Truth Inspired With Hope: Life to the Full
10/4/2018 6:02:57 AM
September 30, 2018
Rev. David Williams
Scripture: John 10:7-13
What is your purpose? Ariel found a fork and a pipe. She didn’t know their purpose. Scuttle, her seagull friend, acted like he knew all sorts of things he didn’t really know. He instructed her to use the fork as a comb and the pipe as a musical instrument! That’s funny for us watching because we know the truth. Under the sea, it was inconsequential for Ariel to know the true purpose of a fork or a pipe. BUT! When she came to have dinner with people who regularly used forks and pipes, when it came to communicating with them and building a relationship with them, not knowing the purpose of a fork and a pipe was disastrous!
What is my purpose? Of what use am I? What was I designed for? To glorify God and enjoy him forever! This is actually the first question in the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechism, foundational documents for the Reformation in England. They start at the right place! What is our purpose? What is the meaning of life? To glorify God and enjoy him forever. - starts with to know God!
Our culture is lost, lonely, depressed and anxious; hopeless. We talked about this last week. We are no longer just “Post-Modern” but “Post-Truth.” Even if there is objective truth out there, we no longer care. All we care about is how we feel and what we prefer. This leaves us with no sense of purpose in life beyond what we can make of it. Heroic attempts to make a good life for oneself, but it’s like combing your hair with a fork. It’s fooling when you know what the real purpose is.
How did this start? How did we get so far? We have abandoned God. No wonder we don’t know where we are going! We have abandoned our purpose and design. We are pipes being blown on hoping to make a musical sound. Instead we are just blowing ash in one another’s face!
Our society needs truth infused with hope. Last Sunday, Henry Xie came to speak with me after the service. He’s in med school and he did a unit on psychology in Calgary – only indicator for suicide? Hopelessness! We are in desperate need of hope. We are in desperate need of the Truth.
People are falling for all sorts of other answers to the meaning of life, investing heavily in other answers such as money, fame, success, comfort, popularity, family, friends and the like. Investing heavily in terms of time, money and hope. Ultimately not up to the task of brining meaning to life!
Jesus spoke a lot about life. In John’s Gospel in particular there are lots of instances where Jesus speaks of eternal life, life to the full, that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, etc. Let’s see what he has to say in John 10 about being the gate and the good shepherd.
What It Says
Here we have 2 of Jesus’ famous “I Am” statements: I am the gate, I am the Good Shepherd. All his “I am” sayings are in John, including “The way, truth, life,” “the light of the world” etc. “I am” is emphatic, but also echoes OT Exodus name of God, “Yahweh,” literally “I am.”
Jesus says, “I am the gate,” not “I am a gate.” He is a unique gate, he gives unique access to life & salvation. The sheep go in and come out. This is not about falling out of or back into Christianity. Rather, it means to go in to the safety of the pen/corral, go out into bounty of food and water in the fields. Come and Go was a Hebrew idiom (turn of phrase, image) for freedom in earthly life. [Bruner p. 614]
Those who came before are those who came with false messianic claims. They were thieves who came to steal, kill and destroy – military messiahs who tried to rebel vs Rome so literally steal, kill and destroy!
Shepherds were manly, burly, rough and tumble men. They were not the romanticized, effeminate images of Jesus holding sheep! Recall David in 1 Samuel- as a shepherd he fought off lions and bears, which prepared him to face off with Goliath!
The good shepherd is a contrast with the worthless shepherd of Zech 11:17. The “good” shepherd means “noble” or “worthy” shepherd. He is prepared to lay down his life in defense of the sheep – danger appears and threatens the sheep, the noble or worthy shepherd interposes himself between the danger and the sheep in order to defend them. This is in contrast to the hired hand who is likely to run away from the danger!
We should differentiate between thieves and hired hands. Thieves are wicked, hired hands are willing to work, but not to face danger and defend the sheep. The thieves have harmful goals from the start. The hired hands have good goals, but bad results.
In contrast to both thieves and hired hands, the image is of the shepherd defending his sheep, saving them, but dying in the process! It is important to note that the imagery of “laying down” his life has an intentionality to it, a willingness to it. “For his sheep” suggests sacrifice. This is how John always uses “for” in his Gospel –not just an example, but “in place of.” [Carson p. 386] This is what others are not prepared to do! Whether false messiahs, or even well intentioned teachers, Pharisees, etc. they are not willing or able to lay down their lives in place of the sheep.
What It Means
Jesus is saying he is the sole gate: the sole entrance into the Kingdom of God, the sole source of relational knowledge of God, of relationship with God, the sole font of spiritual nourishment, for spiritual security!
There have been many human attempts at Utopia, or perfect society – in Jesus’ day there were false messiahs who were going to lead rebellion vs Rome. They were crushed violently, leading to the deaths of thousands of followers. In the 20th C had Communism is one example, and we got Stalin and Mao among others.
Today, in the West, there is a new attempt at Utopia through autonomy and the pursuit of pleasure. It, too, is doomed to failure.
Jesus is saying that he is the sole gate or entrance into Utopia- into a perfect community. That community is the Kingdom of God! It is the rule or authority of God including those who submit to that rule and authority. This Utopia is God’s people-the church, but not the church as it is now, but post-resurrection church.
Complete reconciliation with God comes only through Jesus. Since all our problems ultimately find their source in sin, our rebellion against God, Utopia, the good life, only comes through reconciliation with God. That reconciliation only comes through Jesus.
The “life” Jesus came to bring is life as it should be – life lived in perfect relationship with God. The English translates it full life, abundant life. This life is a life lived to the fullest by living life to its full potential and purpose. What is that purpose? Our chief purpose, that which we were designed for, is to glorify God and enjoy him forever!
Jesus is the gate to knowing God, to glorifying God and to enjoying God forever That is life! eternal life, then, is an eternal, perfect relationship with God, glorifying and enjoying him eternally.
Those who offer other avenues to living life to the full turn out to be thieves or hired hands. The thieves come to steal, kill and destroy. Hired hands have better intentions, but the same end result, the same effect!
[Bruner, p. 614] There are those who live life selfishly, intentionally destroying others along the way. These are the thieves and robbers.
There are those who think they are living well, who think they are helping others live well, but they offer a meaning to life that is not reconciliation with God, and so the end result is the same- they steal, kill and destroy others in spite of the good intentions that paved the way. Scuttle the seagull! Good intentions, bad results!
Seen this diagram before. Overlapping Ages
There is an added wrinkle: before creation, God the Father and God the Son spoke to one another about creating free willed creatures in their image. The goal or purpose was to create creatures that could be capable of agape love, the love that is the very character of God! But it required the creatures have free will. The discussion included a recognition that these creatures would rebel. The discussion included the solution to that rebellion- the Son would come to earth as one of them, live perfectly according to the Father’s will, die for sin and the Spirit would resurrect him and then fill those humans who submitted themselves to the Son to be reconciled to the Father. The discussion included the long term goal, then, of the return of the Son and God living with humans.
This, then, gives insight into our situation. Our purpose, to glorify God and enjoy him forever, is only going to be completely fulfilled in the Age to Come. That purpose is also complex. To attain that purpose requires work beyond our ability to do. It requires the work of the Son to redeem us from the anticipated sin and rebellion God knew about before he created us. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep!
From God’s perspective, since before creation, he has had a purpose and goal for us including our redemption and resurrection. We are living in the middle of the process, but God has had the process in mind the whole time. He still has the goal in mind!
Giving our life to Jesus now is the beginning of our eternal experience of our purpose- a perfect relationship with God.
That is what you were made for, it’s what I was made for. That is our purpose. In spite of what people say you are, a singlehopper or a snarfblatt, you are, in fact, a free willed creature made in the image of God, the God who is love. Your purpose in life is to be reconciled to God so that you can live a life of agape love partially in this life and perfectly and eternally in the life to come. That is life to the full! That is why Jesus came. That is what he is the gate to. That is why he laid down his life for the sheep!
You are not a fork. You are not a pipe. You are certainly not a dinglehopper nor a snarfblatt. You have a purpose! And discovering that purpose is the key to life. Jesus, the one who made you, says your purpose is to be grafted into him so that you can have a restored relationship with God. That’s pretty amazing!
We have a wonderful purpose for which we were made. Hope!
-that in and of itself is good news. That is hopeful news that our world needs to hear!
God has good plans for us, a good goal.
-life is not meaningless. You do not have to bear the burden of creating meaning for yourself.
You do not have to attain the purpose for which you have been made, you just have to receive it. Hope!
-Our purpose is awesome- Glorify God and enjoy him forever! But it’s so wonderful as to be beyond our ability to attain or achieve on our own. It’s out of reach. Thank God that he has brought it within our reach, he has done the work so that it is within our grasp! Christ lived perfectly according to the Father’s will, he died on the cross in our place, thus bringing our intended purpose within reach! It is there for the taking as a gift. That’s really good news for those of us who realize our own limitations and imperfections.
Not attaining our purpose is frustrating. 2 levels- for Christians, we, like creation, wait and groan in anticipation of the resurrection. Still having one foot in the present age of sin is frustrating! patience!
-for non-Christians, all that they do, all that they achieve, is nothing in light of their purpose. It’s like using a fork to do a really good hair do. It may be a nice hair do but it’s not what a fork is for. Or a pipe as an instrument. Maybe you can keep a rhythm with it, but that’s not its purpose.
-Money, success, popularity, pleasure = all thieves and robbers who come to steal, kill and destroy
-Good things like family, kids, success at your job, being a “good” person – hired hands, there for a while but they flee when danger arrives- ie judgment
The truth we need to hear is that we are pursuing the wrong purpose. The hope infused within is that our purpose has been given to us.
-what are you pursuing? Even as believers in Christ we can get sidetracked. What purpose do you have in life? How can you tell? Where do you put your time? Where do you put your resources of skill and energy?
What takes top priority in your life? Where do you spend your money?
-If you’re not a believer, how’s it going? Do you think you’re attaining the purpose for which you were born? Do you feel fulfilled on the deepest level?
-Sheep that are well cared for are safe, have plenty of grass and water. Spiritually, are you well nourished?
Spiritually and emotionally are you safe?
All other answers to “What is the meaning of life” are empty and dangerous.
-like a bad investment that goes bankrupt, or an intentional scheme to defraud you, other pursuits will ultimately steal from, kill and destroy you
-like false messiahs, or hired shepherds, they will desert you when wolves come
-even good things that are not God first will lead you astray
This is the greatest truth infused with the greatest hope that each one of us needs to hear and to embrace:
The gate to God, the Good Shepherd, knows me and loves me because he created me and so he died for me.
That is the good news of Jesus. That is the meaning of life. That is the truth infused with hope that will transform your life and, when we share it, the world.
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