There are all kinds of organizations, clubs, and societies around the world that have requirements that must be met to gain entrance into the group. Some of these organizations are very familiar to us. There’s the National Honor Society of which probably many of you became members because of your excellent academic performance while in school. There’s the Letterman’s Club for athletes who performed at a high level and “lettered” for their team. There are other clubs that are not as well-known and which have much more strict requirements to gain admittance. Some of the requirements are financial, others are hereditary, and still others demand that you meet intelligence requirements to gain admittance. Let me give you some examples of what I’m talking about.
If you like to ski and play golf then you might want to look into the Yellowstone Club in Montana. There are only 250 members of the club and that’s not because the club has become run down or fallen out of grace with its members. If you want to join then it’s going to cost you $250,000 just to sign up. That’s not the only requirement though. You also must own a home in the vicinity—homes run anywhere from $5 to $35 million dollars! Then, on top of those requirements you’ll have to pay $20,000 a year for homeowner dues. If you’d like to upgrade your membership so that you can have access to other Yellowstone properties around the world then you’ll need to chip in another $2 million. For that price they better have Jordan Spieth hitting my golf ball around the course and Lindsey Vonn giving me lessons on the slopes every single day!
You say the outdoors are not really your thing, you like books, deep thinking, and intellectual stimulation. Well, have I got a deal for you! You can join the Mensa Society, a group of about 110,000 from 100 countries around the world. There are Mensans who are on welfare and Mensans who are millionaires, but all of those in the Mensa Society have an IQ in the top 2% of the people of the world. It’s quite an exclusive club, but if you are looking for even more rarefied air among intellects then you might want to look into the Mega Society, the most elite organization for erudite and deep thinkers.
The Mega Society was founded in 1982 by Ronald K. Hoeflin to facilitate psychometric research. If the Mega Society has sparked your interest then you need to know that you will need to score better than 999,999 other people on the test. There are only 26 members world-wide as of today and those 26 members have an IQ of at least 171. I think I’ll pass on that test.
There are other clubs and organizations that require that you be a legacy. What that means is that nothing else matters other than the fact that you had a family member who was part of the organization before you and therefore you are eligible for admission into the elite organization.
When you stop to think about it there are requirements that must be met for most everything we do in life. If you want to drive a car you must pass a test and abide by the laws of the land, if you want to buy a house you must qualify, if you want to attend a specific school then you must meet certain qualifications established by the School District, and if you want to get married in the State of Oklahoma you must be 18 years old, or 16 if you have parental consent, and the list goes on and on and on.
In our lesson for today we will learn that there is also a requirement for you and me to become a part of the people of God, to gain salvation, eternal life, and to experience security, peace, and the fullness of life that God desires for His people. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for this morning and then we’ll see what we can learn. Turn with me to John 10:1-10 and let’s read together.
1 “Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. 7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:1-10 NIV)
In our last study of John we covered verses 1-6, but I wanted us to read it again so that we can be aware of the context of verses 7-10. This morning we’ll focus on these last four verses of our Scripture. In verses 1-5 Jesus portrayed Himself as the shepherd, but in verses 7 and 9 Jesus described Himself as “the gate.” Next week, when we look at our next section of John 10, Jesus will immediately describe Himself as the good shepherd. This has led some Bible teachers to say that verses 7-10 don’t fit, someone must have inserted these verses into the original text. I don’t believe that at all. It’s not necessary to try and decide if Jesus is the shepherd or the gate—He is both.
G. Campbell Morgan was one of the great preachers of the 19th century. He shared a story that was told to him by George Adam Smith, the most famous Old Testament scholar of his day. Dr. Smith was traveling in the Middle East with a guide when he came across a shepherd and his sheep. The two men began to talk about his flock of sheep and an enclosure that was nearby. It was very simply constructed, nothing more than four walls with one way in. Dr. Smith asked, “That is where they go at night?” “Yes,” said the shepherd, “and when they are in there, they are perfectly safe.” Dr. Smith said, “But there is no door.” The shepherd said, “I am the door.” The shepherd wasn’t a Christian, he was totally unfamiliar with the New Testament, but he was a skilled shepherd. Dr. Smith looked at him and said, “What do you mean by the door?” Then the shepherd said. “When the light has gone and all the sheep are inside I lie in the open space, and no sheep ever goes out but across my body, and no wolf comes in unless he crosses my body; I am the door.” Dr. Smith said he immediately thought of John 10. Jesus is the Shepherd and He is also the Gate!
There are many different ideas today about who is “in” and who is “out,” who are the people of God and who are not, who is going to heaven and who is going to hell. The discussions are endless. The thoughts on this are as varied as the flowers of the field. Some say, “Well, I go to such and such a church.” Others say, “My mom and dad had me baptized when I was a baby.” Or, “I was baptized after I completed the ‘Confirmation Class’ right before Easter.” Or, “I’ve tithed a full 10% on my gross income every week since I got out of college.” Or, “I come from a long line of preachers, or Sunday school teachers, or Elders, or Deacons, or…” you fill in the blank. Or, someone else might say, “I’ve never stolen anything in my life, I always put money in the Salvation Army kettle at Christmas, I’m on the Board for Feed the Children, and I give a dollar every morning to the guy who stands on the corner at Memorial and Penn.” Those are all wonderful things that you do, but none of them will bring you in the sheepfold of the people of God.
The question of “Who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out?’” has been around for a long, long time. In Jesus’ day the question was just as prevalent as it is in our day. Turn with me to Luke 13 and let’s read together beginning in verse 23.
23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. (Luke 13:23-24 NIV)
“Are only a few people going to be saved?” It’s interesting isn’t it that Jesus didn’t answer the question of how many will be saved, but instead He focused on who will be saved, those who “enter through the narrow door.” What is really interesting is what follows Jesus’ statement. He tells a parable, a story to illustrate a biblical truth. Listen to this from Luke 13:25-29.
25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ 26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ 28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. (Luke 13:25-29 NIV)
Those who are inside the house are those who will take their place at the feast in the Kingdom of God. So, we can see, Jesus is not only the Shepherd, He is not only the Door, but He is also the Owner of the house, the One who shuts the door, and the One who sets the requirements for admission to the house and the Kingdom. Jesus wasn’t secretive about the requirements for admission. He spoke over and over again what we must do to enter into a relationship with Him and gain eternal life. In Matthew 7:13-14, He said,
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV)
You can read the rest of the chapter and see very clearly that Jesus was talking about salvation, eternal life, and He was and is the “gate” and the “narrow road” that leads to life. The way, the gate, the door that leads to eternal life is Jesus and Jesus alone. Spirituality may bring you a sense of peace, but it will never gain you admittance into the Kingdom of God. Philanthropy may bring you a sense of purpose, but it will never gain you admittance into the Kingdom of God. Dedicating your life to serving the poor and afflicted may give you a sense of satisfaction, but it will never gain you admittance into the Kingdom of God. There is only one way, one door, and one road and His name is Jesus. Jesus made this declaration about Himself in John 14:6 when Thomas, asking for all of the disciples, asked, “…how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 NIV)
From that day forward Jesus’ faithful followers have unashamedly proclaimed Him to be the sole, exclusive, unique way to God and the Author of the life God desires for those who are His own. Simon Peter stood up and announced it before Annas the High Priest and the Jewish leaders when he said,
11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12 NIV)
The Apostle Paul, who before he came to know Jesus, was the number one adversary of the followers of Jesus, wrote to a young pastor named Timothy and said,
5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:5-6 NIV)
Many people are attracted to Britton Christian Church because of the unique ministries of our church. People with big hearts, a love for people, and a desire to have a purpose for their life have come to Britton Christian Church. I’m deeply appreciative for each of you and the time that you have given, and are giving, to help make a difference in someone’s life, but I have to tell you that if you are trusting in your good works to gain you admittance into heaven then you are horribly deceived my friend. Others of you haven’t given so much of your time as you have of your money to help us do all of the things that we do to share the Gospel with people of all ages. I’m grateful for every dime, every dollar, you’ve given. We couldn’t do what we do if it weren’t for your generosity, but I must tell you that if you have convinced yourself that your financial gifts have caught God’s eye, and that your gifts are your best hope for gaining admittance into heaven, then you are sorely mistaken. Our only hope for a future seat before the glorious, majestic throne of our God and Savior is Christ alone. If we are trusting in anything for our salvation other than the blood of Jesus shed on Calvary’s Cross for our redemption and reconciliation with the Father then we are the most lost and hopeless of all sinners. Paul made it clear that we are reconciled to God through Jesus when he wrote to the folks in Corinth. Listen to this.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: (2 Corinthians 5:17-18 NIV)
Now we know that Jesus is both the Gate and the Shepherd, the only way to a reconciled relationship with God. I want us to spend our last few moments taking a look at the benefits that come from this relationship with the God of Glory made available to us through Jesus. Jesus said,
9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:9-10 NIV)
The sheep are saved by the watchful hand of their shepherd and we are saved by the precious, sacrificial blood of ours. We are not only “saved” for eternity, but we are “saved,” “secure” moment-to-moment, as our Shepherd watches over us to preserve us and keep us until the end of our days. I want to clarify something for us so that you won’t be misled. To be “saved” by Jesus, to seek Him with all of your heart all the days of your life, does not translate into a charmed life free from the troubles and trials of life that are common to all people. Listen to what Peter had to say,
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. (1 Peter 1:3-6 NIV)
There are more and more teachers who are misleading folks today in claiming that if you will only have enough faith you can avoid sickness and sorrow, if you will only “plead the blood of Jesus” over your problems you will be delivered from your troubles. Peter said our salvation, our relationship with God, and future with Him in heaven is secure, “kept in heaven for you…though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” Don’t look at your troubles as an aberration or a sign of your lack of faith, but rather know that the Good Shepherd will lead you through them all the way to your eternal home.
Jesus said, “whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” Also, He said that He has come “that they may have life, and have it to the full.” When the sun rises the sheep leave the protection of the sheepfold where the shepherd watches over them during the night while they are resting. They “go in” at night and “go out” during the day to graze in the pasture the shepherd has guided them towards for their benefit. You and I rise from our beds and head out into our day with the security of knowing our Shepherd goes before us, He is with us.
Jesus compares Himself to the “thief,” most certainly Satan, when He says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10 NIV) If you given your heart and soul to anything or anyone other than Jesus you will never know the fullness of life that God desires for you my friend. The Greek word for “abundant,” “????????” (perissos), means “more, over and above, or exceedingly.” Let me show you a couple of places where this Greek word appears in the New Testament. First, let’s turn to Luke 7:26 where Jesus said,
26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. (Luke 7:26 NIV)
Jesus said John the Baptist exceeded the prophets in that he came to announce in a unique way the coming of Jesus. He came to prepare the way for the Lord. Now, turn with me to 2 Corinthians 2:7. In this passage Paul instructed the people how they should treat someone who has sinned and been disciplined for their actions. Paul wrote,
7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. (2 Corinthians 2:7 NIV)
Paul didn’t want the person to suffer “excessive sorrow.” So you can see what the word means that was used by Jesus in John 10:10 to describe the life God desires for His people to experience.
All people who are breathing are experiencing life, but the quality of life varies immensely doesn’t it? I go to see people who are home-bound, some in nursing homes, and their quality of life, their physical strength or mental capabilities have declined in relation to what they once experienced. There are others who are physically as strong as an ox, but inner turmoil and anxiety are paralyzing them. I know others who are suffering all kinds of troubles and trials and yet the peace they know and experience in the midst of the storm is mind-boggling. God desires for you and me to know the peace that surpasses all understanding, even in the storms of life. (Philippians 4:6-7) God desires for you and me to know that the joy of the Lord is our strength, not just in the good times, but at all times. (Nehemiah 8:10) We can only know the life God desires for us by knowing the God who made us, gave His Son to redeem us and reconcile us to Himself. Won’t you invite Him into your heart this morning?
Britton Christian Church
July 19, 2015