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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Good Shepherd – Part 2

        Last week, we saw the comparison of Ezekiel 35 with Jesus’ teaching on the Good Shepherd. This week we will see how the shepherd cares for his sheep and its message for those who care for and watch over God’s people.

Watchman/Gatekeeper – John 10:3

         “The watchman opens the gate for Him….” John 10:3a
            In the Older Testament, God used prophets as His watchmen. God would send a message through a human prophet, but it was always God’s message! God’s message could be a rebuke or good news. God used Ezekiel to speak a warning to the Israelites, (see Ezekiel 3:17-19) but He used the prophet Isaiah to bring the good news of salvation. (see Isaiah 52:7-10) So God used watchmen to send various messages to His people because He loves and cares for them.   
             Jesus is both the Shepherd and the Gate/Door. You cannot enter His flock by any other way. Jesus said, “I am the Gate/Door of the sheep.” You can’t enter through your own works or the works of the Law – only through Jesus. When Jesus says, “I am,” it excludes everyone else. There is no other Eternal Shepherd, Gate, Light, Way, Life, Truth, Bread, Living Water or Resurrection Life. His “I am’’ statements declare His divinity. He is the Great I am. Our eternal spiritual life begins when we believe in Jesus. Jesus through His Word and the power of the Holy Spirit will recreate us into spiritual beings. Jesus slowly will teach His believers His way to transform our fleshly nature into the nature of the Godhead.
            Sometimes many shepherds with their flocks would use the same sheep pen. The shepherds would appoint watchmen to guard the sheep pen and the sheep against strangers or wild beasts who would come to steal, kill or destroy the sheep. To bypass the gate and the watchmen, the thieves and robbers climb over the wall to try to steal the sheep, just as the devil distorts scripture and cunningly leads believers in Christ astray.
          The watchmen would know the shepherds and would allow them to go in to call out their sheep. Although there were many folds in the pen with many shepherds, they were one flock in the sheep pen. Christians are to also be watchmen over Jesus’ flock. Christians are to watch for the wiles of the devil who wants to steal, kill and destroy God’s flock of believers and warn them.
        Jesus is not only the Shepherd and the Gate, He is also the sheep pen. We are safe in Him. Jesus goes into the sheep pen ahead of His sheep and they follow Him. They also follow Him out of the sheep pen into the grazing pastures. Jesus called His disciples to follow Him, but He also told them to “go” into the entire world and make disciples.

The Sheep Hear the Shepherd’s Voice

        The sheep “listen to his voice.” The sheep would only know the voice of their shepherd and would follow only him, as Christians are to know the voice of their Good Shepherd and follow only Him. The shepherd has loved, cared for and protected the sheep. They know his voice. How do we know Jesus’ voice? We must know the Word of God – His Truth. False shepherds lead the sheep with deception and untruth. They don’t protect the sheep. Jesus leads His sheep with Truth!  Jesus “calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.” V3b The Shepherd and the sheep have a close, personal bond. They are intimately familiar with each other. As we follow our Shepherd, we learn to love and trust Him because He first loved and cared for us. It is a mutual love. Our Good Shepherd Jesus knows our every thought, pain, need, problem, character and heart. He will never leave or forsake us.
          The shepherd will never lead his sheep astray. The shepherd leads his sheep into the protected place in the darkness and leads them out in the light of day. He is a leader! The sheep are his followers. “When he has brought out all his own, He goes ahead of them and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact they will flee from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” John 10:3-5 Jesus told His disciples to “Resist the devil and he will flee.” Jesus will never tell us to do something contrary to His Word. This is how we recognize His voice and the voice of a stranger!
          Speaking to the elders of the church of Ephesus, Paul said, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!” Acts 20:28-31 It is important that believers “watch” and know the Truth so you cannot be deceived. The devil “distorts” the Truth in order to lead Jesus’ believers astray.
        Jesus used this figure of speech, but they (the Pharisees) did not understand what He was telling them. The Pharisees were false shepherds, blind leaders of the blind. Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the Truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before Me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full (abundantly).  Jesus is the door of access that leads to the Father. Jesus came to destroy Satan’s evil and sin. Jesus is trying to warn the Pharisees of their warped truth. Jesus wants His flock to have the fullness of life. He protects from the devil who wants to steal, kill and destroy that life. Only in Jesus’ care and within the boundary of His Word can we be safe and flourish. Jesus gives us the green pastures of His Word and the calm waters of the Holy Spirit to give us guidance, life and peace.

              If you missed Part 1, you can go to my website to read it. Part 3 will be next week.     

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Good Shepherd – John 10:1-21 (Part 1)

          Jesus has been in a confrontation with the Pharisees who are the religious leaders of the Jews.  The Pharisees were trying to prove that Jesus is a phony. They were so angry at Him that they were plotting to kill Him. The Pharisees were also upset that Jesus healed a blind man on the Sabbath. The Pharisees paid no attention to the blind man. He was just a beggar to them, but Jesus saw the blind man, had compassion for him and healed him. This angered the Pharisees even more. In John 10, Jesus will teach on the Shepherd and His sheep.
        Those who have read some of my previous teachings will know that I tie the Older and New Testaments together. Since Jesus came to fulfill the Older Testament and bring in the New, I show some of the scriptures Jesus fulfilled by His words and actions in the New.
            In this teaching, Jesus is teaching about the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd is of course Him! The Pharisees were not good shepherds because they were leading people away from Jesus. The Older Testament speaks about the shepherds and sheep in Ezekiel 34. God tells Ezekiel to prophesy to the shepherds of Israel that they are only taking care of themselves, not taking care of the His flock (God’s people – the Israelites). God and Jesus use the things of the earth to teach spiritual truths. Here God is telling Ezekiel to prophesy against the leaders of His people – kings, prophets and shepherds/priests. Instead of caring for the people and leading them spiritually, they were selfishly exploiting God’s people for personal gain. In contrast, God tells Ezekiel to prophesy that there will be a day when God will send a Good Shepherd after His own heart who would truly love and care for His people. In this scripture in Ezekiel, God said the shepherd would be David. David is a type and shadow of Jesus as the shepherd in his father’s field who became a conquering king with a kingdom. In the "natural," David was a good shepherd of his earthly father's flock. God will use David's life to point to His Good Shepherd (Jesus) who will save His people, gather them, tend to them and bring them eternal rest.
           First, the Lord tells Ezekiel to prophesy against the shepherds of Israel:

·                          “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves.
·                    “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 heal 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. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd.
·                          “They became food for all the wild animals.
·                    “They wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no once searched or looked for them.
·                       “Because My flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered, and because My shepherds did not search for My flock I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for My flock.
·                          “I will rescue My flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.”

        Then Lord gives Ezekiel the promises He will send through His Shepherd:

·                        He will search for the lost and bring back the strays.
·                      “I will save My flock, and they will no longer be plundered.
·                      “I Myself will search for My sheep and look after them.
·                      “I will tend them in good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel.
·                      “I Myself will tend My sheep and have them lie down (rest).
·                      “I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak.
·                      “I will shepherd the flock with justice.
·                      “I will place over them one Shepherd, and He will tend them and be their Shepherd.
·                    “I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of wild beasts so that they may live in the desert and sleep in the forests of safety.
        “I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.” 
·                        “I will save My flock, and they will no longer be plundered.
·                       “I Myself will search for My sheep and look after them.
·                       “I will tend them in good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel.
·                       “I Myself will tend My sheep and have them lie down (rest).
·                       “I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak.
·                       “I will shepherd the flock with justice.
·                       “I will place over them one Shepherd, and He will tend them and be their Shepherd.
·                    “I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of wild beasts so that they may live in the desert and sleep in the forests of safety.
·                       “I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing.”

         The Lord Jesus is the fulfillment of all of this. The teachers of the Law – the Pharisees – were leading God’s people astray. Jesus will show that He is the fulfillment of the Good Shepherd who will search for the lost, save us, love and care for us, lead us to the green (life-giving) pasture of His Word. He will fill us with the Living Water of His Word and Spirit and give us peace and rest. He will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak. He will judge righteously and make a covenant of peace with us. He will shower down blessings upon us and keep us safe. And most of all, He will give us eternal life.
            Ezekiel 34, along with some other scriptures regarding the shepherd like Psalm 23 and Jeremiah 23:1-4, will be the backdrop of Jesus’ teaching on the Good Shepherd. Jesus is comparing Himself – the Good Shepherd – to the Pharisees who are leading His flock astray just like God did in Ezekiel. God's ways don't change. If God said it, Jesus who is also God will fulfill it. The shepherds of Israel failed because they are human with a sinful nature, but Jesus will not because Jesus is holy (sinless). When Jesus saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36 There were times in the Older Testament that the Israelites were like sheep without a shepherd. (see Numbers 27:17; 1 Kings 22:17; Zechariah 10:2) In Matthew 9:36, Jesus had compassion on the crowd because they were “like sheep without a shepherd.”

The Shepherd and His Flock
          In this parable, Jesus is revealing that He is the True Shepherd of God’s flock in contrast to the false shepherds—the Pharisees. God is called the Shepherd of Israel in Psalm 80:1. In Psalm 68:7, God is the One who went before His people and guarded them. And, in Psalm 23, God is His people’s provider, place of rest, leader, restorer, guide, comfort, victor and anointer. In Jesus’ parable on the Shepherd and His sheep, He is showing that He is all of these things to those who love and follow Him. In other words, He is saying He is God which is considered blasphemy in the Law and punishable by death. (see Leviticus 24:13) The Law-keepers – the Pharisees – wanted to put Jesus to death.

The Way
          Jesus speaking, “I tell you the Truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep.” John 10:1-2 Jesus always speaks the truth because He is Truth. Jesus is the way to the Father. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6 He is the bridge between heaven and earth. Even the Older Testament saints had to follow behind Jesus in His resurrection and ascension to the Father. (see Matthew 27:51-53; Ephesians 4:8)  Matthew 27:52-53: “the tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” The only way to the Father is through following Jesus. He went first after paying the price for all sin including the sins of the Older Testament believers. He resurrected them from death to life and when He ascended to the Father, they followed behind Him.
            “The Man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.” John 10:2 Jesus is the Shepherd and the Gate (Door).

Sheep Pen
          During biblical times, there were many shepherds because of the land being suitable for pasturing flocks. The Pharisees who were the religious leaders and had power and wealth looked upon shepherds as beneath them.
            The shepherd had to make sure his sheep had a field to graze in during the day (light). At night, the sheep would be put in a sheep pen to protect them through the darkness. A sheep pen had a wall/fence made of stone all around it with one entrance where the sheep would go in or out. The shepherd stands at the gate and calls his sheep into the protected place. The shepherd would lie down and sleep at the entrance so no thief or robber or wild animal could get in to attack or steal his sheep. Sheep were also prone to wander and get lost, so the fence and the guarding of the shepherd would keep them from wandering outside the boundaries of the fence. The sheep rested knowing that the shepherd was guarding and protecting them. Being a shepherd was a 24 hour a day job. It required a love for the sheep and self-sacrifice.
            Jesus, our Good Shepherd, does all of these things for His sheep – His followers. Jesus leads us to graze in the green (life-giving) pasture of His Anointed Word. The Word is our fence to protect us from darkness and keep us from wandering out of God’s will into the darkness. The Word is also our weapon against the thieves and robbers – Satan and his demonic host. We can rest upon the truth of His Word. Jesus and His Word will guard our hearts against the devil.
            Jesus sacrificed His all for His sheep. He will not leave or forsake us. He came to seek and save those who are lost. Our rest and peace is in His Truth and His love and protection. Jesus gave us the victory over the devil through His sacrificial death on the cross. He showed us through His actions and words that we are to wield the weapon of the Word against the wiles of the devil. Jesus said “It is written” many times in the gospels and then quoted an Older Testament scripture to show that He was fulfilling that scripture in their seeing and in their hearing. He also did this while being tempted by the devil. In so doing, Jesus is teaching us that the Word is our defense against the devil and darkness.
          (To be continued next week) To those who may be newcomers to my teachings, please be advised that I am doing a full teaching on the Gospel of John. If you are interested, you can go to my website: sandrakingministries.com to see all of my other teachings. Knowing the Word of God in its fullness is our greatest spiritual weapon against Satan who is a spiritual being. The Word is also our spiritual tool to know the Godhead in fullness and become spiritually mature.             

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Man Born Blind Receives Sight – Part 2

          Last week, we saw that Jesus supernaturally gave the blind man sight – both natural and spiritual sight. He instructed this blind man to go to the pool of Siloam which means “sent,” and cleanse. When the blind man obeyed Jesus’ Word, he received his sight. (see John 9:7)  After being given his sight through his obedience to Jesus, this man acted and walked differently.

Blind Faith
            The healed man had not seen Jesus at this point. He merely heard His voice (Word) and obeyed it in blind faith. When the Pharisees questioned the healed man, he fearlessly and boldly identified himself. “I am the man.” John 9:9 This man’s healing not only changed his sight, it changed him as a man. He now boldly and fearlessly witnesses of Jesus and His mighty work. “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on My eyes. He told me to go to Siloam and wash. So I went and washed, and then I could see.”( John 9:10-11)  He obeyed Jesus’ Word and now he sees. In today’s world, the spiritually blind also have to go to the living water of the Holy Spirit and Word to remove spiritual blindness. It is the Word and the Holy Spirit that opens our eyes to the Truth.

Healed but Not Yet Saved
            Those questioning the healed man ask, “Where is this Man?” (Jesus) The healed man said, “I don’t know.” This man knew Jesus by name and had heard His voice, but the man didn’t know where to find Him. Jesus will find him! Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost and don’t know where to find Him.

Doing Works on the Sabbath
            They take this man to the Pharisees who are the religious rulers and keepers of the Law who investigate and judge religious matters. It was on the Sabbath that Jesus healed this blind man thus violating the Law in the minds of the Pharisees. (see Exodus 20:10) The Pharisees will use the breaking of the Law to prove that Jesus is a sinner and not from God. However, there were others who believed that Jesus was sent by God. “How can a sinner do such miraculous signs?” So they were divided. V16 Because of their division, the audience turned to the man again and said, “What have you to say about Him (Jesus)? It was your eyes He opened.” The man replied, “He is a prophet.” v17 The healed blind man still doesn’t know Jesus totally. Jesus will soon give the healed man further knowledge about Him. Jesus is not just any prophet; He is the Supreme Prophet of God – the very Word of God brought to life in the flesh.
            Instead of praising God for His mercy in healing this man born blind, the Pharisees want to find Jesus guilty of being a sinner and not from God. Works of grace and mercy can never be forbidden by One who is called Grace and whose nature is loveThere was one Pharisee, Nicodemus, who said just the opposite about Jesus -- "No one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with Him." John 3:2  As God rested on the 7th day of creation, Jesus rested after His finished work of salvation on the cross. Jesus is the Sabbath. All who know and believe in Jesus rest upon His finished work on the cross. We can’t rest upon anything else. Jesus did it all. Jesus himself said that He is Lord of the Sabbath. (Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5)  The Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit will do acts of mercy any day of the week including the Sabbath until the final Sabbath when believers in Christ will be in eternal rest in God’s heavenly abode. God is the God of mercy and grace.
            The Pharisees thought that this healed man was a phony, so they called his parents to ask if this man was indeed their son and had he been born blind. His parents assure them that the healed blind man is their son and yes, he was born blind. However, these parents were fearful because the Pharisees had threatened that anyone who confessed that Jesus was the Christ would be cast out of the temple. It would be awful to be excommunicated, but even worse to not know the Savior of the world – the true Sabbath rest. Out of their fear they respond. “We know he is our son, and we know that he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself.” John 9:20-23 In other words, he is an adult and can speak for himself. So ask him! As an adult, he is not the responsibility of his parents. This got the parents off the hook.

Healed Man Interrogated Again
          Again the Pharisees summoned the healed blind man. “Give glory to God,” they said. “We know this Man is a sinner.” John 9:24  Instead of obeying the Pharisees, the healed man speaks what he doesn’t know and what he knows. In other words, he speaks the truth. As a man, he had no idea whether Jesus is a sinner. But what he does know is “though I was blind, now I see.” John 9:25  He knew this truth and reality!
            Again, these Jewish religious leaders who are against Jesus ask the healed man what Jesus did to open his eyes. He says that he already told them and they didn’t listen. They didn’t want to hear the truth! He throws them off balance with his next statement. “Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become His disciples too? John 9:27 The healed man took a risk with this statement. Angered, the Pharisees hurled insults at him. ”You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where He comes from.” John 9:28-29  Jesus had told them that He was from God, but they didn’t believe Him. They were still looking with fleshly eyes. They knew Jesus as a human from Nazareth born of a woman. How could He possibly be from God?
            The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where He came from, yet He opened my eyes! We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to a Godly man who does His will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” John 9:30-33 This healed blind man thought it was incredible that they did not believe that Jesus was from God since He gave this man his sight. Many scriptures in the Older Testament speak of God not hearing sinners. (see Psalm 66:18; Psalm 34:15; Proverbs 15:29; Isaiah 1:15; Ezekiel 8:18) The healed of the Lord is saying that Jesus was doing God’s will. Believers are to also live in obedience to God’s will. This is the greatest worship we can give God because it honors and glorifies Him. Jesus brought honor to God because He obeyed Him. This man felt that if God heard Jesus and healed this man then Jesus must be from God. The Pharisees were so angered that they threw this man out of the synagogue. “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us! These Pharisees show their true colors! They are upset that this commoner and outcast was teaching them! Their words open up the hatred and arrogance in their hearts. How dare this sinner and beggar lecture them! They wanted this man to call Jesus a sinner without proof.

Jesus Found the Healed Man
          Jesus heard that the man He healed had been thrown out of the temple, so the Lord of the Temple sought and found him. He came to save those who are lost!  Jesus draws the outcast to Him.  Now Jesus will teach on true vision and true blindness. He has healed this man’s natural blindness. Now Jesus will teach him about spiritual blindness. Jesus begins by asking this healed blind man, “Do you believe in the Son of God?”  The man answers, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe?” Jesus has touched the man. He isn’t sure who Jesus is but he is willing to believe if Jesus shows him the Son of God.

Jesus Opens the Man’s Spiritual Sight
            And Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you.” V37 Before this man was healed, he heard Jesus. Now he sees Him. The Light of the world gave this man fuller light! When Jesus revealed Himself as the Son of God, the man said, “Lord I believe,” and he worshiped Him.” V38 He heard, he saw, he believed and he worshiped Him. “The ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both.” Proverbs 20:12 The Pharisees wouldn't let this healed man worship in the temple anymore, but Jesus received his worship! We are all spiritually blind from birth. Jesus wants to recreate us through the washing of the blood, the Word and the Holy Spirit. These will wash our "dirt" away so we see and walk in the Holy Spirit of God. 
            Jesus’ next words were for the unbelieving Pharisees. Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind. V39 The healed blind man knew he was blind, but the Pharisees were self-deceived. They closed their eyes to Jesus. Jesus came to earth to save people. Unfortunately, however, those who don’t believe in Him bring judgment upon themselves because they remained spiritually blind. The Pharisees thought that they were the ones who knew the truth. Jesus revealed the truth to the humble, begging blind man and gave him physical and spiritual sight, but the Pharisees remained self-righteous and spiritually blind even though they thought they understood the Truth. When some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard His words, their conscience was pricked and they asked Him, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, “We see. Therefore your sin remains.” V41 Jesus is the Only One who can reveal Truth because He is sinless. Sin has not blinded Him. He has perfect spiritual vision because He is Truth personified. Jesus with the Holy Spirit opens His Word so we can spiritually hear and see. We must let Jesus and the Holy Spirit open our spiritual eyes and spiritual ears so that He can be truly known to us in all of His fullness. Then Jesus will use us to open the eyes of those who are still spiritually blind “that they may know Jesus and the power of His resurrection”

                                            (Next week: The Shepherd and His Flock)