Acts 3-4, The Power to Stand

  I.      Introduction

Interesting lesson for me to study this week.  This month, we’re in the book of Acts, and we’re up to Acts 3 & 4.  I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but the church usually assigns a range of scripture and a suggested title for the lesson. This week’s lesson from Acts 3 & 4 is called, “The Power to Stand,” and when I first read the scripture, I didn’t see a message that spoke to me.  It’s about Peter healing a lame beggar.   Let’s get our first scene, Acts 3:1-8,

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer – at three in the afternoon.  Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts.  When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money.  Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!”  So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God.

Now, I believe in miracles.  In fact, I did an entire lesson once on the miracles that God still provides for His people.  But I think in Old Testament times, God did his miracles primarily to demonstrate his power and to pave the way for his Son appearing and fulfill His prophecy.

Today God still does miracles, but he seems a lot more selective about when and where He does those miracles. I know Pastor Samara when he has taught here at the church has story after story of miracles that God still does today in the Middle East.  Here in America, I hear many stories of miracles of God healing cancer.  Saving people from certain death in an automobile accident.  I myself have personal miracles I’ve seen in my life that can only be contributed to God.  I believe in miracles.  I don’t believe in coincidences.

But God doesn’t provide miracles on demand.  I know we all prayed for a miracle for our sister Teresa, but as we know, God did not answer our prayers with a miracle so that we could still have Teresa with us today.  Instead, we will have to wait to see our sister Teresa someday in the future.  Nothing focuses our prayers more than when we are powerless against overwhelming obstacles. 

As y’all know, I’ve been asking for prayers for my mom.  She’s been in physical pain as well as a significant decrease in her mental faculties recently.  Two weeks ago I had planned to get a Power of Attorney from her and had a meeting with her lawyer setup, but her decline was so rapid, we lost the opportunity to get a power of attorney while she had the competency to sign it.  We may yet get a miracle and Mom’s mental state improve, but for now, we’re just muddling along without it.

She has another issue that seems attached to our lesson today.  Her ability to walk has been impaired for some time; she has curled toes.  Some curl up, others down, two of her toes crossed over.  She even had a toe surgically removed because it was difficult getting shoes on.  She had a cane and then a walker.  Now that she’s transitioned to a memory care facility, she’s in a wheelchair. 

Like the lame man at the temple gate, I’d love to give hope to my mother that she can walk normally.  So as I’m studying, I see Peter say,

“Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  He jumped to his feet and began to walk.

Wouldn’t I love to be able to say that to my mom?  “In the name of Jesus, walk?”

This man in our scripture was born lame.  Never played freeze tag or kick-the-can as a boy.  Never ran a race.  And in those days, he really had no occupation available to him except… begging.  But then one day, God stepped in, in the form of John and Peter who gave him more than he needed.  More than physical healing, but spiritual healing.

Do you know how we know God loves us?  Because God sent His only Son to take the place of our punishment.  Belief in this sacrifice brings salvation from eternal punishment for the sin nature we all know we have. 

But what is this salvation?  Salvation is a rescue and it’s ongoing.  Imagine a lifeguard jumping in to save a drowning swimmer, and then says, “I saved you!”  And then tosses him back in.  “Now you try!”  That doesn’t make any sense.  Either you are saved, or you are not.

There are actually two different words used for salvation in the bible.  In the Old Testament, the word salvation is “yesha.”  It means freedom from what binds or restricts and thus effects deliverance.  It is the root word for the very name of Jesus, Yeshua.

In the Greek, in the New Testament, the word translated as salvation is “soteria.”  It means to provide recovery, to rescue, to provide for one’s welfare.  The word for “salvation” is used 45 times in the New Testament.

Salvation is the work of God whereby He transforms a soul from the grip of eternal wrath and condemnation to one of eternal life. God provided this option from His great mercy and provided everything necessary to make it possible.  Scripture says that salvation is of the Lord.  And salvation is only from the Lord. 

II.      Salvation is from the Lord

This concept is important to understand.  Salvation as a gift from the Lord is part of the Five Solas that define the Protestant faith –

  • Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.  It is in the holy word that we find the basis for the remaining solas.
  • Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
  • Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
  • Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
  • Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone, and this is the complete summary of all five solas.

All of these are completed by Christ.  Man contributes nothing.  All main branches of Christianity – Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Protestant – all agree that Jesus is central to our salvation.  But what separates us is that little Latin word, “sola.”  Alone.

Catholics would say that our salvation is in Christ “and.”  Baptism, the sacraments, confession, attendance at mass, penance, and other good works are necessary to salvation.  Catholic theology places equal weight on church and tradition which are contributed by man.  Human additions to the five solas which are all accomplished by God, in Christ alone.

Jesus + nothing = everything.

So in Acts 3, Peter and John were going up to the Temple at the time of prayer – three in the afternoon.  There was a man who had been lame from birth that begged at the gate called Beautiful.  When we asked Peter and John for money, they responded in a way that changed his life.  “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

Lots of things happened suddenly.  All the people were astounded and rushed to Solomon’s colonnade, a porch on the east side of the Jerusalem temple.  Peter began to explain the Gospel to them.  Members of the ruling council, the same ruling council that had Jesus flogged and crucified, were there and became highly agitated.  They had Peter and John arrested and thrown in jail.

The next day, Peter and John were brought before the religious rulers and asked, “By what power or what name did you do this?”  And Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said in Acts 4:7-12,

“Rulers and elders of the people!  If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed,  then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.  Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Peter tells the Pharisees that it is in the name of Jesus, whom you crucified but God raised from the dead, that this man was healed.  Then he quotes Psalm 118:22 to let the religious leaders know they fulfilled prophecy, “the stone you builders rejected, has become the cornerstone.”

And then, the fourth sola,

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

The Priority of Salvation

Peter is an uneducated fisherman, but he stands fearlessly in front of the most important religious leaders of his day and says that salvation is the greatest need of their soul.

In many ways, man hasn’t changed over the centuries.  We seek self-esteem or money or popularity or power.  But our greatest need is salvation.

We are dead in our sins, we are defiant in our souls, and we are doomed to hell.  Romans 3:22b-23 says

There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

We are separated.  We are hopeless.  We are helpless.  We are lame and we cannot walk.  And our holy God will not tolerate our sin in His presence.  The perfect good will destroy evil, no matter how slight in our eyes.

God gave the Israelites a sacrificial system to atone for these sins, to atone for their evil.  When they sinned, an innocent lamb would die in their place.  But was temporary and had to be renewed every year.

The prophet Isaiah declared that one day a Messiah would come, to take away the sins of the world as a final sacrifice.  Centuries later, John the Baptist paved the way with his announcement in John 1:29,

“Behold, the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.”

Our debt of sin was so great that only God could pay it.  And Jesus satisfied the wrath of God by dying on the cross.  For us, forever.  Romans 5:9-11,

“Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

So how much does God love us?  1 John 4:9-10,

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

And Hebrews 9:11-15 elaborates,

“But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God. For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.”

Our sins separates us – we cannot stand before a Holy God that will destroy sin in His presence.  We needed a mediator – someone to step in between us and God.  1 Timothy 2:5-6,

“For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people.”

How many mediators qualify for this position?  Who can identify with our sins * and* identify with a Holy God?  There is only one mediator.  Not two, or three.  Just one.  Mother Mary is not a mediator.  The catholic saints are not mediators.  Solus Christus.  Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

By His death on the cross, He reconciled us to God completely. Our sins, past, present, and future were paid for.

By his perfect life, keeping the Law perfectly, His righteousness was given to us.  2 Corinthians 5:21,

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Solus Christus.

The Exclusivity of Salvation

So how many other ways are there to salvation?

I’ve tried to sign up for websites the promote Christianity, but a lot of times I get religiosity instead.  The site tries to appear to appeal to many beliefs and not offend anybody, and call all these beliefs “Christian.”  They are not.  Sometimes, God is described as being at the top of a mountain, with many paths leading to the top.  Other times, it’s described as a wheel with God at the center, and different beliefs are the spokes.  In the end, they say, as long as we are sincere, we all get to the same place, regardless of what we believe.

That’s a terrible misunderstanding of what Christ teaches.

First, we can be sincerely wrong.  I sincerely believed 2020 would be anything other than what 2020 turned out to be.  Hurricane Delta because we finished the alphabet and had to start over at the beginning.  Day 225 of 24 days to flatten the curve.  And what happened to the murder hornets, anyway?  I think I missed the attack of the murder hornets.  So I sincerely believed 2020 would be something awesome, but I was wrong.  We can be sincere and we can be wrong.

And second, Jesus didn’t leave us any other option.   He said that His way is the only way and all the other ways are wrong.  If His way is the truth, then everything else is false.  Peter emphatically says in Acts 4:12,

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Salvation is found in “no one else.”  Peter says our salvation is through a single person that was crucified and raised from the dead.  Jesus and only Jesus bore our sins, and by his wounds we are healed.

Last month when we were working through the seven “I AM” statements of Jesus, at the end of the book of John, Jesus starts talking about His death.  Jesus reassured His disciples that Jesus would prepare a place for them.  But then John 14:5, Thomas spoke up and said what everyone was thinking,

“We don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus’ answer to this question removes all other options  Jesus’ answer gives an answer that points the disciples along the correct path.  John 14:6,

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus didn’t say, “I know a way.”  He didn’t say, “There are lots of ways.”  He said He was THE way.

Imagine you wanted to go to a World Series baseball game.  To get in, you need a ticket.  You can’t just walk up and say, “I’m a good guy, let me in.”  They would look at you like you’d lost your marbles.  But then a guy walks up and says, “I bought a ticket for you.”  Then can you enter? 

Others may say, that doesn’t seem fair.  That seems so exclusive.  Heaven should be a place for everyone.  Everyone is welcome, right?  Well yes, everyone is welcome… as long as you have a ticket.

God doesn’t send anyone to hell.  The most favorite verse in the bible is John 3:16,

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in shall not perish but have eternal life.

The entire world is welcome, but they must accept this gift of the Son.  But not choosing Christ or rejecting Christ outright, most people choose hell.  In saying, “that’s not fair,” or saying “that can’t be the only way” or even “what about all those non-Christians, are they going to hell?” that is a choice * not * to accept Christ as the only way, which is the same as choosing hell.  Matthew 7:13-14,

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

It is only through Christ alone, our only Savior, our only Hope, our only Mediator, that we are saved.

The Necessity of Salvation

What if I don’t want to be saved?  Is it really necessary?  Don’t good people go to heaven somehow?  That seems fair, doesn’t it?  Acts 4:12 –

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

It’s interesting to me that this verse doesn’t end with “by which we can be saved.”  The verse says “by which we * must * be saved.”  Is the bible translation correct?  Let’s look at the Greek word for “must,” “dei”.

necessary, in need of, behooves, right and proper, necessity brought on by circumstances or by the conduct of others toward us.

It doesn’t matter where you live.  Europe.  Africa.  China.  California. New York City.  Austin.  Houston.  You must be saved.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or red or yellow or purple.  You must be saved.

It doesn’t matter if you’re male or female, or even if you don’t know if you’re male or female.  You must be saved.

It doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor.  You must be saved.

It doesn’t matter if you’re capitalist or communist.  You must be saved.

It doesn’t matter if you’re Republican or Democrat.  You must be saved.

We cannot do it on our own.  In fact, I believe that’s one of the biggest obstacles to accepting the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, is believing somehow we can work our way to heaven, using our earthly efforts.  We cannot save ourselves.  Drowning people drown without a lifesaver.  Or as Hebrews 2:3 puts it,

“how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation?”

III.      Conclusion

Returning to more personal experiences, in our sister Theresa’s last days, everybody prayed for a miracle.  She’s too young to be taken from us, that’s what I was thinking.  But we were unable to save her.  Doctors were unable to save her.  Theresa was unable to save herself.  She needed a lifesaver.

My mom cannot walk without assistance.  I wrote that sentence two weeks ago, she cannot walk without assistance, and revised it twice, but now she cannot walk at all.  She wants to.  But she can’t.  And I can’t help her.   Doctors cannot restore her ability to walk.  She needs a lifesaver.

Our verse started with Peter saying,

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 

My whole lesson came together in my head with the direction of the Holy Spirit this week in an unconventional matter.  His miracle is still true today when we are seeking hope.  It’s like Peter said, “Theresa, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  It’s like Peter said to my mom, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 

Philippians 3:20-21,

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Revelation 21:4,

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Our scripture today should resonate with us and give us hope.  Peter said,

Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

The power to walk, to have new resurrected bodies, to live in eternity with no more tears and no more pain, awaits all those that accept Jesus Christ.  And this salvation is found nowhere else.  Sola Christus.  Scripture alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone, to the glory of God alone.

To God be the glory.

I AM The True Vine

I. Introduction

We’ve been going through the 7 “I am” discourses of Jesus.

  1. I AM the Bread of Life
  2. I AM the Light of the World
  3. I AM the Door
  4. I AM the Good Shepherd
  5. I AM the Resurrection and the Life
  6. I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life
  7. I AM the True Vine

We’ve already covered the first 6, now we are at the 7th and final “I AM” statement. So far, during the first 6, Jesus has given these “I AM” statements to explain His relationship with the Father, and His relationship with us. These metaphors – Bread, Light, Door, etc – were chosen by Jesus not just for their imagery, but because each one of them had special meaning to the Jews. The Bread reminded them of God’s provision of manna, the Door reminded them of the sacrificial blood over the door prior to the Exodus, etc. Jesus has spoken to the Jews, the Pharisees, the Believers and the non-Believers, and the Gentiles. And now we come to the final “I AM.”

This one is different. Jesus is saying goodbye to the 12 disciples. Judas has already left to betray the Lord for 30 pieces of silver, and Jesus knows He will soon be arrested, tried unfairly, scourged and crucified in accordance with scripture.

Jesus and the 11 remaining disciples have left the Upper Room in Jerusalem and are walking together through the Kidron Valley toward the Garden of Gethsemane near the Mount of Olives. That might sound like a lot of walking, but it’s not. Here’s a photo from the Jerusalem walls near the East Gate where you can see all three locations.

Did the disciples understand Jesus’ impending death? I’m not sure they fully understood. All through the Upper Room Discourse in John 14, Jesus says He’s going away and then coming back. He has to go away so the Holy Spirit will come. Thomas then says, “Lord we don’t know where you’re going.” Jesus gives them comforting words, and ends John 14 with essentially saying, “let’s go for a walk.”

And then gives them the 7th and final “I AM” in John 15:1-11 –

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

II. The True Vine

This time, Jesus isn’t speaking to Pharisees or Jews or Gentiles. He’s speaking to His followers. I mean literally His followers. Jesus said, “Let’s go for a walk” and they followed.

The words Jesus speaks to them are words of comfort and hope and how to live while we wait for His return. And as always, Jesus chooses a metaphor that has great significance when He called Himself the True Vine.

The disciples would have understood this vine a little differently. Imagery of the vine, the vineyard, its relationship to the nation of Israel was used throughout scripture. If fact, during this walk through the valley of Kidron, they probably had a view of the temple and the gold vines decorating it. I’ve seen some estimates that the gold used for the vine was worth as much as $12 million in today’s money. I went looking for a picture of these gold vines to show you…

… but then I remembered the temple was destroyed in 70AD. Duh. In fact, the amount of gold on the temple may have been a motivation for the Roman soldiers to not leave one stone unturned, also in fulfillment of scripture. So here instead is a model representation of what it may have looked like –

But why “the True Vine?” Is it in comparison to something else? Scripture like this one from Isaiah 5:1-7 shows the vine is a metaphor for Israel –

I will sing for the one I love
a song about his vineyard:
My loved one had a vineyard
on a fertile hillside.
He dug it up and cleared it of stones
and planted it with the choicest vines.
He built a watchtower in it
and cut out a winepress as well.
Then he looked for a crop of good grapes,
but it yielded only bad fruit.

“Now you dwellers in Jerusalem and people of Judah,
judge between me and my vineyard.
What more could have been done for my vineyard
than I have done for it?
When I looked for good grapes,
why did it yield only bad?
Now I will tell you
what I am going to do to my vineyard:
I will take away its hedge,
and it will be destroyed;
I will break down its wall,
and it will be trampled.
I will make it a wasteland,
neither pruned nor cultivated,
and briers and thorns will grow there.
I will command the clouds
not to rain on it.”

The vineyard of the Lord Almighty
is the nation of Israel,
and the people of Judah
are the vines he delighted in.
And he looked for justice, but saw bloodshed;
for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.


So this is the message the disciples understood. The vine was Israel and despite everything the Lord did for the vine, it yielded only bad grapes.
So that’s the context – Israel is, or was, the vine. Christ is the true vine. But it’s not just Israel that has fallen short – Romans 3:9 –

What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin.

So it’s not just Israel that yielded bad grapes. Israel failed. Gentiles failed. All of man’s attempts at his own religion failed. It will take God Himself to succeed where man fails, that’s why Jesus is the true vine. The word true in the Greek is alathenos, “that which has not only the name and resemblance, but the real nature corresponding to the name, in every respect corresponding to the idea signified by the name, real, true genuine.”

III. Bear Fruit

Let’s look at our scripture again, John 15:1-11 –

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.

There’s some repetition here. Let’s begin with the words “bear fruit” which is repeated 6 times.

Now this is not bear fruit. This is a bear, and this is some fruit.

Now, I’ve sat in on several lessons over the year that focused on the phrase “bear fruit.” Sometimes it was used to emphasize the need to make disciples. Other times it emphasized on the need to do good works. But I finally realized while studying for this lesson while those lessons didn’t resonate with me, and let me explain.

A few years ago, Diane asked for a Methley plum tree for her birthday. I’m not sure how long ago that was. Three years, maybe? So far, it’s just a tree. It’s grown nicely, it’s probably 15 feet tall now.

There’s no plums on it, though. I tried shouting at it, “bear fruit!” But it’s still just a tree. A tree without fruit. Now to be fair to the tree, as if the tree cared, I read it may take five years or more before we’d see plums on the tree. So here’s my point: I cannot command the tree to bear fruit. The tree will bear fruit in season and when the time is right. That’s what the tree’s purpose is. It’s made for bearing fruit when the conditions are right. As you can see, the grapefruit tree right next to it is bearing quite a lot of fruit, looks like it’s going to be a bumper crop this year.

No doubt Jesus wants us to bear fruit – verse 8 says

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

But I realized that it’s not written as a command, as though Jesus says “now get your lazy rear ends off that sofa and go bear me some fruit.” But bearing fruit as His disciples will bring glory to God.

But “bear fruit” isn’t the only phrase repeated. “Bear fruit” is repeated 6 times, but the word “remain” or “remain in me” is mentioned eleven times! Remain, remain, remain in me, remain in me. Without remaining in or abiding in Jesus, there can be no fruit. Jesus desires communion, fellowship, to be united with Him. The life of the Vine will flow through us, and then we have fruit.

So the reason previous lessons where I was told to “bear fruit” didn’t resonate with me is that I don’t believe that’s what Jesus was emphasizing. Abiding in Him is what He is emphasizing. Abide in Him, and we will bear fruit. Then and only then are the conditions right. We were made for bearing fruit, and we bear fruit naturally when the conditions are right.
So what kind of fruit are we talking about? Not bear fruit, we already talked about that.

But your Christian character is fruit. In Galatians 5:22-23,

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

When you are abiding in Him, this fruit grows naturally in the right conditions. If you do a self-examination and discover you are missing fruit – say, forebearance or patience, then the solution is not to try harder to be patient. The solution is to abide in Him.

Your love and righteousness is fruit, Philippians 1:9-11 –

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

This is righteous love. Some love isn’t love, it just masquerades as love. If a child says, “I want to play in traffic!”, is it love to say, “ok, dear, whatever you want, you can have.” I think the word love is misused in the news media when they really mean self-indulgence. It’s not the same thing as practical, righteous love.

And you’ve heard me say that good works are not necessary for your salvation, and it’s true. Your salvation is 100% based on just believing in Christ Jesus and what He has done for you. But… good works are fruit in that belief, Colossians 1:9b-11 –

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience.

Your good works which spring out of your faith in Jesus bring glory to God. Good works are good fruit.

And also just being thankful to God is good fruit, Hebrews 13:15-16,

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

God loves it when you thank Him and praise Him, because He knows that you know He deserves praise.

IV. The Gardener

This good fruit does not come naturally. It comes supernaturally. Our sinful nature remains when we give our lives to Christ. The difference now is that we have the ability to say no to sin, if we abide in Him.

We don’t do this on our own. Verses 1&2,

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.

Verse 1 says that Jesus is the vine, and His Father is the gardener. I don’t know about you, but I have some reservations if I’m going to be pruned.
I looked up some information on growing a vineyard and taking care of grape vines. Turned out to be pretty complicated. Here’s some information from the Texas AgriLife Extension and Elton Vineyards –

Dormant pruning is a critical component of the grape production system. It provides the mechanism to maintain the training system, allows one to select the fruiting wood, and to manipulate the potential quantity of fruit produced. Because of the way grapevines grow and produce fruit, growers must prune annually. Fruit is only produced on shoots growing from one-year-old canes. Therefore, healthy new canes must be produced every year to maintain annual production of fruit.

Turns out if you don’t prune enough, wild growths sprout, cause excessive shade for other sprouts, and the amount of fruit is greatly diminished. The idea of pruning includes allowing some but not too many sprouts for this year, and allowing just enough new sprouts to be productive next year.
Our lives have a lot of these wild shoots. Our efforts on our own become distracted and wild and they take up a lot of time. We grow a lot of branches, but those branches just provide shade. No fruit.

When we abide in Jesus, the Father is the gardener that prunes. How much pruning in a vineyard is an art. But one of the things I read about pruning a vineyard is that a lot of pruning yields the best results. Sometimes pruning 90% of the wild growths is necessary.

The Father’s way of pruning us are innumerable. They may be through issues with a job, or health, a parent or a child. The pruning never seems easy or comfortable, does it? God is basically taking either useless branches and cutting them, but much of the time pruning the vineyard involves remove branches that were productive last year. I discovered that once a branch has born fruit, a new branch with new buds is needed for next year’s fruit.

I don’t know how much to read into this or try to explain. I think the Father’s pruning for each of us is personal. He knows us, He knows what must be removed. He knows what must be encouraged, and He knows what has already born fruit and is past its time.

I think of the major changes in my life. Some of them might be self-inflicted as I tried to prune myself. But some of the others were definitely the work of the Father. My stepfather passed away 3-1/2 years ago now. I still think of how much life was in him and how he blended two families together so well and with so much love.

I suppose he bore his fruit, and it was time for pruning for the next generation. Every person that was touched by him is growing new shoots because he’s gone.

Was it necessary? Was the time right? Sometimes maybe I get the idea that I could have a better idea, that maybe he should still be with us a little longer. But I abide in Jesus, and I trust in Him. And through the pruning, I learn more of God’s character. Hebrews 12:11 puts it this way –

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

I take consolation in that there is a purpose, an eternal purpose, for all things, and God causes all things to work together for good for those that love Him. All things. The branches that remain, the branches that are pruned. If I trust in Him, there is a harvest of righteousness and peace.

V. Branches of Nothing

In John 15:5-6,

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

We are dependent on Jesus, He is the vine. Jesus says the branch alone does not bear fruit, and neither do you or I. Apart from me, He says, we can do nothing.

Wait. What does He mean by nothing? Aren’t there lots of people that accomplish stuff, and some or even most of them do it without Christ, don’t they? We build large cities and skyscrapers, but build cars that go fast and rockets that go even faster. We travel to space and to the bottom of the ocean. Isn’t that something?

But Jesus says that apart from Him we can do nothing. The Greek word Jesus used was “u”. It means no. Not. Absolutely negative. Without. I didn’t misunderstand Him. He means nothing. Our earthly accomplishments are dust in the wind.

This a statue, or what’s left of a statue, called Ozymandias in Egypt. Originally, archaeologists believe it stood 62 feet or nearly 6 stories tall. This is all that’s left, and the poet Percy Shelly wrote a poem that ended like this –

And on the pedestal these words appear:
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Earthly works are no more than Ozymandius. Nothing remains. We are called to do more. We are called to eternal works. Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 –

By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.

Both Romans 14:10 and 2 Corinthians 5:9 expound upon testing and it speaks of a “judgement seat”. Many Christians do not have a firm grasp of our eternal life, believing that somehow we show up at the throne and God evaluates us on some sort of bell curve, giving rewards to some and punishments to others. But that’s not it.

Others believe that Christians aren’t judged at all, believing that Christ paid the price for our sins. But that’s not accurate either.

If we have faith in Jesus Christ, our names are written in the book of life, and there is no condemnation. But no condemnation doesn’t mean no judgement. The judgement seat for Christians weighs our good deeds. There’s no punishment, there is no risk of hell, but there are rewards for treasures stored up in heaven.

If we spend our life in pursuit of pleasure, lust, self-indulgence, or anything that does not bring glory to God, this verse, like John 15:6, says those branches are burned up. That effort was worthless. If one does not abide in Jesus, there are no rewards. The Christian is still saved, but the smell of smoke lingers in his hair.

A life abiding in Christ is a life of gold and silver and precious stone. A life attached to the true vine produces fruit that brings glory to God. Without Christ, our earthly works have no meaning. They are just burned up and forgotten.

The world teaches differently. We have our bread and circuses, we have our show and tells, but without Christ, it’s all a mirage. What lasts are the fruits of the spirit, the fruit of righteousness, the lovingkindness we show to one other in Christ’s name, and the thanks we give God for His many blessings. That’s what lasts for eternity.

VI. Conclusion

So one day, your life and my life will pass through the fire of judgement, to test the quality of our work. I don’t know exactly what these rewards are, but I know if the Lord Jesus is giving special rewards, I want to be in that line.

When Jesus says He is the True Vine, we should remember He encourages His followers to

  • Abide. Fellowship, trust, love.
  • In Him. It’s all about Jesus, not us.
  • Bear Fruit. Fruit of character, changed life, good works, and thankfulness that brings glory to God. A natural production of fruit that grows with pruning and under the right conditions.

It’s what we were made for. To know God and make God known. To abide in the True Vine and bear fruit that brings glory to God. Ephesians 5:8b-10 –

Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.

That’s good fruit.

To God be the glory.

I AM the Good Shepherd

  I.      Introduction

Sheep aren’t the smartest animals.  Have you ever seen a sheep act at a circus?

Now, they aren’t completely dumb.  I read about one study that shows they can recognize faces and voices.  They have excellent hearing but very poor eyesight, so they tend to mindlessly follow wherever the sheep in front of them goes.

Sometimes they’re stubborn and won’t budge.  Usually they’re peaceful, but sometimes they try to bump into you with their head when they’re mad.  But usually they’re afraid and timid, so they prefer groups of sheep for protection. 

They’re defenseless.  They can’t outrun predators.  They have no fangs or claws, so they’re only defense is their pitiful head-ramming. 

And they get lost if not penned, they can’t find they’re way home.  While they’re lost, they tend to fall into rivers and bogs.  Even when rescued, they might fall back into the same river.

And God says we are like His sheep.  That’s not exactly a compliment.  Sometimes we’re stubborn, won’t budge, bump into each other when we get road rage.  We don’t have any teeth or claws to defend ourselves, so we usually have to resort to name-calling.  And even when the Lord rescues us from our stupidity, sometimes we fall right back into the same stupidity.

I know you can relate.  I certainly can.

II.      Ezekiel

We’ve been going through the 7 “I am” discourses of Jesus.

  1. I AM the Bread of Life
  2. I AM the Light of the World
  3. I AM the Door
  4. I AM the Good Shepherd
  5. I AM the Resurrection and the Life
  6. I AM the Way and the Truth and the Life
  7. I AM the True Vine

Each discourse from Jesus is meant to bring us a deeper understanding, both of Jesus’ relationship with the Father and our relationship with Jesus, and each statement echoes the “I AM WHO I AM” statement God said to Moses.  This week, we’re going to examine Jesus’ statement from John 10:11a that begins with His statement, “I AM the good shepherd.”

The imagery of sheep goes back a long, long way.  Probably the most famous of those is Psalm 23, and I’m going to read the whole psalm because it’s so amazingly applicable to our study today in John 10 –

The Lord is my shepherd,
I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside quiet waters.
He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil;
My cup overflows.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

We may be sheep, but we have a shepherd that loves us, protects us, comforts us, gives us joy and eternal life.  Our cup should overflow every day because of this amazing promise.  We’ll come back to Psalm 23, but first, let’s back up to the beginning of John 10, when Jesus begins,

“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.”

To appreciate the message of Jesus, it’s important to understand who Jesus is speaking to.  He’s not talking to Israelites or His followers.  He’s speaking to the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the people.

And I know already this is going to be a stern message.  Jesus is full of lovingkindness and mercy, but He often had a stern word for the Pharisees.  The Pharisees enriched themselves at the expense of the people.  The Pharisees imposed rules on others that they themselves did not follow.  And the Pharisees misrepresented God to the children of God.  I don’t recall ever where Jesus rebuked Jews, His followers, or even the gentiles.  But He had hard words against the religious leaders.

God’s words against bad religious leaders goes back a long, long way.  Here’s Ezekiel 34:1-4 –

The word of the LORD came to me: Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?  You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock.  You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.

What happened in the days of Ezekiel continued through the days of Jesus, and indeed, still happens today.  God’s people can be led astray by false shepherds who are not about preaching the justice and mercy of God, of preaching the gospel, of preaching the only way to salvation.  These false shepherds enrich themselves.  They only care to the extent that they’re able to take more.  And 2 Peter 2:1-3 puts in this way –

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.  Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.  In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

Jesus says these aren’t even pastors, they’re just hired hands.  And God promises in the same book of Ezekiel that He would send a solution, v 11-16 –

“‘For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them.  As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.  I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land.  I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel.  I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord.  I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.”

One of the many ways you can identify a false pastor is listen to how many times he says “me me me me” or even “you you you you.”  In this verse from Ezekiel, God says it’s not you, it’s me.  God says I will look after, I will tend, I will rescue, I will gather, I will search and I will bind and I will shepherd.  If the pastor’s message doesn’t continually point back to the saving gospel of Jesus Christ, he’s not a pastor.  He’s not a shepherd.  He may be a wolf.

Then God says in Ezekiel that He will send and place one Shepherd over all, verses 23-24,

I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd.  I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.

In contrast to the many false shepherds, this will be the one true good shepherd.  In Israel’s history, David was a good shepherd, a man after God’s own heart.  But David lived around 1000BC, and Ezekiel writes this nearly 400 years later around 590BC.  So Ezekiel is not speaking of David himself, but the root and offspring of David.  This is the coming messiah that the Jews were expecting.

III.      John

Ok, I know what you’re thinking.  We’re supposed to be studying the book of John.  So let’s get back to John 10:11a,

I am the good shepherd.

This is the English, but it wasn’t really written this way in the Greek.  A more literal translation would be “I am THE shepherd, the good one.”  Jesus is saying, “I am THE Shepherd you have been waiting for.”

And not even the word “good” here is a thorough translation of the Greek.  The word in Greek is “kalos” and it means beautiful, excellent, surpassing, precious, magnificent, praiseworthy, noble, preeminent, morally good and honorable.  I’m guessing that putting all of that in front of the word “shepherd” doesn’t roll off the tongue nearly as well as “the good shepherd.”

So John 10:11a, Jesus says “I am the good shepherd,” but the Pharisees heard, “I am THE shepherd, the coming Messiah, the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd that has come to rescue His flock… from the likes of you.”

And that is why, later in this passage in John 10:20, the Pharisees responded,

Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?”

Jesus continues by telling the Pharisees how the Messiah differs from all those who came before Him and how He differs from the Pharisees, John 10:11-13,

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.  The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”

The religious leaders that misled the people are like hired hands.  They’re paid by the hour.  When times get tough, they abandon the sheep.  It’s because they do not own the sheep, the sheep do not belong to them.

Jesus is different.  He has purchased the sheep.  He owns the sheep.  He has invested in the care and well-being of the sheep.  If one sheep is lost, Jesus will leave the 99 to seek the one that is lost.  He is the good shepherd, the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd that has come to rescue His flock.

IV.      Not Just Israel, But Gentiles

When we looked at Ezekiel, the prophecy of the coming messiah was for Israel.  The same prophecy, by the way, is in Jeremiah 23:1-3,5,

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord.  Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord.  “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number… The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.”

This promise is for Israel, God’s chosen people.  But many Old Testament prophecies, such as Isaiah 6, foresaw that Israel would reject the coming Messiah due to spiritual blindness.  For thousands of years, Israel had been the one nation that looked to God while the Gentile nations generally rejected the light and chose to live in spiritual darkness.  Israel and the inspired prophets revealed the one true God who was personally interested in mankind’s destiny of heaven or hell, the path to salvation, the written Word with the Ten Commandments.  Yet Israel would reject the prophesied Messiah, and the promises of the kingdom of heaven were postponed.  Paul tells us in great detail from Romans 9 through 11 about this hardening on the part of Israel led to the blessing of the Gentiles who would believe in Jesus and accept Him as Lord and Savior.

Jesus makes one of the first references in His ministry that this is occurring, that the promised Messiah would not be limited to Israel in John 10:14-16,

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep.  I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

We are those sheep that are not of this sheep pen.  We are the gentiles that are not part of the nation of Israel.  And the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd laid down His life to rescue us.  He rescued us while we were but sinners.

The Pharisees responded by saying Jesus was demon possessed.

Some time passes; Jesus has been speaking during the time of the Feast of Tabernacles, and John 10:22 says now is the time of the Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, so about 2 months have passed.  These Pharisees and other Jews have probably had time to ponder the words of Jesus that He is THE shepherd, the good shepherd, and now they ask in verse 24,

The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus responded in v 25-26,

Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.”

Amazing.  Jesus has been doing miracle after miracle, healing the lame and the sick and bringing the dead back to life, all the while saying, “believe in the miracles that you may know that I am in the Father and the Father is in me,” quoting the Old Testament prophecies and demonstrating the fulfillment of those prophecies, and then saying directly to their faces, “I am THE shepherd, the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd that has come to rescue His flock,” and the Pharisees response is…

Um… what are you trying to say?  I don’t get it.

It reminds me a few years ago when I was teaching apologetics, and it seems to me that untruths spread rapidly and non-Christians believe the lies, and the truth spreads far more slowly.  One year it’s “there is no such thing as truth.”  Of course, the proper response to that is, “is *that* true?” 

Another year, the untruth spreading was “Well, Jesus never said He was God.”  I’ve heard this repeated by non-Christians, that Jesus never made that claim.  It’s baloney.  Jesus made it perfectly clear that He and the Father were one, that he was the only begotten son of God, and that He is God.  Jesus said, “I did tell you, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.”

If you seek Him, you will find Him.  Is it any wonder that if you don’t seek Him, you won’t find Him?

  V.      The Sheep

Jesus continues with His response in verses 27-30,

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”

One thing I’m really starting to appreciate after these bible studies over the years is the shear amount of information that Jesus can impart in just a few words.  Let’s start with this first statement –

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

Who is a Christian?  Here’s a complete theological explanation.  Christians listen to Jesus.  Jesus knows a Christian intimately.  Christians follow the instructions of Jesus.

There are many people today that claim to be Christian but are not.  I would also hazard to guess that many of them don’t even know they aren’t Christian. 

So who is a Christian?  Do they follow Jesus?  Do they know what Jesus says?  Do they read the bible?  I don’t know any other way to hear the voice of Jesus.  Do they have a personal relationship with Jesus so that Jesus knows them intimately?  Do they follow Christian, biblical principles?

Now, I don’t want to swerve into a political swamp, but often I read a news article about Christianity that I know is false.  These people will paraphrase one word Jesus said out of context and use it to leverage an entire heathen livestyle.  True Christianity follows Christ, we’re good citizens until the state infringes on the church, we love our neighbors in service and words but not to the point were we’re enabling them to jump off a cliff of non-believers.  Far left is definitely not Christianity.

But neither is far right, judgmental Christians, setting rules and laws for other people.  We may know the law and we may know what Jesus says, but instead of telling people who Jesus is, we tell them what to do.  We become judgmental hypocrites because we are all sinners, too.  We become the Pharisees.  We become just like the hired hand who cares nothing for the sheep, and we only care about the pen they’re kept in.

No, a Christian listens to the voice of his savior and develops a relationship with Jesus, and does their best to live a way pleasing to God but not man.  That’s what I believe this verse means.

Verse 28,

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

Eternal life is a gift.  Every religion in the world is the story of man trying to earn his way to God.  But Christianity is God working His way to man.  No one is worthy of God, no one can earn his place in heaven.  We have all sinned, each and every one of us, and fallen short of God’s glory.

This rescue is freely available, but we have to admit we need it.  I was thinking this week it was like walking down to Galveston Beach and saying, “You know, I think I’ll swim to Australia.”  And then I walk into the waves and start swimming, having no idea how far away it is.  The Coast Guard will send a boat to rescue me, but I just keep swimming.  I keep telling myself, I can do this, I don’t need any help.  I’m only rescued if I recognize I can’t make it on my own and then get in the boat.

And then I imagined the Coast Guard asking me, “Where were you going?” And I answer, “Swimming to God.”  And they say, why are you swimming to Australia?  You should swim toward the sun.

Jesus says if you’re seeking the Son, you will find the Son, and He will give you eternal life and you will never perish.  And your eternity is secure, never to be lost.  No one will be able to snatch you out of the hand of Jesus.  Not the devil, not the riots, not road rage, not even yourself.  We can’t be partially saved.  Either we get in the boat, or we drown.  And once we’re rescued, we are rescued forever.

Does that mean there won’t be challenges?  Of course not.  Even Psalm 23, which we read earlier, recognizes we walk through a valley of death and we are surrounded by evil and enemies.  But our eternal salvation is the one thing we don’t have to earn, we receive it as a gift, and we never have to fear losing.

Verse 29,

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

Jesus has been given all authority, and He has always had all authority.  In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  And our eternal security in Jesus is secure in the Father as well.  There is no higher power, no higher authority.  God is the Alpha and the Omega, and He holds our eternal life in His hands securely.  If God is for us, who can be against us?

And verse 30,

I and the Father are one.

If someone ever tries to claim that Jesus never said they were God, then then haven’t studied the words of Jesus.  The Pharisees say, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

A Christian who listens to the voice of Jesus and has an intimate relation with Jesus and follow Jesus, knows that He is the great I AM.  He is the Bread of Life, the Light of the World, the Door, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection and the Life, the Way and the Truth and the Life, the True Vine.  He is THE shepherd, the coming Messiah, the preeminent beautiful magnificent and honorable shepherd that has come to rescue His flock.

VI.      Conclusion

Psalm 95:6-7a –

Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker; for he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care.

To God be the glory.