The Abundant Life in Christ

Note: This was a sermon I gave to the local church of Grace Communion International in Sta. Rosa, Laguna during their 10th church anniversary on July 10, 2011.

Photo credit: Didz Raduban

Congratulations on your 10th church anniversary! Thank you for inviting me to join this wonderful celebration. It also gave me and my wife the opportunity to visit my mother-in-law.

Ten years ago, this group was declared a church. I do remember that being the senior pastor of GCI Manila South and because my parents-in-law lived here in Sta. Rosa, we started sometime in 1999 a small group in this area upon the insistence of some of the church members here at Bel Air. That’s how it all started and many of you were part of that pioneering small group.

Glad to know that through the ups and downs that we go through in life—in trials and in triumphs—this local church has continued to be in the faith up to now. Congratulations to all of you brethren on your 10th anniversary!

The Good Life

10thanniv sta rosa
Photo credit: Didz Raduban

We all want the good life right? We want good health, prosperity, assurance, security. That’s what everybody is looking for—the good life. In John 10:10 it says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” In the King James Version it says, “that we might have it more abundantly.” The abundant life is what Jesus is offering us! But what is this good life anyway?

Does this mean, continued good health and material prosperity? Just what is “Experiencing life in God’s love”—which is your anniversary theme—all about?

The Two Questions

To answer life’s questions, we need to answer two questions. The first one is: 1) Who is God as revealed in Jesus Christ? Who is God anyway? And the second question is, 2) who are we—humans—in relation to Jesus Christ?

Who is God?

So, who is God? God who is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is love. God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit—a community—if you please. The early church fathers used the Greek word, perichoresis to describe this relationship in the Trinity. It means mutual indwelling. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are mutually indwelling each other. It’s a web of relationships—loving relationships. Everything God does is because of love and the result of what God does is always love. Jesus reveals to us who the Father is. He is love. That’s who God is.

Who is Man?

Why are we here on earth? It’s because of God’s love. That’s what it says in Ephesians 4:4-5: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”

God’s Plan

Image by John StonecypherGod’s plan is to include us into that family, that community, into that loving relationship enjoyed by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit through our Lord Jesus Christ. Why? So that we will also experience the joy that they are enjoying in their life and love in the Trinity. This is what was in God’s mind when he said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

Community of Believers

I think that is the reason why God said that “it is not good that man should be alone” when he created Adam. He wants us to be part of a community. He provided a partner in life—Eve—so that Adam may have a companion. From the very beginning, God intended us to become part of a community. And that’s what the church is—a community, a community of believers where you can belong, where you can share your life with others. Where you can share your joys and your sorrows as we go through life. That’s the church—where there is supposed to be mutual love, mutual help, mutual understanding for each other, supporting each other, encouraging one another.

Here is what Jesus said in John 14:20 “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”

In a nutshell, this is the good news of Jesus Christ! God who is love, all along wanted us to become part of his loving community as his children! And that’s good news!

Clarifying John 10:10—The Abundant Life

Many preachers quote John 10:10 as support for the idea that Christianity leads to physical prosperity and “every good thing.” The verse has been used as a description of the Christian life, the normative pattern of life that Christians can expect because of God’s blessings.

Context of John 10

Chapter 10 of John’s Gospel develops the biblical theme of sheep and the shepherd. The shepherd is accessible to the sheep. Strangers do not have a personal relationship with the flock, but the good shepherd does. Verse 10 draws the contrast between Jesus and false shepherds, the thieves who come to kill, steal and destroy.

John 20:31 describes the purpose of this gospel. Speaking of the miracles and signs, John says, “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

The New International Commentary on the New Testament says: Life is one of John’s characteristic concepts. He uses the term 36 times. ‘Life‘ in John refers to eternal life (see on 3:15), the gift of God through His Son. Here, however, the term must be taken in its broadest sense. It is only because there is life in the Logos that there is life in anything on earth at all.” (John, page 82).

In summary, John 10:10 should not be used as though it gives some promise of an improved physical life for the Christian. Such a view, in light of the context, is shallow, and it overlooks the profound truth of the passage. The passage promises superior, superabundant spiritual life, life empowered by the indwelling of Jesus Christ. Because Christians “have” Jesus Christ, because he lives within them, they have the riches of the superabundant life.

John 10:10 promises a spiritual dimension to life, not physical abundance. A focus on the physical trivializes the profound depth of John 10:10.

Experiencing Life in God’s Love

Here then is how to experience life in God’s love:

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Such is the wording of Galatians 2:20 in the KJV, which I believe is a correct translation of the Greek.

When we look back deeply into our lives and think about how many times we have been disobedient and continue to be, it is marvelously comforting to know that Jesus Christ gives us his life of obedience to the Father and that it is Christ’s obedience which counts. We are saved by his obedience, not ours. It is his life, his faith and his obedience that saves us and includes us into that salvation.

This is how to understand Gal. 2:20. “I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me.”

That is exactly what the Lord Jesus does and is doing when in giving of himself for us he completely takes our place, makes our cause his very own in every aspect of our lives.

Here is what Jesus said in John 14:20 “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”

Count it all joy!

For a follower of Jesus Christ, life is full of meaning and purpose. For an unbeliever, it is meaningless. You just live and die and that’s it. But for a follower of Christ, even trials cannot dampen our spirit. We know what’s in store for us now and in the future.

So, you want the abundant life brethren? You want to experience life in God’s love? Then let us allow Christ to live in us. Count it all joy when we are under severe trials or persecution. Life has meaning for a Christian despite life’s trials. Just like the Apostle Paul, let us all say, “I live yet not I but Christ lives in me.” Despite difficult circumstances in life and despite severe trials, we can experience and enjoy life in God’s love even right now and we can also look forward with hope and assurance into the future. Jesus came that we might have life, and have it more abundantly! Congratulations and happy 10th church anniversary!

 

I Believe, Yet Not I, But Christ Believes for Me


Christ lived and died for us. As our vicarious representative and substitute, he assumed everything and took our place. We got implicated in him—in what he did to us and for us. Even our faith has been implicated in his faith. Our faith is enveloped and taken hold of by the faith of Jesus Christ.

Here’s from the booklet, The God Revealed in Jesus Christ, pp. 10-12:

  • The Faith in Christ

    “What does it mean to be saved by grace through faith? Does it mean that we are saved by something that we do, a human work of faith? If it is, what happens to us when our faith is weak or fails? The good news is that Jesus has done everything necessary for our salvation from start to finish, including believing for us. David Torrance writes:

    “We are saved by Christ’s faith and obedience to the Father, not ours. My brother Tom [Torrance] often quoted Gal. 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Such is the wording of the KJV, which I believe is a correct translation of the Greek….

    “Other translators, like those of the New International Version, apparently because they found it so difficult to believe we can live by Christ’s faith rather than our faith, have altered the text to make it read, “I live by faith in the Son of God!”—something altogether different! That translation takes away from the vicarious nature of Christ’s life of faith. It is by his faith [not ours] that we are saved and live! Our faith is a thankful response to his faith.

    “When we look back along our lives and ponder how disobedient we at times have been and continue to be, it is marvelously comforting to know that Christ gives us his life of obedience to the Father and that it is Christ’s obedience which counts. We are saved by his obedience, not ours. (An Introduction to Torrance Theology, pp. 7-8)

    In Our Place

    “Christ in our place and Christ for us in every respect” —Thomas F. Torrance

    “The Bible tells us that Jesus is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end (Revelation 22:13). That is why we can freely trust him to be our all in all and not even worry about whether our faith itself is good enough or strong enough. Thomas Torrance explains it this way:

    “Jesus steps into the actual situation where we are summoned to have faith in God, to believe and trust in him, and he acts in our place and in our stead from within the depths of our unfaithfulness and provides us freely with a faithfulness in which we may share…. That is to say, if we think of belief, trust or faith as forms of human activity before God, then we must think of Jesus Christ as believing, trusting, or having faith in God the Father on our behalf and in our place….

    “Through his incarnational and atoning union with us our faith is implicated in his faith, and through that implication, far from being depersonalised or dehumanised, it is made to issue freely and spontaneously out of our own human life before God. Regarded merely in itself, however, as Calvin used to say, faith is an empty vessel, for in faith it is upon the faithfulness of Christ that we rest and even the way in which we rest on him is sustained and undergirded by his unfailing faithfulness (The Mediation of Christ, pp. 82-84).

    “It is the life, faith and obedience of Jesus Christ that saves us and includes us in that salvation.”

Not By Your Works Nor by Your Faith!

How often do we hear of people say that it is their faith that saves. But the truth is, it is the faith of Christ that saves. Our faith has been implicated in his faith. This is how to understand Gal. 2:20 . “I live, yet not I but Christ.” In the same manner we can say, “I believe yet not I but Christ.”

It is important that we understand that Christ takes our place in every aspect of our human lives. Let me quote again from Thomas F. Torrance:

  • “It is curious that evangelicals often link the substitutionary act of Christ only with his death, and not with his incarnate person and life—that is dynamite for them! They thereby undermine the radical nature of substitution… Christ in our place and Christ for us in every respect. Substitution understood in this radical way means that Christ takes our place in all human life and activity before God, even in our believing, praying and worshiping of God, for he has yoked himself to us in such a profound way that he stands in for us and upholds us at every point in our human relations before God.” (Preaching Christ Today: The Gospel and Scientific Thinking, Thomas Torrance, pp. 30-31)

Vicarious Faith of Christ

Here is more from Thomas F. Torrance on Galatians 2:20 about the faith of Christ:

  • “Galatians 2:20 has long been for me a passage of primary importance. The faith of the ‘Son of God’ is to be understood as not just my faith in Christ but as the faith of Christ himself, for it refers primarily to Christ’s unswerving faithfulness, his vicarious and substitutionary faith which embraces and undergirds us, such that when we believe we must say with Paul, “not I but Christ,” even in our act of faith. This is not to denigrate the human act of faith on our part, for it is only in and through the vicarious faith of Christ that we can truly and properly believe. Faith in Christ involves a polar relation between the faith of Christ and our faith, in which our faith is laid hold of, enveloped, and upheld by his unswerving faithfulness…this is precisely what the Lord Jesus does when in giving of himself for us he completely takes our place, makes our cause his very own in every respect, and yields to the heavenly Father the response of faith and love which we are altogether incapable of yielding.
     
    “It is the same conception of faith, I believe, found in St. Paul’s teaching that we are justified by faith and that the just shall live by faith. Does this mean that the just person lives from his own faith or from God’s faith? In saying that “the just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:17) the apostle was actually citing from the book of Habakkuk (2:4), but in the Habakkuk Commentary found among the Dead Sea Scrolls this is interpreted to mean that the just live from “the faith of God,” which is also, the way that people like Athanasius, Calvin, and Barth have interpreted it.”However, if we understand faith in the polar way… justice can be done to both conceptions of faith. In the polar relation the primary pole is certainly God’s faith or Christ’s faith, for he is the faithful one who lays hold of us into a living relation with himself, but within the embrace of that relation the secondary pole is that of the believer, his responding faith. But that is an act of faith that is evoked by and sustained by the faithfulness of God—far from being of ourselves, it is a gift of God. This is how, I am sure, we are to understand the relation of our response in faith to the vicarious faith of Christ. The Pauline principle “not I but Christ” applies to faith: “I believe, yet not I but Christ.” (Preaching Christ Today: The Gospel and Scientific Thinking, Thomas Torrance, pp. 31-32)

Oftentimes, our human faith fails us and we doubt. But thanks be to God, we don’t have to worry about anything. Through our perfect substitute and representative, the Lord Jesus Christ, his faith sustains and upholds our faith. There’s no need to worry at all!

In the photo illustration above, we see two hands: that of a baby and that of a parent, maybe a father. As the baby begins learning how to walk, he or she holds on to her dad with her weak grasp while her dad holds on to her to support her and make sure she doesn’t stumble and fall. The stronger and firm grasp of the father represents the faith of Christ which upholds and supports our faith. Our weak human faith is upheld and taken hold of by the stronger faith of Christ which actually makes us walk. Our faith is implicated in Christ’s faith. “I believe yet not I but Christ believes for me.”

Yes, we can be thankful, that Christ substitutes for us—our faith has been implicated in his faith. Truly, the just shall live by the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.