By Jeannette Haley
It’s impossible to number all the different religions that exist among earth’s nearly 8 billion inhabitants; but regardless of the multitudes of beliefs, traditions and practices that 85 percent of the people put their faith in, there is only one that holds the key to eternal life and that is real Christianity. I say “real” because some of the world’s largest cults also claim to be “Christian” but are far from it. True Christianity is based on the LORD Jesus Christ, God Incarnate, the Way, the Truth and the Life who, according to prophecy, and history, was born of a virgin, lived without sin, was crucified, died, and was buried for three full days and three full nights and rose from the dead. There is no other religion that worships and serves a risen Lord and Savior. “For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens” Psalm 96:5.
Here in America the traditional church has prided itself on the fact that we don’t worship idols “like those heathens do.” In the early years of this country boatloads of missionaries were sent out to the dark places of the earth to carry the Gospel to the lost, and even though America still sends some missionaries, our nation has fallen so far from “the way, the truth and the life” in its pursuit of “the American dream” that missionaries from other countries are coming to America to preach biblical Christianity, and what it means to die to self and live for Christ. This reality should be a sobering wakeup call to those who consider themselves to be a Christian just because they are an American.
One has to wonder why this great falling away is taking place in the church if people still truly believe that God is the God of life—not just life after we die, but “more abundant life” NOW. Jesus said, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” John 10:10 (KJV). Note that in this verse we read one of Jesus’ 35 (or more) “I Am’s” in the Gospel of John. Seven of His better-known “I Am” statements are when Jesus proclaimed His essence: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35), “the light of the world” (8:12), “the door of the sheep” (10:7), “the good shepherd” (10:11, 14), “the resurrection and the life” (11:25), “the way, the truth, and the life (14:6), and “the true vine” (15:1).
Sadly, the influx of Gnosticism into the church by way of “modern” Bible versions has subtly downplayed the deity of Christ to such an extent that much of the church resembles an unmanned boat drifting away from its moorings. For example, some versions blandly state, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” The word “came” automatically indicates the distant past, or time period when our Lord did come as a historical fact. But, when you read instead, “I am come” you not only recognize that Jesus was declaring “I Am,” but that He is God with us in the present. In other words, if someone “came” then they also “went,” and so we bumble on through life, looking back to when He “came” and the people “way back when” in Israel saw Him and were blessed. True, our Lord “went” bodily when He ascended into heaven, but He is still Emmanuel, “God with us” in the present. Jesus said, “…lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” Matthew 28:20b. In John 16:7 we read Jesus’ words to His disciples, “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”
We also need to consider the second part of John 10:10 and the words our Lord used about life, “that they might have it more abundantly.” Again, some gnostic versions merely state, concerning life, “and have it abundantly.” While that may sound nice, it falls far short of “more abundantly.” The life Jesus offers is greater than the world’s idea of “abundantly,” because it is an overflowing abundance beyond comprehension due to the fact that it’s spiritual and unlimited in scope. We need to be cautious and not jump on the bandwagon of heretical false prophets who spin this promise with its appeal to the typical “what-can-I-get-out-of-it” American mindset that automatically believes that Jesus came to make us “abundantly” wealthy. Jesus Himself said about riches, “And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” Mark 4:19.
In addition to the hidden flicker of hope that Jesus just might have meant abundant riches, at least for some people with an “I hope it’s me” attitude, there is the idealistic idea that “abundant life” means we can expect to enjoy a happy, careless, pain-free life with no troubles, problems or challenges. Thus, when the reality of life smacks us in the face with financial struggles, or even poverty, and sickness, trials, tribulations or suffering along the narrow bridge to death, is it all that unusual to falsely accuse God? After all, Jesus not only said He would give us “abundant life,” but He promised “life more abundantly.” But he also said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” John 16:33b.
Of course, the answers to these questions that bring understanding can always be found in God’s Word, and by seeking Him through prayer, asking for wisdom and revelation. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” James 1:5. God will surely give it to you if you ask Him for it, but the question is, are you able to receive what He gives you? Just as a closed vessel cannot receive that which is being poured out upon it, neither can a doubting heart and a closed mind receive wisdom from God which He freely gives through the Word, the Holy Spirit or others.
The key is, if in our heart of hearts we long to experience this “more abundant life” promised to us by the Giver of all life, then we must cast aside the lust of the flesh and our love for the systems of the world that have taken captive the souls of men, and seek unto the God of life; for only the true God of all life can part the veil that covers our hearts and minds, setting us free to see beyond this temporary earthly plane and into the glorious light of heaven wherein dwells righteousness. As long as we settle for what the world tells us will make us “happy,” the more miserable we will become no matter how much we gather, collect, store or try to save for ourselves. “And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” Luke 12:15. Jesus plainly told us, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” Matthew 6:20, 21.
Obviously, having an overabundance of anything this world has to offer can never grant “abundant life” because the life Jesus offers, while it does often grant a fuller spiritual life on earth, is even far greater because it is eternal life. The “abundant life” is the life of Christ in us—not only in abundance, but even “more abundantly” as we grow in the grace and knowledge of Him. “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18.
Jesus was given the power by God to grant eternal life. In His prayer for His disciples He said, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” John 17:3. What does this world have to offer that is greater than that? In spite of knowing this, however, many professing Christians today who still live for what this world has to offer cannot honestly answer the question, “When is enough, enough?” Is it not enough to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ? And yet, there still remains professing Christians who, “down deep,” think that they somehow deserve to experience “abundant life” with one foot still in the world and the other foot in religion. Such will suffer from dissatisfaction, confusion, half-heartedness, lack of purpose and a divided heart. Their faith will be weak, their “light” dim, their “salt” tasteless, their “fruit” blemished, and their lifestyle hypocritical. “But godliness with contentment is great gain” 1 Timothy 6:6.
Two angels asked a question of the women who had come to the empty tomb of Jesus that many a discouraged or disbelieving heart could well ask themselves today. They asked, “Why seek ye the living among the dead?” (Luke 24:5.) Where are we seeking for Jesus today? Is He to be found in a modern Laodicean church that is puffed up with its abundance and need of nothing? Are we seeking Him in the repetitious, uninspired and unanointed choruses that are so popular nowadays because they appeal to the flesh? Are we seeking Him by hanging on to every word that falls from the lips of motivational speakers? Are we seeking Him by way of “Christian comedians?” Perhaps some think they’ve “found” the “real” Jesus by watching unscriptural presentations of “Jesus” in movies, plays, or fiction stories. Are we seeking Jesus in truckloads of fiction romance novels? If you have sought for Jesus through any of these places, or by other such means, you have been seeking for the living among the dead.
Consider the words of Jesus when He asked the Sadducees, “But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” Matthew 22:31, 32. Jesus said to Martha, whom He loved, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die, Believest thou this?” John 11:25, 26. Consider who appeared, very much alive, with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration (see Matthew 17:1-8.) And, neither Moses nor Elijah had to wear name tags so that Peter, James and John would recognize them! How awesome is the power and workings of the Holy Spirit!
Some may wonder where to go and what to do to find the God of life. Matthew 7:7 tells us to ask, seek, and knock. Jesus promised, “For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened” (verse 8.) Jeremiah 29:13, says “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” You will find Him in your private prayer place, for He is there. You will find Him in the Holy Scriptures for He is there. You will find Him where those who love, know, and worship Him in Spirit and in truth gather, for He is there. You will find Him when you draw near to Him. (James 4:8.)
Truly, we who know the God of life are able to sing in our hearts with the Psalmist, “For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the LORD in the land of the living” Psalms 116:8, 9. Amen.