How can I experience security forever? Part 2

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27

A second way I can experience security forever is when I BELIEVE IN JESUS ALONE FOR HIS FREE GIFT (John 10:27). Jesus said to His Jewish audience, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27). What characterized those Jesus called “My sheep” was that they listened to His voice. By listening they gave the response of faith to His words and works.

This reminds me of a true story about a man in Australia who was arrested and charged with stealing a sheep. But he claimed emphatically that it was one of his own that had been missing for many days. When the case went to court, the judge was puzzled, not knowing how to decide the matter. At last, he asked that the sheep be brought into the courtroom. Then he ordered the plaintiff to step outside and call the animal. The sheep made no response except to raise its head and look frightened. The judge then instructed the defendant to go to the courtyard and call the sheep. When the accused man began to make his distinctive call, the sheep bounded toward the door. It was obvious that he recognized the familiar voice of his shepherd. “His sheep knows him,” said the judge. “Case dismissed.

Jesus’ sheep are intimately known by their Shepherd. You might have expected Jesus to go on to say, “and they know Me.” But He did not. It is the knowledge that Jesus has of His sheep that is the important thing. Because Jesus knows His sheep they are drawn to Him. They trust the One who cares enough to know them.

When Jesus says, “and they follow Me,”some insist this means if a person truly believes in Christ he perseveres in discipleship or obedience to Christ. They say that a true Christian will continue to obey Jesus the rest of His life. But the context does not support this understanding. Jesus is using the word “follow” as a figure of speech referring to belief. Just as Jesus’ reference to sheep, is a figure of speech, so His reference to following Him is the same. Christ was not talking about literal sheep which physically follow a literal shepherd in this verse. Instead He was illustrating salvation by picturing Himself as the Good Shepherd and believers as His sheep (cf. John 10:1-27).

In the context, Jesus addresses the unbelief of His Jewish audience, who questioned if He was the Messiah (John 10: 24). Jesus replied to them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.” (John 10:25-26). People who are not of His sheep do not believe. What then do His sheep do? They believe He is the Christ – the One who gives eternal life to those who believe in Him. They hear His voice and respond in faith like sheep follow a shepherd (cf. John 10:4-5). They trust Him. So in this context the unbelief of His Jewish audience (John 10:25-26) is set in contrast to His sheep following or believing in Him (John 10:27).

Bob Wilkins writes that “the picture of sheep hearing their shepherd’s voice and following him is a picture of childlike faith. In his book The Gospel Under Siege, Zane Hodges says concerning that illustration, ‘That is to say, they [the sheep] commit their safety and well-being to the Shepherd who has summoned them to do so‘ (p. 44). He goes on to say that this is clearly an act of faith, not discipleship.

“Hodges points out two other points which further prove that the figure refers to faith in Christ: the sequence of the coordinate clauses and the analogy of John 5:24.

“The verses in question have five clauses joined by the word and. A definite progression is evident. The sequence of the clauses shows that ‘following Him’ is the condition—not the consequence—of eternal life. Jesus did not say, ‘I give them eternal life and they follow Me.’ Instead He said, ‘They follow Me and I give them eternal life.’ Since faith in Christ is the sole condition of salvation in Scripture and in John’s Gospel, ‘following Him’ must be a figure for faith in Christ.

“In addition, John 5:24 is parallel to John 10:27-28. Both refer to hearing, believing, the giving of eternal life, the guarantee against eternal judgment, and the promise of the permanence of the relationship. The only difference between the two verses is that in John 10:27 believing is expressed by means of the figure of sheep following a shepherd.” 1

Throughout the gospel of John, figures of speech are used to illustrate saving faith such as receiving (1:12; 5:43; 13:20), looking (3:14-15), drinking (4:14; 7:37), hearing (5:24; 10:16, 27), coming (5:40; 6:35, 37, 44, 65; 7:37), eating bread (6:50, 51, 53, 54, 56, 58), entering (10:9), and following (10:27). Christian author Charlie Bing writes: “These pictures of faith all denote receptivity, agreement, or trust. All are essentially simple activities and essentially passive. None communicates the idea of merit, work, effort, or achievement. Neither do they communicate an exchange of one’s life or the ongoing submission of one’s life to Jesus as Master in order to obtain eternal life.” 2

However, following Christ through obedience is necessary to be a disciple of Christ (Mark 1:17-18; Luke 5:10-11; 9:23), not a possessor of Christ. For example, Jesus did not call His disciples to follow Him as His disciples (Mark 1:14-18) until about a year after they believed in Him (John 1:35-2:11).

When you examine all four gospels, it becomes clear that the disciples whom Jesus called to follow Him in Mark 1:16-18 were already believers. In the Spring of A.D. 26 Peter, John, Philip and Andrew met Jesus for the first time (John 1:35-51) and believed in Him. When Jesus invited Philip to follow Him (John 1:43), He was asking him to accompany Him to Galilee, not make a discipleship commitment. Philip trusted in Christ because of spending time with Him (1:45).

Four days after that first encounter, Jesus’ other disciples believed in Him after He turns water into wine (2:1-11). Several days later during the Passover Feast in Jerusalem, Jesus cleanses the temple (2:13-22). During the next several months, Christ instructs these new believers in the fundamental truths of salvation and assurance as He evangelizes Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, and the city of Sychar (John 3-4). John 4:35 mentions 4 months until harvest. The harvest takes place in the months of April or May. Four months prior would be January or February. Thus, between the mention of the first Passover (John 2:13) which is in April, and the time mentioned here (John 4:35), almost one year has passed. During these months, John the Baptist is evangelizing Judea (John 3:22-36) and baptizing. So, several things have already taken place before we come to Mark 1.

Mark 1:14 informs us that John the Baptist is now in prison.  In John 1-3, John the Baptist is still ministering publicly. Now, we see that he is in prison in Mark 1. So, these disciples have known Jesus for at least a year when Christ approaches them in Mark 1:16. Peter is a believer. He has evangelized the city of Sychar with Christ. But now he is fishing for fish.

The gospel of John distinguishes the freeness of salvation (John 4:10-14) from the costliness of discipleship (John 8:31-32). The only condition for everlasting life is belief in Jesus Christ alone for His free gift (John 3:14-18, 36; 4:10-14; 5:24; 6:40, 47; 7:37-39; 11:25-27; 20:31), but there are many conditions for discipleship including following Christ (John 8:12; 12:24-26; 21:19-22), abiding in Jesus’ word (John 8:31-32), loving one another (John 13:34-35), and bearing fruit (John 15:1-8).  

The apostle John uses the word “believe” ninety-nine times in his gospel. 3  The word “believe” means to be convinced that something is true, and then trust in that something. Trusting in Jesus is like riding on an airplane. When you ride on an airplane, do you need to push the plane to get it off the ground? No, of course not. Do you need to flap your arms to keep the airplane in the air? Absolutely not. All you must do is trust a person, your pilot, to take you to your destination. In the same way, the gospel of John invites non-Christians to trust in Jesus Christ alone through no effort of your own for His gift of everlasting life. The moment you do, Jesus guarantees you have everlasting which can never be lost (John 10:28-29). Your eternal security is not based upon your good works or your faithfulness, but upon Jesus’ finished work on the cross and His faithfulness to His promise. That is security that lasts forever!!!

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, You are the Good Shepherd Who laid down His life for the sheep. Like a sheep that hears the voice of its shepherd and trusts him for its safety and security, so You are my Good Shepherd. The moment I heard Your voice say to me when I was nineteen years of age, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life,” I believed or trusted in You alone to give me Your gift of everlasting life. You guaranteed then that I had everlasting life and that I would never be judged for my sins. My relationship with You is permanent because I had passed from death into life. You gave me security that can never be taken away from me! That security is not based on my faithfulness, but on Yours to keep Your promises to those who believe in You. Thank You so much my Lord and my God. I worship You for Who You are and what You have done for me. In Your name. Amen.   

ENDNOTE:

1. Dr. Bob Wilkin, “Is Following Christ a Condition of Eternal Life?” Grace in Focus (Grace Evangelical Society, April 1990).

2. Dr. Charlie Bing, “The Condition For Salvation In John’s Gospel,” Journal Of The Grace Evangelical Society, Vol. 9:16, (Spring 1996): 31.

3. John 1:7, 12, 50; 2:11, 22, 23; 3:12(2), 15, 16, 18(3), 36(2); 4:21, 39, 41, 42, 48, 50, 53; 5:24, 38, 44, 46(2), 47(2); 6:29, 30, 35, 36, 40, 47, 64(2), 69; 7:5, 31, 38, 39, 48; 8:24, 30, 31, 45, 46; 9:18, 35, 36, 38; 10:25, 26, 37, 38(3), 42; 11:15, 25, 26(2), 27, 42, 45, 48; 12:11, 36, 37, 38, 39, 42, 44(2), 46, 47; 13:19; 14:1(2), 10, 11(2), 12, 29; 16:9, 27, 30, 31; 17:8, 20, 21; 19:35; 20:8, 25, 29(2), 31(2).

Christ’s clarity in a confused world – Part 1

“If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37b-38

Christian author and evangelist, Larry Moyer, writes, “Some years ago, a commuter train stalled on the tracks moments before a freight train was due to arrive. A conductor ran to flag down the approaching train, and the passengers were assured that there was no need for worry. As they began to relax, the freight train suddenly came bearing down upon them.

“The engineer of the freight train narrowly escaped death by jumping just before the impact. He later testified in court why he had not stopped: ‘I saw a man waving a warning flag, but it was yellow. I thought he just wanted me to slow down.’ Examining the flag in question explained the confusion. The flag had once been red, but long exposure to the sun and weather had turned it a dirty yellow color. The cause of the crash can be stated in one sentence: The message was not clear.” Larry Moyer, Free And Clear: Understanding & Communicating God’s Offer of Eternal Life [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1997], p. 13.) Confusion can destroy lives both now and in eternity.

In a remarkable book published some years ago, Canon Roger Lloyd, an archdemon instructs on an ancient and effective piece of Satanic strategy, “Insert yourself into the simple situations which call for plain and obvious duties and complicate them and complicate them again until at last no one involved in them can make sense of the confusion.” (http://www.biblia.work/sermons/ confusion-2). 

Satan’s strategy is to confuse the world about the identity of Jesus Christ to prevent Him from becoming more well known. We are going to study Christ’s clarity in a confused world in John 7:37-52. First, we will look at CHRIST’S CLARITY ABOUT ETERNAL SATISFACTION (John 7:37-39). The first thingJesus taught about eternal satisfaction is that it is free.

On each of the first seven days of the Feast of Tabernacles the priest led a joyous parade from the Temple area down to the pool of Siloam where a golden pitcher would be filled with water. The priest, leading the procession, would then return to the Temple where he poured the water into a silver basin by the altar of burnt offering. This was accompanied by the recitation of Isaiah 12:3: “Therefore you will joyously draw water from the springs of salvation.” This ceremony symbolized God’s grace in providing water for the Israelites when they were wandering in the wilderness and His provision of refreshment and cleansing in the messianic age to come. It also served as a confession of thirst and an expression of prayer for autumn rains after the long, dry season.

“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out saying…” (John 7:37a). The “last day” was the eighth day of the Feast of Tabernacles. On the eighth day, this water ceremony did not take place which makes Christ’s offer for living water even more amazing. Jesus “stood.” Rabbis usually sat when teaching their disciples, but Jesus stood because of the importance of what He was about to say and so He could be seen and heard better when He gave this marvelous invitation. When Christ cried out this invitation, He was claiming to be the fulfillment of all that the Feast of Tabernacles anticipated. He announces that He was the One, the Messiah, Who could provide Messianic blessings. Jesus’ words compared His own Person to the rock in the wilderness that supplied the needs of the Israelites (cf. Exodus 17:1-7;  I Corinthians 10:4).

There is only one prerequisite to Jesus’ invitation. “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” (John 7:37b). “If anyone thirsts…” Only thirsty people drink. God has created us with a built-in need for Him. We are all born with a thirst for God — a longing to know God. For some, there is a deep thirst for significance. They want to feel like they are important and belong. That they are somebody. People whom society overlooks, those who are not wealthy, or handsome, or have strong personalities, thirst to be regarded as important. Some are looking for power – the ability to accomplish things. Jesus says to such. “If that is what you want, come to Me. Enter a personal relationship with Me,” Jesus says, “And your thirst for power and significance will be satisfied forever.”

Physical thirst is the most powerful drive known to man. The sex drive can be contained, you can even deny satisfying hunger for weeks at a time, but one thing you cannot leave unsatisfied is thirst. It becomes a driving force that takes over all your life and makes you think of nothing else but satisfying it.

Like the man crawling through the Sahara Desert when he is approached by another man riding on a camel. As the rider approaches, the crawling man whispers through his parched lips, ”Water … please. Can you give … water?” “I’m sorry,” replies the man on the camel, “I don’t have any water with me. But I’d be delighted to sell you a necktie.” “Necktie?” whispers the man. “I need water!” “They’re only four dollars apiece.” “I need water.” “Okay, okay, two for seven dollars.” “Please! I need water!” the man exclaims. “I don’t have any water, all I have are ties,” replies the salesman, as he heads off into the distance.

By now the man has lost all track of time, crawling through the desert seemingly for days. Finally, nearly dead, with clothes tattered and skin peeling under the relentless sun, he comes to an oasis with a restaurant. Summoning his last bit of strength, he staggers to the door and confronts the headwaiter. “Water … can I get … water,” the dying man pleads. “I’m sorry, sir. Neckties required.” I know – bad joke.

But have you ever really been thirsty? When you are thirsty, there is not much else you can think about, like appropriate clothing attire for fine dining. When you are thirsty, you cannot get it out of your mind. It is all you think about. That is what Jesus means. If you feel yourself driven, wanting something, restless and thirsty and longing for satisfaction, then His invitation is, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.” (John 7:37b). Jesus says, “If anyone…”Regardless of your background, education, ethnicity, intelligence, or social status, Jesus says to come to Him for eternal satisfaction and it is free. You don’t have to pay a cent. You don’t have to work for it. You simply come to Christ as you are.

The second thing Jesus tells us about eternal satisfaction is that it is by faith. “He who believes in Me…” (John 7:38a). The way to come to Christ is by faith alone apart from any good works. The word “believe” (pisteuō) means to  be convinced that something is true and then trust or depend on that something.

For example, years ago, three men were fishing on the Broadback River in northern Quebec. A violent storm arose and gale force winds overturned their canoe. The men knew they couldn’t save themselves. They noticed the large ice chest that had been in the canoe now floating on the water. They were convinced the ice chest could hold them up, so they pulled the ice chest underneath them, rested their weight upon it and trusted it to save them. And it did.

What Jesus is saying is we are to come to Him just as we are – as sinners, understanding that He died in our place to take our punishment and rose again, so that all we must do is believe or trust in Him alone for the free gift of salvation. The moment we trust in Christ alone for salvation, “As the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:38b).

What “Scripture” is Jesus thinking of? I agree with Zane Hodges who argues that it refers to Ezekiel’s vision of the future Millennial Temple in Ezekiel 47 (Zane C. Hodges, “Rivers of Living Water – John 7:37-39,” Bibliotheca Sacra 136:543 (July-September 1979):239-48). “Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east…south of the altar… it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep… And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live.” (Ezekiel 47:1, 5, 9).  Ezekiel is talking about the Temple of God in the future 1,000-year reign of Christ on the earth.

There is a link between the altar and the water ceremony which reminds us of Ezekiel 47. The waters issue forth at the right side of the altar of the Millennial Temple and the priest would pour water on the right of the altar during the Feast of Tabernacles.

Also, the waters of Ezekiel’s prophecy have similar properties as the rivers Jesus speaks of, “And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live.” (Ezekiel 47:9).  Those waters are properly described as living waters. This will be a life-giving river that flows from the Temple in the future kingdom that will bring blessings to all it reaches.

If the Millennial Temple was to become the source of living, healing waters, could the destiny of those who believe in Christ be any different? Jesus tells us that when we come to Him as we are and believe in Him as our only hope of heaven, out of our innermost being will flow rivers (not just a river, but “rivers”) of living water. The great thing about what Jesus offers is that it will never run dry. We will always have more than we need. When we are filled with the water Jesus offers, it does not stop with us. It gushes out of us! It keeps coming and touches those that we touch. We become, pipes, so to speak – pipes for Jesus – that in effect, allow Christ’s living water to flow through us to others.  We are former thirsty people who now show thirsty people how to get a drink. God wants these rivers of living water to flow out of our lives to bless others.

So the third thing that we see about the eternal satisfaction that Jesus freely offers, is that it focuses on others. When we come to Jesus and He more than satisfies our spiritual thirst, we start to show concern for others. The satisfaction that we found in Christ leads us to reach out to needy people around us and to minister to them. Why not be a pipe for Jesus and let His blessing flow through you as you step out in faith to share the gospel with those who don’t have Christ in their lives? Be the channel through which the unsaved can discover how much God loves them and wants to bless them with eternal life. God saved you so that you can become a blessing to others as His rivers of living water flow through you to satisfy the need of other people.

John identifies what the living water is. “But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:39). The living water is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would not be given until after Jesus was glorified, that is, after His death, resurrection and return to the Father in heaven. This giving of the Holy Spirit took place on the day of Pentecost (cf. John 15:26; 16:7; Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:1-13; I Corinthians 12:13). Jesus is announcing that the Holy Spirit would come on believers in a new way, namely, to regenerate (John 3:3-8; cf. Titus 3:4-7), baptize (John 1:33; Acts 1:4-5; I Corinthians 12:13), indwell (John 14:16-17; I Corinthians 6:19), seal (Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30), and empower them (cf. Acts 1:8).

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I thank You for Your clarity in the midst of a very confused world. You alone are the Messiah-God!!! You created me with a spiritual thirst that only You can quench. I once tried to quench my thirst through the things of this world, including religion. But they only left me more dissatisfied. Thank You for freely giving me eternal satisfaction the moment I believed in You. I now have rivers of living water flowing through my inner being which can never run dry. As I continue to abide in You and Your Word, Your rivers of living water can flow through me to others who are searching for Your eternal satisfaction. Please grant me the boldness and clarity to proclaim Your eternal satisfaction to those who would otherwise die forever in confusion. Thank You for hearing my prayer my Lord and my God. In Your holy and powerful name. Amen.