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The Abundant Crucified Life?! What was Yeshua talking about?
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The Abundant Crucified Life?! What was Yeshua talking about?

There seems to be a contradiction in Yeshua’s words: On the one hand, he promises us in John 10:10 an abundant life. But in Luke 9:23, he tells us that we are to take up our cross daily and follow him. Nobody in his day would have seen crucifixionconnected with abundant life. They seem to be entirely at odds.

The CJB translates abundant life as life in its fullest measure. In the John 10 motif, Yeshua is our shepherd la Psalm 23, who protects us, the sheep. He keeps the thieves away, who come only to steal and kill and destroy (v. 10), while the shepherd gives us life to the fullest. Yeshua lays down his life for the sheep (v. 11, 18).

However, that same shepherd calls us to 1) deny ourselves, 2) take up our cross daily, as if we are to be executed for his sake and 3) follow him (Luke 9:23). Paul embraces this call by declaring: I have been crucified with Messiah. It is no longer I who live, but Messiah who lives in me (Gal. 2:20).

The Living Dead!

How do we understand this abundant life in the light of living as dead people? The idea of the living deadconjures up images of zombies, but Gods plan for us is anything but. Could it be that the secret to having abiding joy and inner peace and living in close proximity to the presence of God is embracing the cross? Maybe the key to obtaining the abundant life is through the cross. That is the conclusion that Paul comes to.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Messiah. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christand be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faiththat I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead (Phil 3:7-11).

What Paul is saying in this passage is that he is dead to his old life of pride and selfish ambition. He embraces this new life of suffering and serving because he understands that knowing Messiah is more valuable than all the fame and accolades this world can offer. His total focus is on knowing Yeshua more deeply.

But he understands that to attain the power of his resurrection (abundant life), he must share in Messiah sufferings. Paul would eventually become a martyr, as he would be beheaded in Rome, but he demonstrates his willingness to live as a martyrand embrace the suffering that comes with serving Yeshua. He understands that when we live a crucified life (deny ourselves for the sake of others), we live very close to the presence of God.

Climbing in Yeshuas Grave

Many years ago, I was hurt by another leader. It was primarily due to my own foolishness, but this person took advantage of my mistake and sought to use it against me. It was one of the most painful days of my life, as I thought my ministry in Israel might be over before it ever started. I was devastated. When I got home, someone called me and told me I needed to defend myself. As I began to pray, I clearly heard the whisper of the Yeshua say, Climb into the grave with me.

I knew exactly what he meant: Dont defend yourself. Use this opportunity to identify with my suffering, and I will turn it around.And that is exactly what happened.

Without going into all the details, as I forgave and chose not to defend myself, God opened a door a few months later to serve on the pastoral team of one of the largest congregations in the country. Had I chosen bitterness and self-defense, I wouldve robbed myself of one of the most precious moments of my believing life of being able to die with Jesus.

Be a Bloodless Martyr

The desert monks, who fled the big cities to live a crucified life in the deserts of southern Israel and Egypt in the 3rdand 4thcenturies, called this type of life a bloodless or white martyr. A whitemartyr would be contrasted with a redmartyr, who literally spills his blood. The white martyr livesa crucified life.

Author Gerard Sittser critiques the modern prosperity gospel that misinterprets the abundant life as riches, fame, and comfort. It is precisely not what Jesus promised.

A popular religious movement in Western Christianity promises us that, if we have enough faith, we will be able to overcome all our problems and achieve complete victory. There is little mention in this movement of the sacrifice of the martyrs [and] desert saints. It is all crown, no cross; all promise, no demand; all success, no suffering, at least not chosen suffering. It is hard for us to imagine that faith might push us into such difficulties and actually keep us there, where God will make us more like Christ, both in character and in influence.

The joy that we possess comes from being close to the heart of God, not from living a pain-free life of indulgence. There is no other gospel than the one that calls us to experience life through service and suffering. There is no other gospel than the one that calls us to die. Jesus did not call some to take up their cross and others to live in overindulgence. Being a bloodless martyr is a daily choice of discipline, devotion, and service.

Blue Martyrs

Celtic Christians not only had red and white martyrs but blue. They divided the living martyr into two categories. White martyrs lived the crucified life by embracing lifes difficulties as believers. This would include suffering for your faith and sharing your food with the poor. The blue martyr lived a crucified life by dying to self by choosing to fast, pray and seek solitude. Of course, we are called to be both white and blue martyrs simultaneously.

It is at this time during this blog that you might think that all this talk about serving and sacrifice is becoming too heavy. But that is the point: this type of life leads to the abundant life Yeshua promised. Hisyoke is easy, and my burden is light.(Matt. 11:30)

The abundant life that we all want comes through crucifying our flesh. Most of the time, food is not the most important thing in my mind. Most days, I dont eat until 1 PM.But the minute I choose to fast, suddenly food becomes the most essential thing in the universe.The emotional sadness of not being able to eat in the initial hours of a fast can be overwhelming. This is good.That is our flesh screaming out, Dont kill me! But its when we crush the temptations that we experience the presence of God. Suddenly, we realize that food, the primary thing that keeps our flesh alive, is not most important. Fasting is not twisting Gods arm to get him to do something for us; it is cutting off our flesh to open ourselves up to the spirit.

That time I went away to pray and failed

Let me close this blog with a story. As a new believer, when I was 18 or 19, I was challenged by a book to spend several days alone in prayer. I reserved a room in a cheap motel about 30 minutes from my house. I checked in, and immediately, I was dealing with all kinds of negative thoughts and temptations, from lust to boredom to the fear of wondering how I would pass the time.When do the angels come? I wondered. I napped, watched a movie (Coming to America), and drove home defeated.

I had not yet read of the Desert Monk Antony and his battles with demons. I only knew a massive angel visited the guy in the book when he locked himself away in fasting and prayer. That was 40 years ago.I now know that deep formation (becoming like Jesus) does not come overnight and is not easily possessed. I learned from Jesus life that the angels comeafteryou resist temptation, not before (Matt 4:11). Most people miss it, but after Jesus resisted the three temptations of Satan, angels came and attended to him.

Forty Years Later

Last year, I went to a retreat center in Scotland to seek the Lord for two weeks. When the day came to fly from Israel to Scotland, I was hit with many temptations and doubts.What will I do for two weeks? Maybe I should just go home. Did God really lead me to do this? What was I thinking?I desperately did not want to get on the airplane, but Im so glad I did. Like 40 years ago, I really just wanted to go home.

As an introvert, I was very uncomfortable dealing with unknown people in a strange place when I arrived. However, I chose to press in. I did not know what a cell was in the monastic sense (a monk lives in whats called a cell, a small room its where we get the phrase prison cell, [from French, prisoun celle]), but over the next few days, my cell became my sanctuary. I read the Bible and books on spiritual formation, fasted a bit, and prayed a lot. I took long walks in the countryside and sat silently for 30 minutes most days. On day four, the presence of God showed up, and it was as if the Lord hugged me for about 36 hours.

In conclusion, if we want to find the abundant life that Jesus promises, it is through the cross. As we embrace a life of service to others and employ disciplines, such as fasting and prayer in our lives, we are sure to grow closer to the one who suffered for us.