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Where is true life to be found?

The Christian Post/Leonardo Blair
The Christian Post/Leonardo Blair

This is a centuries-old question that philosophers, scholars, theologians, and everyday people seeking to experience what it means to be truly alive have wrestled with and repeatedly asked. After a dramatic or thrilling experience, countless people have said, “For the first time, I felt what it is like to be truly alive!”

People want to experience life. Men and women will experiment with all kinds of things to find what, to them, feels like genuine, meaningful, and purposeful life. People will pursue life by satisfying physical senses in food and drink or in alcohol or drugs, believing that fleshly gratifications with food, drink, or bodily experiences will result in truly living. Others are consumed with sexual encounters, supposing that what makes a person genuinely alive is embracing and expressing their sexual identity, which has become the one identity that truly matters in today’s culture. Individuals find their reason for living in their jobs, building their identity and value in life out of their work or wealth. Some people find the meaning of life in their family, feeling like their life counts because of their children’s accomplishments.

Many of these things in the right context are gifts from God, food and drink, sexual intimacy in marriage, work, and family are all wonderful things God wants us to enjoy. Tragically, though, people take these pleasures too far and often look for life in these things in and of themselves. Unbelievers also seek life through false religion, thinking that they must earn the favor of a god or gods if they want to enjoy the good life and have a life that matters. None of these answers can give anyone genuine life, and they all lead ultimately to death.

In John 10:7-10, Jesus speaks to this question of where true life is to be found, declaring that He is the door of the sheep and leading us to the entrance of eternal life, namely, Himself.

When Jesus said that He is the door of the sheep, the Jews around Him would have understood His exact meaning. The door for the sheepfold was the way the sheep got out to eat and find nourishment, and it was protection when the sheep came back in to spend the night. The door for the sheep was essentially what gave these animals life.

We see that Jesus didn’t simply declare Himself to be the door of the sheep, but He also highlighted the difference between Himself and the thieves and robbers. In addition to natural predators like wolves, shepherds and owners of sheep would build structures to keep out thieves and robbers, who were an immense danger to the flock. In Jesus’ immediate context, His contrast here would refer to the Pharisees, who excommunicated the man who had been healed from his blindness. However, we can go further than the Pharisees because Jesus was not limiting His application merely to the religious leaders present when He spoke these words.

Thieves and robbers, according to Christ, are anyone seeking to turn someone from the Lord to false religion. These are the anti-evangelists Jesus described in Matthew 23:15 — religious zealots who go out to seek converts, entrapping their proselytes into eternal condemnation. These thieves and robbers, played by the Pharisees in Jesus’ context, are represented today by all promoters of false religion. Whether that be overtly religious people like Mormon missionaries or Word-Faith huckster selling a so-called prosperity gospel, or less-obvious but equally religious zealots from the LGBTQ religion trying to intimidate and force others into bowing down to their perverted view of sexual identity — those who desire to lead people away from Christ are all thieves and robbers.

Jesus not only distinguishes the false teachers from the truth by exposing their true nature as thieves and robbers, but He shows there is a difference in how His sheep respond to them. Jesus’ true sheep do not listen to proponents of false religion after they hear His voice and recognize that He is the true shepherd. This is why the blind man who was healed was unpersuaded by the Pharisees’ threats — he did not hear the truth in their voice; he had heard Jesus’ voice and all others had no appeal to him. So, it is for all those who know Christ.

In John’s passage, Jesus repeats the declaration that He is the door of the sheep. The Messiah’s emphasis shows how significant it is that Jesus is the entrance into eternal life. Jesus says that through Him — and Him only — can people be saved. This emphatic declaration asserts that salvation is only obtained through Jesus Christ; there is no other way to be saved, no other door to eternal life, no other Savior, and no other hope for forgiveness of sins. The entrance to Heaven only has one door, and that door is Jesus Christ.

We should understand, though, that every door in this world is marked ‘heaven.’ No door is marked ‘eternal destruction’ in the eyes of the world. Even people who celebrate the fact that they are going to hell do not think that hell is a bad place to be; they think Hell is Heaven. Make no mistake, however: there is only one door marked ‘Heaven’ that truly opens into eternal life with God, instead of an eternity under the wrath of God — and that door is named Jesus Christ.

Jesus talks about what this salvation consists of — the sheep can go in and out of the sheepfold. When Jesus says we will be saved if we enter through Him — by believing in His name — He means that He will be our protector from the enemies threating to destroy us. Our salvation is certain — not because we are strong enough to maintain it until we breathe our last — but because our Savior allows us to come in to His sheepfold. Christ protects us from our enemies so that we will not perish.

Not only do we have Christ’s protection as His sheep, but we have His provision for our needs. Christ leads us out from the sheepfold, which pictures His loving care of us to ensure that we get the spiritual nourishment we need through Him. This great provision and protection, as illustrated in Psalm 23:2, only comes to those who enter through Him. It is incumbent upon us to act on our Lord’s invitation and enter through Christ, turning away from our sins and putting our faith alone in Jesus.

As Jesus concludes His short statement, He highlights the intentions of the thieves and robbers. Jesus notes these false teachers come to steal, kill, and destroy. False teachers and messiahs are not well-intentioned people who are misguided, but rather people who come to kill souls with lies. They are used by Satan to destroy souls who will perish in hell for eternity because everything about the evil one is opposed to Christ and the life that He came to bring His sheep.

There is a sharp contrast here between Jesus and thieves and robbers. Jesus, the door of the sheep and the entrance to eternal life, did not come to bring destruction, death, or loss. He came that we might have life in abundance! True life is eternal life, as John later explains in John 17:3. Jesus came to bring us to God and to reconcile us to God through the blood of His cross so that we might know Him, giving us true, real, lasting, satisfying, eternal life. Knowing Christ is what makes life worth living.

Dr. Robb Brunansky is the Pastor-Teacher of Desert Hills Bible Church in Glendale, Arizona. Follow him on Twitter at @RobbBrunansky.

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