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
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
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 saying 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.