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Archive for sheep

I Am the Door

January 24, 2015

18_the-sheepfoldMoses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”  God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Ex. 3:13-14)

God revealed Himself to Moses as “I Am.” Jesus Christ also identified Himself as “I Am.” The Jews were trying to embarrass Him by alluding to His virgin birth. They said to Him, “We know who our father is. It is Abraham. Who is your father?” Jesus blew them away with these words, “Your father Abraham saw my day and was glad.”

Their response was understandable. They answered, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” Jesus answer was absolutely amazing. “Before Abraham was born, I Am.” He said that He existed before Abraham! He was exposing His true identity as the God-Man by making known His eternal nature (John 8:37-59).

Jesus used His I am identity to make clear seven of His most incredible characteristics. We saw in the previous blog that He referred to Himself as the Good Shepherd. Looking further into His role as the Good Shepherd, we find this statement from His lips, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he shall be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9).

Shepherds in Israel were different from those in the rest of the world. Each shepherd had only a small flock of sheep to care for. They did not use dogs to control their sheep; the shepherds took that responsibility themselves. A single shepherd cared for a flock of sheep throughout the sheep’s life. In time, the shepherd developed a special relationship with his sheep. Each sheep would be named and would come to recognize the voice of its’ owner. Jesus knows His sheep by name, and His sheep recognize His voice.

Shepherds would often pool their money and build a large sheepfold in a city to house their sheep. They would then hire a person, a hireling, to watch over the flock through the night. Though the hireling may sincerely care for the sheep, he did not care as much as the owner. If the sheep were threatened by danger from thieves or predators, the hireling may decide to abandon the sheep. The owner, on the other hand, would most likely stay and defend the sheep, even to death. Jesus claimed to be this kind of shepherd of His flock. He would lay down His life for His sheep (John 10:15).

When out in the countryside looking for pasture, the shepherd would build a temporary sheepfold for His sheep. He would use whatever materials were available. Sometimes the fence would be made of wood and rocks but most likely large rocks. The sheepfold would have a single door. This way the shepherd could count the sheep as they went in and out. During the night, the shepherd would sleep in the door. The shepherd would literally “become” the door. Any predator or thief would have to come through the shepherd to get to the sheep, and the sheep would have to come by the shepherd to get out. This way the sheep could be kept securely in the pen.

This gives deep meaning to the words of Christ, “I am the door of the sheepfold. He who believes in Me will be saved and go in and out and find pasture.” Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved. He is the door that leads to eternal life. The believer entering through this Door will go into forever life and be protected and preserved by the Good Shepherd. Going out to find pasture means that the Good Shepherd will feed and nurture the believer eternally. The Lord Jesus Christ is truly the Door. All who enter by Him shall never want.

“They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”  (Revelation 7:17).

Election: Navigating the Elephant in the Room

January 16, 2015

elephant-in-the-room-wip-leah-saulnier-the-painting-maniac“Dad, it’s the elephant in the room.” My son made a point that he felt was extremely obvious, but no one wanted to admit that they got it. That was the first time I remember hearing that expression. I have heard it many times since. The term refers to a question, problem, solution, or controversial issue which is obvious to everyone who knows about the situation, but which is deliberately ignored because to do otherwise would cause great embarrassment, or trigger arguments or is simply taboo.

It struck me that the words spoken by the Lord Jesus Christ are so very profound, yet they apparently go without notice. These truths become spiritual “elephants in the room.” I get the fact that His words – the words written in red in my Bible – are no more inspired by the Holy Spirit than those of Peter, Paul, James, and John. But I admit that His words weigh heavily upon this writer’s heart. This blog starts a short series on the seven “I Am’s of Jesus Christ.” In these “I Am” statements I want to look closely at some recognizably clear but painfully ignored statements (elephants in the room) of our Lord.

Why do people who hear the gospel reject the gospel? The short answer is that all are spiritually dead in trespasses and sin and the dead cannot hear.  Secondly, Satan blinds the minds of people to the truth contained in the gospel. Adam’s entire race is born dead and blind. It should be obvious that unless God works to allow His word to penetrate the mind of the dead by breaking the hold of Satan’s blindness, the person cannot hear and believe the gospel. The real reason why people do not believe comes from the lips of Jesus Christ.

Let’s visit our Lord’s “I am” found in John 10.  Jesus begins by identifying Himself in verse 11 as the Good Shepherd, “I am the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep.” This was in contrast to the hired helper that really does not own the sheep and would most likely not lay down his life for them (vs. 11-13). In verse 14 He repeats, “I am the Good Shepherd, and I know my sheep, and I am known by My own.” How He knows His sheep or how they know Him, He does not say. Then in verses 27 and 28, He crystalizes this truth by a further explanation. The Good Shepherd uses the personal pronoun, “My sheep.”

He is plainly identifying a special group of people that He owns, a people branded as His own possession. This is obviously in contrast to some who are not His sheep. He continues, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them, and they follow me.”  Again, He does not tell us how He knows His sheep or how His sheep hear His voice or how they know Him or how they follow Him, He just states that it is so. One has to work hard to misunderstand these words written in red. Amazingly, He then says that He gives these sheep, the ones whom He knows and the ones who follow Him, eternal life,  that they will never perish.

This forced me to ask a few questions. “When were these sheep His sheep? Did they become His sheep after they heard His voice and decided to follow Him? Or were they His sheep before they heard His voice and followed Him?” They belonged to Him before they followed Him and before He gave them eternal life. As far as we know, they were always His sheep. A group of Jews surrounded Jesus and demanded that He tell them if He was truly the Christ (John 10:24).  He strongly informed them, “I told you and you do not believe.”

Belief in Him is the subject. He said that the works that He had done were sufficient to convince anyone that He was the Christ. He was obviously referring to His amazing miracles. Verse 26 answers the question as to why people do not believe in Jesus Christ. “But you do not believe because you are not of my sheep.” This can’t be missed! It is so very clear. It is the elephant in the room. The Jews who rejected Jesus Christ rejected Him because they did not belong to Him. Those who belonged to Him believed! This is the reason people reject the gospel.

Ah, Jews, you say. Yes, He is speaking specifically here about Jews. Those coming to Him were Jewish sheep not Gentile. But in verse 16 He says, “And other sheep have I which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear my voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” These “other sheep,” which will hear the voice of the Good Shepherd are Gentile sheep.  Some Gentiles will hear His voice and come to Him. And then there will be one flock (made up of both Jews and Gentiles) and one shepherd. Who could miss this? It’s the elephant in the room.