I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”
Searcher of hearts,
It is a good day to me when thou givest me
a glimpse of myself;
Sin is my greatest evil,
but thou art my greatest good;
I have cause to loathe myself,
and not to seek self-honour,
for no one desires to commend his own dung-hill.
My country, family, church
fare worse because of my sins,
for sinners bring judgment in thinking
sins are small,
or that God is not angry with them.
Let me not take other good man as my example,
and think I am good because I am like them,
For all good men are not so good as thou desirest,
and not always consistent,
do not always follow holiness,
do not feel eternal good in sore affliction.
Show me how to know when a thing is evil
which I think is right and good,
how to know when what is lawful
comes from an evil principle,
such as desire for reputation or wealth by usury.
Give me grace to recall my needs,
my lack of knowing thy will in scripture,
of wisdom to guide others,
of daily repentance, want of which keeps thee
of the spirit of prayer, having words
of zeal for thy glory, seeking my own ends,
of joy of thee and thy will,
of love to others.
And let me not lay my pipe
too short of the fountain,
never touching the eternal spring,
never drawing down water from above.
—The Valley of Vision, Arthur Bennett, editor (Banner of Truth Trust, 2002).
The Gospel According to John
“I Am the Good Shepherd”
10 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand what those things were which He had been saying to them.
7 So Jesus said to them again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9 I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”
The chapter we have now begun is closely connected with the preceding one. The parable before us was spoken with direct reference to the blind teachers of the Jewish Church. The Scribes and Pharisees were the people our Lord had in view, when He described the false shepherd. The very men who had just said “We see,” were denounced with holy boldness, as “thieves and robbers.”
We have, for one thing, in these verses, a vivid picture of a false teacher of religion. Our Lord says that he is one who “enters not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbs up some other way.”
The “door,” in this sentence, must evidently mean something far more than outward calling and commission. The Jewish teachers, at any rate, were not deficient in this point: they could probably trace up their orders in direct succession to Aaron himself. Ordination is no proof whatever that a man is fit to show others the way to heaven. He may have been regularly set apart by those who have authority to call ministers, and yet all his life may never come near the door, and at last may die nothing better than “a thief and a robber.”
The true sense of the “door” must be sought in our Lord’s own interpretation. It is Christ Himself who is “the door.” The true shepherd of souls is he who enters the ministry with a single eye to Christ, desiring to glorify Christ, doing all in the strength of Christ, preaching Christ’s doctrine, walking in Christ’s steps, and labouring to bring men and women to Christ. The false shepherd of souls is he who enters the ministerial office with little or no thought about Christ, from worldly and self-exalting motives, but from no desire to exalt Jesus, and the great salvation that is in Him. Christ, in one word, is the grand touchstone of the minister of religion. The man who makes much of Christ is a pastor after God’s own heart, whom God delights to honour. The minister who makes little of Christ is one whom God regards as an impostor,—as one who has climbed up to his holy office not by the door, but by “some other way.”
The sentence before us is a sorrowful and humbling one. That it condemns the Jewish teachers of our Lord’s time all men can see. There was no “door” in their ministry. They taught nothing rightly about Messiah. They rejected Christ Himself when He appeared,—but all men do not see that the sentence condemns thousands of so-called Christian teachers, quite as much as the leaders and teachers of the Jews. Thousands of ordained men in the present day know nothing whatever about Christ, except His name. They have not entered “the door” themselves, and they are unable to show it to others. Well would it be for Christendom if this were more widely known, and more seriously considered! Unconverted ministers are the dry-rot of the Church. “When the blind lead the blind” both must fall into the ditch. If we would know the value of a man’s ministry, we must never fail to ask, Where is the Lamb? Where is the Door? Does he bring forward Christ, and give Him his rightful place?
We have, for another thing, in these verses, a peculiar picture of true Christians. Our Lord describes them as sheep who “hear the voice of a true Shepherd, and know His voice;” and as “sheep who will not follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they know not the voice of strangers.”
The thing taught in these words is a very curious one, and may seem “foolishness” to the world. There is a spiritual instinct in most true believers, which generally enables them to distinguish between true and false teaching. When they hear unsound religious instruction, there is something within them that says, “This is wrong.” When they hear the real truth as it is in Jesus, there is something in their hearts which responds, “This is right.” The careless man of the world may see no difference whatever between minister and minister, sermon and sermon. The poorest sheep of Christ, as a general rule, will “distinguish things that differ,” though he may sometimes be unable to explain why.
Let us beware of despising this spiritual instinct. Whatever a sneering world may please to say, it is one of the peculiar marks of the indwelling of the Holy Ghost. As such, it is specially mentioned by St. John, when he says, “Ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” (1 John ii. 20.) Let us rather pray for it daily, in order that we may be kept from the influence of false shepherds. To lose all power of distinguishing between bitter and sweet is one of the worst symptoms of bodily disease. To be unable to see any difference between law and gospel, truth and error, Protestantism and Popery, the doctrine of Christ and the doctrine of man, is a sure proof that we are yet dead in heart, and need conversion.
We have, lastly, in these verses, a most instructive picture of Christ Himself. He utters one of those golden sayings which ought to be dear to all true Christians. They apply to people as well as to ministers. “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture.”
We are all by nature separate and far off from God. Sin, like a great barrier-wall, rises between us and our Maker. The sense of guilt makes us afraid of Him. The sense of His holiness keeps us at a distance from Him. Born with a heart at enmity with God, we become more and more alienated from Him, by practice, the longer we live. The very first questions in religion that must be answered, are these: “How can I draw near to God? How can I be justified? How can a sinner like me be reconciled to my Maker?”
The Lord Jesus Christ has provided an answer to these mighty questions. By His sacrifice for us on the cross, He has opened a way through the great barrier, and provided pardon and peace for sinners. He has “suffered for sin, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.” He has opened a way into the holiest, through His blood, by which we may draw near to God with boldness, and approach God without fear. And now He is able to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him. In the highest sense He is “the door.” No one “can come to the Father” but by Him.
Let us take heed that we use this door, and do not merely stand outside looking at it. It is a door free and open to the chief of sinners: “If any man enter in by it, he shall be saved.” It is a door within which we shall find a full and constant supply for every need of our souls. We shall find that we can “go in and out,” and enjoy liberty and peace. The day comes when this door will be shut forever, and men shall strive to enter in, but not be able. Then let us make sure work of our own salvation. Let us not stand tarrying outside, and halting between two opinions. Let us enter in and be saved.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.