Monday, February 06, 2012

Having Life Abundantly

I have often touched in my heart on Jesus' words about abundant life in John's Gospel, "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (Jn 10:10b ESV)

In this message, Jesus spoke about how He is the Good Shepherd.  The job of the shepherd, of course, is to protect the sheep, but also to bring them to good pasture and water.  No shepherd brings sheep to dry places with no grass.  Even human shepherds go to the trouble of finding places where there is water and grass....abundant water and grass.

Here's the revelation: people.....the sheep of His pasture.....can find abundant life in the Church, which is His body.

When I see the sometimes broken lives of those around me, I am reminded how great is the blessing of being cared for by the Shepherd.  For those without the Shepherd, there is often drama, and pain, and behaviors that seems fun at first, but in the long term rob people of their joy, their health and even years from their lives.  Matthew (9:36 ESV) recorded about Jesus that "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."  People are still harassed and helpless today.

The Church, on the other hand, is designed by God to care for the souls of people.  There is within the church: leadership, healing, teaching, care and love; the great needs of our souls.  Many church families provide even more elements of good human pasturage: help with relationships, teaching about good financial practice, parenting skills classes, help with moving, meals when people are sick or bereaved....and the list goes on and on.

Does this mean that every church family provides great care for these needs?  Clearly, no church is perfect in this regard.  But it is a place where the Church can bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth for those around us.

We who comprise the Church can receive Jesus' promise of abundant life simply by being actively involved in the life of the church.  We can then add our own spiritual and physical gifts, and our time and treasure to the work of our local church so that others are blessed. While Jesus can and still does touch lives in miraculous ways, I believe that He mostly expects us to be the miracle in the lives of our brothers and sisters in faith.

Can only Christ followers be blessed by this abundance?  No!  Those of us who follow the shepherd should purposely and willingly shower the blessings of abundant life out on to those around us....whether they ever become Christ followers or not. God is love, and He loves all of His creation.

Jesus' words about the abundant life have always resonated with me....and today I see one of the ways that He has accomplished that for us: the Church!  What an amazing gift!

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