In John 10 we find these words of Jesus:
7 So Jesus said again, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, that I Myself am the Door for the sheep. 8 All others who came [as such] before Me are thieves and robbers, but the [true] sheep did not listen to and obey them. 9 I am the Door; anyone who enters in through Me will be saved (will live). He will come in and he will go out [freely], and will find pasture. 10 The thief comes only in order to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows). 11 I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd risks and lays down His [own] life for the sheep.
(John 10:7-11 AMP)
What a beautiful section of Scripture!
But what, exactly, does this abundant life that Jesus promised "look like?"
And how would I know when I have received it?
So Far From Eden
Each day that passes brings us one step closer to our death and one step further from Eden. We look around at tragedies and recognize that things have gone terribly wrong.
We live in a sin-cursed world and, as a good friend of mine used to say, "Part of the punishment for sin is sin."
In other words, because Adam and Eve sinned in the beginning, sin entered the world and the result has been devastating.
Sin leads to more sin.
Unfortunately, many are either blinded by their lost condition or are content living in it.
But many others are seeking a way out—a solution to the chains of sin. And that's exactly what Jesus is saying He provides!
The Door's Open...Come On In
Jesus is the door.
He offers entry to all people (sheep).
Inside is life—not just existence, but quality life. Inside is the Father, the source of life.
A few chapters later, we find these words of Jesus:
I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
(John 14:6 NKJV)
Jesus makes numerous statements regarding entry into the kingdom, but one thing should be crystal clear: If I want in I must do it His way. I don't get to decide the terms.
Recall Jesus' invitation:
28 Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
(Matt. 11:28-29 NKJV)
Jesus offers rest to the weary and burdened down, but in order to receive it we have to yoke up with Him and pull together through life.
It's on His terms, not ours.
Enjoy Life To Overflowing
When one comes to Jesus and enters by Him, they also receive:
- the Father (John 14:23),
- the Spirit (Acts 5:32),
- and all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3).
Ponder the thought: When we accept GOD's gift of forgiveness of sins, we get GOD Himself.
How amazing that the Father, Son and Spirit dwell in our bodies!
It is my strong belief that the extent to which a Christian "feels alive" is directly proportional to how closely connected we are to our Father—the Life-Giver.
In other words, each Christian has the opportunity to directly influence the "level" of life they experience.
What then is the controlling substance?
GOD has always done amazing things through people who had strong faith. This is precisely the point of Hebrews 11.
And lack of faith is all that limits a person from spiritual greatness.
Recall these instructions of Jesus:
14 And when they had come to the multitude, a man came to Him, kneeling down to Him and saying, 15 “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and suffers severely; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. 16 So I brought him to Your disciples, but they could not cure him.” 17 Then Jesus answered and said, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him here to Me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
(Matt. 17:14-21 NKJV)
It was a temporary loss of faith that caused Peter to sink as he walked upon the water.
My dad says that faith works like a conduit by which GOD's blessings and life flow to our spirit.
The more faith one has, the larger the conduit. I like that analogy. Jesus used a similar one:
4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
(John 15:4-5 NKJV)
Four Keys to Increased Faith
If faith is the key to abundant life, then how can someone grow in their faith?
- Develop a habit of frequently reading GOD's word and meditating upon it.
The value of Bible reading is difficult to overstate. When we read GOD's word, He is speaking directly to us and teaching us as we sit at His feet. Show me a person who has life overflowing and I will show you someone who regularly studies their Bible. Faith comes by hearing the word of GOD (Rom. 10:17).
- Hold an ongoing intimate conversation with GOD.
Each of the Christians that I know who live abundantly pray regularly and deeply. As Christians, we have been adopted as sons of the King and are heirs to His promises.
4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!”
(Gal. 4:4-6 NKJV)
GOD should be our very best friend. After all, He knows us better than anyone, including ourselves—and our conversation should reflect that intimacy.
Too often, I hear my brethren using these rote phrases in prayer which are borne of repetition and, in my opinion, have no power. In many situations, they're simply fillers. They don't use those phrases with their other friends, so why use them with GOD? The point of this is not the specific words but to increase faith by drawing closer to GOD.
One final note on this subject: It is vital that we maintain a keen awareness of GOD's holiness as we approach Him. We must always remember that we are unworthy to come into His presence on our own merit, but because of Jesus' blood we may approach His throne boldly (Heb. 4:16). We must guard against developing a casual attitude toward GOD.
- Focus on learning the lessons GOD is teaching you daily.
GOD is constantly active and working in our life. He is in the process of sanctifying us (1 Cor. 6:11), transforming us (2 Cor. 3:18), and conforming us to Jesus' image (Rom. 8:29). And when we need correcting He disciplines us (Heb. 12:5-11; Rev. 3:19).
The faster we can learn the lesson GOD is teaching us, the faster we can change and, often times, limit the pain experienced in the process.
- Be open-minded as to how the Spirit might be working in you for GOD's glory.
16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.
(1 Thess. 5:16-22 NKJV)
I know a lot of Christians who I feel quench the Spirit and, as a result, do not enjoy the quality of life that GOD intends for them. They often seem without joy or lack confidence in their salvation.
One of the most common ways in which I feel brethren quench the Spirit is by professing that He only dwells in us through the Word. I have not found this taught in Scripture. (Click here for a more thorough look at the role of the Holy Spirit in the NT.)
What Does Abundant Life Look Like?
While it's true that a person won't completely realize Jesus' promise of abundant life in this world, the promise certainly applies to life on earth as well.
What then, does abundant life look like?
Here are some characteristics that I believe are indicators that a person is enjoying this type of life. Abundant life-ers:
- Walk according to the Spirit and not the flesh (Rom. 8:1).
- Are joyful—that is, FULL of joy.
- Feel a strong sense of peace (Phil. 4:7).
- Actively try to work alongside of GOD.
- Passionately care about their work in the kingdom.
- Love all people, including those who are lost.
- Continually grow spiritually.
- Thoughtfully and frequently pray throughout the day.
- Look forward to doing good each day, regardless of their circumstances.
Our Father in heaven is good, and He longs to bless us in whatever way(s) we need it most.
Regardless of where we are today, our goal should be to achieve the abundant life that GOD longs to give us.
There is nothing more rewarding than emptying ourselves of ourselves so that He can use us in whatever way He sees fit. That is the best, most rewarding quality of earthly life that we can experience—to know that we spent our life making a difference for His cause.
That is life overflowing.
Ask Him for it; He'll give it to you if you are willing.