On the Difference Between Living for Jesus and Living from Jesus

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February 14, 2018

Ephesians 1:1a

1 This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus. 

CONSIDER THIS

Have you ever gotten a letter from God? I haven’t either. Well, there was the time that college kid wrote me a letter and signed it from God. Pretty creepy. God doesn’t write letters. Only people can do that.

But wait! Isn’t that what the Bible is—a massive letter from God? Yes, we believe the Bible is God’s Word, but God did not write it. People wrote the Bible. The Bible is a human document. So does this somehow diminish the Bible’s authority? Not for a second, because the Bible is also a divine document. Every word of the Bible is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Look at how the Apostle Peter describes this mysterious reality:

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:20-21

Notice when Paul opens the letter he doesn’t say, “This letter is from God.” Go back and read it again. His opening five words are as follows, “This letter is from Paul.” In saying this, Paul takes responsibility for the letter. Watch what he does next: chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.

Paul claims to possess authority without claiming to be an authority. Jesus Christ is the authority. Paul is his apostle. Because Paul knows he is not the authority, he has the capacity to share in the authority of Jesus. An apostle (or a Christian for that matter) is not a worker for Jesus but a messenger from Jesus. These distinctions may seem like subtleties. They are not.

We do not live our lives for God. We live our lives from God. We do not work for Jesus. We work from Jesus. Our lives are the letter.  Paul’s letter and his life are one in the same. It’s because it’s all coming from somewhere else—from the person of Jesus Christ, through the presence of the Holy Spirit, resident in him and through him.

Discipleship is not about mastering a body of knowledge or conforming to a behavioral code. Discipleship means learning to live freely under the mastery or Lordship of Jesus Christ, which is to say—in the abiding zone of his active presence. It means learning to be “carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is not a flat description of something he has mastered. It is an inspired declaration, description and demonstration of the reality in which he lives.

Prepare yourselves my friends. We aren’t taking a seat on Paul’s tour bus. We are entering into the zone of Divine Presence.

LENTEN INSIGHT: Today is Ash Wednesday, which opens the door into the 40 day season of Lent. Ash Wednesday asks us to face our death before we die that we might truly live our life while we are still alive. On this, the Saints throughout the ages are in one accord: The secret to life is to die before you die. “From dust you have come and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe the Gospel!”

THE PRAYER

Abba Father, we thank you for your son, Jesus, in whom the very fullness of your presence dwells bodily, and who would dwell in us through the Holy Spirit. I want this more than life itself, because this is in fact life itself. We pray in Jesus name, amen.

THE QUESTIONS

  1. What do you make of this distinction between living “for” and living “from” Jesus? How would you express that in your own terms?
  2. Do you think of the Christian life as requiring more effort from you or more trust in God?
  3. Have you ever thought of your life as a letter from God to the world? What implications would that have for you?

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J.D. Walt, is a Bond Slave of the Lord Jesus Christ. jd.walt@seedbed.com.

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