Sunday Morning Bible Study
March 3, 1996
We have just spent chapters 7-10 in a single time spot, the Feast of Tabernacles, six months before Jesus would die.
We saw Jesus stirring up greater and greater controversy, making fantastic claims like, "If you believe in Me, you'll have eternal life".
We've seen how some people respond by believing in Jesus, some respond by rejecting Him.
Last week we saw Jesus use a story to explain what was happening:
The people were like several flocks of sheep spending the night in the same sheepfold.
When He, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, comes along and calls out, the sheep that are His are the ones that respond and follow Him.
We now get our first jump in time, about three months later.
:22 at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter
The feast of dedication was an annual feast started by Judas Maccabeus.
It celebrated the successful rebellion of the Jews against the Greeks, and when they got their temple back, cleansed it, and reconsecrated it to the worship of God. (165 b.c.)
Judas Maccabeus set up an eight day, annual feast to remember the event.
It was to occur every year on the 25th day of the ninth Jewish month of Chislev, which would put it in our month of December.
It is known today as the "Feast of Lights" or, "Hannukah".
It's now been two to three months since the events of the chapters 7-10, which took place during the Feast of Tabernacles.
:23 Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch
Jesus is back in the temple, but this time instead of teaching in the "Court of Women", which is inside the Jewish only part of the temple, Jesus is now in "Solomon's porch" which was located on the east side of the temple, in the outermost "Court of the Gentiles".
Note: Jesus is simply walking here in the temple, when the Jews come up to Him and confront Him.
It's not like back in chapter 8 where Jesus went to the temple early in the morning to teach.
:24 If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly
Just tell us, Jesus.
:25 I told you, and ye believed not
Jesus has already made it pretty clear just who He is.
In John 5:30-39, He already listed many of the witnesses who have said who He is.
1) He Himself
2) John the Baptist
3) Jesus' own works
4) God the Father
5) The Scriptures
And then He's made some pretty fantastic claims (and here's just some of the ones that He's made in the presence of crowds of Jews, not just private meetings):
»John 5:24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
»John 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.
:25 the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me
If these guys would just pay attention to what Jesus has been doing!
John 2 - Turning water into wine.
John 4 - Healing the nobleman's son in Capernaum
John 5 - Healing the man paralyzed for 38 years.
John 6 - Feeding the five thousand
John 9 - Healing the man born blind
And these are just selected ones that John the apostle has chosen to detail out for us!
:26 But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you
This was the whole point of the allegory we looked at last week of the Good Sheherd.
Here's Jesus in the sheepfold of the temple, speaking to the people.
As a shepherd, only His own sheep would recognize His voice, and only the shepherd's own sheep respond by following Him.
But the ones that belong to another shepherd simply don't respond, because they don't belong to the Good Shepherd.
:27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me
When a person is one of Jesus' flock, they'll hear His call, He knows all about them (we talked about this last week), and they follow Him.
Learn to follow when He speaks
It's not just hearing the voice of Jesus that counts.
Even the Pharisees "heard" His voice to some extent.
But what counts is when a person gets up from the fold, from the comfort of their little sheepfold, and follows Jesus, wherever He leads them.
That's what being a sheep of the shepherd is all about.
When He calls, I follow.
Before I can say He is my shepherd, I need answers to these questions:
Do I really belong to Him?
Do I really recognize His right to me?
Do I respond to His authority and acknowledge His ownership?
Do I find freedom and complete fulfillment in this arrangement?
Do I sense a purpose and deep contentment because I am under His direction?
Do I know rest and repose, beside a definite sense of exciting adventure, in belonging to Him?
-- "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23", by Philip Keller
Once someone was talking to a great scholar about a younger man. He said, "So and so tells me that he was one of your students." The teacher answered devastatingly, "He may have attended my lectures, but he was not one of my students." There is a world of difference between attending lectures and being a student. It is one of the supreme handicaps of the Church that in the Church there are so many distant followers of Jesus and so few real disciples.
- William Barclay
Something else in this verse kind of jumped out at me.
The sheep are "continually" hearing (Greek tense) the voice of their Shepherd.
For those of us who claim to be Christians, we follow Jesus because there was a time in our life when we heard Him calling out to our hearts, and we responded.
But does it have to stop there?
Listening to the voice of God.
The people in the Bible were people who often claimed that God was speaking to them.
»Acts 13:2-3 As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. 3 And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.
Here's some ideas that have helped me in learning to hear the voice of God:
Sometimes the greatest hindrance to hearing God is the fact that it's too noisy around you.
There are times after church when somebody is talking with me in a quiet voice, and when the music is playing loudly in the background, I have to confess that sometimes I don't always hear everything!
But when the tape goes off, or the music is turned down, suddenly it's a lot easier to hear.
Jesus sets us an example:
»Mark 1:35 And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.
If you're wanting to grow in hearing the voice of the Lord, perhaps you need to turn the TV off!
Or the radio or the tape player!
Perhaps you need to get up before the kids do, or stay up after they're in bed.
Try to find a quiet place, to hear His voice and seek His face!
Get familiar with God's voice.
The sheep know the voice of their Shepherd
»John 10:4 And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. 5 And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
The sheep will not respond to a stranger's voice, but only their shepherd's voice.
There are a lot of voices out there!
God is speaking.
So is Satan.
So are other people all around us.
So are we.
If we want to be able to tell God's voice apart from the rest, we need to become familiar with His voice!
There are some people that I recognize on the phone right away.
For the most part they are people that I have spent a lot of time with, especially when I've spent lots of time on the phone with them.
There are others that I would also probably recognize right away too.
If Pastor Chuck, Jon Courson, or David Hocking called me up on the phone, I'd recognize them right away, even though they have never spoken to me on the phone, nor do they know me personally.
But I've listened to hours and hours of their tapes and radio programs, and know the sound of their voice.
I find that sometimes when I call a person's house, that people recognize my voice too, even though I barely know them.
When I spend time in God's Word, sometimes God will use it to speak directly to my heart.
Sometimes it's just kind of like listening to a tape - kind of pre-recorded, good, but not quite like the real live thing.
But either way, as I stay diligent to read God's Word, I find that I'm becoming more and more acquainted with God's voice.
And when He does speak, I recognize it!
Watch out for imitations!
It's important to stay in God's Word, because that's what we know as the purest source of His voice.
There are other voices out there that are trying to do "impressions".
The more you listen to the original, the easier it is to tell the fakes!
The original voice of Winnie-the-Pooh was Sterling Holloway.
Now it's done by Jim Cummings.
If you listen a lot to the old original tapes, you have no problem telling them apart.
But if you listen too much to Jim Cummings, after awhile, he is Winnie-the-Pooh.
Stay in God's Word so you can tell the fakes!
:28 And I give unto them
Jesus is going to describe three things that will belong to those sheep of His, the ones that respond by following His voice.
Please note the "tense" here.
Jesus says that He gives these things right now to His sheep.
It's not some kind of future thing that starts once you cross the finish line of some special race.
These are things are belong to you from the moment that you respond to Jesus' voice, and prove to be His sheep.
:28 eternal life (#1)
It's spiritual kind of life that's based on being "connected" with God.
We could describe it as being "alive to God".
The opposite, "death", is a separation from God.
Without "eternal life" a person can relate to God as well as you can relate to a dead body lying in a coffin.
There's a special quality to this "life".
It's not just a heart pumping blood through a fleshly body.
It's truly being "alive".
Last week we saw it described as "abundant".
It's kind of like electricity.
You can have the most fancy appliances in the world, but until you plug them in, they don't do you a whole lot of good.
This "eternal life" is the very thing that runs our spiritual lives.
It's something that lasts FOREVER!
Not for ten minutes.
Not for a few hours.
Not for a few weeks or a few years.
When Jesus gives you eternal life, He's giving you something that's going to last forever.
That's even longer than the Energizer Bunny will go.
Because of how long this "life" lasts, one day we'll have to get a new body, one that doesn't wear out, one that's built to last forever.
»Jeremiah 31:3 The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.
It's the only kind of "life" that is allowed into heaven.
We often think of "eternal life" and heaven in the same breath.
But keep in mind, eternal life starts NOW!
:28 they shall never perish
perish - apollumi - to destroy
This word is the one used to describe the opposite of "eternal life".
Whereas those who follow Jesus, and allow Him to pay for their sins, receive eternal life, those who don't follow Jesus will "perish".
This idea of "perish" is not just some kind of vaporization of the soul.
It's a kind of destruction that lasts forever and ever
»Isaiah 66:24 And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.
»Revelation 14:11 And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.
This is "hell".
I'm not sure why none of the translations try to make a better, clearer translation of this.
It's very strong in the original Greek.
"They shall absolutely not perish all the way unto eternity".
The idea is that the promise of not perishing is one that will last forever.
It's as if you will be hearing the words "You will not perish, you will not perish, you will not perish ..." forever and ever and ever.
Those who follow Jesus will never, ever have to face the fear of hell.
:28 neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
Here's a very similar idea to not perishing, but with a different twist.
pluck - harpazo - to seize, carry off by force; to snatch out or away
It's a word used to describe a wolf that stalks, waits, and then snatches a sheep from the flock. (It's also the word used to describe the rapture! 1Th.4:17)
It's nice of Jesus to be promising eternal life, and escape from hell, but what if somebody or something comes along that's bigger than Him, and snatches you out of His hand?
It can't be done!
»Romans 8:35-39 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Not even Satan is able to snatch you out of God's hand, or separate you from the love that Jesus has for you.
Martin Luther, when the devil came to him and asked him to open the door of his heart so that he could come in and discuss some very important matters with Him, said "I don't have the keys to the door; God has them. Ask Him if you wish."
Greg Laurie says that when he answers the door, and it's the devil, he just turns around and says, "Lord, it's for You!"
You have nothing to be afraid of!
Follow the Shepherd, not a hireling!
This word "pluck" (harpazo) was last used by Jesus when He described the shepherd, the hireling, and the sheep:
»John 10:12 But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
WARNING: If you're not following the Shepherd, but just one of the "hired hands", then you're easy prey for wolves.
I've seen people who are so caught up in following after certain people in ministry, rather than Jesus, and if the person in ministry ever stumbles and falls, all kinds of people fall away from the Lord.
Why? Because they're following the hireling, not the Shepherd!
But if you're following the Shepherd, NOBODY can snatch you away!
:29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand
Jesus is saying that if you're in His hand, you're in the Father's hand as well.
And the Father is the greatest of all.
A mountain climber in the Alps had come to a perilous gap in the ice where the only way to get across a chasm was to place his foot in the outstretched hands of the guide who was a little way ahead of him. Told to do this by the one who was directing the party, the man hesitated a moment as he looked into the gloomy depths below where he would certainly fall to his death if anything went wrong. Seeing his hesitation, the guide said, "Have no fear, sir; in all my years of service my hands have never yet lost a man!"
God wants you to know for sure that you have eternal life.
The people who are caught in the various cults don't know for sure.
The best they can hope for is "I hope I'll make it".
They hope that all their good works are going to be good enough to make it.
God wants you to know you have eternal life.
»1John 5:11-13 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. 12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. 13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.
If you have the Son, then you have eternal life.
It's that simple.
Suppose there is a person here who does not exactly know his age, and he wants to find the register of his birth, and he has tried and can not find it. Now, what is the inference that he draws from his not being able to tell the day of his birth? Well, I do not know what the inference may be, but I will tell you one inference he does not draw. He does not say, therefore, "I am not alive." If he did, he would be an idiot, for if the man is alive he is alive, whether he knows his birthday or not. And if the man really trusts in Jesus, and is alive from the dead, he is a saved soul, whether he knows exactly when and where he was saved or not.
-- C.H. Spurgeon,
Many Christians are also unsure of their salvation.
Because they haven't looked clearly enough to see just what their salvation is based upon.
You're salvation is based on God's ability to save you.
Your eternal destiny is secure because of God's strength.
It's not shakey because you're weak.
It's secure because God is so strong.
It's God's job to keep you from falling, not yours.
»Jude 1:24-25 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, 25 To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.
Are you secure?
Do you belong to Jesus?
Do you have the Son?
Do you understand how safe you are?
:30 I and my Father are one.
What does Jesus mean by this?
Certainly He is referring to the fact that both He and the Father are holding on to you, and are one in doing the same work.
But there's much, much more to this, which we'll look into next week!!!