#1 (Series on the "Promises of God")




TEXT:         John 10:1-10


INTRO:       In this new series of sermons we are going to discover the many promises God has made to us.  The first one we are going to look at is the promise that Christ made for us to have “abundant life.”


The world has always tried to portray Christianity in a negative light; Christians lose out on so much in their view!  Most unsaved people's idea of being a Christian is a life full dos and don'ts ... of being unable to have fun and enjoy life.  The world thinks of Christianity as a life of restrictions and boredom.


The trouble is that the world thinks of happiness associated with "stuff" instead of the condition of the heart and soul.  An "ABUNDANT LIFE" is not necessarily a life with lots of stuff; it is a life full of abundant peace and joy!  The world is always making this mistake!


ILLUS:    While working among Cuban Americans in Miami I frequently heard the following story:   Shortly after the Communist revolution in Cuba, there were strong persuasive attempts at turning the people away from God. In grade schools, teachers would ask their students whether God could live up to His promises or not. Of course, the students said yes.  The teacher would then illustrate how impotent God actually was. The teacher instructed the students to fervently pray for candy. After ten minutes, the teacher would ask if anyone received any candy. The students responded with a sad "No." Then the teacher would ask the students to ask the Communist state for candy. With expectant hearts, the students did so, and the teacher went around the room filling the students’ hands with sweets.  This truly is a differing perspective. Communism as a cure for social ills has no room for a loving God. The state's protection of the individual for the benefit of the state will never replace God's own Son dying for our sins on the cross. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 110-111.


God's promise of "abundant life" means much more than the stuff of this world! 


PROP. SENT:    The Bible teaches us that God has made available through Jesus Christ an abundant life that is far more glorious than anything this world can offer and greater than all the stuff of this world.  It is available to all those who would come and ask!


I.   THE AFFRONTIVE LIFE   10:1, 8, 10a


A.   Shortcuts!   10:1

1.   The Bible and Jesus clearly taught that there is but one way to new life ... only through Christ!

a.   Any other way reveals a "thief or robber!"

b.   History is full of examples of people offering peace and happiness through some other way besides Christ!

c.   All those who do so are simply thieves and robbers!

2.   We live in a world that loves "shortcuts" to everything ... anything that makes things easier or free!

a.   People want abundance but without responsibilities!

b.   Sometimes this idea even filters down into our concepts of God's blessings in our lives!


ILLUS:    A friend told me about a man who had come to him with a prayer request.  He had purchased a lottery ticket that would pay him $100,000 if it turned out to be the "lucky" one.  He asked my friend, who was a pastor, to pray that his number would be picked so he could give one-tenth of his winnings to the Lord.  The minister hesitated, the said, "All right, but first let me ask you this:  Are you willing to give God the same percentage of your present weekly income?"  The fellow looked surprised and dismayed.  "B-b-but I need that to live on," he stammered.  This man's heart was not right with God.  His seemingly spiritual request was merely a cover-up for selfishness. – Source Unknown


3.   Attitudes in Christianity are shifting today, from a life of sacrificial giving to selfish getting!

a.   People judge a church more on what they will get from it than what they can give to it!

b.   And some Christians wonder why their lives are still so empty after accepting Christ; if their idea of "abundant life" is just getting and not giving they will find a great disappointment in Christianity!

c.   The joy of abundant living does not come from getting as much as it comes from giving of oneself to God and to others, this is what fills the heart with joy!

4.   Christ died for us so that we could live for Him and for others, not ourselves.

a.   As we empty ourselves we suddenly discover a pleasure in life we could never have imagined before!

b.   The happiest people in the world are those who are not focused on their self!


B.   Selfish!   10:8,10a

1.   Most of the other leaders who have come and gone through history before Christ called men and women to come and do their bidding, which usually ended in somehow building their own kingdom rather than God's!

a.   These other leaders’ ambitions usually served their own ends and ambitions, not those of other people!


ILLUS:    One of Hitler's closest associates was Albert Speer, who served as his minister of supply and whose productive genius was responsible for harnessing the power of German industry to the need for weapons.  In his book, Inside the Third Reich, he paints a very interesting portrait of Hitler:  I suppose if Adolf Hitler ever had a friend, I would have been that friend.  Hitler could fascinate.  He wallowed in his own charisma, but he could not respond to friendship.  Instinctively, he repelled it. The normal sympathies that normal men and women enjoy were just not in him.  At the core of the place where his heart should be, Hitler was a hollow man.  He was empty.  We, who were close to him or thought we were, all came to sense this, however slowly.  You couldn't even enjoy eating cherries with him.  We all were simply projections of his gigantic ego. – Source Unknown


b.   While those who have come before in history talked about making things better for mankind, they usually had in mind making things better for their own egos!

2.   Man will rarely accomplish giving real abundant life to anyone, motives are not always clear and the ability to give others happiness is very limited by their own egos and weaknesses.

3.   In this sense most others have been nothing more than simple THIEVES and ROBBERS ... takers, not givers!

a.   When was the last time a thief "blessed your household?"

b.   When was the last time you were grateful for the robber that visited your home?

4.   Israel had been taken down the river over and over again by many leaders who promised all kinds of good things but in the end Israel was robbed of their spiritual heritage, usually things ended in captivity and loss!

a.   Repeatedly they learned that there were no shortcuts to finding God's love and blessings!

b.   Over and over again they discovered that abundant life begins in the heart, not in the checkbook!

5.   History is replete with examples of very wealthy people who have not been happy or felt fulfilled!  It is also full of examples of those who were poor by this world's standards and yet were rich in so many other ways!

6.   Beware of any leader that promises you abundant life through any shortcuts, abundant life comes through living abundantly for Christ!


II.  THE ABUNDANT LIFE    10:2-7, 9, 10b


A.   Savior   10:2-7, 9

1.   There was only one entrance to the safe sheep pen, only the gate itself was the proper way to enter!

a.   Sheep pens in Jesus' day had a single gate, but it was only an opening, there was no gate itself for the shepherd himself slept in the opening making his own body the gate!

b.   Hence Jesus' statement that "I am the door" ... only robbers and thieves tried to enter some other way!

2.   Anyone promising abundant life outside of Christ is just this, a thief and a robber!

a.   Sheep felt secure only by their shepherd!

b.   The sheep learned early to respond only to the shepherd's voice.

3.   Only Christ can change the values that we hold, those of this world value "stuff" but Christ values "souls."

a.   When we come to Christ we receive a whole new way of looking at what is really important!

b.   The focus of the world is on the stuff of this world while the focus of a Christian is on the stuff of God's kingdom!

c.   Christ as savior makes a dramatic difference in people's lives!


ILLUS:    Pastor Rittenhouse and his family were on vacation traveling down the highway when they saw a suitcase fly off the top of a car going the opposite direction. They stopped to pick it up, but the driver of the other car never stopped. The only clue to the driver's identity was a twenty dollar gold piece inscribed: "Given to Otis Sampson at his retirement by Portland Cement Company." After extensive correspondence, Otis Sampson was located and contacted.  He wrote a letter telling them to discard the suitcase and all its contents, and send only the gold piece. Mr. Sampson used the phrase "my most precious possession," several times to describe the gold piece. Pastor Rittenhouse sent the gold piece, and wrote a cover letter telling Otis Sampson about his most prized possession, Jesus Christ. A year later, the pastor received a Christmas package. In it was the twenty dollar gold piece. Mr. Sampson wrote, "You will be happy to know we have become active members of a church. We want you to have this gold piece. I am seventy-four; my wife is seventy-two. You were the first one to tell us about Jesus. Now He is our most prized possession." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 262.


4.   Only Christ opens up the life to security and peace much the same way that the shepherd did for his sheep in the first century!

a.   To those looking for security and peace they need to listen to the real shepherd and forget those wolves and hirelings that promise all kinds of good stuff but usually at the expense of those they are hired to look after.

b.   There is only one true shepherd and it is Christ!

5.   Thieves and robbers were concerned about making a profit, the shepherd was concerned about feeding the sheep and securing their existence from the dangers of the world.


B.  Spectacular!   10:10b

1.   Christ unlike those others came not to take for Himself but to bring full life to all those who will respond!

a.   The word for "full" in Greek is "perissos," this word literally means, "superabundance" and "excessive, beyond measure!" ... both in quantity and quality!

b.   The greatest sacrifice brings the greatest blessing!

2.   No life on earth will be fuller than that of the Christian life, lived by filling oneself with Christ will cause an overflow of abundant life!

a.   We must always be sure to be filled with Christ however if we are to experience that life Christ has promised!

b.   It can be lost by not filling oneself with Christ and instead going to the world again to find joy and peace!


ILLUS:    A man who drank heavily was converted to Christ and lived victoriously for several weeks.  One day as he passed the open door of a tavern, the pungent odor drifting out aroused his old appetite for liquor.  Just then he saw this sign in the window of a nearby cafe: "All the buttermilk you can drink -- 25 cents!" Dashing inside, he ordered one glass, then another, and still another.  After finishing the third he walked past the saloon and was no longer tempted.  He was so full of buttermilk that he had no room for that which would be injurious to him.  The lesson is clear:  to be victorious over our evil desires, we must leave no opportunity for them to repossess us.  Dwight L. Moody once demonstrated the principle like this: "Tell me," he said to his audience, "how can I get the air out of the tumbler I have in my hand?"  One man said, "Suck it out with a pump." But the evangelist replied, "That would create a vacuum and shatter it."  Finally after many suggestions, moody picked up a pitcher and quietly filled the glass with water.  "There," he said, "all the air is now removed."  He then explained that victory for the child of God does not come by working hard to eliminate sinful habits, but rather by allowing the Holy Spirit to take full possession. – Source Unknown


3.   Abundant living can only continue as long as we stay close to the shepherd!

a.   If we follow any other path or any other leader we will find ourselves again in the throes of the thieves and robbers!

b.   The sheep had to enter the gate each night for safety ... to miss even a single night meant danger of loss!

c.   Jesus' promise of abundant life is linked to the sheep that follow the shepherd's voice and staying close!

4.   While there are many things in this world to fill our lives with this stuff will all end leaving us empty if we fail to embrace Christ!

5.   Only Christ promises a life with "abundance" ... and "superabundant" life!

6.   Have you discovered this life?


CONCLUSION:   The life lived for self ends up empty!  The life yielded to Christ as the great shepherd however leads to not just "abundant life" but "superabundant" life as the Greek word translated "abundant" is in the superlative form.  The thief takes, the shepherd gives!  The quality of life is very distinct!  Following Christ leads to abundant life.  How full is yours?