Colossians 1:16–17:  For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.  And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (ESV)
This is the first of a planned series on the connections between living for God through Christ and some of the most formative events in biblical, which is to say human, history. The series will explore the ideas of creation, the Fall, the giving of the Law, the incarnation of Christ, the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the ascension of Christ, and the future appearing of Christ. Specifically, we will ask the question, "How does X affect the way we live for God through Christ?" We begin with creation.
How does creation affect the way we live for God through Christ? On the one hand, this question appears facile. If we were not created, we would exist! On the other hand, there are manifold implications for our living for God through Christ which, though easily observable or inferable, are often overlooked, ignored, or obscured. The intent of this article is restricted to providing a primer rather than intending to be exhaustive.
Some Implications of Being Creatures
When we consider living for God through Christ in light of creation, the first thing that stands out to me is that our life purposes are not ours to design. At the most fundamental level, our purpose for existence is handed to us rather than made by us. Yet we often commit the error of living and choosing as though we are the shapers of our own purpose.
The second thing that stands out to me is the fact that there is more to creation than I typically conceive. The verse above refers to things visible and invisible. We have stories in the Bible of people either being able to see things others couldn't (cf. Elisha and his servant at Dothan) or not being able to see things that others could (cf. Balaam and his donkey). The world is much bigger and there is much more going on than the comings and goings of each successive generation of men and women in this world, and yet I tend to conceive of almost all of the action occurring on earth. But the biblical account of creation tempers that perspective.
Two other aspects stand out to me concerning creation and living for God through Christ. Those aspects are my dependence and my contingency. By dependence, I mean that my existence depends on a power outside of myself. This is so obvious that it is easy to overlook. We are like an electrical device that has to be plugged into a power source to function. Into what are we "plugged"? According to Colossians 1:17, it is in Christ which all things hold together. By contingency, I mean that my existence is not necessary, unlike God's. My existence is contingent on God's, meaning I only exist if God does and God decides that I should exist. My contingency means there is nothing inevitable about my living other than that God wills it to be so.
I am contingent, not necessary. I am dependent, not independent. I am part of a cosmos much larger than that which I typically conceive. My design and purpose are assigned, not self-derived. In short, I have been created by God almighty. The fact that I am created and my existence is sustained by this God as Scripture describes is supremely foundational for how I ought to live.
What does this mean for how I live for God through Christ? For myself, it means that I ought to recognize far more than I often do just how utterly dependent on God I am. I tend to go through life with the fleeting fancy that my life is mine to determine, design, and decide. But there could be little further from the truth than these ideas.
Is this not how so many of us think? We tend to see spiritual exercises such as prayer and Bible intake as some sort of extra duty, for example. How do we not see them as absolutely necessary for understanding ourselves and developing into what we ought to be? We tend to fight against our design, to resist as a matter of the pattern of our lives conforming to the pattern of life for which we are optimized. We are constantly attempting by passive and active means to live contrary to the design, purpose, and will of the one who created us. Living for God through Christ means going back to the very basics and seeking to get the most basic things right. This is what living in light of our creation implies.
As I go through my day, these three components help me live for God through Christ: my life is not mine to design, my purpose is not mine to determine, and my choices are not mine to make. Nevertheless, I have agency, which means that I make real choices for which I am really responsible. The fact that I have agency is key because it is this very fact at which I so often slip into a pattern of self-dependence and self-determination. I misuse and abuse the agency God accorded to me as part of my nature to assault the boundaries that he has set around me. It is not so much that I am unclear or confused about the fact that God is creator and how this should determine how I ought to understand myself. It is more that I constantly buck against this fact.
Where does this drive me? It drives me to humble myself before God. As I conclude these thoughts, the fact of my creation causes me to be staggered by my own self-inflation. My thoughts of God are so low and my thoughts of myself are so high. This is no doubt due in large part to the amount of time I spend meditating on myself relative to God. If Christ is the one through whom and for whom all things were created, living in light of it is not so complex as it is humiliating. It means treating God as more important, infinitely more important, than myself. If I begin to value God as my creator through faith in Christ, then my thoughts, my desires, and my choices will begin to fall into place.