John 10: The Abundant Life
The conversation Jesus was having with the Pharisees at the end of chapter 9 is continued in chapter 10. Thus we read what is a continuation of their conversation here in chapter 10. Jesus has just healed a man who was born blind. He is presenting his credentials as the Messiah with these miracles, or signs as John refers to them- for they are proof of who He is. In Isaiah 35, we read of the works the Messiah would do: “Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy. “
When John the Baptist was in prison awaiting execution, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the one who was to come, or should they expect another? Jesus answered them by telling to go tell John what they had heard and seen: “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the dead hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.” (Matthew 11)
Jesus then tells the Pharisees, the man who does not enter by the gate (door) into the sheepfold but climbs in by some other way is a thief and a robber. A thief is one who takes away another’s property by stealth. He sneaks in the house. The robber takes it by violence. The robber intimidates. Since Jesus is talking to the Pharisees about the “sheepfold” it refers to the nation of Israel. Psalm 100 says we (nation of Israel) are His people, the sheep of His pasture.
The word picture which Jesus is drawing is of a sheepfold, which in Jesus’ day would be a public pen where the shepherds would bring their flocks at night. It would be a fenced area with a gate where multiple flocks were brought at night. The watchman would be the gatekeeper. The flocks represented the tribes of Israel.
Jesus is saying he is the true shepherd who entered by the gate or door. Some would say John the Baptist was the gatekeeper as he introduced Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. But if you go back and read about John the Baptist, it was foretold he would be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from birth. (Luke 1). So we can ultimately say the gatekeeper or watchman is the Holy Spirit who opens the ears of the sheep to hear His voice.
When Jesus says He came in by the gate or door, He is saying he came lawfully, legally. He came as a fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. His miracles were signs and credentials he was presenting to the religious rulers, but they were spiritually blind. He came in by the law in the fullness of time. Born of a virgin in the town of Bethlehem, a descendant of David. No one else could have had the credentials He did. The Pharisees had just asked Jesus, “Are we blind, too?” Jesus is making it very clear they are blind. The blind leading the blind.
The reaction of the Pharisees was not something unexpected. We read in Jeremiah: “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying the sheep of my pasture, declares the Lord.” The Lord then says He will gather the remnant of the flock Himself. He states He will raise up to David, a righteous branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. (Jeremiah 23) If you have ever done any genealogy search for your family, you realize there are many branches in a family tree. But prophecy made it clear how this One would be recognized and Jesus had fulfilled and was fulfilling all the many prophecies. But these religious leaders were spiritually blind. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus, he could not see the kingdom of God, unless he was born again of the Spirit.
Jesus now introduces another word picture of Himself with another “I AM” statement. Jesus says I am the door. Think about a door: a door divides/ separates; a door secures; a door opens; a door gives access. Jesus is the door. He is the door which opens to the abundant life, eternal life. He stands and knocks at the door of our hearts, our lives, and ask to be invited in so He can share His life with us.
Now the sheep in the community pen were not branded. Nor did the Eastern shepherds of Jesus’ time use sheep dogs to herd the sheep and drive them. They led them and the sheep recognized their voice as surely as a beloved pet dog recognizes his master’s voice. Jesus said his sheep know his voice. They will not follow strangers. They will not be tossed to and fro by false teachers, thieves who want to steal from the master’s flock with false teaching. Jesus said he came to testify to the truth and those who side with the truth listen to him. A shepherd leads his sheep. He goes before them. He knows where he is leading them- to still waters and green pastures. He will lead us into the way everlasting. He will not lead us into temptation and will deliver us from evil. He comforts me and protects me with His rod and his staff.
Jesus says he is the good shepherd, the true shepherd. He is the Way. He is the Truth. He is the Life. He is the only One who can lead us to the Father, there is no other way.
The true shepherd saves. By me if any man enters in he will be saved.
The true shepherd provides. You shall go in and out and find pasture.
The true shepherd secures. The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that you might have life.
The true shepherd satisfies. I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.
Jesus came that we might have life, eternal life, abundant life. But this promised life is only on His terms. On his terms we can have life now and forever on a higher plane, a life in the Promised Land. How is this done? How can we have the abundant life?
THE ABUNDANT LIFE
Now we must understand in the eyes of God all of humanity can be divided into two categories. Those who are lost, the natural man and those who are saved, born again. Now among those who are born again, there are two categories: the spirit filled and the carnal.
The natural man cannot understand the supernatural. He believes it to be foolishness. Unless he is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God, for it is spiritually discerned and he does not have the Spirit of God. The natural man is dominated by self, sin and Satan. He is under the dominion of the one who is called the prince of power of the air. He or she may be a moral person, a good parent, good spouse. They may also be immoral and depraved. But a lost person is not necessarily a hideous monster. Many of them are sitting next to you in church, belong to the same clubs you do, root for the same football team and care about many of the things a Christian does. He or she does not judge things by the same standards we do. They are blinded to the truth. Their philosophy of life runs the gambit from paganism to a hodgepodge buffet of beliefs, both moral, amoral and immoral. Self is the judge of all they do.
The saved person, the spiritual man is described as one who is rightly related to God through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. This relationship was brought about by the Holy Spirit. So we have received the Spirit of God that we might understand what God has given us. The saved man, has the Holy Spirit dwelling in him or her. They are being taught and empowered by the Spirit. The spiritual person judges spiritual things, the Bible is our source of truth by which we judge and try to live our lives by.
The Spirit-filled Christian has accepted Jesus Christ as Savior. They have yielded to Christ as Lord. And they have appropriated Christ as their life. Paul describes this in detail in Romans 6,7 & 8. In Galatians 2: 20 we read a description of this process: “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.” We are partakers of His divine nature. This represents the highest plane we can live on. However, we do not always abide on this plane.
Unfortunately, we do not always live Spirit-filled, and Spirit-led lives. We have His divine nature, but we also have our old nature. When we give into the demands of the old nature, the flesh, we are described as carnal. The carnal Christian lives their life partly unto God and partly unto himself. There is divided control in their life, usually in one particular area of sin which so easily entangles them. These two natures are side by side. They travel on parallel paths. This is why Paul writes of his own experience, whenever he wanted to do good, evil was always present.
These three planes are the levels upon which we live and carry out our daily lives. The natural man in God’s view lives on the lowest plane. Their description of the abundant life, the good life can be as simple as eat, drink and be merry. You only go around once, so live life with gusto. Others want to build their own kingdom of wealth, power and possessions. Others want to do good works which they will leave behind as a legacy. But their lives are measured by standards which they have adopted, standards which might include truths, half-truths, and outright lies. Some are happy and well -adjusted, or appear to be. But things are not always as they seem. They have chosen a way that is right to them. They have entered the wide gate and headed down the broad way. There is a veil over their minds and they cannot ‘see’ the truth. But we must continue to cast the seed, water it and God’s role is to produce growth. Many of these have built an empire, a successful business and in the eyes of the world, a successful life. They have climbed the ladder of success only to find at some point in the eternal future they have leaned their ladders against the wrong wall.
All of us were born searching for something. God placed eternity in our hearts. We were born spiritually dead. We were without form and in darkness until the light of the Gospel came into our lives and we discovered what it was we were created for and why we exist.
We will study this in depth in John 15, the Abiding Life. Where Jesus will tell us He is the True Vine and the Father is the constant gardener, the owner of the vineyard. We discover the secret of living in the right relationship with the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The secret of living is to know we were created to glorify God. By this is God glorified, that we bear much fruit. The secret of living is glorifying God by fruit bearing. Notice it is not fruit producing. The secret to fruit bearing is abiding, this is the only way we can bear fruit. The secret to abiding is obeying. And the secret to obeying is loving. And the secret to loving is knowing.
Listen to how Jesus describes eternal life, life abundant, and life with the Father. “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17) How do we come to know God?
The Gatekeeper, the Holy Spirit will let the True Shepherd into the sheepfold. He will open the sheep’s ears to hear their Master’s voice. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then can they call on the name of the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not hear? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? AS it is written, how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news. But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah said, “Lord, who has believed our message? Consequently, faith, comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of God. “Psalm 19 tells us the heavens declare the Glory of God. But we also are to be salt and light and let the light of the Gospel shine into their eyes. We are to teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always unto the end of the world.
An abundant life awaits each of us believers- it is our possession. It is the Promised Land. But we must enter into the abundant life by grace through faith. It is grace which has brought us thus far and it is grace which will take us home.
The natural man is laboring to build an abundant life. The carnal man is confused about the abundant life for his old nature keeps taking control of certain areas of his or her life. The Spirit filled Christian is walking in the light as He is in the light and in fellowship with fellow believers and God. We seem to forget or not take seriously the spiritual truth, that when we gather together to worship Him, He is in our midst.
HOW TO BUILD A SPIRIT-FILLED, SPIRIT-LED ABUNDANT LIFE
Just writing this sub-title was such a challenge, I thought about changing it. But isn’t this what we want to do? That is the question. So let’s use a real world example, just like Jesus does.
Have you ever built a house? Gina and I did. And we still talk about how it made us feel to move into it- to see it built from the foundation up.
So the first thing Jesus tells us to build a spirit-filled abundant life is the foundation. He instructs us in Matthew 7. “Anyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down and the winds blew and beat against the house, yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. The first step in building a good house is a solid foundation. The first step is to make sure your life is built on the solid rock, for all other ground is sinking sand. Like the foolish builder who built his house on the sand. I would also point out Jesus is letting us know storms come into both the lives of the saved and the lost. How foolish not to build your life on the One called the cornerstone. My life is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness. I believe in the virgin birth, the Word of God who became flesh; who was crucified for my sins, and I was crucified with Him; I believe He arose on the third day in a glorified body and ascended to heaven where He was exalted and sent the Holy Spirit who indwells me.
After the foundation is laid, we begin to build the superstructure, the house itself. We pictured each room as it would be. Then when all the walls were up, the doors and windows in and the roof is on, we have standing before us a house, a home. Jesus the Carpenter of Nazareth has built this for us. He created this earth on which we live and exist. He is currently building a retirement community in which I will live forever. You see, Jesus has moved in with me. I live with Him and He lives with me. The abiding life
Now once the foundation is laid, and the superstructure is completed, the interior has to be designed and decorated. This is the work of the Holy Spirit, our interior decorator. He comes to cleanse us from the inside -out, put everything in place and order, so that we live each day reminded of the One who made it all possible. The One who even now is preparing a place for us which we cannot even imagine how wonderful it will be. When you walk in the completed, brand new house, you love everything about it. It is so clean and pristine, it sparkles. The Interior Decorator has done a work and created a wonderful place for you. But it must be maintained. It must be cleaned regularly.
The abundant life is very simply the life lived with Jesus at home in your heart. You can be in a five room house with three children and be content, because Jesus is at home in your heart, seated on the throne of your heart.
But let your old nature come into your home, and take control and take the place in your heart reserved for Jesus, and your home will become defiled. He will let the enemy take control of your evening with entertainment which will grieve the Holy Spirit. Your old nature will cause you to be discontented with the home you once loved because of envy and lust of the eyes, wanting more of the world, until your life becomes crowded and your carnal heart has crowded out the word of God.
So remember what brings us joy- bearing much fruit. And remember unless the Lord builds a house, the builders labor in vain.
Jesus said, life does not consist of the abundance of possessions. King Solomon had more than anybody had, but found these possessions, this wealth was meaningless. Paul on the other hand had learned to be content regardless of the situation. Life without God is meaningless. Life with God is life as God intended it to be. He always wanted to live with you and me.
The abundant life begins the moment we trust Jesus as Savior. He becomes the foundation of our new life. He becomes the superstructure, which we now supernaturally share with Him. And He brings into our life the décor and surroundings which glorify Him daily. He is the light of our life. He is our life. The abundant life.