Recently I discovered this human life expectancy and survival curve from the Our World in Data website.
Even though the data are based on England and Wales, it gives us a ballpark perspective of the human survival rate. It shows a growing percentage of people are living longer. Half of the population born around 1930 live up to 80 years old; half of those born around 1960 will live up to 90.
However, they all eventually die around 120 years old. That means even though our survival rate is getting better, the human lifespan stays the same—about 120.
The oldest person on record is Jeanne Calment of France, who lived to the age of 122 (1875–1997). She was the only person who exceeded 120. The oldest man is Jiroemon Kimura of Japan, who lived to the age of 116 (1897–2013). Women live longer than men.
According to Genesis, our maximum lifespan on earth is 120, even though this verse is open to interpretation.
Then the LORD said, “My spirit shall not abide in mortals forever, for they are flesh; their days shall be one hundred twenty years.” (Gen 6:3).
Even though it was written about 5,000 years ago and didn’t preclude exceptions, human lifespan data to date prove it is still valid.
I love science and have closely followed research on longevity for over a decade. Many researchers predicted that by around 2025 to 2030, a scientific breakthrough would allow us to live forever. I am open-minded and have been looking forward to this day to come.
Now we are in 2023, and this chart convinced me that breaking the maximum lifespan of 120 is more like an illusion. In 200 B.C., the emperor of the Qin Dynasty searched for an elixir to live forever, but he died before discovering it. In the 20th century, Chairman Mao said that we didn’t need religion because science would give us eternal life, but he died before science discovered eternal life.
Even if science did give us eternal life, it would not change my trust in the core message of the Bible, mainly about human sins, salvation, and the significance of life. So far, science cannot solve human sins. Crimes, corruption, wars, and genocides continue despite our knowledge and education. As someone said, an educated devil is worse than an uneducated one.
Jesus doesn’t promise to extend our lifespan on this side of eternity, but he does promise us the quality of life. He said,
“I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (Jn 10:10).
The word “abundantly” is translated from Greek, “περισσόν (perisson),” meaning “overflowingly, fully, abundantly, advantageously.”
“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV).
The living Bible says,
“My purpose is to give life in all its fullest.” (John 10:10 TLB).
Jesus’ purpose is to give you life in all its fullest. I think our deepest desire is not longevity but the quality of life. Whether we live up to 80 or 800, God wants us to live to the fullest. From today’s scripture lesson, we will examine how Jesus expects us to live life to the fullest. So, let’s begin!
[Hi, in case we haven’t met yet, I am Sam Stone, the Lightkeeper—you are the light of the world, and I am the keeper! (No pun intended). It’s my calling to help you shine your brightest so that God is glorified in you and you are satisfied in God.]
The Scripture lesson for today—the Fourth Sunday of Easter—is from the Gospel According to John 10:1-10. [Listen to the Word of the Lord!]
“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7 So again Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:1–10).
[Blessed are those who delight in God’s word. Thanks be to God!]
In the context of this passage, the Pharisees and other religious leaders were watching closely at what Jesus was doing and tried to frame him to arrest him. So, Jesus’ started using complex symbols and metaphors as he taught his disciples. We might find it confusing, but verse 9 gives us the critical point for interpretation.
I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. (John 10:9).
That is one of the seven “I am” statements in John. Here’s the list:
1. I AM the Bread of Life. (John 6:35).
2. I AM the Light of the World. (John 8:12).
3. I AM the Gate. (John 10:9).
4. I AM the Good Shepherd. (John 10:11).
5. I AM the Resurrection and the Life. (John 11:25).
6. I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. (John 14:6).
7. I AM the True Vine. (John 15:1).
These “I am” statements are significant, particularly for the Jews listening to his teaching because “I AM” is God’s name. When God told Moses to bring the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses asked, “How do I tell the pharaoh who sent me? What’s your name?”
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” (Ex 3:14).
God’s name as “I AM” is profound and significant. Scholars have been trying to interpret it for centuries. Laozi said, “The name that can be named is not the eternal name.” I think that explains why the eternal God doesn’t have a name.
Moses asked for God’s name because there were over a thousand gods in Egypt, and the pharaoh would likely ask him who sent him to take the Israelites away. So, God said His name is “I AM.” That is fascinating, and we must pay serious attention.
If God’s name is “I AM” and the second of the Ten Commandments says,
“Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” (Exodus 20:7a).
Does it mean we should be careful when we make a statement starting with “I AM”? Sometimes we exclaim, “I am so stupid!” Would that be equivalent to saying, “God is stupid?” It might sound silly to think with that logic, but saying “I am stupid” too often would ruin your self-esteem psychologically.
In any case, we must not make self-denigrating statements because, theologically, “I AM” is God’s name; psychologically, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Word has effects.
So, next time you make a statement starting with “I am,” be sensitive about the rest of the sentence you are about to say. I am not saying it dogmatically because our salvation comes through God’s grace, but if you want to live your life to the fullest, you must begin by honoring God. As King Solomon said,
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10).
Fearing God and knowing God will make you smart. When you honor the term “I AM,” you honor God because God created you in God’s image.
I have drawn four principles from the passage on living a full life, using the word “FULL” as an acronym.
1. Follow the Good Shephard
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (John 10:10).
Here, Jesus compares us to sheep. I grew up in a town where some people raise sheep. When the sheep are left alone, they would eat whatever is around. They can’t see far and travel far to hunt for better food. So, without a good shepherd, they are defenseless and poorly fed.
In the eyes of the Creator, we are vulnerable creatures, unlike tigers, lions, cats, dogs, and other animals that can defend themselves and hunt for food. So, we must recognize that we need a good shepherd. If we think like William Henley, “I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul,” Satan will laugh.
Even though the statement “I am the Good Shephard” is not part of this passage, Jesus is leading to that metaphor in verse 11. In this passage, he said, “I am the Gate.” The Gate represents protection, and the Sheperd indicates provision.
Whether as the Gate or the Shepherd, his purpose is to keep you safe and give you an abundant life. It does not necessarily mean material prosperity but spiritual and emotional well-being. As King David said,
“The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want … my cup overflows.” (Psalm 23:1, 5b)
The Hebrew scriptures often use the word “shepherd” as “leader.” That means, with the Lord as my leader, I don’t need anything; I am abundant, my cup overflows with blessings, and I have well-being.
Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” He was talking about the Pharisees, who were terrible leaders of the day. Their hypocrisy stole, killed, and destroy the spirit of those under their leadership. They eventually killed Jesus on the cross. They were corrupt because they didn’t come through the gate. That means they didn’t recognize Jesus as the Son of God.
In the previous chapter, Jesus healed a blind man and hinted that the Pharisees were spiritually blind even though they were not physically blind. Their blindness is revealed in their inability to recognize Jesus as the Son of God and the Messiah. Their blindness made them spiritual thieves.
2. Unmask the Bad Leaders
Jesus said, “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.” (John 10:1).
Just as the Pharisees were bad leaders of the first century Israel, we have bad leaders in our times. Jesus compared the bad leaders with thieves and bandits.
Most of you know that I grew up under two dictatorships, so I know what it is like to live under bad leadership. They confiscate your processions, take bribes, and make the country poor. Our leaders here in the United States are not necessarily good, but we have a constitution that keeps the sinner in place.
According to Jesus, bad leaders don’t come through the Gate. That means any leader who does not recognize him is a bad one. That may be politically incorrect, but history has proven that Godly leaders lead best. Jesus said,
“He goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him.” (v. 4c).
There is a difference between a shepherd and a cowboy. A shepherd goes ahead of the sheep, and the sheep follow, but a cowboy drives the cows from behind. Good leaders go a step ahead of you, but bad ones coerce you from behind.
So, if you want to live life to the fullest, follow Christ and unmask the bad leaders.
3. Live Free or Die
Jesus said his leadership provides freedom.
“I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture.” (John 10:9).
This statement symbolizes liberty. Our Declaration of Independence says,
“… endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” ~Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776
An atheist argued with me that “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” is our human rights. I asked him where those rights came from. He couldn’t answer me. I showed him the Declaration of Independence. He was flabbergasted to find out the word Creator was in there. He didn’t know the history of his own country.
Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:23). Jesus came to bring the truth to us and set us free. Later he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6).
What it means is that he is the gateway to freedom.
“Live Free or Die” is the official motto of the state of New Hampshire. It was adopted from General John Stark’s toast, “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.” Americans love freedom more than life.
Patrick Henry said, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”
If you want to live your life to the fullest, you must live freedom enough to live free or die.
4. Lead through Christ the Gate
“The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.” (v. 2).
It means those who enter through him are shepherds. That’s why this passage is rich in imagery. Jesus doesn’t just invite us to believe in him but also calls us to be leaders. We have greatness thrust upon us.
Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
As a disciple of Christ, you cannot hide from the call to be a leader. By protecting others, you protect yourself. So, to live your life to the fullest, be a leader.
There we have it! Jesus wants you to live life to the FULL in these four principles:
- Follow the Good Shepherd
- Unmask the Bad Leaders
- Live Free or Die
- Lead through Christ the Gate
That’s it for today. I hope you find this message illuminating as much as I enjoy receiving it from the Head Office. Until we meet again, keep your light shining brighter and broader, and harvest the fruit of profound freedom, purpose, and happiness.