John Calvin, in his opening remarks of The Institutes of the Christian Religion said this:
“Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.”
Knowledge of God and self-knowledge are indeed connected, sometimes in painful ways. As we grow more and more in our knowledge of God, as our vision of Him becomes ever more clear, we are often forced to see ourselves in new and uncomfortable ways. We see sin that we were not previously aware of only because we are increasingly aware of God, and we become like the prophet Isaiah when he found Himself face to face with the Almighty:
“Woe is me for I am ruined because I am a man of unclean lips and live among a people of unclean lips, and because my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts” (Is. 6:5).
As we know ourselves and God more, we will find time and time again that we have an immense capacity for self-deception. The truth of Jeremiah 17:9 becomes more and more real to us in our journey of self-discovery:
“The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and incurable—who can understand it?”
We lie to ourselves. Over and over again. We are not to be trusted.
So when it comes to a simple question of priorities, we can often become confused. We know that we should value God more and above anything else, so we search our hearts, and we hope that we value Him, we think we might value Him, but we also know that we don’t always tell ourselves the truth. So how can we know what we truly value? I’d propose a simple exercise to find out:
What do you do first thing in the morning?
In other words, what do you wake up thinking about? And what’s the first action you take? Is it to grab the phone? Is it to hit the snooze? Is it to turn on the TV? Check on the kids? This might seem like a simple action, something that we are over-analyzing, but confronting that is Jesus encompassing command in Matthew 6:33:
“Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.”
The word that jumps out in this verse today is “first.” Perhaps we need to look at this word not only in terms of intent but also literally – what is it that you actually, really, for true, do first thing in the morning? In thinking about this for myself, I’ve been very convicted that I give lip service to the first place of God’s kingdom but I tend to put my actions behind many, many other things in the morning.
So what about you? What do you do first? The answer might surprise you, and it might help you to tell the truth to yourself about what’s truly valuable.