Do you feel sometimes like you are missing out on the best of life? When that feeling arises, do you feel as if you could be on a slippery slope toward despair or even worse? It is during such moments of reflection that we question the state and quality of our life. “Am I living a good life?” we wonder.
Any person can live a “good” life, but what if I told you how to live a free, full, and forever life? Would that get your attention?
What is the Good Life?
Before I describe a good life for you, let me give you some background on myself: I grew up in Hamilton, Canada, with my mother and brothers. Quite literally, I grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, in that part of town where poverty, substance abuse, crime and violence conspired against me to create a very unstable environment.
During my formative years, my mother was the girlfriend of a high-ranking outlaw biker. Every payday he went out drinking with his mates, came home drunk, was sick to his stomach, and would hit my mother. One occasion was so bad that I witnessed him shoot at her with a handgun. There was absolutely nothing I could do to stop him.
One morning I woke up to find a police officer outside my bedroom door. He instructed me to put on some slippers as there was broken glass all over the floor. It turns out that my mum’s biker boyfriend had shot someone dead in our living room during the night. While he safely went to jail, my family and I were not so lucky as the relatives of the dead man retaliated by setting fire to our house. One of my brothers died in that fire.
After my mum finally separated from that man, we survived on a merger income of government assistance. Too often, on cheque day, my mum would find her way to the local pub. On more than one occasion I had to plead with her to come home as we had no food for dinner.
This is all rather depressing, I know —I would not wish my childhood on anyone. My point in sharing these stories is simply to highlight for you that I had no expectation of a good life, based on these and other experiences. The beliefs, values and lifestyle demonstrated for me, in my home and neighbourhood, were training me to follow a way of life (cf. Dt 6:6-7; Pr 22:6) that would not end well for me. In fact, most of my childhood friends ended up in jail or getting their girlfriends pregnant…
Luckily for me, my mum sent my other brother and I to any local church’s Sunday school, to “get us out of the house and give her a morning off”, as she said. At those places I met faithful Christian people who demonstrated for me “the way, the truth and the life” of Jesus (Jn 14:16–17). As a result, when I later felt at my lowest, like my way was only leading me toward disaster, I called out to God, in a darkened field out front of my home, and I felt spoken to. The ‘voice’ encouraged me with hope for the future and gave me a glimpse of what that future could look like. I have tried my best to not deviate from following the way of Jesus ever since.
Nevertheless, it has not always gone smoothly.
A Friendly Reminder
Luckily, even on our most dreary days, things capture our attention to remind us that life can be better than it is, if we but look in the right places and know the right way to go. Every now and then, we get a glimpse of warm sunshine; a taste that delights; a cool breeze upon our cheek; a moment’s peace and quiet; a subtle, pleasing aroma … if our eyes and ears are open (cf. Mt 13:14–15), we would notice that it is in these ways and moments the Holy Spirit invades our day. Noticing and responding to the friendly prompting of the Spirit leads to an encounter that proves true the scripture,
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8)
Better Than the Good Life
In that dark field, I discovered that faith in Jesus, a Christian life, results in hope (Jer 29:11) and that moment gave me a glimpse of a path I could follow toward a life that is better than good. With so many books and DVDs promising, “3 easy steps to a good life”, you may have grown sceptical and are wondering, “What is a good life anyway?”
When you read the Bible, you will discover that Jesus promises a free, full and forever life, and I would like to explain just what he meant by those terms. His way of life truly is better than any good life we can imagine or achieve for ourselves.
A Free Life
To begin, let me remind you that the life Jesus promises is free. By “free”, Jesus meant two things: firstly, this life is a gift, for as it is written,
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith —and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8)
To be free, the life that Jesus promises is not something you need to purchase or for which you need to qualify. If you choose to receive this gift from him, then it is yours. That this life is a free gift is good news indeed for those who recognise that the life without any reference to or respect for God leads toward despair, disaster and death.
There is a better way!
Another side to this free life I know will interest you is that the life Jesus promises is a life without boundaries.
Sin is like carrying a burden you cannot get rid of, a debt that you can never repay. We may try to live our life without any reference to or respect for God but, when we are honest with ourselves, we know this is just not right, that something is wrong. Canadian comedian and actor, Jim Carrey, recognised the sense of this when he stated,
I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer. (Jim Carrey)
Jesus declared, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8:31–32; cf. Gal 5:1) It turns out then that having faith in Jesus releases the burden of sin from our shoulders (Mt 11:28–30). Thankfully, this does not mean you accept the restrictions of a new set of rules that only limit your life —surprisingly, Jesus summarised the rules into only two: 1) love God; and, 2) love your neighbour (Mt 22:34–40). Rather than weighing us down with a bunch of rules, instead, faith brings about a change of heart (Eze 36:26) such that you will know the right thing to do in every situation as if you cannot do anything else, nor would you want to do anything else (Ps 40:8; 119:2,69,112; Ro 6:17).
Christian faith brings about a change of one’s will, which is very much like the joy of a child who wants to please her father by doing the things she knows will bring him joy. Expanding on this point, while explaining the importance of virtue to politics, Herbert McCabe, a Roman Catholic philosopher and priest, has written,
A child learns to read initially because she wants to please her parents or teachers, so the reading is seen as good because it has good ulterior consequences … But in consequence of continued reading at her parents behest, the child in most cases discovers that books are delightful in themselves and that reading is a good and pleasant way of spending time. She enters whole new worlds of imagination and so on. She is now reading for its own sake and there is no longer any point in ever pretending to read. It is the good intrinsic to reading that she seeks, no longer an ulterior consequence. (Herbert McCabe)
So, we begin by following the commands of God as if they are rules, only to discover that what we thought were rules actually liberate us to live more in tune with our own spirit, the way of life intended for us by our creator.
Can you get a sense of the freedom in that? Instead of constantly looking over your shoulder to see if the authorities are watching you, the Holy Spirit transforms your natural inclinations in such a way as to never move in a direction that would get you into trouble (Gal 5:19–25). You do not have to ask after the rule in any given situation as you are simply always in touch with the guidance of the Spirit and are always confident in the direction your spirit is leading you. That is the freedom of which the apostle Paul wrote,
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1–4)
That is a free life.
A Full Life
Next, the life Jesus promises is a full life and by “full”, or “abundant” or “overflowing” (depending on your chosen Bible version), Jesus meant a life of safety, flourishing, and complete satisfaction (Jn 10:10; cf. Ps 23; 65:11; Ro 5:17). The person of faith is well looked after by Jesus, for as he stated:
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)
Some people seek a meaningful life through material possessions, but with every gadget or gizmo you buy there is always a newer version or a better model. Physical or sensual gratification is another avenue that leads many nowhere with nothing to show but an inescapable emptiness. Nowadays, the emphasis has moved toward having adventures or ‘peak experiences’, but once you have reached that mountaintop or careened around that corner at break-neck speed, you are still left with little more than photos.
A life lived Jesus’ way, with his Spirit as your guide and coach, is a life that is always on the right track, where all your needs are provided, and sometimes even your wants. You will have a sense of always being in the right place at the right time, where challenges and obstacles just do not seem as ominous as they may have once. You will be safe, warm, and comfortable in whatever circumstance you find yourself in, having whatever you need when you need it, even when it seems like you don’t. That is fullness.
It is a fullness, though, that is not achieved on one’s own, and this is the point that trips us up over and over again: Jesus described himself as the shepherd who knows how to lead his sheep to pasture and water daily, and who at night gives them safe rest in the sturdy walls of the sheepfold. These are sheep that flourish and are content, thanks to the skill of the shepherd. Sheep are rather vulnerable and stupid when left to their own devices. We need Jesus, who communicates and demonstrates the lifestyle that our creator-God always intended for us. It cannot be realised any other way.
Let me give you an example: I have dabbled in online businesses for a number of years now. My calling is to mission and ministry but it doesn’t pay particularly well … well enough, I’m not complaining, but if I can make a few dollars on the side, to keep me in my toys and my wife from complaining, then so much the better!
The problem is I don’t have a business degree and I don’t really know how to sell stuff online; so, I have sought out advice and training from others. By following their plans and strategies, utilising their swipe files, etc, I can manage some degree of success with online business and consulting.
The life intended for us by our creator cannot be achieved without his help nor can it be imagined without his revelation. This doesn’t sit well with us but the evidence of the disasters we get ourselves into is all around us.
Additionally, Jesus is not here merely promising more time to fill —in other words, everlasting life, although he does indeed provide that also— but he is promising life beyond our wildest dreams, better than our present circumstances. Indeed, this is life to be lived now, despite our circumstances. It is not merely a life of material prosperity, although we might be blessed with such, but a life filled with “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Ga 5:22–23), the kind of blessings which are not determined by nor dependant on our circumstances. These are the attitudes that make the best of any situation, that explain how a poor person in an impoverished country can still find the energy to smile and kick a soccer ball around with his friends.
These are the riches that cannot be taken away nor will they diminish with age. A full life is available to the true disciples of Jesus, free of charge, no strings attached.
A Forever Life
Finally, the life Jesus promised is forever, a promise made in that popular verse: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16; cf. Mt 19:29).
Jesus wants us to know there is so much more to life than this mortal coil. As C.S. Lewis wrote,
Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A dolphin wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. (C.S. Lewis)
Why would we, or even how could we, imagine a life beyond death if such were not possible?
Similarly, we are more than the sum of our parts. Although our bodies are made from the “dust of the earth” (Gen 2:7), the spirit God breathed into us is an indication that we were made for eternity. Unfortunately, our rebellion against God (sin) has meant that access to that life has been taken away from us (Gen 3:22; 6:3). Having faith in Jesus and following his way brings that forever life back within our reach. In the 2000 movie, Gladiator, Russel Crowe’s character, General Maximus, said it so well: “What we do in life, echoes in eternity!” That statement highlights that our experience of heaven starts when we have faith in Jesus, it is ours now, yet continues on beyond death! That is the forever life.
C.S. Lewis jokingly, I hope, once stated,
There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, “Thy will be done”, and those to whom God says, “All right then, have it your way”. (C.S. Lewis )
If you, like me, long for a better life because you know, deep down inside, that life is meant to be much better than it is, then the Holy Spirit of God is trying to get your attention, my friend. We were meant for so much more … we were meant for the free, full and forever life lived in and with the One, True God, the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all that is, was, and ever shall be. To him be all glory, praise, and honour, now and forever!
The thing to do now then is to learn to listen to, trust and obey God, and, by so doing, experience the free, full and forever life (Jn 3:16; 3:36; 5:24; cf. Mt 19:29) promised by Jesus! It is yours for the receiving and enjoying.
 Herbert McCabe, The McCabe Reader, Brian Davies & Paul Kucharski (ed.) (New York, NY, USA: Bloomsbury Publishing, 22-Sep-2016), pg 183.
 Gary M. Burge, John, The NIV Application Commentary series (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000).
 D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary series (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1991).
 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Bk. III, ch 10, “Hope”
 See Rev 21:22-23; 22:1-2; cf. Isa 55:1; Eze 47:8-9,12; Jn 7:38-39; Rev 2:7.