Controversial Jesus #12 - Access
Brady Randall, Campus Pastor at Orchard Hill: Butler County, breaks down Jesus's message in John 10 and what it means to have "one way" and how Jesus acts as our shepherd through life.
Well, good morning. My name is Brady Randall. It's great to be together today at Orchard Hill at all of our locations and just as a pastor as Orchard Hill it's really awesome to be a part of a church that invests so heavily in the next generation.
Whether that's the family day in the Strip District, or kids fest at the Butler and Wexford locations over 1400 kids got to hear that Jesus loved them through July.
There were 300 plus volunteers. 135 high school students poured into these kids and so, would you pray that the seeds of the gospel that were planted throughout this last month would really echo into eternity?
And just before I jump into the teaching I think I'd be remiss this morning if we didn't pray for all those victims and their families who were affected by the shootings in the last 24 hours.
So, would you pray for me? Would you pray for yourself that the holy spirit would speak through me and speak to you exactly what you need to hear this morning? And would you also pray for all those who have been affected by the shootings?
Father God, the last 24 hours are just a reminder of the broken world in which we live. Father, we pray right now in Jesus name that you would comfort all of the victims and their families. Father, for those who are hurting physically, emotionally, spiritually I pray Lord, that you would draw these communities and our nation to yourself.
Father, as we dive into your word today God, I pray that you would be the teacher. That whatever we need to hear that you would speak and teach each one of us this morning. We ask and pray all this in Jesus name, amen.
I want to ask you this question. What would it look like for you at the end of your life to look back at your life and for you to say that you've made it? You've done the good life, you've been successful in all the ways that you set out to be?
I know that as a teenager for me what it looked like was, get a really good job, first by getting a really good education, marry a really good wife, have a really good family, have a really good job where I could be my own boss, have a lot of freedom, take two beach trips a year, golf four times a week, retire early and have people be able to look back at my life and say, "Wow, he was successful at whatever he did, whatever he loved."
And that's what many of us I think, sort of, aspire to. And yet, as I look back on those aspirations I realize there's a pretty selfish bent in that, and that sometimes I'm substituting the good life or the American dream for what Jesus is calling the abundant life.
And you know, there can be a religious bent on that as well. For example, the Pharisees whom Jesus was addressing, the religious leaders of Jesus's day had this sort of, religious pursuit where they thought they could get on the good side of God by following the rules in a sort of, perfunctory sort of way.
And even if you call yourself a follower of Jesus, sometimes we, those who follow Jesus have that same sort of bent. Where it's, "Do enough good things. Get on God's good side so that he will think that we live the successful, Christian life."
And yet, I wonder if that's what Jesus had in mind when he said, "I am the gate. I am the access to God?" And today Jesus makes a very bold claim right out from the top and he says clearly, "I am the gate. I am the way to God and the only way to experience abundant, eternal life."
And with that claim Jesus also offers two warnings and two dangers, and those are, the first one is that you can go in the wrong way or the wrong entrance, or you can listen to the wrong voices.
Now, I don't know if you've ever gone through a wrong entrance. I remember a couple years ago I was coming home, it was late at night, it was in the middle of winter and it was snowing, so the roads were snow covered. And as I was going to a road that I thought I was supposed to enter what I ended up doing is going on about 50 yards of yard that was somebody's business and narrowly missing a telephone pole, finally getting to the right entrance, but clearly that was the wrong entrance.
And as I thought about that I thought about where I sometimes find myself as a pastor in hospitals, and normally if you're a pastor as long as you present your credentials you have pretty free reign of a hospital.
And so, oftentimes the receptionists will tell you, "Go up here, go off this elevator in this door." And so, I find myself lost a lot of the times and I'm going through a ton of different entrances, but when I'm going to visit someone who has just had a child, or for example my own son about four years ago. I went to the hospital in Pittsburgh, my wife was dropped off and I was able to get in the first entrance, but I felt like I literally walked about a mile in this hospital late at night until I finally got to the maternity ward.
And what I found out at the maternity ward is that there's only one way in and one way out. It is the most secure room probably in the whole hospital, because of the safety of the families and the children, and the moms.
And in that room there's only one way in. And Jesus says very similarly, "I am the gate." Or rather, "I am the door to get to God. To get to eternity. There is no other way in except through me."
Now, here in chapter 10 there's really no break in chapter nine. And in chapter nine Jesus was talking to the Pharisees. Jesus had just healed a man who was born blind and he healed him on the sabbath and the Pharisees were ticked.
They weren't excited that, "Wow, someone who was blind can now see, but Jesus happened to do it on the sabbath day." And what's ironic is Jesus says that, "That man who can now see, he's not actually the blind one, but you, the teachers of the law, the teachers who were supposed to know the word and to know the father, you are actually the ones who are blind. You are actually the false shepherds and I'm the true shepherds."
And you know, Israel, shepherding was very common in Israel. In fact, many of God's leaders in the Old Testament were shepherds. Abraham, and Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David. And what would often happen in Israel is that there would be one big sheep pen and different flocks could go within the pen.
And so, a shepherd who would know his sheep, oftentimes he would give them names and he would know the individual sheep by their spots, by sometimes the way that they sounded. And what the shepherd would do, is he would get them to the flock and he would take his rod, and he would let each one go in and he would spot out each individual sheep.
And oftentimes at night while there's the different flocks in the sheep pen, the shepherd would sleep and there would be someone who would guard the gate, because there was only one way in and one way out.
And so, if you tried to enter into the sheep pen by another way then the gate, then that means that you probably had problematic ... You probably had bad intentions. Either that you were going to steal the sheep, or to kill the sheep.
And Jesus says very clearly, he says, "I am the gate. I am the entrance. I'm not just one of many entrances, I'm the only entrance into the sheep." Which is ... The sheep pen is really a metaphor for the people of God, and specifically here Jesus is probably referring to Israel, because in verse 16, which we'll read next week, he says, "I have other sheep that are not yet of this fold." Speaking of people who aren't Jews. The Gentiles.
But Jesus says, "If you want access to the people of God, if you want access to the father there's only one way in and that's through me."
And I know for many people that is a really hard teaching. In fact, it sounds arrogant for Christians to be able to claim that there's only one way to God. There are billions upon billions of people on this planet and a Christian and the leader of Christianity, Jesus claims he's the only way?
There's thousands of different religions and belief and so, that just doesn't make sense. And oftentimes when we're struggling with that it's not necessarily because we're really concerned about the billionth person on the other side of the world, but about people that we know, and love, and care about who don't know Jesus. What about them?
And isn't sincerity really the only thing that counts? Now, you know you can go outside of the religious fear then to say that there's only one way. For example, if there's only one way to reach me on my cellphone and my email address, you can only enter certain digits if you actually want to reach me.
And I don't know if you've ever written an email to a group of people and you have about 12 names in a email, and you have one particular name that has just one letter or one number missing, and you get a return to sender? It's very, very frustrating.
But there's only one way to reach a person. And you know, the other thing is, is that often people say sincerity is what should count, but is sincerity all that really counts? Because the reality is, we can be sincere and be sincerely wrong.
For example, I can sincerely believe that the Pittsburgh Pirates are going to turn around their season and make the playoffs this year, but the reality is, is they don't just have a one percent chance to make the playoffs, they have a .1 percent chance to make the playoffs.
So, I can be as sincere as I want, but that probably won't cut it. Similarly, if I have a migraine headache and I think that by pouring poison into my water will cure it, I can be sincere but the reality is, is that poison is probably going to destroy me.
I don't know if you've ever been to an escape room. They have some around Pittsburgh and I went to one a little closer to where I live, and in an escape room if you've never been there, is this room where there's one way in and there's one way out.
And normally you're supposed to go with a group of people, maybe a family, or a work party and you have an hour to look at the clues to be able to escape.
Now, unfortunately for my wife I was her only partner that particular day and I was certainly the weakest link. And so, about the first half hour the creator or the designer, he puts clues on a computer screen that you're supposed to go around the room.
And we got so far until the 10 minute warning came up and we're like, "We're not getting out of this room." And the time clicked down and it finally got to zero, and we didn't escape.
Now, fortunately for us after zero the lock opened and we could get out the door, but I remember telling my wife on the way home how frustrated I was and I can't imagine how frustrated she was to work with me. But I was actually frustrated at the creator and the designer of the room.
Why didn't he make it easier? Why didn't he give more clues? Why didn't he make another trap door that you could have gone out? And then it hit me in that moment and I thought to myself, "As the creator and the designer of the room he can do whatever he wants. He's the creator."
And I think similarly when we have a problem with Jesus saying he's the only way in, if in fact Jesus really is the only way to get to God, if Jesus really is the only way to experience eternal life and abundant life, then rather than it being an arrogant teaching isn't it actually incredibly loving that Jesus would tell you so?
And if in fact that's true, and you have friends and family members, wouldn't it actually be the more loving thing to do to tell them that Jesus really is the way to get to God? Rather than that being arrogant, how loving is that for God to tell us so?
And by the way, from God's perspective if there really is another way to get to him, if there's another way to get to heaven, to experience eternal life how cruel was it of the father to let his one and only son go through what he went through on the cross?
He was tortured, he was beat and not only that, what was worse, but Jesus experienced the full brunt of the wrath of God that was poured out against Jesus on the cross.
And if God could have simply winked it away then what was he doing letting his son go through that? But is it in fact precisely the very reason that Jesus is the only way in, because he's the only uniquely qualified gate?
Because God said very clearly, "If you want to get to me my standard is not just better than most, my standard is holiness and perfection." And God, as holy, and perfect, and righteous as he is, will not ultimately be in the presence of sin.
And so, I can't speak for you, but I can certainly speak for me and that's a problem. And Jesus Christ was the only human who totally lived up to the standard of God. He lived the perfect, obedient life and when Jesus was on the cross he experienced the penalty that God set out for those who sinned, which was death and separation from God.
And not only was Jesus completely human and fully human, but because he was fully God his death and his life can count for all who put their trust in Jesus. Isn't that incredible wisdom for God?
And that's why Jesus is the only one qualified to say, "I am the gate. I am the only way in to God." And not only is there only one way in, but it's not the way of works and earning our way to God. That was the way of the Pharisees, that's the way of most of the world's religions, is that you've got to do more good to earn your way to the father, to heaven.
But now, there's another danger Jesus said and that is, not only is there a wrong entrance, but there is a danger of listening to the wrong voices. And specifically here the wrong voices are the false teachings and the way of the false shepherds. In this case the Pharisees.
In verse eight Jesus says, "There are others claiming to be the door that are thieves and robbers." And the people that Jesus was referring to are actually standing right in front of him.
There were supposed to be people in Jesus's day and back in the Old Testament who were to be the shepherds of God's people. To tell them God's laws and God's ways, and to let them know how to live in right relationship with God. And instead what they were doing was living for their own selfish gain.
And Jesus almost certainly was referring to Ezekiel chapter 34 talking about these shepherds, and this is what he says in Ezekiel 34. He says, "Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves and not the flock. You have not strengthened the weak. You've not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled harshly and brutally."
"My sheep were scattered over the whole earth and no one looked for them. I am against the shepherds and i will hold them accountable for my flock. I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. I will tend them in a good pasture. I will shepherd the flock with justice. You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture and I am your God, declares the sovereign Lord."
And Jesus is comparing himself with the false shepherds to say that, "I am the true shepherd. I'm the one who comes not to bring death, but to bring life. To lead you by still waters. To tend to your soul."
And to tend not just to the water, but Jesus said earlier, he said, "I am the living water and sustenance for your soul." And so, what Jesus wants us to be warned about today is, maybe some false teaching that exists even within the church today.
There's a very prevalent teaching not just in America, but really, around the world that's called ... Referred to as the prosperity gospel. And here it's taught and believed that if you are truly a follower of Jesus you can expect good health and material blessings.
And it's almost as if by your faith you can sort of, force the hand of God. And in this teaching there's an absence of the normalcy of suffering in the Christian life.
And it may be true that if you follow Jesus that you may certainly have a joy-filled and abundant life, but to say that you will never suffer, to say that you might have all of your material things provided for seems to fly in the face of the New Testament.
In fact, if you look at just the life of Jesus himself, sometimes Jesus had no place to lay his head at night. Jesus was a man who was acquainted with suffering and sorrow. The apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament was a man who suffered immensely.
He was stoned, he was beaten, he was shipwrecked, he didn't always have clothes and yet, Jesus says, "Sometimes this is the way of following me. Not just an easy life, but a life where you can expect suffering."
There's teaching today that says that there's a sense of moralism or earning your way to God. That the more good things you do, the closer that you actually become to God, and that God is then required because of your morality to sort of, give you certain things.
And then there's the idea of a legalistic sort of, way that the Pharisees often followed. And this is the idea that you need to do certain practices in order to truly follow Jesus. Maybe it's a certain dress or to observe the sabbath in a certain way, or a list of rules that really, go beyond the depth and the breadth of scripture.
But unlike the false teaching Jesus promises that as the gate he provides salvation and provision. And we see this in verse nine. And by the way, as Jesus has said not only in this teaching, but by his life this is not an easy way. It's the simple way. If you want to enter into the gate you simply have to trust in Jesus, turn and repent from your sin, and trust that Jesus's life and his death, and his resurrection counts for you.
It's actually very simple, but it's not very easy. In fact, following Jesus can be hard. Following Jesus can cost you your family. Following Jesus can cost you material possessions or wealth. It can even cost you your life.
In fact, Jesus talked about a gate in another portion of scripture in Matthew chapter seven when he gave the sermon on the mount. And he said this in verses 13 to 14, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that lead to destruction, and many enter through it."
"But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only few find it." But you can find it through Jesus Christ. Whoever enters through the gate, through Jesus, Jesus says will be saved.
Saved from sin. Saved from the penalty of sin. Saved for eternity. Saved for the abundant life, which Jesus is going to talk about in just a moment.
You can be saved and Jesus also says, "You will be provided for through me." He says, "They will come in and they will go out and find pasture." And this picture's a sort of, security that can be found in Jesus.
And in a Jewish way of life, if things were going well in a country and there was no war a person was free to go inside and outside the gates of the city walls in comfort, and in safety. There was no war.
And so, similarly Jesus says that, "When you are with me I will guard the flock and you are secure to go in and to go out." And by the way, in a sheep pen there's actually a lot of freedom.
A lot of people talk about wanting to know the will of God, like you have to be in the very center of God's will, but you know, a good shepherd doesn't lead the sheep. He leads them into the sheep pen, but he doesn't tell them what individual blades of grass to eat.
But he says, "As long as you're within the pasture in the sheep pen you can eat any pieces of grass." And so, as long as you're trusting in Jesus and you're living according to the word of God there's actually a lot of freedom within the will of God.
But going in and out was an expression that [inaudible 00:22:59] a familiar access. In other words, it was as if you had refrigerator rights. Do you know what refrigerator rights are? If someone comes into your house they don't have to ask you for something to eat or something to drink in the refrigerator, they just go in and get it.
And Jesus says, "When you follow me you have refrigerator rights." In fact, Jesus makes the claim in Revelation that if you follow Jesus you will actually one day sit on Jesus's throne. You belong to God, you belong to the people of God, you have the inheritance of God if you believe and follow Jesus. But it's only through Jesus Christ that this is possible.
And as the gate, not only does Jesus provide salvation and provision, but he provides abundant life and we see that in verse 10. He says that, "The thief comes in to destroy and to kill." And many people look at verse 10 and they say, "Well, that's referring to the enemy of God, to Satan."
And it's very true that Satan is a destroyer, and a murderer, and a liar, but here specifically in this text Jesus is talking about the false shepherds, the people who were supposed to be leading the people of God.
He says, "They have come to steal, kill, and destroy, but I have come that they might experience life and experience it abundantly." The word there is a word in Greek, which is called [Greek 00:24:32] which means life over the top. Life beyond measure. Life that is so full that it's overflowing.
And who doesn't want to live that kind of life? You know, many people today, they look at Christians and they say, "If that's what following Jesus is, then no thank you."
When I look at Christians some people say, "I see boring, I see anti this, see stuffy. That doesn't look like anything that I want to be a part of." But you know, the reality is, is for those who follow Jesus, Christians should be the most joyful people on the face of the planet.
And when I say joyful, I don't necessarily mean happy where everything is just wonderful all the time, but joy goes beyond happiness. Joy is irrespective of your circumstances. But if what Jesus did is true and your eternity is secure, and you've been adopted into his family, and he has given you a peace that goes beyond circumstances, that he saved you from hell and he saved you for a new mission and a new purpose, then Christians ought to be the most joy-filled people on the face of the planet.
And I hope that you know some people like that. In fact, I hope that here at Orchard Hill you do life with some people who have that kind of joy that's just infectious.
I remember a couple years ago I went to Malaysia on a missions trip and Malaysia's actually a Muslim country. And we met some of the most joy-filled Christians that I've ever been around.
These are people who would give up their Saturday's, they would travel for three hours on a non-air conditioned bus up and down non-paved roads into the middle of the jungles of Malaysia.
And they would get to these, what's called a long house, which was about a football sized field house with multiple families living in there. And some of these houses had converted to Christianity.
And when we were in there we didn't know the same language, but we were worshiping with people who, we couldn't speak the same language, but in a way we did.
There was such incredible joy that existed within these Christians who were willing to give up everything to share the good news of Jesus.
And you know, for many of these people the favorite part of the worship service, get this, was the offering. For many of us it's like the plate's coming around and we want to kind of, stay away from that. But for them the offering was the most exciting part of the service. They would get up from their seat, they would stand in line and they would dance down the aisles to get to the front of the altar to give back a portion of what God has given to them.
There was just, an incredible amount of joy. There was a wealthy American Christian who sponsored a child through education and through the gospel, and he wanted to meet the child that he sponsored and he went to the middle of nowhere to get to the top of this mountain to see this hut where this family lived.
And when he got there he was blown away. In fact, he was almost in tears when he realized the poverty that this family lived into. And he said to his translator, he said, "What does this family need? Whatever they need I'll buy it for them."
And the man of the house, he looked at the poster that represented the gospel of Jesus, he looked at his family and he said to the translator, he said through the translator, "We have our family, and we have Jesus Christ, and we can think of nothing else that we need."
That's what Jesus was referring to, I think when he said, "I have come to give you life and life over the top." That the shepherd of the sheep will be with you, "Even when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death my rod and my staff will comfort you."
We can pursue the good life, the successful life, or we can pursue the abundant life. And you know, the problem sometimes with pursuing the good life is that what we think will actually bring us pleasure in the end can actually destroy us.
I don't know if you've ever studied Eskimos, but they have a really unique way of killing wolves. They take a very sharp knife, they put seal fat around it and they stick it into the ground and the wolves love the smell of the seal fat, so they come hungry and they begin licking the seal fat. And as they lick their tongue licks the knife and they begin to bleed, and the wolf loves the smell and the taste of blood and so, he keeps licking to his death. And what in fact he was loving actually ended up killing him.
And I think that can be true for many of us as well, that sometimes the things that we pursue, if it's outside of Jesus, in the end it could actually destroy us.
One person said that, "Science keeps trying to add years to our life, but it's Jesus who can actually add life to our years."
And you know, the call for us today in John chapter 10 is both exclusive and inclusive. It's exclusive in the fact that Jesus says, "I'm the only way in. I'm the only way to get to the people of God. I'm the only way to secure eternity in heaven, to get to the father."
But Christianity is also the most inclusive religion in the world, because it's open for anyone. Jesus said very clearly in verse nine, "Whoever enters through me will be saved."
This abundant life that Jesus offers cannot be bought or earned, but it can be received and it can be received today by dying to yourself, acknowledging your need for Jesus Christ, trusting that what Jesus did on the cross by his dying and then rising from the grave counts for you. For all who believe and give their lives to Jesus.
Jesus says, "This can be your reality." And it doesn't just punch a ticket to heaven, but that's eternal, abundant life. This joy-filled life, this life over the top, that can start today.
And my prayer for every single one of us today is that all of us, wherever we come from would hear the shepherds voice. Would hear the call, the invitation that is open to every single one of us today.
And maybe today for the very first time, maybe you're tired of trying to sort of, earn your way or maybe you're tired of the rat race of trying to achieve the American dream or the good life.
And maybe today Jesus is calling you to lay down your ends and your desires to pick up your cross and to find the good joy, life abundant, life over the top.
You can receive and trust Jesus Christ today. And maybe for those of you who have been walking with Jesus, maybe for a number of years, maybe today you hear this teaching of Jesus and there's something amiss for you, because you say, "I've been walking with Jesus, but that abundant life that Jesus is talking about seems a little bit elusive."
Maybe today you hear the voice and the call of God, and you say, "Lord, I want life over the top." I know that for me sometimes that kind of, joy-filled life is elusive.
But could I just share, just one simple way that you can pursue the abundant life? And that is by pursuing Christ's mission. You know, before Jesus went into heaven and he came back to earth he said, "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. So, therefore I want you to go and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the father, and the son, and the holy spirit. Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded and lo, I am with you always, even until the very end of the age."
Jesus says, "You want to experience abundant, joy-filled life? Become a part of my mission." And by the way, that's the mission of Orchard Hill church. That we would help people find and follow Jesus Christ.
And if you want to experience, not the easy life, but the abundant life Jesus says, "Get on board with my mission." And think about how the spiritual landscape would change in this area. In the Strip District. In Wexford. In Butler County if people joined hands together and said, "I'm in. I want to do everything in my power and my sphere of influence to invite other people to know this joy-filled life. To get to know Jesus and to point other people to know that as well."
Jesus said, "I have come to give you life and to give it to you abundantly." And that life is available for you and I today. Let's pray.
Father God, that's the life that many of us are aspiring to. A life of meaning, significance, purpose, joy. Life over the top. God, many of us have struggles with, "Are you the only way? What does it mean for me to repent of my sin and give you my life? There's a lot of areas in which, maybe I'm not comfortable giving to you."
But father God, I pray today that if there would be anybody whose not yet given their life to you, that maybe today for the first time they've heard your voice, the shepherds voice calling them to lay down their life and to pick up yours.
Father, for those who have been walking with you, maybe for many years, that this abundant life seems elusive. Father God, I pray that maybe today they would seek to hear your voice, that they would seek to be a part of your mission of helping other people find and follow you.
Father, I pray that you would do this all for your sake and we pray this in Jesus's name, amen. Thanks and have a great rest of your weekend.