Are you good at prioritizing? Can you focus your thoughts and actions on the one thing that makes the most difference? The truthful answer for me is “no.” I am continuously overwhelmed with the number of choices available to me. Combine that with external pressures from friends, family, co-workers and Christians and its likely that I will choose poorly. Apparently, the Corinthian church wasn’t any different. They engaged every kind of dialogue and strategy to be better people. To “be closer” to God. To fulfill their potential. While their effort may have been noble, just like ours, their result was failure. You see, in our attempt to define what God wants for our lives and how he wants us to live them, we lose sight of the most important thing. It’s what Paul calls “first importance.”
I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 1 Corinthians 15:3-5
I love Paul’s gentle reminder in those verses. He’s telling the Corinthians, and us, in our busy and distracted lives, not to forget the most important thing. It doesn’t matter what our spiritual gift(s) is, or if we can speak in tongues, or if we can prophesy. Only one thing matters. The Gospel. That’s right. Christ died for our sins, was buried and was raised on the third day. How is this helpful? Simply put, it brings us in touch with his perfect grace. The grace that allows us, sinners, idolaters and haters to live in harmony with our perfect creator. Paul was clearly in touch with his need for the grace found within the Gospel. He says, “I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle” (1 Corinthians 15:9, NLT). Despite Paul’s unworthiness, he knows that hope and abundant life come through, “the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
That’s it. That’s the thing of first importance. It’s the understanding that we are sinners and acknowledging that God is willing to look past it, because of Jesus. When we are continuously in touch with both our need for God’s grace and the reality of God’s grace, new life is upon us. Looking again to Paul, we can see this at work. He “[worked] harder than any of them” (1 Corinthians 15:10). No, that does not mean he was earning it. Paul’s hard work was a response of worship. He wanted to be sure that God’s precious gift, his glorious grace was not wasted. He lived in the reality of God’s grace. All the time.