Friday, September 25, 2015

How to enter into the enjoyment of the Abundant Christian life

Matthew 6:25-27 “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?"

Matthew 6:33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, andall these things will be added to you."

There is a coffee shop in the town where I live that serves an incredible cup of coffee. Whenever I enter into that shop, the owner knows what I will order. He proceeds over to the expresso machine and puts in a "shot" of what I call "new life" (that is, expresso). Now that small amount of super-concentrated expresso sits in the cup. The owner then hands me the cup and I proceed over to some assorted coffee pots and choose which beverage I will put in to fill the cup to the brim. The full experience and enjoyment of that cup of "new life" will be accompanied by undertones of rich, nutty, earthy, smoky flavor. To not have that cup filled to the brim would be missing out on the enjoyment that accompanies the energy guaranteed by the coffee. We could say that my alertness and quality of pgysical energy before the coffee contrasts with the change of energy that occurs when I begin sipping that good cup of "life-infused" coffee.

Two types of life are contrasted by Jesus in the opening verses of today's post. The first set of verses we could classify as "life" or "natural life". Self-centeredness enthrones itself in the natural life. Getting all the one can get and canning all that one can get is the pursuit of natural life. Worry. Doubt. Fear. Those three emotions are outcomes of the natural life. Whenever you look at mankind's attempts to live life without God, you will find worry, doubt and fear interlaced in every plan, pursuit and purpose. The natural, unbelieving soul considers God's Word a foolish book (1 Corinthians 2:14). Many will outwardly pay their respects to the scriptures. However, the court of human opinion means more and carries more weight for the natural human mindset than any book claiming to be the Word of God. 

The second type of life that Jesus speaks of we could classify as "Kingdom life" or "The abundant life". This life is entered upon through the New birth in saving faith (John 3:1-6). Matthew 6:33 gives the Christian the antidote they need to combat the temptation to think only in natural terms. The New nature received in saving faith runs contrary to the assumptions of natural, everyday life. Afterall, the "Kingdom life" or "Abundant life" is supernatural. Jesus speaks a similar thought to Matthew 6:33 in John 10:10 "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." The Apostle Paul wrote of the abundant life in Ephesians 3:20-21 "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think,according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen." The abundant life of walking in Jesus and He in us is the calling of every Christian. 

How is the abundant life, life, consistently enjoyed?
Jesus began the opening of His first sermon with these words in Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied." The entry point of the abundant Christian life is the new birth. The entry point of continual enjoyment of the abundant life is by being filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus didn't come merely to give life, but abundant life. 
This is why Jesus sent His promised Holy Spirit to His church (John 16:12-15). We as Christian people are heirs to an abundant Christian life. Only when we daily heed to the Spirit's influencing or filling ministry will we persist in life not upon the basis of natural life, but the supernatural life of the Son of God afforded to us by the Spirit's filling ministry. Ephesians 5:18 states - "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit."
We propose today this main idea: The Spirit-filled life enables enjoyment of the abundant experience of Jesus in this life.
What abundant life looks like in action - Ephesians 5:19-6:9
1. Abundant church-life. Ephesians 5:19-21
Here we see commands given to the entire church body to "speak to one another" and "submit to one another". The songs of praise and worship result in the overflow of the individual Spirit-filled Christians coming together in either a corporate worship setting or smaller groups. Like live coals in a BBQ, as one Spirit-filled Christian fellowships with another Spirit-filled Christian, the worship quickly escalates to that level of worship that can only be described as "other-worldly". A sweetness fills the air and the focus becomes absolutely Christ-centered. Churches benefit from church members who regularly make the Spirit-filled life their priority. It is important to note that nothing can kill church-life quicker than whenever any of us emphasizes self and the flesh over and above the leading of the Lord. Ephesians 4:29-30, which is logically connected to Ephesians 5-6, warns readers of what can occur when self, rather than the Spirit, is trying to run the show in our church-life. When the Lord is in charge, church life goes from "trying to get the work to move forward" to "the Lord at work". Truly t
he Spirit-filled life enables enjoyment of the abundant experience of Jesus in this life.

2. Abundant Family life. Ephesians 5:22-6:4
In the flesh, the idea of "submission" is viewed negatively. Moreover, the possibility of loving one's wife as Christ loved the church - i.e putting her needs ahead of my own, willing to die if need be, being the spiritual leader - is too-tall of an order in the flesh. The self-life groans in the sight and hearing of such instructions. Natural life cannot imagine abundance.

Only the Spirit-filled wife and husband can achieve what is expected here in Ephesians 5:22-33. Harmony and unity result when both spouses are regularly led by the Holy Spirit. Just as we saw in the example of the Spirit-filled church, the Spirit-filled marriage will focus on Jesus Christ. Turning once again back to Ephesians 4, we find why it is necessary not to end the day on an angry note in Ephesians 4:26-27. Husbands, did you know if you mistreat your wife, your prayer life will come to a standstill? Let’s not give the devil a foothold in our marriages. Let’s be filled with the Holy Spirit again and again for Jesus’ sake and each other’s sake.

I find it interesting that the entire argument for the Spirit-filled life is not only for adult believers, but young Christians too. Parenting in the way God has prescribed can often be an exhausting chore. However when I yield myself to the Spirit's leading by way of daily time in the scripture, praying for my child and denying self - parenting in the name of Jesus becomes a delight. Conversely, whenever a little Christian child is taught to submit themselves to the Lord by practicing daily time in the Word, asking the Lord to lead them and most-importantly of all, mom and dad having Spirit-filled lives, the growing pains of childhood can be greatly dampened.

This is why the Spirit-filled life is a repeated experience post-conversion. Just as your car needs repeated fill-ups, so does the Christian walk. Perhaps this observation is no more realized than in the context of parenting. The abundant life of Jesus Christ is enjoyed by being Spirit-filled. The results that can flow from the abundant life are abundant church life and family life. As we have already noted, 
the Spirit-filled life enables enjoyment of the abundant experience of Jesus in this life. In church, in the family and then one more area....

3. Abundant life in the work place. Ephesians 6:5-9
Working on the job tests the patience of employees and employers alike. How can either make Godly decisions or treat each other in such a way that honors Christ? In the context of the work-a-day world, where there is often more unbelievers and believers, the Spirit-filled life is an utmost necessity. If an employee finds themselves as the only Christian among dozens (I've been there) or working for a boss who regularly pressures them to attempt things that are contrary to biblical convictions (I've been there as well), then the only way in which successful navigation can occur is the Spirit-filled life. To walk away from temptations, or opportunities to be lazy when the boss is not looking requires a Christian to be daily yielded to the Spirit of God. Abundant life in the midst of life will pray for co-workers and supervisors and labor to be a part of the change being prayed for by the Christian. 
The Spirit-filled life enables enjoyment of the abundant experience of Jesus that is needed in the workplace.

Closing thoughts
Today we considered how to enter into enjoyment of the abundant Christian life. We saw that such a life is what Jesus came to provide and that is entered upon in the New birth. We also considered this main thought: The Spirit-filled life enables enjoyment of the abundant experience of Jesus in this life. Whether we are talking about church life, family life or work-life, our experience and enjoyment of Jesus Christ is directly related to how much we are placing ourselves under the Holy Spirit's filling ministry. God desires for us to live abundantly for Him. The question is: how much do we want to have a richer experience and walk with Jesus Christ?

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