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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:The Amazing Benefits of Christ
Text:John 10:22-30 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Revelation of the Gospel
 
Preached:2020
Added:2020-07-21
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 29

Psalm 25:3 (after the law)

Psalm 65:1,2

Psalm 118:1,2,8

Hymn 66

Scripture reading:  Psalm 16

Text: John 10:22-30

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

I don’t know about you, but the three words at the end of verse 22 grab my attention:  “It was winter.”  This episode took place in the month of December, probably around December 18.  In that part of the world, that’s winter.  December there is the same as June here [in Australia]. 

Winter is a time of cold.  It’s the time we put the heat on in the house.  Winter is cold, so we’re careful if we venture outdoors.  We think of what happened to that autistic teenager at Mount Disappointment in Victoria some time ago.  William Callaghan got separated from his dad and no one could find him for two days.  In the evenings, the temperatures went below freezing.  If you’re like me, you probably thought that story wasn’t going to end well.  Thankfully, it did.  William Callaghan was found and he was reunited with his family.  But two winter nights out in the mountains can be cold and deadly.

It’s hard not to see those words “it was winter” and think cold.  You see the cold of winter and as you go in the passage, you also see the cold hearts.  Most of the Jewish religious leaders have cold hearts, hearts that have no love, affection, or interest in Jesus Christ.  They have no desire for what he has to offer.  He has amazing benefits to offer, but in the face of that, their hearts are just as cold as a freezing winter’s day. 

In our passage this morning from John, we’re going to look at some of those amazing benefits of Christ.  We’ll learn what they are, why they’re desirable, and how we receive them.

By this point in John, Jesus has had several encounters with the Jewish religious leaders in Jerusalem.  The last one was maybe a few weeks before this.  Jesus healed the man born blind and then the Pharisees approached him – this is at the end of chapter 9.  The beginning of chapter 10 follows right on from that.  But now here we are a few weeks later, it’s the Feast of Dedication.  This is called Hanukkah today.  Even with that feast going on, the Jewish leaders haven’t forgotten about Jesus.  They’ve put a target on him.

So on this particular day in our passage, he’s walking about in the temple, probably teaching like he usually does.  He’s in the colonnade of Solomon, an area that was a bit sheltered from the cold winter weather.  As he’s walking about, the Jews gather around him.  They encircle him, like a gang of thugs ready to rough someone up.  They trap him physically – he can’t escape.  They trap him physically so they can trap him in his words and find something with which they can condemn him.  They hate him and they want to destroy him.

You can imagine them pointing their fingers at Jesus.  They claim he’s keeping them in suspense.  They’re dying to know and he’s not being up front with them.  It almost comes across as if they’re really eager to know the truth about Jesus.  They demand that he tell them straight whether he’s the Christ. 

That’s a loaded demand.  For us, we hear about the Christ and we think about the Old Testament.  The Christ is the Messiah promised in the Old Testament.  Christ is the Greek word, Messiah is the Hebrew word.  They mean the same thing:  the anointed of God.  The Christ or Messiah is the one promised by God who would smash the skull of the serpent and save his people from their sins.  But in this context, the Christ was viewed by many as a political figure, a military leader.  The Christ was going to overthrow the Romans and restore control of the land back to the Jews.  If they can get Jesus to say plainly that he’s the Christ, they can report him to the Romans as a revolutionary.  That would get him killed.  It’s a loaded question and it comes from a place of hatred.

Here we ought to remember the words of Jesus in John 15.  He said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.”  If we follow Christ, the world is going to hate us too.  Sometimes you’ll get questions that are loaded.  The questions are designed to expose you as a religious Neanderthal, to shame you, to humiliate you and get you to abandon your beliefs.  For instance, someone might ask you, “You don’t believe gay people go to hell, do you?”   It’s a loaded question.  It’s designed to either shame you or get you to conform.  What are we to do?  Jesus tells us in John 15.  The Holy Spirit is given to us.  As the Spirit of truth, he bears witness.  And then we also bear witness.  Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we speak the truth lovingly but also fearlessly. The Holy Spirit is the Helper and he’ll help us in this too.

How did Jesus respond to the gang of thugs surrounding him in the temple?  Look at verse 25.  He tells them that he’s already answered that question.  Yes, he’s been careful not to call himself the Christ, because that term was open to misunderstanding in that context.  If he said, “I am the Christ,” or “I am the Messiah” many would hear, “I am your new revolutionary leader.”  But he was the Christ promised in the Old Testament and he had revealed it.  Our passage says he revealed it in two different ways.

He revealed it with his words.  “I told you,” he says.  You could just think back to the last passage in chapter 10.  He spoke about laying down his life for the sheep.  That’s exactly the kind of language that was used to describe the Messiah, the Christ, in Isaiah 53.    

He also revealed it with his works.  He speaks about the works he does in his Father’s name.  He does the things his Father has given him to do and he does them on his behalf.  That’s not just referring to the miracles Jesus does.  That’s referring to all his deeds.  For example, think way back to John 2 and how Jesus cleaned up the temple.  That wasn’t a miracle, but it was a work done in his Father’s name, for his Father’s house.  And it showed that he was the Christ, because he had the priorities of the Christ.  All of that was a witness.  “Witness” is a legal term indicating that there’s legal testimony going on.  There’s testimony that’ll later be used for the judgment.  If you’ve seen what Jesus has done, you’re responsible before the Judge for how you react.

In this case, the reaction has been a negative one.  They don’t believe.  Jesus says it twice.  He says it in verse 25 and then again in verse 26.  The Jewish religious leaders do not believe Christ’s words and they don’t believe what his works are testifying about him – that he’s the one promised by God in the Old Testament. 

Why don’t they believe?  Notice in verse 26 how Jesus says that it’s because they’re not his sheep.  It’s not the other way around.  In other words, they’re not sheep because they don’t believe.  It’s not that.  No, they don’t believe because they’re not sheep.  That has to do with God’s sovereign choice.  That has to do with God’s predestination and election.  He sovereignly chooses some to be sheep and then sovereignly gives them the gift of faith.  Here our Lord Jesus is speaking about God’s decree.  But it’s not as if that excuses them.  Their lack of faith is still their responsibility.  When someone doesn’t believe in Christ, that unbelief is a sin for which that person remains responsible.  It was the same here.  The Jewish religious leaders were responsible for their sin of unbelief. 

So there are those who are not the sheep.  In verse 27 and following, Christ describes those who are his sheep.  What characterizes them?  The first thing is directly connected to what we were just talking about.  The sovereignty of God in their lives.  God has chosen them and then verse 29 says that he gives them to the Son.  Why are they given to the Son?  So he can suffer and die in their place, bearing the punishment for their sins. 

The second characteristic of sheep in verse 27 – they hear the voice of the Shepherd.  That means they individually hear his voice calling them.  They personally hear the Shepherd’s call to turn away from sin, trust in him, and follow him. 

The third characteristic of sheep is that they’re known by the Shepherd.  The sheep are each known by him.  That speaks of a relationship of love with him.  He loves each of the sheep head for head.  In fact, he loves them so much that he will die for them.  He lays down his life for the sheep.  That means he dies with their names on his heart.  Brothers and sisters, we should never stop being amazed at his depth of love.  Being known by the Shepherd, not only means he knows your name and your character and so on, it means he loves you.  That’s awesome. 

The fourth characteristic of sheep is that they follow the Shepherd.  They believe in him, but they also walk after him.  They do that each personally and individually.  For instance, if I’m a young person in the church and I’ve heard the voice of the Shepherd, I know that it’s not enough that my parents love him and follow him.  I have to love him, trust him, follow him.  I have to be a disciple of Jesus Christ myself.  That means not only learning information from him, but being his apprentice, learning to be like him.       

Now up to this point we’ve already seen that the sheep enjoy the benefit of the loving knowledge of the Shepherd.  Through verses 28-30, the Good Shepherd leads us into even greener pastures.  More benefits.  There are two of them here, both amazing.

Look at verse 28.  Jesus says, “I give them eternal life.”  You have to notice that this is present tense.  He doesn’t say, “I will give them eternal life.”  As if you’ll get eternal life at some future point.  No, he says, “I give them eternal life.”  If you’re one of the sheep, you have eternal life now already.  We’re alive now in Christ and we will be forever.  That’s a really comforting thing when you start thinking about your mortality, about the fact that you’re going to die.  You’re not really going to die.  Your body may die, but you’re going to live.  If you’re a Christian, you have eternal life now already.  You were once dead, but you’ve been raised to life by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Therefore, you’ll never perish, you’ll never experience eternal death, you’ll never taste hell. 

There’s eternal life.  Closely connected to that, there’s also eternal security.  Verse 28 says, “No one will snatch them out of my hand.”  If you’re one of the sheep, no one can steal you away from Christ.  And more than that, the Father who gave the sheep to the Son, he’s almighty, all powerful, and the sheep are in his hand too.  No can snatch them from the Father’s hand.  Notice what Christ is saying.  You are in both the hand of Christ and in the hand of his Father.  They are one.  Together one God.  You are in the hand of the almighty Triune God and no one and nothing can change that.  It’s like Paul says in Romans 8:38-39 – nothing and no one will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

This teaching has a name in Reformed theology.  We usually call it the Perseverance of the Saints.  It’s better called the Preservation of the Saints.  It’s found in chapter 5 of the Canons of Dort.  And it’s based on what the Bible teaches here and elsewhere.  For example, it’s also found in what we read from Psalm 16.  That psalm points to Christ, but it was first written by David.  And David’s confession is that God will never allow him to be shaken.  God will never allow him to fall away to hell. That’s the Preservation of the Saints right there in the Old Testament already. 

The Preservation of the Saints – it means that God promises to preserve us in our faith so that we will persevere to final glory.  Because of God’s grace and his almighty power, we will make it to the end.  In other words, a true Christian believer can never lose his salvation.  If you’re in Christ by faith, you will never be lost, you will not ultimately end up in hell.

When people hear this teaching, sometimes they think about certain individuals.  Maybe it was an uncle or a cousin, a brother or sister, a friend.  This person did profession of their faith in the church.  They appeared to be a Christian.  They claimed to be a Christian.  But eventually they got to a certain point where they walked away from it.  Today they don’t call themselves a Christian and they don’t follow Christ.  Doesn’t that contradict this teaching?  After all, it seems like something or someone did snatch them out of Christ’s hand, out of God’s hand.  There are two things to remember. 

First, we can’t know human hearts.  We can’t know when someone’s profession of faith in Christ is genuine or not.  We can know what the Bible says.  The Bible says that a true Christian will never be lost.  If that person is truly regenerated, if they have a true faith in Christ, nothing and no one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.    

Second, we can’t know God’s decree of election.  We can’t know whether someone who seems to have abandoned the faith will later be brought back.  We don’t know God’s plans for that person.  Sometimes he does bring people back.  So here too, we can’t categorically say that if someone who used to say they were a Christian falls away, we can’t say that contradicts the biblical teaching here in John 10.  It doesn’t because we don’t know the future, and we don’t know hearts. 

What we do know is that for those who believe, this is a beautiful, comforting doctrine.  Your eternal salvation doesn’t depend on you.  Your hold on Christ is not nearly so important as his permanent grip on you. 

People sometimes struggle with that.  Even theologians can struggle.  For example, J. Gresham Machen was a famous Presbyterian theologian from the last century.  He was struggling with his faith.  His mother helped him through it.  I want to quote for you what he later wrote about how his mother helped him:

“Another thing used to be said to me by my mother in those dark hours when the lamp burned dim, when I thought that faith was gone and shipwreck had been made of my soul.  ‘Christ,’ she used to say, ‘keeps firmer hold on us than we keep on him.’”

“That means, at least, when translated into worldly terms, that we ought to distrust our moods.  Many a man has fallen into despair because, losing the heavenly vision for a moment, passing through the dull lowlands of life, he takes such experience as though it were permanent, and desserts a well-grounded conviction which was the real foundation of his life.  Faith is often diversified by doubt, but a man should not desert the conviction of his better moments because the dark moments come.”

“But my mother’s word meant something far deeper than all that.  It meant rather that salvation by faith does not mean that we are saved because we keep ourselves at every moment in an ideally perfect attitude of confidence in Christ.  No, we are saved because, having once been united to Christ by faith, we are his forever.  Calvinism is a very comforting doctrine indeed.  Without its comfort, I think I should have perished long ago in the castle of Giant Despair.”

Isn’t that a powerful testimony to the comfort this teaching gives us?  We can be so thankful that our Lord Jesus taught us about this amazing benefit of the gospel.

If I could summarize the main thrust of our passage for this morning, it’s like this:  when you’re one of the sheep, you receive Christ’s amazing benefits now already.  As we’ve seen, those amazing benefits include knowing the self-sacrificial eternal love of the Good Shepherd.  You are known by him and loved by him right now.  You have always been known by him, even when he was suffering your hell on the cross.  You will always be known and loved by him.  Another amazing benefit is that you have eternal life now already.  As the Catechism says, already now you have the beginning of eternal joy in your heart.  Then the third amazing benefit is that eternal security, the preservation of the saints.  When he holds on to you, he never lets go.  You’re his now and you’re his forever. 

Loved ones, as one of the sheep, you can have those benefits.  You can have them and enjoy them.  You can delight in them, rejoice in them, be comforted by them.  But only through faith in Christ.  They don’t come through membership in the church.  They don’t come through having parents who profess faith.  These amazing benefits are only there for those who personally place their trust in Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd. 

I find it interesting that Christ said what’s in our text to the Jews, to the religious leaders, and not directly to his disciples.  These Jews were God’s covenant people, but they were unbelieving.  They had dead, cold hearts.  Yet part of Christ’s mission was to bring the gospel to them, to call them to turn from their sins and follow him.  He aimed to make the gospel attractive with the benefits he offered:  eternal security, eternal life, eternal love.

With these words in Scripture, the Holy Spirit aims to make the gospel attractive for us too.  And isn’t it?  Isn’t the gospel amazing?  Isn’t Christ impressive with what he offers to sinners like us?  Eternal love, eternal life, eternal security.  Loved ones, these amazing benefits of Christ are for you now and for the future, so trust him.  Don’t be left out in the cold.  Hear Christ, believe him, follow him.  AMEN.

PRAYER

Our Father in heaven,

Thank you for your sovereign grace and love in the gospel.  Thank you for giving sheep like us to your Son, so he would bear our names on his heart at the cross.  Thank you for your sovereign grace in preserving sheep like us.  We are in your almighty hands, and so no one can snatch us away.  We are safe in the hand of our Saviour.  We’re thankful for these amazing benefits of Christ we’ve been hearing about this morning.  Please help us with your Holy Spirit to see these things as amazing and to always place our faith in Christ, the Good Shepherd.   Please continue to hold on to us.   Please continue to work in our hearts with your Holy Spirit so we follow our Master Jesus.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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