John 10:10 MKJV The thief does not come except to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
Jesus is incredibly positive. This verse alone should put strained holiness and mean-spirited asceticism to flight. Jesus has come so that ordinary people, sheep, might have abundant life and still more abundant life.
But there is another force at work in this world also. A negative, death-dealing principle that comes to “steal, kill and destroy” and this is represented by the devil and his agents – the Pharisees and false teachers who stole ‘widow’s houses” (Matthew 23:14) murdered the prophets (Matthew 23:34) and took counsel as to how to destroy Jesus (Matthew 12:14).
As we saw in the series on Solution-Focused Faith, Jesus is positive and constructive. His aim to build a perfect grace-filled community of faith that is resonant with love and which dwells in peace. The abundant life is always in community “for He hath prepared a city for them”. (Hebrews 11:16)
I am listening to Beethoven’s 6th Symphony as I write, the Pastoral Symphony and this whole composition is one glorious celebration of the true abundant life, and ends with thanks being given to God. Yet, interestingly in the middle of the symphony is a great storm. It is after the storm that true abundance is most deeply felt and glory is given to God.
The abundant life may have its storms but the storms only serve to deepen the sense of abundance in the end. Job is an example of this truly abundant life (abundance -> trial - > deeper abundance). Going through the great trial, which involves Satanic “stealing, killing and destroying”, just, ends up with greater abundance and deeper faith in the end.
Let us take a moment to look at “the storm” and Satan’s devices for “stealing, killing and destroying”. False religion acts against true abundance in several ways:
1. It substitutes material or sexual or emotional abundance for the abundant life of love in community. (2 Peter 3:1-22)
3. Or in the name of being unworldly it becomes unnatural and denies our creaturely humanity. (Colossians 2:8-23)
4. Or it creates a false community that is cultist and destructive and even lethal.
5. Or it creates something “higher than” a person in the image of God - such as a law or cause or principle, and for this law or cause or principle everything must be sacrificed – and thus anything becomes permissible.
True Christianity always leads to joy in the end, through many tribulations admittedly, but always to joy. False religion steals joy, kills faith and destroys peace and love, while Christ brings these things to joyful abundance.
If Christ has come to give us life and life more abundant – why do we have to pay the rent and deal with phone companies? We could put all this down to the Devil but the Scriptures seem not to do so. Christ came as the incarnate Word, born in a stable, trained as a carpenter, and well aware of dusty, weary, thirsty normal life, trudging on foot from one hot village to the next. Jesus did not flit around Galilee on angel’s wings - He walked. So Christ redeems the routine.
If Jesus gives people abundant life, then He must have possessed abundant life Himself. Thus when we look at Jesus we are seeing the abundant life – sandals, fishing nets, and all. It is a life redolent with grace, abundant with love, showered in the miraculous and blazing with significance that echoes down the centuries. However it is somewhat lacking in chariots, fine robes and palatial mansions! For the abundant life has nothing to do with such things (though it may on occasion include them).
The abundance of Jesus is the abundance of the true saint. The true saint comes to a point one day when he knows that the whole universe is his! The trees, the birds, the sun and moon and stars are all his to enjoy for free. For true ownership is simply the ability to enjoy something! Suppose a certain rich man buys a large yacht but he is perpetually busy with buying and selling so he never gets to enjoy it. Yet he has a poor man that he hires to take care of the boat and live on it and sail it now and then for guests. Whose boat is it in reality? The one who enjoys it! Now the saint knows that the sun and the moon and the stars and the breeze are all his to enjoy fully and completely, without let or hindrance - and so they are “his”.
1 Corinthians 3:21-23 MKJV (21) Therefore let no one glory in men. For all things are yours, (22) whether it is Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours, (23) and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's.
Revelation 21:7 MKJV He who overcomes will inherit all things, and I will be his God, and he will be My son.
1 Timothy 6:17 MKJV Charge the rich in this world that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, He offering to us richly all things to enjoy,
Now I do not mean that I can go out and claim the oil rights in Alaska! But I am rich in the things that God gives me to enjoy. Good health, an excellent wife, two cats, good friends, great music, books and food and drink and nature and sunshine - and truly these things can be an abundant feast!
The pure heart adores God, loves life, enjoys all things and knows true abundance. The pure heart knows the vibrancy of an abundant and joyous life. It sees beauty, it finds joy, and it even sings in prison. As Billy Sunday once said “If they put me in a barrel to keep me quiet, I would shout ‘Hallelujah’ out the bung-hole!”