Within the past few days I had a conversation with someone who was sharing about someone who had just passed away. When asked if the person died knowing Christ, the person I was talking to didn’t know but had sufficient reason to be concerned for this person’s salvation. He further went on to share what this person was like and how much the lifestyle of socializing and partying was in their life. For the rest of the day I found myself thinking about this person and the life they lived, and how so many find themselves living the same type of lifestyle this person did.
In Matthew 24:36-44, and also in Luke 17:26-36, in describing what the days of His return would look like, Jesus likened them to the days of Noah and Lot. In both passages He indicates that people will basically be caught up with life itself and its many different pleasures, a description we can easily make for the times we are now living in. As I pondered these things I found myself asking a simple question, what does it mean to live life, and to live life more abundantly? In John 10:10, Jesus tells us that He came so that we can have life, and life more abundantly, but what does that mean?
I’ve talked to many a person over the years who have shared with me what living life looks like to them. Some of the people were Christians, and some were not, but I would have to say the majority of those who were Christians seemed to say the same thing that non-Christians would say. They would talk of their embracing and enthusiastically pursuing some of the pleasures this world has to offer them, and in some cases would note how they enjoyed themselves so much that they couldn’t remember what they did. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with enjoying some of the pleasures this life affords us, I can’t help but wonder if this is what Christ was talking about. Did Jesus come so that we could enjoy and find pleasure in the things the world offers us, and all the more abundantly? Or are we missing what it was He was talking about?
If what Jesus was referring to was our ability to participate in and enjoy the different pleasures of this life, then why did He come and die for us? After all, we can clearly see that the world has more than mastered that, enjoying the various pleasures of this life in passion, fervor, and enthusiasm. Everywhere we look we see people enjoying and loving “life” with everything within themselves, even to the point of living their life for the pleasures awaiting them. Some of these people live it in various forms of recreation, whether it is a weekend on the lake, a game of soccer with the guys, a day of shopping with the girls, various social activities and parties, or the tinkering on of an old car or scrapbooking, many are living for the recreation and enjoying it immensely. Some people live it in entertaining others, or by being entertained by music, TV, sports, videos or movies. And others live life in the pursuit of riches, fame, material possessions and power. And still others find it in the passionate pursuit of what we sometimes call “vices”. You know what I mean, for some it is the pursuit of the pleasures they receive from alcohol, drugs, and various sexual conquests and experiences. No matter the form, everywhere we look we see people living life, and living it with gusto, but is that what Jesus came to give us?
The other thing that comes to my mind stems from the fact that we are spiritually dead apart from Christ and the sacrifice He made for us. How can we identify what life is and what it means to live it based on people who are spiritually dead? That doesn’t make sense, yet so many times that is exactly what we do. That’s like a doctor walking up to a dead corpse and saying life is where one doesn’t breathe because that is what the corpse is doing. There is something definitely wrong with this picture. Jesus said He came to give us life, why, because we were dead. We can read the New Testament, especially the writings of Paul, and we will see that we were dead because of sin, but that through Christ we were made alive. Paul even breaks down the differences in our behavior between when we were dead and now that we have become alive in and through Christ. What was characteristic in our life before Christ in how we lived and what our priorities were should not be the same now that we’ve given our lives to Him and subsequently made alive.
I think often times we determine what it means to live life, and more abundantly, based on what we see in the lives of people living without Christ. Some may argue that they are looking at how other Christians are doing so, but even then it often times mirrors what the world is already doing. We tend to think that because we see other Christians doing the same things then it must be the way it should be, but is that deception at its best? I heard that a minister once said that one of the greatest weapons the enemy of our souls has leveled against is if found in one word, entertainment. We live in a society that is addicted to entertainment and recreation, and if they don’t have it they go into withdrawals becoming depressed and grumpy if they don’t have it to partake in. Many times people even become quite demanding in order to fulfill these desires, and that isn’t pretty. In the passages mentioned in the second paragraph, it is evident that people are caught up in living life, and Jesus doesn’t refer to this as a good thing. In fact, Jesus views it as a bad thing in that these people will not be aware of His return and be caught off guard and left behind.
So, the question remains, what does it mean for Christ to bring us life, and life more abundantly? Obviously, to answer that question based on how the world lives life will give us the wrong answer, and it would imply that Jesus didn’t really know what He was talking about if it was nothing different than what the world was already living. Some would argue that it is the ability to live in the moment without fear of eternal consequences because Christ died so that we could have the forgiveness of sins, but that is really no different from how the world lives. People in the world live for the moment with no regard for any consequences, much less eternal. So, that can’t be what Jesus is talking about either.
When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, they lost relationship with God and spiritually died. It could be argued this was because they were being self-centered thinking to please themselves more than God, but it could also be argued that they were thinking of others more than God as well. Yes, Eve was deceived into thinking that God was holding out on them, which is where we can find the self-centeredness, but Adam knew what he was doing and it could be argued that he was thinking of Eve more than being obedient to God. I think either argument could be summed up with one thing, that they lost relationship with God and died spiritually because they didn’t seek to please and honor God first and foremost in their lives, no matter how it played out.
So, when Jesus talks of giving us life, He’s talking about bringing us from spiritual death unto spiritual life and restored relationship with God, and when He’s saying life more abundantly I believe He’s talking of a life with God over and above anything Adam could ever dream of having. But what does that mean, and what does that look like? Again, many think it is the ability to live in the moment enjoying the pleasures this world has to offer, but that isn’t what we see in scripture. After all, does that mean those mentioned in the later part of Hebrews 11 were not experiencing the life Jesus came to give each of us? Or, what about the Apostle Paul who was routinely beaten, stoned and left for dead, shipwrecked and imprisoned for the Gospel, and subsequently beheaded for Christ? Does this mean he was not experiencing the life Jesus came to give us, and more abundantly? What about Peter and the other apostles who were later martyred for the Gospel? And the saints in the early church who suffered and endured various persecutions for the faith, often times leading to brutal deaths of various sorts? If the life Jesus came to give us and more abundantly is mirrored in how the world lives life, then those I just mentioned fell tragically short of it. The people I just mentioned were not concerned about living for the moment and the pleasures the world has to offer them, but instead they were more concerned about living for Christ no matter the cost, knowing that they now had a relationship with God that would give them life eternal in heaven with Him. This was the blessed hope they each lived for and clinged to in the midst of certain death. They understood that life apart from Christ and living for Him is not really life, and they understood that life with Christ and living to please Him in all they do, fulfilling God’s will for them, in that there was the most fulfilling life one could ever seek to have. When we allow God to breathe into us the breath of life, we become energized in our being for Him. We begin to realize that the value and purpose of our life goes beyond ourselves or the person next door, and that our value is now based on our relationship with Him and our purpose is locked up with being His ambassadors to a lost and dying world. To be His ambassador may look different from one person to another, but the idea is that our life is now centered on His will for us and what pleases Him. It’s not based on what we do or where we go, or even who we’re with, but it’s based on Jesus and His will for us. This doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy some of the pleasures this world has to offer, but if we are basing what it is to have life and to live it abundantly on how the world lives life, then we are greatly missing what it is that Jesus came to give us.
Someone once said that the God we follow should be simple, and that is very true. Our life as a Christian should be very simple, yet so many times we make it complicated. I’m not saying we make it more complicated, I’m saying we make it complicated, period. How do we complicate it? We complicate it when we begin to compartmentalize our lives and what parts Christ has any access or say over. We complicate it when we choose to push Him aside and what He’s called us to for a period of time that we want to set apart for our own desires and will. We complicate it when we try to live for Him with anything less than 100% of ourselves, our time, our resources, our energies, or anything else you can think of. Jesus wants us to live totally and completely for Him, 100%, and that means placing each and every area of our lives under His leadership 100% of the time, and that is very, very simple though difficult to do at times when our flesh struggles for control in this area or another. It could be said that the life we live, and the abundance of it, is directly proportional to how much of our life we allow the Spirit of God to breathe into, which requires daily denying ourselves, taking up ones cross and following Him.
How much of the life Jesus came to give each of us are you living and experiencing for yourself? Or, are you struggling to live for Him and living according to the desires of your flesh at the same time, trying to have “the best of both worlds”? Some people argue that there has to be a balance between the two, but in this area the only balance is one where we are 100% serving and living for Him. Jesus, Himself, said we can’t serve two masters, yet many times we do just that when we try to live for Him but hang onto the desires of the flesh. Many are afraid if they sell out to Christ 100% they will have a boring life, but then again we have to ask ourselves, much like we did regarding what it means to have life and live it abundantly, if we are basing what is boring on what the world considers to be boring. Jesus said that for those who seek to save their life they will lose it, but for those who choose to lose their life for His sake will assuredly find life. What do you want more, life as portrayed by those in the world, or life as Jesus will give those who live for Him? These are just some things to think about.