One of my favorites of Jesus' sayings is found in John 10:10b:
"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
Now normally on this blog I quote the New International or the New Revised Standard Version, but for this quotation I am using the King James because I like the way it is worded and because that's how I memorized it before my church adopted the N.I.V. back around 1983, about 10 years after it was published, Speaking of which, have you ever noticed that a lot of churches run at least a decade behind? But that's a rabbit trail to another story, and that's the end of the rabbit trail, I promise. For now.
Because I love this saying, I decided to use it in the redo of my blog. I've been thinking about a redo for a while. I kept the name Yahbut because that still fits me. I'm still arguing with the way the church does things and with some of the beliefs we have that are not biblical; however, the Recovering Fundie aspect of my personality is changing. No longer am I trying to come to terms with the new things that God is showing me. I embrace them and because of this I have received a more abundant form of belief - a much happier, less legalistic version. This, I believe, is one of the things Jesus meant when he talked about abundant life. And so now on this blog I want to explore what abundant life means, and how we can go about achieving it.
Many people believe that the abundant life begins after death. They say that there is too much sin and sorrow in this world and that they cannot overcome their sinful nature so there is really no chance to have abundant life.
I respectfully disagree. We can overcome our sinful nature through the power of the Holy Spirit and we do not have to sin in word, thought and deed every day. Christ can help us overcome the temptations in our lives that lead to sin and we can be free (see 2 Corinthians 5:17 and I Corinthians 10:13).
A beautiful thought, isn't it? Or, perhaps you're thinking that I am one of those Christians who says that I've never sinned since accepting Christ. If you are, you'd be wrong. I may not sin everyday but I do slip up more often than I want. For instance, I am a worry wart. This is a weakness in my nature that I can't seem to defeat. It's like what Paul called a "thorn in my flesh" and I have to ask the Lord's forgiveness quite often. I have also asked God to remove it from me, but he seems to say that his grace is sufficient and that I'm going to have to learn from that particular trial and tribulation. Does that mean that God has not overcome worry in my life like I so boldly mentioned earlier? That's a difficult question because we all have hang ups, don't we?
In 2 Corinthians 12: 9, Paul wrote: "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."
Scholars don't know for sure what Paul's weakness was but I know what mine are and if this verse is true God's power overcomes my weakness. I still have them, but maybe God wants me to use them to rely on him more.
For example, some people are delivered from desires right away after they accept Christ. One may be released from the desire to smoke cigarettes. Another may have to pray and use all kinds of methods to quit. They have to be disciplined and depend on God and as the desire weakens God proves his strength.
Back to worry. If this sinful behavior seems to be part of my makeup how can I overcome it? Didn't God make me that way? I don't believe he did, but somehow I have learned it over the years (maybe it's in my genes passed down through family connections!) or maybe it was modeled by so many people that I just thought it was the way things were done. Whatever the reason, it is something that I have to trust God about. Eventually it will be overcome through maturity and in the life to come. Some things just take time. To these we must trust that God is showing his power through us.
I know this post is getting long, but I just thought of an example of this. When my first husband Gordon was going through his battle with pancreatic cancer, I seemed to rise above it all in regard to worry. I just knew that God would take care of our family and he proved it over and over. It was amazing. It was the kind of thing that destroys people, yet I've never been that strong before. Or since, for that matter.
In comparison to cancer and losing a spouse, the things I worry about now seem inconsequential. I just have to keep reminding myself of that fact.
As for sinning everyday, if we are maturing in our faith why do we keep on voluntarily sinning? Doesn't the very definition of "sin" as found in the free online dictionary indicate a choice born of free will?
a. Deliberate disobedience to the known will of God.
b. A condition of estrangement from God resulting from such disobedience.
c. Something regarded as being shameful, deplorable, or utterly wrong.
The whole reason Jesus died on the cross is to save us from sin. Part of living the abundant life is getting help in overcoming sin in our lives. Sometimes we need counseling, sometimes we need to be accountable to our fellow Christians and sometimes we just need to stop when it is in our power to do so. God, in all the grace provided through Jesus, is there to help us and to light the way so that we can be free.
But what about sin committed by others and the resulting sorrow it wreaks in the world? Can we still live abundantly in the midst of it? I believe so. We may not be happy with our circumstances but we can always find something for which to be grateful - even if it's just the fact that your coffee tasted extra good that morning or maybe just because you had coffee. And there is always the gift of the day itself.
I love the story that Corrie ten Boom told in her book "The Hiding Place." Corrie and her sister Betsy were prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp which was plagued with fleas. Corrie was upset about the fleas, but Betsy helped her see that the fleas were keeping the guards out of their barracks and because of this they were able to share their faith with the other prisoners. Isn't that a good attitude? It may be a little sickening at first, but if your mind is in the right place Betsy's point makes sense. In this way she was living abundantly despite deplorable circumstances. I think many people confuse "abundant life" with an abundance of material things. But we see from Corrie ten Boom's experience, it's really an abundant spiritual life, and material things may or may not accompany that.
Right now I am reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. It is a brilliantly written biography of one of the church's greatest theologians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer, whose life was cut short by a Nazi executioner for participating in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler, lived an abundant life. However, I found that he also fought depression and he seemed to accept that his life's mission could end in seeming failure. Read something he wrote:
"And we simply cannot be constant with the fact that God's cause is not always the successful one, that we really could be 'unsuccessful': and yet be on the right road. But this is where we find out whether we have begun in faith or in a burst of enthusiasm."
That statement really seems to knock down the "God wants you rich" theology doesn't it? But that confidence that Bonhoeffer had of being on the "right road" seems to be connected to living the abundant life.
More about waiting
Earlier this week I wrote about awaiting the good. Here is something that I wrote in my journal a few weeks ago as I thought about Romans 8:28:
"The verse doesn't say: 'And we know that God will snap his fingers and everything will work out well for those who love him.' It says 'God works toward the good.' There's a lot of free will involved in that because I can screw up what God is working toward. God works toward, it doesn't say that God succeeds every time. It says that we should have faith in God because he is working everything out for the good. He's a behind the scenes kind of God. We can count on him even though we can't see what he's doing."
To add to this thought, the verse says to me that I need to get in step with what God is doing in my life and submit. I don't want to thwart his plans. That, my friends, is part of the abundant life.
In closing, here is a verse I read in my morning devotions:
"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob." *
*The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989, S. Dt 30:19-20