Living the Abundant Life
God wants us to have an abundant life; a life filled with the fruit of peace and joy. These qualities come as byproducts of a close relationship with God. The study below will show their connection and help identify the root problem in our lives that prevents us from having the life God intended for us.
1. Definition of Abundant/Eternal Life:
John 10:10b,11 - Jesus says "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."
Jesus is my GOOD SHEPHERD. He is willing to lay down His life for me. That's how much he loves me. He lays down his life SO THAT it will be possible for me to have an abundant life. This is his heart's desire for me. He wants me to be free from the things that prevent me from having an abundant life.
Read Philip Keller's book, A Shepherd looks at Psalm 23.
John 17:3 - Jesus said, "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
In this passage, Jesus equates eternal life with a "relationship with God". Thus, the quality of our life is determined by our closeness to God, knowing Him (his character, his love) vs. just knowing "about" Him.
The joy and peace that truly accompany an "abundant life" are byproducts of a true relationship with God.
Isaiah 61:1-11 - This is a prophecy which Jesus quoted and which Jesus, himself, claimed to be the fulfillment of in Luke 4:18.
This shows the type of life God desires for us. Read it carefully. It identifies the things that He wants us to be free of SO THAT we can become what we were initially created to be. Adam and Eve in the garden were
initially free from insecurity, etc. They walked with God and truly enjoyed the life He gave them. We are
meant to enjoy our work, our families, our food, our marriages, etc.
Understanding that God wants us to live an abundant life and that the quality of our life is connected to our closeness to God, let's look at God's perspective on what we can do to help with this process.
2. The Root of an Abundant/Fruitful Life
Proverbs 4:23 - "Above all else guard your heart. It is the wellspring of life."
Q. What is a wellspring? The source of abundance and continual supply.
Our heart, our inner self consisting of our thoughts, feelings, attitudes, principles, etc., plays a vital role in determining the abundance of our lives. God wants us to GUARD these inner qualities. More detail later.
We all have a physical heart. It is the essential component of our life. As a child we start with a healty heart. Yet, heart disease is an epidemic in our world. Q. What causes heart disease? Clogged arteries, cholesterol, Heredity bacteria, infections.These are hard to see because they are internal.
A pure heart is the same as a healthy heart. Well, what does God say about a pure heart?
Matthew 5:8."Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God."
Q. What do you think of when you hear A PURE HEART? ...uncontaminated & clean
Q. What do you think it means to "SEE GOD" or not see God? ...able to see God working in my life,
able to see his creativity all around me and in me, etc.
Q. How do you see God in your daily life?
(I see the good that he does for me. I see the way he meets my need through others. I see how he wants to heal the pain caused me through others. I see how He has sent other people into my life to help me to heal. That's how much he loves me. I also see how He puts other people's needs on my heart and gives me the desire to meet their needs. He wants to live His life through me. That's "seeing the good/seeing GOD.")
When my heart is clogged up I can't see life clearly or the path that I should be walking on clearly. I don't hear God or think he is responding to my prayers. I get depressed and hopeless. The key is to aim for a pure heart. This process begins when you "ask God" to transform your heart so that it is an authentic replica of His heart. Trying to "change your heart" without asking God for the power is futile.
As children we start out with a pure or healthy heart. Heart disease in God's eyes runs a similar course to physical heart disease.
There can be a long process of disease going on inside that no one can see. After a time symptoms appear.
OUR SPIRITUAL HEART is the INNER BEING of who we are.
3. Identifying and Curing a Diseased Root (Diseased Spiritual Heart)
Q. What causes a heart to become impure?
Mark 7:14,15,20-23 - These impurities come from inside of us and contaminate our hearts.
(Following are some contaminants that clog up our hearts, imprison us, and consume our thoughts and actions:
evil thoughts, malice(wanting bad things to happen to others), envy(wanting what others have and wanting them to not have these things),slander(putting others down in front of others), murder(bitterness/hatred/unforgiveness), adultery/lewdness/sexual immorality(harboring sexual thoughts for someone other than my spouse).
We all know people "who" and we also know that "we" have been consumed with at least some of these things and we can see how it has destroyed their and our joy.
The next scripture shows us the effect that such impurities do and will have on our lives and on the lives of our children if not dealt with radically:
2 Timothy 3:1-5 -Do you want to be imprisoned by bitterness, selfishness, loneliness, superficial relationships, an inability to love? The final result of all of these things is ISOLATION/SEPARATION FROM the Other Relationships In Your Life - including God. The result of this kind of heart disease is spiritual death/separation.
Is this the abundant life???
4. God's plan for purifying our heart:
1. Assess the situation: (Realize that you are contaminated and look at and isolate the specific contaminants in your life.) See the What is Sin? study to get some help with this.
Romans 3:22-24 Being made right/whole with God comes through faith/trust in Christ Jesus. All people have sinned(been contaminated) and have allowed themselves to become isolated from God. The good news is that we can be made whole with God again by His mercy/forgiveness as a result of Christ's death in our place on the cross.
Hebrews 3:12-19 We are hardened by sin's deceitfulness and need encouragement
Romans 1 and 2: Realize that your sinful actions and thoughts have hardened (calloused) your spiritual heart.
Jeremiah 17:9, Ephesians 4:14-22 Realize that your heart is deceitful and that you need help.
However, we can't accept or feel the power of His mercy if we really don't think our sin is/has been that bad!!! Make a list of the specific sins in your past and present. Then ask others, those closest to you to share how some of these have put a wedge in your relationship with them.
Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 5:1-7, Colossians 3:5-10, 2 Ti 3:1-9 are some good places to start with respect to identifying the contaminants in your life.
Galatians 5:22 - 26, Ephesians 4:24 - 6:20, Col 3:12 - 4:6 are good places to view what God intended for our lives all along. These paint a picture of what living "according to God's will" looks like.
(I.E. We were and are made in HIS IMAGE and created to illuminate the path to Him....i.e.
glorify Him by our example.)
Colossians 3 talks about being renewed "in knowledge" in the image of our creator. The more we understand
WHO God is.....his mercy, purity, love, gentleness, truthfulness, stability.....etc.....the more we will be able
to be renewed and transformed by Him!
Ezekiel 16 helps us to see our plight from God's perspective and His pain. Genesis 6 also refers to his pain.
Once you realize that you ARE a sinner (by seeing at least some of your sinful choices in thought or action THEN you are able to look at the cure and allow God to apply it to your heart!
1. Look at the cure that God has provided for you: JESUS_
1 Peter 2:21 - 25 AND John 3:14-16
Look at the healing balm: Jesus is my healing balm
By His wounds, I am healed.
Consider His Sacrifice....don't just mentally accept it.
Thus, I can be free of my guilt/shame and free of my bitterness/biting anger because he has paid the blood/price for the hurt they have caused me and the hurt I have caused others.)
Study the Gospels and ask yourself the question, "What did these people see in Jesus that enabled them to put their Faith/Trust in Him?"
As you learn about Jesus you will grow in your faith. Intellectual belief is not the same as faith. Jesus went to great lengths to teach people to TRUST in Him....in His plan for their lives, etc.
TRUSTING JESUS = HAVING FAITH IN JESUS
Being reconciled to someone does not mean that I must put my life in their hands again. What is does mean is that I forgive them for the pain they caused me and no longer keep a record of wrongs, I pray for them with the desire that they will see their need to change and be forgiven by God, I leave justice in the hands of God and no longer try to make them pay for the hurt they caused me. God IS JUST. He will make them suffer for the pain they have caused me if they do not change and seek forgiveness through Christ. **Being wise about who we should trust does not mean that we have not forgiven someone. Understanding this requires alot more study.** (God did not put Jesus in the hands of Herod when Jesus was a baby. God knew that Herod would kill Jesus. God sent an angel to warn Joseph and Mary top flee from Egypt. God protected Jesus. We must protect our children from harm too and not entrust them to someone that we know will not look out for their best interest.)
God's warming love shown to us through the life and death of Jesus is what can heal us. This is God's part of the healing process. Take some time alone to sit and absorb HOW MUCH God loves you. You are precious to him and he wants you to be yoked with Him.
He is the Father of the prodigal son (Luke 15).
Now comes our part...our free will decision to accept God's grace:
2. Apply the cure(PART 1): Let the cure get deep into our hearts and make us grateful. Let the message of Jesus(the cross) get deep into my heart and feel the forgiveness he has offered me. Humbly come to God with a heart of repentance and ask for forgiveness. Accept his method of how he wants to forgive you and remove your sins/guilt; accept his gift of mercy. Appeal to God for a clear conscience and make the decision to surrender your life to Him and live as His disciple.....a forever commitment. "We" must do this. No one can make this decision for us. (1 Peter 3:17-22).
Colossians 1:21 "Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death ... to present you free from accusation --- if you continue in your faith, established and firm ... "
Remembering the day when God forgave you of all your sins will produce gratitude. (Many other references too.) When disciples (followers of Jesus) finally saw their sin and their need for forgiveness, they were immediately baptized and with their senses could feel the washing away of their sins and the refreshment that came from being born again with God's very powerful Holy Spirit. God gave us baptism as a gift ..... to validate our salvation and union with Him..... and to give us a forum from which we could confess our faith before at least one witness. This confession also validates our transformation to us .... and to others. It shows others of the same faith that we stand on common ground: We are sinners who need to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus. Our confession at our baptism brings all of this together. (I do not believe that the baptism or confession actually cause our union with God. Ephesians 1:11-14 states that we were included "IN CHRIST" when we believed....i.e. when we actually came to faith/trust in HIM. John 3:25-36 and other passages in John also connect faith with eternal life....crossing over from death to life.
Our change of heart (a result of....deeply observing Jesus with our heart, seeing our sin which put him on the cross, praying to God for a changed heart) is what I believe unites us with God. Baptism, Confession and later (Communion) all validate that union. However, there is much discrepancy over this and my perspective might be incorrect.
3. Apply the cure(PART 2): Actively keep my heart clean.
Jesus shows us how to live. He is the role model for us. In 1 Peter 2:21 It says "to this you were called". If we follow his principles and live them out like he did we will have the abundant life. How do we follow his principles? What are his principles?
Matthew 23:25,26 "First clean the inside of the cup and then the outside will be clean." In this scripture and in this whole chapter is the very type of religion that is appalling to God. Jesus had stronger words for religious hypocrites who didn't see their need for forgiveness than he had for the prostitutes. People who refuse to see their need for mercy are appalling in God's sight. In their eyes they have no need for a savior. God says to love them but "Do NOT be Partners with these religious hypocrites." (Ephesians 5:7)
We act on cleaning our hearts by applying God's Word and His Love (through Jesus) to
1. Our thoughts and perspective:
John 17:17 - God's Word is truth. He loves us.
2 Co 10:5 - Take our thoughts captive and make them change if they are not healthy.
Q. What thoughts need to be taken captive? The lies we listen to such as "I'm worthless", "I can't do it", "Nobody loves me", "I'll never change"
*** Look at what the Bible says about God's love for us and our worth to him and BELIEVE IT. John 3:16. Our pricetag is
not $10, or $100 but our pricetag is JESUS. God paid JESUS to buy us back/redeem us. WOW!!!!!
I wasn't created to live a life of sin.
2. Our Words:
Ephesians 4:29 - Be others' focused. Think about what will build them up and strengthen them.
What builds and strengthens others? Focusing on their strengths and helping them to see how needed they are. Do you do this with your spouse and children? Jesus did this (See John 1:35 - 51)
Also, loving them with the qualities in 1 Co 13:4-8 and helping them to be released from the things/sins that imprison them(Ephesians 4:15) by speaking the truth in love.
3. Our deeds:
1 Timothy 6:18; Phil 1:27 - Be rich in good deeds. When we are giving ourselves to other people to help them with their own hearts, physical needs, emotional needs, etc. it helps us to grow too. It is amazing.
God's plan to be involved in others lives is very wise.
God's promise: 1 Thes. 5:23,24
What will we be like? God will cleanse us continually as we trust in his plan to keep our hearts pure. God will keep usblameless until and at the second coming of Jesus so that we can live for eternity with him in heaven!
This is what our characters can be like when our hearts are pure. (Gal 5:22,23) Loving, Joyful, At peace, patient, kind, good, gentle, self-controlled.
We can fill up our lives with alot of things and try to make them the abundant/full life, but that will not work. We need to first put the most important things in. Then we will see clearly as to what else should fit or not fit into our lives to make them abundant.
God's perspective on what is most important:
*** Above all else,guard your heart. (PROVERBS 4:13)
*** Seek first His Kingdom and HIS Righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.
(I.E. Seek first the community of people who follow Jesus and his principles(who are continually assessing and purifying their hearts) and His righteousness (be continually assessing and purifying your own heart) and ALL of life's concerns will not cause you anxiety. Your needs will be MET!!!!