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Finding An Abundant Life

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Finding An Abundant Life

John 10: 10

(Read text…NIV) Several years ago I met a man in his late thirty’s named Jim, whose wife came to my church, but Jim did not. He had done very well for himself in business: So well, in fact, that was the portrait of success. He had a beautiful family, nice house, head-turning car, and money. He claimed he had met every financial goal he set, and I believe it. He had dreamed big dreams, but then his dreams kept him tossing and turning all night long. His desire for career had almost cost him his family. Now his aggressiveness in business was endangering his position with his firm. He had lived the American Dream and it became a nightmare. He was the type of person Jesus described as gaining the world but being in danger of losing his soul. He had achieved his life goals, only to discover that he did not have a life.

When I think about the type of dreams we tend to dream, it seems to me that they can be grouped into one or two major categories: taking control of our lives or making the most of our lives. We want more than mere existence: we want life! Well here’s the good news: Jesus wants us to have life, and to have it abundantly. The question is how can we move from merely ‘existing,’ even though we may ‘exist’ at a very high standard, to having life and having it abundantly?

As I have talked with friends and neighbors, read the papers and magazines, and as I look at my own life, it seems that people are struggling with 4 basic life-questions: 1. How can I enjoy the good things God has given me without drowning in my stuff? 2. How can I have healthier, happier, and more meaningful relationships? 3. How can I keep my real-life need for money from becoming a life-killing obsession? 4. How can I redeem my time and make the most of the time God has given me?

To answer those questions in any meaningful and significant way, we have to have a vantage point that we can refer back to. That is what today’s message is about. I want to give you a Biblical vantage point concerning God’s desire for us in Christ Jesus. Jesus himself summed up God’s desire for us: Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Here are some truths about us:

1. We are hungry for life.

We are hungry for life; we crave abundant life and Jesus teaches us that he came to give us life, and give it abundantly. One of the great philosophers and writers of the last century was Albert Camus whose life and writing was a search for meaning in a seemingly meaningless world. Camus began to attend church in the 1950’s at first to listen to a famous organist. But he continued to attend church to listen to a particular preacher. He became friends with that preacher, and in a letter to him said, "The reason I have been coming to church is because I am seeking. I’m almost on a pilgrimage—seeking something to fill the void that I am experiencing…. Certainly the public and the readers of my novels, while they see that void, are not finding the answers in what they are reading. But deep down you are right—I am searching for something that the world is not giving me…. In a sense we are all products of a mundane world, a world without spirit. The world in which we live and the lives which we live are decidedly empty….Since I have been coming to church, I have been thinking a great deal about the idea of a transcendent, something that is other than this world. It is something that you do not hear much about today, but I am finding it. …There is something that can bring meaning to my life. I certainly don’t have it, but it is there. On Sunday mornings, I hear that the answer is God."

Camus was searching for life, and he needed to hear Jesus say, “I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly.

In March of 1998, The Wall Street Journal ran an article that told the story of Mary Kay Powell, then president of Rastar Productions, a Hollywood production company. This is what the article said: “Decades of 80-hour work weeks passed, as Ms. Powell produced or co-produced everything from "Barbarians at the Gate" to "Harriet the Spy." Weekends found her on private jets bound for resorts in Mexico or Arizona. But along the way, she said, unease set in that she had lost sight of what was important. "At first, I couldn’t put my finger on it," she said. And then it hit her: "I’m separated from God. I am going to sound nuts, but it wasn’t until I asked God to forgive me for being away - off center--that life, as it were, began to come together again." She discovered the truth Jesus was describing when he said, “I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly.”

We are hungry for life, and we like most of the people we know are searching for life in one way or another. I recently spoke to a young man who was desperately searching for answers about how to have a meaningful life. He said that his business had so much potential, but something seemed to be holding it back and he couldn’t figure it out. I shared with him, based on my own personal experience that the starting point for an abundant life is in our relationship with God through Jesus Christ. If we would have life, we need to have a personal, ongoing relationship with God through Jesus who came to give life. He asked how to do that for himself and his business and I told him that he needed to surrender his life and his business to the Lord. I told him to take a leap of faith and trust God with his business. (Testimony – Rich McKinnon…)

We have been created in God’s image, and part of what that means is that we have been created to have an intimate friendship with him. There is a God-shaped place in our heart that can only be filled by God but we try to fill that shape with all sorts of things that the world would sell us. Have you ever purchased some major item, thinking that now that you’ve got it you’ll be a happier person? Let’s be honest, the only reason we make discretionary or luxury purchases is because deep down inside we have bought into the idea that that purchase will enable us to have a better, more abundant life.

In October last year I purchased a 60” big screen television. Why? I’m embarrassed to admit it, but at the time I was feeling that that having that 60” screen TV would help me experience more joy watching football than our old 27” T.V. did.  I did experience more joy, for about a week. Then, I realized that I needed a satellite system to get the most out of that TV! And on it goes! We will pay almost any price, and sometimes the ultimate price, to force a non-God-shaped piece into that hole in our heart that desires abundant life. Nothing else will fit that shape. I didn’t need that TV, even though I admit that it’s fun to have. What I needed was more of Jesus Christ. My heart was restless, just as Camus’ heart was restless; just as Mary Kay Powell’s heart was restless; just as just as your heart may be restless.

Let me share with you one of the most profound truths you will ever hear. St. Augustine said, "Humankind, this part of your creation, wishes to praise you. You arouse us to take joy in praising you, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you" (St. Augustine, The Confessions). Your restless heart will not find the abundant life you desire until you rest in Jesus. The second truth is:

2. The world will try to sell the life that Jesus freely offers.

Jesus said that we might have life and have it abundantly. That’s what we want to hear about. But before we can hear about that life, I need to warn you about the other side. Jesus said we have two choices: 1. We can look to Him for life, or 2. We can look elsewhere. Jesus offers abundant life for free, but all others would seek to sell us love, peace, and joy at a price, a very high price.

These people, Jesus warned us, are ultimately like the person who tries to enter a sheepfold by climbing over the back wall instead of coming through the front gate. Anyone who enters a sheepfold by climbing over the wall instead of coming in the front door, he warned, is a thief, and “the thief,” Jesus said, “Comes only to steal, kill, and destroy.”

We’ve been taught that you can’t get something for nothing. That would lead us to believe that if we want abundant life, then we will have to pay for it. And that is certainly what the world wants us to believe. Much of commercial marketing is about selling us life. My favorite commercial last fall was for a high-speed Internet service provider. I liked this commercial simply because it is so blatantly honest about trying to sell us abundant life. It’s the one that shows a man who has come to the end of the Internet—his computer tells him that he has seen all there is to see and that he has to quit, now. But then the commercial tells us that if we buy their high-speed service we’ll be able to load pages quicker and download faster, and (this is my favorite part), if we do so we will, and I am quoting, “experience more joy.” According to the commercial, joy and life is something we can experience more of if we buy their service. To the world, abundant life has a price tag. It is not free.

John Michael Talbot, a songwriter, cautions us: The world “will seek only its own advantage. It considers only how another might be used … never offers its help without its price, without reward”

Anyone who tries to sell life, says Jesus, is a thief because he or she or it is seeking to charge for what Jesus freely gives. The ultimate thief is Satan himself who offers us a taste of life so that he might end up tasting us.

 C.S. Lewis gets at this truth in his book, The Screwtape Letters. The Screwtape Letters are letters written from a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood. At one point, Screwtape compares the desire of Satan to take with God’s desire in Jesus to freely give: Screwtape says, “We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in; He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over”

People are hungry for life and are willing to pay a high price for it. And the world and Satan are glad to take our money and our soul. That is what Jesus is getting at when he warns us that the thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy—the thief is anything that would sell us the abundant life what Jesus wants to freely give.

3. Jesus offers life, freely and abundantly. So, what does this mean for you?

How can you begin to experience in your life the abundance that Jesus offers the world? 1. Admit your need for abundant life. 2. Admit that what you’re doing now to feed your craving for life is short-lived and never satisfied and is in fact costly. 3. Seek instead an abundant relationship with God through Jesus Christ that he offers for free. That might mean allowing him to fill that God shaped space in your heart. If you have already done that, then it might mean making an intentional decision to develop a life-giving relationship with Jesus.

Author, pastor, and onetime atheist Lee Strobel said: “How can I tell you the difference God has made in my life? My daughter Allison was 5 years old when I became a follower of Jesus, and all she had known in those five years was a dad who was profane and angry. I remember I came home one night and kicked a hole in the living room wall just out of anger with life. I am ashamed to think of the times Allison hid in her room to get away from me. Five months after I gave my life to Jesus Christ, that little girl went to my wife and said, "Mommy, I want God to do for me what he’s done for Daddy." At age 5!

What was she saying? She’d never studied the archeological evidence regarding the truth of the Bible. All she knew was her dad used to be hard to live with. But more and more her dad is becoming loving. And if that is what God does to people, then sign her up. At age 5 she gave her life to Jesus. Strobel writes, “God changed my family. He changed my world. He changed my eternity.”

Are you hungry for abundant life? Do you want God to change your family, your world, your eternity? Turn to Jesus. He offers life freely and abundantly.

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