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"Living In You" Rather Than "Living For You"

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  • "Living In You" Rather Than "Living For You"

    I noticed many songs we sing have the line "I live for you" or "I want to live for you." The phrase isn't entirely wrong. We are His representatives on earth. But, I think the emphasis is wrong. I believe the subtle difference between living in God and living for God can spell the difference between a life of victory in ministry versus a life of burnt out frustration.

    Note the wording of the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son:

    "Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!" Luke 15:29-30 (NIV).

    The elder brother worked hard and obeyed. But he did not identify himself with the Father. He did things for the Father as someone apart from the Father. He didn't view himself as doing these thing with the Father or as an extension of the Father.

    The notion of living for God is deadly in that it comes from a sense of duty or obligation borne out of an arms-length transaction between separate parties, like a hired hand. The notion is that "I am here and God is over there. I do X and then present it to God, then He takes it as a worship or offering and then blesses me." The problem with this mentality is that it comes from a heart of self-reliance and a sense that I am the one doing the living, the working, the "slaving." And, it separates us from God, when we really were made one in Christ. Ultimately, we will be burned out under this mentality because we cannot sustain ourselves nor truly do Kingdom work by our strength.

    Rather, the Bible makes clear the notion that it is God who is doing the living in me, and all I need to do is abide in Him. Then, the work that is done is not done by my power, but it is God doing the living and working.

    "And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you." Romans 8:11 (NIV)

    "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me." John 15:4 (ESV).

    "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure." Phil 2:12-13 (ESV).

    Our role is really a passive one of submission. Having submitted, then, God doesn't just leave us to do things on our own. His life within us bursts out and bears fruit. He provides the desire. He provides the energy, the words, the thoughts, and the actions. We are simply letting Him use our bodies, minds, hearts as vessels that carry His will out. If we do ministry with this mindset, there is no limit. There is no burning out. There is no lack of confidence. There is no pride. There is no ungratefulness.

    I would encourage my brothers and sisters on this forum to stop living for God. Rather, live in God and God live in you.

  • #2
    Thanks, Sam, for these excellent words. I completely agree with what you have written. I have spent much of my life trying to live for God, and it is a life of frustration, because it is me trying to be pleasing to God in my own strength.

    This is a message that needs to be preached from a million pulpits until we all grasp the difference, and let God do the work that we cannot do in our own strength.

    Thanks for putting it into words.


    • #3
      Great points. I think much of what we sing deserves analysis like this. It might make our songs harder to write if we did so!

      Our worship expression is often in terms of barter or 'commercial exchange' with God. We sing so many things about what we will do or imploring God to do what He has already done, Do we need to sing to Him to 'save me' or 'wrap His arms around me', etc? He has already done these things. His promise is secure and true.

      I do think that songs that challenge the Body to a greater faith - to ' run the race' with excellence, have their place. I would rather sing a song that challenges us to reach out and impact the world that one asking God to impact me.

      When I have a role in bringing worship music to the Body, I like to try to write of find expressions of faith or awe at what God has already done or who He is, and our response to that, and to just dig deeper into the many facets and doctrines around that.


      • #4
        Love this post. I really appriciate the note of:

        "I noticed many songs we sing have the line "I live for you" or "I want to live for you." The phrase isn't entirely wrong. We are His representatives on earth. But, I think the emphasis is wrong."

        I think you took care to note the intent and the fact that it isn't wrong, but maybe not a specifically correct and focused as it could be.
        Lov'n Jesus


        • #5
          Great thoughts.

          My take on a lot of this issue is the fact that so much worship is "I" focused- "I" will do this, "I" will say this, "I" want to feel/hear/touch/see", etc. The ironic thing in all the "I" focused stuff we sing, is if God held us to all the "I will"'s we say, we would be in deep trouble.

          It's natural to take the egocentric approach in what we emphasize in our Christian life and what we do for God. Church is about me. Worship is about me. The Bible is about me. Serving is about me. God is about what I can get. Part of my own spiritual walk has been experiencing that paradigm shift to the 'in' rather than the 'for'.

          Good discussion.
          If we want to go places we haven't been, we will have to do things we haven't done.


          • #6
            I was just reading this morning in Jeremiah, Chapter 6, verse 16: Stand in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and you shall find rest for your souls. This cross referenced to Matthew 11:28-30 in which Jesus said, "Come unto Me all you who labor and are heavy laden...." Perhaps all of our striving to find "new" ways to worship God may not be what He is seeking. If you look at the theology written into the old hymns and worship songs, the emphasis IS on the Lord, and not us.


            • #7
              I realize I'm way late for this thread, but here goes...
              I do like what you've said, and I agree that "Christ in you, the hope of glory" is fundamental to what Jesus Christ accomplished for us who follow Him. I do understand from the book of Hebrews that there is a "Sabbath rest" which the faithful will enter into (many have said we've already entered it ... but this is another discussion ....) You have basically made these 2 points (in different words).

              However ... I believe you've taken this principle of "Christ in me doing the work" a bit too far, and here's why ...

              Since the days of the book of Acts, where Jesus *really, really* worked through his disciples (like in a way which the western world has rarely seen) Jesus made it very clear that they were to "Go".

              To "Go" requires action. It is in essence a PARTNERSHIP between God and us.

              In the case of one who is called into a worship ministry, you may not have to "Go" like a classical missionary "goes", but I do believe you must act (or "do") with a similar passion.

              Clearly, God could "do it all" without our involvement. However, He has chosen *not to do so.*

              And clearly, none of us could accomplish anything of eternal value without Christ's involvement. But then, again, not many of us who are in our right mind would dare to think that we could.

              Instead of either of those 2 extremes, the Biblical precedents for the *things* that people are to do in their earthly life are almost always a God-man TEAMWORK kind of thing. This is shown all throughout the Old and New testaments.

              Therefore, I would like to propose that we do in fact WORK at our "work" with all of our heart (Col 3:23) and "pray" for God's involvement, His direction, His resources, His favor, His wisdom, etc. with all of our heart.

              Bless you and love forever,
              Dave Straley
              Last edited by DavidStraley; 11-28-2011, 11:31 PM.


              • #8
                David, I hope what I have written did not provide the impression that we are to be inactive in our roles. I would also generally agree with your partnership analogy, but would add that the partnership really is like a "partnership" between my hand and my brain. The hand doesn't do things "for" the brain as a separate entity. The brain is intimately involved with and drives the hand to act.

                So, if we are properly connected to Christ, I believe even the will to "go" should come from Christ in us. My problem is that my will to "go" may not have come from Christ, but from my flesh and for selfish reasons. Many times my efforts to obey are more like the elder brother in the parable. I will myself to do it to get something for myself. And then, after doing it, and I don't get what I want (appreciation, good responses by others, whatever) I get disgruntled and may even fall away for a time. This is a point of prayer and repentance for me. So, my application is to not "go" until I am convinced that I am well-connected to the Head and am being driven by His Spirit in me. What is more important, that I show up on stage on Sunday morning, or that Christ show up on stage? How often I have gone up on stage to lead worship without this Spirit-drive because "the show must go on" and then suffered afterward for it.