It is sometimes an intimidating thing to go visit someone’s home for the first time. One of the decisions I always face is this one: which door should I go to? I went to the back door of an older woman’s home once and walked into a kitchen where the woman had hung all her underwear to dry! She told me no one ever came to her back door. At other times I have gone to a front door and was told, “No one ever uses the front door.” Generally, I try to call ahead and try to remember to ask which door to use.
In the passage before us Jesus tells us that He is the Gate or the Door. He is the entry point to a relationship with God. Notice a couple of quick things:
First, a door is necessary. Jesus seems to be alluding to the door of a sheepfold. The Sheep would be kept in a walled area with only one way in or out. Suppose however that you had this nice walled in area but there was no door. How would you get in? Imagine being in the freezing cold and seeing a warm house ahead of you. You approach the house to gain entrance but there is no door! There are windows and you can see a fireplace inside but there is no way to get into the dwelling! A door is required. If we want to enter into a relationship with God, we need a way in.
Second, Notice that Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep.” There are certainly many false ways presented to us. There are those who encourage us to
- Enter through working hard
- Enter through generosity (giving money)
- Enter through social activism
- Enter through Sincerity (the idea that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are sincere).
- Enter through embracing various systems and ideas
What we need to realize is that people who tell us that there is a way other than Jesus are thieves and robbers. This is what Jesus calls them. It may seem rather harsh when he says, ‘the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” However, those who lead us astray are actually leading us to our destruction. They are robbing our chance for a true relationship with God. Jesus is the only gate.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus said,
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. [Matthew 7:13-14]
Jesus says there are lots of options out in the world but He is the only true gate. He is the only way of salvation and new life. Many, of course, reject these strong words of Jesus. They say it is not tolerant to say such things. Quickly let me remind you of how Jesus uniquely backs up this claim.
1. Jesus alone was sinless. Jesus had the audacity to say, “Which of you can prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:48)
2. Jesus taught as One who had authority unlike the other teachers. When Jesus taught there was a sense of power and authenticity to His words.
3. He had power over disease, demons, and nature. Jesus healed people, he cast out demons from those who were possessed, he calmed the storm, walked on water, and multiplied the loaves and fishes.
4. He alone rose from the dead.
Jesus not only tells us that He IS the gate, but he tells us why we should enter by this gate.
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:9-10)
Security…”He shall be saved”
The question we naturally ask is: “saved from what?” You might see that one of the text notes at the bottom of your Bible says that the word could also be translated, “kept safe”. “The word “saved” was used to for a person had recovered from severe illness, come through a bad storm, survived a war, or was acquitted at court.” So from what is Jesus saying we will be saved?
First, we will be saved from God’s wrath. The Bible teaches us that God is holy and we are not. As a result, our relationship with God is that of an adversary rather than a friend. As you read through the Bible and the records of history we catch a little glimpse of the fierceness of God’s anger. God does not and will not compromise with evil. Since we are sinful people, we are in the sights of God’s wrath.
Jesus, as the door, took the wrath of God that we deserved, upon Himself, so that we might know forgiveness and mercy. His death was not the sad end to a good man’s life . . . it was the willing sacrifice of the Son of God in our place. When we put our trust and confidence in Him we are made holy through Him. We are made sons of God rather than enemies of God. As the sheep needed salvation from the wolves and thieves who sought to get them, so we need salvation from the God whose standards we have ignored.
A person needing a heart transplant can only do so much to help himself. He can take medicine, he can limit activity, and he can look pretty good for awhile. However, somewhere along the line, he will require the sacrificial gift of another in order to be made well. Someone else with a healthy heart has to die, so that he might live.
Each of us suffers from spiritual heart disease. We can try to live better lives, we can study hard, we can look good for awhile, but in order to truly be healed, we too need a sacrificial gift. We need someone spiritually healthy who is willing to give their life to take away our disease of sin. That’s what Jesus does for us. Apart from Christ, we have no hope.
Second, we are saved from the thieves and robbers who seek to destroy us. We live in hostile territory. There are many forces trying to move us in the opposite direction of Christ. These forces appeal to ego, our conformity to the world, and our desire for immediate gratification. There was an old song that had a simple refrain: “You’ve Gotta Serve Somebody.” If you are not serving the Lord Jesus Christ, you are serving something else,
- The desires that rage within you
- The friends who make demands on you
- The philosophers who seek to enlist your discipleship
- The substances you ingest
- The employer who seeks to exploit you
- The advertiser who wants to take your money
Jesus breaks the power that these things have over our lives. In a sense, Jesus saves us from ourselves. We all tend to be self-absorbed, superficial, and short-sighted. Jesus changes our outlook and he enlarges our perspective.
Third, we are saved from the futility of life. Those who live believing that someday they will simply die and the story will be over, are people filled with a sense of futility. They live wild and dangerous lives as a way of distracting themselves from the meaningless nature of life. The mentality is pretty simple: I might as well indulge in as much of this life as I can, because this is all there is.
Christ changes our perspective. Through the life that Christ gives us and the sure hope we have through the Resurrection, our perspective changes. We look at life as a prelude to something more. Suddenly this life is no longer meaningless but “right now” actually counts forever. Our decisions are different. Now we will sometimes forego some indulgence in the present in anticipation of something better in the life to come.
Liberty…”He shall go in and out”
It is an odd contrast that the entering through the door (who is Jesus) actually sets us free. This is just the opposite of what most people believe. They believe the moment you commit to Christ, your life is basically over. You can’t have any fun, and you have to spend all your time in self-denial or at church.
Nothing could be further from the truth. When we enter through the true door what we find is true freedom.
A sheep that escapes the Shepherd and is out wandering on the mountain might believe that it has perfect liberty. However, that liberty would not be so cherished when facing the wolves without any defense. In truth, the sheep would feel a greater sense of freedom when it is enjoying life under the watchful eye of the Shepherd. Freedom comes less from doing “whatever we want” and more from being to live without fear or anxiety.
Charles Spurgeon wrote that as believers we now have,
liberty to go to bed at night, and to feel that it does not matter whether you wake up here or not; liberty to go out into the world, and feel that losses and crosses cannot happen to you without your Father’s permission, and that you will have grace to bear them; liberty to go wherever you please on the errands of God, always protected by his almighty power. Do not imagine that walking with God, as Enoch did, means a narrow and confined life.
As believers we enjoy a great sense of freedom because we know we are secure. We are like children who can play, pretend, and enjoy life because they trust mom and dad to take care of the other stuff. As followers of Jesus Christ we now live under the watchful eye of our Father in Heaven. Because He is so capable, we can relax and enjoy the journey.
Provision . . . “He shall find pasture”
The last benefit is that those who enter at the door will find pasture. In other words, we will find what we need. God will provide for us. Our Lord will provide an inner calm and satisfaction. He will provide what we need to grow and mature. He will provide for our needs. He will give his angels charge over us. He will give us strength for the hard times. He will give us direction through His Word and the Holy Spirit.
When we come to the Father through Jesus Christ we discover that God will supply all our needs . . . most of which we were formerly unaware of. We will discover security, hope, peace, true love, forgiveness, compassion, and purpose. The life that used to be driven by the mad search for that elusive “something” is now a life that is filled with the enjoyment of that very something that you were looking for.
The message of Christmas is not: “come to Jesus, or else!” It is the simple message: Come to one who can set you free, make you alive, and lead you home. The world is mistaken. Christianity is not about judging everyone else; it is about becoming a recipient of grace. It’s not about keeping rules; it’s about having direction in our lives. It’s not about fear; it’s about hope. It’s not just about the future; it’s about eternal life that begins the very moment we believe.
It’s important that we see two final things about what Jesus said. First, there is a condition to these benefits. The condition is that we must enter. It is not enough to stand outside and merely look in. It’s not enough to be friendly with those who are on the inside. We have to actually “enter”.
I’ve enjoyed following the story of Paul Potts. Potts is from England and he entered the “You’ve Got Talent” contest held there. His video clip is one of the most frequently watched clips on the Internet site YouTube. Potts, who used to be a cellular phone salesman, announced to the judges (one of which was American Idol judge, Simon Cowell) that he had come to sing Opera. The judges gave each other a look that said, “O brother!” Potts began to sing and immediately the judges knew they were hearing something extra special. The crowd began to cheer. The judges applauded and smiled, and a star was born. Potts went on to win the contest and his first album went immediately to number 1.
Paul Potts almost didn’t enter the contest. He admitted that he lacked confidence in himself. I read that his entry into the contest was actually decided by a coin flip.
Imagine how different the story would read if Paul Potts had decided to stay home? What would have happened if he had chosen just to watch the show on television? Or what if he decided to just buy a ticket to the show? What if Paul Potts was content to simply say to himself, “You know, I think I could do well in this competition?” He may have enjoyed the show, he may have been amused, but his life would have been unchanged. His life changed because he entered the competition.
In much the same way, you can feel good about Jesus; you can cheer for Him; you can even attend the place where his name is celebrated; and you will hopefully find it to be an enjoyable experience. However, you will not experience the life transforming power of Christ until you actually enter into a relationship with Him and truly become one of His followers. He cannot work in you until you fully and finally cast your lot with Him.
The obvious question is this: Are you on the sidelines or have you entrusted yourself to His Lordship? Are you dreaming of a relationship with God or have you entered into that relationship with God? I encourage you to take that step of faith. Dare to put it all on the line with Him. Trust that He will forgive your sin and make you new. If you do, your life will change. You will discover God’s security, freedom and His sufficient provision for our lives. If you refuse to follow Him, you can only watch from the sidelines and wonder what might have been.
Notice that Jesus said (v. 9) that “whoever enters through me will be saved.” The invitation is an open invitation. It is not restricted to the “religious folks” or the people who vote Republican. It’s not for any particular race or income level. This invitation is not even restricted to those who have attained some standard of behavior. It is for anyone who will enter the door.
Go back to Bethlehem with me. Take a good look at the events of Jesus entry into the world. What do you really see? You see a baby born in humble circumstances, you see young parents who don’t have much money. You see common laborers (Shepherds) admiring the baby. Angels hover overhead. Later, you see this child honored by the educational elite (Magi) and pursued by a King who feels threatened. It’s a picture of contrasts: earth and heaven, rich and poor, those who were revered and those who were often dismissed, young and old, the powerful and the seemingly powerless.
I think the Christmas story was intended to send a message: God was intending to reach out to all the people: the scarred and the decorated; the shunned and the celebrities; the weak and the strong; Jesus came into the world not only to invite me to be His follower . . . He also came to invite you.
There are no prerequisites other than a willing heart that wants to be made new. He doesn’t demand that you first become a better person (he’ll give you the Holy Spirit to help you do that); He doesn’t require you to pay for the wrongs you have done (that’s what the cross was for); He doesn’t demand that you master certain facts (He promises to guide us into all truth). All you need to do is come to the door (which is Jesus) and enter in. There is nothing to feel intimidated about. So, what are you waiting for?