Grace and peace are always for you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus the Christ. Amen.
All our lives, we have heard messages from the church the biblical truth that God loves broken sinners, and that is gloriously true. We stake our faith on this truth. But today I want to talk with you about the rhythms of the abundant life, which Jesus Christ offers to all believers. Where and how do we experience transformation and newness in the presence of the Holy Spirit?
First, we experience the abundant life when we drop our baggage.
It has been my privilege as a Christian pastor to listen to people share their life stories. So many people carry heavy burdens. Have you ever carried something very heavy for a long distance? Sometimes, until you put it down, you don’t realize how heavy it was or even that you were still carrying it.
The Word of God says, “Cast all your care upon him, for he cares for you” (I Peter 5:7). So many people have wounds from past hurts, difficult experiences of childhood, broken relationships, loneliness, feelings of resentment, guilt, shame, a cloud of grief over lost loved ones or even self-hatred.
Jesus has forgiven you. The One who went to the cross forgives us so we might be empowered to forgive ourselves. Please know this: The abundant life Jesus offers us can never be lived by looking through the rearview mirror. Press forward, believer, and experience the abundant life Jesus has in mind.
The second area to experience the abundant life is when we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit.
This past Easter Sunday, some of our family was home for the holiday. In the afternoon, the grandchildren flew kites in our backyard. Glorious color rose to float in the blue sky empowered and lifted up by the wind. The kites had no power to fly on their own; it was the power of the wind that lifted them to soar.
So also in our Christian life. We don’t have the power to become all God intended for us to be without the indwelling and life-giving power of the Spirit. Breathe it in. Confess to God so you may receive it gladly. Ask God to show you where the Spirit’s power needs to be released so you might be lifted up to new rhythms of life. Acts 1:8 says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you shall be my witnesses.”
Sometimes the Spirit comes like a dove gently resting on our soul, or like oil anointing our body, flowing over us, till it covers us with the fragrant scent of God’s perfume. Sometimes when the Spirit comes, it’s like standing under a waterfall. The sheer force, exhilaration, refreshment, and cleansing of the Spirit as it pours over us is amazing!
God’s promise to St. Paul was, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in your weakness” (II Cor. 12:9). Three times Paul asked God to remove his thorn in the flesh. What was it – a secret sin? A physical illness? A character flaw? A nagging temptation? We’re not sure. But we know this truth that God said, My grace is more than adequate for what you wrestle with. More that than, God’s power is made perfect in our human weakness. We need the power of the Holy Spirit.
I have a friend who works in prison ministry doing spiritual retreats. He tells of a friend he met in one of those retreats – a Christian businessman who says, “I’m on a first-name basis with the Holy Spirit. So I just call Him ‘Holy.’ Do you know the Christian country song, “Jesus, Take the Wheel”? The Christian businessman says, “Each day I surrender to the Spirit’s leading and ask Jesus’ Spirit to take the wheel. So I climb into the passenger seat of my life. I look over, and Holy is in the driver’s seat. Do you know what? Holy is a crazy driver. He says to me, ‘We’re going to Russia.’ I tell Holy, ‘I’m too busy; I don’t have time.’ But now I’ve made multiple trips over there to share the Gospel. Holy says, ‘We’re going to Uganda, Africa,’ and now, together with other Christian believers from my church, we’ve established a mission partnership there.”
This man is a construction company owner, and he is always short of help. So Holy led him to buy a house, hire a spiritual director, and receive men who have completed their prison term to come live in the house. They then join, by their decision, an intentional Christian community. The Christian construction owner gives them work, but in that community, they also have shared lives, meals, friendship, Bible study, and prayer. Together they have their character in Christ deepened in that way.
Holy is a crazy driver. Is He directing your life? The abundant life is an adventure led by the Holy Spirit where we understand how we are to serve God’s mission.
The third area to experience the abundant life is to walk in the Word of God. We need to know the Story, know God’s will and wisdom for us, and walk in harmony and in obedience to God. We need to know God’s promises for us.
A U.S. plantation owner from the 19th century had a wonderful friendship with one of his former slaves. When the plantation owner died, he left $50,000 inheritance to the former slave. It would be like $500,000 today. A lawyer for the man who passed away notified the former slave of his gift. Weeks went by, but the beneficiary of the inheritance never touched a dime.
Finally, the banker called the man and said, “I’m just reminding you, you have $50,000 to use or spend for anything you might want or need.” The former slave asked the banker, “Do you think I can have enough money to buy a meal of corn?” The man had never handled a dollar in his life. He had no concept, no comprehension of money or its value. Therefore, he had no understanding of how rich he was.
The Word of God says that we as believers have received the unsearchable riches of Jesus Christ. We need to know the Word so we know all the beautiful promises made by God and guaranteed by the blood sacrifice of Christ on the cross and His resurrection from the dead. We have inherited so much from God because of the love of Jesus Christ.
But we need also to walk in harmony with the Word in obedience to God. No one who lives in defiant disobedience can fully experience the abundant life Jesus offers. So I encourage us to do two things.
• Learn to listen for Jesus’ voice and obey Him.
• When the thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, tell the devil to go to hell where he belongs. Tell him in the name and power of Jesus Christ to leave you alone, and then pray Jesus will fill you with His Spirit and guide you in the path of obedience. When we walk in obedience to the Word, claim it, and cling to the promises of God, we begin to experience the abundant life God wants for us.
The fourth area to walk in abundance, we must walk in the Law God gives. Receive it gladly and freely love everyone God brings to you. In Romans 8:32 we read these powerful words, “God who did not spare his only Son, but gave him to us to die, will he not also, with Jesus, freely give us all things? Who will separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ?” Answer, nothing. No one is going to condemn us; no one is going to reject us. We are more than conquerors. Nothing can separate us from God’s love. It is unconditionally enveloping us. His favor is for us.
In the love God has for us, we learn to love ourselves. So many people don’t like themselves. If only they could see themselves as God sees them – His beautiful, gifted, precious child! We learn to love ourselves because we receive God’s love for us and believe it. It is the power of God’s love flowing into us that empowers us to love all people – not just the people who live close to you, are in your family or in your friends circle, but every person God brings to you in the power of His Spirit. Let the love of God flow through you to that person.
The fifth area of abundance is flying after Jesus every day of life.
I recently had a conversation with a retired DNR agent from north-central Iowa. He told the story about his boys.
When they were growing up, someone brought a little gosling goose who had just hatched but was abandoned by its mother on a cold and rainy day. They asked their dad about this wet, scrawny, shivering gosling, “Can we keep it, dad?” he nodded.
They borrowed mom’s hair dryer and warmed that little goose up. Then they put it under a heat lamp in a box, put water out, and ground feed for it. They played with it, and the goose imprinted on the boys. Mary might have her little lamb, but these boys had the goose follow them everywhere they went.
When it was time for the goose to fly, one boy held the goose on the ground holding its wings, and the other boy ran as fast as he could across the grassy meadow. When the boys were about 50 yards apart, the other brother let the goose go. The goose ran on his flat feet as fast as he could go, and then nature took over. His wings came out, and he started to flap them until he flew to the boy, landed in front of him, and waited for him to catch up. Then he flapped his wings and flew again.
From then on, the goose followed them everywhere. Whether they rode their bikes or jogged through the meadow, the goose flew by their shoulder. The goose was imprinted to them.
Through the cross of Jesus and His gift of grace and salvation, we are imprinted to Jesus Christ. We owe Him our life, and all our life we fly after Him, following Him in loyal service to be His friend, to do whatever He asks of us, to work for this King.
Jesus said, “I am the door. If you pass through me, you will be saved. I come that you might have abundant life.”
When I was four years old, my father was the pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church in Belmond, Iowa. My Sunday school teacher was an older woman named Mrs. Kirkendall. She taught us a song that I still have in my heart.
♪One door and only one
and yet its sides are two.
I’m on the inside,
on which side are you?♬
Are you on the inside of the door of Jesus Christ?
An old farmer met with his doctor and received the difficult diagnosis that he had terminal cancer and was going to die soon. So he went to his pastor and shared this difficult news. He was troubled because, though he had been a faithful churchman all his life, he didn’t have peace or assurance that he was okay with God.
The pastor shared with the farmer this passage from John 10. “Jesus said, ‘I am the door. Come in through me and be saved. I have come to give you abundant life.’” The farmer and the pastor prayed together a prayer that the farmer had confessed all his life, but yet again with fresh resolve.
Thank you for forgiving me my sins, for dying on the cross, for being raised from the dead, and for the promise that You give me life forever. In Your name. Amen.
Pastor Lee Laaveg