In the famous story Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland there is a dialogue between Alice and the Cat. The dialogue goes like this:
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” said Alice.
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where–” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
This is the dialogue many of us have with ourselves. Oh, we want to get SOMEWHERE. We care about the final destination. But the journey to the destination? That doesn’t much matter. The goal is just to get to the final destination. Arrive at heaven.
But with this attitude, we miss something HUGE: Jesus didn’t just come to remove something, he also came to add something.
Jesus didn’t just come to remove something, he also came to add something.In other words, the mission of Jesus wasn’t simply to take our sin, it was also to give us life. NOW. Jesus never intended for us to have a “let’s just get this over so I can enjoy heaven” attitude. Jesus wasn’t just concerned about WHERE we arrive. He was concerned about HOW we arrive.
But the question is, “How do we embrace life now?” Our lives are busy. We are overcome by anxiety and stress. And this is where the model of Jesus needs to be re-examined. It is this model that leads to life.
Before we talk about what the abundant life is, here are a few point about what the fullness of life Jesus promised is NOT:
It is NOT about more consistent church attendance or greater involvement in church activities.
Jesus came preaching and teaching the kingdom of heaven. What he got was the church.Alfred Loisy
It is NOT about being more religious or devout.
It is NOT about doing more and trying harder.
Here are 11 radical steps to embrace an abundant life now.
STEP #1: The table, not at the drive-thru.
For Jesus, the table wasn’t just a place to eat, it was also a place to connect. It was a place where walls came down and everyone was valued. In a world consumed with busyness and stress, the table provides a means to slow down and connect.
A recent study found that families who eat at least five meals together are less likely to have children addicted to illegal drugs, prescription drugs, smoking, and alcohol. Another study found a strong correlation between teens who eat regular meals with the family and academic success, early sexual behavior, and suicidal risk, among others.
So, when we neglect to gather around the table, we don’t simply neglect food. We rob ourselves of experiencing life and sharing life.
STEP #2: Celebration, not cynicism.
One of the first pictures we see of Jesus is at a wedding feast. Jesus was celebrating, and probably laughing. What?! Jesus laughing and having a good time at a party? That’s not very Christian!
No, it’s not very American Christian. But it is very much Jesus. American Christians have no idea how to celebrate something good. We know how to criticize something bad, though. And in doing this, we create a cynical attitude that robs us of true life.
You see, celebration and optimism are tied together. Celebration and hope are tied together. Refusing to celebrate means embracing cynicism by default. And the moment we embrace cynicism, we lose any chance to experience a full life.
STEP #3: Hiddenness, not spotlight.
In a spotlight-consumed, stress-filled culture, the model of obscurity is radical. Yet this is the model of Jesus. He spent 30 years in hiddenness. Even during his ministry, he built in times of retreat. He was intentional about avoiding the spotlight.
Jesus didn’t want fame. Jesus turned down kingdoms and human applause even though they were offered to him without any effort on his part (Matt. 4). Yet many Christians work and expend energy seeking kingdoms and large followings….in the name of Jesus?? The very thing Satan offered Jesus we relentlessly pursue.
Maybe the American way of life isn’t leading to more productivity or greater effectiveness for God, but the opposite. God shapes in the obscure seasons. God reminds us the world revolves around him in the obscure seasons.
Without obscurity and retreating, the abundant life isn’t possible.
STEP #4: Prayer, not control.
Prayer in its simplest form is an avenue for people to talk to God. But in a me-focused culture, prayer is much more than a little talk with God. It is a declaration that we aren’t in control. Prayer reminds us we can work and strive with every ounce available to us, but without God showing up, our work means nothing.
And this is incredibly important for experiencing the life Jesus promised. When we are in control, we place a weight on ourselves we aren’t created to bear. But in prayer, the weight of acceptance, productivity, and self-reliance fall on God’s shoulders. And God is a big boy. He can handle the weight.
STEP #5: Intimate relationships, not virtual followings.
Facebook friends. Twitter followers. Instagram likes. While social media can be used for God’s glory, it is also very dangerous. Many of us think we have friendships and connections because our social media accounts are growing. But this isn’t connection. It is infatuation.
The community Jesus modeled moved far beyond infatuation. It was built on authenticity, transparency, depth, and mission. This is the community that brings abundant life. It still baffles me that Jesus chose to have friends on this earth. Despite the brokenness and impatience of his apostles, he chose to pour into them. And the result is the church.
Community is organic. It multiplies. It is the catalyst for life.
STEP #6: Passionate, not apathetic.
Jesus embodied passion. God didn’t create us to be apathetic. Apathy is the result of a hopeless vision and the product of taking our eyes off God.
How can someone experience God and say, “Yeah, that was alright, I guess.” What the what?!
Alright? You just experienced the Creator of the universe. The CREATOR! And it was just alright?!
When our eyes are fixed on Jesus, our lives are fueled by him. Our lives are characterized by his vision and mission. Something larger than us. Something that should excite and ignite our hearts.
STEP #7: Embrace the future, not recover the past.
The glory days. Ever been around someone who always talks about the way things used to be? Yeah, those people are exhausting. Here’s the reality…we are created to change. Longing for some past version of life, church, job, etc. isn’t from God.
Every healthy thing God created changes.Donald MillerIf you aren’t changing, you are dead. God’s creation is always moving and changing. This is the beauty of life. Everyday, we get to wake up and embrace a new day. God doesn’t want you to be the person you were 5 years ago. He wants you to be the person you are today. And look forward to the person you can become.
It’s time to stop longing for how things used to be, and start embracing the things yet to come.
STEP #8: Create, not imitate.
God is a creator. Yet the Christian community is known for being imitators. We are leeches. And this is a poor reflection of God’s image and glory. It also robs us of life.
Creating is harder, yes. It requires more intentionality and energy. But this is where life is found. The world needs to see creative expressions of God’s beauty in every arena of life. Art. Films. Music. Projects. Organizations. Church.
The church often talks about how to impact the culture. Well, as Andy Crouch says in his book Culture Making, culture can’t be changed by copying, condemning, or critiquing it. Cultures are changed only through creation of new ones.
So, let’s stop condemning and start creating. We might draw the culture to Jesus and discover abundant life in the process.
STEP #9: Obedience, not self-reliance.
Don’t miss this. Jesus was obedient. The gospel of John talks regularly about Jesus’s desire to do the Father’s will (John 4:34; 5:19; 6:38; 14:31).
The life Jesus promised, a life of joy, contentment, and peace, isn’t possible apart from obedience. This is the great challenge in our culture today. We want Jesus without submission. We want forgiveness without obedience. And this might explain why so many Christians are overcome with apathy, anxiety, and “roller coaster” faith.
The fullness of life isn’t possible apart from way of Christ. And the way of Christ is the way of obedience.
STEP #10: Life of rhythm, not life of balance.
I wrote about this in a previous post. Americans try desperately to achieve balance, yet balance is never something Jesus practiced or preached. It is an exhausting myth.
Abundant life is a life of rhythm. So, how do we replace a life of balance with one of rhythm? A few points:
1.) Measure time and events with a vertical focus, not a horizontal one. Celebrate baptisms. Celebrate new opportunities at work, school, etc. Give God glory for birthdays and anniversaries.
2.) Less is more. Get rid of some stuff.
3.) Observe a Sabbath regularly.
4.) Be open-handed. Money. Time. Openhandedness releases us from…us. We are often the greatest roadblock to our own joy.
4.) Put the most important events on the calendar. Weekends with friends. Anniversaries. And don’t compromise those events.
STEP #11: The cross, not comfort.
Jesus makes it clear how to be his disciple: take up your cross daily and follow him (Luke 9:23). That’s a radical claim. It requires a radical shift. One that has nothing to do with comfort.
Our security is not in the chronology of our years but in the attitude of our hearts.Stephen W. SmithThe way of the cross is the way of suffering, pain, and selflessness. An abundant life isn’t measured by longevity or bucket lists, it is measured by humility and pain. It is measured by the cross. Counter-intuitive? Yes. Radical? Absolutely.
But if Jesus shows us anything it is this: life and beauty come in the journey THROUGH suffering, not in the journey to avoid it.
The life Jesus promised isn’t a pipe dream. It is a life Jesus expected his followers to embrace. But it is not a life that comes naturally. It requires intentional decisions and actions. It is counter-cultural.
The cross isn’t just a future event, it is a present reality. Just arriving somewhere is missing half the message of Jesus. Jesus wants us to embrace the journey to somewhere.
Did I miss anything? Are there more steps to embracing an abundant life now? Leave a comment below and let’s continue the conversation!
I love you all. To God be the glory forever. Amen!