Tag Archives: Jesus

YOU CALLING ME A SHEEP?

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” John 10:1-5

But his hearers did not understand what Jesus was talking about. We saw how in the setting of this long metaphor, the shepherd led them, not drove them—there’s a very intimate and loving relationship between shepherd and sheep. The shepherd gave each a name and taught them to respond to his voice and instructions. At night, he would usually lead them into a safe enclosure, often lying across the entrance thus forming literally the door or gate. Rex beautifully pointed out how flocks from several shepherds might occupy the same place, and when the separation took place, each shepherd going his way, would call his own sheep to follow, and they would follow their own true shepherd knowing his voice, hearing their own name even. Such shepherds would risk their lives protecting them against thieves and robbers and wild animals.

We asked ourselves in our recent discovery meetup, do we also fail to grasp his meanings? So we hearers of the 21st Century set out to explore this and here’s what we found.

Just who were the hearers in this story? The last mentioned were ‘some of the Pharisees’. Here’s  yet another example of the continuous controversy raging between Jesus and the blind ruling church elite (the Jews John calls them!) a fury running right through the gospel story, without any abatement, ending temporarily on his death but continuing till Jesus’ judgment on them in AD70. Jesus had just charged these same blind Pharisees “since you say, ‘we see,’ your sin remains. (John 9:40-41)

So Jesus repeated to them with great emphasis what he had already said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the gate of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the gate; if anyone enters through me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.

Here’s another sensational Messianic bombshell, right in line with the coming next age that was breaking in upon God’s people in Messiah Jesus. In the O.T. the Lord is often pictured as the shepherd (e.g., Psalms 23 & 79) so here Jesus claims to be the only legitimate shepherd, in fact, divine!  Now this is a most momentous change.

It means the end of the old age of Moses and the Law and its replacement by the new Messianic age of Jesus the king is coming! They are in the presence of the shepherd-king! They fall into the category of all who came before, thieves, robbers! The blind Pharisees were meant to be shepherds but were abject failures, maintaining control over the people, the blind leading the blind. The rot had all started back when they rejected God as king and chose their own (1 Samuel 8:7). They hated the idea of a spiritual kingdom and fought to retain their illegitimate position.

The time has come! The Kingdom of God is breaking in. Complete turnaround is demanded.

Are there parallels today? Yes undoubtedly—in the apostate churches where they have CEOs and not true apostles, prophets, pastors and teachers (in the N.T. these are always plural) who emulate the Good Shepherd, not domineering over the flock as Peter wrote but upbuilding and encouraging the flock.

Jesus replaces all these thieves and robbers. For all time! If anyone enters the sheepfold through the Jesus-gate, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. It’s Jesus saying again I am the way, the truth, the life. Our pasture in the friendship and under the Lordship of Jesus is spiritually glorious even in this life and eternally beyond. It is what we were designed for. It is abundant life now and forever! It is rivers of living water. It is unimagined freedom, if the Son shall set you free. It is participation in the Body of Christ by every member, full of the Holy Spirit.

The voice of strangers brings mere religion, speculations, deceit and systems of what to do. Only the voice of Jesus brings salvation. If you really want real salvation you will recognise human ideas, elitism, control, manipulation and pride, and run away from every voice except that of Jesus, like the blind man of the previous story in the gospel. Hear the voice of the good shepherd or be destroyed!

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. (10:10)  

Huge! I love what W. F. Howard wrote in The Interpreters’ Bible, 1952 about this abundance, or rather the lack of it:

those who fling their lives away in an avid questing for sensation, seeking to make a collection of experiences as others do of stamps, and esteeming every new experience of any kind an addition to their store, who will get drunk, simply for experience, and touch unholy things that they may taste the whole of life: – they do not realize, poor duped fools, misled by hobbledehoy thinkers, so called, who have cooked these immature ideas into a kind of messy philosophy – they do not realize that in life, as in arithmetic, there is a minus sign as surely as a plus; and that certain experiences do not add to, but subtract from, what we had and were before, each new indulgence in forbidden things leaving us poorer, leaner, emptier, and at length beggared.

Would you be happier in the service of the devil than in the service of God and His Redeemer—you poor, blind deceived fool! Leads to misery! No. You are created in His image and to enjoy life in his glorious abundance!

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep.

Jesus is the true owner of his sheep. Those who follow him and no other, are not their own. We are not our own if we claim to follow him. There is no middle way. Either you are His, not your own, bought with a price or you are not of His flock. If you are owned by another you will be deceived, lied to, destroyed.  Awake!

 I am the good shepherd, and I know my own and my own know Me, even as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.

Here is a most significant and tremendous statement. He knows us who follow him and we know him. How awful it would be to hear the words depart from me, I never knew you (Matthew 7:22). He knows you! All about you. Laid down his life for you and me—he knew you there on the cross.

But there’s even more here: He knows his own and we know him, just like the Father knows Jesus and Jesus knows the Father—with Jesus we have the same intimate relationship that exists between the Father and Jesus!

 I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd.

Who are these other sheep? We could see Jesus was thinking of the Gentiles—the people who were not of this (Jewish) fold. He came here for the lost sheep of the house of Israel and we had read in our journey through the four gospels of those who were touched by him and desired to follow him—who else but Jesus? We have met many already in the Gospel of John. But after his death and resurrection the focus moves to the great ‘unwashed’.

Yes. He had us in mind. He thought of you and me. I must bring them also.

He will bring many, many more—there can be no doubt! I must bring them also! It’s his work and though he calls us to partner with him in his work, all the initiative lies not with us, neither the means, neither the results. To him alone be the honour and the praise and the glory.

Here is a strong message to us who earnestly desire the salvation of our neighbours, loved ones, and people we meet in the public sphere. This releases us from the thinking of failure and disappointment that we often have. I must bring them also! they will hear My voice! They will become one flock with all of us!

They will be one flock with one shepherd. This is a certainty because he has declared it. So stop your whinging and doubting and start rejoicing, believing. One flock—not many; one Shepherd, not many. The promise is sure and the result is certain. All else is fake. Do you get it? Oh Lord, help us all who read thus far to truly get it!

Now skipping to verse 27, where Jesus sums it all up: My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.

Not only that but My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.

Being his we are exposed to the most unimaginable love and safety. Eternally. Oh the certainty!

What do you desire? Are you ready for all this everlasting abundance?

The new covenant signs

Last time I wrote about the seriousness and the importance of covenant . . . Covenant is the same word as Testament in the original biblical (Greek) language. So New Testament means New Covenant. God expects us to live in the new covenant. Not the old. The old no longer pertains. If we fail to obey the implications are very dire. But if we respond, then untold, unimaginable  blessings and benefits accrue and the Kingdom of God will be experienced.

This morning the Holy Spirit directed me to the words of the Hebrew prophet Joel which are repeated by the apostle Peter to the multitudes in Jerusalem . . . .

“‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
18 Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.
19 I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below .

. . .  And everyone who calls
on the name of the Lord will be saved.

Look at this. Read it. Hear it. Let go to your guts, your will. These are the signs of the new covenant.

What are we waiting for? Why do we settle for anything less? Why bother with religion?

Why  do we go on living under a man-evolved system when the Lord of glory has given us the new to live by, brought about at titanic cost by sending His Son in the form of sinful humanity and giving Himself to be a sacrifice for us?

“This is the new covenant in my blood!”

We must be united to him, one with him, in this new covenant in his blood. Jesus is everything.

We must be freed from the dominance of an old system, old wineskins. Immersed in the new.

Come on! Leave the old system which is no longer effective for God’s people.

More next post. Soon. (God willing).

Simplicity: Hold fast what you received

How simple it all is!

But so much has been added to the simplicity of Christ and as a result, that simplicity has disappeared.

In robbing us of that simplicity and embracing instead the religious ideas of human thinking, what has not been given to us, we have lost just about all.

I invite you to consider with me the utter simplicity of what was revealed to the first communities of Jesus.

For starters, consider these words from the mouth of Jesus to believers recorded for us in the book, Revelation.

 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus . . . . . ‘You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.’” Rev 2:4-5.

“I say to the rest of you in Thyatira ‘I will not impose any other burden on you, except to hold on to what you have until I come.’”  Rev 2:24-25

 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write  . . . . . . ‘I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.  Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God.  Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.’”  Rev 3:1-3.

And “To the angel of the church in Philadelphia . . . .  ‘I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown.’” Rev 3:1, 11

Consider also these words from the pen of apostle John . . .

Let what you have heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you have heard from the beginning abides in you, you will abide in the Son and the Father. 1 John 2:24

Need I comment?

Dare I comment?

If you have ears to hear, then please join me in hearing, that is, obeying.

SHE SAID YES

a_annunciation-edward_burne-jones_the_annunciationGod has given His creation over to the men and women He created out of the earth, the humus. He provided the first humans us with everything good and it says that God was very pleased with His work. We read that God gave authority to the man and woman to control the Creation He had provided.

This authority to the humans is real and true. God has decreed that this is so and so it stands to this day.

But the humans surrendered this authority and power and control to the evil being who deceived the humans into believing their Creator was not acting in their best interests so that they trusted in the dark side instead of the light.

And we have suffered ever since.

And He has pursued us ever since to woo us back—to change our thinking and say ‘yes’.

So complete and final was God’s declaration of the transfer of control upon His Creation to the humans that God did not, could not, intervene in the drama of the Garden. If He had stepped in to reverse what the humans were about to do—turning from love, light and life—His promise, His word of what shall be, in this momentous act of rendering to humans such privileges and sonship, would have been exposed as a sham. His humans would not have free will.

Nevertheless, the great love of God and His desire for fellowship with humans set in motion a plan which would mean finding humans to fully cooperate with Him—to hear His voice and agree to do His will—to put Him first and love Him, pleasing Him, in the great drama of the progress of redemption.

This was—and still is God’s Great Mission: to find us lost ones, us humans, who had been destined to walk with Him in abundance and creativity, but who, as a whole human race, elected to embrace lies and turn from the great Lover into the hands of the great hater, destroyer, deceiver.

The biblical accounts tell an amazing story of this progress of God’s Mission, in which He woos us, seeking those who will walk with Him in His Great Work.

For any work to be done in His Creation, it has to be done—it had to be done—by a fully human person. It could not be done by a half-god-half-man. It had to be done by one of us; born like us; raised as any helpless infant by parents as we are, taught and trained to fit in this world, exposed to suffering, educated by the flawed community into which he was born, subject to every possible test and temptation and privation, weakness and even death.

So in the fullness of time God found a willing woman, a mere peasant girl to give us all a human who would not need forgiveness as we do, and who allowed Him to use her body to bring a man who was the very image of the invisible God, who could be handled, heard, seen doing the works of God for all in his generation to see.

She said ‘yes’ to the will of God.

She was from a very imperfect race of people who struggled with God their Lover and Protector in belief and unbelief. Yet there was “a great cloud of witnesses” in the Hebrew history who in varying degrees of faithfulness had said ‘yes’ to their Creator, the great I AM.

She had said ‘yes’ in contrast to the first woman who had listened to the dark one. What an example she has shown! Her firstborn child we are told followed her example and continued saying “yes, I will to do Your will and that is why I have come.”

This amazing human allowed God to fill him with the Holy Spirit—he said ‘yes’ and God said ‘yes’ and the Kingdom of God could at last be clearly seen and experienced. He said ‘yes’ to the awful death on the stake—the climax of God’s Great Mission to bring us back into friendship and oneness with God Almighty.

God still waits for us to say ‘yes’ to Him—“yes I will do Your will so that You can use my body, my mind, my spirit” partnering with You in Your Stupendous Work.

This festive season and beyond, will we allow Him to do in us what He did in Mary’s spirit, and most of all, what he did in Jesus? Will we accept His love and companionship?

He waits, with infinite patience and love, for you and me to say ‘yes, I will’.

And that is Christmas.

ABOUT THE DOCTRINE YOU TEACH

Last post I looked at Jesus’ words recorded in John 7. The religious establishment asked how this Galilean could possibly have received such perfect understanding. Where did he get it all? Of course, you know where it came from.

 “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.”  

His teaching was not his at all. He had no input of his own. No initiative. No imaginative content. Nothing from the Son of Man. His teaching was one hundred percent from the One who had sent him—his Father.

This has enormous implications for us all.

Are you a teacher? So where does your teaching come from? From God, or does it come from another source, for example, from yourself, or your denomination, or what you learned from respected teachers, or your wisdom or your own private interpretation of the scriptures? Or from your smorgasbord of selections from well known preachers?

It’s pretty risky to see yourself as a teacher, don’t you think?  James in his letter warns that teachers will be judged more critically.  Have a look. Maybe you should quit.

Jesus told us “call no one Rabbi for One is your Teacher and you are all brothers”. So how can we go on thinking of ourselves as teachers of people who “sit under my ministry” or who follow our blog posts, people who must be protected because there are so many false teachers out there. Maybe you are even in competition with others—your teaching is wiser, more biblical, more accurate than his or hers.

But even Jesus did not see himself as an original teacher but as reproducing the Father’s. Yet millions seek not God, the One who is The Teacher, but selected persons and invest all their listening in these human teachers.

You still want to be a teacher? Why? To win respect? Get praise? Receive glory? Entertain? Be applauded?

He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but he who is seeking the glory of the one who sent him, he is true, and there is no unrighteousness in him. John 7:17–18

Aren’t we supposed to be living in a new covenant where no longer does “each one instruct his brother”? but in which “all know me—from the least to the greatest”? by which the Holy Spirit is freely given to all disciples to guide us into all truth and remind us of what Jesus taught? in which we all “have an anointing from the Holy One”.

The Holy Spirit is greatly under-employed.

Maybe you need to work yourself out of this job by encouraging everyone who hears you to be “teachers” themselves as it says in the letter to the Hebrews, instead of you spoon feeding them. Seek only the glory of the One who sends you.

Of course, most preachers insist their stuff comes “from the Bible”. But that’s also what the purveyors of the most weird anti-christian stuff say too.  Scary.

Would you agree that if the Lord Jesus had no original teaching himself but everything came from the one who sent him, that you must follow Jesus and copy him and “be as he was in the world” and be of no reputation?

Do you have any authority to go beyond that? To teach anything different? Moses was forbidden to vary anything in building the tabernacle after the heavenly pattern. We have the pattern for working in the new covenant—it is Jesus. We must imitate him. Humble ourselves. Reckon ourselves having died to our own wills and ambitions.

You must not seek your own glory but God’s glory alone.  For you have died and your life is now hid in Christ with God– remember?

You must not speak from yourself—the true teacher from God must not bring anything beyond what God has said in his son Jesus Christ.

Is that not so?

WHAT IS TRUE DOCTRINE

There are hundreds of thousands of teachers who seek to make their opinions, their interpretations known. You could spend a lifetime reading or hearing countless theological systems, books on doctrine, the web is full of them. Thousands of YouTube videos and blogs. Countless organisations each with their statements of faith and mission statements claiming to be correct and biblical.

So who are you to believe? Where, how, from whom, do you find truth?

When Jesus astonished the Jews in the Jerusalem temple with his surprising teaching and wisdom, they questioned how this Galilean could possibly have received such perfect understanding. So Jesus explained how. And his explanation was amazingly simple  . . .

 “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.  If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who is seeking the glory of the One who sent Him, He is true, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. John 7:16–18

His teaching was actually not his at all. He had no input of his own.

Astoundingly, he had no initiative at all in what he taught.

At the same time, there was tremendous variety as He spoke by the Holy Spirit. His approach to people was different on each occasion.

He teaches us to “call no one Rabbi (that is teacher), you have One Teacher” (Matthew 23:8)

 

Are you seeking truth?  How important is truth?

Surely we are living in a culture where knowing truth is not cool.

Post-truth. Anything goes. How it feels is what guides. What works for me.

Back in the 1960’s Francis Schaeffer saw Post-truth coming and found it necessary to coin the term, true truth.

True truth. We all know there are physical laws that are always true which we ignore at our peril . . . defying gravity, eating poisonous substances and so on.

So there are meta-physical things that never change. Faith, love, righteousness, goodness, for example.

Does your belief system come from someone you respect, admire, even place as your guru, bypassing, shortcutting the Lord Jesus? Wrong beliefs can kill, can lead to destruction and damnation. Cursed, wrote Paul, of those who decide to be justified by law.

Your fav preachers may want to get admiration from men and not from God. They may seek recognition, praise, reputation, advancement. Their desires colour what they teach. No wonder we are in such a poor state spiritually.

 

How do we recognise true teaching? Jesus said to make God’s will your will—no other. If you desire to do the will of God, you will know what teaching is true—the one who teaches will not seek his own glory but God’s glory alone.  He will not speak from himself—the true teacher from God does not dare bring anything beyond what God has said in his son Jesus Christ.

Ultimately, the one teacher of righteousness is Jesus. Are you surprised?

 

So, just humbly following Jesus, we shall be like him. Being like him, listening to him, we will desire above all else, to will the will of God.

So, passionately desiring to do the will of the Father, we shall recognise the truth when we hear it, and the truth will set us free.

Simple, isn’t it.

So when will you abandon your own belief system, your treasured traditions, and begin to love His rule, His will?

WHAT GOD WANTS FROM US

The bottom line is not winning the world for Jesus! The bottom line for Moslems is a totally Moslem world. But we Jesus’ followers have a different destiny. For us the bottom line is to do the will of the Father, as Jesus did. Jesus said of his mission “A body you have prepared for me…. It is written of me in the scroll— I come to do your will” (Hebrews 10:5-7). The bottom line is to obey God in our bodies, to do his will ‘as it is in Heaven’. It is about honoring God, worth-shipping him (in every way acknowledging His worth!) and allowing God to use our body and our mind and our spirit.

It is to wholeheartedly adopt His agenda and ruthlessly abandon our own agendas.

It is to embrace his wondrous design for us with all that is within us, not shrugging shoulders at God’s word—insulting him by thinking our ways are better, our plans superior, our doctrines more sound, more relevant, than what has been revealed.

It is to prefer to draw on the infinite resources of the Holy Spirit, the Helper Jesus promised, rather than preferring our own wisdom, strengths and resources.

Do we think He is impotent? uninterested? clumsy? inefficient? ignorant? unacquainted with 21st century thinking? out of touch with modern people?  Do you think He wants us to plead with Him to do HIS WILL?

We know better, do we? We clay pots, can we instruct our maker? We must stop that! It must cease.

I believe Jesus’ ‘hidden life’ of around 18 years is expressed in terms of Isaiah 50:4—5 . . . .

The Sovereign Lord has given me a well-instructed tongue,
to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning,
wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed.
The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears;
I have not been rebellious,
I have not turned away.

Those 18 years were a preparation by his Father upon a willing human. 18 years! He did not come as a ready-made mighty Son of God, great prophet, amazing teacher, a superman.  He came as a son of man, born of a virgin girl, one hundred percent human.

The pattern that came into Jesus was the word of the Father.  God’s will. God’s pattern. And as it became written on his heart, so it becomes written on our hearts under the terms of His New Covenant. Following Jesus means praying, meditating on scripture, as HE HAD TO in his vulnerable human state. He had to learn obedience through what happened to him, like us, says the author of The Letter to the Hebrews.

Following Jesus doesn’t mean copying his dress, eating habits, speaking Aramaic or Hebrew, going to a synagogue, etc. It means being like Him in loving others, serving, taking the lowest place, leading not pushing. It means obeying Him.

Following Jesus means doing what he did, making disciples, teaching them everything he taught his followers. It means healing the sick, setting the oppressed free. Like he did. Forget the rest. Abandon any other faith, any other belief, any other doctrine.

Following Jesus includes meeting together simply to encourage one another. Jesus did this constantly with His little band of disciples. The apostles taught that we meet together to encourage one another and we remember Jesus. . And he gave us the resources to do this.  Hebrews 10:24-25, 1 Corinthians 12—14. The term ‘one another’ is used more than fifty times in the New Testament. “Preaching” was unknown in Paul’s communities but prophesying was encouraged for everyone.

They have shown us the way –and it actually worked! They turned the world upside down. The works that Jesus did we can do. But there is a price to pay and that is to abandon our ways and follow his. It is often to WAIT for the coming of his wisdom and to be sure of receiving the authority to do what he wants. To listen to Him with opened ears.

Of course God blesses all those who serve in his name and salvation comes to many though they may not have understood these things but still follow traditions that are outside His wonderful pattern, his design. His arm is not shortened that he cannot save. He puts up with our blind spots, our ignorance, even our disobedience. That’s what God is like.

Yet it is worth abandoning our human and religious traditions and rely on Him completely and obey His design for us as revealed in the teachings left for us by His apostles and prophets.

But how awful it would be if Jesus’ would say to us at the end of time, “you loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43) or “I gave you my words, my Father’s will, but have you kept my words and not the words of men?”