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His Sheep Have Eternal Life

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His Sheep Have Eternal Life

November 23, 2008

John 10:22-30

Two weeks ago my message was on spiritual blindness It was based on John, the story of the man born blind. We, too, are born blind, spiritually blind. The after God saves us and heals us of our spiritual blindness, we can still be blind-sided.

Many today have been “Blinded by the God of This Age” says Henry Blackaby in the July 22 reading from Experiencing God Day-by-Day. He adds, “

Regarding them: the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.—2 Corinthians 4:4

When you are blinded, you cannot see things as they really are, even though others around you see them clearly. You cannot experience the full reality of all that is around you. You may feel you are experiencing all that there is to life, yet you may be unaware that you are missing what God desires for you. You may even be in danger because of your blindness and not know it.

Paul warned that the “god of this age” can blind you to the reality of Jesus Christ. Christ's presence can make a significant difference in your life. However, if Satan convinces you to doubt that Christ can do what He promised, he will have blinded you to the reality of what your life is really like and to what it could become. Others may see what your unbelief causes you to miss, but you will be unaware of it. Your life may be steadily moving toward disaster, but you will be oblivious to it.

Christ comes to you as light (John 1:4, 5, 9). He illuminates your sin so that you see its ugliness and destructiveness. He reveals Himself so that you can appreciate the glory of His person and the marvelous riches He brings. His presence lights your path so that you can see impending danger. Don't let the god of this age distort your spiritual vision. Don't be fooled into thinking that everything is as it should be when, in fact, you are missing out on so much that God wants to do in your life. Ask Christ to illuminate your life and let you clearly see your spiritual condition because you need to make serious spiritual decisions while you are still in this life, otherwise it is too late and your decision is made by default.

I’d like to quote John Piper. He says: “Since coming to Bethlehem Baptist Church in July, 1980, I have averaged about one funeral per month. One of the things I regret about this experience is that all of you can't share it with me. I know that some of you would not live the way you do if once a month you had to spend three or four hours writing a funeral meditation about the meaning of death, and if you had to think and pray about what you would say to the family, and if you had to stand beside the open hole and the mound of dirt and try to make the decisive farewell significant for the bereaved. I regret that I am the one who does all this once a month, not because it is a hard job and I want someone else to do it, but because it is a gift to me and I would that all of you could share it.”

There are two reasons why the ministry of funerals is a gift. One reason is that it keeps our minds and hearts awake to the reality and certainty of our own death and our spouse’s death and our children's deaths and the death of everyone we know. It is easy to forget about our dying. Except for those in terrible suffering, death is not usually what we want to happen. It terminates some things we enjoy very much; it severs us from people we love. And for many it is an awful door leading they know not where. Perhaps to judgment and eternal hell, perhaps to utter nothingness. For many it is a great and terrifying unknown. And since our minds cannot endure such constant threat, we very naturally forget. Or, more accurately, we very naturally avoid the thought of death by filling our minds with other things. When the Bible says in Hebrews 2:15 that "through fear of death men are subject to slavery all their life," it doesn't mean, of course, that human experience is one of constant fear. It means, rather, that, since death is fearful, and since we impulsively flee fear, man is enslaved to perpetual flight from thoughts of death. We may know periods of peace and happiness when for a season we has put the haunting thought of death off our trail. But we will awake and remember that we are fugitives and must keep running from death. Does that sound like fun to you? No! Fleeing thoughts of death is not true freedom from death, is it?. There is no true freedom where happiness depends on denying the inevitable; there is only slavery. And therefore I count the ministry of funerals a gift because it keeps my heart and mind awake to the inevitability of death and protects me from the enslavements of being a fugitive, running from death.

The other reason why the ministry of funerals is a gift is that it keeps our minds and hearts awake to the promises of God beyond death. If we were to never think of our death, then we would not think of the promise of resurrection and eternal life and our heavenly reward. You can't think of the word "forever" without thinking of your death and destination; and yet the benefits that God promises are terribly deflated if they don't carry us to eternity. "If we have hoped in Christ only for this life, we are of all men most to be pitied" (1 Corinthians 15:19). Funerals are a gift because they cause us again and again to set our gaze "not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are unseen are eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18). And the more we set the eyes of our heart on the invisible gift of eternal life the more precious Jesus becomes, who alone can give eternal life to us.

Since it’s not possible for every one of you to share in this ministry of funerals, I have tried to pass along some of the benefits of this ministry. These services are the bridge between us and eternity. Let me direct your attention to the conversation between Peter and Jesus in which Peter recognized the link between Jesus and eternity. And once, after many of his disciples had turned away from following him, "Jesus asked the twelve apostles, 'Will you too go away?' And Simon Peter answered him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life"' (John 6:67, 68). My desire is that everybody in this room will inherit eternal life and not enter into condemnation (John 5:29). Therefore, let's listen together to Jesus.

Turn with me to John 10:22. It was winter in Jerusalem; to be specific, it was the last week of December during the Feast of Dedication. This feast was a celebration of the rededication of the temple about 164 BC after it had been desecrated for several years by Antiochus Epiphanes. The feast was a joyous event. Jesus was walking through one of the covered court areas called Solomon's porch when the Jews surrounded him, no doubt in the excited spirit of the festival, and said, "How long are you going to hold us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly" (verse 24). Of course, you don't just walk up to everybody and ask them if they are the Messiah. Evidently this crowd knows something unusual about this man. The Messiah was the long-awaited king who would come and reign over Israel, smash their enemies with a rod of iron, and establish an eternal kingdom of peace and righteousness. He would finish the work begun by Judas Maccabeus at the original Feast of Dedication: rout the Romans and free the land of foreign domination.

Jesus answers the crowd in verse 25: "I did tell you, and you don't believe. The works which I do in my Father's name, these bear witness concerning me, but you don't believe." They had said, "Tell us plainly." This word "plainly" is the same one we saw two weeks ago in John 7:4 when Jesus' brothers urged him to show himself to the world. "No one does anything in secret when he seeks to be known plainly," they said. They wanted a more open and forthright and public statement of Jesus' Messiahship. But Jesus complies in 10:26 only partly, just as he complied only partly in chapter 7. He says, "I did tell you." He does not say, "I did tell you plainly or openly." For, in fact, up to this point in the gospel of John, Jesus had only made one explicit claim to be the Messiah, and that was all alone with the Samaritan woman at the well (4:26). Therefore, what Jesus means when he says to the crowd, "I did tell you," is explained in the next sentence: "The works I do in my Father's name, these bear witness to my Messiahship." By and large Jesus did not make outright, explicit, public claims to be the Messiah. But everything he said and did witnessed to that fact for those who were willing to accept it.

But these crowds were not willing. Two times Jesus says it. Verse 25, "You do not believe." Verse 26: "You do not believe." Jesus met with widespread unbelief in his own day just like he does today. And the reason was the same then as it is today: not primarily a lack of clear and worthy testimony ("I have told you . . . the works bear witness . . . of me"), but rather a deeply rooted spiritual unwillingness to love what Jesus loves. Do you remember John 5:44 where Jesus says, "How can you believe when you seek glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?" The chief hindrance to faith is not that Jesus' claims are obscure or insufficient, but that people "love the glory of men rather than the glory of God" (John 12:43). It is not primarily a problem of knowledge but a problem of pride. Like Jesus, Paul too traces unbelief back through ignorance to the heart which is hardened against the glory of God in Christ. He says in Ephesians 4:18, "They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart." There is a kind of deadness to spiritual things which grips the heart of unbelievers. The affections of some are so completely enslaved to the things of this world that Jesus says they will not repent, even if one should rise from the dead (Luke 16:31), for it is not a problem of knowledge, but of what they love.

This means that in order to believe on Christ, something very deep and life-shaking must happen in your heart. Something like a resurrection or re-creation has to take place. Something has to emerge which wasn't there before. Otherwise you will never feel the least inclination to believe on Jesus, no matter how high the pile of evidence of his truth mounts. All of this is implied in verse 26: "You do not believe because you are not of my sheep." Last week my message was called “The other sheep. Today the image of sheep is once again used by Jesus to describe His church, us – the body of believers. If you were here last week, bear with me as some of this may sound familiar. Listen very carefully to what the Lord says. He does not say, "You are not my sheep because you do not believe." As I mentioned last week, it's the other way around: "You do not believe because you are not of my sheep." Something must happen to you before you believe which gives you the willingness to follow the Shepherd.

God chooses His sheep and works in them the transformation of heart which inclines them to love what Jesus loves. He takes out their heart of stone and puts in a soft heart of flesh (Ezekiel 11:19); he breaks their pride and gives them a lowly and contrite openness to God-exalting, human-abasing truth. It is no accident that we are called sheep: we are not wise in ourselves; we need a shepherd to save us and guide us. When that transformation happens, then we will believe. Then Jesus will appear for what he really is, precious as our all-sufficient hope.

Why should I say to you that you will not believe unless you belong to Christ's sheep? I know full well that some may walk out and say in a flippant manner, "Well, I guess God hasn't made me a sheep yet, because I'm not going to follow Jesus." I'm convinced that a person who says that would have used any excuse to reject Jesus. His hard and unrepentant heart rules his reason. I am here to teach reason. I teach this because Jesus did. He said to a crowd of unbelievers, "You do not believe because you are not of my sheep." It was to unbelievers that Jesus taught the glorious truth of prevenient grace—grace from God coming before faith and working to bring us to faith. Now there’s a new word for you! Prevenient means coming before or anticipatory. Prevenient grace is divine grace turning the heart toward God. I like that!  Why does it come before faith? Because Jesus wanted us to give all glory to God for our conversion. No doctrine of grace is better suited to show the utter helplessness and lostness of man apart from Christ. It should be a frightening thing to hear that the reason you do not believe on Christ is because you are not his sheep. You are utterly helpless to believe until God causes you to be believe. And this very day, my words may be the instrument of God to awaken your dead heart. Pray earnestly that you not be abandoned to your hardness of heart outside the sheepfold.

You will be able to know if God is at work in you now by how you respond to what Jesus says next in verse 27: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." There are two outstanding evidences that you belong to the sheep of Christ: "My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me." Do not look inside yourself and ask: "Am I a sheep? Am I His sheep?" Turn your eyes and your ears to Jesus, and when he speaks, if you are drawn to listen and to follow, you are His sheep! This is the evidence that you are born of God: that you listen eagerly to his words and follow. Jesus said in John 8:47, "He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God" Do not look for inward signs such as ecstasy or for outward changes such as prosperity. Look to Jesus, and if you are drawn to listen and obey, you are born of God and a sheep of Christ.

And now begin the most alluring promises of our text, and they are awesome. God give us all ears to hear! "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them" (v. 27). Jesus knows those who are his. What is this knowledge? John 10:3 is a close parallel to verse 27. It says, "The sheep hear his voice, he calls his own sheep by name, and he leads them out." So when it says, "Jesus knows them" (v. 27), it means He knows us by name; that is, he knows us individually and intimately. We are not anonymous, lost in the flock. Verse 14 provides another insight: "I am the good shepherd, and I know my own and my own know me, even as the Father knows me and I know the Father." There is a real similarity between the way Jesus knows his Father in heaven and the way he knows us his sheep. Jesus sees himself in the Father, and he sees himself in us his disciples. To some degree Jesus recognizes his own character in us his disciples. He sees his own brand mark on the sheep. He is like a husband waiting for his wife at the airport, watching as each person disembarks from the plane. When she appears, he knows her, he recognizes her features, he delights in her, she is the only one he embraces. The apostle Paul puts it like this: "The firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, 'The Lord knows those who are his'" (2 Timothy 2:19; 1 Corinthians 8:3. It is hard to overemphasize what a tremendous privilege it is to be known personally, intimately, lovingly by the Son of God. It is a precious gift to all his sheep, and it contains within it the promise of eternal life.

Verses 28–30 read: "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father who has given them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one." For those who hear the voice of Jesus and follow him, the grand reward is that the intimacy of his personal care and protection will never, never, never end. It is not for this life only that we have hoped in him, for to all those who follow him he gives eternal life. The life of joy (15:11; 16:24; 17:13) and peace (14:27; 16:33) and purposefulness (17:18; 20:21) which we have begun with him in this age will be perfected forever and ever and ever. That is our blessed assurance.

When Jesus says, "I give them eternal life, and they shall not perish" (v. 28), he means very bluntly that there are two eternal destinies. The one is eternal life, which comes to those who hear his voice and follow him. The other is eternal punishment, which comes to those who refuse his voice and go their own way. He said in Matthew 25:31–32, 46, When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him. And he will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats . . . And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

When the terrible truth of hell glows clear in your imagination, then becomes precious the final promise: "No one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father who gave them to me is greater than all, and no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand." Those who hear the voice of Jesus and follow him are gripped by the hand of the Son and the hand of the Father, which are one mighty, divine hand, for Jesus and the Father are one, and that hand is the strongest force in the universe. This verse “no one will snatch them out of my hand” is my assurance that I am glory-bound. And to doubly assure me of my heavenly destination, Jesus repeats Himself in verse 29: “No one can snatch them from my Father’s hand.” Are you Jesus’ sheep? Be assured, no one can snatch you from heaven’s gate. Satan can try to harm you here, but he cannot take away your eternal life. If you choose to follow Jesus today, no one can snatch you out of His hand Amen! Praise the Lord!

Let’s look forward now now with a scene from your life. It is the hour of your dying. You are in the hospital. It is the middle of the night. Your best-beloved has fallen asleep from exhaustion on the chair beside your bed. Long ago you had heard the voice of the Lord and you obeyed and followed him in faith. But now a storm begins to rage as Satan throws all his final force against your faith. You feel the reality of eternity like you have never felt it before. The wind of doubt and the waves of fear lash your soul. And then, by the grace of God, there comes a scene, and it is your scene. You are in a boat in a storm. And Jesus is approaching you on the water. And on his face there is no fear. With his hair and his cloak flying in the wind, he stops a short way off and stands with his strong hands relaxed at his side in sovereign peace. And from the boat, with one last, heart-rending glance at your beloved asleep in the chair, you say, "Christ, bid me come!" And he says, "Come." And you begin to walk on the water.

But then in the final instant you are utterly overwhelmed with what is happening. "I am dying! I am dying! This water is so deep, it is dark, it is cold and filled with hideous creatures!" For fear you begin to sink. But the promise of Jesus never fails. And with a mighty hand he seizes your arm and pulls you to himself. The storm ceases, and there is a great, beautiful calm upon the sea, and it is over. And you know, like you never imagined you could know, that Jesus is precious because he has given you eternal life.

Listen as I read the words to that wonderful old hymn, “It is Well with my Soul.”

When peace like a river attendeth my way,

When sorrows like sea billows roll;

Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.


Praise the Lord, O my soul.”  Psalm 146:1


This hymn was written by a Chicago lawyer, Horatio G. Spafford. You might think to write a worship song titled,
'It is well with my soul', you would indeed have to be a rich, successful Chicago lawyer. But the words,
"When sorrows like sea billows roll ... It is well with my soul”, were not written during the happiest period of
Spafford's life. On the contrary, they came from a man who had suffered almost unimaginable personal tragedy.

Horatio G. Spafford and his wife, Anna, were pretty well-known in 1860’s Chicago. And this was not just because
of Horatio's legal career and business endeavors. The Spaffords were also prominent supporters and close
friends of D.L. Moody, the famous preacher. In 1870, however, things started to go wrong. The Spaffords' only
son was killed by scarlet fever at the age of four. A year later, it was fire rather than fever that struck. Horatio
had invested heavily in real estate on the shores of Lake Michigan. In 1871, every one of these holdings was
wiped out by the great Chicago Fire.

Aware of the toll that these disasters had taken on the family, Horatio decided to take his wife and four
daughters on a holiday to England. And, not only did they need the rest -- DL Moody needed the help. He was
traveling around Britain on one of his great evangelistic campaigns. Horatio and Anna planned to join Moody in
late 1873. And so, the Spaffords traveled to New York in November, from where they were to catch the French
steamer 'Ville de Havre' across the Atlantic. Yet just before they set sail, a last-minute business development
forced Horatio to delay. Not wanting to ruin the family holiday, Spafford persuaded his family to go as planned.
He would follow on later. With this decided, Anna and her four daughters sailed East to Europe while Spafford
returned West to Chicago. Just nine days later, Spafford received a telegram from his wife in Wales. It read:
"Saved alone."

On November 2nd 1873, the 'Ville de Havre' had collided with 'The Lochearn', an English vessel. It sank in only
12 minutes, claiming the lives of 226 people. Anna Spafford had stood bravely on the deck, with her daughters
Annie, Maggie, Bessie and Tanetta clinging desperately to her. Her last memory had been of her baby being
torn violently from her arms by the force of the waters. Anna was only saved from the fate of her daughters by a
plank which floated beneath her unconscious body and propped her up. When the survivors of the wreck had
been rescued, Mrs. Spafford's first reaction was one of complete despair. Then she heard a voice speak to her,
"You were spared for a purpose." And she immediately recalled the words of a friend, "It's easy to be grateful
and good when you have so much, but take care that you are not a fair-weather friend to God."

Upon hearing the terrible news, Horatio Spafford boarded the next ship out of New York to join his bereaved
wife. Bertha Spafford (the fifth daughter of Horatio and Anna born later) explained that during her father's
voyage, the captain of the ship had called him to the bridge. "A careful reckoning has been made", he said, "and
I believe we are now passing the place where the de Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep." Horatio
then returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics of his great hymn.

The words which Spafford wrote that day come from 2 Kings 4:26. They echo the response of the Shunammite
woman to the sudden death of her only child. Though we are told "her soul is vexed within her", she still
maintains that 'It is well." And Spafford's song reveals a man whose trust in the Lord is as unwavering as hers
was.

It would be very difficult for any of us to predict how we would react under circumstances similar to those
experienced by the Spaffords. But we do know that the God who sustained them would also be with us.

No matter what circumstances overtake us may we be able to say with Horatio Spafford...

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul!

It is well ... with my soul!
It is well, it is well, with my soul
.

Now, before we go, let me refresh your memory with the Roman Road to salvation. A copy of this was placed in your mail box a few weeks ago and I’m hoping that most, if not all, of you have already memorized these few verses and shared them with friends and neighbors:

 

Romans 3:23
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Romans 5:8
But God commends His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

 

Romans 10:9,10
That if you shalt confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation

 

Romans 10:13
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord, shall be saved.

Let’s pray:

Father, it is written in your Word that if I confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in my heart that you have raised Him from the dead, I shall be saved. Therefore, Father, I confess theta Jesus is my Lord. I make Him Lord of my life right now. I believe in my heart that you raised Jesus from the dead. I renounce my past life with Satan and close the door to any of his devices.

I thank You for forgiving me all of my sin. Jesus is my Lord, and I am a new creation. Old things have passed away. Now all things become new in Jesus’ name.

Amen

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