Living FOR God
Continuing to build upon what we looked at in Colossians 1:15-20, and the supremacy of Christ, we are looking at subtle ways we fall into the trap of attacking the supremacy and pre-eminence of Christ in our lives. We are prone to falling into traps, settling or being deceived with regards to the sufficiency of Christ and what our relationship with Christ is to look like and be. Is Christ enough? Is it Christ plus something else? Do I gain intimacy with Christ thru abstaining from food or drink, or adhering to certain laws? What about visions and angels – does that stuff take us a whole new level of spiritual maturity, intimacy with Christ? Is there another level of intimacy and spirituality to be gained apart from Christ?
What about how we relate to Christ and the work He has done? All are issues that are addressed in Colossians. But the main point is that Christ is unrivaled, supreme, and totally sufficient not only for our initial salvation but for our walk as believers. And our lives are to display this before a watching world.
Today I want us to look at another of the faulty and dangerous postures we can assume subtly, and it is this …. Life FOR God. I want to caution us for a moment before I jump in on this one. This is the most outwardly attractive and most widely accepted false posture, probably where many churches and people find themselves. So, as I jump in, take a deep breath and hang in there with me. This one looks awesome from the outside. This one is immensely appealing for churches and individuals. Again, control is the issue and desire. And this one makes big promises, but it ultimately fails to deliver on the promises.
The person who has assumed the posture of life for God is that person who believes that what matters most is not God’s love for you, but how much you can ACCOMPLISH for Him. This posture is in many ways a response to the Life From God posture. Life FOR God is response or a fight against becoming consumers, or lazy Christians. What this looks like in a church, or in an individual’s life, is busyness.
Here is one way this might show up - Lots of ministries, giving, serving – churches and individuals alike. We think we can make servants out of people on our own by busying them to death. We will do for them what they won’t do for themselves. And so we program their lives to death to move people from Life FROM God to Life FOR God. And it looks really cool from the outside.
The problem with a Life FOR God posture is that activity begins to DEFINE the person, becomes their IDENTITY, rather than the activity flowing from their identity as a child of God. Again, the why is the issue, not the what. Nothing wrong with activity, but why we do the activity is the issue. (see Matthew 6:1-7)
At the heart of all of the activity is not the glory of God, or a response to all that God has done, but rather it is a goal or accomplishing something great and being identified by the activity and not the relationship behind the activity. Christ is not preeminent.
Look at or think about Luke 15 and the story of The Prodigal Son. Last we week saw a Life FROM God posture, and we can see this in the prodigal who left, that “just give me my inheritance” attitude so I can go live as I please. But we also can see the Life FOR God posture in the son who stayed. Start in verse 25-32. This older son was reliable, obedient, faithful. But at the sight of his younger brother having been welcomed with a party, the older son refused to go in and celebrate his brother’s repentance.
Look at his heart in v. 29. This is a Life FOR God posture. And Jesus told this story to a specific crowd to expose both postures because in them Christ is not pre-eminent, unrivaled. And in that they miss the point of our relationship to God.
Notice where the older son rooted his relationship – accomplishments and activity. Both sons are different, but they are similar in this – neither son was particularly interested in the relationship with the father, but rather what they got from him. One son took, the other worked for it. Though different, both sons desired ultimately the same thing and it was not the relationship with their father. They simply were using the father in some way for a reward.
Jesus told this story to the Pharisees – very devoted religious men who drew their significance from their service and activity for God. Jesus wasn’t saying activity for God is wrong in and of itself, but the error was in finding our significance and worth in our serving and obedience. A self-righteousness rather than a Christ-centered righteousness. What God cares about most is the relationship and everything flowing from that. Look at the father’s response in verses 31-32 to see this. What brought the father joy was not their activity, but their presence. Having his sons with him. The father was fixated on his sons, the relationship.
This is what we learn here: God’s gifts are a blessing and his work is important, but neither can or should replace God as our focus. We cannot be like either son and find our identity in our accomplishments nor what we receive from God. Our value cannot be in the gift or doing but in the relationship. Being with God.
What happens over time, is that in this Life FOR God posture, we begin to view ourselves based upon what we can accomplish on God’s behalf, rather than who we are in Christ, and letting that fuel our doing, whatever that might be. What we do begins to define us more than who we are.
In the Life FOR God posture we begin to act in our own strength apart from our relationship with Christ. And this is where we get burned out and frustrated and lack joy before a watching world. The person who has assumed the posture of life for God is that person who has allowed DOING for Christ to take precedence over and be separated from their BEING in Christ.
The danger facing all of us to that we can become preoccupied with doing and our own program and means of gaining spiritual fullness that we end up separating ourselves from the only source of true spiritual power and fullness – namely a close relationship to Jesus Christ. Jesus is the one in whom salvation and adoption and reconciliation to God are found. Not in doing, but in being, not in activity, but in a relationship.
When our activity is our way of gaining or meriting God’s approval or standing with Him, then that attacks the sufficiency of Christ, and that activity becomes a detriment to our walk and spiritual health. Again, to be sure we do things, we obey. But not to merit God’s favor. We obey and serve because God’s favor has already come to us thru Christ.
Look at Eph. 3:14-19. What did Paul want the Ephesians to understand more than all else? How much God loved them. Everything in our lives is to be SOURCED in God’s love for us already, not in order to merit or earn God’s love for us. It would seem what Paul was saying here in Ephesians 3 is that what we as believers need more than anything is not more activity, but a greater UNDERSTANDING of the gospel and how much God loves us. And the activity will flow from and be fueled by that understanding.
Again, not dismissing activity and obedience and our mission to the world. Clearly we have been given a call to make disciples. But our mission has to be sourced in God’s love for us and ours for Him, and that being our identity, not earning or meriting something from God. We cannot put activity for God AHEAD of our relationship with God.
Our work cannot be pursued without God nor without it being empowered by His presence and love for us. God is to get the glory not us thru our work. And what happens when we assume a life FOR God posture is that our worth is found in the doing and not the being. And our worth begins to be DETERMINED by our doing and not our being. Our spiritual resumes involve a lot of activity versus activity flowing from a relationship.
We don’t have to prove our worth to God. We are to live out of the fact that by being adopted by God thru faith in the work of Christ, we know have infinite value and worth and our actions flow from that.
When our activity and success becomes the source of our worth and value, serving God CEASES to be a joy and instead becomes a chore, and this is the inevitable outcome of a Life FOR God posture. Be on guard for this subtle way we undermine the sufficiency of Christ in our lives. Christ is enough. May that be the message of our lives thru all we do, seen and unseen.
Christ has to be pre-eminent and unrivaled before a watching world. He alone is our hope. He is our boasting, not our accomplishments. And these false postures deny that. The ultimate danger in these false postures before a watching world is that they move people AWAY from the hope held out to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ alone and from the source of all spiritual power.
Christ is and is to be unrivaled in our lives. To Him be the glory.
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