The good shepherd

Jesus, John

women-478133_640John 10:14: I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, (ESV)

Jesus tells us who he is so that we are not confused about him. The people in his time confused him with some prophets of old, but he is the Son of God. That was the way Peter by revelation referred to him (Matthew 16:13-18).

John the Baptist also by revelation called him the Lamb of God (John 1:29), and the one who baptises with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11). God the father form heaven called him in the hearing of Peter, James and John that: this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased (Matthew 3:17).

He said to the disciples: I am the way the truth and the life, no one came to the father except through me (John 14:6). Paul said he is Jesus Christ the righteous (1John 2:1).

In the chapter where Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd,” he also reveals some other things about himself and contrasted who he is with others. He said that the thief comes to kill, steal and destroy, but I come that we may have life adequately. He said that is he different from the hired hand because he lays down his life for the sheep. He holds nothing back (John 10).

The devil wants to cause harm and more of it, but Jesus is about doing us the greatest of good. Jesus said that he is the door, when we come through him we will find pasture. He is the access into everything good, he is our access to the very presence of God.

The bible says that through his flesh we have a new a living way into the very presence of God and can thus come boldly to the throne of grace to receive help and to find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

In the previous chapter Jesus calls himself the light of the world (John 9), and without him we walk in darkness, our hearts will be full of darkness, empty of God’s light, regardless of how intellectual you are, or the light in your room.

As the baptiser in the Holy Spirit it is through him that we contact the Holy Spirit, any other spirit we contact via any other means is a demonic spirit.

In him was life and the life was the light of men (John 1:1-6). Apart from him there is death, apart from him, there is bondage, there is darkness, there is loss, and there are lies.

Paul calls him wisdom and power of God (1Corinthians 1:24). He calls him our peace. He is the prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6). He also said while standing before the grave of Lazarus: I am the resurrection and life, if anyone believes in me he will not die, and anyone who dies that believes in him will live again (John 11).

Paul called Jesus: wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption (1Corinthians 1:30). He is all we need. He advised us to beware of those who espouse some special knowledge (apart from Christ) in the name of peculiar light, and that comes handy in Satan’s deception arsenal (Colossians 2:8-10). Another deception weapon comes as a question: must it be Christ, there must be other ways to God? But the bible says that there is no other way except Jesus.

How Jesus defines himself as the good shepherd is that he knows his own and his own knows him.

I know my own

There is no hiding from Jesus. To be Jesus’, is to have him as master. That is part of the salvation experience in which we are asked to confess with our mouth the lord Jesus and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead to be saved (Romans 10:9-13). So inherent in the salvation arrangement is the acknowledgement of the Lordship of Jesus.

We are his known because he laid his life for us, and we are also meant to lay our lives for him and his cause.

He said if anyone wants to come after him he must deny himself take up his cross and follow him (Matthew 16:24, 9:23). We take our cross because takes his own cross. His cross was on our behalf, out cross is on his behalf. He said you cannot even claim to follow him without your cross.

In the wilderness the children of Israel, were always looking back, saying they want the food of Egypt, they want the protection of Egypt, and eventually they died in the wilderness having rejected the plan of God which was to take them to the Promised land. The writer of the book of Hebrews says that he is assured of better things about his readers, because they are not among those that draw back to perdition but who move on to the saving of the soul (Hebrews 10:38-39).

My own know me

The knowledge of Christ is the primary pursuit of those who are being actively shepherded by Jesus.  He leads us on from glory to glory (2Corinthians 3:18), from faith to faith (Roman 1:17), from one level of spiritual empowerment to the next, from one level of impact to the next, because it is those who know their God that will be strong and do exploits.

He wants those who believe in him to have his glory, his power. He went through all he did from incarnation to crucifixion for us, he is now in the right hand of the father interceding for us. We should know that.

Knowing him also means we live by his tenets, obeying him. When Paul had an encounter with Jesus he called him lord (Acts 9).

Before that encounter, he was persecuting the church. When Isaiah saw the glory of God he repented (Isaiah 6:1-11). The life of wrong-doing cannot continue with the revelation of Jesus. Knowing Jesus is to love him, it is to appreciate the sacrifice he made, which will spur us to make sacrifice for him also, seeing the sacrifice he made of us.

Paul said that in view of the mercy of God that we have received, we should offer our bodies as living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God which is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1-2). To know him is to also serve him in all things.

Give me this water

Jesus, John

swan-645589_640John 4:15: The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.”

This woman was thinking of natural water while Jesus was talking about spiritual water, a water that exists in another dimension higher than what she was used to, and Jesus was talking from that dimension (John 4).

However, immediately the Samaritan woman said the words of the focus verse, Jesus turned the focus back on her. Seeing he now has her attention, that she has confessed her neediness, he asked her to go call your husband, and there he touched a raw nerve in her.

That was not something she was proud of to tell others and she said I have no husband to shut down that line of conversation.

Jesus said she was telling the truth but added that he knows what she was not letting off, that she knows what she would prefer no one to know.

Jesus said it as a matter of fact: you have had five husbands and the one you are now with is not your husband.

Hers had been an unsettled existence. Five men had ran through and she was still counting. Hers must have be a shame-filled existence, filled with a sense of condemnation and inadequacy.

She had been running from pillar to post, and getting no fulfilment, exchanging one identity for identity since the husband represents identity, not really knowing who she was anymore though she had hunger for God, hence her understating of the spiritual order of her day, where men have said she should go worship God.

But Jesus came to show her that there is more that trying to get satisfaction by herself. There is a satisfaction through which she be settled. There is a refreshing, a water she can get that will continue to flow inside of her. There is a satisfaction she can be given which will cause her constant toil to cease. She will no longer seek her identity in another, but the identity will be something flowing from herself.

What she was really looking for was eternal life and she did not know it. She was typical of humanity, who engaged in all manner of pursuit, seeking for deep seated satisfaction. But nothing can satisfy like Christ.

The water he gives was to be received, and not worked for. And it brings an overflowing of rejoicing and thanksgiving. Before Jesus met the women, his disciples had gone out to get food, but when they came back he told them: I have food to eat which you do not know of, it is to do the work of my father and complete his work. The point is: there is a higher sense of fulfilment derived from fulfilling purpose of God for you than eating or any other natural things. The father wanted to reach humanity, including the Samaritan woman, who suffered repeated rejection, and he used Jesus.

Because men as need, Jesus said: pray the lord of the harvest to send labourers into his harvest, because the harvest his plenteous but the labourers are few. The harvest is about bringing people into the experience of the father, from the scorching sun, from outside to a place of protection, transformation, and engagement.

So because of the massive number of people the father wants to reach, we need to pray that labourers will go into the harvest and it starts with you being the number one answer to your prayer: (Matthew 9:35-10:1).

Without this encounter with Jesus, this Samaritan woman was not aware that there is another “water” she can take which will permanently solve the spiritual thirst deep-seated in her. Hence, Paul writing about ministering the gospel said that how can the people know expect someone preaches to them (Romans 10:14-17).

Therefore we have been mandated to go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creature, we are to go about giving people water to quench their spiritual thirst, and there is a God-sized hole in every man that we can help them fill.

While those trying to meet their need with all manner of physical things, including binding addiction and sinful bondage, God offers something they can receive freely and will truly satisfy without any terrible side-effect, not dangerous to your health at all.

Isaiah wrote that people should come without money to get the water that God gives (Isaiah 55:1-2). In another place, God accused Israel of hating themselves but forsaking the fountain of living waters and getting for themselves broken cistern that can hold no water (Jeremiah 2:13).

Without water there is no flourishing, but we dry off. The man who meditates on the word of God is described as the being like a tree planted by rivers of water (Psalm 1), and Jesus is the word. He is the one who can bring out the best in us, while the devil only wants to repress us, the offer of “freedom” he brings will only lead us into more bondage.

True freedom is in Jesus. He said to some people that if they continue in his word, then they will be his disciples indeed, and will enter into the freedom that he brings. Those people, however, did not think they are in bondage, thinking that their natural credentials, which has to do with having Abraham as their father, was enough (John 8:31-59).

But seeing from God’s spiritual dimension, they were in bondage, as long as they are slaves to sin and Jesus gives freedom from that. Paul said it this way: the physical Jerusalem is in bondage together with her children, but the Jerusalem above is free, whose children we are as long as we are in faith (Galatians 4:21-31). If your identity is based on what is natural what is seen then, you are in trouble and are not going anywhere.

The water Jesus gives has eternal quality. It becomes a well that keeps flowing, that represents the joy of salvation (Isaiah 12:3), the assuredness that God has accepted us in Jesus. By faith, we cease from our own labour as God ceased from his own (Hebrews 4:10-11).

The woman did not want to labour again to get water. She was simple-minded enough to believe the words of Jesus, who was offering to meet her solve her frustration, which the five men she had been with represent. They represent her giving up on herself, coming to the end of herself, to experience God’s grace.

When she asked Jesus for the water, it was a deep-seated heart cry, it was a cry of faith. Jesus did not say I will give you this water, even if you did not ask for anything, but he said if you ask me I will give you living water. He is not going to force himself on any. But, he is yours for the asking because it is written whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:9-13).

Light of men

Jesus, John

forest-657903_640John 1:4: In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (ESV)

Before Jesus came men were living in darkness, their understanding who God is was warped at best. Jesus become the revelation of the father, the full revelation (Hebrews 1:1-3).

He journeyed from heaven as the light of men. The bible says that in him was life and life was the light of men (John 1:1-6). Therefore in him, life and light are intrinsic linked.

When Man died spiritually in the Garden of Eden, he retreated into the darkness. But in Jesus we are taken from that place, and now we can know God and be strong because it is those who know their God who will be strong and do exploits (Daniel 11:32b).

With the seed light of the knowledge of Christ in our heart, we can grow more and more in the things of God. Peter said we need to grow in the grace and in the knowledge of God (2Peter 3:18). That takes a deliberate effort. We cannot just say we are saved, that we have the light, we should seek to grow in that light, because the bible says that the path of the righteous shines brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.

You grow in the light by pursuing truth. When Mary the sister of Martha sat at the feet of Jesus she was soaking in light listening to the words of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42). We need to pay attention to the word of God. And that takes time and effort, powered by spiritual hunger.

While Paul was in the land of Ephesus preaching for two years at the end of that the bible says so mightily grew the word of God and prevailed, because the light intensity was very high. Again I say, it takes time (Acts 19:10-20).

Apart from hunger and thirst for truth, we also need to prayer for spiritual enlightenment. Paul prayed that the eyes of the heart of the Christians in Ephesus be enlightened, so that they come into the knowledge of God’s truth about themselves (Ephesians 1:15-21).

The devil has a vested interest in keeping us in darkness, he blinds people’s heart not to allow the light of the word to shine there for salvation and I dare say that to a limited sense he still wants to keep Christians in bondage so that we do not gain the full freedom that we have in Christ (Philemon 1:6, 2Corinthians 4:4).

We may not walk in the reality of what we do not know and the right walk crushed the head of the devil in our life. Paul said that the God of peace will soon crush the devil under the feet of some people (Romans 16:20). With the feet with which we walk in the reality of the presence, power, and purpose of God, we defeat the enemy’s wiles.

The devil wants to keep us from light, even though we have come to Christ. He erects different barriers on our path into more light. With prayer, we confront him. Paul asked a particular church to pray for him so that the word of God (which is the light because Jesus is the light and the Word) will have free course and be glorified (2Thessalonians 3:1). That prayer was necessary because of the opposition of Satan to that reality. There was a time he said he wanted to go somewhere but, he said, Satan hindered him (1Thessalonians 2:18). He was going their bearing the light of Christ but Satan will have none of it. But with prayer we come out tops.

We are meant to be light bearers. Just as Jesus said that the father sent him (to be the light of the world) so he has sent us (John 20:21). The disciples were first called Christ in Antioch and that meant: follower of Christs (Acts 11:26).

Paul said that the goal of the Christian minister is to teach every man, present every man perfect tin Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:28). he wrote to the Ephesian church that God has set some in the church: apostles, prophets, teacher, evangelist to equip the saints for the building up of the body of Christ and till we are no longer children tossed to and fro by any wind of doctrine, by the evil machination men or corrupt minds, speaking the truth in lie, but we grow up in all things to the full measure of the stature of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-22).

So if Christ is light, Christians are to manifest the light in our multiplied number. That was why he told the disciples that it was good he went away, departing from them to heaven, because without that the Holy Spirit will not why come.

Why?

Because Jesus in his life was given the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). The Spirit without measure is not upon any other individual.

As he has the spirit without measure, so he is light without measure, and we are light in a measure, with a limitation. Paul said we have received the measure of faith according to the measure of Christ’s gift and we should use that gift in proportion to our faith (Romans 12:1-8).

To the limit that we use the gifts we have received from Christ, we shine his light, represent him and be a blessing to others. There is no light in any other, in any other and what you have is darkness. He came so that we will not walk in darkness.

We receive the light and we lead others into the experience of it. Jesus did not have a local agenda for his message. He said that when the disciples have the Holy Spirit come upon them, he said that they will be his witnesses everywhere from Jerusalem to far-flung places, all by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).

That was why it was important that he goes because when he goes then he will send the Holy Spirit, which he was filled with when on earth. And just as the Holy Spirit moved Christ to meet the needs of others we will be stirred in a similar direction, and become light of men.  Paul said Timothy should be light, be an example to others; similarly, you should be a light bearer (1Timothy 4:12).

 

 

 

 

 

Receiving the Kingdom like a child

Luke, Motivation/purpose

aroni-738305_640Luke 18:17: Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

Little children are flexible. They are not set in their ways, hence Jesus says to receive the kingdom we have to be like children, never losing our sense of wonder and curiosity and not thinking we have it all together.

Jesus rebuked a church in the book of Revelation that they have lost their flexibility. They have settled down, they had developed a false sense of satisfaction (Revelation 3:14-22).

They said that we were rich, but not so from when Jesus’ point of view. From there, they are paupers. They said they were well clothed, but Jesus said they are stark naked, from the spiritual reality which is the ultimate reality.

While they said they see well, Jesus said they are blind. This was a church which gave itself pass mark on all fronts, was proud of her accomplishment and prestige, but missed the mark by a wide margin. The kingdom is about what God says, not what you say.

In contemporary times, such a church probably has great building, or great history or both, it has become like a spiritual dam not flowing out, not reaching out, too sophisticated, self-contained, self-content, not one to get down and get its feet dirty in pursuit of the lost.

They have become comfortable, Jesus warned then to shape up, to repent and to be zealous, get some passion flowing in their blood.

The problem with this people is that they have lost passion for God or the things of God, giving excuses for themselves why their coldness is legitimate, settled to a rut as the average adult, settled into routine.

But a child is characterised by un-curtailed passion. That is why it is easy for the child to cry without thinking of who may be displeased or discomfited. A child is less affected by self-consciousness, and the overarching need to please others, and maintain decorum.

All these are the reason that to receive the kingdom we need to be a child. A child is less affected by the fear of men.

There is a new approach to things, there is the need to ask question, have a sense of renewed curiosity, have the desire to want to explore, experiment, to find out how things work, try things out and not rely on what others say.to want to know more, and not be embarrassed if we mess things up at times.

It is because of that sense of strong desire in a child that Peter said that we should relate to the word of God as a new-born babe relates to the mother’s milk. He said that we should strongly desire the word of God like a new-born baby desires milk (1Peter 2:2).

Desire is a strong aspect of experiencing the kingdom of God. It does not just jump on you. Jesus said that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness shall be filled. Paul said: this one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind I go for the prize of the high call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-14).

He also said that when it comes to spiritual gifts we should desire earnestly the best gifts (1Corinthians 12:31). The gifts of the Holy Spirit operate by desire and they are the marks of the kingdom of God. Before Jesus healed some people he asked, what do you want me to do for you? He wants to know where their desires lies, to determine how his power will work in their lives. Our desire is the pull on the presence of God as we fast.

Being a child involves being dependent, there is a strong sense of expectation from your caregivers, on whom you depend on for practically everything.

God wants us to have a similar sense of dependence on him, the devil was shut out of heaven because he thought he can go it alone, he thought that he could rival God, his heart was lifted up and he got knocked out from his height (Isaiah 14:12-19). To the level that you sense your need, you will not be able to receive the kingdom.

When you receive God’s kingdom, you are put on a pedestal, you are no longer beneath, but you are above. You are no longer lost but found, reconnected to God, with the king of the kingdom, with the attendant benefits.

The Pharisees had no sense of needing what Jesus had to offer. They criticised him, complained against him to no end and they eventually killed him having been involved in speaking evil of him.

Jesus called them blind (Matthew 15:14). He said he came so that those who are blind will see and when they said they are not blind, there nothing he could for them, as they expressed no sense of need for him, and so they remained in their spiritual blindness (John 9). They were a self-contained group with entrenched interests being their priority, not the truth.

Another thing that a child is marked with is the need to connect with others, it flows from the previous issue of dependence. That is why the writer of the book of Hebrews says we should not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some is (Hebrews 10:24-25).

There is a natural flow of love from one child to the other and the bible says that we should express loving affection one to another. Part of receiving the kingdom is receiving benefits from what the other part of the body of Christ have to offer.

The bible says the whole body grows when every part supplies what it is meant to be supplied. If you are not willing to receive, it means you are full of yourself. Paul said we should think soberly about ourselves, as God has given everyone a measure of faith. You do not have everything, there is something someone else has that can benefit you and you should willing to receive it (Romans 12:3-10).

Denying Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life

Jesus, Luke

countryside-701753_1280Luke 12:9: but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.

The fear of men makes people want to deny Jesus, but he says when you deny him he will deny you, but when you confess him, he will confess you, according to the focus verse. The desire to fit into the world and its system makes some people to deny Jesus. The pressure that may come along the path may cause some to deny Jesus, as the truth, the way and the life (John 14:6).

Denying him as the Truth

When you embrace other “truths” that contradict Christ or absent of him, then you have denied Jesus. Paul talked about the kind of warfare he wages. He said that: the weapon of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God for the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imagination and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God (2Corinthians 10:1-4). These are counter truths, contrary understanding to Christ’s.

Paul says that he battles entrenched thought processes that backed godless or ultra-religious life patterns with spiritual tools.

John talked about the antichrist and about how that spirit opposes the right knowledge of Christ saying that he did not come in the flesh, that he did not do what he came to do on the earth. It denies the truth of his person and mission (1John 2:18, 22). Anyone in that camp has denied the truth about Jesus.

Jesus says that the secret of freedom is to continue in his word so that we will know the truth and the truth will make us free (John 8:32-33).

The truth empowers us, while the lies diminish us, compromising our effectiveness. To deny his truth also means not to allow any place in your heart for it.

It is to pursue other things apart from the truth of the knowledge him. Paul said about Jesus: that I may know him and the power of resurrection (Philippians 3:10-13). But the one who denies Jesus as the truth says that I do not really care about knowing him, I care about making money, sexual pleasure etc.

Denying his truth means you are not yearning to be taught. It means you are like those described by Paul as having itchy ears and piling up for yourself teachers who suit your fancy (2Timothy 4:1-4). You reject certain truth because they make you uncomfortable or they rebuke the errors of your behaviour and you embrace others because they do the opposite.

When Ahab wanted to go for a battle with Jehoshaphat, the latter requested that enquiry be made from God. The numerous prophets that first showed up to prophesy said the battle will be successful, but another came, Micaiah, and said Ahab will not return alive. To show his displeasure at the bad prophecy, Ahab asked that the one who prophesied negatively to him be imprisoned But eventually it was made manifest that Micaiah spoke the truth and the king who loved the comfortable lies and rejected the difficult truth, died in that battle. Ahab’s was a classic case of denying of truth, seeking for his decision to be validated and not to be corrected (1Kings 2:1-37).

Denying him as the Way

The way is about the lifestyle we choose to walk in. We deny him by not obeying him. He said that calling him lord is not enough, but we need to back that up with obeying him, living to please him, following him (Matthew 16:24).

He said that to follow him we need to carry our cross and deny ourselves. If you are not denying yourself, it means that you are not following him, we are following a mere idea of him, and denying him as the Way.

Jesus said, if you love me you will obey my commandment (John 14:15). It could not be clearer than that. It is not the hearer that will be blessed, but the doer of the work (James 1:25).

Love for God is therefore not about some emotion which courses through us, but the action we take which reflects our respect for his word and his demand on our life. While denying him as the truth is to reject right understanding, when we deny him as the way we reject the path he wants us to take.

Denying Jesus as the Life

Jesus does not just want us to know the right thing, live the right way, he also wants to experience him on an individual level, in personal impact.

A major way that we deny Jesus is to not pray as we should. In the place of prayer, we experience the living Jesus, who said that men ought always to pray and not to faint (Luke 18:1).

Prayer and fasting are means to actively experience the life of God, breaking through the limits of our mind. And there is something called the communion of the Holy Spirit (2Corinthians 13:14). It is about one on one time spent with God. We cannot be busy connecting with everybody else and neglect to connect with God in payer, it is through prayer that there is power in our lives (James 5:15-21). When we do not pray, we deny that we need the life of God, that we need communion, need connection with God.

When we pray we lift our eyes from our limitation to the limitlessness of God (Psalm 121:1). It takes life to reverse death, and that goes beyond the realm of truth or lifestyle to the miraculous.

Therefore, those who deny the place of signs and wonders in the church at this time have denied Jesus as the life. They embrace him as the truth, “teaching and knowing the right things,” and the way as they strive to “pattern their lives after the truth,” but they deny the reality of the power of God as an ongoing reality to heal the sick raise the dead, cast out devils, operate in the gifts of the spirit, speak in tongues.