Sunday, December 18, 2022

I am NOT a Victim: The Christian Life is an ABUNDANT Life

“Slats Grobnik scratched out a few bucks selling Christmas trees. Just before Christmas, when all the trees had been picked over, a ragged couple came onto the lot. As they turned the price tag over on each tree, it was obvious that they didn’t have enough money to buy one. Then the woman spied a discarded Scotch pine. It didn’t look so bad on one side, but it was terribly scrawny on the other. Not far away stood another pitiful tree with the needles on one side eaten away.

The woman whispered in her husband’s ears, and he asked if three dollars would be enough to buy both trees. Slats figured that he couldn’t sell them anyway, so he agreed. He watched as the couple dragged their two scraggly trees away, leaving a trail of pine needles in their wake.

A few evenings later, Slats was walking home when he spied a magnificent Christmas tree in the window of a dilapidated apartment building. Then Slats saw the ragged couple sitting on the porch out front. “That’s a beautiful tree up in the window,” exclaimed Slats. “Yep,” replied the man with pride. “That’s our tree. Actually, it’s the two trees we bought from you.” “How can that be?” asked Slats. “I sold you the two worst trees on the lot.” “I know,” the man responded. “But my missus is clever. She had me work the trees together where the branches are bare. We formed one tree out of the two and wired them together."

Slats Grobnik learned a secret that night. “You take two trees that aren’t perfect, that have flaws, that might even be homely, that maybe nobody else would want. But if you put them together just right, you can come up with something really beautiful.” 

Christmas is the story of God taking the flawed and making it beautiful. God can wire together an ordinary carpenter, an unwed teenage girl, a handful of shepherds, prostitutes, tax collectors, and flawed disciples to tell a Christmas story that brings joy to the whole world. When you feel like you are just a little person in a little place, take time to remember Slats Grobnik’s amazing Christmas story. 

God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.-1 Cor 1:28” -James Petterson, The One Year Book of Amazing Stories (abridged)

God takes us who are like the scrawny broken Christmas trees, and he decorates us, wraps us in garland, waters us, nurtures us, and makes us into something truly new and beautiful.

You see someone who used to be afraid, broken, quiet, and shallow, and they come to Jesus Christ and they become someone very different, whole, complete, less afraid, more confident, wise, and true.

God takes broken things and makes them new. And abundantly new. Abundantly beautiful.

He takes us who were depressed, hurting, beaten by life, who had become bitter, and he doesn’t just add a few new things to cover the old, he heals those places, and decks us out in bulbs, lights, ornaments, stars, candy canes, and as he works on us we smile, and as he completes the work, we glow as a new hero.

Why? Because of our foundation scripture for today, found in John 10:10: Jesus said: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, NRSV)

The Greek word here for “abundantly” is perissos
Pronunciation: per-is-sos'

The definition is: over and above, more than is necessary, superadded, exceeding abundantly, supremely
pre-eminence, superiority, advantage, more eminent, more remarkable, more excellent

It brings to mind the classic Psalm 23, which describes this abundant life of a follower of the messiah.

“1 The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord, forever.”

One thing you must keep at the center of your mind and heart is that the Christian life is an abundant life.

And I think Psalm 23 really defines what that means.

It means my cup overflows.

But it doesn’t mean we won’t have enemies. In Psalm 23 we see God prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies. So there are enemies, but God prepares a banquet for me in front of them.

Yes, we do walk through the valley of the shadow of death, but we don’t fear evil at all. We don’t fear Satan or demons or wicked people. No, we know we have an abundant life provided by Jesus.

That’s for you. Do you view your life as fundamentally abundant? Overflowing? Full of good things?

During this kettle season it’s been hard to think of my life as overflowing with good things, but it’s absolutely true.

I have my mother visiting, I have a beautiful girlfriend who spends time with me, I have friends and spiritual family in this church who pray for me and encourage me. I have a warm place to live in, a vehicle, legs that work, abundant food, and a soft bed to sleep in.

Sure there are problems and bell ringing issues and fundraising issues, and stress and all that, God didn’t say there wouldn’t be problems. But God is with me in all the problems. That is abundant life, even on the hard days.

As much as I know Jesus has washed away my past sins, there’s more to it than that. He walks with me everyday.

“Jesus was born to give us life. One of the beautiful things about the Christmas story is that it doesn’t offer just my past forgiveness and future hope, but everything I need right here, right now.

• Jesus came so that I would have everything I need to fight the discouraging battle with private sin.

• Jesus came so that I would have everything I need to have a peaceful relationship with my angry neighbor.

• Jesus came so that I could stand against the desire to judge or condemn others.

• Jesus came so that I could forge with my spouse a marriage of unity, understanding, and love.

• Jesus came so that I could parent my children with patient wisdom and grace.

• Jesus came so that I could face the realities of life in a fallen world without doubt or despair." -Come Let Us Adore Him, pp. 139-140

An abundant life, which Jesus came to gift to us, is one we’ve received from Christ, and one in which we’re walking in victory, despite the trials and struggles we face.

Our lives are fundamentally about joy, peace, and blessing.

2nd Peter 1:3-8: “His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We have everything we need from Jesus to live a godly life, a victorious life, a life of serving others, a life of joy and hope and truth, a life filled with self-control, perseverance, godliness, affection, and love.”

And as we yield to the leading of the Holy Spirit, God dresses us like this, in all these beautiful attributes of character. He makes us more and more like His son Jesus, overflowing with love and faithfulness. That is our calling.

And when you look at an abundant life, I think yes it does mean outer things, friendships, relationships, food, shelter, safety, freedom, work, and funds, but it is just as much internal characteristics that God is fashioning in us.

He takes the most lowly sinners, people who steal, slander others, cheat, skip out on paying taxes, download internet music illegally, people who if we saw a woman being attacked, we’d just keep walking, people who stole money from their parents or friends to buy drugs or booze, people who had no character and no values whatsoever, and he makes them into shining heroes, princes of the kingdom of God, heroes of the faith, people of character, people of honor, people who go from stealing someone's wallet and then help them look around their house for it, to someone who see a twenty dollar bill on the ground behind an old lady, and are excited to pick it up and chase after the old lady and give it back to her. People who are accidentally mailed a Christmas card with money in it, and it came to the wrong address, so we mail it to the right address, leave the money in it, and pay for the postage ourselves.

As much as we are the Christmas tree surrounded by presents, maybe the most beautiful part of being a Christian is seeing how God decorates us with all new character and beliefs and a desire to do good when no one is looking.

I want to read for you a scripture the Lord gave me from the book of Deuteronomy, this is the book Jesus most often quoted from, but in this scripture it talks about how if we do diligently follow the Lord we’ll be blessed in all these different ways, but it also says, that if we don’t, and we turn away and do our own thing, well there will be many curses.

It says Deuteronomy 28:1-19: “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. 3 Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. 4 Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. 5 Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 6 Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.

7 “The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before you. They shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways. 8 The Lord will command the blessing on you in your barns and in all that you undertake. And he will bless you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. 9 The Lord will establish you as a people holy to himself, as he has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the Lord your God and walk in his ways. 10 And all the peoples of the earth shall see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they shall be afraid of you. 11 And the Lord will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give you. 12 The Lord will open to you his good treasury, the heavens, to give the rain to your land in its season and to bless all the work of your hands. And you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow. 13 And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you shall only go up and not down, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, being careful to do them, 14 and if you do not turn aside from any of the words that I command you today, to the right hand or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.

15 “But if you will not obey the voice of the Lord your God or be careful to do all his commandments and his statutes that I command you today, then all these curses shall come upon you and overtake you. 16 Cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the field. 17 Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 18 Cursed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. 19 Cursed shall you be when you come in, and cursed shall you be when you go out.”

That’s always how it is in life I think, God lays before us two paths, obedience or rebellion, and with our actions, not as much our words, but with our actions we choose our path. Free will.

We can follow Jesus and live an abundant life. Or we can follow the ways of the world, and our way will be cursed and broken. The choice is ours. I choose Jesus.

I choose to live the abundant life. I believe God’s promises. Believe and speak these affirmations from scripture:

I have faith in God. – Hebrews 11:1

I am strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. – Ephesians 6:10

I am a chosen generation and a royal priesthood, holy and special. – 2 Peter 2:9

God has plans for me to prosper and have hope for the future. – Jeremiah 29:11

God hides me in a secret place. I abide in the shadow of his formidable presence. – Psalms 91:1

God can do more than I ask or think. – Ephesians 3:20

This dire situation is only temporary. – 2 Corinthians 4:18

God cares for me; I can give him my anxieties. 1 Peter 5:7

God will keep me stable as I give him my burdens. – Psalms 55:22

I seek God, and he rewards me. Hebrews 11:6

No enemy can pluck me out of God’s hands. – John 10:28

My enemies come at me one way but flee away from me seven ways. – Deuteronomy 28:7

When I honor God, he will command blessings upon all the ventures I undertake. – Deuteronomy 28:8

The Lord will give me prosperity in every area of my life. – Deuteronomy 28:11

Windows of Heaven are open to me, and blessings are poured out to me, more than I could ever receive. – Malachi 3:10

I walk by faith, not by the obstacles standing in front of me today. – 2 Corinthians 5:7

I trust God’s word; it is light for me when I cannot find my way. – Psalms 109:105