The Lord Jesus led me to read John 10 (Select vv. ESV). Is the western church in these last days what God intends for his church? Are we living up to the potential for which he created us and saved us? “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. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” vv. 1-5 Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him (Jn. 14:6). He is the true shepherd, and we who follow (obey) him are the sheep of his pasture. He is also the door (the gate) through which we must enter if we want to have eternal life with God. There are many people who are trying to enter into eternal life with God by a way other than Jesus Christ. This other way has the appearance of being the right way, for it has many truths contained within, but they are half-truths. They cut short the true message of the gospel, and thus they give people a false hope of salvation and of eternal life with God. Many of these who are trying to enter into eternal life with God, or who are giving the appearance of such, are false shepherds of the people who have infiltrated the church by a way other than the true gospel of Christ. And, they are leading many people away from the truth and away from what God intends for his church, the people of God, to be. Jesus’ true sheep should recognize these shepherds of the people as false, and as strangers, and they should not follow them. “So Jesus again said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to 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 comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.’” vv. 7-10 So, what is the true way to eternal life with God? Well, it is first of all that Jesus Christ, God’s Son (and God) left his throne in heaven, came to earth, took on human flesh, died on a cross for our sins, was resurrected from the dead, and ascended back to the Father in heaven. Then, he sent his Holy Spirit to indwell the lives of his followers. It is that Jesus Christ, when he died, became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God. It is that he died, not just so we could escape hell and have the hope of heaven when we die, but in order that we, who are his, might die to sin and live to righteousness; that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. For, you see, the life he gives us in the Spirit is not just so we can have eternal life with God after we die, but so we can have abundant life in Christ while we still live on this earth. He didn’t save us just to forgive us our sins, but he saved us to eradicate sin from our lives. He died to transform us away from lives of living for sin and self to lives which are faithful to our creator, who walk not after the ways of our flesh, but who conduct our lives (our lifestyles) according to the ways of the Holy Spirit of God. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.” vv. 11-15 So, who are these hired hands? They are paid professionals, business men, whose goal is to build businesses called “church,” and to market them just like any other business. So, they partnered the true church with the government in an unholy union, and they incorporated Christ’s body under the headship of the federal government, which is against God’s will. Since the church, Christ’s body, was now being marketed like any man-made business, it came under man’s control and guidance, rather than under God’s control and the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Thus, the Holy Spirit got kicked out of most of these churches. And, they started following marketing books and humanistic teaching, instead of following God’s Word, his truth. In their departure from the purity of God’s Word and the purity of their relationships with Almighty God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – much of the church also departed from the true gospel, and as a means of attracting the world to the church, and as a way of not offending the world so that the people of the world would want to come to the gatherings of the “church.” So, they removed the offensive parts of the gospel to make it more appealing to human flesh. So, what are these “offensive parts”? They are that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. They are that he died that we might no longer walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. They are that genuine faith in Jesus Christ means we die with him to sin and we are resurrected with him to new lives in Christ, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. And, they are that if we say we have fellowship with God, but we walk in darkness, that we are liars. For, if we walk (in lifestyle) according to our flesh, we will die in our sins, but if by the Spirit we are putting these evil deeds to death, then we have eternal life with God. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 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. I and the Father are one.” vv. 27-30 In today’s modern western church, so many have departed from, not only the gospel of our salvation, so that they teach a half-truth diluted false grace gospel, but from who God intended his church to be and from how they are to function under the headship of Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit. So many have lost the fire of the Holy Spirit and are following a man-made gospel and man-made formulas for how to build Christ’s church. So, they have put out the Spirit’s fire, because the fire offends, because it convicts hearts of sin and of judgment and of righteousness. And, that just doesn’t fit into their business and marketing plans, for they want to do what pleases their target audience, i.e. their customer base, not offend them with truth. So, this modern western church has become lukewarm, where God is concerned. They are neither on fire for the Lord nor are they opposed to him. So, he is about to spit them out of his mouth. Not only this, but they are not utilizing all his body parts in the way in which God arranged them, but they are dumping many of them in a cluster, stored away, because the gifts of the Spirit and God’s assigned roles for his body parts also do not fit in with modern business models for how to do “church.” But, those who are truly following Christ, although we may be few in number, are listening to his voice, and we are following him in obedience to his will for our lives. We are using the gifts he has given us, and we are fulfilling our God-given roles within HIS BODY, even though our parts have largely been rejected within the business-model church. And, this is God’s will for all of his church, that we would all listen to him, and that we would follow (obey) him. This is not to say that we will never sin against him or that we will have perfect obedience, but it is to say that listening and obeying are essential to our faith in Christ. For, it is us who listen to him, and who follow him in obedience, who by the Spirit are putting sin to death, who will have eternal life with God, and who will not be snatched out of the Father’s hand by the enemy of our souls. My Jesus, I Love Thee William R. Featherstone / Adoniram J. Gordon My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine; For thee all the follies of sin I resign. My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art thou; If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, 'tis now. I love thee because thou hast first loved me, And purchased my pardon on Calvary's tree; I love thee for wearing the thorns on thy brow; If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, 'tis now. I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death, And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath; And say, when the death-dew lies cold on my brow, If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, 'tis now. In mansions of glory and endless delight; I'll ever adore thee in heaven so bright; I'll sing with the glittering crown on my brow; If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, 'tis now. Tuesday, December 5, 2017, 5:00 a.m. – Thank you, Jesus, for this teaching from your Word. I pray for all of us that we would listen to you and follow you in obedience to your will for our lives. Revive our hearts, I pray.