The Preeminence of Christ
and the Heart
1. We have been on Col. 1:18 since the end of January. It is time to move on—but not until we consider one more aspect of the preeminence of Christ… in the heart.
2. The last two weeks on this verse we looked at preeminence and the intellect (mind)… and preeminence and the will. Now we are going to look at the heart of the matter—which is the matter of the heart. (intellect, emotion, and will – 3 parts of personality)
3. If Christ is going to have preeminence in your life and mine, then it has got to come from the heart.
a. If it doesn’t come from the heart, then trying to MAKE Christ preeminent in our lives (by doing this or not doing that) is going to be an unbearable, legalistic burden… His yoke will be anything but light.
b. Living a life characterized by “not my will but Thine be done” will be nigh unto torture… a most unpleasant form of slavery…
c. Some believers attempt to live such a life on sheer will power, grit, and determination… yet after putting in their best efforts, they inevitably fail…
d. Will power, grit, and determination will only take you so far…but eventually, a Christ centered life will prove to be WAY beyond our reach…
e. Many well intentioned believers try and fail several times… and then try and fail… and quit trying!
f. Such efforts really aren’t much different than the Israelites struggling to produce righteousness under the Law… which was a heavy yoke that the Jewish forefathers were not able to bear.
4. That which makes Christianity unique is the indwelling PERSON of Christ Himself! (Col. 1:27)
a. Christ lives in us. His LIFE is in us.
b. This dispensation is completely unique in this way…
c. Christianity is a living, vital, growing relationship to a PERSON.
d. The very essence of this relationship is LOVE… love for God… love for Christ.
e. This love for God is not something that we can conjure up in the flesh… this agape love is the fruit of the Spirit.
f. What is the ONE prerequisite for being filled with the Spirit? Yieldedness… surrender… a submissive heart.
g. When we yield ourselves unto God, the Spirit fills us with this fruit… and we will love the Lord our God with ALL of our heart.
h. For the believer who loves the Lord with his whole heart… the yoke that others find unbearably burdensome, he finds to be an absolute DELIGHT… he discovers that Jesus meant it when He said, “My yoke is easy, my burden is light.”
i. That which makes the difference is a HEART that genuinely loves Christ… yearns for fellowship with Him… longs to know Him more and more… craves after a closer relationship to Him.
j. When yoked together WITH Christ in HIS yoke… we are as close to Him as we can be… and that close relationship of love is what makes the burden light.
k. There is no substitute for that either.
l. Gen. 29:20 – Jacob served 7 years of hard labor for Rachel, but it seemed but a few days because of the LOVE he had for her.
• Imagine if he didn’t love Rachel? Those 7 years would have seemed like a forever… 7 years of hard labor… and he would have grumbled all the way through (you tricked me! This isn’t fair!) It would have been like a prison sentence.
• Human love took the burden out of Jacob’s labor.
1. The ground is cursed and men work by the sweat of their brow; labor is toilsome; wearisome.
2. But love can give a respite from that curse.
3. Knowing that he is working to provide food, shelter, and creature comforts for the wife and kids he loves can take a bit of the sting out of the office grind every day.
4. Human love can take the burden out of labor.
• Divine love can take the burden out of doing the will of God… and make it a delight.
» Sometimes the will of God involves much suffering, affliction, and hardship… but agape love for the Lord can make an otherwise burdensome yoke seem light.
» The believer who truly loves Christ and submits to His yoke isn’t going to be griping about the weight of the yoke; rather he will be rejoicing in the fact that he is yoked together with the One he loves: Christ Himself!
» Do you think that the holy angels who have a ministry in the presence of God complain about all the work they have to do? Being in God’s presence nullifies or makes void any concept of toil that such service might entail. It is a delight.
» II Cor. 4:17-18 – Paul’s afflictions were anything but light… but because his HEART was on Christ and on things above… it seemed light to him. (Our light affliction!?)
• Paul’s heart was on things above… on eternal things… and in particular, his heart was with the Lord Jesus Christ. His love for Christ made those afflictions seem light… and short.
• A heart that is captivated by the Person of Christ will follow Him and His will wherever it leads… regardless of the cost.
• Sheer will power, grit, and determination will peter out long before that.
• The love of God operating in our hearts, produced by the Holy Spirit, and as an evidence of the indwelling LIFE of Christ will take us to heights we could never have imagined… it will take us to higher ground…
• It will enable to say with DELIGHT, Not I but Christ without the slightest twinge of sadness… that MY will won’t be carried out.
• One who truly loves the Lord says, “I delight to do thy will, O God.” “My meat is to do the will of Him who sent me.”
• When Jesus said those words He did NOT mean that He delighted in the sufferings that God’s will contained for Him. No, He ANGUISHED over the sufferings.
• But He delighted in fulfilling the will of God because He knew it PLEASED His Father… and He loved the Father… and would do ANYTHING to please Him… whatever the cost. That’s what divine love will do.
Is our heart affection on the blessings, or on the One who gives the blessings?
The example of Job:
1. Job 1:9 – Satan wrongly assumed that Job feared God, served God, and loved God for what he could GET out of it… blessings.
a. Satan assumed that there was some self-serving interest in Job’s love for God and service to Him. (He wouldn’t do all that for nothing!)
b. Job 1:10 – Satan assumed that because God protected and blessed Job with riches… therefore Job loved the Lord.
2. Job 1:11 – Satan assumed that if God took the blessings away, that Job’s faith, love, service, and worship would disappear.
3. God was determined to prove Satan wrong.
4. It is commonly said that the purpose of the book of Job is to answer the question, “Why do the righteous suffer?”
a. Someone else has reworked that question: “Why do the righteous still worship God when they suffer?”
b. This is the question that befuddles the devil and his fallen angels.
5. Satan operates on this basis: that a human being has no higher motive or purpose in life than self interest… that all he does is based on self interest.
a. Satan understands the natural man of the flesh… but does not seem to understand the spiritual man.
b. Gen. 3:5 – Satan appealed to Adam and Eve on this basis: “ye shall be as gods!” He assumed that they would put their own self interests above the Lord. (and they did)
c. Matt. 4:8-9 – Satan tempted Jesus to fall down and worship him… and if He did, Satan would GIVE Him all the kingdoms of the world!
d. Satan badly miscalculated with the Lord. He miscalculates with many believers today too.
e. Satan does not grasp that there is a principle of LIFE in the Spirit filled believer today… and his regenerated heart LOVES the Lord… not for what He gives, but for who He is!
6. Job 13:15 – “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”
a. These words must have caused the devil’s head to spin! This is incomprehensible to the Devil… or to the world… or even a carnal Christian.
b. Remember that brethren – when God puts you through the crucible… the fiery furnace…
c. God has several purposes in it all:
• To confound our enemies…
• To bring us forth as gold…
• To magnify His blessed Son, the Lord Jesus.
d. And God DOES slay us… test us… try us… put us through the fires of affliction. The believer who is Christ centered will esteem Christ’s glory above his own comfort—and STILL trust in Him!
7. Job 23:10 – He knoweth the way I take. When Job was tested he said, “My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined.” (vs.11)
a. He refused to step OUT OF the way when the fires were applied. That too must have confounded the enemy of our souls!
b. Job’s attitude exposed the devil’s plan and attitude to be a lie!
c. Job did NOT love God just because God blessed him… and that was proven when the blessings were taken away… and he STILL loved the Lord!
d. God had the preeminence in his life…
e. And what was it that finally resolved all of these issues for Job? It wasn’t the blessings… but the One who BLESSED!
f. Job got a fresh glimpse of who God is… (where were you when I laid the foundations…) This was sufficient for Job.
g. Is it sufficient for you? Is Christ HIMSELF sufficient to keep us going… walking… yielding… surrendering to His yoke… presenting our bodies a living sacrifice?
h. OR, are we moved by self interests… what we can GET from God… what He will DO for me…
8. Job’s test proved to men and angels that God had first place in his heart.
a. It was the Giver, not the gift that had captivated Job’s heart.
b. Job had a heart for God… the only thing that could satisfy his heart was a glimpse of God…
c. Our hearts are deceitful. We might THINK that Christ has first place in our hearts… we might think that we love the Lord with all our heart… while in reality, our heart’s affection is rather on the BLESSINGS He gives us.
d. It may not be until those blessings are removed that we can know for SURE where our affections really lie.
e. Hab. 3:17-18 – Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: ? 18?Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.
f. Habakkuk rejoiced in the PERSON of God… in the Lord… not in what the Lord would DO for him…
g. God will put every one of us to this kind of test at one point or another… to reveal to US what our heart condition is… and where our affections really lie.
The example of the psuedo disciples:
1. Do we really want to know HIM or is it that we want something FROM Him?
2. John 6:14-15 – many came to Christ “when they saw the bread.” (What He could do for them) They even wanted to make Him King! (A king who provides free lunch!)
3. John 6:26 – Jesus knew WHY folks came to Him. (Of course!)
a. He could see their motive.
b. They were not attracted to Him but rather to His gifts.
c. This is often the case today… hence the great interest in the charismatic movement—what Christ can do for you! (Healing; make you feel better; health and wealth; etc.)
4. John 6:60, 66 – When Christ suggested that they come to Him for who He is, the Bread of Life… most turned away.
a. When they discovered that Christ was really offering Himself to them… rather than what He could DO for them, they all went away… the congregation dwindled from 5000 to 12.
5. Christ has preeminence in our lives only when we are genuinely attracted to Him for who He is… not what He can do for us.
a. If we are attracted to Christ because we hope to have Him DO something for us… (healing; job; finances; family problems; etc.) then we are coming to Him for the wrong reasons.
b. Christ has preeminence in our lives when we are attracted to Him… and want to spend time learning of Him… praying in His name… reading His Word… fellowshipping with His people… worshipping in His house… even if our health stinks… and our finances have taken a nosedive… and we have family problems galore!
c. Is your heart affection on Christ… or is it really attached to what you hope Christ will DO for you?
Is our heart’s affection given to the Person of Christ… or to the “Cause” of Christ?
1. Christ has the preeminence when we are occupied with HIM and not a Christian lifestyle.
a. Don’t misunderstand here. We are all in favor of a Christian lifestyle.
b. The fact that a believer is occupied with a Christian lifestyle does not guarantee that he is also occupied with Christ.
c. Sometimes folks come to a Christian church, get saved, and (quite naturally!) LOVE the new lifestyle!
• They are now making friends with people who don’t drink, smoke, lie, swear, or run around!
• They are fascinated by this new clean lifestyle and it is quite appealing to them.
• They love the fact that their kids now have made some wholesome friends…
• They enjoy the church activities
• This is fine as far as it goes; but if this is as far as it goes, it is woefully inadequate!
• An unsaved man can change his lifestyle.
• And for a person who has been living a sleazy kind of life, a wholesome lifestyle with Christian values can seem attractive…
• And yet, that person may NOT be occupied with the person of Christ at all!
d. There are lots of ways that believers might become occupied with a Christian lifestyle… and promoting Christian values.
• Some folks are quite involved politically and socially in preserving Christian values.
• Some give themselves to working in a soup kitchen.
• Some become active in working to preserve the Christian view of marriage: one woman one man. (signing petitions)
• Some are active in working to preserve Christian values by opposing abortion. (marching on city hall)
• Some are active in passing out tracts and evangelizing… even serving as a missionary.
2. While there is a place for all of this earthly activity if the Lord so moves you, be aware that it is possible to be occupied with the cause of Christ and NOT be occupied with Christ Himself!
a. HE HIMSELF is to have the preeminence in our lives… not His cause… not His service… not Christian values, but Christ Himself!
b. Being occupied with preserving Christian values can be quite earthly in nature – a desire to enhance life here on earth… to make the world a better place to live. If Christ is not preeminent, then this differs not from the social gospel…
c. If that is all Christianity is to you, then you have missed the point… Christianity isn’t about promoting Christian values. Christianity is Christ… and our relationship to Him…
Christ has preeminence in our lives when we have a heart for Him and nothing else…
1. Ps. 73:25-26 – Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee.? 26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.
a. The psalmist’s affection for God was beginning to wane.
b. Vs. 3 – his affection slipped from God to “things.”
c. His eyes were no longer on the Lord, but he SAW the prosperity of the wicked. His eyes (and hence – his heart affection) was on the things wicked men possessed… that he DIDN’T have.
d. Vs. 13 – he actually began thinking like the devil!
• Satan believes that men serve God only for what they can GET from Him.
• Now Asaph was smitten with that twisted thinking.
• He was feeling like he served God for nothing! He kept his hands clean… and it was all in vain—because God didn’t bless him with material goods like the wicked men had.
• Now that he didn’t have the blessings, why serve God? What good did it do me?
• Asaph walked with God, hoping to be blessed—and he wasn’t!
• He was plagued and chastened (vs. 14)
• And the wicked seemed to have more earthly blessings and wealth than he did.
e. Vs. 16 – This became too painful for Asaph to contemplate.
f. Vs. 17 – This was too painful UNTIL he went into the sanctuary.
• There, God changed his thinking.
• There he got a fresh glimpse of who God is.
• There his twisted thinking… that had been influenced by the devil got a realignment.
• Vs. 18 – he realized that the wicked who prosper in this world are only a breath away from eternity in hell!
• Going into the sanctuary… spending time with God gave him a whole new perspective.
g. Vs. 25-26 – But this was Asaph’s greatest lesson.
• He learned that GOD was his portion!
• The wicked can have all the earthly blessings; Asaph really wanted God Himself!
• Asaph got it settled in his heart that there was no one and nothing in heaven or on earth that he really desired but God!
• He realized afresh that God was sufficient… that God was all he needed…
• He realized that prosperity could never satisfy his heart…
• People in the world may dote over good health and prosperity… over finances and real estate… but the believer has something infinitely better: God is our portion! And He will never leave us nor forsake us!
• Asaph went into the sanctuary of God and had a heart adjustment.
• His desires and affection were set on prosperity… but when he came out of the sanctuary, his desire was for the Lord.
• He realized how BLESSED he already was… since God was his portion!
• How much MORE should we as Christians grasp this: we who have been blessed with ALL spiritual blessings in Christ!
2. We often have the same heart problem that Asaph experienced.
a. Our affections DRIFT away from Christ to other things.
b. We too need to make heart adjustments from time to time.
c. Hence, Paul tells us to “set our affections” on things above, not on the things of the earth.
d. Moreover, because I have set my affection to the house of my God, I have of mine own proper good, of gold and silver, which I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house. (I Chron. 29:3)
• David set his affection on the earthly house of God.
• We are to set our affections in the heavenly house of God.
• David set his affection… we are to do the same.
• Now set your heart and your soul to seek the LORD your God. (I Chron. 22:19)
• And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the LORD God of their fathers.? 17So they strengthened the kingdom of Judah. (II Chron. 11:14)
• Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them. (Ps. 62:10)
• We can SET our heart on things we choose to set our hearts on.
e. Ps. 91:14 – God praised the psalmist because he set his love upon the Lord!
• Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.
• He set his love upon the Lord… and God took notice and delivered him.
• What we set our love upon… what we set our affections upon is OUR choice.
• This kind of affection or love doesn’t just HAPPEN. It is guided… and selected… chosen… and it is our responsibility.
• And if we struggle in it, ask the Lord to INCLINE your heart towards spiritual things.
• Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness. (Ps. 119:36)
• The heart can be inclined in various directions… pray! It is OUR responsibility, but it requires the power of God in us to do so!
• We are COMMANDED to love the Lord with all our heart and NOT to love the world.
• We are commanded to set our affections on things above where CHRIST sits… and not on other things.
• It is our choice.
• For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matt. 6:21)
• This is how we know where our heart is… Jesus says it will always be attached to that which we treasure.
• If we treasure earthly things, then our heart is earthly. If we treasure heavenly things, then our heart will be there – in heavenly things.
• Nobody can say, “My heart is with Christ in heaven; but I treasure the things of earth.” Our treasure and our heart will be in the SAME place.
3. Is there a heart yearning for Him?
a. Here is the real test of whether Christ has preeminence in your life or not.
b. What does your heart yearn for? Does it yearn for Christ?
c. Is your heart’s greatest desire to KNOW Him and the power of His resurrection?
d. Does your heart LONG for fellowship with Christ?
e. Does your heart look forward with great anticipation for the Lord’s Day… a time to gather with those of like precious faith to worship Christ as His Body?
f. Ps. 42:1-2 – Does your heart pant after God as a deer pants after brooks of refreshing water? Does your soul thirst for God?
• The psalmist was evidently away from the Temple and was being taunted by his unbelieving enemies.
• He remembered the joyous times of worship and fellowship… and longed for those times again.
• His heart was on the things of God; His affections were with the Lord… and he realized that NOTHING else could satisfy the needs of his heart BUT God!
g. In fact, this is the way God made us!
• God made man to worship Him and fellowship with Him.
• God made man with a hole in his heart that only GOD could fill.
• Since sin entered the world, men have been trying to fill that hole in the heart with all kinds of others things… but NOTHING satisfies long term.
• A new house won’t do it; a new spouse; a baby; a BMW; becoming CEO; becoming king wouldn’t satisfy.
• Some believers seek to bring satisfaction to their lives by seeking after THINGS. Christ does not have preeminence in their lives.
• Other believers realize what the psalmist realized: nothing satisfies the needs of the heart but God!
• That believer in whose life Christ IS preeminent will THIRST after Christ… more and more of Him… less and less of self.
• He realizes that true satisfaction comes only by knowing Christ in a deeper way… His soul thirsts for Christ…
• Ps. 63:1-2 – O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty? land, where no water is; ? 2To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.”
• He understood that only God can satisfy the heart. This man was God-centered!
• Ps. 84:1-2 – How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.”
• Jesus said: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” The only ones who are filled are those who hunger.
• Do YOU hunger and thirst after righteousness? After Christ Himself?
IF YOU ARE NOT BORN AGAIN:
1. Life on earth will be unfulfilling… but your future is even worse: eternity in the fires of hell! (Heaven and hell are real…and eternal!)
2. John 3:7, 3 – That’s why Jesus said, “Ye MUST be born again!” “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of heaven.”
3. Christ died and paid the penalty of your sins.
4. He has commanded all men to repent – to BELIEVE on Him and be saved! (John 1:12)