A Personal Relationship

Thursday, May 30, 2013, 5:45 a.m. – When I awoke this morning, the Lord Jesus put the song “That Man” in my mind. Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening. I read John 10:1-30 (NIV): http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2010&version=NIV

“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

The Jews who heard these words were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

Three Characters

In reading John 10 this time through, what stood out to me is that there are three main characters spoken of here: 1) The false shepherds, 2) The true shepherd, and 3) the sheep. So, this morning I believe the Lord Jesus would have me take a look at the characteristic traits of each one of these roles described here in this passage of scripture, and how they interrelate with one another.

False Shepherds

Jesus was talking with the Pharisees. He had just healed a man who was blind from birth, and the Pharisees took issue with both the man who had been healed and with Jesus who had healed the man on the Sabbath. Some of the Pharisees claimed that Jesus could not be from God because, in their opinion, he did not keep the Sabbath. Others wondered how he could heal a man blind from birth if he was not from God, so they were divided. The Pharisees insulted the man who had been healed, and they threw him out of the temple. Jesus came to the man, told him who he was, and the man worshiped him. Jesus told the Pharisees that they were guilty, not because they were blind, but because they thought they could see, and thus they would not humble themselves before God as did this man.

Then, he continued by telling them that if they did not come to God through faith in his Son, the true Shepherd, but if they entered into the fold of God through another way, perhaps through self-righteousness, pride, hypocrisy, institutional religion, and/or political gain, then they were just thieves and robbers. The thief, namely Satan, who works through human beings, comes into the fold only to steal and kill and destroy. In some cases, this is literal, i.e. there are false shepherds within our churches who are there to spy on true believers in Christ in order to hand them over to the authorities to be killed, or to destroy the work of God in and through their lives, i.e. to kill their testimonies for Jesus Christ, and/or to try to rob from them their joy and their victories in Christ. Others are there to destroy the gospel through dilution and manipulation of truth, to steal the life and fruit of the Spirit of God from the church through man-made religion, and to get rid of anyone who opposes them.

False shepherds are merely hired hands, so they have no sense of care or obligation or responsibility for the sheep. When these “hired hands” see the enemy (a wolf, in this case) approaching, they abandon the sheep and run away. It could be because they work for the wolf and the intention all along was and is to hand the sheep over to the wolf (the antichrist or the beast, perhaps). They may abandon the sheep physically and literally, yet I believe these false shepherds of the sheep desert the sheep spiritually on a daily basis when they dilute the gospel of Jesus Christ, when they put humanistic “Band-Aids” over serious sin, and when they lead their people (their flocks) to be followers of men more than followers of God/Christ. Much of this is so subtle and has taken place within the church over such a long period of time that most of the “sheep” don’t even know they’ve been duped by master manipulators, liars and deceivers (the attacks of the wolf).

The True Shepherd

In contrast to the self-serving false shepherds of the people (both in our governments and in our institutional churches) is the true shepherd, who laid his life down for the sheep. He is the gate (the way, the truth and the life) into God’s eternal kingdom, and he enters through the gate (the true way), i.e. he came from God, was called, sent and commissioned of God, and was and is divine, and has divine authority to be the true shepherd of the people.

The true shepherd calls his own sheep by name and he leads them out. He has an intimate and personal relationship with his sheep (his true followers). He knows each of us, and he cares about our individual needs. He speaks his words to our hearts, and he leads and guides us in the direction we should go. He will never leave us or forsake us. He will never placate our sin or give us the impression that our sin doesn’t matter, but he will always provide a way out from underneath temptation to sin, and he will always forgive us when we come to him in humility, confessing and repenting of our sin. After all, he went to the cross so we could be free from the control of, and slavery to, and the eternal punishment of sin, so he has a lot invested in our freedom from sin. His grace freed us, not to continue in sin, but to walk in righteousness and in the light of his love and truth.

Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. No one enters heaven with God except through him. He is the ONLY way! And, true faith in him is the ONLY way. We cannot get to heaven through good works, through following a set of rules, or through our own self-righteousness and self-efforts. Jesus Christ paid the price for our sins, and it is only through faith in him that we can be saved from our sins and have eternal life. Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny (disallow) himself (his self-life) and take up his cross daily (die daily to sin and self) and follow (obey) him (Luke 9:23-25). Paul said that the way in which we come to know Christ is through forsaking our lives of sin, by being transformed in heart and mind (of the Spirit), and by putting on our new lives in Christ, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:17-24). And, John said that if we say we have fellowship with God, and yet we still walk (lifestyle) in sin, or if we say we love God and yet do not obey him, that we are liars and we do not live by the truth (see 1 John).

The Sheep

There is a personal relationship between the shepherd and his sheep (his followers). Following Christ is not following a religion, creed, doctrine, forms, practices, rituals, and/or traditions of men. It is not joining a social club or a religious institution. It is a relationship, just like we have with people in our lives in the flesh, only not in the flesh and much, much better! We can talk with our Lord just like we talk with our best friends or with our spouses, only he understands us completely, inside and out, and he does not judge us by human standards, for which I am very thankful! He is to be our first love, and we are to treat him just like we would treat a first love. We should want to share everything with him. He ought to be uppermost on our minds and hearts. And, we should desire to please him in all we do and say. We ought to look forward to our times with him each day, and we need to be much more passionate about wanting to sit at his feet and to learn from him each day than we are about the other “loves” of our lives who or which capture our attention and time.

When we are in intimate relationship with him, and our desire is to hear from him, then he can lead us in the way we should go. Christ’s true sheep listen to his voice, he knows them and they follow him. And no one will snatch them out of God’s hand. What this is saying is that if we are truly his sheep, we will desire to, and we will listen - not just with our ears, but with our hearts and minds and with the full intention of heeding what we hear - to Jesus speaking his words to our hearts. And, we won’t just listen, but we will follow through with obedience to what he shows us (what he teaches us) through his word. And, if we are doing that, then no robber should be able to snatch us away from pure devotion to our Lord or be able to deceive our minds with their lies and manipulations, but we will, in fact, run away from strangers. In other words, we should not sit week after week listening to the false shepherds of the sheep, but many do, to their shame. If we truly know Jesus, and we are truly in intimate relationship with him, listening to his voice and obeying what he teaches us, then we should not recognize the voice of strangers, but only the voice of our Savior.

That Man / An Original Work / May 23, 2013

Based off John 3:22-36

An argument between some men
Erupted out of resentment.
They came to John and said,
“That man is baptizing everyone.
They’re going to Him.”

So, John replied, “A man can
Only receive what is given him.
You yourselves can testify that
I said, ‘I am not the Christ.
I’m sent before Him.’”

The bride belongs to the bridegroom.
His friends await and watch for Him.
They are full of joy when they hear
His voice speaking words to them.
That now is our joy!

Jesus, the One who comes from heav’n –
He testifies of forgiveness.
Yet, so many do not trust in
His words, and do not repent.
They will face judgment.

The one who trusts in Jesus Christ
Has certified that God is truth.
Jesus Christ speaks the words of God.
Those who put their faith in Him,
Eternal life gain!