11 Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12 It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13 Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14 No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. 15 See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. 16 For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. 17 But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, 18 I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19 This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live 20 and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him. For the Lord is your life, and He will give you many years in the land He swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. 13 Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
The world is full of unhappy and dissatisfied people. And because of this, people everywhere are looking for answers to the emptiness they feel inside. These people will try anything to find some sort of satisfaction or happiness. For all the ingenuity of modern man and the amazing things we’ve accomplished, particularly in the last few decades, we remain surrounded by divorce, suicide, drug dependency, alcohol abuse, crime, prostitution, sexual immorality, depression, pornography, eating disorders, emotional, and psychological disorders.
We are a messed up generation.
So what is the solution? Materialism and wealth? Pleasure and enjoyment? Power and prestige? Religion? Wisdom and understanding? Everybody wants the answer, and there seems to be a relentless pursuit to find it.
Proverbs 14:12 tells us, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.”
There is an answer to the eternal question, “How do I find happiness and satisfaction in life?”
Jesus told us in John 10:10 why He came. He said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Other translations speak about an abundant life, and that is our theme for today.
What did Jesus mean when He said that we can have an abundant life?
A dictionary definition of the word ‘full’ is ‘complete, perfect, being at the highest or greatest degree, the maximum’.
So when we talk about a full life, it means we’re talking about a life that is complete, not lacking anything essential. It implies that one’s life is successful, and there is an abundance of quality and life. The good news is that not only did Jesus come to save us, but He also came to give us an abundant life.
Yes, there is nothing more important than eternal life after this temporary life down here – that is the main purpose of His coming into our world, but Jesus also promises and offers a better life here and now.
Although if you look at some Christians, it’s hard to see it.
The reason why so many Christians are not living life to the full is because they don’t know what it is. Many Christians don’t really think that such a life is available to them, and that is so sad.
Jesus said, “I have come, that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
What this means is that God wants us to live lives full of joy, peace, and in a genuine friendship with God. Through Jesus, it is without a doubt, still available today. It can be done and Jesus came to do it. Christians call this quality of living an abundant life.
And it is not a pipe-dream, or just a wonderful theory. It does exist.
There are countless Christians who have discovered what it is and how to live it. And so can you.
Abundant living is a life that is filled with the things that are good for us.
People who enjoy the abundant life will possess all of these qualities: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. That’s the fruit of the Spirit that Paul writes about in Galatians 5. When we live the abundant life we can add to that list things like compassion, purity, humility, modesty, faith, character, wisdom, enthusiasm, dignity, optimism and confidence.
In other words, the abundant life is full of all the things money can’t buy.
No matter how much money you have, you cannot buy more patience, self-control, or salvation. The shops don’t sell wisdom or hope.
But it is possible for us to live lives that are full of all of these qualities.
We’re able to receive every one of these things from God, who is the giver of all good things. James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
But in chapter 4 James tells us why there are so many Christians who don’t have this life: “You do not have, because you do not ask God.”
The point is that your life must contain some qualities – you can’t be an empty void, so if you are not living the abundant life, then you are in very real danger of being dominated by negative qualities – another long list which includes selfishness, hatred, lust, unforgiveness, envy, jealousy, fear, sexual immorality, anger, dishonesty, greed, gossiping, slander, pessimism and despair.
People with these issues are often consumed by these kind of things, and they can have devastating effects on their own lives and on their relationships with their loved ones.
Not only that, but the more these negative qualities are a part of a person’s behaviour, the further that person is from living an abundant life.
The good news is that God can remove all of these negative characteristics from our lives – all of them. As I said last Sunday, His grace and mercy is always bigger than our sin.
If we look at the Bible, the people of Corinth lived a life full of wickedness and evil, but when Jesus was introduced to them, by the power and grace of God, many of them were able to free themselves from the immoral lives they’d been living for years.
Paul wrote to them in 1 Corinthians 6:11, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
If they were set free from their destructive behaviour by the grace of God, then He can certainly do the same for you.
The abundant life though, is found in Christ and no where else.
Everyone who does not have Jesus in their life, will not be able to experience true abundant living.
Now of course, there are many non-Christians who really do experience some happiness and satisfaction in their lives, but that is usually because they practice the qualities that make up the abundant life, such as patience, integrity, and kindness.
And at the same time they avoid the things that can destroy their happiness. There is no doubt that there are many non-believers whose lives (on the surface at least) are just wonderful.
Listen though to Jesus’ words in John 8:24, “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins.”
What this means is that no matter how much happiness and joy a non-Christian has, it is limited in quality and it’s only temporary. It will not extend into eternity for the simple reason that Christ is not part of who they are. The facts are that anyone who does not know Jesus Christ is spiritually dead, no matter how hunky-dory things might seem on the outside.
You cannot live a truly abundant life if you are spiritually dead.
In Ephesians 2:4 and 5 Paul says, “because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead.”
If you are in Christ, the abundant life is waiting for you.
But if it is available to us, then why are there so few Christians who really experience it?
Many of us are missing out because we do not believe that such a life really is available to us.
Jesus didn’t say, “I have come that some of them may have life, and have it to the full.”
We’re all invited to discover abundant living. It’s available to all God’s children, no matter what their circumstances are in life.
This is a hard concept for many Christians to accept. Many assume the abundant life depends on circumstances, or fate or luck, or their bank balance, or their status in life, or their health.
These things are important to us, but Jesus said in Luke 16:15, “What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.”
Wealth, power, status, and worldly pleasure have nothing to do with living the abundant life.
So how do we define or identify the abundant life?
The abundant life means that there is an abundance of something.
If we have this kind of life, we’re getting the most out of it.
It means living life to the fullest.
We’re not just existing, or simply trying to get by.
That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 6:25 to not worry about our life, what we will eat or drink, and what we will wear. If we allow ourselves to remain preoccupied with what we consider to be basic necessities, we will not be able to enjoy an abundant life.
It’s a mistake to allow what you consider to be urgent, daily issues to control you, because that will cause you to miss out on what is truly important.
As you learn to see what life is all about, you will begin to see all around you, many who are successfully living their own life to the full.
Again – this is not a theory. If you look around, you’ll see many people quietly going about their lives full of meaning and hope, joy, satisfaction and health, vitality, and peace of mind. They enjoy quality friendships, have good family relations, and a strong faith in God.
Their life becomes an adventure worth living.
Probably a way of trying to understand the qualities of a true abundant life is to understand what it is not.
It is not necessarily a life of comfort and ease.
Sometimes we need to go through the fire in order for it to melt away the impurities inside us. This is how God refines us. That is why James said, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”
It is not dependent on outside circumstances.
It’s not what happens to you that is nearly as important as how you respond to it. Some of the greatest people in history grew up in extreme poverty or with other hardships.
It is not glamorous, flashy or outwardly impressive.
The abundant life is a lot like that small gate and narrow road that Jesus told us about in Matthew 7.
The reason why so few find it is because it takes more effort to even notice it.
It is not instantaneous. Sometimes it takes years before you’re able to really experience the abundant life, but don’t allow that to discourage you.
We all have issues and baggage that bear us down, and it may take a long time for God to deal with these things in our lives.
But there are many signs which make it clear that you are living an abundant life:
You clearly understand that failure is an event, not a person. Your mistakes don’t define you and the person that you are.
You’re at peace with your past because you know you cannot change it – instead you are now focused on the present, and optimistic about your future because of Christ.
You know that success doesn’t make you, and failure doesn’t break you.
You are filled with faith, hope, and love, and live without anger, greed, guilt, envy, or thoughts of revenge.
You are mature enough to shift your focus from your rights to your responsibilities, because you understand what it means to love with the love of Jesus.
You are secure in who you are, so you are at peace with God and those around you. You’re ‘happy in your skin.’
You have learned how to offer and accept forgiveness. You don’t hold grudges against those who have wronged you, and you have released those who are still angry with you for what you’ve said and done to them.
You understand that others can give you pleasure, but genuine joy comes from a servant heart as you do things for others.
You are pleasant to the grumpy, courteous to the rude, and generous to the needy.
You love the unlovable, give hope to the hopeless, friendship to the friendless, and encouragement to the discouraged.
You can look back in forgiveness, look forward in hope, look down in compassion, and look up with gratitude.
You recognise, confess, develop, and use your God-given physical, mental, and spiritual abilities to the glory of God and for the benefit of others.
And you will one day stand in front of the Creator of the universe and He will say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
If you don’t have these qualities, if your life is nowhere near abundant, you can have it.
There is not a magic formula. God graciously gives it to all who seek it.
“If you know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him?”
If you have never experienced or discovered the abundant life, the most important thing you can do right now, is to agree that Jesus in John 10:10 really has come so that you may enjoy life to the full. If you have already said yes to Jesus and have received eternal life, then the abundant life is yours.
However, it is a process, and it will become a life-style as you grow to be more like Christ.
Jesus Christ is the Way. He is the only Way. He is the Way out for you from your past and all the condemnation and guilt associated with your past. He is also the Way in for you. He has come to bring you an abundant life, and it is yours if you really want it.
Jesus said in Mark 11:24, “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
It’s up to you to decide if you believe Him.
Homegroup Study Notes
Read John 10:10 and Deuteronomy 30:11-20
Pay particular attention to verses 11 – 14.
There is no doubt that much of the Bible is difficult to understand, but when you connect Jesus’ words in John 10:10 to the verses we read in Deuteronomy 30, we’re told that finding the abundant life is not difficult or mysterious.
In which ways do you agree or disagree with this statement?
Discuss some the characteristics which are evidence of the abundant life.
What about the opposite? Without discussing individuals or naming people, what are some of the characteristics you see in some who clearly are not living an abundant life?
Read John 8:24
Obviously there are many non-Christians that live a life of joy and contentment, but bearing in mind what Jesus said in John 8, discuss some of the fundamental differences between the Christian’s understanding and the worldly definition of living life abundantly.
If you feel able, share with your group what you believe to be some of the obstacles preventing you from truly living life to its fullest.
Close by praying for each other