THE ABUNDANT LIFE
                                    By: Jerry S. Maneker

“...  Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord….” (1Peter 3:14-15)

To live the abundant life, one must be authentic! When one is obedient to the revelations of God in one’s life and acts
upon them he or she is being authentic!  Authenticity frequently brings hostile responses from others who have either
not had that revelation or who are too cowardly to act upon the revelation that God has given them.

Authenticity addresses the question differently from that which is frequently posed to the Christian.  The question that is
frequently posed is, “What would Jesus do?” in a given situation.  The assumption here is that we are to model Jesus in
our behavior and in our choices in order to be Christians; to the degree that we do so, it is to that degree that we are
mature Christians.

I doubt this is the case!  We would be better off asking, “What would Jesus have me do?” in a given situation.

We have each been born with a unique set of genes and have a unique set of experiences and interests that distinguish
us from each other in the way that God can use us.  For example, some people have a more placid temperament than
do others.  Those with such a temperament may do well in modeling the peace of Christ to their fellow man.

However, there are some who are quite assertive and, no matter how hard they try, they can’t overcome it.  That
“weakness” may well be used by God to have them agitate for causes that favor the underdog, mirroring Jesus’ special
love and compassion for the marginalized and oppressed among us.

If you don’t have a placid or peaceful temperament, don’t worry about it! God can and will use whatever temperament
you have for His purposes to the degree that you are yielded to Him in your thoughts and actions.  He didn’t make us
cookie cutter models of each other; in Christianity, as in life, one size doesn’t fit all.  Authenticity enables us to lead “the
good life,” even if it isn’t very peaceful on this earth.

Our peace is not to be had on this earth, in any case.  Jesus says that His kingdom is not of this world; there is no
heaven on earth.  Our peace is with Him!  Through Him we have been reconciled with God; hence, we have His peace,
not the transient peace that the world promises to us.

We are to cultivate peace with our fellow human beings, as Christ has given us peace with Him.  So, even if we are not
at internal peace, we can cultivate external peace through adherence to the injunction of Scripture, thereby manifesting
the fruit of the Spirit.

As the Apostle Paul wrote, “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,
gentleness, and self control.  There is no law against such things.  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified
the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:22-24)  The good life entails our crucifixion with Christ! (Galatians 2:
20)

We are positionally holy and righteous, having been crucified with Christ 2,000 years ago according to the
foreknowledge of God.  You have been set apart to do a work for God from the foundation of the world; He called you
out to be His possession and do what He wants you to do, that no one else can do exactly like you.

Having been crucified with Christ, we are obligated to act on that reality and cultivate our spiritual lives in order to lead
the good life.  As the Apostle Paul wrote, “Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians
5:16)  Elsewhere he wrote, “To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
(Romans 8:6)

As long as we live on this earth, the flesh is at constant war with the spirit and we are to be diligent in cultivating the
latter as the temptations of this world in its promises of fulfillment and peace are empty as they are temporary.  Paul
wrote, “Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment….” (1Timothy 6:6)  We are to cultivate the
things of God and be content in (not necessarily with) any situation in which we find ourselves.

Cultivating our spiritual lives and being content with God’s sovereign choices for our lives, enables us to not only be
authentic, but enables us to cultivate peace with others as God has enabled us to have peace with Him.  Underlying all
of these thoughts and actions are our faith, hope, and love. (1Corinthians 13:13)

It cannot be overemphasized that the good life, the Christian life, is defined not only by our faith in God (Hebrews 11:6),
but by the love we manifest to others.  Loving ourselves defines our authenticity; such love must be shown to others to
the degree that Jesus has shown His love to us.  

By so doing, throughout our lives, and when we are on our death beds, we can echo the words of the Christian martyr,
Kartar Singh, “The life He gave to me is the life I gave to Him.”

That is the good life, and the good life is an authentic life!   Jesus was authentic!  He expressed His feelings as they
came to Him!  Jesus showed both anger and grief.  Indeed, His anger was made manifest because of the grief He felt at
the stubbornness and blindness of the Pharisees.

Most of our anger, too, stems from the frustration and grief that we feel concerning social institutions and relationships!  
Jesus told them that He was Lord of all; certainly "...lord even of the sabbath." (Mark 2:28)  Yet they hated Him, the One
Who came to save them from the consequences of their sins.  They hated their Messiah, the Messenger Who came to
bring them the good news of the Gospel.

We are called to be authentic!  Unfortunately, many Christians and non-Christians feel we have to adopt some
milquetoast personality; a phony humility and passivity to be a Christian.  Nothing could be further from the truth!  God
calls us to authenticity, in that He takes us where we are and shepherds us on the path He has set for us in increments
He has determined.  Indeed, this expectation is true for non-Christians as well!

Quite a while ago I read a story about Thomas Dewey, Governor of New York, who ran against Harry Truman for
President in 1948.  Everyone expected Dewey to win.  Indeed, the polls showed him to be such a favorite that one
newspaper had as a front page headline, even before the ballots were counted, the fact that Dewey had won the
election. A smiling Harry Truman is shown holding that front page article and picture of Dewey upon hearing of his own
election.

Dewey's secretary was interviewed after he died and said that he was a broken man from that time until his death.  The
reason was not that he had lost the election, but that he allowed others to mold him into something he was not, and
make decisions for him with which he disagreed.  He never knew if he would have won the election if he had been
authentic, and run the race as the real Thomas Dewey, rather than as a phony facade erected by others.

To be inauthentic is tantamount to cowardice!  We are afraid of what others may think of us, or if our "friends" will
abandon us if they find out the "real" person behind the mask we present to the public.  Clearly, a friend is one who
accepts you for who you are, warts and all.  If he or she rejects the real you, his or her friendship isn't worth very much
in the first place, so why bother trying to be something or someone you're not?  

This fact may be one reason why Isaiah says, "Turn away from mortals, who have only breath in their nostrils, for of what
account are they?" (Isaiah 2:22)  In this connection, Paul says, "Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval?  
Or am I trying to please people?  If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10)

When we trust God fully for every aspect of our lives, we can allow ourselves to be authentic, even if that authenticity
may rub some people raw.  We don't seek to do anything to hurt others, but we must externalize the person God has
created, which certainly include the characteristics some might find offensive.  Clearly, some find the message of the
Cross offensive, so why should we hedge when the authentic person, Christian or non-Christian, whom God loves is
found to be offensive by some others?

The people who are in bondage to other people are not in bondage to God.  When one is in bondage to God, he or she
does not have to be in bondage to other people, unless God directs that person to do so.  Even though Paul sought to
be all things to all people so as to win people to Christ, even he caused offense by his zealotry and single-minded
devotion to Jesus. He put himself in bondage to win others to Christ, not to make himself look good or in any way hinder
the Gospel or hinder God's work in him.  Hence, his statement, and lesson to us, in Galatians 1:10.

Only when we are in bondage to God are we truly free from the demands and expectations of others who seek to make
us inauthentic.  "...a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin." (Proverbs 18:24)  That friend is Jesus!  Cultivating
that friendship enables us to transcend demands and expectations that drive us into inauthenticity, thereby making us
into someone who can't have a genuine relationship with God, because we, ourselves, are not genuine.

A true friendship only exists when people are genuine with each other.  This statement is true for humans, and also true
for people's relationship with their Creator.

The irony is that most people see through our facades anyway.  If people can see through our inauthenticity, imagine
what God sees and thinks?
 
The abundant life requires that we minimize and, if possible, even cease from anger.  Most anger comes from
frustration, born of a sense of entitlement!  It occurs when one feels outraged that his or her expectations of a given
situation or relationship are not met; he or she views those expectations as not only reasonable, but mandatory.  
Moreover, the expression of anger serves to justify and expel the frustration, even if it is taken out on a target that isn’t
the source of that frustration.

The sources of our expectations are the mass media, what other people whom we have trusted have told us throughout
the years, and the messages from a variety of institutions, not the least of which is religious.  These sources help breed
“anomie,” where one’s expectations exceed what others are willing or able to provide.

For example, in the religious realm, anger is borne in many due to frustration of expectations concerning matters of
“right and “wrong.”  Many feel that there are certain verities to which we must adhere, regardless of the time, situation,
or culture in which one lives.  This perception is called an “absolutist” one, and deals with the issue of “civility.”  

“Civility” deals with ethics, comprised of what is viewed as “right” and “wrong” decisions.  Indeed, civility is essential for
us to be able to have meaningful relationships based on predictability.  However, many of us confuse “civility” with
“righteousness,” and it is this confusion that frequently gets us into trouble, and causes outward and inner turmoil.

When we speak of “righteousness” we can only speak of it in reference to God’s own nature!  Only God is righteous!  
None of us can claim righteousness!  As Isaiah wrote, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses
are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah 64:6)

However, many of us presume righteousness in our attitudes and expectations and don’t realize that we, and others, are
terribly flawed creatures that can only aspire to “civility” by never insisting on the right of way on our journey on this
earth.  To assume “righteousness” is the outgrowth of pride, perhaps the worst sin one can commit!

All sins, in one way or the other, can be seen to be manifestations of pride!  It is our pride that leads us to fear
humiliation and, hence, triggers frustration at what we perceive as injustice done to us which, in turn, causes anger and
the consequent desire for retribution.

For example, many gang wars occur due to perceived humiliation as injustice!  There is therefore an attempt to redress
that injustice by expressing anger, even to the point of taking the other’s (or some other’s) life.  

Drive-by shootings, and other crimes of violence by gangs, can largely be accounted for by perceived humiliation from
some other gang.   This mind-set is circumscribed by one’s social and occupational status in a society that views poverty
as the worst crime one can commit; glorifies money as deity.

Moreover, anger can be seen as part of the human condition that runs through the fabric of each and every one of us!  
Scripture is filled with incidents of the manifestations of anger, such as wars, killing for power, prestige, and/or wealth,
and the attempt to acquire that to which one feels entitled, as did King David in having Uriah killed in battle so that he
could acquire Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife.

In addition, the philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, felt that people were basically mean, nasty, selfish, and brutish.  Sigmund
Freud felt that human beings are basically aggressive pleasure seekers.

Extreme instances of this view are seen among people who can be seen to have a birth defect of the soul!  How can we
explain a Jeffrey Dahmer, who had the compulsion to kill, have sex with, and eat his victims?  Or a Ted Bundy, who
kidnapped, raped, tortured, and killed dozens of young women, for no apparent reason, except for the fact that he felt
like doing it?  These people, and people like them, fuse sex with violence and act out their sense of entitlement, the
ultimate manifestation of pride.

This sense of entitlement, borne of pride, also yields envy and willfulness!  For example, it is no accident that the first
murder recorded in Scripture is one brother killing another brother.  Even more remarkable, Abimelech, Gideon’s son,
killed 69 of his 70 brothers (One hid himself so he couldn’t be found.)  so that he could be made king of Shechem.
(Judges 9:5)

When we read the Bible we quickly realize that we don’t live in some cozy world, where we can count on the milk of
human kindness to insulate us from the predatory nature of our fellow human beings, even within our own families.  
Whether one hurts or kills others for kicks, or to obtain what one feels is rightfully his or hers, one has to have a seared
conscience to justify such atrocious acts.

People who have a seared conscience, or no conscience at all, are called “sociopaths!”  They know what to say, how to
act, and how to dress, to have you trust them!  

That is why many successful sociopaths, those who are good at being “trust bandits,” are frequently very respected
pillars of their communities!  Yet, despite the harshness of so much of this world, the Apostle Paul assures us: “Who will
separate us from the love of Christ?  Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or
sword?” (Romans 8:35)

The Apostle Paul, who called himself the chiefest of sinners (1Timothy 1:15), who confessed to constantly wrestling with
sin (Romans 7:7-25), who consented to the death of the first Christian martyr, Stephen (Acts 8:1), and who persecuted
followers of Christ until his conversion (Acts 8:3), wrote the above verse of Scripture.  Indeed, he comforted all of us by
telling us that not only would nothing separate us from the love of Christ if we yield ourselves to Him but that, “There is
therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

In spite of his own history and his own struggles with sin and his sin-nature, a nature shared by all of us, he was able to
tell the Sanhedrin at his trial, “…Brothers, up to this day I have lived my life with a clear conscience before God.” (Acts
23:1)  Paul knew about God’s grace to all of His followers more than most of us know today.  Despite his history, Paul
never felt that he was under condemnation by God.

He knew that God chose us from the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4) to do a work for Him and that He knew
everything we would do.  God knew our past, present, and future thoughts and actions and chose us anyway for His own
sovereign purposes.

God didn’t choose us to put us into condemnation!  Many people who claim to speak for God may seek to condemn us
or have us have self-condemnation, but God doesn’t do that; Paul affirms God’s unconditional love for us.

Writing to those who are God’s possession he wrote, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be
conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born within a large family.  And those whom he
predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.  
What then are we to say about these things?  If God is for us, who is against us?...Who will bring any charge against
God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.” (Romans 8:29-31, 33)

Indeed, we are not answerable to mere man (Isaiah 2:22; Galatians 1:10) but are answerable to God, the God Who
created us and chose us and Who loves us like crazy.  However, many priests and ministers don’t tell us this message.  
Many seek to take people who already feel under condemnation and seek to justify and reinforce that condemnation.

In one church we attended, the pastor had a couple get up in front of the church during a service and confess their
adultery.  To say that we were uncomfortable is putting it mildly.  After the confession, the pastor said, “Now we are
being church!”  Whatever that means.

In that church, as in every other church, all of us were sinners! Yet he didn’t relate his own sins or ask the rest of us to
confess our sins to the congregation.  However, when it came to sex he, like many others, was frothing at the mouth.

Don’t you think that this couple already felt condemned?  Did they need to be put through that humiliating ordeal?  Yet,
they consented to their confession and I can only imagine that they did so because the pastor reinforced their self-
condemnation and made them feel that their confession would somehow expiate their feelings of guilt.  Perhaps it did.  I
don’t know.

The fact is that smug, self-righteous people, those who feel holier than thou, commit the most egregious sin.  They are
the ones who haven’t got a clue as to how far all of us fall short of God’s standards of perfection and holiness.  They
trust in their meager attempts to act in the culturally approved manner of what is deemed “Christian” in order to please
God.

Moreover, they take their twisted image of God and Christianity and seek to impose those images onto the thinking of
other adults and, most poignantly, children.  They wittingly or unwittingly put yokes of bondage and condemnation on
others.  

For whatever reason, many people feel condemned and seek solace and comfort within the church that is to be an
institution to help feed the spiritually needy and wounded.  And the fact of the matter is that we are all spiritually needy
and wounded and we need the balm of compassion and comfort!

All Christians, clergy and non-clergy alike, are to be like Barnabas!  “Barnabas” means “Son of encouragement,” “Son
of comfort,” “Son of exhortation,” “Son of consolation.”  That’s what we’re to do for all people, both inside and outside
the church.  We are to lift each other up and comfort the afflicted.  We are to nurture one another and have compassion
for each other as we navigate our struggles through this life.

God “…consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the
consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.” (2Corinthians 1:4)

The abundant life consists of embracing the mysteries of life, of ourselves, and of God, and trusting God over and
above seen circumstances so that we transcend our living in “time” and see that we live in “eternity.”  By so doing, we
thereby neutralize our expectations of others’ behavior and, hence, minimize the anger we feel when others don’t or can’
t live up to our expectations.

Moreover, we trust God, knowing that He made us and knows our frame, our strengths, and our weaknesses; knows the
beginning from the end.  Therefore, we can relax in the knowledge that by our constant faith in God, we are living God-
ordained lives that, despite our struggles, doubts, and seeming failures, we are loved and are being used by God to
show forth His light in this very dark world.

We are to be authentic, honest and transparent with ourselves and with others, and be agents of God’s grace in this
world.  By our yielding ourselves as vessels for God to use as He wishes, we live out the Gospel and that is the only way
we are guaranteed to live the abundant life until God calls us home!
     


    
   
   
   
     
   
  



        


    


                                               


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