Friday, September 11, 2015

Key to the Abundant Life


Luke 6:27 "But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.
28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.
29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also.
30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don't try to get them back.
31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
32 "If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!
33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much!
34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
35 "Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.
36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.
37 "Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.
38 Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full--pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back"
39 Then Jesus gave the following illustration: "Can one blind person lead another? Won't they both fall into a ditch?
40 Students are not greater than their teacher. But the student who is fully trained will become like the teacher.

Recently I have been mulling over what vs. 38 truly means. If you are like me, and have grown up in pentecostal or charismatic circles, then you have heard this verse over and over again. It seems to be the mantra of any televangelist out there. But is their interpretation right? I highly doubt it given the context of the verse. As I was praying, I remembered the verse as it was written in the King James version. You got to love how sometimes that much loved version brings certain things to light.

38Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. KJV

What leapt out at me was the word bosom! The bosom is the place where our soul and spirit reside! Now that makes a whole lot more sense considering the passage than some type of financial reward! If we give, then our soul shall prosper! It will overflow! And others will give back to keep it full! Now to me, that sounds like the type of deal no one can pass up!

So, what is it that we need to give in order to have this abundant life, this life filled to overflowing in our bosom?

There are a lot of little things in this passage that we could list exhaustively in our attempt to strain every little piece of meat out of this passage, but I don't think that is the intent of Jesus. I am convinced that we as believers many times in an effort to make sure we are walking right, make our lists of do's and don'ts and miss the real intent of what our Master is saying. Remember our relationship with Jesus and with one another is a matter of the intents of the heart, not the correct application of some teaching. We can do everything right, and still totally miss it because in our sacrifice of trying to be right, we end up being wrong in our heart attitude in doing right. I hope that makes sense.

So let me try to point out some big picture issues in this passage that will help us to both remember what to do when the time comes, and also give us the ability to discern what is the right thing to do when it is not obvious.

As I see it this passage boils down to 3 things. Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness.

Jesus said to Love your enemies 3 times. Yikes! At times it is hard enough to love your friends, especially those that are trying to your soul, let alone your enemies. I know in my own life, loving those that I call "God's problem children" is a real stretching issue for me. It is easy to love the upbeat, the positive people, and the ones that seem to have all of their marbles still left. But the whiners, complainers, mentally unstable, and those that are chronic users, those are the tough ones, let alone those that set out to hurt me or try to cause evil to happen to me!

Again 3 times Jesus talks of doing good or being compassionate to those who are not our most favorite people. I believe this talks of acceptance. Accepting that they are not the type of people we click with, accepting them and their human frailties, and may I say it, accepting them as people that Jesus loves, even if we disagree with their sin or lifestyle no matter what it is. Notice that Jesus said that when we do this, we are being like children of the Most High by being kind even though they are unthankful and wicked. That is acceptance. Accepting that is the way they are at this point and not allowing their actions to change how you treat someone.

Finally Jesus talks 3 times of either people taking something from you, or you lending to them without wanting repaid. The definition of unforgiveness is a debt that is owed. When people hurt us, take from us, demand things from us or steal from us, they incur a debt in our hearts. Jesus is saying to not allow debts to be built up. Forgiveness is writing off the debt and calling it unable to be paid. Read the parable of the unforgiving steward to further understand this concept.

Now if you stop reading here and try to start living this principle, you will fall into bondage. Because this is not all of the picture. Right now we have just seen what it is that we are supposed to give. If you stop now you will try to do it in your own strength and out of your own resources. You will fail miserably! So keep with me here and let me show you how you can do this and not get drained.

Matt 10:5These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7As you go, preach this message: 'The kingdom of heaven is near.' 8Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 9Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; 10take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.

Now I do not want to get into the specifics of this passage but just a principle. What were the disciples supposed to give? What they received! Get a hold of that! Jesus told them to give what they received. And I believe that what we are supposed to give in the Luke passage falls under this context as well. As you receive the Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness of the Father, then you are to give it back out!

Now I know, I know, you are saying in your head, I know that God loves me, accepts me, and has forgiven me because of the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. THIS IS NOT ABOUT HEAD KNOWLEDGE!!!!!!

Do you really know it, I mean deep down know it in your heart? Instead of singing the song, Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so, do you have not just an outside source for that knowledge but an inner witness?

I was saved over 20 years before I really realized that God loved me personally. I had been a pastor, led many people to Jesus, did many good things and was doing my best to live the life, yet I did not really believe in my heart that He loved me personally. How could He? I knew I was not perfect, and in fact a sinner. A saved sinner but still a sinner. I went through divorce, was having big difficulties with my kids, and had gone through some bad relationships where I had suffered rejection from women. I got to the point I felt I was not worth being loved. It was at that time that while I was driving in my truck that Jesus spoke to me in that still small voice and said "Duke, how much do I love you?" And I responded with head knowledge and said "Unconditionally Lord". Then He asked "Then why don't you love yourself if I think you are worth being loved?" That question stunned me! For someone who was trying to be like Jesus, I was sure missing it on that point! Then He asked me "How much do I accept you?" I again responded with head knowledge, "Well Lord I am accepted in the beloved". Can you guess what His next question was? You know it! "Why do you not accept yourself if I have accepted you?" These two things led me to the point where I could love, accept and forgive myself for all the things I had and will fail in. I received what I could then give!

I find today with many people, that they really do not believe in their heart of hearts that they are loveable, that they can be accepted for who they really are, including those areas where they have clay feet, and forgive themselves for not being the perfect model of a believer that they would want to be. And since they cannot receive this into their life, they have nothing to give to others.

I urge you to deal with yourself. Deal with coming to an understanding of how great the love of God is for you. How He has beautifully and wonderfully made you for His purposes, and that your human frailties do not ruffle His feathers or plans for you. That He knew every sin you would commit, past, present, and future and still chose to love you unconditionally and forgive you by the blood of Jesus. And that He would do it again even today, even though you have failed, or messed up or been a big donkey like me!

I am now a recipient of that abundant life because of giving what has been given to me. Shortly after this experience I had, an epiphany if you will, I was given the opportunity to give love. Off and on over an 9 year period the Lord would ask me to give to someone who did not give back, who did things that hurt me deeply, and who time and time again would do things that would force me to forgive emotional debt. It was one of the most challenging times I have ever went through. But God's word is true and I can tell you today, that I am receiving back, that I am being loved and that my bosom is truly running over. It is such a joy! And I know that if I had not done the loving without being loved in return, I would never have experienced what I am now experiencing today. My cup runs over!

So I implore you, by the mercies of God, deal with yourself, receive those things you need to receive from the Father, trust Him that He knows what He is doing, and that you no longer need to hide, protect, or run from the life He wants to give you.

Pastor Duke Taber is the pastor of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Pine Haven Wyoming and is the author of the weekly column in the Moorcroft Leader called Taber's Truths and now can be found online at [http://www.taberstruths.com]

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