Preached at Holy Trinity, Claygate
15th March 2015: LttF Mission Week
All this week, we’ve been thinking about what it means to live life to the full. And you might be sitting there thinking to yourselves, “I know about life to the full, I live in Claygate! I have a large comfortable house with five bedrooms, three bathrooms and two kitchens (just to keep up with Ed Miliband). I have two German cars on the driveway, and a triple garage to keep them in.” And yet, at some point or other, I bet we can probably all remember saying, “There must be more to life than this.” Instinctively, I think we know that there’s more to life than most of us have yet experienced, even in Claygate. And there is. We just don’t know where to find it. That is, until we meet Jesus.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
Starbucks say their mission is “to inspire and nurture the human spirit one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.” Now that’s a pretty remarkable claim for a cup of ground coffee beans and hot water in a green paper cup. But Jesus’s claim goes far beyond that. Jesus’s says His mission is no less than to give us life in all its glorious fullness. A prominent Christian in the second century explained it saying that in Jesus, God became what we are in order to make us what He is. In other words, the whole point of Jesus’s coming among us—His life, His teachings, His death and His resurrection—was to give us life, His life, life to the full.
It’s an incredible assertion, and one which we all need to decide what we’re going to do with. And so, this morning, I just want to draw out three things from Jesus’s words about the life He offers:
- The life Jesus offers is the only life that can truly satisfy;
- The life Jesus offers is life in relationship with Him;
- The life Jesus offers is a life that looks like His own.
- The life Jesus offers is the only life that can truly satisfy
Jesus warns us in no uncertain terms: there are thieves out there. There are all kinds of things which seem to promise abundant life, but which ultimately leave us disappointed. Growing up, through school and even into university, I poured all my energies into achieving academic success. I sought to gain a sense of identity and self-worth through being top of the class. Generally speaking, I was pretty good at it. But that so-called ‘success’ left me feeling empty. Getting straight ‘A’s may sound great, but it didn’t truly satisfy. Instead, I measured my value by the last grade I received and I lived in the constant fear of failure.
There’s a wonderful scene in the film Cool Runnings, when Derice (the sprinter turned bobsled driver) is sitting in his hotel room asking his coach Irv Blitzer why he cheated when he was racing. He says: “It’s quite simple, really. I had to win. You see, Derice, I had made winning my whole life, and when you make winning your whole life, you have to keep on winning, no matter what. Understand?” “No,” says Derice, “I don’t understand. You won two gold medals. You had it all.” And very candidly, Irv replies, “Derice, a gold medal is a wonderful thing. But if you’re not enough without it, you’ll never be enough with it.”
If God made us for Himself, then nothing but God can satisfy us. Not good grades. Not money. Not power. Not sex. Not anything. Only Him. Those other things aren’t bad in themselves, but when we make them the thing in our lives, they simply can’t bear the weight we put on them. Instead of giving us life, they rob us of life. Many times, in fact, achieving those goals only will disappoint us more because we afterwards we realise that they could never actually give us what were after, and hoped they would. Eventually, they end up destroying us. We want life to the full; but we look for it in all the wrong places.
- The life Jesus offers is life in relationship with Him
The life we’re looking for is a life that comes from knowing Jesus. Later on in John’s Gospel Jesus says, “This is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Until we know Jesus, we might be breathing; but we don’t have the life God made us for. And if Jesus says that He came to give us life, then the implication is that without Him we’re dead. Think about it. Do you usually give someone something that they already have? No, of course you don’t. Jesus didn’t come to make good people slightly better; He came to make dead people alive. Jesus came to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. He came to give us the life we were made for, but have never yet lived.
Life to the full is not something we can get for ourselves. It’s a gift. If we could go out and get it for ourselves, we’d have no need of Jesus, or the life He offers. But we can’t. That’s the point. And so we must open ourselves to receive with empty hands the gift that Jesus gives us (just as we will around this table in a moment). And it stands to reason that if life to the full is something only Jesus can give, then life to the full means life lived with Jesus. It means entrusting ourselves to Him as the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for sheep like, and as our Gateway into God through whom we go in and out and find rich pasture. Such a life is marked by knowing God and having an intimate relationship with Him, enabled by what Jesus has done for us on the cross, and overflowing with a deep sense of gratitude.
- The life Jesus offers is a life that looks like His own
If you want to know what life to the full looks like, it looks like Jesus. Jesus’s offer to us is to make us as alive as He is, alive to God and brimming with all the life and energy of God. Jesus doesn’t just want to give us a pulse; He wants to synchronise our hearts with the rhythm of God’s own. At the beginning of John’s Gospel, we’re told that no one has ever seen God, but Jesus, who is close to the Father’s heart, has made Him known (John 1:18). It’s the image of a child held on the parent’s chest. Jesus, John says, listens in to what makes God tick like no one else. Their hearts beat in perfect unison.
And yet, John says, “To all who received Him, who believed in His name, He gave power to become children of God” (John 1:12). Through the gift of His Spirit, Jesus offers to give us the kind of life He has; to make us children in God’s family. Jesus didn’t come merely to shock us into life with the defibrillator, but to fit us with a kind of pacemaker through His Spirit. The gift of God in Jesus is the opportunity to recover our identity as the beloved children of a loving Heavenly Father, whose hearts, like Jesus’s own may beat in time with His—in harmony with His love, His mercy, His justice, His beauty and His truth.
Betty knew about that. So did Jim. When Betty moved into a nursing home in her 80s, she saw the lifelessness of the place, especially around mealtimes, and made it her mission to inject life and joy into her conversations. Similarly, Jim was a retired vicar. He was very active in his day, but again moved into a nursing home and was increasingly frail. Yet when I visited, he insisted on being kept up to date with events in the church because while he couldn’t help physically or even attend as regularly as he wanted to, he knew he could pray. Both Betty and Jim knew God and they knew they had a God-given calling in Jesus to live like Jesus in the world. But do we?
Many will, I’m sure, have been coming to church for years. But perhaps all this time you’ve never actually accepted that offer to know God for yourself, and to be drawn into the life of Jesus. Maybe you’re unsure whether you have or not. If that’s you, please can I encourage you to say ‘Yes’ to Jesus’s offer. Jesus came so that we might have life to the full. Do we have it? If we don’t it’s not because Jesus isn’t offering it. It’s because we haven’t yet opened our hands to receive it.
As long as we think we’re already alive, we’ll never commit to embarking on the arduous uncertainties involved in following Jesus. But, once we realise that there really isn’t any life worth the name apart from Jesus, we’ll grab hold of Him with both hands and not let Him go until He gives us that life through His Spirit and we make it fully our own. So let me ask you this very simple question: are you yet alive? Jesus came to give us life. Have you got it? Have you got Him? “He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” (1 John 5:12).
In the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.