New Things From Old Scriptures
I love it how the Scriptures continue to speak, opening up new things to us all the time even after (in my case) thirty years of reading the Bible.
I’ve spent a lot of time in the Gospel of John (its my favorite) and a lot of time in chapter ten. For years I’ve used it to try and help people understand that God’s offer to us is far more than forgiveness (most Christians still think Christianity is pretty much forgiveness). God’s offer is life. Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b). Anyhow, I was reading again in John last week, and God showed me something new.
Jesus begins the chapter talking about false shepherds and false Gospels. He then goes on to say:
"The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice…whoever enters through me will be saved [or “kept safe” according to the editor’s footnote]. He will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
What clicked for me was the connection between hearing his voice and finding life. Forgive me, but somehow I’ve never quite seen the union of the two ideas. I believe we can hear the voice of God. I also believe that God wants life for us. But somehow I’ve held these two convictions for years in separate shoe boxes in my mind. Both are true. But I never really saw how connected they are to each other. In fact, Jesus makes it more than a connection – he makes it a condition. “You want the life your good shepherd has for you? You’ve got to follow my voice.”
This is a big deal. Because – in spite of the fact the Scriptures urge us to listen for God’s voice – most Christians do not make it a daily practice to ask God what he thinks about what they are planning to do. Then they feel disappointed when things don’t turn out, or abandoned when things go badly. They lose confidence in God’s goodness, or at least, in God’s goodness towards them. It doesn’t occur to them that maybe they missed some essential part of life with God. Like, following closely.
Now, I am NOT saying (as some very successful authors are) that life can be completely fantastic if we just “believe,” or “lay hold of it,” or listen for God’s voice. I am NOT preaching a Gospel without suffering. Life can be hard, really hard, especially for the friends of God. Jesus said that the world would treat us as they treated him. They didn’t treat him very kindly. We simply have to be prepared for that.
What I AM saying is that even so, even in a broken world, there is a LOT of life that God still has for us. He says so. “They will come in and go out and find pasture.” Jesus was an essentially happy, joyful person. We can be, too. When we find our life in God.
By the way, I think every parent, every friend, every lover knows something of the condition Jesus is talking about. As a father, I want good things for my sons. I want to bless them. Not spoil, not overindulge, not pamper. But I do want lots and lots of good things for them. But not when they blow me off. Not when they ignore my counsel. Not when they don’t really care about our relationship. Much of what I have to offer depends on my boys staying close to me, listening to me.
Anyhow, it’s the same with God. You want life? You want to find good pasture? You’ve got to go “in and out” through Jesus, run all things through him. Listen for his voice. And follow.
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