Friday, April 29, 2016
“I Am the Door”
April 24, 2015 Second Reformed Church
Jesus said that He is the door. Does that mean that Jesus is a piece of wood? Are you sure?
If I said, Maria is a rock, should you understand that Maria is some sort of hard substance – slate, granite, quartz?
We understand this type of speech – using a metaphor – don’t we? If I say, Maria is a rock, we do not understand her to be a rock, but to have some characteristics of a rock – strength, integrity, steadfastness, right?
As we read the Scripture, we must remember that the writers of the text used figures of speech – we are to interpret the Bible in the same way that we interpret any other piece of literature.
Let us keep that in mind as we look at the first half of the next section of our text:
Jesus continued talking to the crowd, including the man born blind, and the Pharisees, and we see, first, the gatekeeper opens the door for the shepherd.
“’Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens.’
We may remember in Hebrew, when someone is emphasizing a point, he will repeat the word or phrase. So, saying something once, is normal speech. Repeating something – saying it twice – is to say that it is very important. And to say something three times is to say it is of utmost importance.
Jesus began by saying, “truly, truly,” which we can understand as, “listen carefully, this is very important.”
Then Jesus talked to them about the “sheepfold.” The sheepfold was a sanctuary – a protective structure – for the flock of sheep. It was a stone walled area of grass in a field with a door, and only one door, so the sheep and anyone who entered or exited the sheepfold legitimately did so through the door to the sheepfold. The walls were not especially high, just high enough to keep the sheep in and to make it difficult for predators – foxes, lions, bears – to enter and steal away the sheep.
If we have the picture of the sheepfold in our minds – and the sheepfold would have been common knowledge to the people of Jesus’ day – we can understand what Jesus was telling them.
Jesus told them that anyone who enters the sheepfold by climbing over the wall – rather than going through the gate – is a thief – a robber – such a person does not belong there – he is their illegitimately – he is there to steal – he is there to do something wrong.
Consider your own homes: someone who breaks into your home, rather than using the key to go through the door or knocking to be given admittance, is up to no good. He is there to steal, to damage, to cause chaos – he is not an invited guest – he does not belong in your house.
On the other hand: when the shepherd returns, the gatekeeper opens the gate and lets the shepherd and the sheep into the sheepfold. The gatekeeper knowns the shepherd and opens the door at the sight of him – he knows that the shepherd and his sheep belong to the sheepfold – they are welcome and received by the gatekeeper.
Similarly, if you are at home, and your spouse or child comes home, or some relative or friend that you expected and wanted to come visit arrives, you will open the door for them and invite them in – it is a place of refuge and security for them and a place of joy for all of you.
The door – the gate – is locked, and people who do not have the key cannot enter unless they are let in by the gatekeeper, or break in as a thief or robber. The sheep, who are welcome in the sheepfold, cannot enter the sheepfold until the door is opened for them. They do not have the ability to open the door themselves. The gatekeeper must unlock and open it so the sheep can come in.
Second, the sheep distinguish between the shepherd’s voice and other voices.
“’The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.’ This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
The sheep know the voice of their shepherd. The sheep learn to distinguish among all the voices they hear and know which one is the voice of their shepherd. They will hear his voice and what he says, and they will answer him.
Some of us have experienced this with pets: they come to know our voice and come and respond to our voice, whereas they do not come or respond to others.
It is stretching the metaphor, but we may have had this experience as children – before everyone had a phone implanted in their ears – your parent or relative would lean out the front door – back when children played outdoors with each other – and your parent or relative would call your name, and you would respond – you would go to them, but you would not respond to any other person calling.
And notice, it is not just a call of “All sheep return,” the shepherd knowns the name of every single lamb – of each one of the sheep. The shepherd knows the sheep so well and cares for them so much that he knows who each one of them is by name.
On a smaller scale, we know each of our pets and each of our children and the names of all of our relatives. The shepherd knows each one of his hundreds of sheep by name and knows if there is something wrong or if one has gone missing.
The shepherd also leads his sheep in and out of the sheepfold. He does not merely open the gate and let them in or out and tell them to be back by dinner time – he is with them at all times, leading them – showing them where to go, keeping them from going into places that are dangerous, protecting them from thieves and wild animals that would take them and kill them. He goes ahead of them and they follow him in the way that he goes. And if they start to stray, he takes his staff and nudges them back in the right direction.
The sheep will not follow strangers – they will not follow voices that they do not know. If the sheep hear a voice calling after them that they do not recognize, they will run away – they will not listen – they will close their ears to their words.
And so, Jesus finished delivering this figure of speech – this metaphor to the people. And they didn’t understand what He was talking about.
How did the Pharisees miss it? Not just the 23rd Psalm, but the whole book of Psalms is filled with imagery of the shepherd and the sheep. Oh, the depths and the blinding of sin and unbelief.
Jesus began to explain the figure of speech, and He told them, third, that He is the door to the sheepfold.
“So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.’
Again: “Pay attention, this is very important.”
And we have the next “I Am” saying – and we will remember that as Jesus used the phrase that we translate, “I am,” the ancient Jewish ear would have heard that most holy name of God given by God to Moses to identify God before His people.
“I am the door of the sheep.”
Jesus, God Incarnate, and Him Alone – no one else – is the door of the sheep.
Jesus and belief in Him as the Incarnate God and Savior is the only way for the sheep – all we who believe in Him savingly – to be able to enter into His salvation. It is only through Jesus – Who He is and the work He did – that we can enter into the place of security, under His wings, where our debt to God for sin is paid and we are credited with His righteousness, so we are judged as worthy to enter into the Kingdom – into the Church – into the sheepfold – into the Holy City – the New Jerusalem.
There is no other way to be saved except through Jesus Alone. We do not have the ability to open the gate ourselves – only Jesus can open the gate and lead us in – and only He can open the gate and lead us to green pastures, besides still waters, that we would have joy and peace and contentment in Him and with Him – no matter what else might happen in this world. All is well with our souls with Jesus as the gate.
Jesus Alone is able. Jesus Alone is worthy. Jesus Alone protects us and fills us in Him, by Him, through Him, and for Him.
“’All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.’”
How do we understand this?
The question is centered on the word “before.” Is Jesus saying that all those who came before Him in time – the prophets and the law givers of Israel – are thieves and robbers? Is Jesus saying that the Old Testament is the writings of people who are in the sheepfold illegitimately?
No, Jesus affirms that the Old Testament is the Word of God – He cannot be condemning the law givers and the prophets. He cannot be using the word “before” to mean those who came before Him in time – those who came before Him chronologically.
The other way that we can understand the word “before” is to look at it as referring to spatial relationships. For example, I came before you this morning to preach the Word of God. Now, while it is true that I was here before you in time – I got here first this morning – what I mean is I am standing before you, I am appearing before you, my body is in front of your bodies. OK?
So, who came before Jesus – who stood before Jesus – who went looking for Him to question Him about the things that had just happened? The Pharisees. Jesus was saying, “These Pharisees here before Me – and all those like them – are thieves and robbers. They come to the sheepfold illegitimately – they come pretending to be shepherds, but they really want to oppress you and take from you. But all those who listen to Me and hear Me and believe in Me do not listen to them.”
How about us?
When the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons tell us that Jesus isn’t God, He just a powerful creature, do we say, “That’s not my shepherd”?
When the Seventh Day Adventists tell us we will go to Hell is we don’t worship on Saturday, do we say, “That’s not my shepherd”?
When Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar and Benny Hinn tell us to send them our money so God will make us rich, do we say, “That’s not my shepherd”?
When T. D. Jakes says there is no Trinity, do we say, “That’s not my shepherd”?
When Robert Schuller says the problem is not sin, it’s that we don’t think highly enough of ourselves, do we say, “That’s not my shepherd”?
When we hear, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29, ESV), do we say, “Yes, that’s my shepherd!”?
When we hear, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6b, ESV), do we say, “Yes, that’s my shepherd!”?
So, when we hear preachers in our churches say, “It doesn’t really matter if you believe in Jesus or not, God just wants us to be good people,” let us respond, “You are a thief and a robber, and I will not listen to you. Jesus is the only gate to the sheepfold, and it is only through Him that I enter salvation and enjoy green pastures.”
Finally, Jesus came to give life abundantly.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.’”
Anyone who tells us anything different from the Gospel of Jesus Christ – that salvation is through Him and His Work Alone as the Incarnate God – is trying to steal and kill and destroy us. We don’t want to listen to those people or follow them, do we?
The Pharisees who were against Jesus (remember, some Pharisees did believe) spiritually stole from the people they were called to shepherd. They killed them spiritually and destroyed their hope of eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
Jesus, our door to salvation and green pastures, He came to give life – to raise the spiritually dead to spiritual life now, and to raise them to eternal, physical life on the last day – and that life is an abundant life.
Now, that doesn’t mean that we are perfect or holy yet – we’re not. It doesn’t mean that everything will go well and we will always be healthy, wealthy, and wise – Jesus never promised that. What it means is we will be safe in Jesus, He will fill our needs for each day, we will be grounded against evil, we will live lives of tranquility and peace in the hope that we have in Christ, and we will be rich in the Gospel and the promises therein.
There are lots of false teachers out there looking to skin us and take our furry coats and eat our flesh – we need to take a cue from the Shepherd and turn away from them. As we concentrate on His Voice and what we know He has said and promised, we will be all the more able to discern who is the thief and the robber.
Jesus is calling His flock to the sheepfold. He is the gate to that safety, security, and salvation. All those who believe in Him Alone for salvation are allowed in by Him only, and He leads us out to green pastures to richly feast on all that is His.
Let us rejoice and give thanks to our God and Savior knowing that He Alone enables, merits, and gives us salvation.
Let us rejoice and give thanks that all the wealth of God the Son – which is the whole Creation – has been given to us as an inheritance through Him – that we would know Him and grow in Him and obey Him and enjoy Him.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we thank You for giving Your Son – the Door to the sheepfold – a flock for His Own keeping. We thank You for making us His sheep, for giving us salvation, security, safety, life, and joyful abundance as we follow our Shepherd and turn away from thieves and robbers. Help us to have the wisdom to know the difference among all the voices we hear. Help us to submit to the leading of our Shepherd. And let us ever rejoice that we are in His sheepfold. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
Saturday, April 23, 2016
I have just finished reading, Counseling One Another: A Theology of Interpersonal Discipleship, by Paul Tautges.
The author begins with a historical anecdote about Fuller Seminary in which he credits the seminary’s departure from an orthodox view of the Scripture to the incorporation of nascent physiological teaching (12ff).
He the moves to give this definition of biblical counseling: “Biblical counseling is an intensely focused and person aspect of the discipleship procession, where y believers come alongside one another for three main purposes: first, to help the other person to consistently apply Scriptural theology to his or her life in order to experience victory over sin through obedience to Christ; second, by warning their spiritual friend, in love, of the consequences of sinful actions; and third, by leading that brother or sister to make consistent progress in the ongoing process of biblical change in order that he or she, too, may become a spiritually reproductive disciple-maker” (20).
For Tautges, counseling is the normal framework of carrying out the Great Commission (or Great Command, as he would have it) in the sense that biblical counselling is discipleship (23).
Since sin affects every part of every mere human being since the Fall, all humans are in need of communal counseling that together all progress towards holiness (45).
Most cases in which one would seek out psychiatric or psychological care are based on the need to root out, confess, repent, and stop sinning. However, (and I am very grateful for this sentence): “I am not eliminating the legitimate use of medical physicians and treatment of problems which may truly have an organic, biological cause” (102, emphasis his).
In the final chapter, he discusses what seems to me to be the biggest hurdle for the 21st century church: being the biblical community we are called to be (chapter 8, 157ff). We, as a church have so separated ourselves from the biblically communal life of the church that returning to a place with such trust and accountability seems, almost, wishful thinking. Not that Christians ought not to work towards this – this would best be done with a strong leader who holds the Scripture as the only authority, but it must be understood that this may be a longer road to hoe than one might hope.
I would benefit from reading him explain how to “push off” as it were with, as in my case, a small, elderly congregation, who are faithful, but outside of morning worship, there is little connection.
The author writes in a readable style and is well-grounded in the Scripture – also quoting from Christians throughout the centuries
Each chapter ends with a summary of the chapter and discussion questions to help think through and remember the chapter.
The book ends with an index and bibliography which this reader found very difficult to read in the font used.
This book is a very positive move in fostering biblical health and growth in the church. May her tribe grow.
[This review appears on my blog and Amazon.com. I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.]