Part 3 of 3

An Obstacle to Love

Timmy has not received the christening “Typhoon Timmy” for no reason. As I was giving birth to our youngest child in a Filipino hospital, the storm clouds were already brewing for a good-sized typhoon. His birth was stormy enough – a 43-hour labor, a knotted umbilical cord, and an emergency C-section – but in reality, typhoon Glenda touched down in Manila just a few hours after his birth. With wind picking up, my husband and older boys drove to the airport to collect my mom who had flown in from Greece. Her flight was the last to land before all planes were grounded due to safety regulations. Shortly after arriving back to the hospital, we safely watched the winds and rain beat down on the roads of Manila from our delivery suite five stories up in the air.

In retrospect, however, I think this facetiously-given nickname was prophetic. Not only did Timmy arrive in a storm of furious circumstances, but he has continued to live out stormy behavior in his day-to-day life: attitude winds that change direction in seconds; storm clouds of petulance that come out of nowhere; rebellious words that defy this motherly weatherman’s ability to predict; the coldness of turned shoulders to gentle love; and the rain of tears that fall, pooling in bitter floods if he does not get his own way.

As you have possibly figured out, the Lord has given us yet another strong-willed child. I acknowledge this reality with chagrin, because while I can sometimes smile about it and find some humor in the situation, more often than not, it makes me sad. Not just because I have fourteen more years to try to shape this young boy’s rocky path, but because I know the pain that lies ahead, both for me and for him. You see, I have already raised a strong-willed child and believe me, it was hard going.

I have felt alternately hopeless and hopeful as I peruse the years ahead. Hopeless, because at four years of age, he is displaying a strength of will and aggression that is perturbing to me. His ability to buck every word I say coupled with a rotten attitude is like a poison to his system and in our home. I shudder at its far-reaching effects. But I am also hopeful for I personally know the God who speaks to storms, “Be still,” and they gentle the lapping waves. And I know the influence of the “Storm-Whisperer” in Timmy’s life is far from over.

Typhoon Timmy has a huge lesson to learn and for now, he often opposes this basic truth: obedience brings blessing. Colossians is quite clear, “Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord” (Col. 3:20). Timmy does not yet know the Lord and so does not care about what pleases Him and vicariously then, what pleases me.

But there is another reason to obey. Ephesians 6:1-3 tell children again to obey because it is right: holy, pure, righteous and innocent. But the reiteration of the fifth commandment in Ephesians is also a reminder of a promise: “so you will live well and have a long life” (v 3 – MSG). I think this is a personal promise and a corporate promise. As Timmy learns to obey, he will experience “good” living. He will have peace with his parents, joy in his family, a trust in his discipline, and a sense of gratefulness that stems from the abiding settledness of being well-loved.

But there is also a corporate sense to this verse. Timmy, as he learns obedience, will help build up our family, which will help build up our community or nation. “When the bonds of family life break up, when respect for parent fails, the community becomes decadent and will not live long” (Tyndale New Testament Commentary).

There is much at stake in the heart of this precious boy. He must learn obedience in our home in order to experience the training needed to someday obey his heavenly Father. He must surrender to this body – our family – so he can submit to the church body later on. He must have his willful spirit broken in the safety of our home so he can experience the filling of his obedient spirit by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Timmy’s recalcitrant will and consequent behavior are detrimental to his soul. They are also obstacles to love, but there is a risen Lord who can revolutionize the unruly heart. And this is where I camp my hope: divine love resurrects faith by initiating a response of love.

In Review

The resurrection story according to Matthew is earth-shaking, literally and figuratively. We have barely scratched the surface of Christ’s death-defying account, but I hope that you have been blessed. More than that, I pray that these ten verses have been a catalyst for some change in your walk with God.

We saw first the rise of hope in verses 1-4. Perhaps that look into Hope as your anchor has propped up some of your sagging faith. Last week we searched verses 5-8 to find the rise of joy. Joy, if you recall, comes from relinquishing fear, remembering truth, and reviving faith. Remember, however, that we left Mary and company in a mixture of fear and joy. I proposed to you that their faith had not yet come full circle. Yes, they believed the angel’s words and they were en route to obey them as well, but their joy was still mixed with fear. Today we will see that fear overtaken by love.

Before we begin, would you read Matthew 28:1-10 one last time. Look especially at verses 9 and 10 which will be our focus today. Look for any ways that love breaks through their unbelief and brings them out into a spacious place of resurrected faith.

Two Sides of Love

Verse 9 begins with these words, “Suddenly Jesus met them…” These women were en route to telling the disciples all that the angel had spoken and in the midst of their fear-mixed-with-joy haste, they were suddenly surprised by Love.

In all seventeen occurrences in the New Testament of that word ‘suddenly,’ there is a theme that boldly stands out. Six verses have to do with the sudden appearance of either Jesus or the work of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:9, Mk. 9:8, Mk. 13:36, Acts 8:39, Acts 9:3, Acts 22:6). Six have to do with the sudden materialization of angels (Lk. 2:13, Lk. 24:4, Acts 1:10, Acts 10:30, Acts 12:7, 10). Two instances describe the sudden work of God in either an earthquake or an imminent destruction (Acts. 16:26, 1 Thess. 5:3). One is actually a reference to an un-holy spirit (Lk. 9:39), which suddenly came upon a man. The last ‘sudden’ event refers to Paul being bit by a snake with the people watching to see if he would suddenly swell up, but of course, by God’s power, he did not.

As I look at all of these events which came suddenly upon biblical players, I am amazed that there is a unanimous thread running through them all. It appears that the word ‘suddenly’ heralds a supernatural event of some kind. Either a Person of the Godhead, an emissary of heaven, or the power of God is displayed in this sudden manner.

In our current story, the thread is consistent because Jesus suddenly met them. This tells me two things. First, there is an indication that something supernatural is afoot, since seeing a resurrected body usually counts as supernatural. Secondly, however, it shows me that the Lord deemed these women important enough in the course of history to engage them in a supernatural way. I call this way the way of love.

In our understanding of what love is, I think it is important to realize that love is two-dimensional. The first dimension is the powerful, personal, supernatural display of Jesus. Love is first given to man; it is offered without attached strings from the overflowing basket of heaven’s blessings. It is not merited. It cannot be begged for, bought, or manipulated; it is a free gift.

Within the hearts of our three ladies, there was a love-war. Verse 9 indicates that joy and fear were both present in their faith, despite their actions of obedience. I am so encouraged that Jesus recognized that and deemed it worthy of a supernatural showing of His love in the form of His presence.

The initiation of love is God’s area of responsibility. He knows when we are weak and need a faith-boost. He is aware of every nuance of our ebbing belief system and He has the answer to our fear-joy dichotomies. That answer is His offer of love.

But we also have a responsibility in this love arena and that is seen in the Greek definition of that word ‘suddenly.’ It means “to see, to know, to be aware, consider, to perceive with the senses, to pay attention…” (ESV Strong’s).

Friend, God-waves of love are coming out from His Person, His Word, and His interaction in our circumstances all the time. However, if we do not take the time to see it, to really know it in our guts, and to be aware of how He moves in love, we will miss it. If we do not train ourselves to consider how He speaks of love, to perceive it with our senses, and to pay attention constantly to His interactions with us, we will probably end up feeling unloved, despite the downpour that rains unchecked from the heart of God.

God’s job is to love; our job is to be aware of His love and reflect it back. These are the two sides of love, the two responsibilities of this awesome movement of God. “We love because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19).

The problem comes in recognizing God’s love. Sometimes His love is gentle and quiet, even veiled, like His appearance to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. Sometimes it comes like an earthquake, like a shaking, and rocks prison doors, like Paul and Silas found out. Other times it strikes you down in the very act of sinning, like it did with Saul. God’s love is not couched in worldly terms; it drips with divine sovereignty and holy obscurity, but it is profoundly unmistakeable to those who know they are loved and who love in return.

You might think that if the Person of Jesus suddenly appeared before you, you would take notice. It is possible, but based on biblical experience, highly improbable. The Jews saw Him cast out demons and heal their sick and completely misconstrued Him. The Pharisees could not stump Him with their questions and were amazed at His authority. They even watched Him sway crowds with His authoritative oratory, yet they killed Him. Even His disciples worshiped Him and doubted at the same time (Mt. 28:17).

It is possible that you and I would miss Him and His variations of grace even if He stood directly in front of us, but I daresay, some of us would know Him. Some would recognize His voice. Some would understand His ways and they would ‘suddenly’ be met with Love. These ‘someones’ are the true disciples of Christ.

Would you be that someone? Do you hear God’s voice? Do you see Him moving regularly in and through you? Are you rising above your circumstances on the wings of love? If so, you are a true disciple: breathing in His love and exhaling it out over the unloved around you.

The Foundational Precept of Love

In order to better understand love and consequently, to understand this movement in the three women’s lives, we need to go to a chapter that outlines the framework of love. John 15 is that passage, a godly manual on what it means to live out the abundant life by resting in the outstretched hands of Love.

We find the plumbline to all discussions on love in the very center of this passage. Thoughts of fruit and abiding ebb and flow around this main verse, but it still remains the cornerstone of love. Verse 9a reads like this: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” Jesus found completeness in the love of His Father and from that overflow, He loved outward, downward, and death-ward.

How could Jesus ever love enough to die? It boggles the mind. Because of love, He gave up the fellowship of heaven and came to earth wrapped in the body of a man. He was rejected by many around Him, including his own family at times. He was misunderstood and used for His “magical” powers. He was harangued and harassed, yet He continued to give out of the deep well of His Father’s love.

That last week He walked a path you and I will never even begin to comprehend. He was anointed by a sinful woman in preparation for the most cruel death known to man (Jn. 12:1-11). He rode into Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Jn. 12:12-19), but days later, the same crowd cried, “Crucify Him. Crucify Him” (Jn. 19:15). He predicted treachery and even gave permission for Judas to go out and betray Him, which he did in the dead of night and fronted by soldiers to protect him (Jn. 13:28,18:1-5). He predicted Peter’s denial and suffered its wounding stabbing when it also came to pass (Jn. 13:38, 18:15-27). He suffered no less than five trials: before Annas (18:12), before Caiaphas, the high priest (18:24), and before Pilate three times (18:28-19:16). In the middle of those trials, He was flogged and they pushed a crown of thorns into His head and mocked and spat on Him (19:1-3). On top of that, He was rejected by His own people as they chose Barabbas, a common criminal, over Him (18:40). He was then forced to carry His own cross out to Golgotha, where they put four nails into his wrists and ankles and left Him to die (19:17-30). And on top of it all was the most terrifying pain, the pain of abandonment by the Father, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (Mt. 27:46)?

And my friend, He did it willingly for you, for me, for love. “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). How, I ask again, could Jesus have ever endured such persecution, such sorrow, such complete abandonment? It was for the joy before him of sitting down once again at the right hand of the throne of God (Heb. 12:2): in fellowship, in union, in unbroken love.

And it was for the joy of a relationship of love with Mary and her friends and precious one, it was for the unabashed joy of a love-relationship with you.

Because He was so full of the love of His Father, He endured the cross and despised its shame. In His death, He canceled the written code, with its regulations that were against us, disarmed the powers and authorities of this dark world, and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross (Col. 2:14-15). He then lay in a dark tomb, but He was not idle. He defeated Satan’s kingdom, descending to the earthly regions (Eph. 4:9) in order to preach to the spirits in prison – the demonic forces – that He was in charge (1 Pet. 3:18-19) and to the ones who were dead (1 Pet. 4:6). (Chip Ingram describes this brilliantly in his book Holy Transformation, chapter 5). He then rose from the dead in order to proclaim light to His own people and to the Gentiles (Acts 26:23).

Matthew 28:9 informs us that Jesus suddenly met Mary and her friends, but His sudden appearance was not accidental. It was an extension of His resurrection preaching. He had preached to the demonic forces, preached to the saints who were dead and now, He was choosing to preach the power of His love to the living. He proclaimed the light of His love to His own people and consequently, to us, the Gentiles.

His sudden appearance was an act of demonstrative love, a love that was funneled to Him by His Father and imparted on a fearful-yet-joyful female trio, drenched in awe, yet trembling with fear. He knew His love-soaked Presence would quench the remaining fires of doubt in their hearts and so He came to them.

He met them, Scripture says. Don’t those words speak to you? They are filled with tenderness, with aching longing, with love-drenched desire for intimacy. He, out of love, approached them. He personally set up an encounter with them. He chose to meet them “face to face” (NASB Strong’s). And in that movement of love, they were undone.

Your God is a lover-God. He enjoys perfect and sweet fellowship with His Son, and out of that river of delight, Jesus loves you. He waits, even now, to have you recognize His movements toward you…suddenly and irrevocably. When you do, you will recognize this foundational precept of love: God, by way of His Son, desires to love on you face to face.

Ah! I am weeping as I write these words. How can anyone doubt the Father’s love? How can anyone say they are alone or abandoned or rejected? The God of the universe stands with open arms at His gate and looks for you, watches daily for you, stands ready for you to come home and be enveloped in His love.

Come home, my friend! Come home!

The Prerequisite for Love

The NKJV Bible begins verse 9 in a uniquely beautiful way, “And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them…” These excited-yet-fearful women, despite all that they had seen, despite all that they had heard, despite the open tomb, the comatose guards, the shining angels and the lack of a body, were on their way to tell the disciples all that the angel had relayed to them. And it was then, the NKJV states; then, in that state of beautiful obedience, that Jesus met them.

I have always tried to raise my boys to obey the first time I speak. They may have rebuttals, they may not agree, but they are to obey. The only way they are allowed to negotiate with me is if I see them in motion, beginning to carry out the task I have given them. If they give me flack on the way, if they argue or whine, if they delay their obedience, they lose the right to an audience to discuss the rights or wrongs of their given chore. They can, however, earn the right to discuss terms when they have shown the proper respect, surrendered attitude, and prompt obedience. I request obedience because I love them and they obey because they love me.

This method of parenting is not out of date according to Jesus’ primer on love. John 15:10 states, “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” Do you see the prerequisite for love? It is obedience, the same route my boys are obliged to take to experience the reality of my love. Obedience is needed to remain in love.

Jesus went on to say twice that the command He wanted us to obey was to love each other as He loved us (v 12, 17). He showed us His great love for us by laying down His life for us, even to the point of calling us His friends (v 13). How great is this love? So great that He literally loved us to death, His death.

Jesus met those women on that road resurrection Sunday morning for many reasons. It was a supernatural manifestation of His love. It was because He desired to reconnect with them in relationship. It was because they were His friends and had stood by Him through His dying, death and burial. But I think one of the biggest reasons Jesus met those sweet ladies that day was because He was downright pleased with their prompt obedience.

I am not an expert, by far, in knowing God, but based on my track record with Him, I am certain of this one thing: the faster I obey, the quicker I know peace. And most importantly, as I hear Him and obey, I do not ever feel a break in fellowship with Him; I remain in His love.

Some people are better with math than with language arts so here is a simple equation to remember…

Jesus’ love for us + Our instant obedience = Our remaining in/experiencing Jesus’ love

We have already learned that God’s love for us is constant so the only breakdown in truly experiencing the love of God, of constantly remaining in that love, is our obedience. And unfortunately for many of us who struggle getting along with people, Jesus’ greatest commandments involve both loving Him and loving others.

How quickly do you tend to obey God? Another way to ask that question in a more meddling way is, how often do you hear God’s voice? If God is not speaking to you by His Spirit or through His Word, I would say there is a faulty line of submission somewhere along your walk with Him. Either you have delayed too often or have said an outright “no” so long that you have quenched the Spirit who lives within you. Disobedience has probably cost you a sense of experiencing the love of God. Notice I did not say God has removed His love from you; it just may feel like it because you are not experiencing the joy and peace and intimacy for which you long. Remaining in Christ’s love is the direct result of obeying His commands.

Mary and her friends were loved, even though they did not have the gospel of John to clarify that truth for them. They were already experiencing joy, which is a fruit of love; we will study this in just a bit. And they were obeying without seeing the biggest part of the picture. I think this ministered to Jesus as much as it ministers to me.

God sees the heart and knows its treacherous emotional chasms. Sometimes we feel sad but do not know why. We may, at times, worship and doubt, like the disciples did. We also may be afraid and joyful simultaneously and be unable explain the overlapping emotions, but there is one thing we can know for sure. We can know if we are being disobedient.

All the conflicting emotions can be sorted out, as Jesus did for those women, but anything less than instant obedience shows our lack of love for God in a hurry. This is the kind of heart that will struggle to recognize Jesus, though He be standing directly in the way. This person will feel unloved because she cannot even recognize the Lord, though He be waiting with open arms to meet with her; she has dilly-dallied too many times to recognize her Master’s voice.

Dear one, do not be that woman! Make a resolution right now that you will always obey the Lord when He directs you from His Word or by His Spirit. Then, and only then, will you come to know the movements of love and learn to recognize God when He shows up to meet with you.

Abundant Life?

Jesus has offered the gift of abundant life to us who believe in Him (Jn. 10:10b). Abundant life, folks! Life in all its fullness (NCV). Life to the very full (NIV 84). A rich and satisfying life (NLT). More and better life than we have ever dreamed of (MSG).

But do we believe it?

If so, why is it when I look around a church on a Sunday morning, people with abundant life at their fingertips are sleeping through the sermons? Don’t they know God could be saying something personal to them, that the Creator of their little universe desires to be with them?

Why is it that so many fulfilled disciples have their hands in their pockets and their mouths completely closed during worship? Don’t they know that to stand in the presence of the holy God is a privilege no one experienced in the Old Testament without blood and sacrifice and ritual?

Why do church people, who have a better life than they have ever dreamed of, bicker or gossip or complain in the foyer on the heels of a time of communion with the Lord? Don’t they know that Miriam was turned leprous for this very assault on God’s holiness?

And why do richly-blessed God-followers settle for following after so many other gods – money, fame, significance, relationships – when the Lover of the universe stands holding out His arms to them? Don’t they know that God is a jealous God and will not suffer rejection; He is a consuming fire (Heb. 12:29).

When I go to church or engage in a conversation with a believer, I can tell very quickly who is really experiencing the abundant life. There is a passion in God and His Word and in His grace that spills out all over the countenance and behavior of a God-follower. Activities should not be done for God, even as busy as some believers may seem. Activities are done through God; God working mightily through His obedient listeners. There is a synergy of activity, the sheep following where his Shepherd leads. There is a great confidence in God, not in the undertakings of the flesh: education, ministry prowess, abilities, effectivity, etc. And lastly, folks that are living the rich life are full of great thoughts about God. They are full of His truth and walk in His peace, despite the storms that inevitably beat upon their lives.

I can sum up the experience of the abundant life in just one phrase: knowing God and remaining in Him (John 15). Do these simple descriptions characterize your life, my friend?

If you are completely aware that you are not experiencing the abundant life that God has promised – and believe me, you would know – there are many reasons, but the one that quickly rises to the top is that you may not know God as well as you thought. Seeking the gifts that God offers will only lead to more longing, more idolatry, more emptiness, but seeking the Giver; now, that will satisfy you forever!

We just finished meditating on the week before Christ’s death. Do you really think that God would have sent His Son to die on the cross for you just to get you to heaven? That you will barely make it to the door of your mansion by the skin of your teeth? That life will finally become satisfying when you start walking the streets of gold?

No, my friend, God had in mind something far better. Jesus came as a servant and submitted to the cross to offer you a way to heaven – yes! – but to offer you something richer and more satisfying. He died to offer you relationship, communion, and joy in His presence. In short, He came to earth to die in order to offer you the riches of Himself. The key to all of those riches is learning to remain in Him.

John 15 is full of references to remaining or abiding in Christ. This is the access code, in case you were wondering, to the abundant life.

My Father and Me

A person could sit in John 15 for the rest of her life and never fully grasp the richness of this text. In my Bible, this whole chapter is red-letter, meaning that it issued from the very mouth of Jesus. Not only did Jesus speak these words; He lived them from personal experience. Jesus mentions His relationship with His Father six times in seventeen verses. Looking at those references will give us small clues into what it means to abide:

  • I am the true Vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit…but prunes those that do (vv 1-2).
  • This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples (v 8).
  • As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you (v 9).
  • If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in His love (v 10).
  • I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you (v 16).
  • I appointed you to go and bear fruit…Then my Father will give you whatever you ask in my Name (v 16).

By way of introduction to this concept of remaining, notice that the Father cuts off the branches in Jesus that bear no fruit and prunes those that do. The Father and the Son are actively working together to produce fruit in you and me, since we are those branches. Remaining in Jesus, then, will include both cutting and pruning by the Master Gardener. Jesus experienced this cutting and pruning work of God; not because He needed it, but because we needed to see it first-hand to recognize it. He was tested and tried through temptation, a painful pruning work. He was cut off from the land of the living (Isa 53:8) for God’s ultimate glory and triumph (Isa 58:12).

Jesus brings attention to the fact that our fruit does two things: it bears witness to the fact that we are Christ’s disciples and it brings glory to God. Remaining in Jesus, then, will include a showing of what God desires so that people can see we actually do follow Christ. The ultimate test of that fruit will be if it brings more glory to God than to man. As Jesus remained in His Father, He experienced much fruit: victory in temptation (Mk. 1:13ff), answers to prayer (Jn. 11:41-44), fruit of the Spirit (Lk. 10:21), power to do signs and miracles (Mt. 8:1-4), wisdom from on high to teach with authority (Mt. 5) and I could go on and on. All of Jesus’ fruit bore witness that He was God’s Son and it brought much glory to His Father.

Love is a key word in this passage and notice that Jesus boldly declares His confidence in His Father’s love. Even after giving up heaven for a while to become a man, after living in an earth suit for 33 years, after walking the tortuous path to the cross, even then, He could say that His love in His Father was not shaken. Clearly, God’s love was the engine that kept His earthly ministry running.

If God’s love was the engine, then Jesus’ obedience was the key that started His relationship car. In John 8, Jesus declared that He did nothing on His own; He only spoke what the Father had taught Him (v 28). Elsewhere, He is even more clear, “the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me” (Jn. 14:31). As He obeyed in both word and deed, He showed His love for His Father and the deep, abiding friendship that existed between them.

Notice, lastly, that fruit and answers to prayer are linked. God appointed His Son to bear fruit – fruit that includes you and me, by the way – and in the process, many prayers are answered. Jesus’ obedience paved the way for both the fruit of the ministry womb and the fruit of lips, answers to prayer.

What is Jesus saying here in these examples? Quite possibly, “Study my relationship with my Father. See how I do it, then come and do the same.” He is not asking us to do something that is impossible nor unprecedented. He has paved the way for our abundance with His example and with His lifeblood.

‘Remaining’ Defined

First of all, let’s define that word ‘remain’ or ‘abide,’ as many versions state. It means “to stay (in a given place, state, relation or expectancy), to sojourn, tarry, continue to be present, to behold, be kept continually; of time, to endure; of state, not to become different” (ESV Strong’s).

If I would tell you that I am choosing to remain in Thailand for the next 2 ½ years, that will lead you to believe a few things about my choice. First, remaining here means that I will not move or leave this city during that prescribed time. I will stay here of my own volition.

A second conviction you can draw is that I do not anticipate someone else moving me. Circumstances will not conspire against my decision. People will not sway me from my goals. My decision is is fixed and firm. To my best knowledge, I will choose to stay here and others will choose to let me make that decision. I will remain in this given place, continue to be present here, to be kept continually by my mission, and to endure despite the trials that will come. In addition, I will not become different in my mind about this decision; I will stick it out.

This example may be a little weak, but it conveys the general thought behind this word. In your spiritual life, you should remain in Christ. That means you will not be tempted to leave. You will not allow sin to sway you from your decision. Even negative circumstances and hardships that come along will not change your mind. You will remain fixed on Christ’s love.

Let me remind you again about the formula we established earlier today. Remember that Jesus’ love comes first. He initiates relationship with us. His love plus our willing obedience leads to remaining in Him.

Christ’s love + Our obedience = Remaining

This equation makes the Christian life look very simple. It is not simple, mostly because of three oppositional forces. Unfortunately, we have sin to grapple with, both in the world and in our unsanctified flesh. We also contend with a formidable adversary who prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8). On top of these, we have habits and negative thought patterns that we have acquired in our lives that stand against our choice to remain in Christ.

I do not give you this equation to bring you condemnation if you are struggling. I struggle too. I also do not lay it out in this over-simplified way to boost your sense of pride. My hope is that this simple distillation clarifies a very difficult topic and brings a heavenly concept down to earth.

There are only two variables to this equation: Christ’s love and our obedience. If Christ’s love would wain, then the equation would become void. Just so you know, this variable will never vary. Christ’s love is a surety, a fortress, a foundation in which you can stake your life. So that only leaves one variable: our responsibility, which does often wax and wane just like the tides of the sea. But, as long as we continue to obey what God brings for us to do, we will be able to remain.

A think part of the struggle involving the abundant life is because we do not really understand what it entails. It seems like a pie-in-the-sky theology, something so far out of reach that it is difficult to attain. It is not difficult to understand and John 15 spells out that abundance with simple clarity. Let’s look at how remaining can bring satisfaction and fulfillment in our walk with God.

Principles of Remaining

After that cursory look at the relationship shared by Jesus and His Father, I want to take you now to some principles of remaining. How do you and I remain in Christ? More than that, what does this remaining have to do with abundant life and how does this all apply to our three women in Matthew 28?

In case I have not been clear up to this point, understand this: remaining in Christ is the abundant life. We will never get more of Jesus. When the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, we each receive the same amount. The abundant life is not only for a few; it is for everyone who receives Him. You have the same opportunities that I do, to live in richness and satisfaction with God.

But not everyone experiences abundance and I daresay, that is because not everyone really learns to obey in absolute surrendered capitulation. To be a disciple of Christ, to be completely sold out, means that a person must die: “Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (Jn. 12:24). You will have to give up your agenda, your desires, your typical means of finding significance, “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt. 10:39). Your decision to obey Christ will require that you count the cost (Lk. 14:28-30) and frankly, your obedience might cost you everything that is dear to you.

Jesus did not promise that remaining in Him was easy, but He did promise that it would be worth it (Mt. 10:8, 19-20, 22, 29-30, 32-33, 39; 19:29 for examples). The disciples that take Jesus up on His offer, that believe He will do as He says He will do, are the ones that walk boldly on the path of Jesus’ love straight on into abundance.

What does remaining look like? How do we practically walk out this sometimes-nebulous concept? Jesus gave us some really great word pictures to understand what remaining in Him looks like.

Relationship

Look at the relationship mentioned in verse 4a, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you…” I love that word ‘in;’ it denotes such warmth, sweetness and intimacy: being brought into a family, being hugged inside of someone’s arms, clasping someone’s hand in your own, inviting someone into a conversation, being made a partner in a firm, putting marshmallows into your hot chocolate…(Whoops, where did that come from? I must be getting hungry).

This word ‘in’ is inclusive in fellowship, purposeful in meaning, and comprehensive in nature. And friend, this is what your relationship with Jesus is all about. As we abide in His commands, we stay inside His heart, inside His agenda, inside His plans, purposes and goals. As we choose Him over other pursuits, we experience family, intimacy, and sweetness. (Ahh, that’s where the chocolate came in).

The love of two humans comes closest to this all-inclusive relationship with Jesus in that love-making literally occurs inside of the body. But understand this: Jesus is inside of you, loving you from the inside out in the Person of the Holy Spirit. No relationship on earth will ever compare to the embracing love of the Father, both for His Son and for you.

God gives one more dimension to this aspect of “in-ship.” He calls you friend. “You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (vv 14-15).

Friends share with each other. They know what is going on in each other’s lives. They talk and depending on the intensity of their friendship, they talk very deeply. This is what Jesus offers you if you will just obey. You have His ear. You have His communion. You will hear Him speak to you and be able to respond in sweet reciprocation. I cannot think of anything that describes abundance more clearly than this.

Dear one, if Jesus is not a living, breathing, exploding-from-the-inside-out kind of relationship for you, first of all, check if you have really accepted Him into your life. If you have not, that is the place to start. But if you have and are still not experiencing mind-blowing intimacy with Him, next check your heart. Are you obeying Him in everything He has called you to do? Again, if you are not, get on your knees. Confess where you have failed Him. And surrender all that you are holding back from His liberating control.

A nourishing, two-way relationship with Jesus is the abundant life.

Fruit

Though there are quite a number of verses on this topic, I still want to list them for you because they are so important. “No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me…if a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned…This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (vv 4b, 5,6, 8).

The topic here is fruit-bearing. There are many verses in the New Testament that describe what fruit God might be talking about here. The obvious example is the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23; fruit like love, joy, peace etc. Yielding to and keeping in step with the Spirit will harvest all of these incredible fruits that were planted when the Spirit entered your spirit.

Fruit is also described as the sacrifice of praise that should come from our lips (Heb. 13:15). It is not normal to thank in the midst of hardships. It is not earthly to worship in the midst of pain. What is normal is to complain, cry, criticize or yell in anger. The author of Hebrews says that you can know if you are learning to remain when you yield to the Spirit in your terrible circumstance and praise God anyway.

We are to bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Luke 3:8). This kind of fruit will look like humility, vulnerability, honesty, truth, purity and change for the better; in short, the opposite of your normal flesh. You will begin to experience a richness unparalleled when you allow the Holy Spirit full reign in your heart. He will do the work of changing you; you can never grow your own fruit. All you are responsible to do is yield and obey.

Over and over, I noticed that righteousness is paired with the word ‘fruit’ (Phil. 1:11 for example). It is linked with goodness and truth (Eph. 5:9) as well as wisdom and peace (Jm. 1:17-18). Peacemakers who sow in peace will raise a harvest of righteousness, James declares. A whole orchard of righteousness? Sound a lot like abundance to me. When righteousness begins to bloom in your life, you can know that your obedience is growing strongly in the garden of God’s love.

Fruit will not grow in the soil of good deeds or self-effort. You cannot work to grow this fruit on your own; it is the work of the Gardener. It only happens as you remain in Christ. If you do not remain in Christ and you are not yielding fruit from your relationship with Him, you will know. Fear will dominate your thoughts instead of a holy boldness. There will be feelings of captivity instead of freedom. You will not have power in your life to say ‘no’ to temptation and sin. You will experience anxiety instead of peace and most of all, a barren emptiness will fill your life instead of a rich and abundant satisfaction.

If there is much angst in your life instead of much fruit, my friend, take heed! Your inner turmoil is a sure indicator that you are not remaining in Christ. Take a look at what happens to branches that do not bear fruit. Verse 2 says that they will be cut off, but verse 6 goes even further. Those branches will be thrown away and burned, Jesus says. If you do not choose to remain in Christ by being obedient to Him as He commands, the Gardener will do some cutting and throwing away and burning. This is a warning, my friend. Cutting and burning is not pruning, for pruning is saved for branches with fruit. If you have arrived at this stage, your Gardener is coming!

But if you choose to repent, that is a fruit in itself. God will then take that heartfelt repentance and begin to prune it, making way for fruit (v 2a), more fruit (v 2b), and much fruit (v 8). All of this, beginning with the obedient actions of true repentance, will show yourself to be a disciple of Christ, and will bring much glory to your heavenly Father.

A fruitful harvest by way of remaining in Christ is the abundant life.

Answers to Prayer

Listen to the words of verse 7 and 16b: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you…Then my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.”

A vibrant prayer life is promised to those who remain in Christ. This does not mean you will get whatever you ask. God is not a genie who grants your every wish. Nor is He a subservient pushover; many times we ask for things that are very bad for us in the overall theme of our walk with God. But if we are experiencing the love of Christ in tangible ways, if we are walking in obedience, if we are bearing fruit, then we will know God better. In light of that close relationship, we will know how to pray in Jesus’ name and receive the good things God has planned for us as we pray in alignment with His will.

Speaking to God and having Him answer your prayers is the abundant life.

Joy

This aspect of remaining has been a bit mysterious to me of late. I know the truths of remaining. I know the love of Christ; I experience it daily. I am obedient and if the Lord shows me I am not, I try to quickly surrender and get to that place of intimacy. Yet, I have struggled with joy – just being honest.

What God has showed me is that joy is ever-present for me: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be full” (v 11). It is always available because it is a fruit of the Spirit who lives in me. I have all the joy I will ever need to experience abundance. So when I am sorrowful or discouraged, it is a sign to me that I have allowed my circumstance to overshadow God’s love. I have literally made a mountain out of a molehill.

I once heard a humorous take on the question, “How are you doing today?” The person answered, “Fine, under the circumstances,” to which the first person retorted, “My friend, what are you doing under the circumstances?”

And isn’t that the crux of it all? When we are discouraged, we have buried ourselves under our circumstances. We have taken our eyes off of Jesus. We have moved out of Christ’s love. We have made a choice not to remain in Christ. By augmenting our circumstances over the love of God, we have been disobedient. Right? Disobedient to His call to remain. Disobedient to His exhortation not to fear. Disobedient to His call to have faith, to trust, and to rest in Him.

The opposite is true, however. When something comes against our joy, we have a choice. A choice to remain in God’s love or a choice to move out from under that umbrella. When we choose to remain, despite all the visual clues to the contrary, we choose joy. You will know when you are remaining in Christ when you experience joy based on the truth of Psalm 16:11, “…in your presence is fullness of joy.”

Joyfully resting in God’s presence no matter what storms may toss your relationSHIP is the abundant life.

Resurrection Love

Now, for those of you who are convinced I have forgotten our three faith-needy women running toward Jerusalem, I now return to Matthew 28. All the groundwork I have laid today is the foundation for verses 9 and 10 of the resurrection story. These last two verses reveal the rise of love that occurs and obliterates any fear they may have felt. Let’s take the principles of remaining and apply them to Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of James, and Salome.

The rest of the story reads like this: “Suddenly Jesus met them. “Greetings,” he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me” (vv 9-10).

Relationship

The essence of relationship is meeting together. It is seeing and being seen, knowing and being known, loving and being loved. As the women were engaging the angel’s words by obediently going about their Master’s business, Jesus suddenly came to them. He initiated relationship with them, choosing to go out of His way to come face to face with His friends.

Not only did He meet with them in physical presence, He chose to speak to them. He spoke words of great joy, which we will look at in a moment. He cared for them enough to address their fears. He also reinforced the commission the angel had spoken to go and tell His “brothers” all that they had seen. I love that word “brother;” such a relationship word. And He let them know He would see them again.

Showing concern for fears. Sharing deep things. Giving hints about the future. Letting them know of appointments to come. Empowering with words. All of these and more, Jesus accomplished when He met with them.

They responded to His overtures of love, coming to Him, clasping His feet and worshiping Him. We know that love occurred between Jesus and these women because friendship was reunited. Communication was reinstalled. Overtures of love were given and received. The work of love began with relationship and so it goes with us.

After incredible work has been done in our lives to uproot lies and put on truths, there may still be a mixture of fear and joy in our faith. Even obeying does not remove this dichotomy from our souls. It takes relationship, my friend. Cry out to God over the fear. Weep out the tears of joylessness. Ask God for a revelation that will change your feelings and then prepare for His revolution. If you have been obedient in doing what He has asked and obedient in seeking His love as per John 15, He will come to you. He will reinstate you and He will show His love to you (If you don’t believe me, read John 21:15-19).

Joy

The NIV documents Jesus’ first word to the women as “greetings.” This translation actually falls quite short of the original word, although this word was used to greet people in biblical times. The NKJV says, “Rejoice!”

It is the word chairo, meaning “to be cheerful, calmly happy or well-off, to rejoice, be glad” (ESV Strong’s). This word in salutations generally means “hail” but the root thought is to rejoice or be glad.

Imagine all the emotions these women have experienced. Drowning grief at the foot of the cross. Hopeless misery at the closing of the tomb. Sorrowful trudging to anoint a dead body. Panicked fear at the events of the resurrection. Expectant hope at the empty tomb. Emerging joy at the angel’s words and their commission. But still the debilitating mixture of fear mixed throughout all of these emotions.

Then they see their Savior. He knows all that they have been through. He understands all of their concerns. He sees into their hearts to draw out the poison of faithlessness and He does it with one word, “Rejoice!”

What is He saying to them? I believe He is telling them that all is well. They can be cheerful because of a relationship with Him. They can be calmly happy because of seeing Him. They can be well-off because He is in love with them. They can rejoice because they are in Him.

Precious one, Jesus’ answer to their dichotomous feelings was an exhortation to rejoice. Happiness depends on circumstances; joy depends on truths. Listen to these truths.

  • You can rejoice for great is your reward in heaven (Mt. 5:12).
  • You can rejoice that your names are written in heaven (Lk. 10:20).
  • You can rejoice because the Good Shepherd has found you, the lost sheep (Lk. 15:6).
  • You can rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5:2).
  • You can rejoice, even in your sufferings, because it produces perseverance, character and hope (Rom. 5:3).
  • You can rejoice because in Christ, you have received reconciliation (Rom. 5:11).
  • You can rejoice every time the Gospel is preached (Phil. 1:18).
  • You can rejoice because your faith is being proved genuine and you will receive the goal of your faith, the salvation of your soul (1 Pet. 1:6-8).
  • You can rejoice because you will one day sit at the wedding of the Lamb (Rev. 19:7).
  • Friend, you can rejoice because you are able to rejoice in the Lord and do it always (Phil. 3:1, 4:4).

Joy does not come from circumstances; it comes from dwelling on the truths of who God is, what He has done, who we are in Christ, and what we can do through the power of the Holy Spirit. If you are struggling with joy – as I have been for a while – it may be because the circumstances seem much bigger than your inheritance. Flip the weight of the coin to the eternal side and hang out there until Jesus’ reasons for rejoicing become bigger than your circumstances.

Answers to Prayer

This fruit for the women is almost too obvious to address. After all, as they wept at the foot of the cross, were they not praying for Jesus – or Someone – to put a stop to the horror? As they lingered disconsolately at the tomb, watching that stone be rolled across the entrance, did they not breathe prayers for deliverance, for strength, for change? And as they came to the tomb that glorious resurrection Sunday, were they not praying in their hearts for someone to roll the stone away (Mk. 16:3) or for someone to end the nightmare? Did they not pray for just one more moment to be with Jesus? Scripture does not explicitly list these prayers, but as women, you and I both know that words like these, prayers such as these, were breathed into the heavenlies, even if from darkened, doubtful hearts.

The empty tomb was an answer to prayer, though the women did not fully understand its ramifications at the time. The angel rolling that stone away was an answer to prayer; it meant some change in their mournful existence. His words of hope and mission answered deep prayers, ones that they may never have accessed without the gift of hopelessness. Jesus standing before them was their greatest answer to prayer; it was unbelievable, but it was true.

Right about now, you may be saying something like this: “Of course, they believed. An angel came down. A tomb was emptied. A stone was rolled away. And the living, breathing Lord showed up to meet them. How could they have not believed?” And this is true.

But I want to draw attention once again to the fact that without seeing Jesus, they believed. They were already obeying, despite some emotional upheaval, showing that they believed the angel’s words. They were going in spite of their fears, moving quickly to tell the other disciples, despite the preposterous story they were to share.

Belief came before sight and isn’t that the essence of real faith? And, by the way, is that not also the essence of answered prayers? “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer” (Mt. 21:22).

But what I want to draw your attention to is this: not only was there fruit by way of the women’s answers to prayer, but there was an explosive synergy of God-answered prayers to both the women and His Son that same resurrection morning. The empty tomb was an answer to both the women and to Jesus Himself: “Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you” (Jn. 17:1).

The angel rolling that stone away and sitting down on it answered Jesus’ request that they be protected by the power of God’s name (Jn. 17:11a). The angel had dismantled the Roman authority, protecting those women by overwhelming the guards with heavenly light. And Jesus had dismantled Satan’s authority, protecting all future generations, those women included, by defying death.

The angel’s words to the women was an answer to both the women and the Son of Man. Jesus had prayed that they would know that everything He taught came from God. He had also prayed that His words would be accepted by them (Jn. 17:7-8), which, as the story clearly shows, it was.

The women’s quick scamper to “go and tell” was another answer to Jesus’ long prayer. He had prayed that they would know with certainty that Jesus came from God and that they would believe that God sent Him (Jn. 17:8b). Additionally, He had prayed that whose who would hear His message would believe (Jn. 17:20), and the women did.

Their movement in obedience was joyful, if you will recall, though tinged with fear. This also was an answer to prayer. Jesus had prayed that they would have the full measure of His joy within them (Jn. 17:13). Although fear diluted the completeness of that joy, it was still an incredible gift from God to Jesus.

One last prayer request of the Messiah’s was answered as the women went and told. Their message, coupled with Jesus’ appearing later, drew the disciples together in a powerful way. The clincher came when the Holy Spirit came down on them with power and they were able to talk in languages that enabled 3000 people to come to the Lord. This was a great answer to Jesus’ prayer: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one” (Jn. 17:20-21).

And finally, the Holy Spirit coming down on the disciples with power, enabling them to share the gospel with great courage and effectivity was an answer to Jesus’ prayer, “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (Jn. 17:26). The Holy Spirit in them and in us was a fruit of Jesus remaining in the Father.

The point I am trying to make, but doing very poorly, I fear, is that the blessings of answered prayer are not just about us. We are so concerned with God answering our prayers. We often feel that if He does not answer us in the way and time we prefer, that He does not love us, that He is not looking out for us. We then become discouraged and some believers may even drift away from solid-rock faith.

There is far more at stake here, dear one, that your answered prayer, than my answered prayer. Yes, God loves to give us our desires if we are molded to His will (Ps. 37:4), but there is a bigger agenda here; it is the agenda of God. There are also prayers of His Son, of His Kingdom purposes, and of His world-wide sanctification agenda that are on the table. Prayers that His Son laid before the throne of His Father God you ever came to be. Prayers that stall the kingdom of darkness and speed the kingdom of light.

Precious intercessor, know this: if God does not answer your prayers in your timing, it is not because He does not love you! More likely than not, He has a kingdom purpose that conflicts with your request or a Son’s imprecatory prayer on your behalf that is more beneficial to the Kingdom agenda of God.

Those who know God’s love deeply and obey His Word implicitly will understand this answered-prayer dichotomy. They will know their God so well that they can rest, even without receiving their answers, in the goodness of God’s world-wide plan, of which you are an important part. His “yes” to you means that your request aligned with His Kingdom plan. His “wait” to you indicates that perhaps, the timing of both your requests and His Son’s are not yet in sync. And dear one, His emphatic “no” is a proof that there is something greater, something more illustrious, more beautiful and more profound that He is trying to carry out on the global Kingdom level.

Trust Him when He says “yes” and faithful prayer warrior, trust Him when He says “no.” This level of restful belief proves that you are remaining in Christ. You are surrendered to the Kingdom plan giving a clear manifestation that your life is full of abundance.

Fruit

Before Jesus ever appeared to these women, they were harvesting all kinds of fruit in their lives: righteousness, good works, endurance, patience, considerate behavior, submission, mercy, and sincerity (Col. 1:10-12, Jms. 1:17-18). This shows me that love was active; howbeit, dormant under their fears. It took a Jesus-sighting to reap all that had been sown, however.

Coming to Him revealed the fruit of hope. Clasping Him revealed the fruit of joy. And worshiping Him revealed the fruit of love. These women embodied a fruitful, satisfied, abundant faith.

How do I know this? It will take a brief look at the conversation that happened at the well in Samaria.

In talking with the Samaritan woman, Jesus mentioned this fruit of worship, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).

In order to worship Jesus properly, Jews had to go to Jerusalem. That was where God dwelt in the Most Holy Place. But in John 4:23, Jesus mentioned a time that was coming when worshipers could worship in spirit and in truth. Jesus’ death, resurrection and sending of the Spirit would usher in this new way of worship. At this time, the Spirit had not been released – that happened in Acts 2 – but with the dawning of Jesus’ ministry, He had already set in motion things that would bring in this new mode of worship.

Do you see the shift here? At the time when Mary and her friends saw Jesus, two of the three prerequisites for this new era of worship had been laid in place. He had died and now they could see that He had risen. This truth drove them to their knees in true, spiritual worship.

Paul writes of this incredible shift in Colossians 1:3-6, “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints – the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you. All over the world this gospel is bearing fruit and growing, just as it has been doing among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth.”

Wow! Did you see all those trigger words? Faith in Christ Jesus, the point of this whole blog. Love for the saints, God’s John 15 command. Faith and love springing from eternal hope that they heard from the angel, the truth of the gospel. Bearing fruit, one of the principles of remaining. Understanding grace in all its truth, the Man of Sorrows standing in plain sight.

These women were the first witnesses to a new worship era. They were the first participants in the truths of the gospel: that He died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures and that He appeared… (1 Cor. 15:3-5).

Unbelievably, God demonstrated His great love in the unveiling of the whole gospel story to the socially underprivileged of that day, to three joyfully obedient women. They were the only ones who really got it. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus did not recognize Jesus, let alone worship. The twelve disciples would not believe and Mark tells us that Jesus rebuked their lack of faith; they did not worship. Even at the time of the Great Commission, Matthew informs us that some believed and some doubted.

But not these women. They were rich in hope. They were full of joy. They were submissive in their obedience, which led them to be abundantly satisfied with love. That love dropped them to their knees in worship where they offered up to God a sacrifice of praise; not in Jerusalem, not in the temple court of the women, not through a priest, but through the fruit of the gospel, a gospel that they had personally witnessed and believed. They offered up to God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips that confessed his name (Heb. 13:15). They offered up their love, in spirit and in truth.

Dear one, you, unlike those women, sit on the revelatory side of Pentecost. You have the pages of the resurrection at your very fingertips. You have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. You have the whole truth of the gospel, which is still bearing fruit all over the world and in your own life.

What stands in the way of your believing the whole gospel? What keeps you from experiencing the truth of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, your Lover, your Firstfruit? What mars the exquisite pageantry of love that marches across the pages of Scripture and straight into your very heart?

Give in to love, my friend! Do not allow disobedience of any kind to be the obstacle to your abundant life. Do not let the thief come in to steal your hope, kill your joy and destroy God’s work of love. Surrender to Jesus. Obey whatever He is telling you to do. Then walk into the path of abundance. Jesus is waiting for you with open arms.

Love’s Benediction

A month ago as I sat at a coffee shop, filled with the truths of Soul Revolution, I knew God still had work to do in me. That work was to bring me full-circle to my Gilgal, to my roots of joy. I sat praying for a while about what to write next in my blog, for I felt that nothing more could be said than what I had already written…unless God had a new truth for me.

God told me to talk to Him about what I was feeling inside. For me, that means journaling, so I pulled out a scrap piece of paper and began to commune with Him. I told Him all that was right in my heart and I shared with Him where I was still struggling. The Lord revealed to me in that hour that though my faith was obedient, it was not complete. I still struggled with fear that shrouded my joy.

I began looking up verses on joy because I earnestly desired to comply with the Holy Spirit’s work in me. That’s when Matthew 28:8 stood out like a British redcoat marching in a Colonial woods. I jumped into that story post haste and knew that my answer lay within those ten verses. Without a doubt, God did have a new truth for me.

Sure enough, as I sit here after nearly completing this Resurrection Faith series, I am resting in my answer. Joy was here all along. I just had to relinquish some fears, remember some truths, and allow God to revive some faith.

Precious one, if you have need of some resurrection faith, this story has your answers. You need look no further than Christ’s resurrection revelations to know real power, to effect real change, and to embrace His soul-revolution in your life. And the beautiful thing is, that action on your part is a fruit of Christ’s prayers for you.

In closing, I want to pray over you a benediction of love. These words are not mine; they are from your Lover. Embrace them, my friend. Embrace Love.

May you…

  • Believe in Christ because of His message (Jn. 17:20),
  • Be one with other believers (Jn. 17:21a),
  • Be in Christ so that the world may believe God sent Jesus (Jn. 17:21b),
  • Comprehend the glory Christ has given you so you can be one with others as Christ is one with His father (Jn. 17:22),
  • Know the reality of this statement: “I in them and you in me” (Jn. 17:23a),
  • Be brought to complete unity to let the world know that God sent Christ and loved you even as God loved Jesus (Jn. 17:23b),
  • Move to be with Christ, where He is, and to see His glory, the same glory God gave Jesus because He loved Him before the creation of the world (Jn. 17:24),
  • Know Jesus as well as He knows His Father (Jn. 17:25a),
  • Know that God sent Jesus for you (Jn. 17:25b),
  • See with spiritual eyes what Jesus has made known to you about God (Jn. 17:26a),
  • Experience Jesus continuing to make God known to you (Jn. 17:26b),
  • Live with God’s love filling you (Jn. 17:26c), and
  • Be satiated with Christ Himself living in you (Jn. 17:26d).

My prayer for you is that by resurrecting some deadened faith in your life, Christ’s love and your obedience will give rise to a deep abiding relationship. May you experience the Rise of Hope. May you participate in the Rise of Joy. And may you come face to face with the Rise of Love.

Precious one, may you begin to experience the satisfying, satiating, overwhelming, undergirding, fulfilling, gratifying, boundless, Lover of your soul. There is no greater fruit of faith. Jesus’ presence filling an obedient disciples’ heart ushers in the era of abiding.

Let the abundant life begin!