What is the Christian Life…A Rich, Abundant Life (Blogs Revisited)

What is the Christian Life… A Rich, Abundant Life (Originally posted April 29, 2014)

“So being a Christian is synonymous with having an abundant life right?  Great…where do I sign up?  Has God promised us a rich, abundant life?  Well yes and no.  Today’s post on living as a Christian will focus on what a rich, abundant life really means in God’s eyes. First let’s look at the verse that sparked this study, John 10:10.  Jesus said in that passage, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”.   Some versions refer to it as an abundant life.  There is no doubt that God provides us wonderful physical blessings but many have interpreted this verse to mean that God promises what we would call the good life.  Wealth, power, life on easy street.  If you’ve taken the time to read much of the rest of bible or study the lives of Christ’s followers, you’ll know practicing a Christian life is anything but easy.  So what does this “abundant life” mean?  We must shift into eternal thinking and read some other passages to fully understand this concept.

Lets look at 2 Corinthians 9:8.  “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”  The abundant life is about the grace of God as well.  It’s about using that grace through the work we do for others.  God blesses us so we can then bless those around us.  It’s a beautiful way to show the love of God to the world and praise Him for the love he shows us.

The abundant life is also a life of power, or better yet, of God’s power living through us. Ephesians 3:20-21 says, “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever.”   We need to view ourselves as vessels carrying the message and power of God throughout the world.

Finally, the abundant life is having our needs met.  “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).  Suffice it to say that needs and wants are two very different things. But as the parable of the talents teaches, those who use God’s gifts wisely will be blessed with more.  God has always provided for his children…the entire bible speaks that message.  All we need to do is put our trust in him, obey and practice his teachings, and he will give us that abundant life we all hope for and dream of.”

For today’s “Blogs Revisited” post, we’re going to take a look at post I wrote as a month-long series back in April of 2014 answering the question of what is a Christian life.  I chose the topic of the rich, abundant life because this idea is so misunderstood and misinterpreted.  Of course that’s easy to do when we only use our physical world as a means of understanding Scripture.  As we grow more spiritually mature, we can hopefully understand the eternal ramifications of God’s word and the promises that lie within.

The idea of a rich and abundant life is a good example of thinking that God’s promises have to do with the here and now.  For sure, this passage of Scripture found in John 10:10 does promise us blessings, but we may have misinterpreted that God wishes for us to live a carefree life full of financial and material success.  As the post above mentions, one need only to study the Bible in its entirety to see that Christians throughout history have not always lived a life that we would consider comfortable and easy.  And if we only think of this life here on earth, it would make sense to think in this way, but God is preparing us for eternity and gives us the blessings (grace) we need to do the good works he wishes for us to do.  God does indeed meet our physical needs in this life and he does promise to bless those who are good stewards with more, but that abundance is meant to be shared rather than hoarded.

There’s no doubt that Christians should approach life with the mindset that they are rich in Christ.  But those riches have nothing to do with the physical things we have here in this life.  The riches of God are attributes like peace, contentment, joy, wisdom, and love and if you ask me, those things promise a much more abundant life than what this world could ever offer.

-Joe Butler

The Light of the World

“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” -Jesus (John 8:12)

One of the most easy to understand and yet stark teachings of Jesus was when he referred to himself as the light of the world.  It’s such a simple analogy that we can easily comprehend…that Jesus, in his purity and perfection, in his eternal love and wisdom, is the light that brings clarity to our entire existence.  Through an intimate connection to him, we can come to know God himself and his love for all of his creation.  We can be transformed into people of light ourselves, reflecting the glory of God to the world around us and bringing the light of love and truth to all the dark places in the world.

Jesus says that whoever follows him will not walk in darkness.  The apostle John echoes that sentiment when in his first epistle he writes, “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:5-7).  This simply means that the light of Jesus should affect us in a drastic way.  It should cause us to live lives worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1) and walk in a way that brings honor to the one who has given us everything for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).  It also means that the blood of Jesus, offered as a sacrifice on the cross for us, continually cleanses us of our mistakes if we are walking in his light.

True, there is much darkness in the world around us (John 3:19-20).  But we are to be people who live in this world but are not of this world (Romans 12:2).  People who are aliens in a strange country as we await the glorious return of our Savior Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:11-12).  Our lives should be lived in stark contrast to the worldly desires around us, so much so, that the world cannot help but notice the light of Jesus shining through our example.

This is the true meaning of Christianity.

-Joe Butler

Monday Motivation: Doing the Right Thing

No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

(Luke 16:13)

If I’m honest, being a Christian is not always an easy thing to do.  I know there are plenty of believers out there who will tell you otherwise.  They will tell you that following God is a simple act of the will or that its much better than the alternative.  While that may be so, we are always at odds with what our fleshy selves want.  Even the apostle Paul had this struggle.  He said…

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

(Romans 7:15-20)

Needless to say, our human nature desires one thing while our spiritual nature (controlled by the Holy Spirit) wants another.  That is why the Bible tells us that we cannot serve two masters.  The passage from Luke above is not only about money. It’s also about our ability to do the right thing in God’s eyes; to serve him and not ourselves.

The problem is, that’s easier said than done at times.  We are warned in God’s word that we cannot be just hearers of his word and not doers (James 1:22).  We are also told that it is a sin to know what is right to do and not do it (James 4:17).  Sometimes it’s not comfortable to do the right thing or we receive criticism for doing the right thing.  Either way, we should commit to following God in everything he asks of us.  That’s what it really means to make him our master.  And in the end, we receive a reward for doing so:

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

(Galatians 6:9)

-Joe Butler

Celebration

Yesterday was by far my most enjoyable day as a Father as I had the opportunity to baptize my daughter into Christ and watch her dedicate her life to being a Christian.  I thought I knew what it felt like in your heart to truly celebrate, but yesterday’s events gave new meaning to that word.  Words couldn’t begin to express how much God has blessed me through my beautiful daughter.  I’ve watched her grow physically, but more importantly, I’ve watched her grow spiritually as her love for God has blossomed over the last few years.

Psalm 118:24 has always been a favorite passage of mine for it reminds us that each day is truly a blessing from the Lord.  “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Needless to say, I have much to rejoice about today, and every day for that matter, because my wonderful daughter Emma has been saved!!!

God is so good!

-Joe Butler

So You Have Plans? (Blogs Revisited)

 

I think we can all admit that learning is one of the most important parts of our life, especially our Christian life.  Our path of following Christ is filled with countless opportunities to examine ourselves and God’s word and find ways where we can grow in wisdom and spiritual maturity.  In that light, I’m starting a new series of posts titled “Blogs Revisited,” where I will take a closer look at some of my past writings and make comments about the things I’ve learned since they were originally published here on my blog.  I will copy the post entirely with the date it was published, but I will also add some additional commentary on some new ideas I may have learned or new experiences I may have had since it was first published.  I hope everyone enjoys taking a look back at these previous posts and can continue to learn more about what it means to follow in the footsteps of Christ.

So You Have Plans? (Originally published February 6, 2013)

“So you have plans?  Don’t we all.  If you’re anything like me, then you know what it’s like to be a planner.  Don’t get me wrong…I like to take things as they come every now and then, but for the most part, I have big plans for how things will turn out.  And there’s nothing wrong with planning.  If I didn’t plan for retirement one day, I’d never get there.  If I didn’t plan my workouts weekly, I would never make any progress.  But more often than not, my plans, and most likely yours, do not take into account what God wants with our lives.

Everything in my life, my gifts, my talents, experiences, and knowledge all work together to make me who I am.  No one else has been me or can ever be me (which is a good thing because two Joe’s may be more than the world can handle).  So since I’m uniquely made, it makes sense that there are things that God intends for me and only me to do with my life.  Call it purpose or whatever, but God has a plan for my life.  How much do His plans and my plans overlap?  Am I even aware of His plans or am I too busy chasing my own desires to even notice?

Isaiah 55:8-9 says, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord.  ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’”

When some read this verse, they think it sounds a little harsh.  But I think God is trying to tell us something very important here.  It’s not that He isn’t concerned with our desires.  Those desires just need to match up with His plan.  God has a hindsight and foreknowledge that I do not possess.  He sees the big picture because He created me.  He purposefully opens doors for me that enable me to complete His plan, and He closes doors so I will not head in the wrong direction.

When it’s time to make decisions and create plans for the future, listen for God’s voice.  Listen to His plan.  Something tells me you won’t regret it.”

Since this post was originally written over five years ago, it’s interesting to see how my plans have shaken out.  Many of the things I’d set my mind to have come to fruition and many others, thankfully, have not.  It’s also amazing to look back on those five years and see that when my life was in alignment with the purposes of God, I always felt like I received an added measure of blessing from him to complete the task.  God has promised us that we have everything we need for life and godliness, and when our plans line up with his, he is more than happy to lend a hand to our success.

As I look into the future, it’s encouraging to know that if I listen to the voice of God as he speaks to me through his word and my experiences, his wisdom will see me along the correct path for my life…the life he created for me to live.

-Joe Butler

Monday Motivation: The Only Way

Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.'” (John 14:6)

I love many of Jesus’ teachings mostly for their straightforward nature.  Being a ‘get-to-the-point” kind of person, I love how Jesus’ teachings are so easy to understand for those who are truly seeking him.  Jesus says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8)  He promises that he will give us the answers that we need to know him more deeply and serve him to the best of our ability.

One of those teachings is found in the passage above.  There is absolutely no gray area in the comment Jesus makes in regards to our coming to the Father.  Jesus says that he is the ONLY way!

The way to God is through Jesus.

The way to truth is through Jesus.

The way to find everlasting life is through Jesus.

My advice for this passage of scripture as well as most other teachings of the Bible is to read it for exactly what it says.  Don’t try to make the Bible say something it doesn’t or change its meaning to something that’s more comfortable.  Don’t try to filter the messages taught in the Bible through your own preconceived ideas and beliefs.  That’s not worshipping God…that’s worshipping yourself.

-Joe Butler

An Electrified Christian

“The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter…it’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

-Mark Twain

I have this quote from Mark Twain on a bulletin board in my classroom at school.  Because I teach language arts, I try to teach my students to expand their vocabulary and use words in their writing that are more powerful and effective.  Like the difference in strength between a lightning bug and a bolt of lightning, there is a major distinction between a weak word and a strong one.  Hopefully by the end of the school year, my students will have learned a whole new set of vocabulary words they can use in their writing and conversations.

In a way, we can reapply this quote to what it means to be a zealous Christian.  We really do have a choice to live our lives and let our light shine with the effectiveness of a lightning bug or a lightning bolt.  The Bible directly addresses this concept in several places as well:

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

 

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” (Luke 11:33-36)

We can learn from these passage that our light, our example and modeling of Christ-like behavior, is not meant to be subdued or covered up in any way.  Our lives are meant to reflect Christ living within us, to bring the light of Jesus into the darkness of our sin-filled world.  It’s not too difficult to visualize that to shine forth like a lightning bug only allows us to have a limited reach, while letting our light explode out into the world like a lightning bolt will reach many more people for Christ.  The lesson is simple.  The amount of fervor we have for Christ directly affects the environment around us and has the ability to win more souls for the Lord.

So where does this light come from?  What powerful force must we rely upon in order to positively light up our world?  This isn’t about the unique features of bioluminescence found in a lightning bug or the powerful forces of static electricity in a bolt of lightning.  The strength of our light is found in Jesus himself!

12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”(John 8:12)

I don’t know about you, but I am in awe over the fact that I’m tapped into the most powerful force of light in all of creation.  You are too if you are in Christ.  The really important question is: Are you living in the power of that light and letting it shine through your life every day?

-Joe Butler