I've told you that the gospel isn't just about going to heaven when you die, it's about living abundantly right now (On the Gospel of Abundant Life). I've told you that living abundantly isn't passive. If you want to live abundantly, it's up to you to do something (What Must I Do to Live Abundantly?). In today's installment-- the first of a three part series-- I'd like to begin to tell you what that something is.
How does Christianity work out in the big bad world? What relevance does salvation have to another Thursday afternoon in the office? How does the beautiful abundance of God's grace make it into our mundane routines?
I've only begun to cover the subject on this here blog, but salvation is both a better and more complicated deal than our passing conceptions of it. We tend to think of salvation in past and future terms, "I was twelve when I was saved and that means someday I'll go to heaven." That's true, but incomplete. I won't rehearse all the details of The Gospel of Abundant Life here, but I raise the subject to point out the truth of three statements: Christians have been saved; Christians are being saved; and Christians will be saved. It's the second of these statements where I don't think enough rubber has hit the road. Our conception of the way in which we are in the process of being saved is more than a bit hazy. And that haze contributes to some significantly-less-than-abundant living.
The ongoing process of salvation is called sanctification. Christians who are being sanctified are Christians who live more and more abundantly. Like the other facets of salvation, sanctification happens by the power of God's grace. But that doesn't mean you and I are entirely passive. Jesus said, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing," (John 15:4-5, ESV).
You and I have the responsibility to abide in Jesus Christ. That's on us. If we abide, we will bear fruit. If we don't, we can do nothing. Simple.
But if you want to live abundantly, you have to understand that abiding in Jesus Christ is just as much an opportunity as it is a responsibility. There is no more abundant way to live than to naturally bear Jesus' fruit. Imagine a life in which you are content regardless of your circumstances (Phil. 4:10-13). Imagine being more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, gentle, and self-controlled (Gal. 5:22-23). And imagine bearing this fruit on an otherwise mundane Thursday afternoon, even when that Thursday isn't a particularly good day. That's living abundantly.
So what does it mean to abide? What must I do to be sanctified? The time has come for the rubber to hit the road. In my next two posts we'll examine the two categories of disciplines that are the essence of abiding: the disciplines of relationship and the disciplines of obedience. Stay Tuned.
Grace be with you.