Week of Aug. 9

Where Do You Find God?

Read: Jeremiah 1-2; John 10

“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”
John 10:9, ESV


“It takes some of us a lifetime to learn that Christ, our Good Shepherd, knows exactly what He is doing with us. He understands us perfectly” (Phillip Keller). Do we, however, understand him? Thankfully, John provides us with another clear image of Christ’s ministry and purpose in the 10th chapter of his gospel. This section contains the fourth, “I am” statement. Our savior makes the point that he alone provides what the world truly needs. Let’s seek to understand and apply his words to our lives today.

A Biblical Lens

Jesus states clearly that he represents the only way to be made right with God and enter into eternal life (10:7, 9). He follows this exclusive claim by asserting that he leads his sheep (10:3). Thirdly, Jesus states that he, as the good shepherd, will lay down his life for his sheep (10:11, 15). Next, He fulfills the role as “door” and “shepherd” because he loves the sheep, and the heavenly father loves him for taking on this role (10:17). Lastly, Jesus makes it clear that other sheep will listen to his voice and will one day be brought into his sheepfold (10:16; cf. also Ephesians 2:16). This helps, but how does this impact our lives today? Hmm. Let me illustrate it.

Sheepdogs lead flocks of sheep in our western world, but in eastern culture they are led by shepherds. Gerald Borchert provides two anecdotal experiences that occurred while he was teaching in Israel. He observed the “intimate relationship” that shepherds had with their flocks. His experience helps us to understand broadly the intent in the Biblical shepherd psalm (Psalm 23), parables (Matthew 18:12-14; Luke 15:3-7), and Jesus’ own statements (Matthew 9:36; Mark 6:34; NAC). God our shepherd forms the backdrop to all of these accounts (cf. Jeremiah 23: Ezekiel 34) [NAC]. God sent His Son into the world to restore the broken relationship with him that we were created to enjoy (3:17).

John intends for us to recognize the stark difference between the loving God’s shepherding through his Son and the hostile approach taken by the enemies of Jesus and those who follow him (cf. 9:16, 22). Jesus places himself, in typical shepherd’s fashion, across the opening in a sheepfold. The shepherd or his assistant was the literal door to such an enclosure. The only way to get inside was to confront the doorkeeper or to climb the wall! (10:1). Jesus likely referred to Judaism as the sheepfold at the time, but we now know that Christ’s church holds his sheep (cf. HNTC)! The theology of the passage instructs and challenges us.

First, he knows his sheep by name (10:3). People were accustomed to knowing the names of their gods because this was believed to give them control over them over the relationship. Not so with the God of the Bible (cf. Exodus 3:14). He reveals himself to whomever he chooses, which means that knowing his nature is his privilege. John tells us that God has chosen to make himself known to the sheep through Jesus, the Good Shepherd (1:18; NAC; HNTC).

Secondly, Jesus leads the sheep with compassion (10:4). The relationship is intensely personal because John uses active verbs like “open,” “listen,” “calls,” and “leads” to describe the close connection that the good shepherd has with his flock (10:3, 12-13; HNTC). Furthermore, he knows their need of protection, so he first meets the problems that the flock faces (10:4b, “he goes before them”). Jesus, the shepherd, also knows their need for right direction, so he does not hand off the care of the sheep to others (10:5, “voice of strangers”). Lastly, the shepherd does not exploit the sheep; instead, he loves them enough to die for them (10:10-11). John uses an expression that means the shepherd will die in “behalf of” the sheep (cf. Caiaphas’ words in 11:50-52; 18:14). This begs the question: Is this Jesus your shepherd, and does he guard your sheepfold?

A Moral Pathway

An interesting trend has developed in churches today. People who have no religious affiliation have been termed “nones,” but there is a growing number of formerly committed Christians who have given up on church and are termed, “dones.” I believe that it is too simplistic to assert that these people were never believers in the first place. There is growing research evidence, however, that committed Christians stop attending for some unsettling reasons. One of those reasons catches my eye.

“. . .Committed Christians will sometimes leave the church because they view the leaders as hypocritical. Moral failures, narcissistic or abusive leadership, and low accountability are all reasons why a person might distrust leaders” (see 10:12-13).

“Dones” have grown weary of processes and systems that are broken and run improperly. Reasons for the breakdown include “conflict, poor leadership from the pulpit, and personal agendas trumping the church’s vision and mission. . .” (TMG, “15 Reasons Why Committed Christians Do Not Attend Church”). A top reason why 4 out of 10 people do not attend church is because “I find God elsewhere” (Barna Research). The great tragedy is that God’s beloved “sheep” are searching for him when he has made it known how he may be found (1:18; Acts 17:27-31).

For Your Journaling

1. Have you grown weary of poor shepherding and are practically “done” with church? Rather than seeking a church known for its large numbers, multiple programs, and creature comforts, try making the Good Shepherd your chief desire when you search for places to worship.

2. An underlying theme runs throughout today’s passage. Poor leadership and organizations that oppress the people. There have always poor leaders and broken systems that caused the people to become downtrodden and scattered (10:1; Matthew 9:36). What steps will your church take to ensure that Jesus shepherds your flock?

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock