SUNDAY MORNING SERMON NOTES
How Deep the Father's Love For Us
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Sunday, March 9, 2014 - 6:00 p.m.  Sermon #: 1715
Pastor Don Horban

John 10:1-21 - “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. [2] But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. [3] To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. [4] When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. [5] A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” [6] This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. [7] So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. [8] All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. [9] I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. [10] The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. [11] I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. [12] He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. [13] He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. [14] I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, [15] just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. [16] And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. [17] For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. [18] No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” [19] There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. [20] Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” [21] Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

The immediate lesson of these involved verses is, in fact, profoundly simple. Any claim, past or present, that promises improvement of life apart from deeper obedience to Christ Jesus is a lie. And the second lesson in our Lord’s words follows logically. All who make such offers of improved life apart from deeper obedience to Christ are thieves and robbers and destroyers of life in disguise.

There are many voices speaking into our lives. We have never been more electronically connected with the world around us than we are today. Words - messages - come at us like never before. We are rarely, if ever, out of touch. Just go for a walk and look for a person not wearing earbuds. We are all becoming continuous listeners. And Jesus is reminding us that not all words give truth and life. Any message or messenger pulling us from Christ focused attention is draining us of life and truth. We either remain Christ-attentive or we are deceived and decaying inwardly. This is the radical message of Jesus in our text.

It’s important to keep the context of our text in mind. Jesus is still speaking to those blind, truth dodging Pharisees. We are still witnessing the crashing of belief and unbelief. We know from the last words in our present text that the healing of the blind man was still on the minds of many - John 10:20-21 - “Many of them said, ‘He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?’ [21] Others said, ‘These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’”

The theme John is developing is the division that always forms around the witness of God the Son. John doesn’t want the church swept off her feet in surprise or disappointment. It would be easy to expect that words and works of grace - like the offering of abundant life and the opening of the eyes of the blind - would be welcomed by all. John knows how hurtful it can feel when what we treasure as followers of Christ is ignored or mocked by those we may love and respect. We are being braced and prepared for the way the division of light and darkness can manifest itself in this world.

The call of Christ to our hearts is totally distinct from everything else that would speak into our lives. This world tunes in its own ideas of truth. The blurry, vague morality of postmodern relativism that treats all ideas like noodles in alphabet soup in the name of love meets no push-back with the darkness of our culture. There is no threat to the rule of self - no call to humble repentance - no need to open the heart to absolute revelation. But there is no such comfort in following Christ. They killed Jesus for what He said. His very words were not allowed to go unpunished. And this is the One to whom we disciples cling with unquestioned obedience and devotion.

Let’s work our way through some of the big ideas in this text:

1) JESUS IS THE GATEWAY TO KNOWING FATHER GOD AND THE SENDING POINT OF OUTREACH INTO OUR CULTURE

John 10:1-3 - “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. [2] But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. [3] To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”

John mixes metaphors freely in making his point. Jesus is the gate that swings in two directions. He is the Shepherd who calls the sheep into the sheepfold (1) and leads them out (3). Jesus is the one who brings the sheep in and leads them out.

We should be grateful for this reminder that we are more than just people who have come to Christ. It is easy for this to become the church’s only message. We call people to accept Christ - to ask Jesus into their hearts - to come to Jesus. All of which is fine, but hardly the end of the process. Jesus reminds all His followers that following doesn’t end at conversion. If you’ve come to Jesus for real He will send you out into service for your new Master. The sending is included as part of the coming.

2) THE CENTRAL DUTY OF FOLLOWING JESUS IS SUMMED UP IN LISTENING TO HIS VOICE

John 10:4-5 - “When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. [5] A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

It is interesting to me that Jesus defines our relationship to Himself more in terms of the ongoing process of listening than merely a one time conversion choice. We are so inclined to link abundant life with the one time conversion - being saved. Jesus says the life He gives to the hungry soul only begins at a certain point. It progresses and grows by the attention we continuously aim in Christ’s direction.

Notice how Jesus says His sheep “know his voice”(10:4). They can hear Him speak - they know what He has to say in the middle of all the other words in their ears. They have developed a selective hearing that puts the direction of Jesus over and above the other invitations and demands coming their way.

This idea of listening to Jesus is the inner core of this text. Everything hinges on the sheep listening to the shepherd. The idea needs stressing in today’s church. We like to think we can set our own terms for “believing” in Jesus. Somehow we can actually convince ourselves that it’s what we say about Jesus that’s important. But that’s only secondary. What’s primary is the way we listen to Jesus. It’s not what we say about Him that’s primary. It’s what He says to us that’s primary.

We should have known this all along. It’s the central message of Christianity. This is what the Apostle Paul meant in those famous words in Romans 10:17 - “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Whether we study Jesus or Paul, faith is forever tied to listening to the word of Christ.

But there’s something else of equal importance in this text. Listening is defined in two ways. And both are equally important. Listening to our life-giving Shepherd, in Jesus’ words, is defined by what we give our attention to and by what we turn our attention from.

Did you catch that emphasis? John 10:4-5 - “When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. [5] A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

There’s the one voice they know because they’ve attuned their hearts to it so continuously they are now familiar and oriented to it. And there are the other many voices that have grown foreign to them because they’ve trained themselves to be intentionally unfamiliar with them. In other words, they aren’t ashamed, but rather proud to confess ignorance of these other voices and messages.

This too is a concept weighted in the Scriptures by repetition so we don’t miss it - Psalm 1:1-2 - “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; [2] but his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

This is the exact idea repeated by Jesus. Following Jesus in a life-giving way demands ears that take in what is Christ-like and filter out what is contrary. The Psalmist, I hope you note, places the filtering out before the taking in. That’s because the truth of Christ will never make any sense in a mind gummed up with the sludgy thinking and values of this age.

Jesus repeats this same idea in our text. Notice, sheep can’t know both the voice of their Shepherd and the other voices trying to dominate their minds. They may be able to hear both voices for a while. But they can’t know both voices - John 10:4-5 - “When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. [5] A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” To intimately know their good Shepherd they must tune out all rivals.

Again, let me sum this point up as tightly as I can. Jesus is ruling out the possibility of me claiming to love and follow Jesus while taking my directions from another source. I can’t claim the label “Christian” while not being ruled by the words of Jesus in the New Testament. I can’t claim to follow Christ and be fascinated by the things He hates.

3) ANY PROMISES OF LIFE APART FROM OBEYING THE WORDS OF CHRIST WILL BE UNTRUE AND SELF-DESTRUCTIVE

John 10:6-13 - “This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. [7] So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. [8] All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. [9] I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. [10] The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. [11] I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. [12] He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. [13] He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”

There is so much here. The central interpretive point of these verses is Jesus’ recognition He was not the first one to come with claims of truth and a better life. He talks plainly about all those who “came before” Him (8). But they all came with nothing but words. Jesus is the uniquely divine Son who came to “lay down his life” for the sheep (11).

But I’m drawn to the way Jesus says all the other claims were “thieves and robbers”(8). It seems a little stern. Is Jesus just being insulting to other leaders and teachers and promoters and advertisers and entertainers and professors and authors and actors and producers and singers?

Or is He doing something intentionally loving for His sheep - His followers? I think He’s addressing our fallen instincts. I think Jesus is reminding us if we give attention to other voices - if we give them the place only a dying, redeeming Good Shepherd has earned - we will surely destroy our lives. Anyone but the Shepherd will take from our lives rather than give to them. That’s what robbers do. They don’t bring stuff into your house. They take stuff out. You always end up with less than you had.

Now, none of these other voices tells you in advance that they will diminish your life and joy. Perhaps they don’t even know that’s all they can do. But Jesus, God the Son all-wise, knows only His will and way carry life with them. And that contrast is made to shine in the way Jesus speaks to this crowd: John 10:10 - “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

I doubt very much that the thief mentioned here is Satan. The context would indicate that, on this occasion, the thief is the same as in verse 8 - “All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them.” The thieves and robbers are those who speak in the opposite direction of the Good Shepherd.

This is the danger Paul penned in Colossians 2:8 - “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.”

I’m running out of time. Just take note of those last four words to guard your heart - “....not according to Christ.” Now examine your heart. What gets regular entrance to your mind that is “not according to Christ?” Note it well, because, however popular it may be in this world, or even among the careless in the church, that’s going to destroy your soul. Or in Paul’s words, it will “take you captive.”

4) IT’S NO MORE POSSIBLE FOR THE SON TO BE UNCARING ABOUT YOUR DEVOTION TO HIM THAN FOR THE FATHER TO BE INDIFFERENT TOWARD HIS SON

John 10:14-15 - “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, [15] just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

When Jesus wants to speak of the way He knows His own the only comparison He can make is His own relationship with His heavenly Father. That thought is too big to take in. I mean, verse 14 and verse 15 shouldn’t fit together. How can my relationship with Jesus ever be compared to Jesus’ with His Father in heaven?

All I know is I’m grateful - grateful beyond measure - that Jesus receives all my feeble prayers and Bible study and faltering devotion as me actually knowing Him. I rest on this because there are times when I don’t feel that I know Him that well. So there is obviously some kind of special unseen grace extended in the way Jesus receives my attempts to know Him because He actually dares to compare it with the way Father God knows Him. Amazing.

Then Jesus says He knows me - relates Himself to me - the way He knows His heavenly Father. That means He’s as committed to me as the Father and the Son are committed to each other. The love of the Trinity overflows to all of Christ’s feeble sheep. The love of Christ for you is not a lesser kind of love. It’s a deep divine love.

5) OUR SALVATION IS DEARER TO THE SON THAN HIS OWN LIFE

John 10:16-21 - “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. [17] For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. [18] No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” [19] There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. [20] Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” [21] Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

There is a deep connection between the other sheep that the Son must bring also (16) and the fact that the Son freely chooses to lay down His life (18). The laying down of His life is the way the Son will reach all these sheep. And He clearly says He didn’t have to lay down His life. He did it, in some mysterious way, under his own “authority”(18).

And what that means is the Son valued reaching those sheep more than He valued keeping His own life. We run out of words before such mystery. We can only bow in humility and gratitude.