Bible Verses that have changed my life:
The thief comes to steal, to kill and to destroy. But I have come that they may have life, and life more abundantly. [Words of Jesus]
This is one of those stock Bible Verses that I’m sure most Christians who grew up in the Church would have grown up reciting. It is one of those verses that so easily lends itself to being the weekly memory verse of a children’s Sunday School.
This verse has changed my life not by a sudden, sharp realisation as with some other verses I have already discussed. Rather it is something that remained at the background of my mind for many years, that my mind would often return to.
“But I have come that they may have life.” I think it is valuable to examine this from the end, because I often think of it that way round. In fact, this is the main part that really speaks to me from this verse.
“And life more abundantly” What exactly does this mean when Jesus says that He has come to give life more abundantly? Is He talking “merely” about the eternal life that is available to all Christians? (Although of course there is nothing “mere” about that.) Or is He talking about living a “super-abundant” life down here on earth? I think the accepted answer is a bit of both. First and foremost I’d say that He was talking about eternal life, and being accepted into relationship with God. Actually, this one verse has caused me much evaluation and thought. Many Christians take this verse to mean that as Christians we have a full expression of life down here on earth, and we can express our lives to their fullest natural potential. I really wish that I believed this too, and for a long time I tried to embrace this understanding of this verse, as to me it is the most naturally appealing understanding of this verse. However, I just cannot get past the thinking that as Christians, our main purpose here on earth is to introduce other people to Christ, not to live out our own lives to their most glorious potential.
This is a topic I look at in my free ebook: “Why the Christian life is not the life that God created us to live“.
The point I am trying to make is this: there seem to me to be two main camps within Christianity.
The first preaches that the Christian life down here on earth is a restoration of the original life that God created us to live on earth. So God created human beings with phenomenal potential etc. So these Christians who subscribe to this mindset would seek to restore that. When advertising the Christian faith they advertise to people the possibility of living to their full original God-given potential. I think that the Prosperity Gospel is essentially based on this thinking.
The second camp, to which I (mostly!) belong teaches that yes, God created life to be amazing and full of prosperity etc. However, that initial potential has been marred by sin. Now that we are Christians, our overwhelming priority is to introduce people to the Kingdom of God, not to achieve their own full potential, but to be further empowered to themselves introduce people into the Kingdom of God, and so on and so forth until the whole world ideally is saved, and we can all go to Heaven, and there live out our full potential.
I’ll admit that the first mindset is a lot easier to embrace because it means that we do not have to wait for Heaven to fully enjoy everything that God created us for. And yet for myself, while I know that God created the world to be beautiful and created us with phenomenal potential, I’m always thinking ahead to Heaven, and thinking I would give up all of these things to see just one extra person saved from the wrath of hell. So if it is a matter of time, I would rather dedicate my time to seeing someone saved, than even to something good like living out my full potential on earth.
This might sound like a big contradiction to anyone who follows either of my blogs. I’m usually talking about wanting to excel in life, wanting to be the best I can be. To be honest, it is complex and I am always struggling to find a balance. Naturally I am as drawn towards fulfilling my full potential as anyone else. The way I usually look at it is this: To the extent that I have to work, to that extent, I will excel in each of my tasks, and the rest of my time by the grace of God I will dedicate to God’s service.
If then this verse does not talk of living out our lives to our fullest potentials down here on earth, this is what I believe it does mean. (By the way I would love to be wrong about this!) I believe that by life to its fullest, Jesus means intimacy with God, and purity of heart, holiness, righteousness, knowing God, walking in His truth. These are the things that truly convey life in all its fullness to us.
The thief comes only to steal to kill and to destroy: This is something that I often have to remind myself. The sole purpose of the devil is to simply destroy what is good, or what is lovely, or what is life-giving. That is all that he does! He just finds ways of destroying, of disrupting, of spoiling what is good. The way he often does that is by getting us human beings to act in ways that are selfish or greedy or loveless. We can see the work of the devil everyday wreaking disorder, chaos and confusion in our relationships, our lives in general, the greater environment, even in things like litter, which to me is an expression of immense selfishness. And he is always at work. He never rests. So as Christians we ourselves can never rest, and get complacent. We can only rest assured that the devil will be tirelessly working to find a way to spoil what around us is good. Even if something wholesome has existed for generations, we can trust that he and his cohorts will be working away to find a way to pull it down. So as Christians we have to remain on our guard, always. It is only when we get to Heaven that we can trust that the influence of the devil will have ceased forever, never to be worried about again!
Thankfully though, the thrust of this verse is that even though the devil, here called “the thief” does work in this way, Jesus Himself stands to counteract that, even down here on earth. Even though the devil does work in that way, the life that Jesus offers overcomes all the devil’s attempts to steal kill and destroy. In practice as a Christian this will often mean that the devil’s attempts at destruction will often touch my life, often through my own handiwork. And yet, through the power of Jesus, peace will often be restored in those situations, sometimes in ways that I have not anticipated!
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