Did you ever have something stolen from you? If you have, like me, I’m sure you didn’t like it. Nobody does. When I was a college student, someone broke into my apartment when I wasn’t home. They stole my bicycle, my record player, and my record albums. When I came home from work and discovered what had happened, I was very upset. I believed no one had the right to take from me what was my own.
I never got those things back, but with the three hundred dollars of insurance money I received as compensation, I was able to buy myself a car to use for transportation instead of my bicycle. It was a lot warmer and drier than my bicycle for getting me to and from work and school!
Shortly after I graduated college, I was a student in my first Way Ministry Foundational Class. There I heard a scripture that changed my life—that scripture was John 10:10:
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I [Jesus Christ] am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
As the teacher explained this verse and showed the difference between “the thief” and Jesus Christ, I realized that during my life “the thief” had taken a lot more than a bicycle and music from me—and I hadn’t even known it. Some of what had been taken from me can never be recovered in this lifetime—for example, relationships with family members who are no longer living. But thanks be to God for the many other things I regained and reclaimed in my life by believing and acting on the Word of God I learned as a follower of The Way.
Many aspects of my life that I have reclaimed are exceeding abundantly above all I could ask or think. My life is far from perfect, but it is rich with friends and family who love me and help me to live God’s Word so that I can be the best “me” I can be. My days are abundant—full of loving service to God, filled with purpose and delight. Understanding this one verse of scripture, John 10:10, helped me turn my life around.
John 10:10 reveals the contrast between the objectives of the thief and the objectives of Jesus Christ. The thief is the adversary who comes to steal, to kill, and to destroy. Jesus Christ came to give us life more abundantly. We will study John 10:10 to better understand how the adversary tries to steal, kill, and destroy and how Jesus Christ brings us life more abundant. Understanding the adversary’s objectives and methods makes it easier to recognize his influence in our lives. When we know he is trying to steal, kill, or destroy in our life, we can take decisive action to overcome him and claim our more abundant life in Christ.
Let’s begin our study by looking at the immediate context of John 10:10. This chapter contains a figure of speech called metaphor. This metaphor regarding Jesus Christ as the good shepherd compares the relationship of Jesus Christ and his followers to the relationship of a good shepherd and his sheep (John 10:11 and 14). Let’s begin in John 10, verse 1:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.
But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
At night the shepherd would lie across the only opening to the sheepfold. Sheepfolds were fenced enclosures built for sheep and goats, usually made of brush and stone with one opening, or door, through which the animals could come and go. The shepherd slept at this doorway; his body was literally the door to the sheep. Anyone who would come to the sheep had to go through him. Only a thief or a robber would avoid the shepherd at the door and try to sneak in another way and get to the sheep. What is written here in the Gospels is for our learning. The children of Israel are referred to here as sheep; the sheep are the humble ones who hear and follow the shepherd. We aren’t sheep today; we are sons of God. But the characteristics of a shepherd as he cares for the humble ones certainly describe Jesus Christ as our lord and savior. Look what else Jesus Christ said concerning the shepherd in verse 9:
I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.
Jesus said that “by me” any man who entered in would be saved and would “go in and out, and find pasture.” Jesus was and is the means to deliverance, the means to salvation, or wholeness. In the same way that a door is the means to gain access to a room, the shepherd was the door giving access to the sheepfold. Jesus Christ is the “door” to the Father, the Author of life. Jesus Christ is not the author of life, but he is the means, the way, to the more abundant life, which only God can provide. Let’s read verses 10 and 11:
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.
The shepherd metaphor is also used in the Bible to describe the relationship of God with the believers. Psalms 23:1 reads, “The Lord [God] is my shepherd; I shall not want.” One translation of this verse is “The Lord is my shepherd; I have everything I need.” We are well taken care of! Another Old Testament record, in the Book of Ezekiel, reveals more qualities of a shepherd.
As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I [God] seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.
And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them upon the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country.
I will feed them in a good pasture, and upon the high mountains of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie in a good fold, and in a fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel.
These verses show the caring and vigilant qualities of a shepherd. Jesus Christ said in John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd.” This shepherd metaphor brings all these great qualities to our understanding of Jesus Christ, that as the good shepherd he was to make the more abundant life available. Jesus Christ fulfilled God’s purpose and gave his life to ensure that the sheep could “go in and out” with free access to the green pastures of a godly life.
Having looked at the context of John 10:10, let’s now study the first part of this verse in detail: “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.” “Thief” is a figure of speech referring to the adversary. The adversary is God’s archenemy, who stands in direct opposition to the will and love of God; therefore, the adversary, or Devil, is the believer’s enemy also. He is the thief of John 10:10.
The word “thief” is the Greek word kleptēs, which means one who steals by fraud and in secret. The adversary works by doing business in secret with a false front and hidden tricks. God says the Devil is a liar (John 8:44).
Next, John 10:10 lists the three objectives of the adversary. The first objective listed, “to steal,” is a form of the same Greek word translated “thief” at the beginning of the verse. This first objective reflects the adversary’s very nature. “To steal” means to take by stealth, as opposed to robbing someone openly by violence. Stealth is about secret or hidden ways and secret, or furtive, action or behavior. Simply put, he’s lying and sneaky.
The adversary will try to steal our health, energy, enthusiasm, knowledge, and our abilities, but the primary object of the adversary’s thievery is to steal God’s Word from us. Why is the adversary so focused on stealing the Word from our hearts and minds? Because he knows how necessary the Word of God is for our more abundant lives. When tempted by the Devil in Matthew 4:4, Jesus Christ responded: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” We need God’s Word to live more abundantly.
The adversary endeavors to steal the Word from us either directly or subtly by deception or distractions (Mark 4:15 and 18). But we will learn to stand against his devices. Let’s go back to John 10:10:
The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy….
By repeating the word “and” between the three objectives of the adversary, God calls attention to and emphasizes each of them. Let’s now consider the second objective of the adversary, “to kill.” The adversary holds the power of death, as stated in Hebrews 2:14:
…that through death he [Jesus Christ] might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.
God does not bring death—He sent Jesus Christ to conquer death and to bring life more abundant. Until I heard this verse in the Foundational Class, I blamed God for the death of people I loved. Knowing this great truth from God’s Word set me free.
We have seen two objectives of the thief from the first part of John 10:10—to steal and to kill. Now let’s look at the third objective listed in John 10:10, “to destroy.” “Destroy” is the Greek word apollumi and means to destroy utterly, to ruin. The adversary’s goal isn’t just physical death; it’s to ruin our lives or make them useless. If the thief can get us to stop believing God’s Word, then he can lessen or even erase from the earth the impact of our work and destroy our future rewards.
This same word “destroy” is used in Matthew 2:13:
And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy [apollumi] him.
The adversary wanted to kill the young child Jesus; he wanted to ruin or negate the impact of Jesus Christ’s life on mankind. Deceived by the adversary, Herod the king lied to the Magi, telling them he wanted to “worship” the child. What he really wanted was to destroy Jesus Christ. If Herod had succeeded, the impact would have been far beyond the physical death of Jesus Christ—he could not have accomplished mankind’s redemption. But God provided a way to escape for Jesus Christ, and He will do the same for us today (I Corinthians 10:13).
So far in John 10:10, we have seen the adversary’s three objectives as the thief. By deception and secrecy he tries to take away from us what he can in any category of life. Ultimately, he would like to take away not only our lives, but also the positive impact of our lives and our prospects for future heavenly rewards. But praise God, Who provided a way for us to live abundantly and a way for us to stand against the thief.
Now, to learn in more detail what Jesus Christ came to bring, let’s look at the second part of John 10:10: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Jesus Christ was referring to all that he would accomplish by way of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension. In contrast to the deceptive thievery of the adversary, Jesus Christ came as the good shepherd to bring life and to bring life more abundantly.
Jesus Christ said, “I am come that”—Jesus Christ’s objectives are the direct opposite of the thief’s objectives. Why did Jesus Christ come? To bring life to the sheep. Although the “they” in John 10:10 is referring to the humble ones of Israel, the learning can apply to us today as the children of God. We are humble ones who also follow Jesus Christ to the Father. We “feed” on the truth that is given to us in this Grace Administration. We don’t live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God, as Jesus declared.
The next phrase in John 10:10, “they might have,” is talking about potential, about possibilities, about what is available. We always have a choice. We have free will to make decisions about our lives. Jesus Christ came so that we would have good and godly possibilities from which to choose.
He came that we might have what? Life. The Greek word for “life,” zōē, refers to life in all its manifestations—from the life of God down to the simplest life form in the plant kingdom. Zōē includes life in every category of body, soul, and spirit.
Jesus Christ came to give to us, which is the opposite of the adversary’s objectives—to take from us. Jesus Christ came to make alive, not to kill. He came to build, not to destroy. Zōē is the word used for “life” in John 3:16: “…that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” God’s blessings are freely given to us as we believe. We think the Word, believe the Word, and live the Word daily to claim this more than abundant life. That’s how to have everything we need, just as the sheep of Psalm 23 did.
The next phrase in John 10:10, “and that they might have it,” repeats the truth of our potential for life, and then the last phrase, “more abundantly,” describes the life Jesus Christ came to bring. And what a great life it is! “More abundantly” means aboundingly, profusely, more than the ordinary. We can observe how an abundance of colorful flowers gives a beautiful display in a landscape. I once visited a garden that had many thousands of tulips. They were planted in every color and variety imaginable. The colors and the flowers seemed to stretch on over the horizon. It was more than ordinary; those tulips were very abundant. Flowers are lovely, but our spiritual life can be more vibrant and abounding than all the flower blossoms in the world.
The abundant life we enjoy is primarily in the spiritual category, and secondarily in the material. What are some of the things that make up our abundance as sons of God? Spiritually we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. We are seated in the heavenlies. We have peace with God by grace, not by works. We enjoy our sonship rights. We have the privilege to utilize nine manifestations of holy spirit to help bring God’s will to pass in the world. We have bold access to our heavenly Father and sweet fellowship with Him. These are just some of the spiritual blessings that God has given us to enjoy now. We don’t want to let the adversary come in and take this abundance from us by any means.
How do we stop the thief, the adversary, from stealing, killing, or even destroying in our lives? Since the thief’s primary objective is to steal the Word of God from us, then it only follows that our most important key in defeating him is to hold fast to the Word.
When Jesus Christ was on the earth, he revealed the adversary’s kingdom so that mankind could know about the nature and practices of the enemy. Referring to the adversary and his spiritual kingdom, Colossians 2:15 says that Jesus Christ “spoiled principalities and powers” and that “he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” We can know how the thief operates and keep him from taking advantage of us in life.
II Corinthians 2:11:
Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices.
If we are aware of what is rightfully ours and if we know that the adversary will try to steal, kill, and destroy in our lives, then we can daily be on guard to stop him. As we study the Word and become familiar with all that our heavenly Father has given us, we become more aware when the adversary tries to take it from us. (If we didn’t know we had a bicycle to ride, we would never even notice if it was stolen.) What Jesus Christ gained for us at the cost of his very life, the adversary has no legal right to take from us. No matter what method he uses to come after our abundance, God’s Word makes it clear that as we stand firm against our adversary, the Devil, he will flee from us.
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
What does “submit” mean, and how do we do that? “Submit” means to be subordinate, or to make yourself subject to. We submit ourselves to God by being humble to His Word. When we make the Word of God our standard for living and make decisions according to the written Word, then we are submitting to God. We can do this by holding the Word in our minds and acting accordingly.
What does “resist” mean? “Resist” means to stand against, to oppose either in words or actions or both. If we do, God’s Word says the thief will take off—he will flee from us. As we put on the Word and act accordingly, we are resisting the adversary. Doing what the Word says is resisting! God has made it simple for us to choose our more abundant life.
After I finished the Foundational Class, I remembered some of the verses from the class. These verses became my personal “bread of life” as I began to attend fellowship and turn my life around. I used them to oppose the thief in my life, to stand against him by acting on the Word in what I said and what I did.
One verse that I memorized and used a lot is I Peter 2:24:
Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
I needed healing in my life so this verse was very important to me. I would say this verse over and over in my mind in response to symptoms of either physical or mental weakness. I decided to act healthy and claim this promise in the Word in order to live healthy. Soon, I began to manifest the wholeness God had promised. People said I looked like a different person. I know I sure felt different. I felt healthy, strong, renewed. I had hope for a bright future. I was learning to claim this aspect of my more abundant life.
Another verse that I loved and held in my mind a lot when I first started claiming my more abundant life was from I John.
I John 4:4:
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
This verse reminded me that I could have the more abundant life Jesus Christ came to bring. In challenging situations this verse helped me remember God’s goodness to me and to remember that my life was full of good and godly possibilities. I learned to overcome by thinking the Word, speaking the Word, and doing the Word. We all have free will to choose to do the Word and, in doing so, to claim the more abundant life for ourselves in any category of life.
Studying John 10:10 in detail has shown us the contrast between the objectives of the thief and the objectives of Jesus Christ. The thief, our adversary, comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but Jesus Christ came to give us life more abundant. Understanding the adversary’s objectives and methods helps us recognize his influence in our lives and take action to stop him. By holding fast to God’s Word regarding any area of life, whether it’s physical, mental, financial, or spiritual, we are resisting the adversary, and God promises he will flee. No matter the circumstance or how the adversary attempts to take from our more abundant life, we can overcome as we think the Word, speak the Word, and do the Word. This is the decisive action we take to deny him access to our lives. And this is how we choose and claim the more abundant life Jesus Christ made available.
This is a reprint from the March/April 2009 issue of The Way Magazine.
Copyright© 2009 by The Way International. All rights reserved.
For more information on subscribing to The Way Magazine, Click Here