So… in my previous post (Jesus came to give us an abundant life – Part #1) I lamented my abandoned state – and let me explain that I have been a Christian since I was a teen or even earlier. I don’t ever remember NOT being a believer and follower of God.
Yet I remained under the ban until I received His full pardon for my sins and generational sin. Only at that time did I actually (in a practical way that affected my life and caused my to enter into the promised blessings) only then did I emerge from under the various bans and reap the promises.
Why only then? Because it happens by faith in Jesus. How? By believing that He actually IS “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” just as the bible says He is. (If you don’t believe that, then it doesn’t happen for you.)
Let me tell you a bit of how it happened for me…
The moment it began to sink in
I remember sitting in my lounge room. The churches were teaching that being a Christian should be all great and wonderful, but my life wasn’t. That was a huge source of confusion. Why? Was there something wrong with me? Was I “bad”? Didn’t God love me?
FWIW, when I have questions like this, I simply take them to Him. “What’s going on here Lord? What’s the truth?” And then I wait… and the answer comes in a few days.
So that day, I went to the post office and bought a big white sheet of paper and some texters (koki’s) and I drew a cross on the right hand side of the big white page and then drew an arrow towards the cross from the left hand side of the page.
On the left of the cross I wrote all the things that the bible says that Jesus had done for me, I wrote that I was dead to sin and all the other great verses from Ephesians and Colossians and Romans and really… the whole of the NT and LOTS of the things that the prophets in the OT said He would do.
But God literally made me turn the page over. Beyond the cross. Huh? But there’s nothing there, the page is blank. Yeah. Exactly. hehehe.
United in His life
He was happy that I’d decided to be united in Christ’s death, but He now wanted me to be united in Christ’s LIFE. Life. Abundant life.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. – John 10:10
I felt challenged to fill that page with bible verses of life. I couldn’t think of one single thing to put on the other side of the large white piece of paper.
All my experiences had been negative up to that point. The”life” side of the piece of paper remained empty for a while, as I had to learn a new way of thinking and behaving. Learn about who I am.
Of course some parts of the church were trumpeting that if I just tithed, then I’d be opening a window of blessing… yadda yadda. Money money money… you need more money. Ugh.
No… God was directing me to something more personal, something more profound. Living abundantly referred to peace, love, joy… things I had not known deeply in my life. The fruit of the Spirit. The joy of doing the will of my Father in heaven.
See? I know some of them now. I am living some of them. Lots more to go though… heheheh.
Broken in small pieces
But back then I had not come to expect to have these things in my life. I had given up on inside of myself. I no longer even hoped for these things. Many of the curses of Deut 28 were active in my life. I used to go to the coast to “seek God” for 4-5 days. In one year I went there 11 times. I was desperate. Things could not go on as they were.
I was lamenting the state of my life… and I heard this verse:
And he shall break it as a potter’s vessel is broken, breaking it in pieces without sparing so that there cannot be found among its pieces one large enough to carry coals of fire from the hearth or to dip water out of the cistern. – Is 30:14
I was a shattered man at that time. My friends can confirm this.
Many years ago I had given my heart to someone and had been rejected almost immediately… that cause untold pain and I tried to forgive and forget and stay… but it just spelled more and more rejection and fed right into my experience of life up to that point.
Inside myself I wanted to believe that people are good and that there is a good God… but my own experiences, sexual abuse, a lonely and damaged home environment and then a disastrous marriage… it all told me that life was like living in sodom and gomorrah… and that we were born bad and deserved bad things… and God was angry with us. Very angry. The preachers were right… or so I thought.
I was wrong. So were the preachers.
I had given up on the inside of myself. And I know that there are people reading this who feel the same way. I am writing this for you. May He bring you through and BLESS YOU! If I came through and am now abundantly living with Him, you can come through too, with Him.
A new beginning
So I began to understand that going to the cross was not the end, it was merely a beginning.
As I sat there, God was saying to me (yet again) through the bible, that he who is dead is freed from sin and we enter into Jesus Christs death through baptism… BUT now I was to able to enter into His life… enter into His promises (and they are all yes an amen).
It was hard to swallow because He was promising what I had hoped for… for so long… but never received! I reasonably thought… it had never happened before, why would it happen now… after all this time?
The biblical verses for those statements above are:
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. – Rom 6:4
and 2 verses later it continues…
For one who has died (… in baptism…) has been set free from sin.
Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.
For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. – Rom 6:7-11
Bam! Right between the eyes huh?
Faith in Christ, expressed as baptism, sets you free
If you believe the bible is God’s words, then you have to face this truth… that baptism entirely sets you free from death and sin in this world… if you believe. If you believe. It doesn’t work for those who don’t believe.
The AMP puts it well:
Even so consider yourselves also dead to sin and your relation to it broken, but alive to God [living in unbroken fellowship with Him] in Christ Jesus. – Rom 6:11
It took 1.5 years for Him to get me to believe that this is true. That I could be separated from my past experiences, that He had new and good things for me.
But I finally began to see that this truth is plastered in every writing of Paul’s; and Jesus said we must be born again of the Spirit (not literally of flesh). Paul’s “death” was a death to sin. A death that is not literal, but spiritual. A spiritual rebirth. A new man to replace the old man.
When I saw this… I grabbed it and I will never let go. I was so desperate that I would have accepted anything that God would have offered me… but as it turns out, He offered me life! And life abundantly.
The before-and-after theological picture looks like this:
Ooooo… this is my favorite part of the story. Why is it life abundantly? Well… because it annoys everyone around us. Yes, you read that correctly! hehehe.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. – Ps 23:5
Why prepare a table of good food and nourishment in the PRESENCE of our enemies? Because it might cause them to re-consider. Maybe they will get jealous and turn to God for their own nourishment. I hope and pray that the peace I have will make others hunger for God. The joy, the peace, the love… I hope it makes people re-consider their life choices.
This is precisely what God intended for His Israelite nation, He said He wanted to make of them a “peculiar” nation and make the nations around them “jealous”, so they would want Him.
Now He’s doing that through us, His children. He wants to do it through you!
The good stuff
Sure… I struggled for a long long time as God turned His face away from me, but now (as I wrote previously) He has promised never to do that to me again and He’s bringing me into LIFE… abundant LIFE. It’s true, it’s actually happening, I am experiencing greater amounts of peace and joy and all that good stuff.
What good stuff? The fruit! The fruit of the Spirit is:
But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence).
Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge]. – Gal 5:22-23
Faith is the key
I can tell you something. As I discovered this truth, my actual life has become a before-and-after.
Jesus has truly made a way out and we can enter into it – through faith. And as God once said to me: “faith is what you agree is true”.