Saturday, September 19, 2009

Live the Life, pt. 4 (or Jesus Made Basket-loads of Too Much Food)

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”

“It sounds ridiculous.” That is what a Christian brother told me once when I sought to remind him of God’s promises about glory. He had come from the funeral of a girl he had loved. I tried to remind him that, while the loss was terrible, resurrection and glory in Christ is the great Christian hope. He said, “Yeah, but it sounds ridiculous.” In that moment he did not disbelieve the truth, rather he stated what I had often thought but had been afraid to state myself.

Is there anyone that can hear the words of Scripture and not at some point think that such hopes and promises are so far removed from our experience that they must be an absurdity?

I have never seen a resurrected body. I have never seen a man turn water into wine. I have never seen a few loaves and fishes feed a multitude. I have never seen a man walk on water or pass through walls or fly through the air. I have never seen anyone take Jesus up on His promise that if we “say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ … it will move” (Matthew 17:20). Shoot, later in Matthew, Jesus even said that we could throw a mountain into the sea. I have not seen that done either.

I believe it, but it sounds ridiculous.

Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Christ has not only made it possible to have life, but He has made it possible for us to have abundant life.

When we rebelled against God, we rebelled against the one from which all life, truth, beauty, and goodness flow. We rebelled against the one who actually is supreme life, truth, beauty and goodness.

For Christ to redeem us and offer us life once again is undeserved love and grace as it is. But He has gone beyond that. He has made it possible for us to have life abundantly.

It is easy for me to think of abundance as excess and waste. For whatever reason, the word “abundance” tends to carry a negative connotation for me. So I must make myself realize that there is nothing negative about what the Lord is promising in John 10:10.

I must realize that you cannot have God-given life in excess. You cannot have God-given life to a point that you waste it. So, the meaning of “abundance” carries something different, and something positive, here.

Christ brings us life by removing sin and death, but He then goes beyond that. Life without sin sounds splendid and I can hardly comprehend what that would be like. To say that we can also have an abundance of life is to push beyond what my mind can conceive.

In redemption, in grace, in offering the abundant life, God is not simply trying to get me back to the paradise that we call Eden. He is taking me to an even greater paradise called the New Jerusalem.

He is not seeking to restore me into the image of Adam, but rather into the image of the second Adam, who is actually the One in whose image the first Adam was made.

He is not trying to get me back to a place where the river flows from the garden, but rather to a place where the river flows from the throne of God (Gen. 2:10; Rev. 22:1).

He is not trying to get me back to a place where, next to the tree of life, there stands a tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:9). Rather, He is taking me to the place where, with the tree of life, there is a tree with leaves for the healing of the nations (Rev. 22:2).

He is not trying to get me back to a magical land where there is gold and bdellium and onyx (Gen. 2:12). Rather, He is taking us to a magical city of “pure gold, clear as glass” that is “adorned with every kind of jewel” (Rev. 21:18-19).

We could keep going, but the point is made. Christ brings life and He brings abundant life.

And here is the part that is really difficult to get my mind around: it starts now. Christ is present now and His Kingdom is going forward now.

A few people have told me that I talk about glory a lot. One person told me that “the New Creation” is my buzz word. Maybe I do talk about it a lot. Perhaps I did catch those 190 middle-school campers off-guard when I told them to savor their dessert because it was a foretaste of glory. Maybe it is odd for me to pray that the nervous person sitting next to me will recognize that the rush of the zip line that they are about to experience is just a small part of the goodness that is to be had by life in Christ.

Maybe I talk about it a lot, but I am certain that I do not talk about it nearly enough.

None of us do. And I know why.

Because it sounds ridiculous. But maybe, and I don’t really even mean maybe, the phrase “too good to be true” is only meaningful in a fallen world.

“That powerless body shall be raised in power. That was a fine idea of Martin Luther, which he borrowed from Anselm, that the saints shall be so strong when they are risen from the dead, that if they chose they could shake the world; they could pull up islands by their roots, or hurl mountains into the air… I think if we do not go the length of the poets, we have every reason to believe that the power of the risen body will be utterly inconceivable. These, however, are but guesses at the truth; this great mystery is yet beyond us. I believe that when I shall enter upon my new body, I shall be able to fly from one spot to another, like a thought, as swiftly as I will; I shall be here and there, swift as the rays of light. From strength to strength, my spirit shall be able to leap onward to obey the behests of God; upborne with wings of ether, it shall flash its way across the shoreless sea, and see the glory of God in all his works, and yet ever behold his face. For the eye shall then be strong enough to pierce through leagues of distance, and the memory shall never fail. The heart shall be able to love to a fiery degree, and the head to comprehend right thoroughly”

Charles Spurgeon in Resurgam

Monday, September 14, 2009

Live the Life, pt. 3 "that they may have life" (or Live Life)

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

Jesus came with a specific purpose and He spoke often about His mission. He said, “I came that they may have life.”

Christ came and He did not come just to hang out with us. He did not come just to learn what it is like to be a human. He did not come just to show us how to be well-behaved individuals. He did not come just so he could look at us in our struggles and say, “Yeah, I feel you man.”

He came to make something a possibility that was not previously available. His coming made life an option for a people who were made to live life. Apart from the coming of Christ human existence had been, and is currently, marked by the effects of death and decay. But, in the coming of Christ, life came to man.

Note that Christ said “that they may.” The life that Christ has brought is made available to all. It is available to all, but not experienced by all. Not everyone has chosen to take and experience the life that Christ has offered. Many have not even heard of the offer.

So, the question becomes, what am I doing to make sure that people know that Christ has come that they may have life? Do my daily actions reflect a conviction that Christ has come in order that people may experience life?

“Life is for living, we all know.”

“For in the theatres, dens of iniquity though they be, if a man is fond of a particular actor, and enjoys his art as a great or even as the very greatest good, he is fond of all who join with him in admiration of his favorite, not for their own sakes, but for the sake of him whom they admire in common; and the more fervent he is in his admiration, the more he works in every way he can to secure new admirers for him, and the more anxious he becomes to show him to others; and if he find any one comparatively indifferent, he does all he can to excite his interest by urging his favorite’s merits: if, however, he meet with any one who opposes him, he is exceedingly displeased by such a man’s contempt of his favorite, and strives in every way he can to remove it. Now, if this be so, what does it become us to do who live in the fellowship of the love of God, the enjoyment of whom is true happiness of life, to whom all who love Him owe both their own existence and the love they bear Him.”
- Augustine in On Christian Doctrine