The Abundant Life
August 29th, 1982 @ 7:30 PM
THE ABUNDANT LIFE
Dr. W. A. Criswell
8-29-82 7:30 p.m.
We welcome the uncounted multitudes of you who are sharing this hour with us in the First Baptist Church of Dallas on the two radio stations that bear its message. This is the pastor of the church bringing the message entitled The Abounding, Overflowing, Abundant Life. With us in this great auditorium with these thousands of people, let us turn to the tenth chapter of the Book of John, the Fourth Gospel. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. John chapter 10, we shall begin reading at verse 9. All of us sharing our Bibles and reading out loud together, John chapter 10, verse 9, and we shall read through verse 18. John 10, beginning at verse 9, reading through verse 18. Now together:
I am the door: by Me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.
But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine.
As the Father knoweth Me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down My life for the sheep.
And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again.
No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father.
And that is the resurrection life that God hath given to us in Christ Jesus. The passage begins, "He that is not the shepherd cometh but for to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" [John 10:10].
To destroy is easy. I am glad that wonderful deacon who built the YMCA, and who was so proud of that achievement when I came to Dallas thirty-eight years ago, I’m glad he wasn’t here when they tore down and blew up that magnificent building in a matter of seconds. Did you see that, either looking at it or on television? A magnificent fourteen story building went up in just a moment. To destroy is easy.
One of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen in the world, Rembrandt’s Night Watchman, a vandal came and in a moment sliced it from side to side. A bridge that an engineer has worked on for years and the pride of his accomplishment can be blown up in a moment. It takes no especial effort to crush a beautiful vase. About a week ago, I looked at the Portland Vase in the British Museum, the most famous piece of pottery in the world, a Grecian urn of unusual beauty. And as I looked at it, to my great surprise it had been crushed. I thought of the genius of the hands that made it, and who was it with no genius at all that broke it?
A beast can crush a flower to the ground, and only God could re-joint it and remake it. To destroy is easy. Why is it, then, that we listen and pay attention to those little infidels about an inch high, who come with a big voice, and they take away from us our aspiration and our inspiration and our hope in God? To destroy is easy.
I read this last week of a legal maneuver in the courts of Pennsylvania. Little kindergarten children were saying grace before they ate. And it offended an infidel who brought suit, and the courts of Pennsylvania sustained him. By law, it is illegal to say grace at the table before you eat in Pennsylvania. These little destroyers who take away our aspiration and our hope in God, ah, my heart goes out to these who are persuaded that in the ways of the world we have our finest life.
Do you read about these star athletes who are being convicted of drugs, selling, using, abusing, and are being sentenced? These men make three hundred thousand dollars a year, and they think they found life in drugs. That’s not life; that’s death!
I read this last week of a girl, and her boyfriend said to her, "By all means, you must go to the doctor. It may be you have venereal disease." And the poor girl was stricken. That’s not life; that’s death. I read this last week of a homosexual, and the doctor had said to him, "You have venereal disease, syphilis, in the lower part of your alimentary canal." That’s not life; that’s death.
The Lord says, "I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly" [John 10:10]. How many times in reading God’s message do we find the word "life" on the lips of our Lord Jesus? He says, "My words are spirit, and they are life" [John 6:63]. He says, "I am the resurrection, and the life" [John 11:25]. He says, "I am the way, and the life" [John 14:6]. And then my beautiful, meaningful text: "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" [John 10:10]. So impressed were those who knew the Lord, of life in Him, that aged John, toward a hundred years old, when he wrote his Gospel, said, "In Him was life; and the life was the light of men" [John 1:4]. And Paul, when he wrote his last letter, 2 Timothy, said to the young minister in Ephesus, "He, Christ, hath brought life and immortality to light" [2 Timothy 1:10].
What is life? There’s no scientist in the world that can tell you what it is. It is as common as the sand on the seashore. We meet it in every common day. It is on every particle of dust; it is in every drop of water. Life is universal. And its unfathomable mystery greets us every moment of our lives. It ripples in the grass on the lawn. It dances in the butterfly before a beautiful flower. It looks at us with wide open innocent eyes, in a little child. But what is it? We can dress up a corpse in every possible way, but it is dead. Life is a flame that belongs to God, and we cannot create it, we cannot even steal it. We just look upon it in amazing mystery, life. And how much more so the wonderful life, the abounding life brought to us in Christ Jesus [John 10:10]. What is it? It is not existence. That’s not the life of Christ. Oh, oh, how earnestly do people seek after the meaning, and purpose, and joy, and gladness of life and never find it.
There was a group in a restaurant talking to a waitress. And she was speaking of the different things that she did, a whole host of them, out in the world, and then finally, sadly admitted, "If you’re not saved, there’s not happiness anywhere." Existence is not life. Worldliness is not life. An insane person has existence. A man bound in prison with chains has existence. But life is the glory of God and the freedom that He bestows upon us in our souls. We are delivered from the bondage of death [Romans 8:2].
Do you ever compare in your heart the message of Christ our Lord with, say, a Buddha? There are millions in Asia who look forward to the conquering of the last enemy: life! The ideal in Buddhism is Nirvana, the destruction of all desire, of all existence, of all response, of all feeling, of all being. They say the last enemy that shall be destroyed is life! Jesus spoke in such different terms. He says the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death! [1 Corinthians 15:26]. Life is the gift of Christ, universal, forever, now and in the world that is to come! He delivers us from the bondage of sin. In the eighth chapter of the Gospel of John, he says, "He that sins is the slave of sin; but if the Son of Man shall make you free, you shall be free indeed" [John 8:34-36]; Freedom, liberty, the gift of God in Christ Jesus: the life abounding! [John 10:10]. And He remakes us anew; 2 Corinthians 5:17: "If anyone be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creation"; he is somebody new.
There was a concert violinist who came to the castle to play for the king. And as he came to the door, the gate of the castle, on a rubbish heap, he saw a discarded violin. Its strings were broken, its instruments were disarrayed; it was covered with dirt and dust. And he picked it up and remade it, and when he played his concert before the king, he used that violin. You know, he had originally made it. So with us: Jesus made us, He created us, and He can re-create us, He can remake us. He can tune those strings that they play in beauty and in glory. And He can refurbish, and rearrange, and remake, and recreate us, Jesus can! The life abounding.
I read one of the craziest things. There was a beautiful woman, a charming woman who was introduced to a woman’s club to speak. And when she stood up to speak, beautiful, charming, gracious, lovely, she startled the group with saying, "My life was changed by a tramp." Well, everyone, catching the drift of such an amazing thought, followed what she said, and it was this: upon a day, a tramp, a bum, a beggar, came to her back door; and when she opened the door, he doffed his ragged hat and said, "Please ma’am, I ask if there is something I can do that you give me something to eat. I’m hungry, and I just want to work for it. Is there something I can do, and you give me something to eat?"
She said she replied to him, "You dirty, ragged, filthy bum, get out of my yard!"
He said, "Ma’am, I’m not asking you give me anything. I just am hungry, and I thought maybe there would be work here to do."
She said, "Haven’t I told you to get out of my yard? And if you don’t, I’m going to call my husband."
And he said in a flat voice, "Your husband ain’t home."
She said, "How do you know my husband ain’t home?"
And he replied, "If your husband were home, it’s because he’s sick; because he wouldn’t be at home with you if he weren’t sick."
That wonderful woman, when she closed the door, began to think about herself, her scolding of her husband that very morning, and her whole attitude of critical, sarcastic attitude toward life; and she took it to the Lord, and she asked God to remake her. And He did, gracious and lovely. That’s God’s life. God isn’t magnified by our sour grouchiness and our super-critical response to all of the providences of life. "Lord, make me like Jesus: sweet, and precious, and gracious, and lovely. If I can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all."
You see, the life that we have in Christ is disassociated from providences and circumstances; it’s not connected with that at all. Our Lord Himself said, "For a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things that he possesseth" [Luke 12:15]. Our Lord was offered the crown of a king and refused it [John 6:15]. He was offered the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them, and refused them [Matthew 4:8-10]. They said, "He has a devil." They said, "He blasphemes" [Matthew 26:65; Acts 6:11]. They said, "He deceives the people" [John 7:12]. And they finally said, "Let’s crucify Him!" [Matthew 27:22, 23]. And when Jesus was crucified [Matthew 27:32-50], you would have thought that it was earth’s darkest most baffling and frustrating moment, but He never wavered; and resurrected [Matthew 28:5-7], He became the Lord of a new and a wonderful life [Acts 3:15; 2 Corinthians 5:17]. Disassociated from circumstances, we can be sick but healthy in our souls; we can be poor, but rich toward God; we can be held in contumely and in ridiculing shame, but we can be filled with an aura of victory and triumph. We can die and live in Christ [Philippians 1:21].
The life of our Lord, it is not immortality. We are immortal whether we will or no; but it’s a gift from heaven, eternal life, the paradise life, the heavenly life, the life that never ends [Romans 6:23]. The two men who were crucified with Jesus on the cross, both of them were immortal, but only one of them – listen to the Lord as He said, "Today thou shalt be with Me in Paradise" [Luke 23:43].
A last word: "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" [John 10:10]. It is now; a gift now. John 3:36 avows, "He that believeth on the Son hath, right now, present, hath everlasting life." So many of our young people are persuaded that "If I accept Christ and if I follow Him, I will miss out on the joys and the gladnesses and the fun of the world." And there are many older people who think that: "If I follow Christ and give Him my life, I’ll have to turn aside from all of those dreams and ambitions that I have, and I’ll miss the great meaning and purpose for which my soul reaches out." Just the opposite; that’s a deception of the devil. If you want to live, really live, live aboundingly and abundantly, follow Jesus, give your life to the Lord. It’s an abounding reward!
I was amused in that School of the Prophets that you had in St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. We had a great big convocation that afternoon in a church, very spacious church in St. Thomas. And in the midst of the service, one of those women got up and began to dance up and down the aisle, happy in the Lord. Well, those people that were there at that School of the Prophets never had seen anything like that, and they looked at that in just amazement! Well, I know how they felt.
One time I was preaching in the middle of the darkest part of Africa, in a big spacious church. And when I got through preaching, did you know, the pastor stood up, and the singer stood up, and they had timbrels and they had tambourines, and the pastor and the singer and all the people began to go up and down the aisles of the church singing, and praising, and shouting to God, and shaking those timbrels. That was the first time I had ever seen it too. I thought, "Man, they have lost their minds here. This is a Baptist church." And then as I watched them, I got in the spirit of it, and I was clapping my hands, and just going on and around! It was wonderful! It was wonderful! Happy in the Lord! Oh, bless God, there’s no joy in the earth like that; just glad in Jesus.
Not only that, but we have that eternal life right now in the marvelous purpose that God hath set before us. You know, if I were describing a dead man, this is the way I’d describe him. He has no reason for being. He has no interest. He has no enthusiasm. He has no conquering spirit. But if I were describing a man filled with intensest life, I’d look for a man who was alive to something God was having him to do. Oh dear, O God, what a way to live! Like Samson when the Spirit moved him at Dan [Judges 13:25]: he was a powerful representative of his people against the Philistines, and bowed his great arms and shoulders finally and pulled down the temple of Dagon [Judges 16:23-30]. He was alive. He was alive. He was alive. And being alive in Christ, we are sensitive to God and to the presence of God around us [Ephesians 2:4-10].
Do you ever read Wordsworth, the lovely, gifted poet of the beautiful lake country in England, Wordsworth? Here is a little line from him:
A primrose on the river’s brim was just a yellow primrose to him, and nothing more. The seasons brought to him no homilies. The birds sang for him, and he didn’t listen. The hills stretched out before him, all a weariness to climb. No sense of God in anything he saw, or in anything that he did.
[from "Peter Bell: A Tale in Verse" William Wordsworth, 1819]
Ah, Lord, that God might make us sensitive to His presence all around us. Like these blind people: their fingers become so sensitive. Like an American Indian, put his ear to the ground, and he can hear any galloping hoofs miles and miles away; sensitive. Lord, that we might be sensitive to Thy presence. God all around us, living, life! Dear me!
Some of you have been here a long time and remember when in a little plane, little one-seated plane, it fell in the Amazon jungle, and my pilot and I, down there, out of the sky – and a providence of God, wonderfully, miraculously delivered us. It just happened to be, in a hundred thousand square miles, there was that one little village in an open area and those thatched huts around it. The radio on the plane was intact, and he called a Presbyterian mission on the Ucayali River that called Yarinacocha and told them where we were. And those villagers made level that little space around which they built their thatched huts and then waited for the little plane to come, the little wheel plane; the one we were in was a water plane. And they made ready for that little wheel plane to come down and to land in that little area, and to take us to Yarinacocha. So after they leveled the land and we were waiting there, suddenly one of them said, "Viene, viene, viene," and I turned to the pilot and said, "What’s he saying?" And he said, "He is saying, "Viene: he’s coming, he’s coming.’" Well I said, "I don’t see him coming, and I don’t hear his coming." And the pilot said to me, "But their eyes are better than yours, and their ears are better than yours. They see that plane coming, and they hear the sound of it coming." Viene: he’s coming, he’s coming. Bless your heart.
I stood by the side of an old saint one time, and he said, "Do you see? Do you see?"
I never saw anything.
He said, "Do you see the beautiful city? Oh, the glorious city. Do you see?" Then he said, "Do you hear? Do you hear?"
I never heard anything.
He said, "Do you hear? The angels are singing. Do you hear them?"
I could have said to him, "Man, you’ve lost your mind; you’re out of your mind!" No. He was listening to the voice of the Bridegroom, and he was seeing the land afar off.
Bless God. May I have that sensitivity. Lord, Lord, You are everywhere; I just need to be given eyes that can see, and a heart that can respond, and ears that can hear. Jesus is alive. His abounding life is poured out upon us. And when I open my heart toward Him, He makes me sensitive and alive. God bless as we find that abounding joy and gladness in Him [John 10:10].
May we stand together for our prayer?
Wonderful, wonderful Savior, bringing to us life everlasting, not only some day in the paradise of heaven, but now, living in the fullness of the presence of Jesus. O Lord, how happy and how glad and how full of every rich gift only God can bestow when our hearts are open toward Thee. Even when we’re sick, we’re well. Even when we’re poor, we’re rich. Even when we are faced with contumely and sarcastic criticism, we are happy in Him. And even in death, we are alive. Oh glory, glory, glory, what God has given us in Christ Jesus! Life abounding, overflowing, eternal. Praise God for the gift of His grace in the Lord Jesus.
And in this moment when our people pray and wait just for you, "Pastor, today, this night, this moment, this hour I have made my decision for Christ, and I’m coming." A family, a couple, or just one you down one of those stairways, down one of these aisles, "Here I am, preacher, I’m coming tonight." And a thousand times welcome.
And our Lord, bless these who answer God’s call tonight. Make them glad in Thee. Give them life abounding, now and forever, in the Lord’s wonderful and saving name, amen. While we sing, and welcome, come, come, come.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Nothing simpler than destruction
B. Jesus contrasts Himself with this destroying power
1. Ministry of the Lord summed up in the word "life" (John 6:63, 11:25, 14:6, 1:4, 2 Timothy 1:10)
II. The impenetrable mystery of life
A. Common as the sands on the seashore
B. It is something that belongs to God; a divine fire
1. Not mere existence, but another dimension from God
2. Life is the gift of Christ
3. It is a re-creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
4. Independent of things, circumstances (Luke 12:15)
III. Taste eternal life given us now
A. Gift from heaven (Luke 23:43)
B. Bestowed upon us now (John 3:36)
1. Enjoyment, happiness
2. Purpose, meaning
3. Awareness of God’s presence