Born to Grow: Moving Beyond Forgiveness to an Abundant Life - page 6


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From the Fall 2017 issue of Knowing & Doing:

Born to Grow: Moving Beyond Forgiveness to an Abundant Life

by Robert Saucy, (1930 – 2015)
Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology
at Talbot School of Theology

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  According to the Scripture, Christ has made it possible for us to “become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). We are becoming like God in “life and godliness,” taking on a divine quality of life that exhibits a godly moral walk, as opposed to the “corruption” or destructive decay of the world (2 Peter 1:3–4) – a life that increasingly reflects “the image of God” we were created to embody as human beings.
  We are also said to be “partakers of Christ” (Heb. 3:14; see also 1 Cor. 1:9) and participate (or fellowship) in the Spirit (Phil. 1:2; 2 Cor. 13:14). All of this does not mean that growing spiritually is becoming a divine being. No, God will always be God and we will always be human. But what it means is that God through His Spirit is continually working to form us into Christlikeness. Like an embryo develops into the form of a human, so our new life is gradually taking the shape of Christ’s life (Gal. 4:19).
  What this new life looks like is therefore exemplified in the human earthly life of Christ. It is also seen in the many instructions and commands for our life and the biblical examples of the lives of many godly men and women. Perhaps there is no better description of this life than the qualities described as the “fruit of the Spirit” who is himself “the Spirit of life” – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23). These are rightly termed “fruit,” for they are the produce or product of the “Life-Giver,” rather than human manufacture.
  The understanding of this Spirit-produced life is enhanced when we consider its opposite described as “the deeds of the flesh,” or the dysfunctional outcome of living apart from the life of God – “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these” (Gal. 5:19–21). As Christians, we are not totally free from these old “deeds of the flesh.” But at the core of our being, our heart, the life of God through the Spirit is implanted and designed to grow the fruit of the Spirit.

Abundant Life

  The new life in Christ through the Spirit characterized by love, joy, and peace expresses itself in various ways depending on our personality type. But whether we are affable, melancholic, cranky, pragmatic, or any combination thereof, this life is an abundant life (John 10:10) – it will always have a certain enthusiasm. The Bible describes it as “living water” that satisfies and brings renewed vitality - a picture that had powerful meaning in arid biblical lands (Ps. 63:1; Jer. 2:13).
  The psalmist described God as the “fountain of life” who gives his people “drink [from] … the river of [his] delights” (Ps. 36:8–9). Jesus offered “living water” to the Samaritan woman, telling her that it becomes “a well of water springing up to eternal life” in everyone who drinks of it ( John 4:14). Eugene Peterson captured the exuberance of the Greek expression “springing up”7 in his paraphrase: “The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life” (MSG). An artesian spring has ground water that flows upward by natural pressure, without any need for pumping. The new life is life that bubbles up – it just flows.

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