“I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.
Jesus presents Himself as the Good Shepherd who has come to call us, His sheep, to Himself, to own us, be with us, go before us, lead and guide us, comfort and protect us, and keep us safe so that no one can snatch us out of His loving hand. He is the way, the truth, and the life who promised more abundant life for those who enter the fold through Him and His merit.
Matthew 5-7 records that near the beginning of Christ’s ministry, He preached ‘The Sermon on The Mount,’ commonly referred to as ‘the greatest sermon ever preached.’ He began His sermon with the word, BLESSED. Many, perhaps most Bible scholars, understand Jesus to be giving the basis for real happiness in chapter 5:3-12 in the part of His sermon known as the BEATITUDES, a list of eight blessings that serve as an introduction, and the basis for ABUNDANT LIFE.
The word ‘blessed’ implies happiness. Everybody wants to be happy. Merriam-webster defines happiness as favored by luck or fortune: fortunate. Sadly, this definition is a common conception of what constitutes happiness. The emphasis is on luck, fortune (money), and being fortunate, having good, not foreseen things happen, favorable circumstances. While blessed denotes fortunate and favorable circumstances, Jesus presented an expanded view in the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount that are the basis of what should be understood by this word. He taught that true happiness (abundant life) consisted of seven circumstances or attitudes which we refer to as THE BEATITUDES.
This likely was not the first sermon that Jesus preached since Matthew 4:17 states, “From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Although Matthew wrote thematically and not chronologically, it is reasonable to conclude that since He began his ministry preaching a message of repentance, such a message was essential to opening the door to the abundant life, the life blessed by the Lord.
First, to know real happiness – to have abundant life, one must be, “poor in spirit.” (v.3) The word, spirit, refers to our vital, rational disposition, that is, how we view our existence and think and feel about ourselves. We all have a self-image in our minds and of our hearts. Some have negative images, some, positive, and maybe a whole lot of in-betweens.
The late Hank Williams wrote a song from the negative perspective called “I’ll never get out of this world alive.” One of several stanzas goes like this: “Ev’rything’s agin’ me and it’s got me down; If I jumped in the river, I would prob’ly drown; No matter how I struggle and strive, I’ll never get out of this world alive.” Hank died at the zenith of his career, having achieved a lot of fame and accolades, but his untimely death and circumstances seem to indicate that he may have still been struggling with a lot of negative issues. By the way, he was at the time my favorite country music singer, and I was saddened when he died.
When we suffer from negative thoughts and feelings, The Good Shepherd is present to comfort and strengthen us. Hebrews 12:12-13 (NKJV) urges us to take control of our lives and, “strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.” Don’t let the thieves have their way. The Good Shepherd was not advocating an attitude of worthlessness or low self-esteem. He would have us know that no matter how negative things may seem or appear, in Him we have access to everything we need.
On the other hand, the apostle, Paul, in Romans 12:3 capsulizes what I think He does mean: “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Jesus would have each of us recognize that we owe our existence and purpose for being alive to someone or something outside ourselves, that is, our Creator.
Remember that while the tempter would have us think lowlier or more highly of ourselves than we ought to think by his deceptive ploys (as he did with Adam and Eve in the beginning), the Lord Jesus would have everyone to realize their worth in His eyes. He showed us how much He values us by dying on the cross. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2Co 8:9)
The Lord would have us to realize that we are dependent on our Good Shepherd for our life and breath, and being. Without Him, we are beggars. Without Him, we can do nothing. But as the Psalmist reminds us, “Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” (Ps 100:3) Jesus wants us to have and enjoy Abundant Life! It begins with understanding that we are dependent on Him for our existence, our purpose in life, and a proper relationship with Him. That relationship can take place only as we come to the end of ourselves and, by faith and repentance, experience regeneration and yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit to create within us the desire and the ability to live according to the teaching and example of the Lord Jesus. The apostle John wrote, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) By the way, the Lord included a promise in the first of the Beatitudes: “Theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Not a small motivation, is it? God bless you with a continued abundance of life and happiness.
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