Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Cost of an Abundant Life

"But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness." ~ Romans 6:17-18

"The contemporary church has the idea that salvation is only the granting of eternal life, not necessarily the liberation of a sinner from the bondage of his iniquity. We tell people that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives, but that is only half the truth. God also hates sin and will punish unrepentant sinners with eternal torment. No gospel presentation is complete if it avoids or conceals those facts. Any message that fails to define and confront the severity of personal sin is a deficient gospel. And any "salvation" that does not alter a lifestyle of sin and transform the heart of the sinner is not the salvation God's Word speaks of." ~ John MacArthur (The Gospel According to Jesus)

When Jesus spoke of the abundant life in John 10:10, He wasn't referring to having your best life now on earth in the physical or material sense:

"The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." ~ John 10:10

The word "life" used in this passage comes from the greek, "zoe" which refers to spirit and soul. Jesus was talking about eternal life in the context of His continued efforts to reach the Jewish people. They were under the bondage of sin and the law, controlled by the self-appointed, self-righteous religious leaders. Through Christ alone, we are free from this slavery to sin and the world system of good works. Only when we die to self and surrender to Him are we free to this "abundant life". No longer trusting in the law, religion or our own efforts to save ourselves, we are transformed to experience life on a completely different level.

Isn't it ironic that many pastors and teachers today are doing the exact same thing that Jesus warned of in John 10? In their efforts to attract people and build their churches, they promise a twisted form of the "abundant life". They talk of earthly gain, not spiritual freedom. They refer to things like being happy, whole, complete and purpose driven instead of the things Christ taught like humility and self denial. How tragic that some people are being deceived into thinking that if they simply "come to Jesus" then life will get better and they'll be happy. One need only read about the disciples and early church founders to see that despite their "coming to Jesus", they lived a life of persecution, suffering and poverty in many cases. This certainly wasn't their "best life now" in the way that Jesus is being "marketed" today.

No, the life Jesus was calling His disciples (and us) to is one that involves sacrificial, selfless living. The kind of living that produces faith and glorifies God. A life that points to Christ, not to self or earthly success.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." ~James 1:2-4

We are robbing God of His glory and keeping the truth from people when we fail to present a Gospel message that doesn't include sin and repentance. "Jesus loves you" means nothing to the person who has not been confronted with their sin. That's like offering a cure for a disease to a person who doesn't even know they're sick in the first place.

The abundant life is living with joy because of what Christ has done for us. It's living a life of contentment and peace, trusting fully in Him for all things. (Philippians 4: 6-13).