Tag Archives: Assurance

One Among Many – The Uniqueness of Christ

John 14:5  “Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

I don’t know about you, but one of the things I hate most is not knowing where I am going, and not knowing how I am going to get there.  It gives me that little queasy feeling in the pit of my stomach until I know that I have for sure arrived at my destination.  Even when I am in an unfamiliar building, (you know when you have those quick, turn left five times, go upstairs, turn right, turn left twice, and it’s the 9th door on the right, kind of directions), I don’t like walking around attempting to find where I need to be.  I would rather just know, you know?  It’s even worse when I am in a city or area I’ve never been in and I have to find somebody’s house or conference or something and suddenly my GPS app on my phone just doesn’t want to work.

I can imagine this is how Thomas must have felt when he was listening to Jesus as He was talking to His disciples at the last meal He would share with them.  Jesus had already washed their feet, spoke of service, predicted that one of them would betray Him, given them a commandment to love one another so the world would know whose they were, and had said that Peter would deny him.  All that information and in the midst of it, He told them that He would be leaving, and they could not follow Him directly, but later on they could.  Can you see the question marks in the disciples heads? Or the worry building in their hearts?  Jesus did.

14:1“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.

And, this is where Thomas comes in.  “What??  We know where You’re going? Okay, tell me this, Lord, if we don’t know the destination, how can we know the way?” Jesus’ response is straight to the point, yet so revealing of who He is and how different He is compared to any other religious leader/prophet of any other religion.  14:6 “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  The disciples had been in the presence of the Way for 3 years, and they couldn’t see it for themselves, so Jesus had to spell it out for them.  Jesus is unique in the fact that He is not telling the disciples (and us) to follow His ways, and they will lead to God.  He is saying that He is the Way to God.  How is that so? “7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.  From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.”

I am envious of those people who seem to have an internal compass.  You know those people who have that innate ability to tell you what direction you point to even if you have blindfolded them, walked them into an unfamiliar place, and spun them in circle 20 times.  It takes me a bit to get my bearings, and sometimes I get into a building I can’t tell you which way is north if my life depended on it.  I am not the worst – I could tell you stories of some that I know that have gotten lost in Russellville even after living here for a little while.   I can usually manage to navigate with a map or a GPS, but when left to my own devices, I am lost.  When we are hiking, Selby amazes me because he can figure out where we need to be by how the trail is marked, or by the fact we should be following  a creek or something like that.  We went recently to listen to Tim Ernst, a nature photographer, speak about a recent project.  We were chatting with him afterwards, he was talking about a similar concept, following the lay of the land because of a river – it’s  natural to him. But, he said that he always wants a GPS when he is in flat land down in Southern Arkansas because it’s unfamiliar territory for him – he would be lost without it.

The fact the Jesus is the Way is comforting.  I already have the Way within me because I have already accepted Him.  I already have an internal Eternal GPS, you see.  I don’t have to worry that I will get lost, because I am not left to my own devices.  I am not expected to do it on my own, because He has already done it for me.  That “preparing a place” He was talking about was His death on the cross and then conquering that death in 3 days.  If Christ had a way He had just expected us to follow, it would be about us trying to do our best to follow the path laid out for us like so many other religions are built.  If it were a path to follow in life, it would be so easy for us to get off that path, to wander, to not reach our destination.  How would you measure if you followed it correctly?  The wonderful thing about Jesus – is that just recognizing Him as the Way, understanding Him as the Truth, and accepting Him as the Life – is what makes Christ so different, so perfect in our lives in comparison to anything else out there.  It’s not what we do, not about how we follow a path – It’s who He is and what He has done and what He continues to do through His Spirit.

Jesus spoke about how to live and how to love after He was gone.  The disciples and we are not left to figure out how to do that on our own.  Before Jesus left, He gave a promise and yet another encouragement that I think we should hold dear still today in the midst of turmoil.  “16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. … 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

We have the Way within us because of our acceptance of Christ as Savior and Lord, and we have the Spirit to guide us in the ways of Christ, to help us to discern and to glean from the Word those things we might not otherwise, to gain peace that passes all understanding.  These things we have because of our relationship with Christ, not because  we are on some quest to gain some higher realm.  No list of good works that we do could ever measure up to what He had already done for us.  What we do may make us look good on the outside, but only what Christ did makes us look good on the inside. We know that our position with Christ is secure because of His Grace – because He takes what is broken and makes it beautiful.  What a wonderful picture and what a relief (no queasiness) that I don’t have to do it on my own…and it makes me wonder why I don’t tell more people about what He’s done for me…

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Forever Trusting – The Good Shepherd

John 10:14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”…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.”

What a fitting description of what Jesus is to us – the Good Shepherd.  Not just a shepherd, but a good one.  If you take a look at another very important shepherd passage – Psalm 23 – you’ll see all the things that a Good Shepherd does for His sheep.

First he provides for the sheep’s needs -” 1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul.”   There are many things we require as human beings that we can rely on in Christ – if we will only have faith that He will take care of us.  That is not to say that we will not have rough times or that we will have everything that our little hearts desire, but if we will pray to be in His will, God will be faithful to supply our needs.  I have seen it way too many times in my own life to not believe that.  Sometime our needs are not necessarily tangible, but more so in the mental, emotional, or rest categories.  God can supply these also – I have to admit that I have more trouble trusting that I can let go of things and allow God to take over and resolve them.  The Apostle Paul believed this concept wholeheartedly, even when he was in prison, awaiting trial, he still believed and claimed it for the Philippian church: Philippians 4:19 “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus”. (emphasis mine)

The Good Shepherd also provides direction -“3b He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”  I don’t know how much you know about sheep, but from what I have been told, they are not the smartest animal in the world, and I am sure no matter how well a path is marked, they will wander off.  Selby and I like to hike, and we have several books on hiking, and when we are going to an area that is unknown to us, we like to do research on the area so we are somewhat familiar with it before we go.  These books and the research on the trails often give descriptions of the trails, give landmarks to go by and often tell what color blaze that trail will be marked with.  But sometimes it seems, even with all the information we are armed with, when we get to the trailhead, it is hard to see where to start because the trail is not well-worn.  It therefore is easy to get off the trail, wander off and end up not where we expected to be, only to have to reassess where we are so we can attempt to get back on the trail.  Thank goodness for the colored blazes – often times we find these when we are back tracking and find ourselves on the trail again.  Thank goodness for the Holy Spirit and the Spirit breathed Word of God.  We have the Holy Spirit within us guiding us on a daily basis if we will just let Him.  He will gently guide us on the right path.  Sometimes we need a good whack on the flank to remind us where the right path is, so don’t be surprised if that gentle direction changes to stern correction.  We also have the Bible as our guide-book – showing us the way, with directions on the right way to live and also warnings to keep us from the dangers of this world.  But, a guide-book with directions  and warnings is no help if it lies gathering dust on a shelf.  Immerse yourself in it – there are so many things you can glean about the path and also about the Shepherd Himself.

Another function of the Good Shepherd is that He protects and comforts us: Take a look at Verse 4:” Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”  What imagery!  The valley of the shadow of death – I don’t know about you, but when I really picture this, it gives me goosebumps – that watching-a-suspense-movie-ready-for-something-to-jump-out-at-me feeling.  It is not a warm and fuzzy, fear-no-evil kind of feeling.  But just picture it again, with Christ, the one who died and rose again – literally conquered death – walking right beside you. Kind of like having IronMan, Captain America, Thor, and Hulk all walking around you – but better. This picture makes the goosebumps and willies go away.  The shepherd’s rod and staff have important functions.  The rod was a kind of club that was mainly used for protection from wild animals or from human thieves.  It also could be used to guide from afar if the shepherd saw the sheep wandering – it would be thrown to send the sheep running in the correct direction.  It could also be thrown to keep the sheep from dangers such as cliff areas or poisonous plants they should not eat.  The staff was a long, slender stick that usually had a crook at the end.  It was for guiding sheep and for aiding sheep in trouble by using the crook end to lift them out of danger.  These tools had other functions also, but you get the idea of how important they were to the welfare of the sheep.  He guides us and protects us.  He corrects us and brings us back into the fold even if we wander – because we are never “out of His hand”.

In the earlier John passage, Christ said; “I lay my life down for the sheep.”  Do you think any other shepherd on earth could make this claim?  If an earthly shepherd did this, then his flock would surely meet its doom.  But our shepherd – the Good Shepherd is one like no other – one whose sacrifice saved us and gives us the assurance of eternal life.  One that allows us to have faith that nothing can keep us from the love of God.

Romans 8:35-39 restates this assurance: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,“For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

We have confidence in this “Deut. 31:8 It is the Lord who goes before you. He will be with you; he will not leave you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”.  A shepherd was an occupation like none other – the majority of their lives was lived with their sheep –  Watching over them, providing for them, protecting them, living among them.  Their lives, their welfare was his responsibility.  His presence was calming for the sheep, because they knew him – they knew his voice, and knew that he was there and would not leave them.  And we too, having heard the voice of Christ can have the assurance that He will never leave us or forsake us.

Don’t you just want to thank Him for that?


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