Monday, August 15, 2016

Because He Lives: Experiencing Abundant Life

Have you struggled in your Christian life, waiting to experience a deeper relationship with Christ, knowing there must be more than spending a lifetime on earth longing for eternity? Do you sometimes feel like the king’s daughter you just read about -- excited to have a Dad, but not really seeing much of a difference He makes in your life on a daily basis? It doesn’t have to be that way.
You see, while we ARE to long for our heavenly home and consider ourselves citizens of heaven who are simply visiting on earth as ambassadors for Christ (Phil. 3:20, 2 Cor. 5:20), we can live a life filled with joy while we are here. In John 15:9-11, Jesus explained very specifically how to experience this joy:
“ Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”

You see, the key to having our joy “made full” is to abide in Christ ... and the secret to abiding in Christ is to keep His commandments. In other words, as we walk in obedience to Jesus, we will abide in His love -- we will dwell there. It is through this relationship of abiding in Him that we can experience full joy. Earlier in John 15, Jesus explains the importance of abiding in Him -- so that we may bear fruit to glorify God -- and tells us that bearing fruit is impossible apart from abiding in Him (see John 15:1-8).
These two ingredients added to our life -- abiding in Christ through obedience, and glorifying God with our fruit -- will work to bring joy into our lives. But when we obey God something else wonderful happens. You see, Jesus also said in John 14:15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” Let’s plug that definition into one of the most beautiful promises in the Word of God: Romans 8:28 -- “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  “Those who love God” are those who obey Him!
So in God’s wonderful, perfect plan, as we obey Him, we find ourselves abiding in Him, dwelling in His love -- His perfect, all-encompassing love which casts out all fear (1 John 4:18) -- and producing fruit to glorify God. Along with this we can then claim the beautiful promise that God will cause ALL THINGS to work together for good to us. What joy this should evoke in us!
Please don’t think I’m saying everything will be perfectly easy and there will never be difficulties. Thousands of Christian martyrs throughout the ages can testify otherwise. But when you put all of the ingredients together -- our obedience, the resulting benefit of dwelling in Christ’s love, the fruit we will produce, and the good God will bring out of all things in our lives -- we can have joy. Joy in knowing that our names are written in the Lamb’s book of life, that we are His. Joy in bringing glory to our Father. Joy at the promise of heaven and the treasures we are building up there. And joy because we have something nobody can ever take away: abundant life. John 10:10 records that Jesus said, “I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” Interestingly, the Greek word used here for “life” is not the life we live in our flesh (bios). It is instead zoe, and it means the life of the spirit or soul.
If you are hurting right now, suffering through difficult times or dealing with difficult people, please grasp this with everything you have: Nobody but you can limit the depths and riches of your abundant life of the spirit or soul with Christ. Whatever control another person may be exerting over you, he or she can’t limit your private prayers, because your relationship with God is personal -- nobody has to know what you say and do during your quiet times. You have been given the opportunity to experience an ABUNDANT life in your spirit or soul -- just like Paul and Silas did when they were singing in their prison cells, just like the early disciples did when they were persecuted for the sake of Christ, just like countless physically-imprisoned people have done despite the limitations of their fleshly (bios) bodies. You have that same ability to experience abundant life in your spirit that nothing on this earth or in your flesh can touch!
So plug these foundational truths into your circumstances. Watch God honor your obedience and your fruit by working all things together for good in your life. Rejoice over your salvation, your abundant zoe life in the soul, the answered prayers you are seeing, the glory God is receiving, your treasures in heaven. I can’t promise you a perfect life. But I can promise this: If you follow Jesus’ plan for having your joy made full, NOBODY can steal your joy or cause you to have anything but abundant life.

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