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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sunday Follow-Up: The Lingering ? about Abundance

Sunday we looked at a 2nd Paradox of Christian Living Abundance through Monogamy. Most people try to add to their life by seeking out and accumulating individual additions - be they pleasures/comforts, things, friends, security, power. One at a time so that they might eventually have a life of "abundance." Jesus flips this notion on its head - monogamy (a commitment to ONE above all others and for a lifetime) leads to abundance. So instead of "out of many, one" (E Pluribus Unum), "out of one, many" (do your own Latin!!). Jesus wasn't thinking of the U.S. motto, so here's how he put it:
[22] And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. [23] For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. [24] Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! [25] And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? [26] If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? [27] Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. [28] But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! [29] And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. [30] For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. [31] Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. [32] “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.  (Luke 12:22-32 ESV)

Seek one King, one kingdom above all and God will graciously provide. Theo-monogamy leads to poly-provision. Faithfulness in seeking One lifelong God (theo-monogamy) leads to superabundance of provision (poly-provision). Here it is, Jesus promises.

I wrapped up Sun's message without getting to the last part of my notes - a lingering question that often comes up when talking abundance and God's promises. Namely: 

Okay, if I do seek God, how does God promise to bless me? And please give specifics.

Some examples. (1) People will point to Old Testament examples of God's material blessing upon those who seek His interests and not their own. King Solomon is a great example and one I used this past Sunday. He sought God and His Kingdom until he eventually wants to worship God in his own way (1 Kings 3:3-4) which leads to Solomon trying to juggle the interests of two kingdoms - His kingdom + God's (1 Kings 3:1-2, 1 Kings 10:8) which leads to theo-polygamy (1 Kings 11:4-5). But when he was seeking God, God blessed him with riches & wisdom beyond compare (1 Kings 3:13). (2) Psalm 37:4 is a famous one often followed by mentally listing everything I desire; (3) John 10:10 is sometimes quoted when a person has obtained extra favor, pleasure or riches. 

In my still relatively brief experience as a pastor, I rarely find that someone just brings up this question upon reading the Bible for himself or herself nor does it come up out-of-the-blue from the new Christian. But rather, a preacher, teacher, author of some kind presents the possibility and then stirs it up in his/her audience (I've talked about the danger of this "Word of Faith" teaching elsewhere). Why not?  Because the one who realizes that a Holy God has forgiven, accepted and declared righteous someone like me (a rebel against God ill-deserving of even a glance in my direction) and at the cost of His Son, does not demand specifics but is grateful for acceptance.

Look again at the end of Jesus' promise about monogamous seeking. Having given the promise of "adding all these things unto you," he says: "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32).  Isn't this interesting? Put yourself there. You can imagine some of the disciples and others listening in thinking: "Uh, dude that is not what we are worried about or fear. We are worried about getting 'all these things added to us'...what about the 'all these things'?" But Jesus is speaking to those who get it (which, by the way, is the main purpose of his parables - to separate those who get it from those who don't). He is speaking to those who recognize they are unworthy rebels but still want the gift of the King and who, upon getting the king, care only about the Father's pleasure. When the King becomes your #1 thing, your singular worry becomes your status in the Kingdom and with the King himself. Will he grant me forgiveness when I stumble? Will he accept me though I wander? Will He grant me fellowship before His throne though I served him less than wholeheartedly or acted with less than full faith? To this Jesus gives His answer: It's to the Father's good pleasure to give. He's constantly teetering on favoring you with His presence, His fellowship, His Holy Spirit - such that even faith the size of mustard seed will tip the scales in your favor.

Here's a challenge: Go back and look through the New Testament promises of Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, and the other apostles and writers. Might they be read in light of God giving himself to us in Jesus Christ rather than another "thing"? The peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7) - is it a necessarily feeling where all anxiety melts away or is it centrally located in Christ being our peace ensuring fellowship with God the Father? When Jesus promises abundant life (John 10:10), is He himself not the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). When I delight myself in the Lord, isn't it possible, even likely, that He Himself becomes the desire of my heart? As 18th c. poet Alexander Pope once said: "One master passion in the breast / like Aaron's serpent swallows up the rest."

Right now on my bathroom mirror hangs an old, smudgy notecard with the following words of Jesus upon leaving his disciples: "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives; do not let your hearts be troubled, do not be afraid" (John 14:27). The truth that Jesus doesn't give peace or comfort as the world gives - does that trouble you or is it your antidote to fear and trouble? How you answer that question is likely a good indicator of whose Kingdom you are seeking. Jesus gives us Himself and the very Kingdom of the Father. He may give you more but he won't give you less - and that is a comforting thought.

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