PART 6 GOD’S ABUNDANT LIFE
PART 6 GOD’S ABUNDANT LIFE
What Are the Two Decisions That We Could Make Daily Which Would Help Us Experience God’s Abundant Life?
Here is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. I’m sure for many of us, we have this concept that all I have to do is go to church, and all will be well. Going to a Spirit-filled church is indeed a good start. We are commanded to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Why were the believers in the book of Hebrews instructed in this regard?
Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
We’re commanded to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Why were the believers in the book of Hebrews instructed in this regard? Apparently, there were some that had decided to no longer attend the assembly of the saints. These were believed to have been Jewish Christians who were upset at the inclusion of Gentiles who were considered unwanted by them. The admonition given in response to those who decided to stop attending was to exhort (to encourage) them to continue attending and to not allow personal prejudices about others to affect their decision of removing themselves from the benefits of gathering together.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for us to attend a Spirit-filled church on a regular basis. The benefits are many [e.g., the anointing (The Holy Spirit, … is Christ's answer to our need for discernment … who enables us to detect truth and error and to remain ("abide") in Christ50), the corporate impact of the Holy Spirit’s presence; the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit for the edification of the church; fellowshipping with believers; and the varied teachings which will help us to not only learn about the doctrines of the faith but also how to address the weaknesses of our flesh so that we can help other believers in their walk and grow to spiritual maturity].
What could be as great a benefit to a Christian in respect to attending worship, teachings, and praise services?
What could be as great a benefit is being impacted by God’s abundant life [divine grace, peace, joy, rest, resurrection life, and a surplus of spiritual refreshment for one’s self] throughout each and every day. When we’re not in church, life goes on. Issues will arise. Daily monotony will resume.
Sometimes, legitimate reasons might occur that could inhibit us from attending. For some of us, church attendance can impact our work schedule. For others, it could be a difficult place to get to because of the distance away from home. Family obligations might interfere. Or maybe something has happened after we’ve attended for a while that has hurt us deeply either by a fellow believer or someone in leadership.
I’ve been there, done that. If I was unable to attend because of a job, I would get the audiotapes of the service and listen to them at some other time. If there was a family issue that prevented me from attending one of the gatherings, then I would try to attend the others that remained. If I’ve been taken advantage of or hurt by a member of the church, I’ll admit that this presents me with one of the most difficult decisions to make. Do I stay and go to this believer privately or do I leave and go somewhere else?
Matthew 18:15-17 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
Usually, in this case, I would try to go to the offender and resolve the matter. If it involves someone in leadership, this can be even more difficult. If there’s no resolution with a particular issue with leadership, then I’d need to ask myself a few questions before I decide to leave the church.
Am I not permitted to be placed in any leadership or oversight position because I don’t agree with leadership on a particular doctrinal view?
Has leadership committed an egregious offense, been approached concerning such, and has responded that they can do whatever they please because it’s God’s business and no one else?
Has leadership asked for financial support in a certain aspect of ministry, and it has been found out that they have used it for their own benefit?
And if there are self-serving reasons why someone chooses not to attend church, then this is a different matter altogether. The story that follows will help us clarify what I mean.
Matthew 4:4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
I have a Christian friend, who it seems is always on edge. What I mean by this is, it seems that he’s always making decisions that inhibit his walk with God. If worship services are held three times a week, he might attend one. Being self-employed, he works in a profession where he admittedly could work on a particular job for however many hours he chooses. His choice is to work as many hours as he can physically handle. At some point, his body becomes fatigued; he goes home, eats dinner, and is unavailable to attend worship service.
1 Corinthians 15:33b … evil communications corrupt good manners.
Along with this, he associates with certain people that have reoccurring addictions, which are similar to the ones, he is still having issues with. Eventually, the temptation becomes so great that he chooses to partake of that which he has tried to avoid engaging in. This pattern seems to repeat itself in his life over and over again. Whenever I got involved in a conversation with him about how everything was going in his life, he usually responded by talking about all of the things that were occurring wrong with himself and others.
He expressed that he doesn’t want to continue on the road he is on but chooses not to change any of the decisions in regard to church attendance and personal associations. What I’m trying to say is the answer to our problems in the sense of how to address them can be right in front of our eyes, but if we choose not to take the divine medicine or remedy, then we only have ourselves to blame.
Whether we’re consistent in attending the assembling of the saints or are receiving spiritual nourishment through some other avenue, what else could we do that would help us grow spiritually?
CONFESS OUR SINS
1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
This seems like an odd recommendation.
Why would this benefit me if all of my sins were already paid for and forgiven at the cross?
For many churchgoers, sin is considered to be that which involves an overt action. Sin, however, is not just what we exhibit in our behavior; it also has to do with what we think or say. Being jealous of someone in our thoughts is just as much a sin as taking (stealing) what someone else has.
Scripture admonishes us to confess (admit ourselves guilty of what we’re accused of) our sins to God the Father or to whomsoever we have offended. We should do this because, believe it or not, we actually benefit from it in three ways. The first has to do with being reconciled with the person whom we have offended. Second, when we confess our sins, God the Father is faithful to forgive us of our sins. The word forgive means that He removes the chastisement or discipline from us that He would have instituted if we hadn’t confessed them to Him. And third, another benefit of confessing our sins is that we’re restored to fellowship with God the Father along with recovering the filling (control) of the Holy Spirit.
Yes, it’s true that every person’s sins were paid for and forgiven on the cross. But this has to do with satisfying God’s justice. However, receiving God’s forgiveness in time has to do with our walk with Him.
I’ve heard from fellow believers who’ve stated that confessing their sins was a waste of time because they mentally sin throughout the day. Their argument is that confessing sin didn’t stop them from committing it again and again, so why continue to do it?
I understand what they were saying because I went through this myself following my spiritual conversion. After I eventually found a Spirit-filled church and began attending the worship services on a consistent basis, I noticed that when the service was over, and I was on my way home, carnal thoughts would creep in. I would confess them, and then they would come right back. What was I to do to address this madness? The answer to this dilemma is what we’ll take a look at next.
I finally came to the realization that there was something I could do to limit the confession of sin, and that was recovery.
What is recovery?
Recovery means to choose to reflect upon in my thoughts God’s perspective as it relates to a particular area of human weakness or human strength in my life. We took a look at this earlier in our study. Do you remember the words transformed and renewing of your mind from the book of Romans? Let’s take a closer look at what this is talking about.
Let’s say I have a weakness of fantasizing about having sex with women. What should I do? I would suggest confessing this mental attitude sin to God the Father immediately. I might say something to Him like, Lord, I acknowledge my sin of fantasizing about having sex with women. Now comes recovery.
Matthew 5:27-28 Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
2 Corinthians 5:16 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more.
1 Timothy 2:3-4 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.
After which, I choose to think with God as to how He would have me think in this regard. If this fantasizing is in relation to someone who is an unbeliever, then I would memorize and meditate upon the Scriptures presented. God’s mindset now becomes my mindset. I don’t think of them as objects of my pleasure but as lost souls who need a savior.
1 Peter 1:22 … see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
What if I’m fantasizing about having sex with a woman who is a believer? Scripture tells us that we’re to love our fellow believers with a pure [Godly; genuine; not for the love of ourselves; to not use for our advantage; free from hypocrisy (a pretense of having a virtuous character51)] heart (mind; motives; thoughts that are in obedience to the truth) fervently (striving with all of one’s energy; in an all-out manner) as those, who, like ourselves, are new creations. Thus, an affection or fondness for another is based upon the likeness of that other to one's self.52
Colossians 3:10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
With that said, we should begin by addressing one weakness at a time, one that seems to continually distract us. This won’t be easy, but it will be beneficial. As our thoughts begin to change, so will we be increasingly impacted by God’s abundant life. Soon, this new life will be evident to us not only when we attend church but throughout the times when we’re outside of it. And because of such, we’ll become more and more sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit for prayer, witnessing, giving financially, etc.
If we follow what has been presented, it won’t be long until we reach the ultimate spiritual condition. Do you have any idea what’s considered the ultimate spiritual condition and what it actually means? This will be disclosed to us in the final chapter.
Before you turn there, I’ve left us with a beautiful article on personal edification. I think it fits well with what we have just presented. Enjoy!
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT EDIFICATION?
WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT FOR CHRISTIANS?
The dictionary definition for edification is "improvement, instruction, or enlightenment, especially when morally or spiritually uplifting." Edification, then, is similar to spiritual growth. [It’s] that which moves us forward in knowledge of and obedience to God. Second Peter 1:5-8 says, "For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." In essence, Peter is talking about edification.
As [Christians, we’re] expected to grow spiritually. Our knowledge of God should be ever-increasing, and our obedience to Him should be continually perfected. The Christian life is about "improvement." Not self-improvement or works-based improvement, but newness from God. In [Christ, we’re] new [creations,] and [we’re] being made new (2 Corinthians 5:17; Philippians 3:12). We have been declared righteous and are becoming righteous (2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 1:6).
Christians are called to cooperate with God's work in them. We should be intentional about our edification, seeking to know God and to obey Him. [We’re] told to build one another up (1 Thessalonians 5:11; Romans 14:19). We should seek to live at peace with others (Romans 12:8). We should monitor our thoughts and set our minds on things of God (Philippians 4:8). Above all, we should seek God and submit to His work in us. Edification is for the glory of God and the good of His people.53
That was a short but pertinent article. To my surprise, I found another one that I could relate to on the subject of personal edification. This one is about boot camp at Parris Island.
Two of my children, my son and oldest daughter, both went into the military (Army) at a young age. My son was a scout, and my daughter was involved with military intelligence. I was never in the military myself, but [I’ve] learned to respect the outcome of the training regimen.
Prior to my son enlisting, our relationship was estranged. We didn’t see eye to eye on much of anything. I attended his [bootcamp] graduation ceremony in Georgia. Afterward, we were given a small period of time to spend together. My wife and I took him out to dinner and noticed a remarkable change. Different attitude. Different way of talking. Different kind of confidence. And a repentant response to both of us.
A remarkable change had taken place. As we know, when our instructor becomes the Holy Spirit, our character becomes reflective of His spiritual qualities. Both of them are now born anew and have come under his tutelage. So, enjoy the next article.
EDIFICATION IN THE BODY OF CHRIST
[The following is a transcript from my talk on June 19, [2013,] at the Chase Park Church of Christ in Huntsville, [AL,] about Edification in [the] Body of Christ. Feel free to copy and download as you wish with proper attribution.]
In 1997, Thomas E. Ricks [authored] this book called Making the Corps. The book chronicled a platoon of would-be Marines at Parris Island, South [Carolina,] for all [thirteen] weeks of Recruit Training. It was an inside story, written by a reporter who had been embedded with Marines in [combat,] and he wanted to know just what made them the formidable warriors that they were. [So,] he went to the [source;] he went to the beginning. He went to where Marines were made.
The biggest and maybe most important part of the entire [thirteen] week process of training isn't learning weapons or hand to hand [combat;] it isn't being trained to be part of the best fighting force on the planet or even to work as a team - it all comes down to the individual. Teams are made of individuals. Marines are made of individuals.
Ricks goes through the process of the breaking down of the [individual’s] character. Not necessarily the essence of who he or she is, but the individual's characteristics. Their way of thinking. Their mannerisms. Even the way they walk and talk. The entire first weeks of Marine Corps Recruit Training is meticulously designed to accomplish one thing: to tear down and to build back up. To tear down an [individual’s] character - a nasty, undisciplined [civilian] - and to build them up in the image of the Marines - a disciplined, well-trained fighting machine.
Reading about it and getting to experience it firsthand are two incredibly different [things,] though.
In 1999 as a junior in high [school,] I enlisted in the delayed entry program for the United States Marine Corps. I don't remember my mother being excited about this decision, per se, but she was supportive [of] it. She bought me this book. She probably thought it would dissuade me from joining. I had [ten] months in the delayed entry program, plenty of time to think about the decision that I'd made...and to back out if I wanted. The book actually had the opposite effect.
If anything, I think I was more excited to become a Marine. I was more enamored with the philosophy of the Marines than before. That excitement was quickly squashed [during] the first few hours of recruit training.
We arrived at Parris Island, [SC, at about 2 a.m.]. We put our feet on the famous yellow footprints. We were told that all personal possessions would be collected and given back to us at the end of training. We made one [ten-second] phone call home, and that was it. We turned [in our] civilian clothes for new [camouflage] utilities. And if we didn't like looking the same as everyone else already, we all got [our] shaved heads.
There were no nametags on our uniforms. We couldn't even refer to ourselves as [I or me;] it was [“this recruit.”] We didn't even get 'US Marines' on our uniforms until we earned the title. Everything about even just the first few hours of training was about stripping every bit of individuality that we had.
And you know what my thought was those first few hours? [Why on EARTH did I decide to do this?] Over and over in my head, I said to myself, [You're not supposed to be here, you're not supposed to be here...]
I even got up enough courage to ask the senior drill instructor a question. "Sir! This recruit [doesn’t] think he belongs here!" I said stupidly. The drill instructor looked at me hard and said, "Did you sign on the dotted line?" My shoulders [slumped] because I knew where this was going. "Sir, yes, sir," "You signed on the dotted line, so get back in line."
And that was it. That was the last complaint, the last selfish thought I had for weeks. In the following days, I would learn to work together as a team with my platoon. I was retaught how to speak, how to walk, and given more lessons in respect than I ever knew were possible. I learned military [ceremonies and drills]. I learned to even eat the same way as my fellow recruits. We were eventually trained with various weapons and fighting techniques. We spent two [weeks, twelve] hours a day on the rifle [range,] honing our shooting [skills] because every Marine is first [a] rifleman. We even slept the same way, reciting the rifleman's creed every night before we went to sleep.
Before I knew it, training was [over,] and I was a Marine. [I’d] earned the title. [I’d] been built back up in the image of the United States Marine Corps.54
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53“WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT EDIFICATION? WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT FOR CHRISTIANS?” compelling truth 16 December 2021 <https://bit.ly/3p0C02r>.
54“EDIFICATION IN THE BODY OF CHRIST,” 17 December 2021 <https://www.chadl.co/blog/edify>.