Keeping "First Things First" is exceedingly difficult and surprisingly controversial. It rapidly exposes what we value most and especially what we value wrongly.
Fear, shame, and guilt can be effective ways of changing our behaviors, but only for a time! Can laws and rules change heart-motivations? Why would God give us these laws?
A new heart changes behavior, yet the flesh has old habits. (Jeremiah 31:33, Galatians 5:16-17) Talk about being changed from the inside out, over time – not overnight. How has this played out in your own life?
The Ten Commandments sounds like prohibitions, but they also describe the positive character of God. Take one or two of the 10 and flesh that out. How do the commandments lead you to God’s best? (Exodus 20:3-17). Why might the emphasis of “no” here in the Ten Commandments be a more effective way of instructing us, as opposed to giving us positive ways to live?
Humanity has repeatedly made gods in its own image. If your god never disagrees with you, who is the real god? Why is it important that we have a God who can contradict us? Can you change without someone confronting where you are wrong? How much must someone love you to confront you on something that really matters, and yet still stick around to endure your wrath at being called out? Can you think of a recent example when God confronted you?
The Old Testament repeatedly affirms there is only one God (Deuteronomy 4:35; Psalm 86:10; Isaiah 44:6). So why does God feel the need to say "you shall have no other gods..."?
"There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships." (Wallace) As an atheist, what does he mean? Does it matter what we build our lives around? CS Lewis said if we build our lives around secondary things, we not only lose first things but ironically, we lose the secondary things as well. Have you found that to be true in your own life? Share if you are comfortable.
Do your answers to these questions unearth your deeply-rooted false gods? What do you daydream about? What makes you mad and what’s behind your anger? What devastates you? Fill in this blank: When ____ is good/bad, life is great/awful! What choices have you made to expose what you say you trust does not truly match how you function daily?
"Idols cannot be uprooted, they can only be replaced." (Chalmers) What does that mean? What is he saying about the "vacuum" of the human heart? How is the goal more than simply "emptying" our hearts of idols? Read Ezekiel 11:19-21.
The Preamble to the 10 Commandments stresses what God has already done for Israel. How might that change the way we read "no other gods before me"? What is God revealing about the nature of His desired relationship with us? State this first commandment positively and passionately!
When Iris Murdoch looked out her window at that kestrel, all of her anxiety faded. She wrote: “In a moment, everything is altered. The brooding self, with its hurt & vanity, has disappeared. There is nothing now but the kestrel. And when I returned to thinking of the other matter that was so bothersome to me, it seemed so much less important…” How can looking at the cross do that for us?