PART 3 GOD’S ABUNDANT LIFE
PART 3 GOD’S ABUNDANT LIFE
WHERE DOES GOD’S ABUNDANT LIFE COME FROM?
How does someone get this abundant life?
This is, for many, a very difficult question to answer. For those who don’t believe in God and are controlled by the dictates of the sin nature, this spiritual reality has no awareness by them and doesn’t reside within them. Many who don’t know God might conclude that when they die, that’s it; their existence is over. There are others who don’t know God who might say something like if there is one, then He’ll prepare a better place for all humans. As far as hell is concerned, it would probably be dismissed as being a fictitious place.
Acts 26:20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
If one of them were to be inclined to want to find God and see if He truly exists, what would be the spiritual remedy or prescription for satisfying their need? According to Scripture, this abundant or eternal life can only be received by them if they were to confess to God the Father that they’re a sinner and believe in His Son Jesus Christ as to who He is and what He has accomplished. If they were to respond as such a proclamation, then they would receive the indwelling Spirit along with additional benefits, one of which is eternal or abundant life. So, the answer to the first question is, how does someone get this abundant life; this is accomplished by responding to the gospel of Christ?
What about those who believe in God and are religious? Do they have God’s abundant life? These are difficult questions to answer. There are many people, who believe in God; however, their perspective as to how they’ll get to heaven is not based on responding to the gospel of Christ but on one of these four avenues.
- The first is water baptism.
John 3:5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Some have been taught that if a person is sprinkled or baptized in water, then their sins are forgiven, and at the same time, with the arrival of the Holy Spirit, they’ll receive a new heart and become a child of God. I’ll admit that there are verses that appear to support this conjecture. I personally don’t believe that any of us can perform any ritual to receive God’s favor.
Acts 15:1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
Do you remember the Jewish Christians in the book of Acts who proclaimed that unless someone was circumcised, they couldn’t be saved? If receiving abundant life was based on observing a ritual, then which ritual is the one that will cause a person to receive it?
2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
Without getting into an extensive study about this here, this verse from 2 Thessalonians seems to provide a clear understanding of what constitutes the gospel of Christ and its ingredients of water and the Holy Spirit from John 3:3. The word water is synonymous with the belief of the truth. It’s symbolic of responding to the gospel of repentance and belief. And the words sanctification of the Spirit refers to the receiving of the indwelling Spirit at this time.
- The second is by doing good works.
Many believe that if they follow the tenets of their faith in respect to doing such and such that God will look favorably on them and grant them entrance into heaven when they die.
Do they have abundant life?
Remember what we said about what abundant life is all about. God’s abundant life is divine grace, peace, joy, rest, resurrection life, and a surplus of spiritual refreshment for oneself. At sporadic times, I would expect that if they have received this life, then they would’ve experienced it.
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
I can remember attending an ecumenical Bible study years ago in which the discussion was about whether someone could get to know God in a personal way by responding to the gospel of Christ. One of the attendees, who had been involved in a particular faith, proclaimed that she knew God because she had been a member of her particular church for many years.
I proceeded to ask her if she had ever experienced God’s divine peace or joy in her life, and she said no. This was a foreign concept to her. It was pretty clear that salvation (going to heaven) in her mind was all about going to church and participating in the many community functions that they offered.
- The third reason given for the way to get to heaven is in believing there are many roads that will bring us there.
In other words, they believe that there are many different dogmas and gods that could get us to heaven. They would emphatically declare that the gospel of Christ is not the only way to get there. They would say that there are many varied truths pertaining to many different religious people, i.e., Buddha, Mohammed, Mary Baker Eddy, etc. They might also say that there are many different deities, i.e., Allah, Baalim, Woden, Zeus, etc.
Acts 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
It’s true that there are other writings of a spiritual inclination that aren’t affiliated with the sixty-six books of the Bible. And they do offer some explanation as to how someone could get to a better place at death. But in most cases, what they offer is some type of works program that they claim will get them there. And one more thing. There’s little or no mention of the need for a Messiah/savior to pay a debt owed to God the Father due to disobedience in the Garden of Eden.
In this regard, the resurrection of Christ would have no meaning. And there would be no need to experience abundant life because good works performed in the name of some god will be the chief basis or requirement for entrance into a place of spiritual serenity. Those who aspire to this pathway, if asked where they would go at death, would say that they have a hope of a better place, but unfortunately not an assurance of going there.
- The fourth reason given for the way to get to heaven is in believing in the Trinity.
John 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
I’m sure that for some, what I’ve just said is sacrilege. Belief in one God, existing in three persons, is not the pathway to heaven. This doesn’t mean or imply that there’s no Trinity. What I’m saying is that there’s only one of them who left heaven, was born of a virgin, and died on a cross as the substitute for all mankind. He’s the only way to get to heaven. And His name is Jesus.
With that said, here are the questions that I’d like you to consider.
Do you want assurance of going to a better place when you die?
Would you like to receive God’s abundant life?
Well, here are the scriptural answers to these questions.
Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Ephesians 1:12-13 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
1 John 5:11-13 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
As mentioned earlier, two conditions need to be met in order to receive eternal life. I’ll restate them again, albeit more fully. One has to do with repentance, and the other has to do with belief in a certain someone. Repentance has to do with acknowledgment of oneself as a sinner, and as such, a desire to want a change of heart, a new nature. Belief has to do with believing in a particular someone, this someone whose name happens to be Jesus Christ, as to whom He is and what He has accomplished.
Now, I present to you the most important decision that you’ll ever have to make in your life. This one, however, involves eternity. This cannot be earned. You can’t be given a ticket to come in by your friend, relative, husband, or wife. Would you like to receive God’s abundant life right now? This is no gimmick.
The following prayer is set before you. If you recite it silently or out loud, God will hear you and respond by sending the Holy Spirit to come and live in your body along with giving you many blessings, one of which is abundant life. Are you ready to receive a new life and a new beginning?
God the Father, I acknowledge that I’ve sinned in many areas such as: not telling the truth; slandering others; having sexual relations outside of marriage; being jealous; having participated in alcohol or drug abuse; having sex with others of the same gender; having committed adultery; taking money from others in a deceitful manner; having committed rape; having engaged in pedophilia; etc.
I don’t want to continue in these mental, verbal, and overt sins anymore. I need a new nature, a spiritual nature.
I believe in you Jesus Christ as one of the members of the Trinity, who as God pre-existed time; came to the earth and took on the form of a man, being born of a virgin (no sin nature); lived a sinless life; listened to and obeyed the directives of his Father; went to the cross and paid for the penalty of and forgave the sins of the whole world; rose from the dead after three days never to die again, walked the earth in His resurrection body for forty days witnessing to over five hundred people; and ascended into heaven to be seated at the right hand of God the Father.
If you’ve said these words, Scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit has come into your life, and one of the blessings you’ve received is eternal (abundant) life. Congratulations, you’ve been made anew. You are now a child of God!
Suppose you remember what was said by Jesus about eternal life from the previous chapter, which was that His desire for His disciples or followers was that they not only would have eternal life but that they would have it more abundantly. That integrity or the elements of the Holy Spirit’s character would be developed in them. That the reality of this new life would become evident not only to ourselves but also to others.
This brings us to the next question that needs utmost consideration.
How can I experience God’s abundant life on a consistent basis?
This will involve a two-fold approach.
The first aspect will be to determine what it is that inhibits eternal, abundant, or zoe life from being cultivated. We’ll take a look at this in the next chapter. And the second will be to find out what major decisions will help us experience this new life.
But before we do, I’d like to leave an article for you to read. We talked earlier in this chapter about the four ways that many people believe will cause them to go to heaven. One of them was that they believed there were many roads that would get them there. They intimate that this could be achieved allegedly by following a certain religious leader or by becoming a member of any faith. These ideas have always intrigued and yet puzzled me. Many roads? Many gods? Much confusion! Believe it or not, the following article takes these misperceptions and puts them in their proper place.
GOD QUESTION: “DO ALL ROADS LEAD TO HEAVEN?”
Are all religions equally valid?
Answer: [There’s] no doubt that the number of different religions in the world makes it a challenge to know which one is correct. First, let’s consider some thoughts on the overall subject and then look at how one might approach the topic in a manner that can actually get to [the] right conclusion about God. The challenge of different answers to a particular issue is not unique to the topic of religion. For example, you can sit [a hundred] math students down, give them a complex problem to solve, and [it’s] likely that many will get the answer wrong. But does this mean that a correct answer [doesn’t] exist? Not at all. Those who get the answer wrong simply need to be shown their error and know the techniques necessary to arrive at the correct answer.
How do we arrive at the truth about God? We use a systematic methodology that is designed to separate truth from error by using various tests for truth, with the end result being a set of right conclusions. Can you imagine the end results a scientist would arrive at if he went into the lab and just started mixing things together with no rhyme or reason? Or if a physician just started treating a patient with random medicines in the hope of making him well? Neither the scientist nor the physician takes this approach; instead, they use systematic methods that are methodical, logical, evidential, and proven to yield the right end result.
This being the case, why should theology—the study of God—be any different? Why believe it can be approached in a haphazard and undisciplined way and still yield [the] right conclusions? Unfortunately, this is the approach many take, and this is one of the reasons why so many religions exist. That said, we now return to the question of how to reach truthful conclusions about God. What systematic approach should be used? First, we need to establish a framework for testing various truth claims, and then we need a roadmap to follow to reach [the] right conclusion. Here is a good framework to use:
- Logical consistency—the claims of a belief system must logically cohere to each other and not contradict in any way. As an example, the end goal of Buddhism is to rid oneself of all desires. Yet, one must have a desire to rid oneself of all desires, which is a contradictory and illogical principle.
- Empirical adequacy—is there evidence to support the belief system (whether the evidence is rational, externally evidential, etc.)? Naturally, [it’s] only right to want proof for important claims being made so the assertions can be verified. For example, Mormons teach that Jesus visited North America. [Yet, there’s] absolutely no proof, archaeological or otherwise, to support such a claim.
- Existential relevancy—the belief system should address the big questions of life described [below,] and the teachings should be accurately reflected in the world in which we live. Christianity, for example, provides good answers for the large questions of [life] but is sometimes questioned because of its claim of an all-good and powerful God who exists alongside a world filled with very real evil. Critics charge that such a thing violates the criteria of existential relevancy, although many good answers have been given to address the issue.
The above framework, when applied to the topic of religion, will help lead one to [the] right view of God and will answer the four big questions of life:
- Origin – where did we come from?
- Ethics – how should we live?
- Meaning – what is the purpose for life?
- Destiny – where is mankind heading?
But how does one go about applying this framework in the pursuit of God? A step-by-step question/answer approach is one of the best tactics to employ. Narrowing the list of possible questions down produces the following:
- Does absolute truth exist?
- Do reason and religion mix?
- Does God exist?
- Can God be known?
- Is Jesus God?
- Does God care about me?
[First,] we need to know if absolute truth exists. If it [doesn’t], then we really cannot be sure of anything (spiritual or not), and we end up either an agnostic, unsure if we can really know [anything] or a pluralist, accepting every position because [we’re] not sure which, if any, is right.
Absolute truth is defined as that which matches reality, that which corresponds to its object, telling it like it is. Some say [there’s] no such thing as absolute [truth] but taking such a position becomes self-defeating. For example, the relativist says, “All truth is relative,” yet one must ask: is that statement absolutely true? If so, then absolute truth exists; if not, then why consider it? Postmodernism affirms no truth, yet it affirms at least one absolute truth: postmodernism is true. In the end, absolute truth becomes undeniable.
Further, absolute truth is naturally narrow and excludes its opposite. Two plus two equals four, with no other answer being possible. This point becomes critical as different belief systems and worldviews are compared. If one belief system has components that are proven true, then any competing belief system with contrary claims must be false. Also, we must keep in mind that absolute truth is not impacted by sincerity and desire. No matter how sincerely someone embraces a lie, [it’s] still a lie. And no desire in the world can make something true that is false.
The answer [to] question one is that absolute truth exists. This being the case, agnosticism, postmodernism, relativism, and skepticism are all false positions.
This leads us to the next question of whether reason/logic can be used in matters of religion. Some say this [isn’t] possible, but—why not? The truth is, logic is vital when examining spiritual claims because it helps us understand why some claims should be excluded and others embraced. Logic is absolutely critical in dismantling pluralism (which says that all truth claims, even those that oppose each other, are equal and valid).
For example, Islam and Judaism claim that Jesus is not God, whereas Christianity claims He is. One of the core laws of logic is the law of non-contradiction, which says something cannot be both “A” and “non-A” at the same time and in the same sense. Applying this law to the claims of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity means that one is right and the other two are wrong. Jesus cannot be both God and not God. Used properly, logic is a potent weapon against pluralism because it clearly demonstrates that contrary truth claims cannot both be true. This understanding topples the whole “true for you but not for me” mindset.
Logic also dispels the whole “all roads lead to the top of the mountain” analogy that pluralists use. Logic shows that each belief system has its own set of signs that point to radically different locations in the end. Logic shows that the proper illustration of a search for spiritual truth is more like a maze—one path makes it through to [the] truth, while all others arrive at dead ends. All faiths may have some surface similarities, but they differ in major ways in their core doctrines.
The conclusion is that you can use reason and logic in matters of religion. That being the case, pluralism (the belief that all truth claims are equally true and valid) is ruled out because [it’s] illogical and contradictory to believe that diametrically opposing truth claims can both be right.
Next comes the big question: does God exist? Atheists and naturalists (who [don’t] accept anything beyond this physical world and universe) say [no]. While volumes have been written and debates have raged throughout history on this question, [it’s] actually not difficult to answer. To give it proper attention, you must first ask this question: Why do we have something rather than nothing at all? In other words, how did you and everything around you get here? The argument for God can be presented very simply:
You [don’t] get something from nothing.
Therefore, a necessary and eternal Being exists.
You cannot deny you exist because you have to exist in order to deny your own existence (which is self-defeating), so the first premise above is true. No one has ever demonstrated that something can come from nothing unless they redefine what ‘nothing’ is, so the second premise rings true. Therefore, the conclusion naturally follows—an eternal Being is responsible for everything that exists.
This is a position no thinking atheist denies; they just claim that the universe is that eternal being. However, the problem with that stance is that all scientific evidence points to the fact that the universe had a beginning (the [big bang]). And everything that has a beginning must have a cause; therefore, the universe had a cause and is not eternal. Because the only two sources of eternality are an eternal universe (denied by all current empirical evidence) or an eternal Creator, the only logical conclusion is that God exists. [They, answering the question of God’s existence in the affirmative,] rules out atheism as a valid belief system.
Now, this conclusion says nothing about what kind of God exists, but amazingly enough, it does do one sweeping thing—it rules out all pantheistic religions. All pantheistic worldviews say that the universe is God and is eternal. And this assertion is false. So, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and all other pantheistic religions are ruled out as valid belief systems.
Further, we learn some interesting things about this God who created the universe. He’s:
- Supernatural in nature (as He exists outside of His creation)
- Incredibly powerful (to have created all that is known)
- Eternal (self-existent, as He exists outside of time and space)
- Omnipresent (He created space and is not limited by it)
- Timeless and changeless (He created time)
- Immaterial (because He transcends space)
- Personal (the impersonal can’t create personality)
- Necessary (as everything else depends on Him)
- Infinite and singular (as you cannot have two infinites)
- Diverse yet has unity (as all multiplicity implies a prior singularity)
- Intelligent (supremely, to create everything)
- Purposeful (as He deliberately created everything)
- Moral (no moral law can exist without a lawgiver)
- Caring (or no moral laws would have been given)
This Being exhibits characteristics very similar to the God of Judaism, Islam, and [Christianity, which,] interestingly enough, are the only core faiths left standing after atheism and pantheism have been eliminated. Note also that one of the big questions in life (origins) is now answered: we know where we came from.
This leads to the next question: can we know God? At this point, the need for religion is replaced by something more important—the need for revelation. If mankind is to know this God well, [it’s] up to God to reveal Himself to His creation. Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all claim to have a book that is God’s revelation to man, but the question is which (if any) is actually true? Pushing aside minor differences, the two core areas of dispute are 1) the New Testament of the Bible 2) the person of Jesus Christ. Islam and Judaism both claim the New Testament of the Bible is untrue in what it claims, and both deny that Jesus is God incarnate, while Christianity affirms both to be true.
[There’s] no faith on the planet that can match the mountains of evidence that exist for Christianity. From the voluminous number of ancient [manuscripts] to the very early dating of the documents written during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses (some only fifteen years after Christ’s death), to the multiplicity of the accounts (nine authors in twenty-seven books of the New Testament), to the archaeological evidence—none of which has ever contradicted a single claim the New Testament makes—to the fact that the apostles went to their deaths claiming they had seen Jesus in action and that [He’d] come back from the dead, Christianity sets the bar in terms of providing the proof to back up its claims. The New Testament’s historical authenticity—that it conveys a truthful account of the actual events as they occurred—is the only right conclusion to reach once all the evidence has been examined.
When it comes to Jesus, one finds a very curious thing about Him—He claimed to be God in the flesh. Jesus’ own words (e.g., “Before Abraham was born I AM”), His actions (e.g., forgiving sins, accepting worship), His sinless and miraculous life (which He used to prove His truth claims over opposing claims), and His resurrection all support His claims to be God. The New Testament writers affirm this fact over and over again in their writings.
Now, if Jesus is God, then what He says must be true. And if Jesus said that the Bible is inerrant and true in everything it says (which He did), this must mean that the Bible is true in what it proclaims. As [we’ve] already learned, two competing truth claims cannot both be right. [So,] anything in the Islamic Koran or writings of Judaism that contradict the Bible cannot be true. In fact, both Islam and Judaism fail since they both say that Jesus is not God incarnate, while the evidence says otherwise. And because we can indeed know God (because He has revealed Himself in His written Word and in Christ), all forms of agnosticism are refuted. Lastly, another big question of life is answered—that of ethics—as the Bible contains clear instructions on how mankind ought to live.
This same Bible proclaims that God cares deeply for mankind and wishes all to know Him intimately. In fact, He cares so much that He became a man to show His creation exactly what He’s like. There are many men who have sought to be God, but only one God who sought to be [a] man so He could save those He deeply loves from an eternity separated from Him. This fact demonstrates the existential relevancy of Christianity and also answers [the] last two big questions of life—meaning and destiny. Each person has been designed by God for a purpose, and each has a destiny that awaits him—one of eternal life with God or eternal separation from Him. This deduction (and the point of God becoming a man in Christ) also refutes Deism, which says God is not interested in the affairs of mankind.
In the end, we see that [the] ultimate truth about God can be found and the worldview maze successfully navigated by testing various truth claims and systematically pushing aside falsehoods so that only the truth remains. Using the tests of logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and existential relevancy, coupled with asking the right questions, yields truthful and reasonable conclusions about religion and God. Everyone should agree that the only reason to believe something is that [it’s] true—nothing more. Sadly, true belief is a matter [of will], and no matter how much logical evidence is presented, some will still choose to deny the God who is there and miss the one true path to harmony with Him.29
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