Right before thanksgiving break, our class had the opportunity to learn from Dr. Garland Vance. Something Dr. Garland challenged us with was the passage from Isaiah 7:14, which records the first proper name given to Christ. That name is Immanuel, which Matthew tells us means “God with us.” Why – Dr. Garland asked us – is it so important that God is with us?
He presented us with the idea that Christians often substitute other prepositions in the place of “with.” Instead of focusing on being with God, we instead are over, under, for, or from God. Each of these different prepositions shows a false view of ourselves, God and life.
When we believe we are “over” God, we focus more on the principles for right and godly living instead of on God himself. Fundamentally, we feel that if we just mastered the principles, we wouldn’t really need God’s grace and help in our daily lives. Often we’ll believe the Gospel is for getting us saved but doesn’t actually affect our daily activities.
When we act as if we are under God, we believe we gain God’s favor by obeying his commands. Often times, this is tied with thinking every blessing or curse in our life is tied to some action or inaction by us. For instance, I’m having a bad day today because I didn’t do my Bible time. We forget how God’s grace continually works in our lives.
The idea of living for God is very popular in the church. It says that our primary responsibility is to accomplish some task or goal God has set for us. Being for God looks pious because it produces so many actions and results. But it is so easy to get caught up in those good actions and works and forget to enjoy God and his presence.
The problems of substituting the word “from” are most clearly seen in the prosperity gospel movement. When we believe we are primarily from God, we believe that God’s highest will for us is to be happy and fulfilled. Therefore we “name it and claim it” or believe that if we are not prospering and happy, we must be outside God’s will for us. However, the prosperity gospel is simply the most extreme form. Many buy into this in more subtle ways.
But the Bible says none of these prepositions is God’s primary will for us, instead our primary purpose is to be with God – to experience His presence and be content with that. When we truly believe that, we cease beating ourselves up over our mistakes or falling into legalism. Instead, we can rest in His delight in us.
As we approach Christmas, it’s an especially good time to remember that God is with us. But too often we fall into one of these false ideas, so which of the four false prepositions do you tend to believe and how can you focus on being with God this holiday season?