By Bernadette Gómez
Our children go through trials just like we do. These trials are difficult, not just for the child, but for the parents as well. It is difficult to watch our children suffer. Instead of lamenting tough times, we can look to the Lord and His perspective. When we do this, our hearts are protected and the trial is easier to bear because now we have an eternal perspective.
Trials are a perfect opportunity to train our children in “the way they should go” (Proverb 22:6). Our children need to understand the nature of trials, what they are, why God allows them, the purpose God has for trials, and the wonderful fruit that can be theirs if they allow God to train them through those tough times.
My son has been going through some trials and so I used this as an opportunity for training. We studied James 1:2-7. We read each verse and discussed it line by line: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”
My son was amazed that God wanted him to consider it “pure joy” that he was facing this painful, difficult trial! He was shocked! So I patiently explained that the flesh is not going to like the way the trial feels. It is not going to feel “good” or “fun” for the flesh, but in your mind and heart you can be positive and have joy in your soul because you are expecting good fruit that God is going to grow in you as you patiently wait on Him. I encouraged him to truly trust God and not doubt God’s love for him.
We discussed how the testing of our faith develops perseverance. That means we learn to press on and be trained by the trial without giving God a timeframe to remove it. Trust that God knows what He is doing. He knows how to best purify our faith and His timing is perfect. We can trust God.
Then I encouraged my son that the blessing of allowing himself to be trained by this trial means that he will grow, be more mature, more complete – better equipped to handle the next trial that comes his way. We also discussed having the courage to ask God for help if we lack wisdom (patience, strength, faith) to endure this trial. I reminded him (and myself) that all we need to do is ask our Father and He will graciously give these qualities to us. He will gladly fill any void because He loves us and wants to comfort us. He also wants to see us succeed and be victorious!
Seeing our children go through trials can be very difficult for us. I try to remember that God has a greater purpose for these trials. He wants to mature our children’s young souls. He wants to perfect their character. He wants to test their faith and purify their hearts so that one day they will make it to heaven and live with their heavenly Father for eternity. When I remember this, all is well with my soul.
Happy New Year! Thanks be to God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord for allowing us to see another year. And what will this year bring? Do any of us know the answer to that question? No! So we are left to make some decisions without knowing what the future may hold. I believe the number one decision we have to make, as families in Christ, is to serve the Lord! And what does serving the Lord entail? Reading my bible, prayer, attending church service are all good for preparing us for that service but they are not the service in and of themselves. When we choose to serve the Lord, we choose to get off our butts and put our hands to work for the Lord and allow God to do some amazing things with us. But this means that we will have to spend less time watching TV, less time shopping at the mall and less time rooting for our favorite team. In place of these things we will spend more time sharing the Gospel, more time having bible studies, more time visiting the sick, more time feeding the hungry and more time plugging into the various ministries of the church. And as a parent, if I believe these things are important than why not include my children. Hopefully they will develop a desire to do these things on their own for the Lord. I believe Joshua got it right. He said that he would serve the Lord. He would encourage those in his household to serve the Lord. And at the end of the day, they would all be serving the Lord together. I believe that if we set our goals the way Joshua did the Lord will be pleased with us and our households. So I encourage you, serve the Lord!
“And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15
Grace – In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians the Holy Spirit exemplifies this grace of God as something incredibly profound and mysterious, only revealed a short while ago through the Gospel of Jesus. The Spirit uses the word grace 12 times or so, and the word peace 7 times in this epistle. Notice how Paul begins his letter to the Ephesians in this way:
Ephesians 1:2-10 NIV Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (3) Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (4) For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love (5) he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will– (6) to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (7) In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace (8) that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, (9) he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, (10) to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment–to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.
Grace comes from the Greek word charis, which means “unmerited favor” – a divine influence on the heart and its reflection upon God’s love expressed to mankind through Jesus, usually producing gratitude, joy and pleasure because of the knowledge of being accepted by God as a son or daughter.
In this short introduction we see it is by God’s grace we’ve been adopted into sonship by having been redeemed through Jesus’ blood, which is how we obtained forgiveness of sins (all perfectly worded in Romans 5) – and that because of God’s grace that has been lavished on us!
Romans 5:1-2 NIV Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (2) through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God.
We have been given something we truly do not deserve and the purpose of this gift-giving was to accomplish something impossible to do by reliance on men alone: unity of all things in heaven and earth under Christ. So here we find the underlying purpose of the grace of God extended to all mankind and accepted only by a few: UNITY IN CHRIST.
We know unity to be also one of the underlying themes in Jesus’ prayer recorded in John 17. “I in them and you in me–so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” – John 17:23 NIV
This is why Satan’s thrust of deceptions and temptation are all designed to attack our perception and reception of God’s grace. He wants us to miss this grace or cheapen it in some way that we may get to focus on other things and not be engaged by the wonderful, amazing and powerful grace of God revealed in Christ Jesus. Let’s go to the third chapter of Ephesians now:
Ephesians 3:2-12 NIV Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, (3) that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. (4) In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, (5) which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. (6) This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. (7) I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. (8) Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, (9) and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. (10) His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, (11) according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. (12) In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
The underlying topic is still the grace of God, as revealed to Paul, which is to bring to complete unity all the peoples of the earth, the Gentiles and Israel as heirs together in Christ. We can understand God’s grace is ultimately delivered through the Gospel of Jesus! So when we use these words: Gospel, forgiveness, dispensation, ministry and many other words that bring us the fruit of heavenly wisdom and revelation in peace, joy and unity; they all are a synecdoche of the grace of God!
Therefore, growing in this grace, being strengthened by it and not by self-confidence or ceremony (appearances), is how we make sure we are not on a path that misses God’s grace which ends in self-destruction. Holiness is the product of effective grace in our life, teaching us to say “no” to sin by a life of obedience that completes (matures) our faith (James 2:22). Reverent fear matures to completion our holiness (2 Co 7:1) because we are awed by the manifold grace of God, displayed in various ways throughout the church, especially in our love one to another. This grace of God strengthens us and makes us effective vessels, dispersing this grace of God unto others in various ways through the church.
Grace is the means to minister to one another, to dispense the Gospel to the lost, to expedite forgiveness of sins and holiness – all these good and excellent things are empowered and manifested by the grace of God that has appeared to all men, through Jesus Christ.
The Works of God: A Consideration of John 9:1-4 & John 11:8-10
Introduction: Jesus often taught His disciples a valuable lesson concerning the focus and direction of their lives. These disciples needed to be reminded (and we do as well) to keep their priorities right. Jesus said to them: John 9:4 NIV “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work”, and John 11:9 NIV “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light.” There are several important facts to note here:
A. We must work.
- Jesus described Christians as vine keepers (Mat 20:1-16); traders and merchants (Mat 25:14-30); slaves (Luke 12:42-48); builders (Luke 14:28-33), and a host of other illustrations.
- All of these involve work – hard work!
- Our flesh often does not like to work – but if we have a sense of responsibility we know we are obliged to work.
- I have yet to find an illustration of the Christian vacationer or retiree.
B. We must work the works of Him.
- Jesus knew His purpose was to work for God. He said earlier that (John 8:29 NIV) “The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him”; and (John 4:34 NIV) “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”
- Do you live to eat or eat to live? There is a great difference of mindset and attitude between each of those questions. One loves for pleasure and feeding the flesh, which ends in death, and the other sees the body as a mere tool to accomplish a purpose.
- That which satisfies us is doing God’s work. Nothing else will satisfy us!
- So also it is our responsibility to work for God. Paul said that (Philippians 2:13 NIV) “…for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
- There is a work God wants to accomplish through us and in us.
- A work that is not of your own invention, but will come to fruition through you by His will.
- It requires a mind that wills to do God’s work and sees to it that it gets done. In order to reboot our new life of service to God we crucified and buried our old nature, which was a slave to our desires and have been reborn in the likeness of Christ, ready to have His will and work be fulfilled in us.
- Ephesians 2:10 NIV For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
i. We ought not to think of ourselves as products of our society, or our upbringing, or the streets or of anything else. That is Satan’s’ lie to keep you down and oppressed under a slave mentality.
ii. Our purpose is not to live out the American dream, or fulfill the desires of our heart (which we have no clue of what they are), or run a rat race dictated to us by peer or societal pressure.
iii. There are good works, God’s work, which we have been made specifically for doing in Christ Jesus.
5. Titus 2:14 NIV [Jesus] (who) gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
i. The reason Jesus came to us was to cleanse us from all the wickedness we were in and to purify us for Himself.
ii. This works for those who are eager to do what is good. Not what you think is good to do but what Jesus wants you to do.
iii. We must devote ourselves to do what is good; what is excellent and profitable for everyone – Titus 3:8
iv. We just discussed in Bible Class that the process of sanctification (purification) involved unyoking ourselves from associations that have unequal interests in Christ – 2 Co 6:14ff. Being yoked together with unbelievers is not what God wills for you or wants to have you do. Our lives here is not about being friends with the world but to be the light of the world. There is no fellowship between light and darkness.
v. Those who are eager to do good will not walk in darkness any longer.
3. James 2:14-26 NIV What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? (15) Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. (16) If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? (17) In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (18) But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. (19) You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder. (20) You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? (21) Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? (22) You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. (23) And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. (24) You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. (25) In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? (26) As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
James 2:14 NIV What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?
James 2:19 NIV You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder.
James 2:22 NIV You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.
C. We must work the works of Him as long as it is day.
- John 9:4 NIV “As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work”, and John 11:9 NIV “Are there not twelve hours of daylight? Anyone who walks in the daytime will not stumble, for they see by this world’s light.”
- Jesus lived in a time with no electricity. When the nighttime came, people generally quit working.
- Spiritually speaking, there is a nighttime, and all the power man can muster cannot stop that blackness. It is the nighttime of judgment. It will be too late to attempt to work for God then.
- You and I, at this very moment, are enjoying the daytime of our lives. Jesus reminds us to use that daylight wisely. We have “twelve hours in the day” to work before those nighttime twelve hours arrive when we will not be able to work.
- If we will “walk in the day”, doing what we need to be doing and going where we need to be going, then we will not stumble. We will, perhaps soon, be facing the darkness (cf. Rom 13:11).
- Paul said we ought to “always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord” (1 Cor 15:58) and to “devote yourselves to what is good; since these things are excellent and profitable for everyone” (Titus 3:8).
Conclusion: Jesus went on to Bethany, knowing that such a trip would lead to His eventual death. But there was work to be done, and His priorities were to get that work done – regardless of the cost. We are called to do no less.
Romans 12:1-2 NIV Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship. (2) Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
– World Video Bible School Commentary/Pedro Gelabert
Death was never part of God’s plan. Death came into the world as a result of sin. Rom 5:12 confirms this: (NIV) “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned…”
We all know that death is a part of this temporal life. We see those whom we love pass on, and immediately our thoughts are filled with questions. Where are they now? How are they now? When will my time be? What comes after death?
If you are like me, I believe I have had some glimpse of the possibility of things to come through my experience in dreams. I tell my children, “we are but sleeping now, and soon we will wake up.” This life is but a test and it will soon be over. Are you ready for real living? In one sweeping statement in this chapter Jesus tells us two important truths about Himself and the future: John 11:25 (NIV) Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die…”
The abundant life Jesus promises His disciples in John 10:10 does not necessarily refer to the current, temporal life we are now experiencing. It just cannot. For what is coming is something not even your wildest dreams can cook up, for (1Co 2:9 NIV) “What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived”– the things God has prepared for those who love him.
In this chapter we come across Lazarus’ death and resurrection. It is a glimpse of the future that will come to all men for all will be raised on the last day: John 5:28-29 NIV “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice (29) and come out–those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.”
Lazarus was sick and then he died. We all suffer from a sickness that ends in death. All efforts to try to live longer are in vain and misguided. Yes, we are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance to these earthly tents that we may render acceptable service to God as His priests; but we know these tents will fail and perish. Our heavenly home is where we ultimately belong and that is where we set our goal: to be with our Lord forever. That Jesus took His time and did not heal Lazarus before his death was as purposeful as all the spiritual lessons He wants us to learn: the flesh is temporary – the reality is in the hereafter: John 11:15 NIV “…and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe.” He wants us to put our hope and focus; lock, stock and barrel, in Him and what’s coming! Without fellowship with Jesus there is no hope, no future, no life. You have to be in Him!
Jesus and the Future Life
John 11:25-26 NIV Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; (26) and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
A. Jesus is the resurrection.
- Jesus has the power to give physical life to those who have died.
i. He is the Day Spring! The first light of Day!
ii. He is the Day and the Spring! Think about all the good things that come with the Day. Think of what the Spring means to you.
iii. Winter does not have to be the end for you! In Jesus we are like the evergreen tree, enduring the roughest of winters here on Earth to be welcomed to an eternity of springtime!
2. He promises He shall raise all who are in their tombs (5:28-29).
i. Just as the dry bones were lifted up in the desert valley (Ezekiel 37), Jesus can breathe not only new life into your heart and mind, but He gives you a new Spirit.
ii. Sin gives birth to death. Sin dries you up in more ways than you think. Its fruit is easy to spot and does not promote the LIFE in Jesus.
iii. Are you drying up or dried up? That’s the result of sin!
A. Dried up relationships, marriage, zeal and awe.
B. “No le huelen ni las azucenas” is a Spanish saying meaning, “This guy is so dried up and consumed by his sin that he can’t even smell gardenias!”
3. All of the powers of Satan, especially seen in death, are so easily crushed by Jesus.
i. Hebrews 2:14-15 NIV Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death–that is, the devil– (15) and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.
ii. 1Co 15:54-57 NIV When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” (55) “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” (56) The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. (57) But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
iii. Jesus destroyed the works of the devil. If you are in Jesus His life qualities will be seen in you as opposed to the deeds of the flesh: 1Jn 3:8 NIV The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.
- You will be a peacemaker
- You will confront with care
- You will speak the truth in love, etc.
- The devil’s plan is to kill us through our appetites.
- They distract us, paralyze us and cloud our judgment.
- Without the self-control weapon offered through the spirit those out-of-control appetites will kill you!
iv. He has given us weapons to defeat the devil’s work: 2Co 10:4-5 NIV The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. (5) We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
- Stop feeding the negative thoughts and let the love of God flow!
- Arrest those peace stealing thoughts and know that God is in control!
v. We can overcome evil with good: Rom 12:21 NIV Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
- Stop watering the weeds in your life and water the flowers!
- Be self-controlled instead of manipulative!
- Serve instead of complain
- Get involved in the work instead of being critical
- Follow the Spirit instead of trying to lead on your own effort and judgment.
4. Death is all around us; it surrounds us. No wonder we are in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23). But we have the confirmation of Scripture that death does not end one’s existence. We will all be resurrected!
i. As your birth signaled the end of your life in the womb and the beginning of this life, so death will signal the beginning of forever!
B. Jesus is the Life.
- This refers to more than making one to live again. John told us that “In Him was life” (1:4) meaning that He has, as a natural attribute, the ability to bring things to life; to impart life on that which has not.
i. He is the vehicle of creation: Col 1:16 NIV For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
ii. He gives the breath of life: Acts 17:24-25 NIV “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. (25) And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.”
A. You don’t have to surrender to death’s manipulation, instead, impart LIFE to those around you with the power of the Spirit.
iii. He gave His own life as payment for our sin: Rom 3:25 NIV God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood–to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished…
A. Jesus’ sacrifice was meant to appease God’s wrath. If it appeases God’s wrath, and because of that we are saved – why give into the things that brought up the wrath in the first place? That’s Paul’s argument in Romans 1.
2. Jesus said that He has “life in Himself” (5:26).
i. This is certainly referring to a future life – the “eternal life” (5:24). Only Jesus can give this everlasting life. No other “lord” or “savior” can do this. Jesus only is the way the truth and “the life”. John 14:6 NIV Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
ii. He has given us new birth through the word of truth – James 1:18 NIV He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
A. Being we are born again in Jesus, our lives in this mortal body is all about serving Him since we have given up our old life on the cross with Him when we were baptized. We have buried that old life, never to see it again because it summoned God’s wrath in the first place!
Conclusion: Jesus tells Martha that “The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.” Thus He qualifies those to whom He will give this life. One must believe in Jesus. This is a clear teaching of Jesus. He said: John 5:24 NIV “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” Will Jesus be the resurrection and the life for you? If are believing in Him (depending on Him, obeying Him, etc.) then He will be!
Because we believe this we are of the same thought expressed by Paul in this passage:
1Th 4:13-18 NIV Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. (14) For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. (15) According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. (16) For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. (17) After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (18) Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Jesus continues describing the church and His relationship to it using the metaphor of the shepherd and his sheep. The relationship between sheep and shepherd is tight, deep and lasting. Have you ever been to a petting zoo or a farm that may have a sheep pen? These modern examples are a far cry from the shepherding customs in the bible. When I see a sheep pen, or any other farm animal pen for that matter, I see a dirty, smelly place where I don’t want to stay longer than I have to. Sure, sheep, like other animals God created, are wonderful and amazing. Sheep in particular are soft and cuddly, and when they are babies they are particularly cure, as any other creation God has made. I like their eyes, which have an unusually shaped pupil, like a slat instead of a circle. An interesting characteristic of sheep is their ability to be easily confused and get lost. They usually roam in herds, as other animals like it, but without a proper leader they can get lost and confused, not even sensing danger within their own herd. Jesus capitalized on these traits when speaking of his people as sheep without a shepherd and when using the parable of the lost sheep to make a point about how the shepherd won’t rest until it finds it and how happy he is when he does. Now picture yourself as these sheep: In a pen, so dirty and filthy, yet you think you’re fine and clean; you don’t even really know what your surroundings are or how to get from place to place. Your only worries are about food and shelter. Yet when you hear the shepherd’s voice you get beside yourself to the point that you pee on yourself. You know when you hear that voice that your worries are over. You will get to go out and into awesome and sweet pasture, under the watchful eye of the Good Shepherd. His rod and His staff are a comfort to you, since you know if you get lost He will not stop until you are found. Even though you walk through dangers you fear no evil because the Good Shepherd is with you and nothing escapes His notice.
Unfortunately, even in the sheep pen there are some sheep that get into the mix which do not listen to the Master’s voice and often wreck the peace found in the pen. I’m not talking about the stress and growing pains we experience in our one another relationships – we are people, and like sheep do to each other, often we rub each other the wrong way and we have to deal with that – that’s part of loving one another and the brotherly affection we owe each other. No, we’re going to see that Jesus talks about those who have been entrusted supervision but think they are above the Good Shepherd. These custodians, so to speak, have taken advantage of their position to lord over others, bully and intimidate the flock, and ultimately aid in scattering the flock by becoming stumbling stones. Not only can this come about by a so-called leader of the church, but by anyone who decides to put a tumbling block on the path of his brothers and sisters.
- Jesus is the Good Shepherd– John 10:11 NIV I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
- What is this if not a prophecy of the cross? While it was true that shepherds were known to lose their lives in defense of the sheep, there have been none other than Jesus, who has given up His life for us, the unrighteous sheep (Romans 5:6-8). Jesus willingly gave himself up to die for men.
- This is also the quality of a good leader, or church “shepherd”, who is willing to give his life for Jesus’ sheep, the members of the congregation. He is willing to put himself into a very dangerous situation; even giving himself up to “keep safe” his sheep (see John 10:9 NIV I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.).
- The Hired Hand– John 10:12 NIV 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.
- Now we will contrast what we learned from the Good Shepherd about what he does with what others in the world may do concerning the church.
- Hired hands – referring to the Pharisees but also applicable to any church leader with no interest in preserving the unity and devotion of the flock to the Great Shepherd, Jesus.
1- A hired hand has his own interests in mind and leads the sheep to be devoted to himself instead of Jesus.
2- The hired hand ultimately helps the wolf attack and scatter the flock.
- Wolf – Satan and his minions – the forces of evil with which we war.
1- We don’t war with each other (Eph 6:12) – we ought to love one another
2- We spur one another one to love and good deeds in the likeness of our shepherd (Hebrews 10:24).
3- The wolf’s influence scatters – the shepherd’s influence unifies.
4- The wolf causes us to be fearful and disconnected from each other – The love of the Good Shepherd produces at atmosphere of peace and unity that promotes trustworthiness and good deeds done in love.
- John 10:13 NIV The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
1- Even though the hired hand (servant, minister) could run away, Jesus comforts us with His promise of never leaving; especially in the midst of a wolf’s attack.
2- Men come and go but Jesus is with us until the end of the age. Your future in the kingdom depends on who you are trusting: if in God and Jesus, then peace, unity and good works will be your fruit – if in man, then division, hatred and suspicion will dominate your life.
3- Just look into your life right now, not just your church life, but your work life as well. Is your fruit consistent? Who do you believe is in control?
- Intimacy and Fellowship are the fruit of being under the Good Shepherd. – John 10:14 NIV I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…
- This passage illustrates the depth of the relationship that Jesus wants to achieve with us. Just as He knows the Father He says that we will know Him!
- Regarding the personal relationship of Jesus with his sheep: It struck me very different as I’d normally be distracted by the thought of a nasty dirty sheep pen. A place I’d probably not want to go into for any extended period of time; much less hang out with them and give them names (John 10:3). However, when I consider the thought from a child’s point of view, I remember when my dog had a litter of puppies or when we had a bunch of chicks: we named them all and each was special. We cared and loved each of them individually. Our hearts were broken when one didn’t survive. – John S.
- John 10:15 NIV just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep.
1- John 10:17 NIV The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again.
2- Laying down His life is the ultimate expression of love – for His Father and for His children. There is no greater name under Heaven than the name of Jesus!
3- John 10:18 NIV 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.
4- Jesus here expressed his absolute freedom and authority both to die and to rise from the dead. There are three differences between Jesus’ laying down his life for the sheep and that of the shepherds’ doing so in the metaphor.
- Jesus’ death is altogether voluntary, but not like the shepherd’s involuntary death while fighting against a robber. The shepherd might indeed die, but not willingly.
- Christ’s death actually saves the sheep eternally, whereas the death of a shepherd would only hasten the death and destruction of the sheep.
- Christ will lay down his life, but with a purpose of taking it up again, something no earthly shepherd could do.
5- Laying down our own agendas, desires and goals for the sake of others is what pleases the Father. This is what conforming to Jesus is all about. We are not about conforming to any other person other than Jesus Christ, which is why we need each other’s encouragements to make sure we are not distracted by egos and hired hands who have their own agendas to accomplish. To be unity in mind and though means most of us have to let go of our agendas and act in unison. That requires a desire for accountability.
6- The Lord compared His relationship with the sheep with the relationship that existed between Himself and His Father. The same union, communion, intimacy, and knowledge and accountability that there is between the Father and the Son also exists between the Shepherd and the sheep.
- John 10:27 NIV My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.
1- To listen to the voice of the shepherd requires an acceptance of who and what you are: a dirty sheep.
2- You also need to recognize the dangers in and out of the sheep pen. Knowing what you are and who Jesus is, protects you from being led astray.
3- You will end up following whoever you think is your Shepherd.
- John 10:28-30 NIV I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (29) My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (30) I and the Father are one.
1- If we safeguard our souls in Jesus we will never be snatched out of His hands by Satan. Only if we wander around outside of the teachings of Christ will we be snatched! (Further, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you. – Phil. 3:1 NIV).
2- Nothing can take us out of God’s hands except ourselves. (Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? – Rom 8:35-39). This also shows that our salvation can be lost if we are not careful to follow our Master’s voice.
3- In Jesus’ Hands vs. On Your Own (graph)
- John 10:16 NIV 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.
- He is speaking of the Gentiles. They and the Jews will be one flock. This is evidence there is but one church, one body.
- Even though Mormons claim that these sheep were the people in America that were “saved” through “Moroni’s” revelation, we know Jesus is referring here to the Gentiles who would later come to know their Lord when the Spirit was poured out on all nations. See Joel 2:28; 3:2, also Isaiah 2:2-4 and Eph. 2:11-18.
- This passage makes me take issue with those who want to raise their own name above the name of Jesus. Such “ministers” who name their own ministries after themselves or establish churches with names alluding to something or someone other than the name that is above every name – what are they calling attention to? Themselves or Jesus? What drives them to make a distinction? What drives you to want to get your own opinions across or to do your own thing apart from the flock? Who is the motivation behind that when you know Jesus works toward unity?
Invitation: Who are going to follow? Your own heart, thoughts, plans… or will you follow the One who gave Himself that you may have True Life?
John 10:27 NIV My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.