Welcome to the Higher Christian LifeHow to Experience the Abundant Life Jesus Promised
Quite honestly, this question is what separates those who live their Christian life on the bottom rung from those who experience the Higher Christian Life. And it is all based on faith. Your faith. Do you believe the promises of God? Not just specific doctrines about God. Not what God has done for others. But do you, emphasis on you, believe the promises of God? Do you believe what He says He will do? Do you believe what He says about you? Do you believe the consequences of disobeying Him? And do you believe in the blessings promised by being “in Christ”? In short, do you believe?
Now your answer will be either yes or no. Or maybe, “Sometimes. It all depends on the promise.” But that view of God impugns His character. After all, He is either trustworthy or not. He either tells the truth or He spins it to fit His own narrative. He is either perfect and pure or shady like the rest of our friends. There is no middle ground. We either believe, or we don’t. And the consequences of our choice are profound.
Consider Abraham. He was given a promise from God that defied understanding, not to mention biology. When it was physically impossible for Abraham and Sarah to have children due to their advanced age, God promised Abraham he would have a son and his descendants would be as many as the stars in the sky (Gen. 15:5). Pretty steep order. Yet this was a promise from God. Initially, Sarah laughed in unbelief when she heard God’s words (Gen. 18:10-13). And Abraham tried to find a loophole to work around his unbelief using Eliezar his servant (Gen. 15:4), and later Hagar, Sarah’s handmaiden (Gen. 16:1-3).
Nevertheless, the promise was clear and precise. It was a promise to be believed, or not believed. And the choice was Abraham’s. So what did he do? Consider the following:
He (Abraham) did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, (1) giving glory to God, and (2) being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform. And therefore “it (Abraham’s faith) was accounted (imputed, reckoned) to him (Abraham) for righteousness.” Now it (Genesis 15) was not written for his sake alone that it (righteousness) was imputed to him (Abraham), but also for us. It (righteousness) shall be (future) imputed (reckoned, accounted) to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, (crucifixion) who was delivered up (why) because of our offenses, and was (resurrection) raised (why) because of our justification – Romans 4:20-25.
Note, Jesus died because of our offenses or sins. And He was raised up or resurrected because of our justification (when we are declared righteous). We are not declared righteous based on our own merit, but the righteousness of Christ is now imputed (reckoned, accounted) to us by faith in the Lord Jesus. Just like it was with Abraham.
But there is so much more.
We have spent the last few sessions unpacking the three key truths that must be believed in order to receive the Higher Christian Life. By now, these should be second nature to you. But there are two aspects to these three truths. One, naturally, is the truths themselves. And the other, of equal importance, is that these truths must be believed. In a word, faith. It is the fact you must believe by faith what these truths state. This brings us to the topic for today, and that is faith. Abundant faith, achieving faith, overcoming faith, non-wavering faith. Faith. So let’s begin with a simple question: What are the unlimited possibilities of faith?
Let’s begin by looking at a few statements from Christ and see if we truly believe what they say.
But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” – Matthew 19:26.
Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes” – Mark 9:23.
Note, the Greek word translated “all” is pás and means “each, every, any, in totality, the whole, without exception.” So, for us, all means all. Literally. And the second word to consider is dunatós which is translated as “possible” and means “to be able, to have strength, to be strong or powerful.” This is a form of dúnamis which is primarily translated in the New Testament as power, notably “miraculous” power. In essence, Jesus is saying with faith or to one who believes, all things, without exception, are possible, or have the power, strength, and ability to be done, even miraculously, in Christ.
Do you believe these words of Jesus? I hope so. For “without faith, it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6).
But there is something more here that needs to be understood about these promises. The first statement is a blanket truth about God. There is nothing impossible with Him, or all things are possible. But with the second statement, there is a condition. Jesus begins with a condition “if” and states, “If you can believe, (then) all things are possible to him (condition again) who believes” (Mark 9:23). So faith or belief is the condition that opens up the floodgates of blessings from the Lord and is the key, not only to our salvation (Eph. 2:8-9), but also the Higher Christian Life.
And if that wasn’t enough, we find in Hebrews intimacy and becoming well-pleasing to the Lord is intricately tied to faith. So much so, the Scripture says “without faith, it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6), which is the point of seeking the Higher Christian Life.
So if the words of Jesus are true and faith is the substance that brings blessings and intimacy with the Lord, then what are the possibilities in Him, by faith, in this life we now lead? Or, is there anything God cannot do to those who believe?
We will close our study of the three key truths that must be believed to experience the Higher Christian Life by looking at one final example of how to commit yourself, in total dependence, to the Lord for safekeeping. This is truth number three. In essence, it is His job to “present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24), and not yours. We must learn, by faith, to trust Him to complete what He has begun in our lives by His power and not struggle in our own. And this is hard. Why? Because it requires faith and trust and dependence and all the things that war against the flesh and our pride and self-sufficiency. Jesus summed up our struggle when He said to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matt. 14:31). Exactly. What do you and I doubt?
I always find it amusing when we, as believers in Christ, trust Him without reservation regarding the things “in the sweet by and by” but struggle in the realities of the “here and now.” We trust Him for our salvation, without wavering. We trust Him in His promise to receive us “to Himself” so that “where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3), no questions asked. But we waffle in our faith when it comes to His promise to “keep you from stumbling and present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). Why is that? Why are we so strong in our faith in the things we cannot see, like heaven, the Second Coming, and eternal life, but are “tossed to and fro and carried about” (Eph. 4:14) in the things we can see, like fear, insecurity, the lack of money, failing health, fractured relationships, and all that keeps us up at night?
Remember, we can forge through this life doing the things we hope please God in our own strength and end up fatigued, weary, and frustrated in the end. Or, we can soar through this life on the “wings of eagles” (Isa. 40:31), allowing Christ to do through us the things that please God and end up exhilarated, overwhelmed with gratitude, and bearing so much spiritual fruit our branches literally touch the ground. The choice is always ours. And the end is always the same. It’s how we get to the end (doing the things that please God) that matters.
Today, we will begin looking at the last of the three truths that must be believed in order to experience the Higher Christian Life. These truths speak of the character of God and our need to let Him both make us holy and, as hard as it sometimes seems, keep us holy in His sight. Remember, Jude 24 states, “He is able to keep you from stumbling”— so His ability is not in question. And 1 Corinthians 1:30 further reveals that Jesus “became for us… sanctification.” So He is what He desires us to be. Seems simple enough. But how does knowing what He can do (keep us from stumbling) and knowing what we have done (our sin and failure) reconcile with each other? And how do these two statements about Christ relate to the importance of our dependence on Him?
Before we address this question, let’s begin with a quick review of what we already know (hopefully) about the three key truths and the Higher Christian Life.
One, you must believe God is able (He possesses the power and ability) to keep you from falling or faltering in your life of holiness. You must settle it in your mind, once and for all, that “with God nothing will be impossible” (Luke 1:37). And this is especially true of Him being able to “keep you from stumbling” (Jude 24). Yes, even you.
Two, you must remove from your mind all doubt and fear that He is not willing to keep you from stumbling. Of course He is willing. That’s what a good God does. He will not command you to “be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16) and then give you no means to obey His command.
And three, you must learn to commit yourself, in total dependence, to the Lord for safekeeping. It is His job to “present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24), and not yours. His job. And He is not only willing to bring you across the finish line, but He is also able to carry you across the line if necessary. So we must learn to trust Him to finish what He began in us, for His glory, no matter how we feel at the moment. Remember, whatever the need, He can. And even better, He will.
Now once that is settled in our mind, if we don’t stay focused on Him alone, the drudgery of the everlasting treadmill begins.
Let me explain.
Today we are going to begin to look at the second of our three key truths that lead to the blessings of the Higher Christian Life. As we have learned, the first truth declares you must believe God is able (He possesses the power and ability) to keep you from falling or faltering in your life of holiness (Jude 24). And once God’s ability is firmly settled in your mind, the second truth takes the first one and makes it personal. The second truth states you must remove from your mind all doubt and fear that He is not willing to keep you from stumbling. That’s right, now the first truth must be applied to your life in a personal way. It is no longer about what God can do for others. It is about what God can do for you. And this is where many falter. We believe God is able to bless anyone He wants at any time He wants, but just not for us. We even believe He is willing to bless His children, but again, just not us. And as strange as it may sound, this is like wondering if God loves you as much as you love Him? Which is both absurd and incredibly sad. Let me explain.
Sometimes there are children of God (Rom. 8:16) who feel so bad about themselves they cannot conceive of anyone, including God, loving them as much as they long for. They walk with their heads down, depressed, unsure, insecure, often filled with self-loathing. And, although there are many reasons for them to feel this way (an abusive home life, fractured relationships, a dysfunctional family, rejection, betrayal, etc.), for the Christian, it usually stems from their unwillingness to forgive themselves for their sins in the past and the paralyzing guilt they often suffer from. For some reason, their sins or failures loom larger than the grace and forgiveness of God. And this unhealthy mindset often is the reason they mentally shun any idea of God loving or forgiving them and they reject any attempt He makes to do so.
Quite honestly, this spiritual disease is far more widespread than you would think.
Let’s think about forgiveness for a moment.
One of the key tenets of the Christian faith is the offer of God to forgive our sins (past, present, and future) due to the sacrifice of His Son and our simple faith in Him. Jesus did all the work to secure our forgiveness and erase the guilt and consequences of our sins, and all we have to do is believe. It’s like winning the lottery with a ticket someone gave you.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus – Ephesians 2:4-7.
There is no downside.
As we dive deeper into Jude 24 and the first of our three truths we must believe in order to experience the blessings of the Higher Christian Life, we find ourselves today faced with one all-important question: Is it possible for me to live a holy life? In other words, can I experience victory over my sin and shortcomings on a permanent, daily basis? Can I feel the pleasure of the Lord as I allow Him to live His life through me and therefore reflect the character of the Holy Spirit? And if Jude 24 does teach that God will “keep me from stumbling” in my pursuit of a life of holiness, what part do I play in this odyssey? Is God’s ability to “keep me from stumbling” passive in my life, or is it active? And if God does provide me the ability to live a holy life, why do I not see more change in me?
These are the types of questions that, once settled by faith, can literally change your life. They are liberating and freeing, and will impute confidence in both the Lord and you as His child, once they are settled in your mind. But until they are firmly settled, doubts, fear, and failure will continue to plague your spiritual walk and hinder you from experiencing the Higher Christian Life.
Before we go any further, let’s deal with the elephant in the room, so to speak. Just like our salvation, God’s sovereignty is paramount up until justification, when you become aware of your salvation and God declares you righteous (2 Cor. 5:21). This is all His doing. And after that, our free will in choosing to live, or not live, the sanctified life kicks in, and God is glorified by our choices to “Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). God provides for us a choice, but He doesn’t demand we choose His way. Nor does He make us choose to walk according to the Spirit, like robots who are forced to do something they don’t desire to do. God is not glorified by making His creation worship Him. He is glorified when His creation chooses to worship Him. We are always free to give in to the lusts of the flesh and experience the consequences of grieving the Holy Spirit. And we are always free to walk in the Spirit, to surrender to the Spirit, and to obey the Spirit in a way that pleases Him. The choice is always ours.
In the same way, God does not force us to live a sinless life after we come to faith in Him. He desires it, provides for it, and has given us the Holy Spirit (emphasis on Holy) to live His holy life in us, yet the choice is always ours. So is it within God’s power to “keep you from stumbling” in your life of sanctification? Absolutely! Anything less would limit the power of God. And as a sovereign, omnipotent God, He can do anything He desires (Ps. 115:3), to anyone, at any time, without asking permission. So can God force me to never sin again? Yes, He can. He has both the power and ability to do so. But He never will. God does not force His will on us to do something He expects us to do of our own free will. And you will never go a day without sinning. You, on your own, cannot live a sinless life, no matter how much you pray, fast, read your Bible, or go to church. Why? Because we still live in fallen, lustful, selfish, unredeemed bodies “eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23).
But the good news is that you can, absolutely, live a life of holiness and be pleasing to Him. And you can do that today.
We have been looking at the first of three truths that must be believed before you can progress into the Higher Christian Life. Believing these three truths provides you with the confidence of knowing that God not only can, but will “present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). The first truth reveals how big your God is compared to how big your problems are. And this cuts deep into the object of your faith. Is your faith centered on God? Or is it on your past experiences, both good and bad? The first truth states that “You must believe God is able (He possesses the power and ability) to keep you from falling or faltering in your life of holiness.” Period. Non-negotiable. For an overcoming life of lasting victory over sin, you must believe God is bigger than your sin and your flesh.
Last time we unpacked the beginning phrase of Jude 24, “Now unto Him who is able,” showing God is able (dúnamai – to be able, have power and strength by virtue of one’s own ability and resources) to do anything He desires. Why? Because He is sovereign, the Ever-Present One, the “I Am Who I Am” (Ex. 3:14), and there is none like our God (Is. 46:9). He is God. And as God, His holiness and omnipotence (God is All-Powerful) are some of His key character traits. And the trait of sanctification (holiness) has now come unto us in Jesus (1 Cor. 1:30) and is imparted to us by the Spirit. As we have said, it doesn’t get any better than that.
But nevertheless, some questions remain.
What is God able to do exactly? I know He spoke the world into existence (Gen. 1, Ps. 33:9) and all of that. I got that. But what can He do regarding my inability to live a holy life? How can His omnipotence reach down to me in my daily struggle with sin? Is God only concerned about the big things in life, like creating the world in seven days or parting the Red Sea? Or does His power and grace extend unto the little things in my life, the daily things? What can God do for me and my constant struggle with my flesh? Where can I find hope to live more like Him?
Let’s take a look, once again, at Jude 24, especially the description of what God is able to do.
Now to Him who is able (dúnamai – to be able, have power and strength by virtue of one’s own ability and resources) to keep you from stumbling (áptaistos – from falling, losing our sanctification, no longer being blameless), and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy – Jude 24.
This passage clearly states God is able to “keep me from stumbling” in order to “present me faultless.” But what does “stumbling” mean? Is this a salvation message showing “once saved, always saved”? Or is this a sanctification message, because the end result is my holiness, my being presented “faultless” before His glory? Or is it both?
These are very important questions. Let’s look at them one at a time.
As we have shared in the past, the way to fully understand a particular passage is to first determine what it says. And then, what it means. Yesterday we looked at Jude 24 to determine exactly what the passage says by examining the meaning of the words when they were written. And what we discovered was quite eye-opening and encouraging regarding what God is able to do to help us in our deeper life of sanctification or holiness. Today, we’re going to begin to see exactly what Jude 24 means and how it is to be applied to our lives. And this is where it gets exciting. So let’s begin by unpacking the simple phrase, “Now to Him who is able.”
Now to Him who is able (dúnamai – to be able, have power and strength by virtue of one’s own ability and resources) to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen – Jude 24-25.
We began this week by looking at the three truths that we must be believe in order to experience the continued blessings of the Higher Christian Life. The first one of these vital truths is: You must believe God is able (He possesses the power and ability) to keep you from falling or faltering in your life of holiness. We already know the meaning of the words in Jude 24, but what does the phrase “Now to Him who is able” mean for us today?
Throughout the Scriptures, one of the key truths repeatedly revealed in both the Old and New Testament is that God is God, and there is no other (Isa. 45:5). He is the Ever-Present One, the “I Am Who I Am” (Ex. 3:14). And, as God, He has certain attributes that belong only to Him that He has not shared with His creation. He is, for example, Immutable (Mal. 3:6), Unchanging (Ps. 102:25-27), Omniscient (God knows all things – 1 John 3:20), Everlasting, and the Only Wise God (Rom. 16:26-27). As wonderful as these attributes are, the most encouraging one for us today is this: God is Omnipotent, He is All-Powerful, which means He possesses in Himself all sovereign power and is, as the theologians describe, “able to do all His holy will” without exception.
Let that sink in for a moment. Our God is able because He is omnipotent. Our God is able because He does what He pleases (Ps. 115:3). And our God is able because, as Jeremiah said, “There is nothing too hard for You” (Jer. 32:17). This is our God.
In our last time together we looked at the three key, no vital, truths that must be believed in order to win the war with our doubt and discover the permanent, abiding Presence of the Holy Spirit in our life as we embrace the Higher Christian Life. Today we will dig a bit deeper into the firsts of these three truths, namely that our God is Able (He possesses the power and ability) to keep us from falling or faltering in our life of holiness. Or, as the children’s song goes: “My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do!”
The Scripture we are to wholeheartedly believe is found in Jude 24. In this passage, Jude is closing his one-chapter book with a faith affirmation exalting the power and ability of God to keep us holy, sanctified, and well-pleasing to Him in this life and then present us as blemish-free as Christ in the next life. And why should this surprise us? After all, Jesus Himself became for us “sanctification” (1 Cor. 1:30), which is the one thing God promises to make sure we don’t lose by “stumbling” in our life of holiness.
Now to Him who is able (dúnamai) to keep (phulássō) you from stumbling (áptaistos), and to present (hístēmi) you faultless (ámōmos) before the presence (katenṓpion) of His glory (dóxa) with exceeding joy (agallíasis), to God our Savior, Who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen – Jude 24-25.
Now, let’s look at a few of these keywords to understand what this verse is saying:
dúnamai – to be able, have power and strength by virtue of one’s own ability and resources.
phulássō – to watch, guard, keep. It has the idea of a prison warden keeping constant watch over those under his care.
áptaistos – free from falling, blameless. It means God’s grace is sufficient to keep us from sin. This is a statement of God’s ability, and not necessarily our experience.
hístēmi – to cause to stand, to set in place. The place is determined by the context. And in this verse, Jude is saying we will be “caused to stand” in the “presence of His glory” or before God.
ámōmos – without spot or blemish. Peter uses this same word to describe the blood of Christ, “as a lamb without spot (ámōmos) and without blemish” (1 Peter 1:19).
katenṓpion – or in the very presence of. Ephesians 1:4 says, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before (katenṓpion – in the very presence of) Him in love.”
dóxa – splendor, majesty, brightness, magnificence, excellence, dignity, and grace.
agallíasis – exuberant exultation and joy, gladness and rejoicing.
So what does this promise of God look like when we expand the translation?
As we have shared previously, the ability to maintain the Higher Christian Life is found the same way it was originally obtained: by faith. We have come to understand that, in the same way the confession of our sins leads to instant forgiveness, it also leads, according to 1 John 1:9, to our instant and immediate cleansing “from all unrighteousness.” And for this promise to become a living reality in you, it must be believed by faith. Unfortunately, many believe this truth only until they wake up the next morning feeling something less than they did the night before. Then, they surrendered their life to the Lord, confessed their sins, received forgiveness and spiritual renewal, and in the early morning hours of the next day, all of that seems like a distant memory. In effect, they are saying to God, “Hey, I know You’re powerful and able to do what You promised, but I’m not sure You’re willing. I mean, I know You can, I just don’t think You will. At least not for me.”
And this is where the war with doubt is lost. We impune the character of God by viewing Him as someone who is miserly with what He has promised to give His children abundantly. Or maybe He shows favoritism, like an abusive, narcissistic father, who loves some of His children more than others. But why would we assume such hurtful things about our Lord?
When our emotional feelings begin to fade, and often they will, we are torn between believing what He promises in His Word or what we are feeling at the moment. Which one is true? What happens when my faith falters and I now believe what I see and feel and touch, and not what I know to be true? When the peace, the serenity, the assurance God has accepted my offer of myself to Him (Rom. 12:1) begins to fade, what am I to do? Was it supposed to be permanent? Or was it designed to be fleeting, like the early morning dew? Is there something I did or didn’t do to make it fade away? Is this what the Higher Christian Life is really like, up and down, forward and backward, close to Him one day and distant cousins the next? Is that all there is to the abundant life He promised? Or is there something I’m missing?
Rest assured, the experience of the Higher Christian Life can be permanent. It should be permanent. It is expected and designed to be permanent. But often we are clueless as to how to maintain our intimacy, passion, and fervency with Him. So let’s look briefly (we will develop these in greater detail over the next few days), at three simple truths that are vital in helping you experience the permanent, residing joy of learning how to abide in Him (John 15:4) as we maintain the Higher Christian Life.
Struggling With Your Spiritual Life?
If you are like most believers, your spiritual life has been a series of ups and downs, peaks and valleys, two steps forward followed by two steps back, and is less than what you would call consistently abundant. But it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s not just about what happens when you die, but what it means to live in victory with Christ today.
The Higher Christian Life is a podcast by Steve McCranie that will help you experience, in real-time, the “Abundant Life” Jesus promised.
So join us as we rediscover the blessings of the Higher Christian Life.
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Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.