Life to the Full
In John 10, Jesus pulls back the curtain and gives us a glimpse into the unseen spiritual world. He tells us there are forces at work intentionally making our lives difficult. Amid that difficulty, Jesus offers us life and life to the full. What do you hear when you read those words? Most of us hear, “I have come that they may have life, and life without problems.” Or, “I have come that they may have life, and life that is comfortable and convenient.” Jesus never offered that. At no place in the Scriptures do we read of God offering us a problem-free, difficulty-free journey.
That reminds me of one of my dad’s favorite songs from the 1970s, “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.” Jesus isn’t offering us an easy life. He’s not offering a problem-free life. He’s offering us a full life! He’s saying when you go through those difficult times in your life, when you encounter problems and sorrows, “I am the Good Shepherd.” You won’t go through them alone, I’ll guide you with my voice. Listen to me and I’ll lead you.
And though life to the full is offered freely, it’s a conditional offer — you must listen to and follow Jesus’ voice. Even today, shepherds in the Near East sound out their own particular calls for their sheep. They talk to their sheep, they sing to them, some even play a flute for them. But Jesus says, I won’t just call you, I’ll call you by name. I’ll give you specific guidance and I’ll have a one-on one relationship with you.
The most startling feature of Jesus’ story in John 10 is the intimacy that he is offering. And if you still don’t get it — that the quality of this relationship is intimate and conversational — Jesus erases all doubt. He brings perfect clarity to the type of relationship he is offering to you when he says that it mirrors the intimacy between him and His Father! He is insisting that he offers a peculiar, specific, intimate relationship to anyone who chooses to follow him. In no uncertain terms Jesus sets out that the relationship between God the Father and God the Son is the analogue of the relationship he wants with you!
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father” (John 10:14-15).
His profound relationship with the Father characterizes the intimacy he seeks with you. It’s the only way you’ll find your way to life: it’s relationship, not just belief, not just intellectual assent. Jesus is inviting us into life, but that life depends upon us listening to and following his voice.
How do you learn to do that? You’re not born knowing how, and becoming a Christian doesn’t guarantee you know how to do it either. It’s a skill that requires practice, just like everything else you do that is meaningful and worthwhile. One great way to practice is the Online Prayer Center that we created three years ago. You can check out two different prayer tracks that guide you in a conversational prayer with God: www.onlineprayercenter.com.
If you don’t do this, if you don’t enter this kind of relationship with Jesus, if you don’t have a Good Shepherd in your life, what do you have? Your own wits. Not having a Good Shepherd in your life is remarkably bad! You can thrive in an unsafe world, you really can — but you’re going to need a relationship with the Good Shepherd in order to do so.