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-God’s goal: our abundant living-
Date: May 7, 2017 (Easter 4; Peace River)
1. Texts: Acts 2:42-47; Ps. 23; 1 Peter 2:19-25; John 10:1-10.
2. Subject: discipleship.
3. Topic: abundant living.
4. Aim: guide, encourage.
5. Proposition: “Abundance is God’s intent for us—we have to allow him room to do his work in our lives.”
Right now it may seem hard to take God at his word. After all, Jesus said that he came that we may have abundant life and sometimes—maybe lots of times—his abundance is hard to recognize.
Just look at the starving people in South Sudan. Think about the thousands of people unemployed in the province of Alberta. I can’t help but wonder if cancer victims think of their lives as abundant. Or what about the depressed person who’s feeling that just perhaps suicide is the best choice given the circumstances? You see what I mean: abundance is hard to recognize.
I’m going to insist that most of that difficulty is of our own making. I must be thinking at least somewhat that abundance has something to do with material resources or with some overwhelmingly positive circumstance. Whether it’s abundance of food and money or abundance of happy circumstances, my thinking is placing abundance outside of me, external to who I am, on some kind of quantitative measure. In this worldview abundance is based on the world around me. So, when the world around me is stricken with material and circumstantial poverty, then my life is likewise stricken and I cannot see God’s abundance. That’s my problem, because the New Testament is pretty clear about God’s abundance.
God assesses abundance not on our external factors but on our internal—and eternal—ones. Remember, his focus is not some much on what happens to us as it is with what we do about what happens to us. His focus is on our character, on the life inside of us. That’s where godly abundance is to be found.
John’s Gospel continually highlights this truth.
• “In him was life, and the life was the light of all people” (1:4).
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-God’s goal: our abundant living-
• “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (3:1).
• “I am the resurrection and the Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live” (11:25).
• “And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (17:3).
• “But these are written so that you may believe… and that through believing you may have life in his name” (20:31).
Abundance is not found on the outside or in our external circumstances—it is found on the inside, in the experience of God’s genuine life. When we are focussing on the external, on our material resources or our happy circumstances, then we are incapable of recognizing the abundance God intends us to experience.
Fortunately for us, the New Testament gives us the telltale signs of God’s abundant life. “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”1 As we experience and express these realities, we are experiencing and expressing the abundant life of God. With that, we are fulfilling his plan for us—and all this despite our material resources and external circumstances. An absence of this nine-fold fruit of the Spirit is a clear indication that we are missing out on God’s abundance.
From which I gather that we have to fix things up with God. God’s intent for our lives is that we experience and express his abundant life. If that’s not happening, it’s not really God’s fault or even the fault of our external circumstances. The responsibility for that inner light and resurrection living must lie with us. So, the lack of the fruit of the Spirit points us not towards earning more or fixing up the house: rather we are directed inwardly and towards fixing up our relationship with Jesus.
It’s a good thing for us that the tools with which we can fix our relationship are easily available to us.
According to the Acts of the Apostles, the first repair tools we reach for are teaching, fellowship, the eucharist and prayer. This sounds all very normal and
1 Galatians 5:22-23a.
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-God’s goal: our abundant livingchurchy,
but think about it like this: when we’re showing signs of spiritual neglect through that missing fruit of the Spirit, we don’t turn first to confession, repentance and absolution. While it may be very tempting to think that the fruit of the Spirit is missing because of sin—and that may indeed be the case for some disciples—that’s not our first approach. We don’t sense the lack of patience, etc., and immediately think, “I’m such a bad Christian. I’m sorry, Jesus, for being such a rotten disciple.” The New Testament says, “When you become aware of your need of the Spirit, turn to the Body of Christ and the Family of God,” because that’s what teaching, fellowship, the eucharist and prayer are all about.
Are you still with me? Good!
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.2
So, here you are, living life and it occurs to you that you are lacking in the experience and expression of “…the fruit of the Spirit…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”3 And, because you are a disciple, you correctly interpret that to mean that you are lacking in the experience and expression of God’s abundant life, which Christ promised. Rather than move into blame and self-recrimination, you immediately reach out to the Body of Christ to access the apostles’ teaching, the fellowship of faithful disciples, the Lord’s Supper and shared prayer.