Christ's Preeminence: Life Under God


Remember, the issue here is pre-eminence, Christ being unrivaled in our lives before a watching world. That’s the main issue and where these fall short. Christ is subtly relegated to a prominent place in our lives, but not the pre-eminent place in our lives. He is replaced by something else, namely self and our need for control. We think somehow we can control God, or put Him in a pace where He has to do our bidding, do what we expect or want Him to do rather what he determines is best to do. Our wisdom begins to overrule God’s wisdom.

Col. 1:13-18 being key to our understanding and the gospel. In everything Christ would be pre-eminent, first place in EVERYTHING. See that. Everything. Even in our gospel and how we respond to the gospel. Nothing above, nothing else to gain or get. What it is all about is Jesus.

We do not follow Jesus for what we can get – not wealth, not health, not security in this world, nothing but Jesus. 1 Peter 3:18. He is the reward. The message of gospel is not follow Jesus and everything goes right, but follow Jesus and He is enough. Jesus is enough. That is to be the theme of our lives before a watching world. Christ is enough. No matter what. That is the gospel.

In all of these false postures, the issue at hand is that something else becomes pre-eminent in our lives, Christ ceases to be pre-eminent in place of what He can give us. Something displaces Christ at the center of everything. That is not Christianity. That is something entirely different. Jesus is enough. PERIOD. No matter what, Jesus is enough. Totally sufficient. What our lives declare before a watching world is that Jesus can transcend any circumstance, because He is enough. Christianity is not about what Jesus can get you – it is just about Jesus. Pre-eminent, top. Nothing else to want or pursue. Jesus is enough.

Look with me today at another of these false postures, that of Life UNDER God. In this posture, we live in such a way to simply avoid calamity, keep bad things from happening. In its core, it sees God as moody and unaccountable, given to swings and moods and we simply need to follow the rules to keep God happy so He won’t punish us. The Life UNDER God posture views our obedience as a way of appeasing God. To keep Him on our side and for us. Ultimately again, to get Him to do what we want Him to do, back to control.

You live and place yourself under divine rules simply to avoid calamity. That God must be appeased in order to merit His goodwill. He is not simply good, but His goodness must be earned and maintained thru your behavior. We do what we do to force, or so we think, God to do what we need Him to do.

I hope you see how this undermines Christ as pre-eminent. Our motivation here for sacrifice and obedience is not in response to God’s greatness and sacrificial mercy, His grace, love, all of this displayed daily. Instead, we see God as moody of sorts and must be appeased thru our obedience. God’s goodness must be bought in a sense.

Think about the picture that paints to the world around us about our God. How would that motivate anyone to come to Christ? Nothing salty about that. That is a stench and not a fragrant aroma. Like having a person in your life that goes off the handle at the drop of a hat, inconsistent, you never know what to expect from them. So you live on egg shells, just to not set them off. Maybe it is a parent, a friend, a child, but I think we all can think of someone like this. Just keep them happy and it will go better for everyone. We act not out of joy, but fear. And unfortunately, some of us relate to God that way because we simply do not know Him well enough. We don’t grasp His goodness and love and mercy constant character.

In the Life UNDER God posture, God’s goodness must be sustained thru our rituals and sacrifices. Religion becomes a way to sustain the universe, namely a universe that revolves around us and our well-being and desires. We have to do certain things or God will not bless. Those who follow the rules are blessed, and those who didn’t are cursed.

This is the mindset we see in Job’s friends. Their wisdom and understanding of God was such that there was no way that Job did not bring this calamity upon himself. For 30 plus chapters this was their mindset and base of their accusations. “What did you do to bring this upon yourself?” was their mentality.

In this mindset, you are less blessed because God was less satisfied with your life and offering, and so God blessed your neighbor instead of you because your neighbor’s sacrifice was better. Again, the root here is control over that which is uncontrollable. We refuse to accept and believe that we are not in control and that our actions don’t run the world. We have a tendency to think God will certainly do what we want as we want if only our sacrifice is good enough.

In the past it looked like offering sacrifices to the sun God or rain God, for instance. Today, we are much more sophisticated. Today this shows up in our lives by combining rituals and morality. We have mixed pagan superstition with biblical morality. Again, the motive, the root is not the glory of God, but our will and desires. Ultimately, we are the idol we are worshipping.

Let me illustrate what this Life UNDER God posture might look like in our lives: Steve Johnson is a receiver in the NFL. On November 28, 2010 the Bills played the Steelers. Johnson played for the Bills and had a chance to catch a touchdown in OT to win the game, but he dropped the pass, and so the Bills lots the game. After the game, here is what Johnson tweeted: “I praise you 24/7!!! And this is how you do me!!! You expect me to learn from this??? How??? I’ll never forget this!! Ever!!

There is a theology behind this tweet, and it reveals that Johnson was operating at that time in a Life UNDER God posture. In exchange for Johnsons’ praise of God, he expected to receive God’s help on the field. When that help didn’t come, he blamed God for not upholding His end of the deal. We see that religion for Johnson was a means of controlling uncontrollable events – football games and their outcome – by incurring divine favor.

We cannot control God. We cannot overthrow God. He alone is sovereign. But He is also good. And so we must trust Him. And before a watching world, we must communicate clearly God’s character. What do you think the world now thinks of the God Johnson serves? You think they are drawn to devotion to his God? No chance. And that is the tragedy beyond just for our own walk and growth with God being perverted thru these postures, but the world is given an inaccurate picture of God.

In the Life UNDER God posture, the goal of our obedience is that God will keep us from calamity. Again, Christ is not pre-eminent. Instead, we are. We become Christ's rival. We are the idol.

Things won’t always go right no matter how faithful we are to God. Trials and troubles and struggles are where the rubber meets the road and our theology rises to the surface. How do we respond when things don’t go the way we planned, or when it seems God doesn’t hold up His end of the deal? How are we teaching our children about this, what false theology might we be passing on to them?

Life UNDER God is clearly the theology seen in John 9 and the man born blind. Jesus’ followers, when faced with a man born blind, ask in verse 2 “Who sinned that this man would be born blind?” Their theology is on display, their posture before God. Bad things, things not going as planned, blindness, was clearly the result of someone doing something they shouldn’t have, not following the rules enough resulted in blindness. Calamity. Curse, judgment. It was God’s response to someone’s disobedience.

We are not buying or earning God’s favor thru our obedience. The goal isn’t just to keep people in line, to make our life easier. In the Life UNDER God posture, faith is reduced to moralism. No joy, no love. No display of the greatness of God – quite the opposite. If we do right, then nothing bad will happen. That becomes the “why” – avoid calamity. Not the praise of an awesome God, not making Him to look all-worthy. It is about us and control.

Don’t miss God as the prize as we have seen (1 Peter 3:18). Don’t fall short of the relationship offered by reducing Christianity to moralism, appeasing God. Don’t misrepresent God’s character nor the gospel. Huge effects.

The gospel God offers thru Jesus Christ does not result in a people who perform rituals or live under the constant threat of God’s anger for their moral failures. Listen – God hates sin, don’t think I didn’t say that. But He is also merciful and just. Does He punish sin? Yes. Look at the cross. But the result is that the cross, perfect love, casts out fear, not brings it on. Jesus didn’t die for only those who could reach a certain level of religiosity to have access to God. Jesus died to give whoever repents of their sin and believes upon Him a relationship where access was readily available.

The gospel is a welcome back to God, not a way to earn or work your way in. Reconciliation. Not that we were ever not sinners, but as a whole, in the gospel, God is restoring His creation back to a right relationship with Him. Life WITH God, not UNDER God.

May we avoid this subtle trap, and may Christ be seen and lifted up as pre-eminent in our lives thru all we do to Hs glory.