Fullness of Lifeby Rob Swanson on October 14, 2020
“Fullness of Life = seeking God,
corporately and individually, and in that order.”
Much is true about this statement but is it all true?
Especially the last three words, “in that order.”
We admittedly bring diverse thoughts and experiences to any evaluation of the unwieldy sanctification process.
Life in Christ develops in a myriad of ways.
Is the way stated above a preferred understanding? Helpful? Tangential?
The thesis has six parts:
Fullness is our desire and God’s intent, even in settings difficult and destructive. Pleroma (Gk) is associated with baskets (Mark 6.43) and nets (Matthew 13.48). Envision the mounds of fish and bread and transfer that image to joy (John15.11) and to the grace John and his readers had received (John 1.16)!
Fullness of Life.
Fullness and fullness of life have natural and spiritual ingredients. Holistic.
Perissos (Gk) indicates more, much more, far more, abundant, greater … Paul had it and felt it (Philippians 4.18). Jesus offers this (John 10.10).
Fullness of life is a legitimate desire.
The Bible and this article address the oft neglected spiritual dynamics. Upon this base comes tangible and practical actions: healthy eating, regular exercise, good habits of the mind, service, giving, controlling speech, and managing emotions. We want to put it all together. It begins with putting Christ in his rightful place.
“Seek the Lord while he may be found. Call upon him while he is near” (Isaiah 55.7).
“Seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matthew 6.33).
The alternative: Self.
Self-centeredness. Self-seeking. Self-concern. Self-absorption. An inward bent. It is the default setting for just about everybody.
There are those who have dedicated them“selves” to a cause or ideology but they are in the minority.
Academic elites of the 20th century, humanist and postmodern, have bequeathed to us the Lord-less cultural norm of individual autonomy
and the supreme worth of self, yet to be recognized as bondage. In the end they “forfeit their souls (Mark 8.36).”
Seeking God is the first responsibility of all who have been given by him life. Seeking God also introduces the new way of life.
Seeking God is Christ centered.
Seeking God is continuous effort and learning, without completion.
Seeking God is revelation and Holy Spirit dependent.
The Holy Spirit and the Bible illumine God’s truth, producing wisdom and interpretations for life’s unexpected events and experiences. The Holy Spirit is credited for many good ideas. So we seek God with reading, prayer, meditation and thoughtful consideration of life’s challenges.
Nothing good is expected for the believer who coasts, attempting extra miles from a previous experience.
There is much to gain in faithfully attending to the duty of seeking God.
Together. With one another. We are social animals. Identity, role, relationships, joy, ministry and service all have a social component.
Progressing in anything (music, 12 step, yoga, etc.) has more success when done together. Seeking God is no different.
The Old and New Testaments are written to the people of God.
The Holy Spirit descended on Pentecost to begin the church.
With few exceptions, the events of Acts detail God’s work through people.
The epistles are for public consumption.
God’s work in the world today comes mostly from the efforts of a group, which is why we make groups and seek group activity!
This we know. “Let each one carry his own load” (Galatians 6.10).
I must nourish my soul, pray, work through challenges … work!
There is no saying, “I can’t.” No excuses. No slacking off because no one is holding me accountable. No one can do for me what I must do for me.
For such I have been given breath. Neglect duties at my own peril.
In that order.
This phrase is included to correct the imbalanced individualism of our day.
Not a universal truth but necessary. Compensation. Counter-cultural.
Putting one’s social life first is not instinctive, like turning the steering wheel into a skid. Now is a good time to give it a go.
Many work on their self-needs and then stall out.
Nothing good emerges from a self- focus, even when Christian values are in play.
Those who stay within themselves are susceptible to depression, or weirdness.
Lengthy interaction with our own brains is never a prescription for health. Anxiety, fear and worry remain. That is how it goes.
So lets reverse the priority pattern – for now. People involvement is essential.
Objections, with response:
1. Christian purpose should center on the tasks of the kingdom of God, not personal fulfillment and development.
In the genius of God, fulfilling his purpose and my purpose, my well-being and fullness, are developed concurrently! Doing the right thing yields benefit without limit. There is no need to denigrate one objective in the furtherance of another.
2. Corporately = socially. This presents a problem in that people are a problem - too much for one individual to handle; an overwhelming and idealistic expectation.
Mostly true. People can be hard to live with and this is exasperated by established dysfunctions, personality disorders, psychological vulnerabilities and sin.
No one is good at or a natural at building peace, reconciliation and unity. Any social endeavor can be a challenge.
For such we have been given the wisdom of the Bible, the resources of the Holy Spirit and one another. If the social dimension is not a focus, to the neglect of “the body”, anticipate harm and mis-formation. Jesus said, “Follow me” to the group. They would figure out how to do this together.
“When outsiders see community that loves one another, cares for the world, and models grace, this is enticing – and it brings credibility” (J. Chatraw, Center for Public Christianity).
3. We always start with ourselves.
True and natural but there is more. The social dimension of Christian growth and ministry also begins on day one. Why wait? Where is the wisdom in postponing the quest of “one another living” until one is supposedly “ready”? Start with both personal and social disciplines. Pursue them liberally. The Holy Spirit providentially uses such efforts to form a life and further a kingdom in ways we could never foresee or create.
4. This is not how I “grew.”
This could be true for a majority of western Christians. With the cultural backdrop of existential philosophy and postmodern individuality, “me first” has become the unconscious norm, arguably now more than ever. The “individual” certainly needs ample attention and it is not a surprise that a pursuit with social centrality is a tough sell.
Further, it is difficult to expect new believers to adopt the idea of mutual resourcefulness and responsibility, to and for others, when others are not well known, or different. Many have “gotten by” with a discipleship path majoring on personal development first and bettering the lives of others second, if not optional. The social dimension of “seeking God” requires readjustments, work, and love.
5. The spiritual state matters most.
The spiritual state matters greatly. Pictured as “the spring (river) of the water of life” Revelation 21.6 (22.1), this priority is deserved. The “Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2.20) dwells there. The work of the Holy Spirit and the purposes of the spirit within are more than a self or inner matter.
The “spiritual state” is not bounded. The Holy Spirit has interest in my social, intellectual, emotional, vocational and physical well-being.
Tunes have harmony. Orchestras have instruments. Fabrics weave in color and design. And the spiritual life radiates outward to encompass all of life and incorporates all our dimensions. No one’s legacy lies just in their “spiritual state.” There is so much more.
“Fullness of Life = seeking God, corporately and individually, and in that order.”
Rob Swanson, Centerville, MA – former missionary and pastor, author of The Bible Reader’s Companion.