Abundant Life?

In my last post I talked a little bit about what the Lord has to say about living as resurrected believers in Jesus Christ.  Specifically, I asked what does it look like to live the abundant life Jesus gave us and what does it mean to reign in life?

I certainly don’t believe at this point in my life that I have figured this out, but I think I have exhausted myself finding ways NOT to live abundantly or to reign in life.  So I think that is a starting point, what is it NOT?

Over a year ago, through a series of what I believed at the time to be random mouse clicks (now I know for certain it was God’s divine plan), I stumbled across the most profound, uncomplicated, bondage breaking teaching on grace I have ever heard from a man I had never heard of, Terry VirgoThe three-part series I heard was called, “God’s Lavish Grace.”  I could never do his message justice, but one particular point stopped me in my tracks:  the sufficiency of the sacrifice.

He shared how in the Old Testament people would bring their perfect, spotless lambs for sacrifice to the Temple.  When they arrived the priest would inspect the animal they had brought to see if it was good enough.  The interesting thing is the priest never inspected the person who brought the offering.  It didn’t matter what their job was, what clothes they wore or how they did their hair.  The sacrifice is what made the person acceptable to God by atoning for their sin.

His point (and mine)?  Jesus was our perfect sacrifice.  In fact, His sacrifice was so sufficient that it covered all sin for all time (past, present and future) for all who believe.  So why do we (or maybe I should just say ‘I’ in case I am the only one) keep living like we have to measure up to some standard we can never meet?  Why do I keep inspecting myself, so to speak, to determine what I am doing right and wrong?  Why do I keep trying to make myself acceptable to God? Why do I keep TRYING HARDER?

I spent a lot of years doing a lot of things, particularly Christian service, trying to prove to God that I was good enough for Him.  I tried to be Superwoman for Jesus.  I mean He did give His life for me, right?  Shouldn’t the least I do be to kill myself for Him?  I was in church every time the doors were open. I volunteered for anything Jesus needed me for, or at least anything with a sign-up sheet. I read my Bible diligently.  I prayed for everything and everyone I could think of.  And you know what?  It NEVER felt like enough.

You know why it wasn’t enough?  Because I couldn’t repay a debt that I was unable to pay in the first place!  In hind sight it sounds ridiculous…I was trying to repay Christ for my salvation, for the GIFT of righteousness.  Gifts and debts are not the same thing.  The gift of salvation was exactly that, a gift to be received, unwrapped, treasured and enjoyed.  Debts are bondage, plain and simple.

According to 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB):  “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Bottom line? The sacrifice of Jesus, and believing in Him, was all it took to make me right with God.  Abundant life, reigning in life IS NOT trying harder.

The Day After (And Every One After That)

Yesterday (as I write) we celebrated the Resurrection of Christ, our Risen Savior.  God, who squeezed Himself into an earth suit and came to earth to dwell with those whom He created to fellowship with to share Himself with.  We couldn’t come to Him, so He came to us.

But His God-ness was too big for us, so He became small.  So small in fact that He surrendered His bodily care into our hands as an infant.

He lived an earthly life sacrificing part of who He really was for the sake us – living as if He was just one of us, not living fully as God.   He chose not to access His divinity while here, for our sakes.

He lived life just like the rest of us.  He lived in community and fellowship with others.  He ate, drank, worked, went to weddings, went to the Feasts.  There was however one significant difference – He did it in perfect obedience to the Father in heaven.

It was the first time God Himself had truly lived with man since the garden, since Adam and Eve, the lie and the fruit.

How did we handle God with man?  We accused Him.  We blamed Him.  We tried Him.  We convicted Him.  We nailed Him to a tree.  Our sin – my sin – nailed Him to that cross.

Not only did all sin for all time nail Him to that cross, but He actually BECAME all sin for all time for all men ON that cross.  There is not one sin unaccounted for, unatoned for.  He became the curse that God promised would come to His people if they did not obey (see Deuteronomy 28) Him.  In Himself, God fulfilled that Old Covenant of bulls and goats.  He satisfied it, He completed it.  What we could not do for ourselves God did for us.  He became one of us and sacrificed Himself, Jesus, for us.

When God the Father resurrected Him, He approved the sacrifice.  He proclaimed it sufficient to satisfy His wrath.  The blood sacrifice was so sufficient that no other sacrifice would EVER again be necessary.  In Christ, God is satisfied and for those who receive Jesus – the way, the truth and the life – the covenant of sin and death is finished.

We are children of God, we are complete in Him.  He has given us EVERYTHING pertaining to life and godliness.  We are righteous, loved and 100% accepted by God.

So this is really the point of my post today, as believers in Jesus Christ, how are we to live this day and every day after the Resurrection of Jesus Christ?

Jesus had some things to say about why He came:

John 3:16-17 (NASB) “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.

John 10:10b (NASB) “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

So according to Jesus, He came that the world might be saved and that ‘they’ (those who are saved – see earlier in John 10) may have abundant life.

So I have to ask myself, as a believer, am I living the abundant life?  Ok, maybe I also have to ask myself, what does abundant life mean or what does it look like?

Does it depend on my circumstances?  Does it depend on my health?  Does it depend on my finances?  Does it depend on my job?  Does it depend on my wallet?  How much does it actually depend on me?  How does it happen?

Am I living the life Jesus came to give me?  If not, why?

Here’s a bit of what Paul has to say about the life Jesus came to give me:

Romans 5:17 (NASB) “For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.”

So according to Paul, those of us who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness, or in other words those of us who are saved, will reign in life through Christ.

Now I have another question for myself.  Am I reigning in life?

I’ve been running into these verses for years and honestly, I haven’t known what to do with them because the truth is abundance and reigning are probably the last two words I would ever have chosen to describe most of my life.  They almost sound extravagant and regal.  But given how sometimes well-meaning church folk can throw them around when we are facing very real, very difficult life situations, they can also sound trite, convenient, and dismissive.

But this side of the Resurrection of Christ they should characterize the life of the believer.

So, if you are being 100% honest with yourself and God, would you say you are reigning in life?  Would you say your life is abundant?  It is ok to be honest with God, He knows anyway.

If you are willing, I would love it if you would share some of your thoughts, feelings, or questions about this.  If not, just begin talking to the Lord about it.

My desire is to chew on the ideas of abundant life and reigning in life for a bit.  I have no agenda here and I confess upfront not to have all of the answers.  But if God says in His word these are what He came to give us, and we just celebrated the death, burial, and resurrection of the One who made it possible, maybe we need to think about it a little and ask God to shed some Light for us.

Father, You promise in Your Word that if we will ask for wisdom You will give it liberally and without reproach.  We are asking Father. 

The Simple Truth

I have been thinking a lot lately about God’s Big Plan for my life.  I even wrote some of my thoughts in Surrendering ‘The Plan’.  The more I think about it the more convinced I am that ‘The Plan’ has less to do with outcomes and accomplishments FOR Him and more to do with being in intimate relationship WITH Him.  Simply knowing Him, believing Him, abiding in Him.

So I woke up this morning with this verse on my heart:

Genesis 5:24 (NASB) “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”

Enoch lived 365 years (which was a short life by pre-Flood standards) and this is how the Bible records his life.  A simple sentence about the life of a man whom God took Home.  The only other Biblical reference to Enoch is in the book of Jude (Jesus’ own earthly brother) verses 14 – 15:

Jude 1:14-15 (NASB) “14 It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, 15 to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.'”

How did Enoch know what to say?  Enoch walked with God, he communicated with Him, he spent time with Him, and from that relationship he spoke for God.

The book of Micah describes ‘The Plan’ this way:

Micah 6:8 (NASB)  “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?”

There are some ‘to do’s’ in this verse that God requires, but they seem pretty simple and straightforward – do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.  Three bullet points on ‘The Plan’.  Seems simple, I can really get onboard with those.

When the crowd followed Jesus after the feeding of the five thousand and asked Him what they were to do in order that they may ‘work the works of God’ (see John 6), Jesus replies:

John 6:29b (NASB) “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

Wow!  That sounds really simple too.  It also sounds a lot like Abraham in Genesis:

Genesis 15:6 (NASB) “Then he (Abram) believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”

Abraham was made right with God by simply believing Him. Amazing!

Then there is Jesus again, with Mary and Martha:

Luke 10:38-42 (NASB) “38 Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’ 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.'”

According to Jesus, only one thing is necessary, spending time with Him, enjoying fellowship with Him, being with Him.

My point is simply this, I have exhausted myself with all of my ‘doings’ for God.  It seems to me, I am the one who has made serving God so difficult and so complicated.

‘The Plan’ God has for me (and dare I say all of us), from a Biblical perspective, appears to be a lot more simple and a lot less exhausting than I have made it out to be.  According to Jesus only one thing (not 500 things) is necessary and out of that the eternal fruit Jesus describes in John 15 will come.  The fruit of simply abiding in Him.

If it’s enough for God, why isn’t it enough for me?

Father, thank You for the simple truth that You desire relationship with me and out of that relationship You will accomplish Your purposes in my life.  Thank You for the freedom to let go of trying to figure it all out.  Thank You for rest.

Giving Up the Pit

Literally every day on this journey of unraveling grace, God reveals something to me He’s been trying to say for a long time.  The question I hear myself ask Him over and over again is, “Why didn’t I get this before?”  I mean really, I know some things take time, but 44 years (Yes, I should go read my own post about John the Beloved’s transformation…what can I say? I am slow!)?

So the other day I was cutting up an avocado.  A friend introduced me to them a year or so ago and I love them.  I love dicing them up in the skin, scooping them out, adding a little onion and salt and devouring them.  As I chose mine the other day, I made sure that it was the color I associate with ripeness and that when I squeezed it my finger and thumb sank into the skin a little bit without it feeling mushy.  From the outside it appeared good, ripe, ready to eat.

I took my knife and sliced all the way around the outside in a circle to make two halves.  I noticed it felt a little hard, but at that point I was undeterred.  Then I began to pull the two halves apart, but nothing happened.  I pulled harder and harder, still nothing.  The skin actually started coming off around the outside of the fruit (I did in fact verify it is a fruit since I usually don’t know these kinds of things), but the two halves were not separating.  They were clinging together like their lives depended on it.

Finally, I had to work my knife to pry them apart.  What I could see then was that the two halves that seemed so resistant to separation were not really clinging to each other, but the pit.  An avocado will practically give up the pit when it is fully ripe.  The pit will come out fairly easy and fairly clean, with little of the flesh stuck to it.

My not-yet-ripe avocado was a complete mess.  I practically had to use a hammer and chisel to get the pit out of the middle of that thing.  Almost half of the flesh of the avocado stuck to the pit when I finally got it out and by then I was thinking, I am kind of scared to eat this.  Anything that puts up this much of a fight has to be dangerous!

Well that message is true for me as well.  All these years that God has been whispering the love and truth of His grace to my spirit, my flesh has been clinging to my own “pit”.  I wasn’t ripe to receive the message.  He was speaking, loving, pursuing and I was unwilling to open myself up and allow my pit and my flesh to be exposed.  I was clinging to them as if my life depended on it!

In His time, however, when I was ripe, releasing that pit and exposing my true self has just seemed to happen.  There’s been no forcing, no chiseling, no hacking away.  It’s simply been a work of God and the natural response, because of who I am – a redeemed child of God – is to hand over that pit.

Unmasked

Every time I sit to write there are a couple of nagging questions in the back of my mind: 1) what if this time I have nothing to say?  2) what if what’s in my heart doesn’t make sense on the screen?  Sometimes trying to articulate in the natural what God is doing in the Spirit can be challenging and overwhelming.  And let’s just face it, it’s never going to come out perfectly anyway.

For the past couple of weeks, really beginning with All. Is. Grace., moving to the woman who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair and tears and then particularly walking out of darkness like Lazarus and being angry with God, the content of my posts has been written to share more of the real me.  I am intentionally removing the masks I’ve worn for many years, the masks I’ve hidden behind (even from myself) and sharing Kim.

Increasingly, each post has become more and more like giving birth – painful, tearful, at some point I am not sure if it’s ever going to happen, but then joyful and life-giving when it finally arrives.  From the reader’s perspective I am not sure if anyone would be able to see a discernible difference, but writing has become more of a working out my faith in fear and trembling, than a systematic process.

In fact, as I write each post God has often been doing a deep work on this side of my computer.  As He gives me words to articulate my life there is a growing depth to our relationship because I really am depending on Him every step of the way.  Sometimes I am even having revelation as I type or as I share with friends thoughts and ideas that eventually get published.

So, if this journey is so awesome (and it is), you might be shocked to learn that as I’ve shared without the masks so to speak I have been battling a growing anxiety.  When I first started the blog the Publish button was bullying me around.  I have come to terms with the fact that the Publish button works for me, not me for it.  It is not going to do anything that doesn’t serve my purposes (except for the time I accidentally hit Publish instead of Preview and my post left the Draft folder before I was ready).  In other words, I have made peace with it and we are now friends.

The growing anxiety has come AFTER I hit Publish and my humble offerings have gone out to the world.  As friends read their posts via email, or come to my site or click the link on Facebook, or however they arrive to my online home and partake of my inner most thoughts, my pulse starts to race, my breathing gets faster and knots form in my stomach.  As my site meter climbs and the number of visitors and views grows I actually get nauseous.

For about the last two weeks my stomach has hurt almost constantly.  It’s hurt in spite of the fact that I am getting positive feedback and encouragement regularly (and yes even from people who don’t know and love me).  It’s hurt in spite of the profound closeness I’ve experienced with the Lord in the writing of each post.

While I have shared this with a couple of very close friends, I have for the most part kept this between me and the Lord.  Finally He showed me some of what’s been going on in my heart.  When I hit Publish I am not looking for approval from people or way more importantly from Him, I am actually EXPECTING REJECTION, particularly from Him.  The anxiety is in the waiting and anticipation of the rejection to manifest itself.  Let’s be honest, expecting rejection has been the whole reason behind wearing the masks all these years.  As they come off, there’s nothing between me and you, between me and God.  The potential for intimacy is great, but the potential for pain is huge too.

Instead of resting in His UNCONDITIONAL Love, His TOTAL acceptance of me, the high value He places on me (did you know Believers in Christ are worth as much to God as Jesus Christ Himself?), and trusting I am secure in Him, I have been waiting for Him to say, “No, that post isn’t right,” or “No, you are not cut out for this,” or, “Is that the best you can do?”

I think God moves us out of our comfort zones to take us to new places of relationship with Him.  Not only am I learning to depend on Him for the writing itself, but I am learning that the outcome is completely up to Him too.  Yes, I might get hurt in this process.  Yes, I will make mistakes.  Yes, it is possible that no one may ever “get me”, except God.  But to know Him in a more intimate and revealing way and to experience life lived out of relationship with Him, it’s so worth the risk.

And no matter where this writing adventure (or anything else in my life) goes or where it doesn’t, God is pleased with me.  He is pleased with me simply because I am His daughter.  And if I may be so bold, I think He’s actually excited for me and about me.

As I wrap up this post, this is the song the Lord put on my heart, What Joy.  Enjoy! (Sarah Emerson does a beautiful job, but this Mama LOVES to hear her babies sing this song! It’s my blog, I can be partial if I want. :))