1[Jesus said:] “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
7So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:1-10 (ESV)
Jesus here makes a distinction. It is a distinction worth noting. It is a distinction worth paying attention to. It’s not for little reason that Jesus says of Himself that He came that they have life and have it abundantly, and that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
In context, Jesus is talking about sheep, sheepfolds, doors, and doorkeepers. He here illustrates for us the difference between true preachers and false preachers, and the center of all true preaching, Christ. Jesus and Jesus alone gives life, and abundant life at that. He is the door through whom heaven is opened (John 14:6). It is through Christ, without your works, that you stand righteous before the living God. Though works are indeed necessary, though not for your salvation, your works don’t make you a Christian.
Here is a truth that stands quite forsaken today, but a truth that is true just the same. No one is a Christian because of what he does. You are not a Christian because of what you do. You are a Christian because of what another has done. You are not a Christian because you do this or that, or because you don’t do this or that. You are a Christian because Christ has cleansed you from your sin, because God has made you a Christian through the waters of Holy Baptism. You are holy child of the living God because Christ shed His blood for you. It is God that pronounces you righteous through His beloved Son. You therefore do the right thing because you are a Christian.
But you are not a Christian because you do the right thing. This would make you a Christian based on what you do, not on Him who shows mercy and bestows grace. If it were true that you were Christians because of what you do, you would have to say that if you did good, then you must be a Christian. If you did bad, then you must not be a Christian.
Here, the confidence is placed on you and what you do, not on God and what He done. The truth is, all of you, myself included, have to say that we have not done good enough and that even the ‘good things’ we have done are tainted with wrong motives, improper attitudes, and selfish reasons. We are not t perfect as God demands.
God says, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:44, 45; 20:7). And we are not. If you were to base Christianity on you, you could not be certain of being in God’s favor. In fact, you would be nothing but uncertain of being in God’s favor.
Doubt is not of faith. Nor is it of God. Surety and confidence before God does not rest on you, but on Christ. And on Him, it is nothing but certain.
Therefore, does St. Paul write, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1), a peace, by the way, which no one can take away from you.
Being a Christian is not based on what you do, but on Christ and what He has done for you. Though you are not holy, Jesus is. His holiness, His righteousness, His goodness is counted as yours through faith in Him. Like Abraham whose faith God counted to him as righteousness as Abraham believed the promise of God when God promised him a son to be born of his own body, though he was old and his wife Sarai was past the age of child bearing, so our faith too is counted as righteousness, as we believe in Christ who died and rose again for our salvation (Genesis 15:1-7).
You cannot escape the truth of your sinfulness. But God has taken care of our sin with His Son’s death on the cross. And Jesus did not stay dead! “The third day He rose again according the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father” (Nicene Creed).
To be Christian means to have Christ as your own, and to have Christ’s righteousness counted as your own. This doesn’t mean that you now don’t have to do the things that you should, or that you can now neglect the needs of your neighbor. God’s grace and mercy toward you doesn’t mean that now there’s nothing for you to do. With regard to your salvation, yes, this is true. Jesus Christ died your death. And as Paul rightly says, “You are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10). Thus, having Christ, you have everything.
And as He has everything and gives to you, so you, having everything, give to others. God doesn’t need your help. Nor does He need your good works. But your neighbor does. As Christ came, “not to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many,” so you too are not here to be served, but to serve, to serve others in their need and to help as you are able with the gifts that God has given us (Matthew 20:28).
It is not the things that you do or don’t do that make you a Christian, but God who makes you a Christian. Though it is right to say that a Christian lives this way or that way, it is not right to say that those things make one a Christian. They don’t. Your works, as good as they might be, do not make you who you are. It is Christ that sanctifies and cleanses your works that they be pleasing to our heavenly Father, and this through faith.
Your true identity is in Christ, the One who makes you whole and acceptable to God. It is what God has done, what He pronounces, that makes you who you are—a saint; forgiven and not condemned; redeemed and not forsaken; a child of the living God, baptized, cleansed, and holy.
Through faith you take hold of these declarations of God and say Amen to what God has said. Though you know yourselves to be prideful, selfish, and corrupt according to the flesh, God speaks His Word. He reveals to you your Savior. He calls you to believe what He says.
“Even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
In another place, it is written, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).
In still yet another passage, God inspired St. John to write, “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).
This is all good news. God has not left you in your sin. Nor does He leave the decision to you. If He did, you would all be lost. None who are dead in their sins can rightly choose Christ. Just as Adam was lifeless apart from the breath of God breathed into Him, so are you lifeless when it comes to the things of God unless God first give you life (Genesis 2:7).
It is as St. Paul writes, “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them” (1 Corinthians 2:14). “But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). God, in His grace, has revealed His Son, Jesus Christ, to you, not as judge and lawgiver, but as Savior and author of eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:9).
Therefore do we say that ‘we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, and kept us in the true faith.’ (Meaning to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed).
Jesus comes to you in Word and in His very body and blood. What you receive here are the gracious gifts of a loving God. This is the blessing of the abundant life promised by the Lord Jesus Christ. This is why He comes, to give you everlasting life. He comes not to destroy, but to save a people for Himself. He comes, not to steal, kill, and destroy, but to protect, to make alive, and to preserve for all eternity.
The abundant life Jesus speaks of is more than anything this world could ever offer. He Himself said it this way, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). The answer to both questions is ‘nothing’.
On the one hand, a man might have everything in this life, yet really have nothing at all. All the riches of the world amount to nothing in eternity.
On the other hand, a man might have nothing in this life, yet in reality, have everything, and all the riches of heaven. The difference is not in the quantity of things that you posses. It is a matter of who has you.
If God has you in Christ and you are His, you have everything, though you don’t see the fullness of all that is yours. Your true treasure is in heaven, where both moth and rust cannot ever destroy. If God doesn’t have you, if you don’t believe in Christ according to His Word, you really have nothing, though you might think that you have everything.
Because God gives us His Word, gives us His Son, there is nothing for you to be in doubt about. Through the waters of Holy Baptism, God worked faith within our hearts and continues to grow that faith through His Word preached and the Holy Supper received. Because He is doing the doing, there can be no doubt that God effects what He will for your good and keeps you in the true faith according to and through His Holy Word. As the Psalmist says, “God is my helper. I will trust in Him and not be afraid.” (Psalm 54:4; 56:11; Isaiah 12:2)
But if doubts ever should arise, know that these do not come from God. Though uncertainty raise its head, don’t listen to it. Don’t entertain such thoughts. Fight against them. Turn away from them, and hold tight to God’s sure Word in Christ. You’re not alone. And when you become tired and weary in your struggle, remember that words of Jesus where He says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
God would have you trust in Him. He would have you deny yourself, and cling alone to Him in hope. His Word does not and will not fail (Joshua 21:45; 23:14). His mercy endures forever (Psalm 118:1, 2, 3, 4, 29; 136:1-26). This is so because God has revealed it by means of His One and only Son. God gives you His Word, that you hang on to Jesus as for dear life and listen to none other, that you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, we have life in His Name (John 20:31).
Only Christ gives you abundant life. There is none other that does. Only Christ gives you a conscience free from blame. Go anywhere else and you won’t have a clear conscience. Only Christ gives you the sure confidence of God’s mercy, and the promise of eternity with Him. Trust in something else, and God’s promise to you is not sure.
God gives to you His Word that you distinguish between what is true from that which is not. Only Jesus leads to life and the green pastures of heaven. All others lead to barren land and eternal death. All who are of Jesus’ flock follow Jesus, for they know His voice. Those who are not of Christ’s sheepfold follow another, and not Christ.
Jesus is the Good Shepherd. To all that follow Him and hear His voice, He gives life that has no end, not a life that is trouble-free and without challenge, but one where Christ is, preserving, sustaining, and saving, now and forevermore.
True preachers preach Jesus according to what the Bible says. All others preach something different. And those who follow Christ as His beloved sheep hear only those who preach Him aright. They won’t listen to strangers, that is, false teachers, for they don’t know his voice. They will only listen to Christ and to His Word, for they love the Lord. And because they do, they seek to be faithful to Him who gives it. Amen.
Filed under: Justification & Sanctification-The Christian Faith & Good Works, Sacraments, Salvation-Soteriology, Sermons | Tagged: Christianity, church, Jesus, Life, preaching, Sacrament of the Altar, temptation, Word |