What topics drive your conversation?
What do you spend the most time thinking about?
Perhaps I should phrase the question this way: Where are your priorities?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines priorities as “something given or meriting attention before competing alternatives.”
Now, every human has priorities. In fact, deciding to read this blog post meant that you gave your attention to matters of organizing priorities instead of actually fulfilling your previous priorities. Thank goodness you got your priorities right!
Back on topic… you know, Fathers have different priorities from single men. Soldiers on the front lines have different priorities from a Chief Executive Officer of a Fortune 500 company. Our priorities usually stem from what we hold in highest importance, and then cascade into a consistent worldview.
Once we have understood the existence and necessity of priorities, we can examine the purpose and benefit of arranging priorities in the Christian life, specifically in regards to promoting and discussing beliefs which we hold. Christians (especially myself) talk about a whole range of different doctrines and beliefs, so which ones are most important? Are their certain things we should speak less about?
My seminary professor challenged my priorities by neatly arranging the following categories which I found very helpful. I hope that these categories will help us all remember Whom we serve and direct our affections towards him.
These doctrines are clearly taught in Scripture and are essential to the faith.
Examples: the Gospel, the divinity of Christ, the Trinity, and the resurrection.
A believer should live by these truths and hold them dearer than his or her own life. This category is always worth defending from attacks. Similarly, those who hold to these beliefs are brothers and sisters in Christ. We should always be willing to shake hands and love these members of the family of God.
On the other hand, no true believer would look at this category and call it a matter of “opinion.” Any one who denies these truths falls under the category of a heretic or unbeliever.
These beliefs constitute essential doctrines which a believer is firmly convinced and believes Scripture firmly teaches. Someone would refuse to attend or resign from a church over one of these issues. However, these issues should not be confused with orthodoxy and therefore, Scripture does not give us license to bad mouth Christians who believe differently in this area and serve the same Savior.
*Examples: Believer’s baptism, or a complementarian leadership view.
These issues will not affect salvation but are still of vital importance to the believer. I personally would certainly not stack my salvation on my perspective of these issues.
Preferences seem to be the category that Christians argue most over. Unfortunately, these beliefs do not have close connections with the gospel or God’s Word but disagreements escalate them to a place of improper importance.
*Examples: Worship styles, church sizes, and apologetics.
Preferences are helpful to direct our worship and local church, but they should not separate believers or sow discord in the church.
Not all preferences are created equal but the Holy Spirit gives grace and love to the body of Christ to work through them.
Let’s be honest, we all have opinions and they’re often founded on experience, desires, and pragmatism. They often change in perspective or morph in time.
Examples: capitalism, the trichotomy/dichotomy debate, and politics.
These opinions often sound good when we state them but they don’t belong in a sermon message or give Jesus a place of preeminence in the conversation.
Humans are highly opinionated people. Too often we strap the gospel down with our preferences and opinions. Let us focus more on what is more important to Christ. When we set our gaze on Christ’s priorities (Orthodox beliefs, specifically the gospel) we find ourselves focusing less on our opinions and preferences.
I don’t want to compartmentalize the Christian faith or ridicule those who have different views in different categories. I simply want to challenge the reader, (as I have been challenged), to examine my beliefs. What do I talk about when I’m in conversation? Do I only tell my unbelieving family and friends what I think about America’s political system? I want to urge you fellow believers to center your beliefs around what’s truly important- Our orthodox, Christ-centered doctrines.
All other perspectives are simply cascading trickles and ripples from this deep reservoir of grace.
Today, let Christ be pre-eminent in our speech and let us treasure his people over our own opinions.
“But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” Galatians 6:14
*The examples given are my own views. Perhaps you disagree on category placement but I trust that none of these examples would make their way into the orthodox category in your personal priorities.
What are your thoughts? Got an arrangement of your own priorities? Please share!