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One of Jesus’ greatest promises is that He came to give us abundant life (John 10:10). When we consider His teachings as a whole, we learn that abundant life is Spirit-filled, resurrection life. Sadly, I think many believers would describe their lives as anything but abundant. More often than not, we wander through life, wondering what it all means.
When we feel this way, the resurrection of Christ speaks to our deepest longings. We can begin where we are, right now, and experience abundant life. Jesus has given us everything we need to live for Him today. What does that look like?
We Read Prayerfully and Meditate Carefully on Scripture
We will never enjoy our union with Christ or experience the abundant life He promised if we do not become students of His Word. The Word of God is a priceless treasure (Ps. 119:162) that a lot of us leave safely neglected on a shelf. However, when we take it down, open it up, and begin to read it in a posture of humility and prayer, resurrection life begins to pour forth from its pages (John 5:24).
Consequently, overstating the importance of regular Bible study is probably impossible. To be sure, we won’t get a spiritual high every time we read it. We will have seasons when we don’t feel a thing. Still, the resurrection life is inevitably connected with faithful Bible reading. That is to say, even when we don’t perceive it to be “working,” God’s Word is always changing us, every time we read it, just as He promised us (Isa. 55:10–11).
It’s similar to what we hear every time we fly. The video or the flight attendant explains that in case of emergency, oxygen masks will deploy. Then we’re told not to worry if we don’t see the yellow bag inflating, for oxygen is still flowing, even if it doesn’t look like it. I’ve always thought that if I were ever on a flight where oxygen masks deployed, I’m pretty sure that whether the little yellow bag was inflating would be the least of my concerns.
In this admittedly imperfect analogy, Scripture is like those oxygen masks. Life is flowing even if we don’t see it while we read. Our part is to keep reading, keep praying, and keep thinking about the Word of God.
That brings me to the whole idea of meditating carefully on Scripture. Once a staple of biblical discipleship to Jesus, meditating on Scripture is a lost art today. Mostly that’s because we live such frantic, breakneck lifestyles. A friend of mine likes to say, when someone asks how he’s doing, “Mach 3 with my hair on fire.”
When we talk about meditating on Scripture, don’t picture someone seated in the lotus position, eyes closed, chanting “om.” That kind of meditation, which is meant to empty our minds in order to achieve oneness with the universe, is the very opposite of what Scripture means when it calls us to meditate on God’s Word day and night (Ps. 1:2).
Instead, meditating on the Bible is more like sanctified worry, as one author put it. When we worry about something, we think it through from a variety of angles, consider possible outcomes, and contemplate our responses. The problem is, worry does nothing for us except increase our chances of an early grave.
By contrast, biblical meditation means doing what we do when we worry, only with Scripture. We take a verse or passage and think it through. We ask what it teaches us about Jesus, God, creation, and so on. We consider what it is calling us to do. We step back and look at it from a different standpoint. Put simply, biblical meditation just means thinking hard and often about the Bible.
Anyone reading this can meditate on Scripture. It is not only for the privileged elite but for every Christian. As we engage in this time-honored practice, we will begin to experience abundant life. Our hearts will overflow with God’s Word, and our lives will overflow with resurrection life!
We Worship Jesus with His People
Crucial to experiencing resurrection life is regular, corporate worship with God’s people. Space forbids a defense of the biblical distinction between corporate worship and all of life as worship, but it’s there (see Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 10:31). For the moment, we will outline how corporate worship helps us experience resurrection life.
Scripture prioritizes public worship for at least two reasons. The first is the example of Jesus. Luke tells us that it was our Lord’s custom to gather with God’s people in the synagogue (Luke 4:16). We can easily forget that Jesus ministered publicly for only about three years. Before that, He worked and worshiped in what was considered an obscure, backwoods village in the vast Roman Empire.
So, for about thirty years, Jesus went to the synagogue at least every week. Week in, week out. When I consider Jesus getting up, going to work, sweating, going about His life, and then taking a day off to worship God, I am floored. The Son of God, God in the flesh, went to a dusty first-century synagogue, prayed, sang, and listened to sermons from the Old Testament.
For certain, Jesus communed with His Father privately (Matt. 14:23; Mark 1:35). But He never set His private worship of His Father at odds with His weekly gathering to worship with fellow believers. Both marked His life. Both should mark ours.
Second, in heaven, corporate worship has priority. Although we will all be worshiping as individuals in glory, this will take place in the context of the whole host of the redeemed (Rev. 5:8–14). Jesus teaches us that one of our consistent prayers should be for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt. 6:10). One of the ways that prayer is answered is in corporate worship.
Therefore, if we want to experience the resurrection life promised in God’s Word, we must make gathering with His people for worship one of our main priorities. When we do, we are encouraged, strengthened, edified, and prepared for life in this age. It is practicing for heaven, as it were. Above all, God is glorified when we worship Him!
We Serve in the Power Jesus Supplies
Finally, we live out our resurrection life in union with Christ as we serve in the power that Jesus supplies through His Spirit (John 15:5; Eph. 3:20). With so many activities and good things calling for our attention, we always face the constant threat of burnout in our lives. We will only avoid this if we serve in the power Jesus supplies.
So how do we serve in the power Jesus supplies to us by His Spirit? First, we face the idol of pleasing people. Most of us who struggle with this particular idol don’t even know it. Here are some symptoms: you are terrified of failure, you feel like you can never say no, you are overcommitted, and you wonder constantly what people think of you. Sound familiar? I know it does for me.
The way forward is turning from this idol and finding our security in Christ. Instead of serving people because we need them to like us and approve of us, we begin serving them because we love Jesus. He becomes our focus, not them.
Second, we regain control of our schedules. We are all “crazy busy.” But did God intend for us to live a life of constant errands, appointments, practices, and overwork? I don’t think so. Circumstances may dictate that some days we may have to do more, and some people have to work longer hours than others. And I sympathize with the desire to make sure our children are involved in activities that will help build them up in Christ. But all of us are in control of our schedules.
How do we determine what should take priority in our commitments? We ask a simple question: “How does this help me serve Jesus?” And then we get brutally honest with ourselves. If it doesn’t help us do that, we get rid of it.
That may sound hopelessly naive, but as we practice this habit, I think we’ll find that we’re doing less yet achieving more. Above all, by clearing away the brush from our schedules, we can see Jesus more clearly. And the more we see Him, enjoy Him, and commune with Him, the more we serve in the power of His Spirit.
Third, we stop multitasking. Research indicates that multitasking actually makes us less, not more, productive. Moreover, as Christians, we cannot multitask prayer and Bible study, for example. Both require our undivided attention.
If our most important relationship, the one we enjoy with our heavenly Father, requires our total focus, then so also do our human relationships. Multitasking inhibits our ability to listen well and to devote ourselves to becoming students of other people. As a result, we find ourselves never getting beyond the surface in our relationships, whether with God or with others. Because we can’t concentrate, we can’t go deep.
But God wants us to go deep with Him and with others. The only way this happens is when we learn that doing a bunch of things runs the risk of having important things not receive our full attention. To be clear, I realize there are times when multitasking is unavoidable. What I am advocating is that a life of distracted multitasking should not be the norm for Christians. As with many parts of the Christian life, this is not easy (I know that all too well), but we still should strive to focus on Bible study, prayer, relationships, and the other things that mark the life of a Christian.
Resurrection life is a life of focused communion with God and service to others. There are no hacks. We can’t take a shortcut to a profound relationship with God and deep, lasting relationships with others. They both take time and concentration. When we devote ourselves to these high callings, we will experience resurrection life. We will live in the power Christ supplies.
A common theme weaves its way through all these suggestions: the call to dependence. Here’s how Jesus expressed this theme: “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). In other words, we may look like individuals who have it all together and crush it every day. But God wants something different for us than just being high achievers.
His goal and design for our lives is that we learn—through painful experiences, failed dreams, relational disappointments, suffering, and a host of other means—that a life of Spirit-filled power only comes as we find ourselves in a position of utter dependence on Him.
This is the lesson Paul learned in his extensive sufferings (2 Cor. 11:23–29). This toil and hardship never obscured his joy in Christ, which is why he could write: “For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (12:10).
Complete dependence is what Jesus has in mind when He calls us to become like little children. He wants us to be humble, dependent, and singular in our devotion to our Father, through Him, in the power of the Spirit. He will do whatever it takes to bring us to this position because He loves us.
Therefore, resurrection life for the believer is hard but not joyless. It is full of disappointments and victories. Through it all, Jesus remains with us, the Spirit resurrecting us daily, all to the glory of God!
No matter what else has happened or will happen in this world, the best news ever is that the resurrection of Jesus is true. For believers, the reality of Jesus’ resurrection means that everything has changed. It is an explosion of symphonic beauty that interrupts the otherwise monotonous drone of death. It is the reason the Christian keeps going. It is the fuel of hope, the fire of missions, the promise of eternity, the glorious beginning of the end we always hoped for, and the only way to make sense of the world.
Excerpt adapted from Alive: How the Resurrection of Christ Changes Everything by Gabriel N.E. Fluhrer, © 2020, pp. 146–53.