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A Shepherd looks at the GOOD SHEPHERD #7

The Doorway for the sheep!

                 A Shepherd looks at the GOOD SHEPHERD  #7


PARABLE 2

JOHN 10:7-18

ME IN CHRIST

Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you,
I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are
thieved and robbers but the sheep did not hear them (John 10:7-
8).



     IN THE FIRST parable of this discourse, our Lord made clear
what He meant when He spoke of entering into the fold of one's
life. Now, in the second parable, He proceeds to elaborate in
great detail on what it means for a man or woman to enter into
His life. By that is implied the way whereby we come into His
care, enjoy His management, and revel in the abundance of His
life shared with us in gracious generosity.
     Again it must be emphasized that His audience did not really
understand Him. When He completed His teaching they charged Him
with being insane ... possessed of an evil spirit, and unworthy
of a hearing. And since that time millions of others have been
bewildered by His teaching.
     But the man born blind and the young woman taken in
adultery, as well as a few others whose lives He had touched and
transformed, understood Him. They knew it was God who had entered
their lives. Also they had been introduced into a new life in
Christ which was a dimension of living unknown to them before.
These few grasped what it was He said.

     Perhaps as we proceed to study His statements we, too, can
enter into a fuller comprehension of the spiritual truths He
shared with His audience. To do so is to have the horizons of our
spiritual understanding widened by His words.

     "I am the door of the sheep." Put into our modern idiom we
would say: "I am the doorway, the entrance, for the sheep." Too
often people have the wrong idea that our Lord referred to
Himself only as the actual door or gate used to close a
passageway into a sheepfold. This is not the picture. The whole
process of sheep management, of folding sheep, is combined with
the control of doorways and gateways. It is by means of opening
and shutting these passageways that the flock is moved
methodically in and out, from place to place. They pass in
through it to the protection of the fold within.
     A flock has both an interior life within the shelter of the
sheepfold and an exterior life outside. It is by means of the
doorway, through the opening of the gate, that they enjoy both
ingress and egress to a fully rounded and beneficial mode of
life.

     In the experience of every Christian whose life Christ has
entered by His gracious Spirit, there are really two distinct
areas of living. There is that inner life which the Quakers
sometimes refer to as "the interior life." It is a personal,
private, precious communion which a person enjoys within the
inner sanctum of his own soul and spirit.
     Then there is that outer life in which one is in contact
with fellow Christians. It does not just end there, however, for
it reaches out to touch all the world around us. This we refer to
as our "exterior life," where thousands of contacts are made in a
lifetime of interaction with our contemporaries.
     The person under Christ's control will sense and know the
hand of the Good Shepherd directing him in both areas. He will be
acutely aware that it is through Him he passes in and out
peacefully wherever He leads us.
     Whether it is within the stillness of our own spirits or
without in the noisy world around us, He is there. This acute
awareness of His presence opening or closing the way before me is
a magnificent reassurance to my soul that all is well.

     The doorway was of tremendous import in Hebrew tradition and
thought; much more so than in our culture. It was against the
background of the Hebrew respect for "the door" that Christ made
this assertion repeatedly - "I am the door." We do well to
examine this briefly in order to fully comprehend what He meant.

     Early in her history as a nation, Israel had been enslaved
by the Egyptians. For nearly two hundred years her people had
been driven by their taskmasters to toil in the dreadful slime
pits. There under the broiling sun they made mud bricks with
which to build the great, elaborate cities of their enemies.
Though this subservient people lived in their own little peasant
hovels by the Nile, they were still prisoners of their Egyptian
lords. In desperation they cried out for deliverance. God
responded to their cry and sent Moses to wrest them from the land
of their bondage.
     The final great act of their emancipation had to do with the
door of each man's home. A spotless Passover Lamb was to be
slaughtered for each household. Its blood was to be liberally
sprinkled on the lintel over the door, and on both doorposts. Any
person passing through this door to the shelter of the house
within was assured of perfect protection and absolute safety from
the awesome judgment of the great destroying angel who swept
through Egypt in the darkness.
     But also by the same door anyone going out entered into the
magnificent exodus which was able to deliver the enslaved from
their bondage. A person went out through that door to liberty,
freedom, and a new dimension of life under God's direction (Exod.
1-15).
     It was the blood of the innocent Passover lamb, applied to
the owner's doorway, that guaranteed him peace within and
protec-tion without. He had come directly under God's care and
control within a new life of freedom.
     And so it is in the experience of any man or woman who
complies with the provisions of Christ. As we come to rely
implicitly upon the efficacy of His laid-down life and spilled
blood on our behalf, He, God's own Passover Lamb, in very fact
becomes the doorway for us. It is through Him that we enjoy a
magnificent inner security and through Him that we go out to
engage in an adventurous life of new-found freedom under His
direction.

     Later in the history of the nation Israel, clear and
specific instructions were given regarding the doorway to a man's
home. The great laws and commandments of God to His people were
to be inscribed on long, thin strips of parchment. These were to
be carefully wrapped around each of the doorposts through which a
person passed in and out of his home. Thus the resident was
continually reminded, as were any strangers or visitors who came
to call on him, that he and his family lived and moved under the
command and control of God. Their going out and their coming in
from that time forth were under the guidance of God's Word (Deut.
11:18-21).
     Again this was a beautiful concept clearly portraying to
God's own people the fact that they were under His care. It was
under His hand and under His gracious guidance that in truth they
could live securely. As they passed their days going in and out
of their humble homes it was to find sweet serenity within and
strong safety without. Jehovah God was with them to guide. The
Shepherd of their souls was their salvation in every situation.
We see this same remarkable theme and emphasis reiterated
throughout the teachings of our Lord. He stated emphatically in
His great Sermon on the Mount that the gateway or doorway through
which anyone entered into an abundant life of new-found freedom
was in truth a restricted one. One could not think that he could
pursue any course he chose and still come out right. If he did
this he would end up in disaster - a wayward, willful, lost
sheep.
     No, the way to safety within and security without was only
through the gateway of the Good Shepherd's care. Not many would
either find or follow that route. Most preferred to go their own
proud, perverse path to perdition.
     Jesus the Christ was even more specific about this matter
when, just before His crucifixion, He stated simply: "I am the
way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but
by me" (John 14:6).
     Putting this into plain language He is saying: "I am the way
in and through which anyone can enter into a splendid new life
with God. It is through Me that a man or woman comes to discover
truth, reality, purpose, and meaning. It is through Me that one
comes into the intimacy of the family of God our Father."

     This is the main thrust of the entire New Testament. It is
remarkable to see stated over and over the assertion that it is
in and through Christ we live.

Through Jesus Christ I have peace with God. 
Through Jesus Christ I am justified. 
Through Jesus Christ I am forgiven my failures and sins. 
Through Jesus Christ I am accepted into God's family. 
Through Jesus Christ I am set free from slavery to sin and self.
Through Jesus Christ I am resurrected. 
Through Jesus Christ I have immediate access to God in prayer.

     And so the list could go on as a paean of praise to Him who
has loved us and redeemed us and reconciled us to Himself by His
own generous laid-down life.
     In a word, it may be said that He, and only He, is the
doorway into abundant living.

     As in the previous parable, here again the Lord reiterates
that anyone who ever preceded Him in our experience was a thief
or robber. He was a thief in that if he induced us to do our own
thing and go our own way he robbed us of our rightful
inheritance.
     The reason for this escapes most people. We are conditioned
by the culture of our society to believe that we are in the world
merely to gratify our own selfish desires and drives. We are
taught that to a great degree everything is relative. If my
impulse is to push my way to the top of the totem pole, I should
do so, even if it means trampling on others along the way. It's
just too bad if others are injured. After all, it's a tough world
we live in; and life is really a struggle to survive.
     So, little by little as time goes on, many of us do not
believe that the standards established by God are relative to our
age. We discard His directions for living. We ignore His
instructions for our conduct. We turn each to his own way only to
find that our difficulties deepen. We see ourselves caught up in
a worldly way of existence. Life becomes a meaningless mockery.
God's absolute values of integrity, loyalty, justice, honor,
love, and fine nobility are cast aside. And in their place we
find ourselves an impoverished people left only with
discouragement and despair. We are robbed blind and left
destitute with broken lives, broken hearts, broken minds, broken
homes, broken bodies, and a broken society.
     Jesus was speaking a truth we should pay attention to when
He said that it was possible for us to be pillaged and plundered
by the false philosophies and crass materialism of our times.
Unhappily most people simply won't believe Him. They know better,
or so they think. But they end up broken and beaten.

     There is a second, and even more subtle way in which we
ignore Him as the "way" and put others "before Him." It has to do
with our basic priorities in life.
     Again it is helpful to go back into the early Hebrew
teachings and traditions. The first of the Ten Commandments given
by God to Moses in Exodus 20 states explicitly, "Thou shalt have
no other gods before me!" God knew that to do so would spell
certain disaster. No one, no thing, no human ideology could begin
to compare with God Himself in wisdom, might, love, or integrity.
In Him resided all that was selfless, noble, and glorious.
For us to give ourselves or our allegiance to any other is to
impoverish and demean ourselves: it is never to know the best.
Yet, in our blindness, ignorance, and folly all through the long
and tragic tale of human history, men have sold themselves short
to all sorts of strange and stupid gods. We have bartered away
our birthright for a meager mess of unsatisfying substitutes.
God made us for Himself. In love and concern He intended us to be
the children of His family, the sheep of His flock, the bride for
His bridegroom.
     Instead of seeing, longing, and devoting ourselves to Him,
we have turned away and have put all sorts of other gods before
Him. Other interests, ideas, people, and pursuits have been given
prior place in our lives and affections. They have all "come
before" Him.
     Whatever it is to which I give most of my attention, time,
thought, strength, and interest, becomes my God. It may be my
home, my health, my family, career, hobby, entertainment, money,
or person.
     But our Lord says that if they come before Him, we are
robbed. We have been stolen blind. We are poorer than we think.
Our plight is pathetic, and we have settled for second best.
Our Lord points out in our text that those who are truly His
people, the sheep of His pasture, will not allow themselves to be
subverted by false gods. In the history of the people of Israel
this had always been one of their greatest difficulties. Often
they had been warned not to follow after the pagan gods of the
races around them. Whenever they gave an ear to their subtle
attractions they were drawn into dreadful practices that led them
to utter ruin.

     It did not matter whether they did this collectively as a
nation or privately as individual citizens. The end result always
was retrogression and remorse. But in spite of the repeated
warnings there always seemed to be those who were oblivious to
the dangers of thieves and robbers. In stubborn, sometimes blind
folly they would fall prey to the predators among them or around
them. And the same is still true today.

     It reminds me of the behavior of a band of sheep under
attack from dogs, cougars, bears, or even wolves. Often in blind
fear or stupid unawareness they will stand rooted to the spot
watching their companions being cut to shreds. The predator will
pounce upon one then another of the flock raking and tearing them
with tooth and claw. Meanwhile, the other sheep may act as if
they did not even hear or recognize the carnage going on around
them. It is as though they were totally oblivious to the obvious
peril of their own precarious position.

     We see this principle at work even among Christians. We as
God's people are continually coming under attack, either from
without or within. Yet many are unable to detect danger among our
number. It is as though we cannot hear or see or sense our peril.
Often the predation is so crafty and cunning that fellow
Christians are cut down before our eyes by the enemy of our
souls.
     Sometimes those who do the most damage are already among us.
They insinuate themselves into our little folds. They may be in
our family, among our friends, in our neighborhood, in some small
Bible class, in the community, or even in the church itself. They
come bringing discord, divisions, and dissension. They rob us of
the enrichment we might have from our Master by redirecting our
attention to lesser issues. We get caught up in conflict and
confusion that can lead to chaos. Instead of our focus being
centered in Christ they get us embroiled with false and
destructive ideas that may eventually lead to our downfall.
     Almost invariably those who come as thieves and robbers
divert our attention from the loveliness and grandeur of our Good
Shepherd. They manage to redirect our interests to peripheral
issues of minor importance. They will get us to expend our time
and energy and thought on trivia. And while we are so preoccupied
with following their "will-o'-the-wisp" suggestions we fall prey
to their deceptive and destructive tactics. We see this in such
things as over-emphasis of questionable doctrines, humanistic
philosophies, undue desire for feelings rather than faith in the
Christian experience, disputes over biblical interpretations,
excesses in legalism, worldly ways of living or doing God's work,
pandering to certain popular personalities or programs.

     Throughout the teachings of our Lord, and later in the
writings of the New Testament apostles (see 2 Tim.), we are
warned "not to hear" such false teachers. We are urged to turn a
deaf ear to them. We are told to flee from them. If we are to
survive we must disassociate ourselves from them. We do not
respond to those who treacherously try to tickle our ears while
cutting our throats.

     This is not always easy to do, but if we are following
Christ in an intimate communion, we will be aware of our danger.
We will turn from those who would maim and mutilate us. We will
be acutely sensitive only to the gentle voice of the Good
Shepherd.

                            ..................


To be continued

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