The More Abundant Life
Just as living life requires a certain lifestyle in order to be successful at it, so too living a more abundant spiritual life requires a certain lifestyle in order to be successful at it. For example, living a successful life requires personal grooming and cleanliness, looking after your diet, keeping your body exercised and healthy, working to pay the bills, keeping your home comfortable, and leisure pursuits to keep your days interesting and fulfilling. There is no one thing that does it all. Cleaning your teeth every morning doesn't do it by itself. Cleaning your teeth every morning is just a part of what makes up a successful lifestyle.
Let's break down an average morning so we can get a handle on this. First, we have to wake up early enough that we can rise and get ready for the day. We either set an alarm, or have someone wake us, then we do our daily grooming, get clothed, have breakfast, then it's off to work, get the kids ready for school or something else. If we drive a car, then we have to ensure it is roadworthy, and it has water, oil and petrol in it so it's functional and will get us to work. Every week we have to shop so we have sufficient food in the house so there is something on the table for breakfast, and that requires planning, budgeting and going shopping. We have to keep our clothes clean and in good repair so we can look our best when we're out and about. The point is, to live life requires believing, which involves planning coupled with action. If we can't get out of bed, we never clean our clothes or take care with our personal grooming, never exercise, and eat chocolate and drink coffee all day, our lives are not going to be very successful. In fact, we will most likely be ill, overweight, have no money and smell. The same is true spiritually.
Just as children must learn and develop life skills as they grow to maturity, we also must learn and develop spiritual life skills as we grow. This spiritual lifestyle is referred to in Ephesians as walking circumspectly.
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,
When this was written, Paul was under house arrest in Rome chained to a Roman guard. Paul did not walk by the spirit when he went to Jerusalem in Acts 21. Instead, he walked by his senses and while there unwisely followed the direction of a council of leaders at the ministry headquarters of a temple constructed by men. Consequently, he nearly lost his life and he wound up imprisoned in Rome. Paul wrote this epistle of Ephesians after he had disobeyed God by going to Jerusalem when he knew he should have remained with the Gentiles. Did Paul walk circumspectly by going to Jerusalem and deserting the Gentiles? No, he didn't. However, did his past prevent him from teaching the Ephesians to walk circumspectly? No, it didn't. Did guilt or condemnation prevent him from teaching about walking circumspectly when he hadn't? Not at all. Did Paul feel unworthy to teach the Ephesians about walking circumspectly because he'd messed up and everyone in Ephesus knew he'd messed up? No, he didn't. Paul was a master at putting the past behind him.
Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
So if Paul could put his past behind him and go on to receive the revelation to write the book of Ephesians, can we also walk circumspectly today, despite what we did yesterday? Yes, we can pick ourselves up at any time, start walking again and God will be there. No matter what we have done or how badly we've messed up, we can still speak in tongues and get back into fellowship at any time and live the more abundant life. Now isn't that nice to know? Living a more abundant life therefore, isn't conditional on our being perfect, it's conditional on our being faithful despite our mistakes.
God didn't hide what Paul did by going to Jerusalem, did he? God told Luke to record what happened when he wrote the book of Acts. Why? To embarrass Paul? So we could waggle our fingers at him? No, so we could learn from him. Paul walked circumspectly again after going to Jerusalem and went on to receive the greatest revelation ever given to men, the book of Ephesians. So no matter what we've done in the past, or what mistakes we made yesterday, we can walk circumspectly today. That's one of the great things about this Grace Administration - every day is a new day. Can you still speak in tongues? Of course you can. We can live the word today, regardless of yesterday, because we are holy and without blame before God in love.
According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:
So, what does it mean to walk circumspectly? In the KJV the word translated circumspectly is the Greek word akribos, and it is translated diligently - 2 times, circumspectly - 1 time, perfect - 4 times, and perfectly - 2 times. Bible dictionaries define it as exactly, accurately, and diligently.
The Darby Bible translates Ephesians 5:15:
See therefore how ye walk carefully, not as unwise but as wise,
The Murdock Bible says it this way:
See therefore, that ye walk circumspectly; not like the simple,
The Lexham English Bible states it:
Therefore, consider carefully how you live, not as unwise but as wise,
With this background, let's explore the word akribos in the word.
And a certain Jew [Judean] named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus.
This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently [akribos] the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John.
And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly [akribos].
Apollos taught diligently (akribos) the things of the Lord, knowing only the water baptism of John. Aquila and Priscilla then taught him the way of God more perfectly (more akribos). For Aquila and Priscilla to be able to teach more akribos than Apollos, they must have known the word in greater depth than Apollos. So who had taught them the word? Well, they had lived and worked with Paul at Corinth. Later they had sailed with Paul to Ephesus and decided to live there, and it was in Ephesus they met Apollos.
God had taught Paul, Paul had taught them, and that was how they were able to teach the way of the Lord more perfectly, more akribos, to Apollos who knew only water baptism. By the way, water baptism was part of the old testament and isn't part of the Grace Administration. Washing in water was simply a symbolic old testament ceremony to illustrate what was coming, which was baptism in the holy spirit. With the coming of the greater, the lesser was no longer necessary. That is what Aquila and Priscilla taught Apollos. That's how the word moves. We have to teach.
There are further usages of akribos in Matthew, in the record of Herod and the Magi from Persia.
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men [Magos] from the east to Jerusalem,
Saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews [Judeans]? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently [akriboō] what time the star appeared.
And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently [akribos] for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired [akriboō] of the wise men.
When Herod heard this news about a new king, he sat down with the magi and enquired diligently (akribos) when the star appeared. The magi would have gone into great detail and explained everything in depth. They would have told Herod all about the triple conjunction of Jupiter and Regulus in Leo sandwiched between a double conjunction of Jupiter and Venus, as well as the massing of the planets Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Mercury in Leo. By the end of the session, Herod himself was convinced the Christ had been born and set about making plans to have him murdered.
When the magi legged it back to Persia and Herod found out, he was extremely pissed off. Do you remember he had asked the magi diligently about the star? He knew precisely what times the conjunctions had occurred, and he knew Jesus Christ would already have been a young child, a toddler, which was why he murdered all the children two years old and under.
So this adds to our understanding of akribos and helps us to understand what it is to walk circumspectly, but we can learn more. Many times in the bible, Greek words are employed that do not appear very often, as is the case with akribos. In fact, some words are used only once, so gaining a taste for the flavour of a word often requires seeing how words were used in secular literature at the same time the bible was written. Bullinger's Critical Greek Lexicon and Concordance states of akribos:
Going up to the top or summit; and as this requires great pains, care, and diligence, it means accurate, exact, precise.
Bullinger got this from studying akribos as the word was used in secular writings at the time that Ephesians was written. Akribos was used by writers of the day to illustrate a mountaineer's ascent to the summit. Climbing a mountain requires exactness and precision, as well as good levels of fitness. It requires you know what you are doing, that you have the right equipment, and that you're conditioned and fit for the climb.
Now, for years, this definition had unconsciously, subconsciously, added an element of concern into my thinking. I mean, mountain climbing can be dangerous. One slip and you can fall over a cliff. This thinking introduced the unconscious thought that walking circumspectly was perhaps something I didn't really want to do because it was dangerous. Deep down it made me not really want to mature into the Ephesians walk because I wasn't sure my life would ever be so perfect I could live it in safety.
The good news is that this unconscious stratum of doubt I had regarding the walk circumspectly isn't accurate. Mountaineering is a sport. People do it for enjoyment, for sport. I've climbed a few Scottish Munro's and I love it. To enjoy climbing mountains, you just need the right gear, the right levels of health and fitness, and to know what you're doing. It is something to look forward to with great anticipation and excitement. Sports like mountaineering are enjoyable. When you experience walking circumspectly, it is something you will love.
However, it is a mature walk. What does that mean? Well, driving a car provides a good working analogy. Driving cars can be dangerous if you don't know what you're doing. Would you throw the car keys to a ten year old boy and tell him to go and have some fun on the roads? No. Why not? Driving is enjoyable, it's fun, it's exhilarating, it's great, but it's not for ten year old children is it? Just as you wouldn't give the car keys to a child, nor would you take them mountaineering with you in winter. The walk circumspectly isn't for children, it's for the mature, the faithful in Christ Jesus, which is who Ephesians is addressed to. However, it is something children should look forward to! Growing into the walk circumspectly is a bit like passing your driving test and getting the keys to your first car. Remember how exciting that was?
Just as parents wouldn't give the car keys to their ten year old children, neither will God put his children into positions where they could be harmed in the spiritual competition until they can handle it. Certain responsibilities in the body of Christ are only given to those who know something about the spiritual competition. It wouldn't be loving or right to put new born believers into positions of spiritual responsibility where they would come under direct attack from the spirit realm. We need to protect God's children until they mature into the Ephesians walk and learn how to walk circumspectly for themselves. Once people are mature enough to drive safely, the walk circumspectly is a lot of fun.
How can we now apply this understanding of akribos to walking circumspectly in our lives in the 21st Century? One aspect that helps illustrate the practical side of this circumspect walk is finances. The immature walk is to buy on impulse. Children have to have everything right now, hey? To strip that nonsense, foolishness and immaturity out of them, we have to teach them how to budget, save up, shop around properly, and not buy things they don't need. Children don't understand money and have to learn about it. Our children are not sinful, that's just life. Those of us who know the truth have a responsibility to help the younger believers get strong with their finances and learn to walk circumspectly in that area of life. Part of the more abundant life is dependent on how we deal with our money.
The walk circumspectly in finances, therefore, would be learning how to handle money maturely, which precludes impulse buying and using credit cards to buy things with money you don't have. We learn to budget and we learn to enjoy living out of debt. Every month we sit down with our finances and work our budget. When we're happy with it, we stick with it. As we grow in our understanding of finances, buying on impulse becomes something we are no longer even tempted with. When we have a need, we save up and then shop around. When we're sure we've done our homework and the money is available, we make an informed decision and make the purchase.
Now listen, this isn't drudgery, walking circumspectly in the financial realm is a heck of a lot more fun than spending money you don't have and going into debt. Having control of your finances and having all your need met, all the time, in every situation, is far better than being in debt and having someone else get rich at your expense. The walk circumspectly is where all the fun in life is. This is something we really do want to grow up into and anticipate with great desire and make great diligent effort (akribos) to achieve.
The same is true in every part of life. The more of the word we know, the more we can enjoy life. However, this does not mean that a more abundant life is only available to mature disciples. Just as life in all its abundance is available to babies as soon as they are born, all God's abundance is available to his children as soon as they are born into his family. The more abundant life is immediately available to everyone in God's family. The distinction is that with maturity comes greater responsibility which God expects us to live up to.
So what is involved in a healthy spiritual lifestyle that will allow us to live the more abundant life Jesus Christ came to make available? Well, as we've seen, it changes with maturity. More is expected of teenagers than of children, and more is expected of adults than of teenagers. So of someone who has just been born again, very little is expected simply because they know nothing regarding spiritual matters, and all God's abundance is immediately available to them. However, from that moment on they have a responsibility to develop themselves spiritually so they grow and mature into the Ephesians lifestyle, which is the lifestyle of a disciple, someone who is faithful in Christ Jesus, someone who walks by the spirit. The newest baby born into the church of God requires daily sustenance, so we have to feed them the word and baby them until they are reading and studying the word every day for themselves.
Now just as in life there are many things that make up a successful lifestyle, so it is with the more abundant life. Little is expected of children, but if adults sit around all day expecting everything to be handed to them the word says they should not eat. There are no excuses for mature believers to neglect the word by not reading, studying and memorising it every day. There are no excuses for mature believers to not speak in tongues and walk by the spirit. There are no excuses for mature believers to refuse to give God his share of their money. This mature walk isn't tough, that's for sure, but it does require faithfulness.
Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
It's really quite simple to live the more abundant life, and it brings rest to our souls. It's certainly not burdensome. Religion is burdensome and oppressive, but not discipleship.
There are three parts to every member of the church of God - body, soul, and spirit - and they all require daily attention and maintenance. Fundamentally then, an abundant prosperous life requires healthy diet and exercise in all three categories, as well as living according to the standards of God's word.
Most people know what constitutes a good life in the physical - we must eat and drink properly, exercise adequately, and look after ourselves. Similarly our souls, our minds, require healthy diet and exercise if we are to enjoy being who we are and enjoy quality of life. A daily, faithful, systematic study of God's word to renew our minds is the basis for this. At the same time, we learn to walk by the spirit and build ourselves up by speaking in tongues. Without developing the Christ in us, having a healthy body and a sound mind is of no value in the spiritual competition. If you neglect the Christ in you and don't learn to walk by the spirit, eventually you will either walk away from God or become a religious arsehole.
Just as we build good daily habits into our lives, such as enjoying breakfast, lunch and dinner, we must build good daily habits like reading, studying, and memorising God's word so we think God's thoughts rather than the world's thoughts. Couple that with energising the gift of holy spirit by speaking in tongues much throughout your day, and you are well on your way to maturing into the Ephesians lifestyle and having God throw you the keys to the car.
Money and our attitudes towards it we handled in the previous session, and money and our attitudes towards it plays a big part in the more abundant life. Giving God his share of your money is your rent for living on his earth and paying your rent ensures you enjoy open windows from heaven through which God pours out all the goodness of life for you. This isn't simply referring to having loads of stuff, but refers to much more, like always having the answers you need so you can be more than a conqueror in every situation.
Regarding speaking God's word, we are simply to be living epistles living life together as a family, our lifestyles being our preaching. Who we are and the quality of life we enjoy opens doors for us to show others how they too can escape the world's garbage and live this more abundant life.
And that's basically it. From these foundations, you can learn to walk by the spirit. Be warned though, just as in the world there are things that will detract from your quality of life, like drink, drugs and bad food, so there are things in the world that will detract from your spiritual quality of life. Here are a couple of examples.
Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
If we steal from life, life will steal from us, for what we sow we will reap. This is regardless of whether we tithe as the tithe does not supersede the laws of life. If we deliberately jump off a cliff, gravity will take us down and we will either be seriously injured or killed when we hit the bottom. Tithing does not negate gravity any more than it negates the ground only producing what goes into it.
Consider the tithe as providing the hedge of protection around us that Job also enjoyed, but that breaking principles in life will poke holes through that protection. Without the tithe there is no hedge, but we must also live the word. So as we learn the word we renew our minds and change our thinking to line up with it.
Homosexuality, for example, is not a healthy lifestyle, it is a reprehensible criminal act worthy of death. If you partake of that filth, God will not be able to protect you despite your tithe. If you're a homo or a slimy lesbian, and you're happy with that, keep your scabby tithe and stay there. If you want to clean up your life, God will be there for you and all his abundance will be made available to you. But don't think you can do both. As we learn God's word, we have to change our thinking to line up with God's thinking. That's how we develop a sound mind.
2 Timothy 1:7
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
No, you can't just continue living in your old man life, refuse to change, and expect God to open the windows of heaven for you. If you want God's abundance, you do things God's way. God isn't going to change the laws of life just for you and I don't care how mad that makes you. No renewing of the mind and no living the word equals no abundant life for you. You may have lots of money, but your life will be shit. If you want abundance, you do things God's way.
When I first got into the word, I was accustomed to stealing stuff. I stole all the time, it was a way of life for me. While working in the merchant navy I would steal cargo from the holds. When I got born again, I was involved in a ring of sailors who did this all the time. When I realised I had to stop stealing, getting out of this criminal ring proved intimidating. I was afraid of them and what they might do if I refused to break into anymore cargo holds. The pressure was intense and I feared for my safety. While deliberating over this, one evening God showed me a vision. I was sitting in the middle of a circle drawn on the ground and there was a lion walking around the outside of the circle. The lion wanted to bite me and every time it roared I froze in fear. After a while however, I realised that if I stayed inside the circle it couldn't bite me. All it could do was make a noise. I was safe inside the circle. The funny thing is, I didn't know this scripture in Peter at the time and had never read it.
1 Peter 5:8
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:
The point is, if we stay within God's protection, the devil can't bite us. I knew that if I just refused to steal any more cargo, I would be safe, and that's what I did. I renewed my mind and did the word. The lion roared to frighten me, but I did the word and those sailors left me alone. I've grown so much in this category I wouldn't even take a paper clip from an employer now if it didn't belong to me. God's protection is very real. I don't care how deeply entrenched you are in the world, or how big a mason or terrorist or gangster you are, or how afraid you are of your boss or the jesuits, if you make up your mind to do things God's way, the protection, the way to escape will be there.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
This is the truth and you can trust this truth. How we submit to God is by learning his word and renewing our minds. As we strengthen ourselves in the principles of the word and become unbreakable in them, the devil can no longer attack us.
I was also an alcoholic and smoked drugs when I first got born again. Getting out of alcoholism and drugs wasn't an easy road for me, but I did it. God is faithful to his word, even for men like me, so there are no excuses for anyone else. If I can do this thing, anyone can.
Paul imprisoned, tortured, and murdered believers before he was born again on the road to Damascus. How do you think he must have felt going to home churches and teaching to people he'd had beaten and imprisoned or worse? You see, this isn't about us and what we've been in the past, it's about the Christ in us, it's about what God did for us. When we are born again, we become a new creation, created in Christ Jesus.
2 Corinthians 5:17
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [creation]: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
When we are born again, a new creation comes into being - a new spiritual life form comes into existence, something that has never existed before, a supernatural life, a spiritual living being. We are sons of God with his seed, his spirit born within us. That's the Christ in us, that's the new man, that's the grace we've been given.
This spiritual walk isn't about converting the old man, it isn't about purifying the flesh, it isn't about making your old man lovely and acceptable, it's about reckoning it dead and putting the damn thing off. Don't worry about the past, forget about it. If you are a homo, a criminal, a gangster, an alcoholic, a drug addict, or even a jesuit, and you want to know God, just get out of that lifestyle and God will be there for you, understand? He doesn't care about your past, just put it off and move on. This isn't about the old man, this is about the new man, so get the world out of your life and get the God-breathed word into your head and into your heart, get those manifestations of holy spirit into operation, speak in tongues like a house on fire, and demonstrate the power of God in your life.
Chapter 50 - Demonstrating God's Power