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Lesson 55: The Door to Abundant Life (John 10:7-10)

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May 18, 2014

The “American dream” is to pursue what is called “the good life.” This usually means owning your own home, having a couple of late model cars in your garage, taking nice vacations, and retiring to a comfortable life of doing whatever you like. The rich and famous, who supposedly enjoy this good life, are splashed across the pages of magazines like People so that we all can vicariously enter their lives and dream about striking it rich ourselves.

But while many Americans who are financially comfortable may have achieved “the good life,” most of them have missed the abundant life that Jesus promised to all who follow Him. But what is the abundant life? Many who follow the “prosperity gospel” have just baptized the materialistic American dream with some Christian labels. Except for their outlandish hairdos and Christian jargon, the prosperity preachers look pretty much like unbelieving Americans in their pursuit of stuff.

But the abundant life that Jesus promised has nothing to do with collecting more stuff. It has everything to do with being right with God through faith in Christ and having the hope of eternity spent in His presence. The apostle Paul wasn’t rich in this world’s goods, but he enjoyed the abundant life that Christ offers. He was content with just food and covering (1 Tim. 6:8), but he was rich toward God (Luke 12:21; Eph. 2:7). He gained those riches by coming to know the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:8).

In our text, Jesus claims to be the door through which His sheep enter to experience the abundant life. This is the third of Jesus’ seven “I am” statements (for the others, see John 6:35; 8:12; 10:11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; and 15:1, 5). This means that the Lord’s message is Himself. Christianity is not primarily a bunch of rules or rituals; Christianity is Christ Himself. Our text teaches us that…

Jesus is the only door to abundant life for all who enter through Him.

Jesus again uses “truly, truly” to alert us that what follows is important (John 10:7): “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.” We have four verses with four important truths:

1. Jesus is the only door of the sheep (10:7).

In John 10:2-3, the scene was a common sheepfold in the village where the different shepherds would bring their sheep each night. There was a hired doorkeeper to guard the entrance. But now, the scene probably has shifted to the country, where the shepherd would take his sheep for summer pasture (William Barclay, The Gospel of John [Westminster], rev. ed., 2:58). The shepherd would build a protective enclosure for the sheep so that they could go in for protection and go out to feed. The shepherd himself would lay across the opening to the shelter at night. Thus Jesus could be both the shepherd and the door. Any intruders had to get by him to get to the sheep. As the door, He let in the true sheep, but He excluded predators or thieves that would harm the sheep.

G. Campbell Morgan (The Gospel According to John [Revell], p. 177) tells of a conversation he had with Sir George Adam Smith, a scholar who had spent much time in the Near East. Smith told of meeting a shepherd there who showed him the fold where the sheep were led at night. It consisted of four walls with a way in. Smith asked, “That is where you go at night?” “Yes,” the shepherd said, “and when the sheep are in there they are perfectly safe.” “But there is no door,” said Smith. “I am the door,” the shepherd replied. He was not a Christian man, but rather an Arab shepherd. But he was using the same language that Jesus used. He explained further, “When the light has gone, and all the sheep are inside, I lie in that open space, and no sheep ever goes out but across my body, and no wolf comes in unless he crosses my body; I am the door.”

Jesus is the only door of the sheep. J. C. Ryle (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Baker], 3:184) points out that no apostle or prophet could make such a claim. Only Jesus the Messiah could legitimately claim, “I am the door.” It’s the same thing that He later claims (14:6), “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Jesus was claiming to be the exclusive, only way to God. Just as there was only one door into the ark and only one door into the Tabernacle, so Jesus is the only door to salvation and God’s presence. The apostle Paul put it (Eph. 2:18), “For through Him we both [Jewish and Gentile believers] have access in one Spirit to the Father.”

Unbelievers are okay with it if you say, “Jesus is a door to God.” They think, “That’s fine! Mohammad is also a door and Buddha is a door and nature is a door. All religions lead to God. There are many doors.” But when you draw the line that Jesus drew and insist, “No, He is the only door,” you get accused of being intolerant and bigoted. Even C. S. Lewis, in his otherwise mostly helpful Mere Christianity ([Macmillan], pp. 176-177) wrote,

There are people who do not accept the full Christian doctrine about Christ but who are so strongly attracted by Him that they are His in a much deeper sense than they themselves understand. There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it. For example, a Buddhist of good will may be led to concentrate more and more on the Buddhist teaching about mercy and to leave in the background (though he might still say he believed) the Buddhist teaching on certain other points.

But Lewis is missing the fact that all people, whether Buddhists “of good will” or “good” Catholics or “good” Baptists are all sinners by nature and can only be saved through faith in the death of Christ to atone for their sins. As Peter put it to the “good” Jews of his day (Acts 4:12), “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Since Jesus is the only door …

2. All others claiming to be the door are thieves and robbers (10:8).

John 10:8: “All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.” Obviously, Jesus was not saying that godly men like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other prophets were thieves and robbers. In the context, He is referring to those who preyed on the sheep and used them for their own selfish ends. And, He was especially speaking of the thieves and robbers who were standing before Him, the Pharisees who were not godly shepherds over Israel. They were like the false shepherds that Ezekiel 34 castigates. Or, as the Lord says (Jer. 23:1-2):

“Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of My pasture!” declares the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel concerning the shepherds who are tending My people: “You have scattered My flock and driven them away, and have not attended to them; behold, I am about to attend to you for the evil of your deeds,” declares the Lord.

The Lord goes on to describe how He will re-gather His flock and raise up a righteous Branch for David, adding (23:6):

“In His days Judah will be saved,

And Israel will dwell securely;

And this is His name by which He will be called,

‘The Lord our righteousness.’”

In John 10:8, Jesus repeats the truth that He stated in 10:5, that His true sheep will not hear or follow a false shepherd. They will persevere by following Jesus. Sometimes, the Lord’s true sheep may be led astray by a false shepherd for a while, but as Jesus promises (10:27-28), He will keep them: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” John indicates that if people are not true sheep, eventually they will leave the church (1 John 2:19): “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”

So, Jesus is the only door of the sheep. All others who claim to be the way to God are thieves and robbers. But, what are the spiritual implications of Jesus’ claim to be the door?

3. As the door, Jesus provides salvation, safety, and sustenance for any who will enter through Him (10:9).

John 10:9: “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” There are two things to consider here:

A. Jesus is the only source of salvation, safety, and sustenance for His sheep.

Jesus says that whoever enters through Him will be saved. “Going in and out” pictures safety. And, “finding pasture” pictures the sustenance our good shepherd provides.

1) Jesus provides salvation for His sheep.

In the context of the sheep analogy, being saved refers to protecting the sheep from predators that would kill them. But Jesus obviously has the idea of spiritual salvation behind His words. As we saw (John 3:17), “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (See, also, 5:34; 12:47).

As I’ve often said, we often toss around the word “saved” without thinking about just how radical it is. If you’re doing basically okay on your own, you may appreciate a helpful word of advice or a bit of encouragement, but you don’t need to be saved. You only need to be saved when you are helplessly, hopelessly lost. Instead of being saved, maybe we should use the word “rescued.” You don’t need to be rescued if you’re doing fine on your own. You only need to be rescued when you’re unable on your own to get out of a situation that will soon lead to your death.

In spiritual terms, the Bible is clear that before you believe in Christ, you’re not just going to die; you were already dead in your trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). As such, you were what Paul calls a child of wrath (Eph. 2:3). In John’s terms (3:36), the wrath of God was abiding on you. You were under God’s righteous condemnation for your sins. Being spiritually dead, there was no way that you could rescue yourself or do anything to help out with your own rescue. You required God’s intervention.

That’s exactly what God did when He sent His unique Son into this world. Jesus came to seek and to save lost sinners (Luke 19:10; John 12:47). On the cross, He bore the wrath of God on behalf of all who believe in Him. Using the shepherd and sheep analogy, 1 Peter 2:24-25 puts it like this:

He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

Have you taken refuge in Jesus as your Savior? He is the only source of salvation because no one else can bear God’s wrath on our behalf. No one else can pay for our sins.

2) Jesus provides safety for His sheep.

This is the main idea behind the picture of sheep going in and out to find pasture. Barclay (ibid. p. 59) says that this “was the Jewish way of describing a life that is absolutely secure and safe.” If the country was under siege, people had to stay inside the city walls. But when they were at peace and the ruler was upholding law and order, people were free to come and go as they wished. Moses used this language in praying for his successor (Num. 27:16-17), “May the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation, who will go out and come in before them, and who will lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the Lord will not be like sheep which have no shepherd.” (See also, Deut. 28:6; 1 Kings 3:7; Ps. 121:8.) So when Jesus, the good shepherd, guards the flock, they are secure to go in and out and find pasture.

The term also was a Hebrew expression that connoted familiar access. In Acts 1:21, Peter mentions “the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us.” Acts 9:28 mentions how after Paul’s conversion, when Barnabas introduced him to the apostles and they came to trust that he really was converted, Paul was with them, “moving about freely in Jerusalem.” Literally, the Greek reads, he was “going in and out” in Jerusalem.

So the spiritual picture is that if you have entered the fold through Jesus, who is both the shepherd and the door, He provides safety and familiar access. He is guarding all of your ways. You can go out to the rich pasturelands that He provides and come into the safety of His fold as you please.

3) Jesus provides sustenance for His sheep.

This is the picture behind “pasture,” as well as the idea of “abundant life” (10:10). It’s not pointing to having an abundance of material goods, but rather to the soul satisfaction that comes when you know that the Lord is your shepherd. You know that He is caring for you and He prepares a table before you even in the presence of enemies, so that your cup overflows (Ps. 23:5). He goes with you even through the valley of the shadow of death. In other words, Jesus isn’t promising an easy life where there are no trials or where you get instant deliverance from your trials. Rather, He is promising to meet all of our spiritual needs if we will enter through Him as the door. John G. Mitchell (An Everlasting Love [Multnomah Press], p.193) once asked W. R. Newell, who wrote a commentary on Romans, how many times he had taught Romans. He answered, “I have taught the book of Romans some eighty times, and the pastures are still green.”

As you may know, I’m not a fan of those who mingle psychology with the Bible. Nor am I favorable toward the popular 12 Step programs. Sometimes I’ve been asked, “If psychology or 12 Step groups help people deal with their problems, what’s wrong with that?”

In a nutshell, what’s wrong is that these approaches “help” people without directing them to Christ alone for salvation, safety, and sustenance. I used to be supportive of these methods, but then I read a book where the author, a well-known Christian psychologist (Henry Cloud, When Your World Makes No Sense [Oliver Nelson], pp. 16-17), states that he had tried the “standard Christian answers,” by which he means, faith, obedience, more time in the Word and prayer, etc. But he calls these things “worthless medicine” and then turns his readers toward his approach, which he claims, works. But his approach is essentially developmental psychology, not the all-sufficiency of Christ for our souls.

The same is true of self-help programs, such as the 12 Steps. They are not Christ-centered. Their approach is not to bring people under the lordship of Christ. Rather, they just “use” Christ (however you define Him) or, if you wish, some other “higher power,” to get what you want. “Do you want sobriety? Work the Steps—the Steps will give you sobriety. Are you dealing with an alcoholic family member? Try the Steps—they will give you the stability you’ve been looking for.” So “Christ” (however you conceive Him to be) becomes merely a means for you to achieve your agenda. But He is not the source of your salvation, your safety, and your sustenance. As the door, Jesus provides salvation, safety, and sustenance. He meets all of our spiritual needs. But, it’s not automatic.

B. Jesus’ blessings are for any and all who enter through Him.

The condition is (10:9), “if anyone enters through Me.” The invitation is open to “anyone” and everyone, but you must enter through Jesus alone. Any other way is illegitimate.

How do you enter? Well, that’s the theme of the entire Gospel of John. He wrote these signs that Jesus did (20:31), “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” Or (1:12), “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” Or (3:16), “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

To enter through Jesus the door means to believe in Him as the Christ, the Son of God, who died for your sins and was raised from the dead. Have you done that? Have you put your trust in Jesus as your only hope for eternal life?

Maybe if you’re a young person you’re thinking, “I’ll probably do that someday, but I want to have some fun first. I want to enjoy some of the pleasures that this world offers while I can. Later, maybe I’ll trust in Jesus.” But that is a serious mistake.

4. Jesus’ purpose for His sheep is radically opposed to the purposes of false shepherds: abundant life versus destruction and death (10:10).

John 10:10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” There are only two ways to live your life: You can pursue this world for satisfaction, or you can seek after God to satisfy. The world, under the dominion of Satan, will rob, kill, and destroy your soul. Jesus offers life, and that more abundantly.

The Eskimos have an interesting way of killing wolves. They take a sharp knife, dip in in seal fat, and plant it blade up in the snow. A hungry wolf will smell the seal fat, which he loves, find the knife, and begin to lick it. As soon as he licks it, he tastes blood—his own blood. But he loves the taste of blood, so he licks more and more, until he finally kills himself. What he thought at first was really living was actually killing him.

Gorging yourself on the world and its sinful pleasures is like that. At first it tastes good, but it’s really destroying you. Only Jesus ultimately satisfies the soul. Only Jesus can reconcile you to God and give you real life—abundant life—that begins now and continues through all eternity.

Matthew Henry, the well-known pastor and Bible commentator, was on his deathbed in 1714, at age 52. He had suffered the loss of his first wife and of three children. He was relatively young. He could have complained about his early death. But he said to a friend, “You have been used to take notice of the sayings of dying men. This is mine—that a life spent in the service of God, and communion with Him, is the most comfortable and pleasant life that one can live in the present world” (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible [Revell], p. 1:xiv).

Conclusion

Years ago there was a TV game show called, “Let’s Make a Deal.” The contestants had to choose between a prize that was visible to them or another prize that was concealed behind a curtain or door. The visible prize was usually a nice item, like an expensive stereo or TV set. Sometimes the unseen prize turned out to be a joke, such as 10,000 boxes of toothpicks. But at other times the person chose the visible gift and discovered to their horror that they had passed up, behind the curtain, a new car worth thousands of dollars. Whenever that happened, you felt with the contestant that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach that comes from making a major wrong choice.

Don’t make that mistake spiritually. The visible prize is all the stuff you see in this world. But when you enter through Jesus as the door, you gain things that eye has not seen and ear has not heard, which have not entered into the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Cor. 2:9).

Application Questions

  1. Someone says, “Jesus is fine for you, but I have my own beliefs.” How would you reply?
  2. How should you respond to people who are worldly, successful, and happy, while you’re suffering (see Psalm 73)?
  3. How would you answer a believer in the “prosperity gospel,” who says that if you have enough faith, you’ll be healthy and wealthy? (See Heb. 11:33-39.)
  4. Why is any “solution” to your problems a false solution if it doesn’t help you lay hold of the true riches in Christ?

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2014, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Christian Life, Soteriology (Salvation), Spiritual Life