I hope the start of 2018 has been good for you! I’m excited to see what this new year brings. This is my time of year. I like to plan, dream, and be hopeful about the open days in front of me. I like to think that life can be full of hope and promise.
So help me out. How would you finish this sentence? Life is ___________? Forrest Gump would say, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.” Some might say that life is a rat race; a bowl of cherries, a series of choices, a paycheck, a party. We have a habit of trying to reduce the size of our life.
And I’d like to help us think about life differently at the beginning of 2018. So today and for the next 5 Sundays I want to teach us how to live God’s abundant life. Does that sound good? Would you like to know how to live an abundant life? One that is full of hope and dreams and anticipation. An abundant life instead of a mediocre life; a full life instead of a life robbed of hope and meaning?
Late last fall I spent a lot of time praying about God’s direction for this year and where he wants to take us as a church. The word that I kept hearing and seeing is a word that oozes life. It’s the word revive. I like that word. Do you know what revive means? Revive means to restore to life; give new energy or strength! To revive is all about giving life. That’s what Jesus does. He gives life.
Our primary Scripture for the next 5 weeks is from John 10:10. READ. There are two things happening in this sentence. There’s a thief who steals, kills, and destroys. Then there’s Jesus who says that he comes to give you life. And not just life – the kind where we just live and muddle through the day. He brings life that is full or abundant.
Here’s my hope for this teaching and for 2018. If you are the kind of person who feels like you’ve got the short end of the stick on life; or if you’re just getting through – life dealt you a bad hand and things are happening that you’ve never asked for – I want you to hear this word and live into something new. If you’re just caught up in the routine – I want you to let Jesus bring you a full and abundant purpose this year. If you’re comfortable and you’re thinking – life’s pretty good – no worries, no challenges, no surprises – I hope God shakes you up a little bit and pushes you to a place where you’re hungry for more purpose and deeper significance.
Now because we want God’s word to inform and transform us, we need to understand the context here of what Jesus means when he says the thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that you may have life; and have it the full.
Just prior to all of this, Jesus heals a blind man. The man was taken to the Pharisees, who investigated the healing but refused to acknowledge Jesus as the healer; in fact, they mocked the healed man for trusting Jesus. When Jesus heard what happened, He went to the previously blind man, revealed Himself as savior, and accepted the man’s worship of Him.
Then Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind” (John 9:39). Some Pharisees overheard this and, taking offense, asked, “What? Are we blind too?” (John 9:40). Jesus replied, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains. Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep” (John 9:41—10:2).
Jesus continued talking about the gatekeeper and how the shepherd calls out his sheep and how the sheep will only follow the shepherd whom they know (John 10:3–5). Jesus then interpreted His words: “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:7–10). With these words, Jesus declares that He is the only way to salvation and the fullness of life. But who is the thief? And what does it mean that the thief “comes only to steal and kill and destroy”?
The Greek word for “thief” used in John 10:10 means “one who steals.” Anyone who claimed a way of salvation other than Jesus was “robbing” the people of truth.
Let’s think about the patterns and habits right now which in a very real way, rob you of a full life with Jesus. These are the habits and experiences that work real hard to replace Jesus.
Pleasure. If I just find the things that make me feel good or be comfortable – I’ll have a full life. If I could just take a cruise, retire in luxury, or have my fantasies fulfilled – that’s life. Problem is that those are moving targets. We move from thing to thing believing that the next one will make me happy. The next car, the next marriage, the next house, the next drink. Each time takes a bigger thrill, or bigger event to bring another high. But it never lasts.
Performance. I need to confess that this the one that steals full life from me the most. Always trying to do more to make someone else happier. Have you lived there? If I just do more, they’ll love me. If I’m a better husband, wife, parent, child, employee – I’ll feel full, loved and satisfied. And we live in the myth that success produces life.
Possessions. If I just get one more thing I’ll feel like I have a full life. Abundance is not what we think. So before we get tricked into thinking that more is better, we need to think about what Jesus says about abundant life. Wealth, position, power are not God’s priorities for us. If this were the case, Jesus would be the wealthiest person, ever. But the opposite is true, Jesus said this about himself, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the son of man has no place to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20)
Pursuits. The delusion that if we just stay busy enough and if the pace of life remains at an intense level we will discover life.
These thieves masquerade as givers of life, but actually all they end of bringing is pain, frustration, heart-ache, and death, spiritually and physically. Rather than being agents of revival these habits and patterns steal the fullness of life.
I’m convinced that we want more than this. That we want more than mere life. Because mere life isn’t working. We want our lives to count for something. As a follower of Jesus, your inheritance is a full, abundant life. And the source of abundant life is Jesus. Jesus says time and again that he is the giver of life, the author of life. READ John 11; 14. But the most powerful statement Jesus made was “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” Full life happens through Jesus.
Now some people may say, “Wait a minute, don’t I already have life? Aren’t I breathing? Isn’t my heart pumping blood?”
I would answer, “Yes, but . . . not the life Jesus is referring to.” The life that Jesus gives is infinitely and eternally different than the life one possesses now. Maybe a little lesson in Greek vocabulary would be helpful in discerning what the significance of this life he offers is. As with most of the Greek language, it employed several different words to communicate concepts and thoughts that in English only one word is available. Such is true with this concept of life. They had six different words to clarify its meaning. But two words are important for us.
The first word is bios, in which the English word biology is derived. It refers to the duration of life – one’s life span, the time between one’s birth date and one’s death date; or it refers to the necessities of life – one’s food, shelter, and clothing.
The second word is zoe. It refers to life as God has it. The life that belongs to God that becomes ours when we cross the doorway of Jesus and enter into a relationship with God. It is not a possession but rather an infilling – God once again breathing his life into us.
When we were born we were given bios life, when we are born again we are given zoe life. Until we cross the doorway of Jesus and enter into a relationship with God through Jesus we may be physically alive but spiritually we are dead.
To be a follower of Jesus, to know who he is and what he means, is to have a superabundance of life. There is a new vitality, a new meaning, a new energy, a new purpose, a new significance, a new outlook, a new hope, a new joy, a new life.
Our family would travel a lot. And sometimes we would need to rent a car. This is always stressful for me. I don’t like to spend money on those kinds of things. When we were younger, Melissa and I would travel to Florida often. So when we got there I’d have reserved the cheapest care possible – like a Fort escort. It gets good gas mileage. It runs fine. It gets you to where you need to go. And it’s cheap. So once we have one of those kinds of cars held at the rental company. When we arrive, they’ve got bad news. They’re all out of Ford Escorts. I don’t know why, we had it reserved. It should be there! So the attendant behind the counter asks if I’d mind an upgrade. Would I mind? I’d love an upgrade – at the same price as the Escort. The only car they had available was a convertible Chrysler Sebring. This the perfect Florida car.
We were driving in style. Does this car get you to your destination any faster? No, but you get there in more comfort. You feel better about yourself. When you get out at the hotel – you’re not embarrassed to let the valet take over.
Now I’m having fun with this – to teach us this – What was God up too when he sent his son, Jesus? God is about upgrading life. Through Jesus, we are offered a life that is not just okay; not just muddled through; but full – full of vitality and meaning; of purpose and significance.
That’s what this year and every year going forward can be about. And we can choose to endure where we are, or we can say, Jesus, I want a life that full and meaningful and purposeful. A life that does more than exist.
We tend to think of the word, salvation, as the forgiveness of sins or the escape from punishment. But it actually has a deeper meaning. The simple and best word for salvation is “life.” I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly.
“Thrive” is a word for life. Thriving is what life was intended to do, like a flower stubbornly pushing up through a crack in the sidewalk. Thriving is what God saw when he made life and saw that it was good.
Ironically, the only way to have this kind of life – one that thrives and is abundant – is by surrendering. Saying, Jesus, I need the abundant life, because the one I’ve got isn’t working out real well.