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

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Tick, Tock

24 in a day.

168 in a week.

8,760 in a year.

If you haven’t figured it out already, these are the amount of hours in those respective time periods.  When you start adding it up, it appears as if we have quite a lot of time on our hands doesn’t it?  The sad reality is that our time is extremely valuable and many of us never seem to have enough of it to do everything we want or need to do.

In a sense, time is one resource we all have in common.  We may have a valid complaint about an uneven playing field in other areas of life, but not with time.  If we all stay alive for the remainder of this year, we’ll all have the same amount of time to work with.  Axioms like “carpe diem” and “live the life you love” help to encourage us to seize the day and live our lives to the fullest, and I agree we should do just that.  But in light of being a Christian, shouldn’t we examine how God would like us to use our time?

First, I need to ask…How do you view the gift of time?  I strategically chose the word “gift” because that’s exactly what it is.  Each day that we draw breath, God has blessed us with the opportunity to live in a manner that is rewarding and that pleases him.  For me, Psalm 118:24 immediately comes to mind: “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”  Do you view time this way or do you dread all of the chores you must attend to each day?  Considering time as a gift is the start of living a life dedicated to God.

Speaking of God, my next question is…What are your priorities?  Remember when I said that we are all gifted with the same amount of time?  The difference between us all is exactly how we choose to use it.  We are offered an abundance of choices, both good and bad, that we can fill our days with.  I mention the good as well as the bad because we’re so used to being bombarded in sermons on how we should stay away from the bad things the world has to offer and focus on the good.  While that is absolutely true (Philippians 4:8), even the good things of this world can be used by Satan to keep us distracted from living a life wholly committed to God.

For the person who wishes to faithfully follow God, we must remember that our time ultimately belongs to him:

20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)

17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17)

So how are you using your time?  Do you allow the hours, days, and years to tick away and lose the valuable time God has given you to serve him and make a difference in this world?  Or do you seize every opportunity and use your time with God’s kingdom in mind?  Remember the words of the psalmist in Psalm 90:10, 12: “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone and we fly away.  So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

-Joe Butler

It Doesn’t Matter What We Think

We’re pretty smart…at least we’d like to think so.  We humans of the 21st century are convinced that we’ve got the world’s mysteries all figured out.  Well, maybe not all of them, but we sure do have an opinion on everything.  And while I’ll freely admit that the combined wisdom of mankind in our age is something to marvel at, we really haven’t scratched the surface of what there is to know.

I mention this, because it always amazes me when people try to interject their opinions in matters of religion and Christianity.  People say they believe the Bible as the inspired authority and word of God, and then some go about trying to change it to meet their preconceived ideas or needs.  The truth is, yours and my opinions don’t really matter at all, at least in the sense of trying to change God’s word. What matters is what God says!  We may want to disagree with God’s view on things and say that the times have changed or that we have a better understanding of his word today than people of previous generations.  But the truth is, God’s word stands just as firmly today as it did when it was first written down.

We shouldn’t take the liberty to force our viewpoint or interpretation on God’s word.  That’s the job of the Holy Spirit.  It is He that allows us to understand the thinking behind God’s commands and promises.  It’s not fair for me to change those commands if they don’t coincide with the way I’m living my life.  It’s not right to add contingencies to God’s plan of salvation and accuse Him of not being loving if He doesn’t follow my advice (Galatians 1:6-9).  What we should do is study God’s word for what it says and pray continually that his Spirit will bring us into a better understanding of it (John 16:13).

This is probably most important as I take more opportunities to preach publicly and through this blog.  I must always remember, as does anyone who claims to teach God’s word, that it is God who does the teaching, not me (John 7:16-18, James 3:1).  I can study and use analogies to convey to others what the Bible is asking of us Christians, but I’m not free to add to or take away from God’s message (Revelation 22:19).  He knows far more that I will ever know (Isaiah 40:28).  Who am I to challenge the understanding and validity of the one who created me in the first place?

In the end, it doesn’t really matter what I think.  All that matters is that God’s truth is proclaimed!  All that matters is that He is honored and glorified!

-Joe

A Limitless God

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My wife always jokes with me that it seems like I know a little about a lot of different things.  That may be a product of being a voracious reader or being an educator who is constantly learning new things.  Whatever the reason, in her eyes, I always seem to have the answer.

Now, of course I’m not all-knowing, but I’m at least wise enough at this point to know that my understanding and knowledge barely scratches the surface in most subjects and is only slightly better in a few others.  I can humbly admit that there are people who are far more astute writers than I am.  I know there are Bible scholars whose knowledge of God’s word would make my head spin.  We all have different arenas of wisdom and other areas where we are sorely lacking.

The same tendency for us to have limitations to our own scope of knowledge also causes us to limit God to our own simplistic human understanding.  Have you ever really asked yourself some of the questions that are naturally posed by an in-depth study of the Bible?  How is it possible that God is omnipresent, or everywhere at one time?  It seems we place limits on God with such questions by automatically assuming he’s bound to a body like we are.  Or how is it possible that God can hear and process every prayer that’s ever been uttered?  How can God know every sin I’ve ever committed and yet still forget them all when I repent?  I mean, I can’t even remember what my wife said we were having for dinner half the time.

It just goes to show that we tend to place limits on a limitless God.  Not on purpose of course, but because it’s so hard to think outside our human, rational mind.  And this may sound odd, but I’m glad it’s that way.  I’m glad that my God cannot be described using only the words we have in our languages.  I’m happy that he cannot simply be explained by some science experiment in a laboratory.  Our God is far bigger in every way than any definition or description we could give and I believe that’s just the way he wants it.  It is our faith in him that shows him our love.  It is our trust in his goodness and provision that pleases him.  It is our obedience to his will, whether we can make sense of it or not, that shows him that he has Lordship over our lives.

This isn’t about worshipping a God we could never know because he wants to be known by his children.  This isn’t about believing in some ghostly figure because we will one day see him as he is.  It’s about a God who’s not bound by our knowledge, our understanding, indeed not bound by anything at all.  He was, is, and always will be a limitless God!

“For all things are possible with God.”

(Mark 10:27)

-Joe

Who Needs Google When You’ve Got God?

imageYou know it’s happened to you. You’re sitting there trying to think of the answer to some mundane question when you or someone else says, “Why don’t you just Google it?”  I wonder if anyone at Google ever thought that their company name would one day become a verb?  I know from my experience that whenever I ask someone how they knew some random bit of information, they just respond with, “I googled it.”

I don’t blame them. I grew up before the advent of the internet and I can tell you, it sure would’ve come in handy during those late nights working on research papers. Some of you know what I mean, the time when research meant reading through actual books and encyclopedias to garner facts and information. Not anymore. Google does it all for us. According to the website techwelkin.com,

  • Everyday, Google crawls over 20 billion websites.
  • Google processes 100 billion searches each month, which means 3.3 billion per day and 12,000 per second.
  • Ober 4 billion videos are watched everyday on YouTube (Google-owned).

The facts are simply staggering and would surely excite any mathematician or computer programmer, but I know a far better way to gain all the wisdom and information we’ll ever need.  Who needs Google when you’ve got God?  He is the ultimate search engine being omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipotent (all-powerful) and he has an understanding that far surpasses anything mere man could know.

” But, as it is written,

‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him’—
these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.”

(1 Corinthians 2:9-10)

Google’s ability to find answers and man’s ability to reason and think in constructive ways are pretty amazing, but they pale in comparison to the power and knowledge of God. Does Google know the number of hairs on your head?  God does (Matthew 10:30). Can Google know the thoughts and desires of your heart?  No, but God can (Proverbs 5:21). Is it possible for Google to know about your sin?  I don’t think so!  But God does (Psalm 69:5) and he even has the ability to forget them too (Isaiah 43:25). Even the very words of God are able to expose any mystery man may keep (Hebrews 4:12). So I’ll ask again, who needs Google when you’ve got God?

“Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
his understanding is beyond measure.”

(Psalm 147:5)

-Joe

 

Spiritual Discernment

spiritual-discernmentI have a running joke with my students at school about the difference between being book smart and having common sense.  Actually, it’s not much of a joke as it is quite true.  Some of the most academically educated individuals I’ve met seem to miss some of the most easy-to-understand concepts while those not carrying a litany of college degrees get by just fine with a little ingenuity and common sense.  And while there’s much truth about the fact that we can be a success in this world with a little less book knowledge than others, it takes a different kind of wisdom to walk in the will of God.  I’m not implying that being a Christian requires years of theological study, but it does require that we have a measure of spiritual discernment that no college degree can offer.

It’s important that we begin by looking at the great keeper of human wisdom, Solomon, in order to understand the differences between worldly wisdom and spiritual wisdom.  Solomon was the wisest man to ever live, no doubt because he prayed to God for that wisdom (1 Kings 3:1-15).  So why did he consider wisdom as folly (Ecclesiastes 1:13-18)?  Although Solomon’s wisdom was granted by God, he spent his time studying and pursuing knowledge of the things of this world.  In the end, he found them to be pointless.  And he would know.  No one before or since has tasted as much of what this world has to offer and found it, in the end, to be lacking.

Ultimately, spiritual discernment is something granted to us when we seek close communion with the Holy Spirit.  Besides being a comforter and an assistant in helping us to bear godly fruit, He also plays the role of bringing us into a greater understanding of God and his ways.  A worldly person, one who may have an abundance of human wisdom, cannot know God outside of walking with the Spirit.  Years can be spent academically analyzing scripture or seeking out more good works to perform, but without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we’ll find, as Solomon did, that it was all vanity and a chasing after the wind.

God wants us to have spiritual discernment.  It’s not a gift he wishes to keep hidden from us so that only he knows what’s going on.  He loves to bless his children with greater understanding after we’ve given our trust and faith over to him.  But first we must ask.  Philippians 1:9 and James 1:5 both show us that by prayer we can receive this special gift of wisdom.  Having this wisdom gives a deeper, more intimate knowledge of God and makes it easier to recognize what is evil in the world (2 Peter 1:4).  The world and the false teaching it offers seeks to distract us from God’s truth (Ephesians 4:14), but the spiritual wisdom of God provides us with everything we really need (2 Peter 1:3).

I know it may seem bold, but why don’t you ask God for his wisdom like Solomon did?  I think God would be thrilled if we offered that prayer and believed wholeheartedly that he can grant us our request.

-Joe