“The thief comes to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.”
Jesus gave this warning to a small group of his followers (Jn 10.10a). It is a statement fitting any police community warning, and we would do well to take heed.
Who is the thief?
From the broader biblical context, the thief represents the religious leaders who were out to exploit and harm God’s people. However, it is not wrong to brand Satan as a thief because he has the same intentions. This means that what Jesus says in this verse is a description of Satan and a warning to us about Satan’s destructive work.
What is the thief after?
One answer is that he is out to get us. However, if we look at John 10.10 as a whole, Jesus said,
“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (NKJV)
The specific answer to the question is that Satan is out to steal, kill, and destroy any possibility of us experiencing the abundant life Jesus promised.
What is abundant life?
“Abundantly” in Greek means more remarkable, more excellent, or superior. It means anything that surpasses all that is common. Christians enter into the abundant life when they are born again. This experience brings with it new desires and motivations. It places us in a unique relationship with God and brings with it promises of prosperity and health. These include wholeness for the body, mind, emotions, relationships, and material needs.
We are all partakers of abundant life, but individually we are at different levels of experiencing it. The Christian life is a process of maturity as we continually learn how to live abundantly. However, if what we learn is to have any impact upon the fullness of our lives then we must allow what we learn to impact and align our lifestyle with God’s instructions.
What are the thief’s tactics?
We do not know a person is a thief until they are caught and identified. This is what Jesus does in John 10.10. Jesus calls Satan out and unmasks him. We need to be aware that Satan is the master of deception and he comes to us in many guises. This means that it is not always clear that the devil is at work in our lives and trying to,
- Steal and take away the promises of health, strength, innocence, right relationship, success, and prosperity, which are rightfully ours.
- Kill us physically. Some Christians do not believe that Satan can kill. According to Jesus, Satan can. I choose to listen to Jesus on this matter.
- Destroy us. If Satan cannot kill us, he will focus his efforts to try to inflict destruction on any area of our lives that he can.
Satan is a master lawyer. He knows the scripture, and he knows his entitlement. We are crucified with Christ, and our carnal, fleshly nature is declared dead. However, if we continue to walk in that dead, carnal, fleshly nature, its purification will attract all sort of unwanted carrion. We are open to Satan if we are disobeying God or living unchristian lifestyles.
How will I know if there is a theft?
Jesus invites us to partake of the abundant life and all the promises that are rightfully ours. However, if we do not know what our full entitlement is the devil can steal these promises before we experience them. We may wonder where the abundant life is and why we are not experiencing it, but we do not realize that a theft took place.
When Satan steals from us, he tricks us into settling for something that is good and not God’s best. The best is God’s will for us. Satan replaces God’s best with something similar yet inferior. This means that if we are pursuing the good instead of the best, then we are not seeking what God wants us to seek. This has dramatic consequences if we want to live an abundant life.
About this, often Christians take part in lifestyles contrary to how God would have them live. They live within these lifestyles for so long that their heart becomes calloused. They are unaware of the damage Satan has caused even though they live within the wreckage daily. Christians living in this area will find it difficult to discern between which aspects of their lifestyle are pleasing to God and those that are not.
How do we protect ourselves?
1. Be aware a thief is operating and know his tactics.
The first thing we must do is recognize a thief is operating. The best way to do that is to take Jesus’ warning in John 10.10 as a fact. We need to be aware of what Satan wants to take from us in comparison to what Jesus wants to give. This in itself has deeper connotations because it means we are taking Jesus’ word at face value and obeying what he says. This leads on to the next point.
God speaks in many ways to us. Two of the most common are the Bible and the inner witness. We are disobedient if we hear what he says and do not do it.
- God speaks through the bible. It is an unfortunate fact that some Christians do not spend enough time studying their Bible to know what God’s will is for situations they may find themselves in. This means that when certain situations arise they end up disobeying God by doing something contrary to what he would have them do.
- God speaks through the inner witness. What I am referring to is that still small voice or that little nudge we sometimes feel which tells us to do or not to do something.
Obedience is the number one thing in the Christian life. God will steer us clear of where the thief is operating if we obey and follow him. We must read our bible and be ever listening to those small nudges that we easily dismiss.
We must discern those things in our lives that are not pleasing to God because they leave us open to Satan’s devices. Then we must repent, ask God’s forgiveness, and ask him to fill that area.
The Christian life is a journey. It is a process, and the Holy Spirit is here to help us. Sadly, many people think that the Holy Spirit will only work in our lives when we are perfect, but that is not the case.
Imagine if a university professor says to his students, “We’ll only teach you after you graduate.”
The truth is the Holy Spirit is here to help us now in our weaknesses. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 8.26, the Spirit helps our infirmities.
3. Take up your cross
The third thing we must do is take up our cross daily and follow Jesus. We must ask him to fill every area of our lives. As we earnestly want to live lives in harmony with God, Satan will have less space to come snooping around with foul intentions. The Lord will give us back everything that the devil took away from us. As the Prophet Joel says, God will give us with the years the locust has taken away.