Abundant life more than avoiding problem sin

Today I have given you the choice between life and death … Oh, that you would choose life!” — Deuteronomy 30:19

I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly. — John 10:10

(I pray) that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. — Ephesians 3:19

Moses, Jesus and Paul each lived for people to be fully alive.

When God breathed into Adam the breath of life, he did far more than jump-start the first human body. Adam (along with Eve and every one of their descendants) became something that had never existed before: living souls that bore God’s image, embraced God’s dream, and began to experience the interpersonal delight called love that up to now had been found only among the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This is our original glory. It predates original sin. It is what the Father’s eyes were on as the son went to the cross: “For the joy set before him Christ endured the cross, despising the shame and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).

When you despise something, you grant it no value and pay it no attention. Though sin had done great harm, something else defined us in God’s eyes.

Many have a pathological approach to life. This means that we tend to focus on what is wrong with ourselves and with the world. We think that if we clearly identify a problem we can then cut it out, starve it out or psychoanalyze it out.

Jesus had a different approach when it came to humanity’s salvation. He despised the shame. Sin would do him terrible harm on the cross, but it was the way to the glory that predated all sin. “He who knew no sin, became sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

When Jesus stood before Lazarus’ tomb, he did not say, “This is why you died.” Rather, he said, “Lazarus, come out!” This was a living example of what he announced three years earlier: “The Spirit of the Lord … anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18).

Our salvation meant far more to Jesus than an antidote for current guilt and shame or a heavenly reservation.

What we really want are God’s ways to be written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33).

It takes exactly that — God’s hand doing the writing. One of my favorite promises is Paul’s word to the Philippians: “It is God who remains at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (2:13).

But once again, I can limit God’s work by focusing the problems and issues I want to escape. I hope that one of these days I won’t have a problem with (fill in the blank) anymore. Any good counselor will tell you that what you think most about dominates you.

When Jesus offered us abundant life, what was he getting at? I have found wisdom in a book called “Leading Causes of Life: Five Fundamentals to Change the Way You Live Your Life.” The author identifies five aspects of God’s intention for us.

Connection: Abundant life has to do with cultivating meaningful relationships with God, ourselves, others, and the world. It starts with reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18-19) and goes on from there.

Coherence: Abundant life has to do with having a sense of meaning in our immediate and ultimate situations. When life is reasonably structured and explainable, we have the energy to invest and engage in actions to meet challenges. For Paul it meant being “seated together with Christ.”

Agency: Abundant life is when you believe change is possible and that you are not helpless. Sports work calls it “Nike.” Larry the Cable Guy says “Git ‘r done.” Paul says, “I can handle everything through Christ who gives me strength.”

Blessing: Abundant life happens when we sense our significance to another (i.e., God, parents, employers, etc.) and in turn communicate to others that they are significant to us. Christ calls us to “love one another as I have loved you.”

Hope: Abundant life is on display when we imagine a healthier future for ourselves and the world and act to bring that future into being (Colossians 1:3-6).

Like Adam in the garden, it’s going to take God’s spirit to impart new life into us and our times. We breathe it in by familiarizing ourselves with the stories of our predecessors in Scripture, so we can quickly see when we are starting to live according to lifeless patterns (Romans 8:1). We breathe it in when we admit our broken places and pray for each other (James 5:16; I John 5:16). We breathe it in by believing that our best days are not behind us (Philippians 3:12-14).

Can we believe that the Lord of Life is continually working among us to preserve life and draw individuals into a relationship characterized by abundance? For our sakes and for those who don’t know him yet, I am hoping so.

Russel Jarvis has lived in Hancock County since 1989 and has served as the lead chaplain at Hancock

Regional Hospital since August 2003. He enjoys golf, old movies,

reading and celebrating life with his wife and children. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.