Friday, June 10, 2011

Defining the Abundant Life

In John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” Throughout Scripture we find Jesus often speaking about the abundant life that He offers to all who follow Him. But this begs the question, what exactly is the abundant life? Is it more money? More possessions? More vacations? More status?

Just last night I was speaking to my brother about the Lord and he was saying that the world tells you to go to school, get a good paying job, save your money for retirement and then retire. But what about after retirement? What do you do then? The world never discusses life after death and what we should do to prepare. Of course, this is based largely on the fact that the world does not know God and is not concerned with the things of God (Romans 1). But this still does not change the fact that the one thing all of us are going to experience regardless of age, stature, or success is death. Yet, we spend so little time preparing. So much of Jesus’ teachings were based on the kingdom of God and designed to get men and women thinking about things of eternal value versus temporal value. God tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:11 that He has set eternity in the hearts of men. But, so often we push the things of eternal value to the back burner even as Christians, don’t we?

When Jesus gave His most profound sermon in Matthew chapter 5, He spoke of a way of life that was counter intuitive to the world’s system. The selfless principles He outlined that pictured the kingdom of God were too difficult for many to comprehend as He begins each point by naming a group of people normally thought to be unblessable and pronounces them blessed because of the presence and availability of the abundant life in God's kingdom to everyone, everywhere, regardless of status, circumstances, or condition. And this is the key. It is not based on what you have or don’t have or who your parents are but on a person – Jesus Christ. To further underscore this critical spiritual reality, Jesus told us in John 14:6 that He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life and that no one comes to the Father but by Him.”

The abundant life Jesus is offering is attained on the inside not the outside. He is extending to us an internal peace that it is not found anywhere else. This is why the Christian is able to live above his/her circumstances because the focus is on the One who has overcome the world and ensures us we will too (John 16:33). Man is preoccupied with circumstances, God is preoccupied with character. And it is within the person of Jesus Christ that we are able to cast off the old man and put on the new man in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Eternal life as opposed to this life is not determined by duration but by a relationship with God. This is why the Scripture tell us that once a person accepts Jesus as their Lord and personal Savior that he/she possesses eternal life already (1 John 5:11-13), though not, of course, in its fullness. For you see a Christian's life revolves around “growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). This teaches us that the abundant life is a continual process of learning, practicing, and maturing, as well as failing, recovering, adjusting, enduring, and overcoming, because, in our present state, “we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror” (1 Corinthians 13:12). One day we will see God face to face, and we will know Him completely as we will be known completely (1 Corinthians 13:12). We will no longer struggle with sin and doubt. This will be the ultimately fulfilled abundant life.

The true abundant life will display the fruits produced by the Holy Spirit - love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23), not an abundance of “stuff.” It consists of life that is eternal, and, therefore, our interest is in the eternal, not the temporal.

If you do not know the Lord, it is my hope and prayer that you will spend some time exploring the abundant life that Jesus is offering right now. His Word tells us that “today is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2) And Romans 10:9-10 tells us how to be saved, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

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