I spent my high school years in Myrtle Beach. Back then it was a sleepy, empty town about 6 months of the year that exploded into a people polluted tourist trap from March to September. The first wave of tourists were the Canadians that began trickling in about late February and arrived in earnest by mid March. Now in early March the air temperature is usually in the 70’s during the day in Myrtle Beach. My friends and I used to love to sit on the white, sandy dunes of the Grand Strand and watch the unsuspecting Canadian guests hit the beach for the first time. They would pile out of their vans, peeling off parkas, and mittens, stripping down to their swimsuits on the dead run across that flat, pristine shore. They would be laughing and yelling to each other, so excited for their first dip in the mighty Atlantic. Sun on their faces, warm breeze in their hair, they would hit the edge of the water and dive. (Let me pause right here with our heroes in mid-air to remind you that in March the Gulf Stream has dipped all the way down to Miami, Florida allowing the waters of the Atlantic to come from..you guessed it…CANADA!)
They would hit the water that was about 50 degrees, do unbelievable finger walks across the tops of the waves and then stand shivering on the edge of the sand shouting French-Canadian obscenities to we locals rolling in laughter in the “cheap seats.” Too cold to go in, too hot to stay out, they would mill around in hoards waiting for something to change. Finally, one or two brave souls would get up the courage to dive all the way in. Before you knew it, the whole crazy lot was immersed in the blue-green water having a great time.
The Kingdom Life of the Holy Spirit is like that. It is miserable when we are standing on the edge. We tip-toe around, hearing about the anointing of God, seeing His marvelous blessings, but still being overwhelmed by defeat and discouragement, depression and disappointment, too cold to go in and too hot to stay out. We taste just enough of the Power of His Presence to make us hungry for more but never really sit down at the table and let Him fill us with the Bread of Life.
Over the next six weeks I am going to write and read and teach and learn about what it means to go all in. In fact I am calling it “learning out loud” because I am not sure I know much about being totally immersed in the Spirit of God. I started this week by teaching the counselors and staff at Branches. Each week I plan to write a (hopefully) short little blog highlighting the idea and linking you to the complete text of the Bible study that we do as a staff, if you’re interested.
This week, the place to begin seems to be with the great confession of Jesus in John 10:10, “I have come that you might have life and have it abundantly.” Abundant life, one translation says “Life in the fullest.” I don’t understand that completely but it sure sounds like letting go and diving all the way in to me.
He begins that chapter talking about the sheep and the sheep pen and the sheep rustler who tries to slip in over the fence. He says the sheep rustler doesn’t know the sheep intimately, like the shepherd does, and they don’t know him so he has to steal them. In fact, in the first half of verse 10 Jesus says the sheep rustler wants to “steal and kill” the sheep. What is that all about?
Well, the sheep rustler sure sounds like the devil to me. If that’s true (and it is) then the way he tries to steal us is by telling us we can be in control. Remember his words to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:5, “You won’t die (if you eat the apple). You will be like God.” Read that…IN CONTROL. Even his lie to Jesus in the wilderness was about being in control. “Turn the rocks into bread, jump off of the temple, claim your kingdom.” All of that is about taking control.
Now here’s the point for today, the abundant life, really immersed, all in, totally sold out life that Jesus promises us is about giving up control. It is about surrender, trust, faith, dependence, “letting go and letting God.” Stuff like, “Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5. Or Matthew 6:25, “Do not worry about life, what you will eat. Or you body, what you will wear.” The real abundant life is one that is fully laid in the hands of God for Him to do with, and make of, what He chooses. Isn’t that ironic? A life full of the power of God is one that has given up its own power and relies on and relaxes in The Higher Power.
Over the next few weeks we’ll look at that more. For today let me remind you of one thing. When you start living that way it is going to look strange to some people who are setting on the sidelines. Like me and my mocking buddies in Myrtle Beach, there will be those that just wait for you to take the dive so they can laugh at you when you fall. Well, I’m ready to go all Canadian on them. No more messing around the edges for me. I am hungry for the Bread of Life, thirsty for the Living Water. I am all in for the Abundant Living that Jesus promises and I can’t wait to see what the water feels like. How about you? Are you with me? Take the dive and I promise you, you won’t be disappointed. “I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live. Yet not I but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live I live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who LOVES me and gave His life for me.” Galatians 2:20 …… Now, where are my swimming trunks? Mike
The full manuscript of the Thursday message will be posted on Saturday evening at www.mikecourtney.blogspot.com. While you’re there please sign up to follow the blog so we know how effective this medium is. Grace and Peace.