In His Powerful Hand
October 20, 2019

In His Powerful Hand

Speaker:
Passage: John 10:19-30

What keeps you safe in the love of God?

This morning, I have the privilege of preaching on a passage that was a watershed moment in my faith. You may have heard this from me before, but my understanding of the gospel growing up was that Jesus had washed my sins at the point of salvation, and it was now up to me to keep myself sinless, for if I died with sin on my heart, I had no guarantee of salvation, but only the belief that I would be punished in Hell for eternity for my sin. Though it may not have been intended as such, the gospel I received was understood as a works-based salvation. The security of my salvation was only as good as my personal spiritual performance. 

When I was young, and blind to the depth of my own depravity and inability, I thought I could muster up enough will power to keep myself at a level of holiness that God would accept. I lived under constant fear, which proved to be a good motivation for behavior, for I often found my way to repenting. However, there came a point when I realized I couldn’t attain the holiness required. I read Jesus’ words, “But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt 5:28) Can I be honest for a minute and tell you the 17 year old me was amply guilty! And I knew it. This along with other passages, “Be holy for I am holy,” convicted me, and I was hopelessly guilty before God. Try as I may, I fell everyday. Life, it seemed, was a crapshoot. Would I get in a car accident and die before confessing my sin and receiving forgiveness? There was no telling! Going to heaven would be only as sure as rolling double “7’s!” 

Nothing was secure. And it led me to flee. Spirituality was a hopeless pursuit for me, for the ultimate goal was one I could not attain. So I ran. I ran from God, and decided to chase my own flesh. I can say, by God’s mercy, He did not leave me wandering in the valley, but like the Good Shepherd He is, He sought me out.

And he brought to mind, but the Spirit, these words: [27] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. [28] I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. [29] My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.”

These words changed me. It re-oriented my paradigm. It gave me security, a firm foundation, a trust in His steadfast love, that has taken root and has not left me sense, and I want that for you this morning.

So, in order to understand the passage, why these words are here, let me remind you of the context. John chapter 10 follows chapter 9, where Jesus healed a blind man. The Pharisees at first didn’t believe he was really blind before he was healed. Then when the proof mounted, they accepted the miracle but didn’t accept what that meant for who Jesus was. The blind man chose to be a disciple of Jesus, and in so doing, he was cast out of the synagogue, and now an outcast of his own people. The shepherds of Israel cast him out to the wolves. 

In contrast, Jesus said in chapter 10: I am the Gate: no one gets into the sheepfold except through me. I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays his life down for his sheep. I know my own, and my own know me. 

Now, we continue in our passage today, and  we see Jesus in the next encounter with the Jews, who failed to believe that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus, per usual, makes some pointed statements towards the Jews, and in doing so, contrasts those who believe with those who don’t. And we learn today of the Good Shepherd and his great care of those who are a part of his fold.

We are going to look at the passage under the following headings:

Division, and Suspense?

Division and Belief

In His Powerful Hand

Passage:  John 10:19–30

[19] There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. [20] Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” [21] Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

[22] At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, [23] and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. [24] So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 

[25] Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, [26] but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. [27] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. [28] I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. [29] My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. [30] I and the Father are one.” (ESV)

[Pray]

Division and Suspense?

[19] There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. [20] Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” [21] Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” 

[22] At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, [23] and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. [24] So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

John, in his gospel, provided much by way of the social, and religious rumblings of the people. We continue to see the people of Israel divided, as they made their attempt to discern who this man, Jesus, was. There were two possibilities for them: of Satan, or of God. Either he was had a demon, and was insane, or he was of God, and a prophet, or the Prophet, or the Christ!

They saw his miracles and were amazed, but when they heard his words they were offended. In other words, they liked what he could do, but they didn’t accept his truth. There are many so-called-christians like this today. They like what Jesus can do for them: save them from the wrath of God, grant forgiveness for their misdeeds, and lead them to a heaven with their loved ones and eternal golf, or knitting, or a hot springs and spas, or whatever their picture of heaven may be. However, they don’t like the truth that Jesus proclaimed. Many of these so-called-christians don’t even know the truths that Jesus proclaimed. Its easier to ignore the hard truths and focus on the promise of happiness than it is to look in the mirror and see that I need a savior. 

This is not the heart of saving faith. Saving faith sees the promise of heaven through the reality of the hell they deserve, and when one does so, it opens the senses to realize how great, how sweet, how wonderful Heaven really is.

The Jews, which generally refer to the religious cast of Pharisees and Scribes, gathered around him and asked: “How long will you keep us in suspense?” Jesus, at this point, hadn’t proclaimed by his mouth, “I am the Christ.” Why? Because the Christ they were looking for was not the Christ that he was. The salvation they were looking for was from the Romans so they could be autonomous, and be a people self-ruled. In fact, this is what they celebrated at the Feast of Dedication! This feast was instituted B.C. 164. It commemorated the purging of the temple Antiochus Epiphanes (B.C. 167) had pouted it. Judas Maccabees led a revolt against their rulers, and drove the Syrian invaders out, and rebuilt the altar.

The Jews were looking for political freedom from a foreign oppressor. Jesus told them they were slaves, and he referred not to a government, but to their own sin. Jesus told them he was the Messiah, for if they understood the Scriptures, they would know what he meant by claiming to be the bread from heaven, or the living water, or the Light of the world. He did not leave them in suspense. He was the Messiah, and made it known. But he was not the kind of Messiah they were looking for, for he offered a salvation they didn’t believe they needed. 

They wanted to be united under a military and political leader, like Judas Maccabees. However, Jesus did not come to unite them under war, but to divide them according to belief. 

Now we are at the second heading: division and belief.

Division and Belief

[25] Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, [26] but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.

Jesus did not give credence to the idea that he was being coy, or secretive. His response was this: “I told you, and you do not believe.” So, if he didn’t outright proclaim “I am the Christ,” how did he tell them? The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me…”

Why are the miracles recorded in scripture important? They give credence to the words of Jesus. If there were no miracles, who would believe a man who would make the proclamations he made? “I am the bread of life.” “I am the light of the world.” “I am the door of the sheep.” “I am the resurrection and the life.” “I am the good shepherd.” “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” “I am the true vine.” “Before Abraham was, I AM!”

Jesus’ was saying this: the miracles I performed, which are miracles no one else has done, are prophesied as the dawning of the Messianic Age, and testify that my words are true. They bear witness about me,but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.”

Do you see the causal statement in Jesus’ words? Remember last week’s analogy. Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd. He called his own sheep out of the fold. There were many sheep in the pen, but only his own sheep heard his voice. Only his own sheep followed him out. Only his own sheep where led to pasture, to life abundant. Jesus was saying, even among the Jews, who were God’s chosen nation, he had specific sheep who belonged to him. 

This is called the doctrine of election. It I thoroughly Biblical, in both the Old and New Testament. And I know this idea doesn’t sit well with the 21st Century American mindset. We govern ourselves. We have the belief that everyone is created equal, and have the right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. And under heaven, this side of His return, I believe this is how we ought to govern society. But we must not apply a principal of the world to the reality in heaven. What is true here doesn’t make it true there. 

The Declaration of Heavenly Kingdom is this: man has fallen in sin, and under the rule of a holy and just God, we are condemned. That is the pronouncement of judgement. But here is the gospel, the good news: God has sent his son to save sinners from the wrath of God, and to bring a people to himself to the praise of His glorious grace! 

What we have been reading in John is this: we were all consigned to sin, condemned by our own willful disobedience, lost in the darkness we loved, but God had determined that he would call sinners by name to come into his fold. 

The doctrine of election, if it operated under the pretense that all men and women  deserve a chance at redemption, it would then be a bogus doctrine. But it doesn’t. It operates under the truth that all men and women are born sinners, who deserve judgement. We call this total depravity, or better termed, radical depravity. This means, that in our natural born state, we are rebellious against God, and sinners by birth. We are blind to the glory of God, even the devoutly religious. Sin has blinded the eyes of the world (2 Cor 4). John Calvin said of the Jews in this passage: “It was if they could not see the mid-day sun.” Friends, it should have been so obvious to to them. 

The doctrine of election is this: even in our blindness, in our rebellion against God, when we were willfully choosing to be his enemies, by grace, God miraculously called us his own. He knew us, formed us, and called us before the foundations of the earth (Eph 1). 

I want to put this to rest for you, because if you get stuck here, then you will miss the good news of this message. When we look at this from our earthly perspective, it makes no sense. We think, why not them? Or them? And God doesn’t answer that question for us. If we go down that path, we will continue to spin on a merry-go-round of what we perceive to be injustice. For God’s ways are not our ways, and his justice is not our justice. 

That’s not the question we should be asking. The question we should be asking is this: why me? Why do I believe? Why would God have mercy on me? What am I — who am I that he would call me to himself? Who am I that he would look on me with love? What have I that my ears would be opened to hear his voice? Or open my eyes to see his glory? 

Belief.

When you are called into his fold, you hear his voice. Can any of you identify with that? Where you prompted, poked, prodded, and drawn to Jesus? Do you see people whom God had put in front of you, speaking the word of God to you? Do you see how your heart was enlivened to His words? Has the Bible become a treasure for you, when as before, it was a door stop? This is what happens when you hear the voice of God, through His Spirit, calling you to himself. This is Jesus calling you out of the fold, into His flock. 

[27] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

If you believe that Jesus is the Christ, it is because you have heard his voice calling you. And what he tells us here is that he knows you. Isn’t it a wonderful thing to be known? Is that not what we yearn for in our relationships together, to be fully known and loved. Jesus speaks here of knowing his sheep, and the Bible is full of words that reinforce that He knows our every thought, our words, our actions, our souls. This is the kind of knowing that marriage was intended to point to, when the love and commitment covenanted in the wedding vow take root, and the two individuals reveal themselves fully to each other— in heart, mind and soul.

Jesus knows his sheep. And the response of a true believer is to follow Him. I believe we vastly underestimate what this meant in 1st Century Palestine, and we vastly under calculate what it should mean for us today. 

To follow a shepherd is to go where he leads, to accept what he gives, and trust he knows best. It is an obedience of the heart to follow Christ and trust him, even in the darkest valley. To be a sheep in His fold is to surrender one’s life wholly to the will of God, and live not for self, but trust and follow him. 

How do you plan your days, friends? Do you submit your day to God? How do you plan your workday, your weekend, your vacations, your retirement? Do you pray and ask the Good Shepherd where he might lead you? How do you spend your resources? Do you ask God for provision for your desires, or that His desires would become your desires? 

A sheep has a faith that follows. Remember, the demons believed Jesus was the Son of God, but their heart did not follow, but rebuffed against His rule. You cannot be in the flock of God and be governed by your own self-rule. I want to implore you that self-rule is not a secure place; the only security I know is…

In His Powerful Hand

[27] My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.[28] I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. [29] My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. [30] I and the Father are one.”

It was with these 4 verses that God, 20 years ago, began to speak peace to my once-troubled heart. This is why the introduction. This is what the previous verses pointed to. This is what I want you to leave with today, if you hear His voice, and are soft-hearted towards his leading. If you hear his voice, if you belong to Jesus, if you call Him your Lord, then your salvation is unbreakably secure, for you are in the right hand of Christ and the Father. 

This is what Jesus’ words entail: those who follow him have eternal life. He is a good shepherd who seeks the lost, who lays down his life for the sheep, who has the power to lay his life down and take it up again. You are secure in his love, secure in His fold, and no one can snatch you out of His hand. Furthermore, you were given him by the Father, and you are doubly secure, for no one can snatch you out of the Father’s hand! He is the one who keeps you! 

I want you to grasp what this means. If you hear the voice of Jesus, then you are secure, and you have assurance of belonging. If you believe He is the Messiah, and your heart disposition is to learn of him and follow him, then you should know that you are loved and accepted in His fold. This is so because of the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. This is when when performance stops, and love begins. Your acceptance is based upon His performance, and so is your security! No one can pry you from his hand, and no one can pry you from the Father’s hand! You are able to rest in His righteousness for you!

A Gospel Primer pg 20, #9

When I understand that I am secure in the hand of Christ, I can stop performing to earn my keep, and now we serve Him because I’ve been kept safe. Assurance that exists only when one knows they belong, and are loved, and there’s nothing that can happen to you that would remove that love.

That is what has been provided for us on the cross… an assurance, that we belong, that we have been bought, redeemed, brought into the love and presence of God, that He now holds our hand and will lead us to safety, to green pasture, to life eternal. 

JA Medders, in his book, “Humble Calvinism,” gives this analogy: When he walks with his son across the parking lot, he explains that he needs to hold his hand to make it safely to the store. They hold each other’s hand. But it’s not the grip of his 4 year old son on his hand that keeps his son safe, it’s his grip as the father on his 4 year old son that secures his safety to the destination.

When you realize you are safely in the grip of Living God, and your salvation is as steadfast as His love for you, then work becomes worship, holiness a joyful pursuit, and your assurance is bound in the person and work of Jesus, in his hand and the hand of God the Father. 

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