Thursday, June 10, 2010

What Is Authentic Abundant Life, Part I

10"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. John 10:10, NAS

In John 10:10 the Lord Jesus made a promise that is rarely grasped by most of His followers. We assume we know what the Savior means and use His words often in our sharing, teaching, preaching and thinking. But we still often to miss it … Big Time!

We all know the Master’s familiar words, “I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly!” At least we “think” we know them! Somehow it has taken me years to dig into this verse seriously and precisely. I see now that my familiarity bred a blind assumption. I hope all of you reading this are way ahead of me! My guess, however, is that our shared, creeping slowness to comprehend the Lord’s true abundance has most of you in a similar flesh logged spiritual boat! It has also taken me years to accept more desperately and perceptively another inescapable truth … the extreme necessity of my drinking His cups and carrying His cross! This is absolutely essential if I am to discover the magnificence of “Jesus abundance!”

I think I always had “the life” part of the verse on my radar. This was my salvation, wholeness, completeness and deliverance from my emptiness. By faith and confession I experienced eternal life and was born again into the life of the Spirit. Everything on earth changed! I found a “vitality” in my existence that I had never known before. I was alive to the realities of my Creator-Redeemer-Perfecter. I became a Christian, a Believer, a Disciple, a Follower of Jesus as my Savior and Lord! This was Phase One!

The deeper perceptions of the “abundance” part of His kind of life also missed me for many years. At first I thought it referred to “more blessings” on my life in the world as it was. It meant I would find a beautiful wife, we would have healthy children, find a good job and economic freedom, be significant with our peers, experience career advancement, rejoice in fulfilled goals, etc. The Lord’s promise was sort of a “happiness guarantee” for my future! Abundance simply meant I would live the life I was already living, but with Jesus it would get better and better. I moved on to Phase Two.

It didn’t take but a few years to realize that, again, I had still been missing it! Our Lord’s main purpose with me wasn’t to give me a better life “down here,” but to lead me to a life that was focused “up there.” The abundance wasn’t to have more and better of what I already had, but to discover a Christ kind of abundance I had never known before. I began to find more contentment and excitement in the purposes of heaven than the events on earth. Hence, Phase Three.

I increasingly realized that tasting and experiencing daily the life of Jesus living in me was more wonderful than I could ever have imagined. Still something wasn’t complete. I sensed a deeper dimension was lacking. Even though I was thrilled by the gift of Christ in me and with developing an overcoming walk in knowing Him and loving Him, there was yet an abundance I seemed unable to grasp! This Phase Four period helped me see that the truly Abundant Life is not found in receiving the gifts of God, no matter how tremendous they might be. Abundant Life could not be measured by what I was “getting,” even if the “getting” was “good getting,” and the “getting” came from the Father. No! There remained a deeper dimension than that! I began to ask the Lord to help me see it!

At last I entered Phase Five and recognized the open secret! Abundant Life, at its root, is not fully found in what you “get” but in what you “give”! Anyone can be a “human getter,” but it takes the God touch on a person to become a “spiritual giver.”

The Lord Jesus lived the most Abundant Life of anyone who ever walked the earth! Agreed? And He didn’t live “this kind of life” by getting but by giving. Amazingly, He had nothing material to give, only His Truth! In His own words He made it clear. “I have come to give My life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28; Mark 10:45). His Father exemplifies the same characteristic, “For God so loved the world He gave His only begotten Son …” (John 3:16). The abundance of the Godhead consisted not in first “giving things” but in “giving Himself.”

In His last teaching session with His eleven Disciples He made it clear. His mind must have been focused on His crucifixion that was less than fifteen hours away! “…But I Am in your midst as nothing more than a Servant!” (Luke 22:27). He is simply saying My purpose in being on earth is to give … to the Father and to you!

Certainly our Lord taught us in the Sermon on the Mount that He gives us “the things” we need to sustain our earthy life. But the Master also made clear that there is a higher agenda of life than things, events, duties, possessions, achievements, etc. There exists an Abundant Life, according to Jesus, that exceeds all other realities. It is created in having a pure and dynamic love relationship with Him, with the very Being of the Godhead! It is that life He wants us to have. It is that life that gives us experiential access to the abundances of God. It is in finding that life we learn what “more abundantly” really means! It’s that life that “… enables us to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine …” (Eph. 3:20). It is that life that “… makes all grace about toward us, so that in all things, at all times, having all we need, we will abound in all good works!” (II Cor. 9:8).

Yes, the Lord does “get” something for His “giving.” Us! “Father, I have revealed You to those You gave me!” (John 17:6). But the Savior’s abundance is so great that He could “give” before He “got.” And He gave to us whether He got anything back or not! His abundance is so vast that nothing is ever lost! He also “got” the pleasure of the Father! “This is My Son, Who I love, with Whom I Am well pleased” (Luke 3:22). Life at its best is to give to others! Abundant Life at its best is to give Jesus to others!

My definition: It seems clear to me that Abundant Life is directly linked to “giving” pleasure to the Father! It also means “giving” others compelling insights into Messiah’s promises! If this is our true ambition, we will begin to smell the fragrance of “life more abundant! (II Cor. 2:14). And in all this there is a hint of Phase Six!