech, to exalt self or Christ?
a. Prov. 27:2 – “Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth.”
b. Ps. 51:15 – “O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise.” (Ps. 63:3-5)
c. Ps. 19:14 – Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.”
4. Of course we will talk about other issues in life: baseball; politics; current events; the war in Iraq; the economy; your job; your grandchildren… that is perfectly normal and natural.
a. But what is the THEME of our lips? What is the grand topic of our life? Who or what has preeminence in our speech?
b. Do we delight in talking about the Lord and the things of the Lord? Or are we uncomfortable talking about Christ? Do we try to shift the conversation back to baseball?
c. Are we uncomfortable talking about the Lord because we are on unfamiliar territory?
d. We can’t share answered prayers if we are not praying.
e. We can’t share blessings from the Word if we are not reading.
f. We can’t talk much about Christ if we don’t know Him well…
g. The answer is to GET to know Him; spend more time in the Word and in prayer;
h. Learn to DELIGHT yourself in the Lord—and then His praises will be more and more on our lips. Christ will have preeminence in our speech.
i. And even when we are talking about “other things” (economy; family; sports; job; etc.) is Christ lifted up by our conversation?
j. And our speech is important because it is a direct link to the heart.
k. What we SAY is an act of the will… what we say to our children… parents… spouse… boss…
l. Does Christ have preeminence in our speech?
B. Preeminence of Christ in our finances… (Matt. 6:19-24)
1. It is common thinking to divide life into two realms: sacred and secular or spiritual and material.
a. The Bible knows of no such division. For the believer ALL is sacred.
b. As believer-priests, every aspect of life is spiritual… including our finances.
c. Whether a person is poor or rich has NO bearing whatsoever on whether they are carnal or spiritual… Christ centered or self centered. Wrong thinking!
d. That which is problematic for the believer is not the fact that we possess material goods. But it is problematic when they possess us!
e. That is covetousness… and that is called idolatry!
f. Being “possessive” is sin. (This is mine!) That is self exalting.
g. This selfish attitude can be manifested either through spending OR hoarding.
h. Covetousness displaces Christ from His position of preeminence in our lives. It is an idol…
i. At any given moment, either Christ is LORD or materialism is lord. It is one or the other.
j. When one is ruling, the other is displaced. You can’t have two masters simultaneously.
k. John Calvin said, “Where riches hold the dominion of the heart, God has lost His authority?.”
2. A master: he owns you; controls you; and you are obligated to him; the one owned by a master has no will of his own.
a. We are servants to one or the other. We take our orders from our master. Who gives you orders?
b. Eventually, the commands of these two masters will conflict or contradict one another. Then the servant is put to the test.
c. Each master will be vying for our heart. “Give me thine heart, son. No, says the other. Give it to me!”
d. Jesus is not saying that it is very difficult to serve two masters. He states that it is impossible. Ye CANNOT!
e. A choice is required. You can’t serve God and money.
3. We are not owners of our finances. We are stewards.
a. And it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful… trusting God; relying upon Him; leaning on God for direction.
b. Stewards are not GIVEN the master’s material goods. Rather, those goods are ENTRUSTED to him… to be used for the good of his master. That is the essence of stewardship.
4. ALL of our money belongs to God and is to be used for the glory of God.
a. Everything we have, we have RECEIVED from God. (What hast thou that thou hast not received?) (Every good gift cometh down from above, from the Father of lights…)
b. That does NOT mean that we give it all to the church!
c. It is God’s will for you to pay your bills; mortgage; feed your family; buy clothes; education; going on vacation; insurance; etc. This is part of our testimony—and brings glory to God.
d. For most people, MOST of our money is going to be spent on these things… and that IS God’s will.
e. There is nothing selfish about that.
f. It should be spent with a proper attitude: this is God’s money that I have received from Him… and He in His grace enables me to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. Thank you Lord! God is glorified in that response.
g. Don’t be deceived by unscrupulous “ministries” that try to get your money in their pockets… and twist scripture to do so!
h. It is the Holy Spirit who leads each of us as individuals in the use of the money God has entrusted to us. We are not told how much to give… what percentage to give… be led of the Spirit… and don’t let any MAN tell you how much.
5. The real test comes in our finances through the leading of the Holy Spirit.
a. Are we willing to be led of the Spirit in EVERYTHING we do—including the use of our finances?
b. The Bible does not say what percentage we are to spend on what. No man can tell you either!
c. The use of money is between you and the Lord… period.
d. Hence, it becomes a test of our love for Him… a test of our generosity vs. selfishness… a test of whether we are really willing to submit to God’s will in the use of our money.
e. If Christ has the preeminence in our finances, then we hold everything we own in open hands before Him… WILLING to follow His will… willing to put our head in that yoke.
f. If SELF has the preeminence, we will hold on to our goods with a clenched fist and use it as WE see fit: for me, myself, and mine!
g. We have no right (no ability!) to judge another person in this area… because only he and God know how the Spirit led that individual.
h. Don’t worry about others. We have enough to do to guard our own heart in this matter.
i. As in all other areas of the Christian life, the filling of the Holy Spirit is key.
j. If we are filled with the Spirit—Christ will have the preeminence in everything…
k. Every man is a slave to something. We are either slaves to Christ—or slaves to material things… one or the other.
l. If you are enslaved to material things… the answer is to yield yourself to God and be filled with the Spirit. The Spirit sets us free from the law of sin and death… and delivers us into the willing service to a new master: Christ!
m. Choose you this day whom ye will serve!
6. And as always, the real contest is not between Christ and mammon, but between Christ and SELF.
a. But money makes a man “self-sufficient.” (Who needs the Lord?)
b. Deut. 8:11 – Moses warns the Israelites as they enter the land of milk and honey…
• Beware lest ye forget the Lord…
• Vs.12-14 – pride and spiritual amnesia sets in.
• Vs. 17 – attributing the success to self.
• The rich man is wise in his own conceit. (Prov. 28:11)
• Vs. 18 – forgetting that it is all from the Lord who GIVES us power (strength) to get wealth…
• Vs. 19-20 – if you displace the Lord and replace Him with wealth as your god… you will perish!
• God is dead serious about this. He demands His rightful position and He tolerates no rivals.
• This is pride and self-will: I did all this! To ME be the glory!
c. Who has preeminence, Christ or self-will expressed in covetousness or materialism?
d. Regardless of what we might say, the choices we make in life tell the real story.
e. Take a good hard look at your life. When there is a conflict between serving Christ and serving mammon, who wins?
C. Preeminence of Christ in our time…
1. Col. 4:5 – redeeming the time.
a. Redeeming the time means “buying up the opportunities” that time affords us.
b. Just as a business man seizes every opportunity to advance his business… he takes advantage of bargains and low interest rates… so too the believer, who is a steward of his time seizes the opportunities that time affords us to use that time for the glory of God… and to magnify Christ.
c. How do you use your time?
d. Not one second of time belongs to us. There is no such thing as “my time”… or “free time”… or “family time”… or “ministry time”… or “vacation time”… “work time”… “off time”… “God’s time.”
e. Christ is the Author and Lord of time. Every second we have is on loan from God. He is the Lord and owner of it all. He owns every second of our lives.
f. When it comes to money, there is great inequality. Some men are born into poverty; others are born with a silver spoon in their mouths.
g. But when it comes to time, there is in one sense perfect equality: everyone has exactly the same amount to work with each day.
h. It is our CHOICE how we use it.
2. And our use of time is also a contest between Christ and self… between God’s will and self-will.
a. How WILL I use my time? As I want? For my own good pleasure? Am I lord of my life? Don’t I control my time?
b. Or will I, as a good steward, lay it at the altar and seek HIS will in how I use it… and what I use it for?
c. Do I dare give up… sacrifice precious time to read the Word in the morning? Sacrificing a relaxing night on the couch to come to prayer meeting? To visit the sick? To minister to a brother going through a trial? To make a meal for someone in need? To bring the gospel to a friend? All of this takes time… and involves the priestly offering or sacrifice of time.
d. OR, will such sacrifices interfere with MY plans for my time… a baseball game… extra sleep time… lounging on the couch… going to the beach…to a restaurant…or just doing nothing… all this takes time too.
e. Who IS Lord of my time?
f. And like money, we only have so much time to work with. We are stewards of time…and must give an account.
g. It is NOT God’s will for you to give all your money to the church. Nor is it God’s will for you to spend 7 days a week at church.
h. But we ARE expected to be yielded so that the Spirit can LEAD us in a wise use of God’s time for His glory.
• God wants you to spend time at your job—a reasonable amount… and that may fluctuate at times…
• God wants you to spend time with your family… a reasonable amount of time… don’t be stingy… and not selfish…
• God wants you to spend time with your wife… time with your kids… time with your wife and kids… time with your aging parents.
• God wants you to spend time relaxing and getting refreshed… but not too much or not too little.
• God wants you to spend time taking care of your body… exercise… a reasonable amount of time… (be balanced—it profits a little)
• God wants you to spend time ministering in the local church… a reasonable amount of time… not forsaking it… and not over doing it either!
i. At times it might seem like you are being pulled in all directions – with everyone grabbing at your time.
• I feel that way often…
• Guilt often sets in when you aren’t able to give time to everything that is making demands on your time.
j. BUT – life is so much simpler when Christ is really LORD of our lives… and Lord of our time.
• Be led of the Spirit… God will lead each of us as individuals… and as individual families HOW to use our time for His glory.
• When led of the Spirit, we will experience a guilt-free existence… IF we are Spirit led… and the motive is the glory of God.
• Wake up every day and say, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do today?” There is no guilt in that.
• When that’s our attitude, then Christ has preeminence with our time.
• And this is by far the best way to live! The guilt is gone because we are doing His will.
• We need not be discouraged because we didn’t have time to do everything WE wanted to do.
• For some, that involves going to work at the office. For some that means spending all day at school. For some that means staying home and changing diapers.
• Every day there will be 1001 good things that we could have done… and sometimes we feel guilty because we didn’t do all 1001.
• But if we are led of the Spirit, we can be content because we did do what HE wanted us to do.
3. Ps. 31:15 – “My times are in thy hand.” Do you believe that? Live it!
D. Preeminence of Christ in our relationships with people…
1. Do we love the praise of men more than the praise of Christ?
a. John 12:42-43 – there were some who believed but did not act upon their faith because they loved the praise of men more than of God.
b. Here were folks who believed, but whose faith was paralyzed because the praise of men took precedence above the praise from Christ.
c. Christ does not have preeminence there. This is often a choice we are forced to make. We can either decide to win the approval of men or Christ… but not both.
d. These men were AFRAID to say anything that might displease men… they were handcuffed by fear… scared to death of offending anyone…
e. Of course we should avoid offending people unnecessarily. (I disdain the “cowboy Christian” attitude prevalent in some).
f. But certain situations FORCE us to choose… we can either do what is right (which will offend men and honor God) or we can sin by NOT offending men but dishonoring God.
2. Those situations reveal who has the preeminence: Christ—or men?
a. Sometimes this fear of man and love for the praise of men will SILENCE our witness for the Lord.
b. The fear of man caused Peter to deny the Lord 3 times!
c. It can cause us to flatly disobey the Lord. (I Sam. 15:24)
d. It can cause us to compromise our faith… and it can cause us to lead others astray by our actions. (Gal. 2:11-13)
e. It can cause us to change our message. (Gal. 1:9-10)
f. Prov. 29:25 – it brings a snare—such fear can ENSLAVE us… but us in a prison house under servitude to wishes and whims of a Christ-rejecting world…
g. Those who love the praise of men are prisoners to THEIR will. And that will often be in direct opposition to the will of God.
h. Friendship with the world is enmity with God.
3. Do we seek the acceptance of men and ignore the fact that we are accepted in the Beloved? (Eph. 1:6)
a. Some believers are obsessed with being popular… with having friends… they want more than anything for people to like them. That is a sinful attitude.
b. It is not sinful to want friends—but it is wrong to want friends more than ANYTHING… to the point where we are willing to compromise our relationship with Christ in order to obtain their friendship.
c. It is sinful to dote over being accepted by men—and ignore the fact that we are accepted in the Beloved!
d. Which means more to us?
e. Friendship with the world is enmity with God. The opposite is true as well – friendship with God will turn people in the world away from us.
f. Do we give preeminence to social friendship in the world over spiritual fellowship in Christ among believers?
g. But whose acceptance means more? Who has preeminence?
4. Whose acceptance will we CHOOSE? This too is an act of our will… that will be put to the test. …..
5. CONCLUSION — SALVATION: Will you choose Christ as Savior?