There are a lot of Christian worship songs out there expressing the desire to live for Jesus Christ, and I appreciate their intent and sentiment. The gift of forgiveness and new life is so great that our hearts long to respond and give back to God, to see ourselves as ones whose lives are abandoned to His purposes. In 2 Corinthians 5:15, Paul says that “those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” God reorients our purposes and our priorities, and when we receive the life of Christ, we also put ourselves under the authority of a new King, a new leader calling the shots.
However, there is a subtle danger in the preposition “for” when we talk about living for Jesus. We can begin to believe that this Christian life, this life of loving trust and response, becomes something that we can do on our own and something that God expects us to do for Him. But does He? Can we? I submit that the answer to both questions is, “No.”
I think that we need to replace for with from. My call as a Christian is not to live for Jesus, as though I could come up with ways that were adequate to repay all He has given. Instead, I believe that living from Jesus is not only more in line with what God wants from me, but also gives Him greater honor, the very thing that I hoped to do by living for Him.
To live from Jesus says that on my own, I am incapable of producing the life that God desires from me and that I can only receive it from Him. To live from Jesus affirms His call to for me to live in Him, abiding as a vine in the branch. (A branch doesn’t live for the vine, trying hard to produce fruit, but instead it remains connected to the vine, receiving all its life and needs from the vine, and fruit is the natural result.)
If I live from Christ, it means that my life is truly no longer my own. I am not deciding that I will do something for Him (which can lead to my patting myself on the back for my good job giving back to God); instead I am submitting myself to live from Him, meaning He has greater authority, freedom, and control of my life because He is my life.
Living from Jesus is ultimately harder than living for Him, because it eliminates my ability to pick and choose when my life is about me and when it is about God.
But it is also ultimately better because my life is no longer up to me and my ability to be good enough or to make it work, but is now founded on the promises and person of the only one who is good. Choosing the correct preposition and living in a posture of from-ness reminds me that my every moment is tied to “the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:19).