Christianity: The Personal Pattern
"The Abundant Life"
Jesus noted a bias in certain personalities who put too much emphasis on some matters of truth, while neglecting issues of life much more important to living. "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint, and anise, and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, faith, (th love of God. Luke 11:42): These ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone" (Matt. 23:23)!
The inference from our Lord's words is that God requires strict and dedicated obedience in all things, even down to what some might consider "inconsequential." The Pharisee's herb garden was so small that most would overlook its first-fruits to tithe. But, the scrupulous Jew made a point of plucking every tenth leaf and berry his small garden might produce, and offering them to God. There is nothing wrong with this painstaking attendance to duty. It is not to be sniffed at: "These things ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone."
There are those who would lift a haughty brow at the conscientious Christian today - even that brother's own brethren! But, as Paul pointed out, "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? To his own master he standeth or falleth . . . why dost thou judge thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ . . . so then every one of us shall give an account of himself before God."
Before God, the strict man who "eats only herbs" because of conscience, i.e., takes a position of practice or belief demanding sacrifice and self-denial in an area of liberty, will be pleasing to God. "He that is faithful in least shall also be faithful in much." The man, on the other hand, who chooses the position of liberty in every issue to gratify himself, is in danger. "He is a fortunate man who has no misgivings in those things which he allows himself" (Rom. 14:22).
But, the failing of the scribes and pharisees was that they permitted their conscience of rigorous attendance to little matters of faith to blind them to the fact that they were neglecting what was really important in life. Their few leaves and berries were of no practical value to anyone. The herbs offered were of little sacrifice to the giver, the temple could get along fine without the few plants offered, and it is certain that God did not need it. The gift's importance lay only in what it might demonstrate to God of the giver's desire to serve Him. But, it did not even reflect that, if the substance of life were ignored.
Human nature and character remains the same, as it has from the Garden. No one is really responsible for sin. It is humorous to note, if the writing in the gospel papers are any reflection of human thought, that no one is a Pharisee today. No one fusses over matters of little importance or consequence to the exclusion of what is vital and significant in ones life. No one tithes his herb garden in print over some matter that touches no one's life in any meaningful way. All our writing is done on matters of grave and lasting interest and practicality. Just as in the day of our Lord's walk on this earth, no one is really guilty of His charge of neglecting the weightier matters. Let each man judge his own heart.
What is important? As a writer, this preacher has a responsibility to attend to matters of scruple, but incidentally, and not to the neglect of life. For, life, and its quality before God is what is important. Life is not just existence. We share this life with animals in that sense (Job. 12:10). It is not even eternal existence, for in this we share with all mankind, good and evil (Jn. 5:28, 29). But, life for the Christian must be a quality of existence, now and in the world to come.
Life More Abundantly
Jesus promised His disciples, "I come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (Jn. 10:10). Abundantly? How? The word "abundant" means rich, overflowing, filled and contented. It is a full cup, to a thirsty man, that is never empty, but overflows (Psa. 23:5). What are the weightier matters of life? Jesus said "mercy." "Be ye merciful, as your father also is merciful, . . . Give and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom" (Luke 6:36ff).
Jesus promised the brethren fulness of being. He spoke not of some form of drab existence better told than felt. He spoke of a better quality of living now: "Every one that hath forsaken houses or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children; or lands, for my names sake, shall receive an hundred-fold (now m this time Mk. 10:30) and shall inherit everlasting life" (Matt. 19:27-30). "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scriptures saith, out of his body shall flow rivers of living water" (Jn. 7:37, 38). "Whosoever drinketh of this water, shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water I shall give him shall never thirst; But the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing forth into everlasting life" (Jn. 4:13, 14).
From this divinely given life shall flow illimitable refreshment to all who are part. God offers divine and complete satisfaction. Not a drink, but a bubbling, leaping fountain of internal abundance.
Do I Have It?
We live in a world of media hype. The paperback "how to" books promise to make us rich, give us sexual fulfillment, inner peace, dissolve away our fat effortlessly, make us muscular or buxom, balance our budget, answer the puzzles of the universe, and produce for us a perfect family. But, they do not. And we have all developed a built-in resistance to promise, lest we grow to hope and disappointment again. There are too many promises that do not deliver.
Some saints approach their Christianity in the same way. It is divorced from any real expectations. It is reduced to easy arguments, proof-texts, pew-warming, and convenient social amenities. We limit "religion" to "spiritual" and miss the whole point that "spiritual" has no meaning apart from living (Jas. 2:12-20. James discusses the practicality of one of the weightier matters of the law: Judgment). In our effort to avoid the "Social Gospel," we negate too often the fact that man lives in a world that is social, and that man's needs are met in the gospel as a whole man.
1 recall being "hypnotized" once. The hypnotist went through his routine of swirling lights, low intonations, and then said softly "You are now in a deep trance . . . ." With my eyes closed I remarked in my head, "I am not. When is it going to happen?" The hypnotist told me afterward, "You were hypnotized." I went along with him, because it seemed to be so important to him, but I was not. And I was very disappointed, because 1 really had wanted to be hypnotised. Many times the following day, I tried in various ways to convince myself that I had been, that I just did not know what it was, but the knowledge was there: nothing changed.
Many Christians are told, "You are living the abundant life" from pulpit, in private, and in print. But in their head they say, "I am not. I am not happy, fulfilled, or confident." Something is missing, and many are afraid to acknowledge it. Some, in seeking what they feel is missing, leave the faith and chase after touchy-feely, subjective error and doctrine.
Life is more than just the hereafter, the by-and-by, it includes now as well as eternity. The freedom God promised is given only to the obedient Christian to live and enjoy a quality of existence now, as well as after death. Life was given to be enjoyed as a Christian. Many have lost their sense of awe, excitement, joy, expectation. Do you have it? Our next articles in this series will deal with a part of what God instructs in our developing the "abundant life."
Truth Magazine XXIII: 17, pp. 280-281