What is “the Abundant Life”, really? | The Overlap Life

What is “the Abundant Life”, really?

By Tim Barber

Jesus promises His followers abundant life.

To me, abundant life sounds like a life overflowing with goodness, “a little slice of Heaven on Earth.” And yet, if we’re honest, many of us don’t experience Jesus’s words in our everyday lives. The abundant life that Jesus promised seems to hover just outside of our reach, like a mirage of a watery oasis in the desert to someone dying of thirst.

Many of us feel like we’re dying of thirst for the good life. It seems like we all wrestle with feeling that there must be more than this.

We sense that life could be so much more full – more fulfilling, more beautiful, more lovely. We all went through the COVID crisis, the riots, the political upheaval… and that doesn’t feel like abundant life. Either Jesus was wrong when He promised abundant life, or we are. And news-flash: Jesus is never wrong.

What if eternal life, the abundant life Jesus came to bring us, is available now? What if that fullness, that beauty is something that we can enjoy now? What if we could completely transform every second of our lives — our work, our rest, our relationships — in light of what Jesus means when He says “abundant life”?

You’d have more peace. You’d have way more joy. You’d face all kinds of difficulties with a laugh. You’d be on fire for Jesus and the good news would feel so, so good again.

But there’s a problem here, and the problem is actually even worse than we think it is. Not only do we not experience abundant life now, we’re not all that excited about eternal life later, either.

We tell ourselves that, although we know that we’ll have trouble in this life, at least there’s heaven, right? Only… if we’re being honest, behind closed doors – that doesn’t excite us either. In fact, it sounds – boring. And the thought of being bored for all eternity is terrifying if you think about it for too long.

It certainly doesn’t help us to live our lives now. If a disembodied Heaven singing to God is your eternal fate, then what good is anything you do now? Why does your job matter? Why do your hobbies, your friendships, all the things you love… aren’t they all just going to go away? May as well just go to church on Sundays, sing the songs, drop the money in the offering plate, and tell your coworkers and children about Jesus until you die.

And then the boring, long years of eternity, singing to God and strumming a harp in Heaven stretch on and on without end…

But is that what the Bible is offering us? Is that what Jesus meant when he promised us “Abundant Life”? Happily, I’ve got a really solid Biblical case in hand that’s going to blow that whole idea to smithereens. It’s the best news you’ve ever heard; I promise.

If I’m being honest, I think the first problem is that we’re really, really confused by what people say the Bible teaches.

And the second problem is that what we have heard isn’t all that exciting, and none of us wants to admit it.

And the third problem is that since none of us wants to admit it, we go through these struggles alone, isolated and scared by having a doubt or feeling discomfort about our Christian faith in any way. So we stay stuck, bored, worried, and disconnected from God when it comes to our hope for the future.

What I want to do over the next few days is try to completely solve all 3 of those problems. It’s a tall order, I know, but I want you to stick with me for all 3 days to work through it all, together.

When I was younger, I met a man who seemed to have grasped a very different message from the words of Jesus. One that was so compelling, I had to go and investigate the Scriptures like the Bereans, to see if what he was saying checked out with the whole of the Scriptures. I wanted it to be true with all of my being, but I felt responsible for searching the Scriptures for what God actually said before coming to any conclusions.

He was a rebellious, criminal teenager who found Jesus and jumped into a nice, Conservative Baptist Church in his 20’s. Unfortunately, over the years he became highly religious, but it was all legalistic rule-keeping. He wore his Sunday best, carried around a Bible, and sneered pridefully at people who weren’t part of the “in-crowd”. But in private, he was an angry, frustrated man, drowning his bitterness and frustrations with God and his lot in life in a bottle of Jack Daniel’s he kept secret from everyone else. And as you might imagine, it made him miserable. Maybe some of you know what this is like – maybe some of you are there now!

But now, this man’s face lit up with a youthful, even abundant exuberance even though he was nearly 60 years old. He wasn’t a pastor, a missionary, or a Bible scholar. He was just a “regular Christian” who discovered something radical in God’s Word that changed everything for him.

He showed me — through Ephesians 1, and Revelation 21 & 22, and Matthew 19, and 2 Peter 3, and several other passages — that one day, God will renew all things in the Universe — that, for the believer, nothing is lost. He showed me that the life we long for — the paradise that Adam and Eve knew — is exactly what God has in mind for us. And although that day is in the future – God wants us to live out today in light of that reality now. He really does promise abundant life – His eternal purpose for His people is truly abundant life — and it’s available now.

Want Proof? Watch this video where I break down just a few of the relevant passages.

All the sermons I’d heard since I was a child faded dead away… a page had turned. I had discovered that the next chapter of our story begins with “the renewal of all things”, according to Jesus Himself in Matthew 19. And it is the first chapter of a story with no end – all of God’s people dwelling with Him in a new world, taking it somewhere beautiful as His partners, just like Adam and Eve were supposed to.

Suddenly everything in my life became about God and God’s ultimate purpose in Christ – I had read the Bible dozens of times, but I had apparently missed the main point!

And once I grasped this, I had a LOT of work to do, and a LOT of NEW questions to get answers for. How do I live this out? What should I do differently? What should WE do differently?

Now, I began to run into another problem! Nobody in my church context had any idea what I was talking about! I would start conversations about the restoration of all things and people would look at me like I had 5 heads. People would smile and nod. That’s the polite Christian way of saying “Tim has finally lost his mind.”

The problem is, we can’t live out this message alone. The Christian life is lived out in community – the church itself is all of Jesus’s followers, living together as if Jesus really is the king, and changing their whole lives to follow His teaching!

So, here’s where I was – I learned that Jesus’s goal was to restore all things through Himself, to bring His life-giving power to everything in the universe, and that we are invited to participate in that abundant life today. But I was alone – stuck in a community of people who thought I had gone crazy.

And then, on Groundhog Day in the year 2018, my father passed away from a really aggressive lung cancer. At Christmas, just a month and a half earlier, he seemed fine. Now, he was gone.

God tried and tested my newfound belief, refining it in the challenges of this life. Would I still believe that His promise was true? Those were hard days. But on the day of his funeral, I was given the privilege of delivering the eulogy. And I shared my battle-hardened conviction that yes, I will see my father’s electric blue eyes again. Yes, I will go camping with him again. Yes, I will hear him play guitar, and hear him sing once more. I shared the promise of the New Heavens & the New Earth.

I expected them to look at me like a crazy person again. What happened instead is that first one person, then another person, then a family, and then the whole community began to change. Maybe it was the fact that people are usually more sensitive when they are faced with their own mortality. Maybe I really delivered a great message. Maybe it was God’s Spirit, hard at work in an entire community. Maybe it was all 3.

People who had been doing nothing but sitting in pews and singing songs for months started sharing the Good News far more boldly, and with an excitement and joy that had been missing before. Cold hearts were now on fire for Jesus and the outside world started to take notice. But it wasn’t just “church stuff”. Everything was changing.

Men and women disillusioned and frustrated with their work started to look forward to Monday morning, mind racing with ways to work better & more gratefully, and even to advance in their careers while giving the glory to God.

People started getting rest, prioritizing their health, their faces lit up and full of life every time you saw them.

And some people even made radical changes in their relationships, creating harmony and others-focused love where before there was bitterness and tension.

All because of the promise of God to restore the universe through Jesus. It turns out, that when you know how the story ends and you have some concrete ways to participate in that story today, everything changes. God wants to make All Things New through Christ – and He wants to do the same for you. And He wants to start TODAY.

Imagine a community where everyone is on fire for Jesus, transforming their work, their health, and their relationships, and living out a little slice of Heaven on Earth. Imagine a community of people no longer afraid of death, or failure, or persecution. Imagine how much a community like that could accomplish in God’s hands!

Imagine a community where everyone wants to live in light of eternity, with an eternal perspective on all things, and living with a vivid, daily, second-by-second hope that overcomes all the darkness of this world.

That’s what God did through that eulogy. That’s what God did in an entirely different church context a few months later, through the same exact message. That’s what God is doing all over the world wherever His children open the Scriptures and discover His plan to unify all things in Heaven and on Earth in Christ, and then resolve together to live like they believe that it’s true.

Everybody is praying for revival, for restoration, for a revolution in the church to come alive to God in passion and radical obedience.

I fully believe that revolution has arrived, and that it is happening through men and women, followers of Jesus all over the world who have come alive to the fact that God is restoring the universe, fixing everything, and expanding the borders of His Kingdom through the amazing promise that He will restore all things through Jesus. That is the good news.

That’s why I created the “All Things New” Collective. We are a growing Community of passionate Jesus followers who are exploring God’s incredible plan to remake the universe, and transforming our lives by the power of the Spirit to live out that plan today.

We get together every week, we learn, share, answer each other’s questions, encourage, worship, and grow together. We bear one another’s burdens, we study the Bible together, and we have long discussions by the fireplace, brothers and sisters exploring God’s incredible plans for eternity together.

We’re not trying to replace any church communities. But we are a global community of Jesus followers, united around living every second of our lives in light of eternity. And for most of us – our churches don’t talk about this. They talk about going to Heaven when you die, but not Heaven coming to Earth in the end! And there is a WORLD of difference between those two. One makes you want to leave your life and this world that God made and called good – the other makes you want to transform your life and this world, and gives you the tools to do it.

Every week I go live with more eternity-focused material, answering questions straight from the Bible. We go through books together, share music, and love one another radically.

I want you to imagine your life if God gave you the good news that not only are you saved – but that everything you have lost, all the pain you have suffered, all the things you love — will be redeemed, restored, and given back to you forever.

I want to see in your life the same transformation that God brought about in my life, and in the lives of those God reached with this message over the past several years.

Now, tomorrow I’m going to peel back the curtain and show you exactly what that path looks like. How, specifically do we go about living out every second of our lives in light of Eternity? What are the things we need to change, and in what order?

For now, I have a question for you.

What are your two top questions about Eternity and the Christian Life that we absolutely NEED to answer in the “All Things New” Collective?

Write a comment on this video, or send an email to [email protected] with your response. I promise that I will read every one of them.

Until then, my prayer is that God begins to plant a desire for His eternal purpose down deep in your heart. See you tomorrow!

Further up and further in!

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