Prepositional theology: How being “in Christ” is what matters

“In Christ” is one of the most commonly used phrases in Scripture referencing our salvation some 75 times it is mentioned explicitly, and roughly 50 times implicitly. The phrase describes God’s will for the follower of Jesus and it paints the picture of the intimate care He gives to the soul of the saved.

Your posture and/or position toward God is vital to the health of your soul and will determine the trajectory of your ministry. There are many positions which are helpful if they fall within the relationship you have “in Christ,” but they can actually be harmful if you do not understand where our “primary position” is. Look at how it is beautifully described within the relationship of the vine and the branches of John 15:1-11, for example. Jesus is the vine, and we are only the branches. 

Sadly, many of us do not define our relationship “in Christ.” Instead, we might determine our posture/position towards God in one of four other prepositional descriptorsover, under, from and for. When we do this, we rob ourselves of the “complete joy” promised in John 15:11 and we find ourselves grasping other things in life just to try and get what has been offered to us ‘In Christ’. 


Many believe their position is “over God.” This position is foremost in the world today. When we attempt to position our lives over God we neglect, ignore, or even look down upon God from a place of assumed authority. We think it’s “our world,” “our way,” and “our timing.” This posture/position is most generally associated with people not “in Christ,” lost, and unsaved.

However, even a person of faith can suffer when allowing their own pride and sin to elevate themselves “over God.” Just as the branch would look silly trying to set itself over the vine, pride will cause a person who places himself, or any part of himself, over God. If you are living life “over God,” then you likely have a world of problems and they won’t fix themselves. God has been boxed out of a life “over God.” The freight train of bad circumstances God would catch and handle if He was in His rightful place has nothing to stop it for this person.


You might think the obviously correct spiritual position for the believer would be the opposite of “over God”here, “under God.” But no. The branch only finds partial truth in being “under God.” Yes, it has some rightness to it, as we absolutely want to surrender and submit to God and His authority. However, if “under God” is your primary position then you will likely struggle with issues of fear and assurance. Rather than resting “in Christ” you can be suffocated in religious legalism. You may think or say things like, “If I am a good person then God won’t deal harshly with me.” You may have an inner dialogue that sounds like “I better” or “I should.” This practice, if left unchecked and unbalanced, will lead to a dry and lifeless spirituality where you won’t experience freedom or fruitfulness. No, “under” has a role in the life of a Christ-follower but that surrendered posture is best when it flows out of the fullness of life in the vine. 


Maybe you would choose a posture of receiving “from God” as best. Many times this is the position advocated by an easy believism and a leaning towards prosperity religion. There is truth in being positioned to receive from God all of the many benefits of His grace, but if everything revolves around what we receive, we can become entitled and full of expectations.

Those expectations lead us to a consumer spirituality where we are only happy when God is meeting our wants. You may have the primary posture of “from God” if you say or think things like “I deserve this,” or if your spiritual dialogue is filled with personal pronouns like “me,” “my,” or “mine.” We must be recipients “from God” to be fueled in all other parts of our spiritual life, but we must be more than those seeking to be fed only.


What about living a life “for God?” This has been my go-to posture over the years. I love to serve Jesus. That is a God-given posture, but even it must not be the primary. When it is, your inner dialogue sounds like “God needs me to do this,” or “I need to do this for God.” If your life is a busy oneone that is all go and no slow, or all do and no bethen you may be trapped in a repetitive and even draining life ‘“for God.”

Sure, God calls us to serve Him faithfully and to obey Him fully, but I promise you … as good as it is to live “for God,” He wants more for you than that. The easiest way to see that is to look at the heart. Earlier this year I had a heart attack. My cardiologist explained to me the heart is both the most selfish and the most selfless muscle in the body. It can’t be selfless unless it is being nourished. It can’t be “for” unless it is first filled “from.” Therein lies the truth. Neither “from” nor “for” can be primary postures for the Christ-follower. They are two counterbalanced sides to a healthy relationship “in Christ.”

Maybe even more-so now than ever before, we have an opportunity to reset our spiritual lives by making sure we have our lives in the right position spiritually. That position is “in Christ” alone! Like the branch of John 15, we are given access to all the richness of our Lord and Savior by living “in Christ.” From there, we can rightly experience all the positional benefits of being under, receiving from, and doing for God. In Christ, we are filled. In Christ, we are nourished. The Lord began to minister this word to me in 2018 from John 15 and has re-enforced it through personal experience in recent months. That has also been aided by a wonderful book by Skye Jethani titled With: Reimagining the Way You Relate to God. I highly recommend it. You will see several of these ideas expressed within.

Published: Jul 28, 2020


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