Stop Telling Christians to Put Jesus First

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My pastor is doing a sermon series based on Game of Thrones.

The sermons explore the book of Ecclesiastes, in which King Solomon pursues every imaginable form of pleasure only to find his life entirely devoid of meaning. Empty. Futile. Dust in the wind.

It’s not a bad parallel to the characters in the HBO series, most of whom spend eight seasons chasing power. A few also chase wine and women. Most die gruesome deaths in the process, and almost none find any sort of fruitful sense of purpose.

The point, of course, is that Jesus needs to sit on the throne of your heart. It’s right there in the Bible, over and over again: prioritize the kingdom of God, and all of the other stuff will get taken care of, too. It’s a valid point. I even agree with it–but pastors need to stop saying it.

He’s Not First

You’ve probably heard a variation of that sermon a hundred times. “Is Jesus the King of your heart? Do you love Him most? Do you worship any figurative idols?” If you’re like me, your answer is likely the same as it’s been the past 99 times: He’s not first.

Not really. Not if you’re honest.

You’re terribly distracted, you see. You prioritize all kinds of things above Jesus because of your vanity, or your pride, or your selfish ambition, or your laziness. You’re not proud of it. You’d like to be different, but you know perfectly well Jesus isn’t on your throne. You are!

Jesus isn’t on your throne. You are!

You Can’t Change

So … what can you do about it? That’s the missing part that seems, in my opinion, critical. Nobody has a good answer.

As a recovering perfectionist, my natural response tends to be, “I need to try harder!” Read my Bible longer. Pray more often. Go to more church services. Volunteer.

But I know from experience where that leads, and it’s the same place the Game of Thrones led Jon Snow: to disillusionment. It’s also the same place King Solomon ended up, the richest and wisest and most powerful man who ever lived. Bummer.

Let Him Work

Here’s the problem with putting Jesus first: you can’t do it. It’s impossible. Stop trying.

Now, don’t get me wrong–I’m a big fan of trying in general, meaning that you should absolutely keep taking small steps toward self-improvement, but you were never meant to perform your own heart transplant. Jesus wants to do that for you.

The whole point of the Gospel is that you can’t save yourself, so Jesus has to step in and make some serious changes on your behalf. The first step to putting Jesus first is to be honest with Him. Try this prayer for starters: “Lord, I know you’re not on my throne. I wish you were. Help me.”

Your part is to keep on asking.

It’s not that Jesus doesn’t expect you to participate at all, but the key point I’m making is that He does the work in you. You just need to recognize the problem, acknowledge the ugly truth, ask Him to do what you cannot, and trust Him to answer.

My pastor honestly preached a great sermon on the Christian version of the Game of Thrones. He simply left us to figure out the application on our own–because it’s not enough to inspire a sense of shame. True repentance means to turn around, to enact a change in leadership.

In my case, only Jesus could gently persuade me to relinquish my seat on the throne and bend the knee to the true King.


The Reluctant Bride

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