The Art of Living
Simon Guillebaud in his book For What It's Worth, made this statement, "There are so many people in the world, who just sit there…who just sit there." That's nothing new. Even the ancients would say, in fact an ancient sage warned, "Fear not that your life shall come to an end, but rather that it should never have a beginning." The great fear is not that you're going to die, but that you never lived.
It's no coincidence that Jesus brings us this monologue about the Good Shepherd here in John, chapter 10, today, in a message that I want to call…The Art of Living because that's exactly what He's battling. He's battling people, religious leaders who have found themselves trapped in a system that is lifeless, that is brutal, that is oppressive to one another, and does not bring out the life that God intended, really, from way back in the Garden of Eden, and through life in Christ for everyone to have.
It's after the encounter with the blind man that we come to John, chapter 10, and it is in keeping with the fact that this man has been cast out of the synagogue, Jesus has found this young blind man. He has confessed his faith in Christ. He has worshipped Him openly. The Pharisees have responded to Jesus because Jesus says, "You have sight, but there are those who are still blind." They say, "Are we blind also?" Jesus said, "You're problem is not that you are blind to the truth. Your problem is that you've rejected the truth, and that's what has made you blind."
In light of that, Jesus wants, once again, to reach out to them, to reach out to you and to me as He uses this metaphor of a Good Shepherd, this metaphor of a good doer. The idea of good here is the word kalos in the Greek. It's more than just kind, it's also noble; true; the correct; the right one. Jesus is that authentic Shepherd is what He is going to be saying.
The rabbis and the Pharisees pretend to be shepherds, but they become like the shepherds in Ezekiel 34 and Ezekiel 37 when God was prophesying through Ezekiel about shepherds who ate the fat of the sheep, who took the healthiest sheep and killed them and used their skin for their clothing, but they never raised up any more healthy sheep. Because of their selfishness, they took advantage of the fat of the crop, but never fed the lean of the crop. They were like the priests who were enjoying the benefits of the priesthood, but were never teaching the people how to live. God said, "I'm not happy with those shepherds in Ezekiel."
Jesus is saying here, "There are true shepherds and there are false shepherds." This man, this blind man, he has just been cast out of the synagogue, but really it's by false shepherds. It's by thieves and robbers. So he uses the metaphor of a sheep pen where a family would bring the different flocks of sheep into their courtyard. They would keep the sheep there so that they would be protected. They might even have a hireling. They might hire a shepherd to watch over those sheep so that wolves or wild dogs could not come in and take them. The owners of the sheep would come to the front gate. The gatekeeper would open the door. They would go in. They knew their sheep by name. They would call them. Their sheep would come and they would follow them.
But a thief and a robber were ones who would try to sneak in over the fence, who would come in some other way. He didn't come in in an authentic way. He came in some artificial way. His purpose, Jesus tells us, is simply to destroy…to destroy. Oh there have been many false shepherds in our world. Our world seems to always follow the siren call of false shepherds whether it's Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot. There are always those in the world who are promising grandiose things, but the ends of their roads are destructions. The ends of their roads, the ends of Mao Tse Tong's promises are poverty and impoverishment, imprisonment, destruction.
Jesus stands opposed to all of those false philosophies of the world. He offers everyone here, not a dull, drab listless life, but life to the full, abundant life. Join with me in John, chapter 10, Jesus says, "'Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.'
Jesus used this illustration, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. Then Jesus said to them again, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.'"
Jesus said all the others are taking away life. I have come to give life. All the others are making promises, but the end result is destruction, but I am coming that you might have life. The art of living, my friends, is first of all hearing the voice of the true Shepherd. It is knowing the voice of Christ, knowing the voice of a Holy God who loves you and who desires to give you life to the full. That's literally what it means in the Greek, not just a life where you're breathing, and not just eternal life after you die, but life to the full right now. Not the false promises of full life that so many in the world who are nothing more than thieves and robbers who are out to get your money, who are out to get your life, who are out to get your place in life, they promise all of these things but they don't ever deliver. But Jesus says, "I came that you might have abundant, full life when you hear My voice."
Oh His sheep are hearing His voice. This blind man hears His voice. This tax collector over here hears His voice. There are those who have seen the end results of the world that religion had to offer, and now they're hearing the voice of the Shepherd and they're following the Shepherd. They're not wanting to follow the voice of the thieves and robbers, and as a result, they're learning the art of living.
The art of living begins by following His voice, by being attuned to the voice of Jesus, by listening to Him speak to you when you read His Word, when you pray to Him, being able to pause and stop and let His influence come to you and direct you and lead you. You must be able to hear the voice of the Shepherd through the den of all the other noises that are out there. Boy, it's a noisy world we live in. There are many philosophies that are constantly calling to you from the simple commercials on TV to books to friends and peer pressures. Always there are those that are tugging at you at one direction and the other. You need to learn to hear the voice of the true Shepherd. When you do, well first of all, you'll know His voice. That's the promise Jesus has.
He says, "They know My voice. They know that it's not a false voice. They know that it's real." Then He says, "They follow Me, and when they follow Me, I give them full life, rich life. I come that they might have life and have it to the full." Everyone who listens to Jesus' voice, this promise, this art of living comes.
You know a few weeks ago as the New Year rolled around, I get those mailings that come in the mail. I received one advertisement wanting me to subscribe to a magazine that was promising to give me expert tips and advice on everything I could possible need to feel better, to feel healthier, to be happier, to know all of the holistic solutions to all the ailments and the creaks and the problems I was having. People claiming, in this magazine, "Everything I ever wanted to know was there if I would just subscribe to it."
Maybe you've made New Year's resolutions this year to exercise more, eat less, eat healthier food, drink more water, whatever it may be just to try to make your life happier and healthier, and those are all wonderful things. They're all worthwhile because certainly God wants our bodies to physically be healthy so that we can serve Him, and live a healthy life, and make the most of the life He has given us. But at the same time, life is so much more than just those things. Life is so much more than just the physical. Life involves so much more than just the temporal.
Back in Deuteronomy 30, a thousand years earlier (2,000 years earlier) Moses on the planes of Moab, giving his farewell address to the children of Israel before they followed Joshua across the Jordan River into the Promised Land, in Deuteronomy 30, beginning in verse 15, he says, "See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil, in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, and to keep His commandments, His statutes, and His judgments, that you may live and multiply; and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you go to possess. But if your heart turns away so that you do not hear, and are drawn away, and worship other gods and serve them, I announce to you today that you shall surely perish; you shall not prolong your days in the land which you cross over the Jordan to go in and possess.
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live that you may love the Lord your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them."
Imagine being promoted into the Promised Land, but yet not choosing God and having your days cut short, not choosing to obey Him, and finding that your life does not have the abundance that the Promised Land had offered. Oh the Promised Land was what everybody in that great throng of Israel dreamed of and fantasized about and longed for, a land flowing with milk and honey, houses that were already built and vineyards that were already growing and the ability to just walk in and, by God's power, to conquer and to take it for themselves. No longer to wonder in the wilderness, but to be able to possess fruitful and fertile land. It was every Israelite's dream, but if they marched into that land without the conviction that God loved them and that the best for their life was to love and serve God, well Moses said, "I set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, you need to choose life, but you can choose the other."
You know we live in a land of plenty. We live in a promised land. We live in a land of tremendous opportunity. We live in a land of almost unbridled freedom it seems at times. Yet so many people, that writer said, just sit there. Jesus' life that He offers you as salvation, my friend, is not a life of just hanging on until Jesus comes. It's not a life of sitting there. It's not a life of misery. How many people do you know that are just miserable people? They're just always negative. They're Christians, so called, and yet it seems that they just go from one problem to the next problem, from one disaster to the next disaster. Their focus is always on the difficult and the negative. It's almost as though it would be wrong for them to be happy, to be positive, to see the good that God has for them.
Listen, God desires a life for us, of joy, one of fulfillment, one of great pleasure in this life and of great achievement in this life, and to just sit there, to just sit there is to sell yourself so short. To be so afraid all the time that you're going to die and as such, to never ever life. To never do what Christ has called you to do. Listen, here is this blind man, and by religion's standards, he is okay. He's blind. He's begging. That's his lot in life, and that's what he needs to do. But when he gets up and he sees and he begins to testify of this One who gave him sight, well that's what upsets everybody because they see in him somebody that, as long as he's never making it in life, then it makes me look good. I don't feel as bad. But when he starts to make it in life, when he starts to have a smile, when he starts to have a skip to his step, when he begins to see the joy that Christ has laid before him, well sure there are those who want to drag him down. There are those who simply want to cast him out.
Yes, your friends may change. When you choose abundant life, when you choose that when you wake up in the morning you're going to give this day to Jesus, you say, "Jesus, today is Your day. I want You to show me today what You want out of me today. I want You to show me today the blessings that you have in store for me today." When that happens, when you choose abundant life, when you choose to listen to God, not to the negativity that this world is so filled with, that's so noisy with, oh Jesus says, "You have abundant life."
Jesus came not to take our life away from us. Oh it's a sad day when you see salvation, when you see church, when you see Christian friends as having life taking away, when you need to see the reality that in Christ is real life. Oh the things that the drugs are trying to trick you into having, the things that the affairs were trying to trick you into having, all the pleasures that all of the escapes of the world with all of their expensive vacations and everything are trying to achieve, you can have in Christ. You can have that joy, you can have that fulfillment, and you can have fun in Christ. You can enjoy life, you can laugh, you can find that it is the fulfillment of every heart's desire. Jesus says, "That's what a Good Shepherd does."
He doesn't call you out to take you along the side of the road to eat briars. That's not a good shepherd. No, the shepherd and only the shepherd…the sheep don't know this…but the shepherd knows where the good grass is. He knows where the good pastures are. He knows where the still waters are. He knows where He can lead you and you can find fulfillment in life. Oh it may not be what these false shepherds are saying you had to do to be happy, but it's what God knows will make you joyful. It may not be the same goals that the world would have you to set, but they're goals that God will enable you to achieve.
He is the Good Shepherd, and when you choose Him, and you go in and out with Him, He serves as the good door, and by the good door means that through Him is the access to all of this good, abundant life. If you're saying here this morning, "Boy, I'd like to have that. I'd love to quit chasing after the world's dreams and I'd love to be able to find what the meaning is for my life. I'd love to find the purpose and the plans for my life," well it's through the door of Christ that you find that.
He says it in a different way over in John 14. He says, "I am the way, the truth and the life and no man comes to the Father except by Me." Well here what Jesus is saying is, "I am the door to abundant life. When you use Me, when you come through Me, when you determine to make Me the priority of your life and to follow My commands, and choose life, as Moses said, then you're going to find that you can go in and out and have good pasture. You're going to find that there is joy."
I know you're skeptical. I know that there are those of you here today who wonder if this could really be true. My friends, give God a chance. Trust Jesus. Not partly, but as your shepherd. That means follow Him. Choose to follow Him, to listen to Him, to obey Him. He may have been saying, "I want to make you one of My sheep," and He tells us that He wants us to publically confess Him as your shepherd. You've been reluctant to do that because you're not quite willing to go through the door yet. Today, He's calling you to go through the door. Receive Him as your Shepherd, as your Savior, and follow Him. Receive the abundant life that He has to offer.
Choosing life is a personal choice, one that God is asking of you. Our lives look differently. God has different plans for all of us. I came across an article, a remarkable true story of a coach named Charlie Wedemeyer from California. Charlie coached a high school football team to the only state championship that school has ever won. One day, Zig Ziglar, the author, motivational speaker, had heard about Charlie Wedemeyer and he came to one of his practices that he was having with his team.
As the two of them were carrying on a conversation from the sidelines during that football practice, while they were doing that, an assistant coach would run up and ask Charlie questions about the elements of attacking in a certain defensive strategy or how to handle a certain offensive play, and without hesitation, Charlie, who had been watching intently during his conversation with Zig Ziglar would spell out the specifics that he should follow.
A few moments later, another coach came with a question, and Charlie had an answer for him. Zig Ziglar noted that the amazing thing was that the only parts of Charlie's body he could move were his eyes and mouth because Charlie suffered from Lou Gehrig's disease, which had affected him so much that no sound came from his mouth. His wife Lucy was his interpreter. She read his lips and effectively delivered the message. Yet, Charlie had the most remarkable attitude and sense of humor.
Not only did Charlie coach football, but he traveled and spoke regularly to people in churches and schools and businesses and prisons. He and Lucy communicate a powerful message of faith, hope, courage, love and a never-give-up spirit, all of which are ingredients to abundant life, by the way. Charlie was Hawaii's athlete of the decade in the 60s and he has an autobiography called Charlie's Victory. He's one of only a few inspirational speakers who can't speak. Charlie lives life to the full despite his circumstances. So can you and so can I.
Our circumstances, our age, our creeks, our complaints, our finances don't keep us from living the life that Christ has intended because with Christ there is nothing that is impossible. With Christ, there is fullness of living. You need to change the voices that you're listening to if the voices that you've been listening to, even if they're religious voices, have caused you to be miserable, and negative, and limited, and just sitting there.
Transcribed by Digital Sermon Transcription