In Chapter 11, He raises Lazarus from the dead, and that’s when all, as they say, all hell breaks loose. John 10, verses 16 to 42. If you would, take a second and read that.
“For you are continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and the Guardian of your soul.”
Before we really jump into this text, there are a couple of things that have kind of come up that, as it relates to last week, that I just wanted to share. Maybe some new, something that I’ve encountered over the last week. It really struck me that I failed to mention in last week’s study, talking about the sheep / shepherd relationship, really one of my favorite verses, I think it’s a very powerful verse as it relates to the shepherd. And it’s I Peter 2:25, where Peter says, “For you are continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and the Guardian of your soul.” I love that phrase, the “Guardian of your soul”. And Peter is writing to a group of Christians who were suffering persecution, going through a difficult time, and he’s saying to them, you know, Jesus is the Good Shepherd, and He’s the Guardian of your soul, when you stay close to Him. And the problem is, as he writes, he says, but the problem with you guys is you are continually straying like sheep, but the good news is now you have returned and are close to the Shepherd and the Guardian of your soul, and it strikes me, guys, that, even as Christians, we are drawing near to God, or we’re drifting away from Him. And this is what I’ve recognized in interacting with men and talking with men, and looking at my own life, is that usually when you drift away from Him, you’re not really aware that it’s happening. And it’s usually happening when you’re real busy, and you’re thinking, I can get back to this later, but I’ve got to get through this over here. We’re like Martha in the incident of Martha and Mary.
But you know what also struck me, in talking to Steve Singletary, who does a significant amount of marriage counseling, this is what also happens in marriage. Two people, I don’t think anybody intends to, but two people just, without realizing it, they drift apart. And they’re not even aware of it until they realize their marriage is in crisis and this is what strikes me. Here are the two most important relationships in life. Your relationship with God and your relationship with your spouse, and isn’t it interesting how we can let those relationships suffer from drift. And yet, it’s amazing how men don’t let that happen with their work.
Now, I think I mentioned this verse last week. I know I did Friday at lunch. I may not have Friday at morning, but it’s a really great verse that kind of says it all. It’s James 4:8. It says, “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to us.” I mean, that’s a promise, that if we’ll draw near to God, he says, I’ll draw near to you. This is a crucial point. If you’re going to be close to the Shepherd and hear His voice. And so, I guess, really what I’m saying, and I know you hear this from me a lot, but if we’re going to be close to the Shepherd, we have to be intentional about it. We have to be intentional. You know, this is one of the great truths that I’ve learned, and it’s if you want to grow or develop any area of your life, you have to be intentional. You have to plan for growth, guys, or it will never happen. And so, that’s a good question.
Do you have a good plan for spiritual growth that will keep you close to the Shepherd and the Guardian of your soul?
Because, as you know, one of the great problems in life is that we always seem to live with good intentions. But good intentions are worthless. Because if all you have are good intentions, you’re going to drift away from God like sheep who go astray. So, that’s the first that just kind of came to me as I was reading I Peter 2:25.
Now, the second thing that came up this last week that I really just wanted to share, that if you will remember, in those first 15 verses that we read last week and studied, they were words like the stranger, the robber, the thief, who all basically sought to harm the sheep, and what we discerned was, I mean some of those verses could be referring to Satan, but when you look at all of the four Gospels, one of the things that Jesus continually warned us of is false teaching. False teaching, and I happened, this past Saturday, to be reading in Jeremiah, and I read two different verse that I want to share with you real quick.
One of them is Jeremiah 14:14. It says, “Then the Lord said to me, the prophets are prophesying falsehood in My Name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them. They are prophesying to you a false vision and the deception of their own minds.”
And then over in Jeremiah 23:16, it says, “Thus says the Lord of Hosts. Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you. They are leading you into futility. They speak a vision of their own imagination, and not from the mouth of the Lord.” And you see in Jeremiah, so much of the whole book is warning the people of false prophets and false teaching. Now, why do I share this with you? Well, I don’t know if any of you saw this in The Wall Street Journal. It was sent to me last Friday afternoon, and I take the Journal, but, for some reason, I never saw this. But, the title of this article was, “Seminaries Reflect the Struggles of Mainline Churches”. And the article was saying, basically, that the mainline church in America is dying, and it’s reflected in the fact that many of their seminaries are closing. In this article, it was talking about a seminary up in Massachusetts that just shut its doors, because, really, nobody wants to attend them anymore. Now, when I say, “mainline church”, I’m talking about the old mainline church, and I’m not standing up here to be critical of any of them. I’m just reporting the facts, but we’re talking about the, really the Presbyterian USA, the Methodist Church, the Episcopal Church, and the Baptist Church. Those are old mainline denominations that have been around a long time.
Now, as all of you know, there are all kinds of new churches springing up, all kinds of new denominations springing up, and flourishing, but this article says, in talking about these four, that so many of them are dying, and the thing about the article, it didn’t go into the “why”. It just kind of reported, this is what’s happening. But, I’ll tell you why. Because, it doesn’t matter what denomination. Any church that basically does not preach the truth, does not preach the Gospel, does not preach from the Scripture, is going to die because the Truth leads to life. It leads to health and vitality. Falsehood is just always destructive. It’s not life-giving at all. You see, that’s the thing. The Gospel message is life-giving. It’s transformative. To not preach it is to give your congregation just a bunch of religious talk, and, as Jeremiah says, so often, what you have is the leaders are speaking their own words. Words of their own imagination and not from the voice of God. And I read an article about two weeks ago, about one of the mainline denominations that is about to financially collapse. And the membership has been cut in half in the past 25 years. And this is why, in the article, one of the, this just kind of gives you an indication of what’s happened, in their teaching, one of their leaders, one of their top leaders says, you know, talk of sin, we have found to be psychologically damaging. And offensive to people. Especially gays. So, talking about sin is off the radar screen in our denomination. I mean, now, guys, if you don’t talk about sin, what is the Gospel? I mean, what did Jesus come for? I will say this. The last paragraph of their article says that there is one exception, so I want to make sure I get this out. The one exception, as far as seminaries and congregations is the Southern Baptists. In the article, this is the last paragraph of the article. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a theologically conservative school in Louisville, Kentucky, said that the school’s enrollment has hit record highs. So, here you have those that are dying, and they’re reaching record highs. He said, “A growing number are even taking classes online and a record number are studying to be church pastors.” He says, “In an era when Christianity is becoming less dominant, young people heading to seminary really want,” and these are his words, “an unquestionably orthodox theological education.”
So, guys, whether it’s in Biblical times, or whether it’s right now, false teaching has always been a serious issue that leads to deadly consequences. Now, before we dive into the text, as a way of introduction to this morning’s lesson, anybody have any comments or questions?
[unintelligible question at 10:49-50]
Unidentified audience member: Bradford is in Fairhope and he’s down there and he’s looking for churches, and he’s the Baptist church was one that spoke more to them than any other church that he went to. And I went there with him last week to the church and the preacher is fabulous. He did “How to Pray” and he did, 13 things that you had to do in Scripture to pray.
RS: So, that’s the key, is teaching, your teaching comes from the Scripture.
Unidentified audience member: And you had a paper that you could write down all 13, and it was on the board, or whatever, and that place was full. And I’m talking about youth, the whole thing.
Unidentified audience member: Well, you know some people laugh at the Baptist Church, but I’m going to tell you, the Baptist Church has, I think, stayed true to the faith, as best as I know. The Southern Baptist, I don’t know, somebody said, how many Baptists are there? Are there Northern Baptists, is there a Western Baptist? I don’t know. But, anyway, hear, hear for the Baptist Church. Let’s go back to the text, guys. What do you think verse 16 is about? Who are these other sheep?
Unidentified audience member: Gentiles?
RS: The Gentiles. Yeah, because if you go down to verse 19, you see who he’s talking to. The audience he’s referring to are the Jews. Right? And, the other sheep are clearly non-Jews, the Gentiles. And you know what? What you recognize here, is that the Jews don’t like this, because they feel like, we’re God’s chosen people. And you’re telling me now that salvation is going to be given to others?
This is what William Barclay says in his commentary on the Book of John. He says, “One of the hardest things in the world to unlearn is exclusiveness. Once a people, or a section of a people, gets the idea that they are especially privileged, it’s very difficult for them to accept the privilege which they believed belonged to them, and to them only, are, in fact, open to all men. That is what the Jews never learned, to this day. They believed that they were God’s chosen people and that God had no use for other nations. They believed that, at the best, other nations were designed to be their slaves, and, at the worst, that they were destined for elimination from the scheme of things.” But here, Jesus is saying that all men will be able to know Him as Shepherd.”
But, you know, guys, even the disciples didn’t get this until way after the Resurrection and Pentecost. Because, you know one of the last things, remember one of the last things Jesus tells His disciples in Luke 24:47, He’s risen from the dead, He’s about to leave them, and He says, “What you’re going to do is go out into the world. And this is the message you’re going to take. Repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and He says, and it will be proclaimed to all the nations, not just to the Jews.” But Peter doesn’t really get this, until you go read Acts 11. He’s had this great vision, and then he explains the vision, and then he closes by saying, “Now I realize that God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to eternal life.” But this doesn’t come until Acts 11.
Now, as you keep going in John, after you get through 16, He talks about other sheep, then Jesus says something that I think is very significant. Look at verse 17.
Unidentified audience member: Where are you in the book?
RS: Oh, I’m sorry, I’m in John 10. Really verse 18, it says, “I laid My life down on My own initiative because I have the authority to lay it down.” Jesus was not forced to do this. He chose to do it. As I was preparing, I read a neat little story that really helps us understand what Jesus did. It’s about a young French soldier in World War I. He was very seriously injured and his left arm, his entire arm was just badly mangled, and they had to amputate it. He was unconscious and the doctor, after the amputation, he was there, looked at him, he was just a young guy, he was a big healthy-looking guy and he just couldn’t help but be said for this man who would go through life maimed, with no arm. And so, he decided, I’ll stay here and wait until he comes to, just to be here for him. And so, he waits beside the bed, and the man slowly recovers his consciousness, he says, “when the lad’s eyes opened, the surgeon said to him, ‘son, I am so sorry to have to tell you that you’ve lost your arm’,” and the guy didn’t flinch, the soldier didn’t flinch, he looked right in the eye to the surgeon and said, “Sir, I didn’t lose my arm. I gave it for France. I gave it for France.” He’s talking about sacrifice. I sacrificed my arm for my country.
You remember the word “sacrifice”? Such a great word. The definition is so great. Think about it in these terms, and we can apply it in so many situations, when we’re giving up something, and don’t see it as giving up, see it as I’m sacrificing. Sacrifice is “forfeiting something of great value for the sake of something of greater value.” You see, that’s the problem. So many people see, I’m being deprived, I’m being deprived, and if you see it in terms of sacrifice, no, you’re saying, I’m giving up something that’s of value to me, but I’m doing it for something of even greater value. That’s what Jesus did. For us. He gave His life. He suffered horribly, but He did it for something of great value. Us. Our salvation. He rescued us from the domain of darkness. And this is what’s so incredible, guys. And you know what else? He did it with great joy because of the consequence. Because of the rescue. He did it joyfully. Now, don’t get me wrong. In the Garden, He was sweating blood. He was in anguish, but ultimately, He voluntarily did it, and He did it with great joy.
Keep your finger on John, and if you would, go back to Hebrews, chapter 12. All right, everybody at Hebrews? Tom Wall, you want to read to us verses 1 and 2?
Tom: “Therefore, since have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, Who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
RS: For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross. It’s kind of almost strange, that the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, because basically, He did it with joy because of the incredible consequences that would come from it. Just the rescue of His people. I mean, it would be like a parent doing something very painful, but knowing he did it for his children and their benefit and their welfare. I was reading in Isaiah 53, you know the great prophecy about the Suffering Servant, where it says He’s pierced through for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities, but, if you go down to verse 10, it says, “But the Lord was pleased to crush Him.” The Lord was pleased to crush Him. Why? Again, because of the ultimate consequence, the rescue of so many people from the domain of darkness. Now, Jesus, if you go back to John, Jesus really says this again, right when they’re up to the point, I mean, He’s just moments away from being crucified. One of the final things He says to his men. Go to, if you would, go to John 16. Everybody there? Sixteen, verses 21 and 22. Warren, you want to read those for us?
Warren: Sure. “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she’s delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also, you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice and no one will take your joy from you.”
RS: He uses the metaphor of a woman giving birth, and just the incredible pain and anguish and difficulty of, and we can’t experience that, we can’t relate to that, but, I’ve shared this before, it’s been a long time, when my first child was born, it will be 21 years this December, I remember they had just given my wife the epidural, but he was, my son was coming so fast, the epidural didn’t have time to kick in, so she had Dixon just by natural childbirth. I mean, she experienced all the pain, and guys, I watched it, and I mean, I was right there, and I’ll tell you, I mean it was almost heartbreaking for me to watch my wife go through what she went through. But, you know what, once that baby was born and was in her arms, she was ready to have another one.
And so, there’s an application to us here really, if you think about it. Whenever we’re going through a difficult time, a storm, you know, if we’ll step back and really seek God, stay close to the Shepherd, seek to understand His purpose in it, and trust His words in Romans 8:28, that we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. It will change what you’re going through. Because when you see real purpose in hardship, that’s what Jesus is talking about here, it’ll transform the pain. This is what James says. Most people think this is just almost strange, but it gives you an explanation. James, chapter 1, verse 2, says, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” Now, that almost sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Consider it all joy, when you’re going through difficulty. But He tells us why. He says, “Knowing that the testing of your faith produces perseverance,” or endurance, as some translations say it, “and perseverance must finish its work in you.” And listen to this. What does He want to do? “That you might be mature, spiritually mature, and complete, lacking in nothing.” It’s so counter-intuitive, but this is where our faith comes in. This is where God wants to do a work in our lives, and so, if you can step back, and really recognize that God is going to use this somehow, purposefully, in your life, it will have an impact. Comments or questions?
Unidentified audience member: If you’ve ever hit rock bottom in any area of your life, and got through it in faith, you know, and you kind of have a different attitude about trials.
RS: You do. Anybody else?
Unidentified audience member: Talking about the joy you mentioned in Hebrews, and so forth, you know, Keller’s last sermons were in John 17, which is incredible, he goes into the glimpse of the prayer between Christ and His Father, and what is He pleading to His Father for? The joy that is in Me, that they may know this joy. The love, the glory, and that’s what he’s put for everyone to, you know, that’s what He’s saying, Father, please, I want them to know this joy that is in Us, the Triune God, the sermons are incredible.
RS: Phenomenal. Is he preaching them right now.
Unidentified audience member: No, these are back in the end of June.
RS: Anybody else? Well, look at verses 19 to 21. There is this division between these Jews because of what Jesus has just said, and, in verse 20, it says, this guy is insane. He’s raving mad. He has demons in Him. But then, on the other hand, you have others that say, Well, when you look at His teaching and these miraculous signs, He couldn’t be of the devil. So, the big question is, well, who is this guy? Who are You? You know, this reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ great argument about Jesus in Mere Christianity. Are you familiar, I don’t know whether some of you, I found a number of guys are not familiar with this, but some are, are you familiar with the “Lord, Liar, Lunatic” argument that he makes? He goes like this. I’ll be real brief. Lewis says, and you can’t deny this, that Jesus has had the greatest impact on the world of any other person, bar none. It’s hard to deny that. But, so many historians believe He was just a great teacher, or a great thinker. But He wasn’t the Son of God. Thomas Jefferson believed that. But Lewis says there is a real problem with this, saying that He’s just a great teacher. Do you remember what the problem is?
Unidentified audience member: Makes Him a liar.
Unidentified audience member: Didn’t leave that option open.
RS: And why didn’t He leave that option open?
Unidentified audience member: Because He said He was the Son of God.
RS: Because great teachers don’t what?
Unidentified audience member: Lie.
Either He was crazy, or He knew He wasn’t the Son of God, and He was lying, or He was, in fact, the Son of God.
RS: Well, they don’t lie, and they don’t claim to be God. I mean, what great teachers say, I am God, and was not really? And Lewis says, you’ve got three options of dealing with Jesus. If you’re intellectually honest. Either He was crazy, or He knew He wasn’t the Son of God, and He was lying, or He was, in fact, the Son of God. He says, there are no other options. I was reading about an interview that a French journalist, his name was Michka Assayas, he was French, and he was interviewing Bono. Do all of you know Bono, you know the name Bono, the lead singer of U2? Bono is a very committed Christian, in fact, I’ve just, a couple of years ago, I read a book on his faith, and it was really good, and he was, this interview was kind of cocky, he said, all right, “Bono, we know that you’re a Christian, and we know that Christ has His rank among the world’s greatest thinkers, but come on, Bono, Son of God? Isn’t that a little far-fetched?”
Great response. Listen to what he (Bono) says. “No, it’s not far-fetched to me. Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this. He was a great prophet. Obviously a very interesting guy. Had a lot to say along the lines of a lot of other great prophets, be they Elijah, or Mohammed, or Buddha, or Confucius. But, Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off the hook. Christ says, No, I’m not saying I’m a teacher, and don’t call Me a teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet, I’m saying I am the Messiah. I’m saying I am God incarnate, and the people respond and say, no, no, no, no. Please just be a prophet. We can take a prophet. You’re a bit eccentric, but, you know, we had John the Baptist. He ate locusts and raw honey. We can handle that. But, please don’t say the “M” word, the Messiah word, because, you know, if you do, we’re going to have to crucify you. And Jesus says, no, no, no, no, I know you’re expecting Me to come back with an army and set you free from these Roman creeps, but actually, I Am the Messiah. At this point, everyone starts staring at their shoes and saying, Oh, my God, He’s going to keep saying this. So, what you’re left with, is this is either Christ who was what He said He was, the Messiah, or He was a complete nutcase. I mean, you’re talking about nutcase on the level of a Charles Manson, and I’m not joking here. And the idea that the entire course of civilization has its fate changed and turned upside down by some nutcase.” Bono looks at the interviewer and says, “For me, that’s really far-fetched.” And he’s right. Jesus does not allow you to get away with, oh, He’s a great thinker, He’s a great prophet, because He never claimed to be that. Anybody have a comment on that?
“So, what you’re left with, is this is either Christ who was what He said He was, the Messiah, or He was a complete nutcase. I mean, you’re talking about nutcase on the level of a Charles Manson, and I’m not joking here. And the idea that the entire course of civilization has its fate changed and turned upside down by some nutcase.” – Bono
Unidentified audience member: Which all comes to fruition at the Resurrection.
Unidentified audience member: So, there’s no Resurrection yet, so, yeah, this guy, if there is no Resurrection, He may be a fool.
RS: A nutcase. I like the nutcase.
Unidentified audience member: And then He had the Resurrection, and this is what obviously, this is what brings it all to fruition right there.
RS: You know, it’s interesting. I’m meeting with a guy, right now, we had our first meeting yesterday, I think he’s like 33 or 34. He’s had these, I mean, his ideas about spirituality are very strange. And we’re going through the book Reliable Truth, and he, for the first time, he’s focusing on a lot of things like we’re talking here. That Jesus, what does history say about Jesus? I mean, when you start looking at the facts, and he even said, and this is really, I didn’t know this. This is good for me to read this and know this. And see, I guess where I’m going with this, Charlie, is when I meet with this young man, I realize that, and he even told me, he says, I am guilty of what I talk about in the first chapter. Dallas Willard’s words. He said, I have to admit, after reading these two chapters, I am guilty of “irresponsible disbelief”. In other words, I didn’t believe all this stuff, but I hadn’t looked at any of the evidence that points to the truth of this.
Unidentified audience member: Where did he get his strange thoughts?
Unidentified audience member: Peers.
Unidentified audience member: What did he say?
RS: His peers. He got it from, you know, I, that may be a little stretch. That’s where it started. That’s kind of where it started. Anybody else?
Robert: What magazine was that interview in?
RS: Ummm…Well, I can give it to you afterward. I’m thinking it was in…I’ve got it in one of my books, just see me afterward, Robert, and I’ll give it to you. Where are we? Verse 22. Time has passed, and its winter, the feast of dedication, the feast of dedication is what the Jews today call Hanukkah. Always in December, and they were asking Him, are you the Son of God? Are you the Messiah or not? I mean, they keep asking. Don’t keep us in suspense. And, of course, Jesus doesn’t give them a real straight answer, but, in one sense, He says, yes, because, He says, well, look at the works that I do in My Father’s Name. They testify Who I Am. He says, the problem with you guys is you don’t believe Me because you are not My sheep. And He says, because, if you are My sheep, I give, there are three promises I’m going to give you. Three promises. The first promise is eternal life. Now, that may, we read about eternal life a lot, but this was obviously an issue to John, because in I John, chapter 2, verse 25, he says, “This is the promise which He Himself made to us, eternal life.” Now, why is this so significant? Guys, God can’t lie. God doesn’t break any promises and He tells His sheep, I promise you have eternal life. So, Paul says in Titus 1:2, he talks about the “hope of eternal life, which God, Who cannot lie, promised long ago.” And then one of my, and I don’t know why I just find this so powerful, so reassuring, is what Paul says in II Corinthians 1:9. He says, “We don’t trust in ourselves for salvation.” But we trust, and we don’t just trust in any God, he says, “we put our trust in the God Who raises the dead.” And he says, “On Him we put our hope.” And guys, we are such hope-based creatures. We can’t live well without hope in the future. A second promise Jesus makes is He says we won’t perish. “My sheep will not perish.” And I didn’t realize this, but William Barclay says this means that Jesus is promising us a life that would know no end, that perishing refers to our eternal existence. And that we will not perish, and then, finally, what does it say, in verse 28 and 29? What does He give as the assurance? That no one will what?
Unidentified audience member: Snatch me out of His hand.
RS: Snatch me out of His hand. In other words, once you become a Christian, once you become one of His sheep, your salvation is secure. It can’t be snatched away from you. You can’t lose it. Now, I want to tell you something, guys. You know why this is so important? This is crucial if you’re going to find real peace and joy as the years go by. Otherwise, you’re always going to be thinking and wondering and fearing, what else do I have to do, what do I have to do to make sure I’ve got salvation? Because if you’re in any way depending on your works, by the way, then you never really know. That’s why you’re saved by grace through faith and it’s secure. One of Paul Zoll’s books, he wrote about this, he says, “Deep down, everyone is asking, what is going to happen to me when I die? A dying man or woman does best when they’re facing death and are able to just completely let go and relinquish, because they know what lies ahead. It’s so easy to do when you know what lies ahead. The fear you see in the face of the dying – I see fear more than I see peace, because people don’t have a sense of certainty about their salvation,” and he says, “this fear that I see in people is a pervasive fear in all of mankind. But being one of Jesus’ sheep, He wants us to be at peace. In John 14, He says, ‘Peace I leave to you. My peace I give to you. And the peace comes because I promise you eternal life, and I cannot lie. I am the God Who raises the dead.’” What a great foundation for hope as we live out the rest of our lives. Comments? Questions? All right. We need to kind of rush to the finish line here. Verses 31 to 39. This is a tense moment, guys. What do they want to do to Him?
Unidentified audience member: Stone Him.
RS: They want to stone Him. I mean, this is a highly charged moment, and you know what Jesus does, and you wouldn’t know this just by reading 34, 35, and 36, but you know what Jesus does? He quotes Psalm 82:6 because the gods that he’s referring to are the judges of Israel. Remember before the Jews demanded that God give them a King. They had judges, and these judges were called Gods because they represented God’s justice and exercised God’s authority. And Jesus is saying, you call them gods. Human judges. But I’m the Divine Judge who will one day judge the world. And they go ballistic. But guys, notice this, and I think this is important. When you read the four Gospels, Jesus continually is quoting the Scripture. Often, He’ll be asked a question and He will throw back Scripture to them. When He’s tempted in the desert, three times He’s tempted, and each time He’s tempted, He quotes the Old Testament. You see this incredible reverence for the Word of God in the life of Jesus. And He also, I think, did it with these Jews because He recognized and knew, it stands as their authority in life. You can’t just pick and choose, Jews, what you like, and that’s kind of what He usually did, because the Jews understood. The Greeks, they didn’t know the Old Testament, but the Jews knew it, so He would quote it. There was great reverence for the Scripture and it had great authority in their lives.
But, boy that’s changed around here. It’s amazing how people’s regard for the Scripture has changed, just over the course of my lifetime. And one of the reasons, this is something that I read the other day, it says what’s happened in our land is we have become radically individualistic, which means that people today are anti-authority when it comes to their personal life. They understand government authority, but when it comes to authority over my personal life, people are anti-authority. And so, words like submission and discipline and responsibility are not real popular words in our modern world. Where, on the other hand, words like choice, free choice, personal fulfillment, freedom, has great appeal. And Keller believes this explains why modern people are so gullible and can have such weird and strange beliefs, because have people have no authority in their life. And the Bible is clear. We need authority. It’s kind of like our hearts need authority the way our stomachs need food. Because without authority in your personal life, a person will end up doing desperate, destructive things. And it creates all kind of moral confusion which makes it difficult to live well.
I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Christian Smith, he’s a sociologist, he’s fairly famous, he teaches at Notre Dame, and he did an interview – he and some colleagues interviewed 230 college students about their views on morality, and he concluded that young people today have a difficult time saying anything sensible about morality. He said, these are his words, “When I asked to describe a moral dilemma these college students had faced, two-thirds of these young people couldn’t answer the question or describe problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at the parking spot. Not many of them had previously given much or any thought to many kinds of the questions about morality that we asked. When asked about wrong or evil, they could generally agree that rape and murder are wrong, but aside from these extreme cases, moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school, or cheating on a partner. ‘I don’t really deal with right and wrong that often,’ is how one interviewee put it.” And his final conclusion is that our young people today are morally confused because they have no moral authority to look to. And guys, until you live under God’s authority, you will never be free. Until we submit our lives to the Word of God, life will not make sense, because, remember, God’s Word, God’s teaching, God’s instruction, is an owner’s manual that tells you how you were designed and how to live so that your life can flourish. You throw that out and you have no authority in your life, you’re basically, you’re going to end up in the ditch.
All right, we’re about out of time. I want to wrap this up, but anybody want to comment. Yeah, Charles?
Charles: [unintelligible] work with natural law, [unintelligible] that’s in all of us?
RS: Yeah, Lewis talks about that, you know. It doesn’t mean we do it, but there’s a recognition and the reason there’s a recognition is because we’re designed in the image of God. Anybody else?
Well, I want to close and wrap this up. This hit me powerfully as I was kind of preparing about the Word of God. And it struck me that God’s Word serves a multitude of purposes in our lives. I mean, first, since it’s a valuable source of history. I mean, so much of it is an historical record that’s incredibly accurate, and if you want to know more about that, you can read the second chapter of my book, Reliable Truth, about the Bible as a source of history. But also, as we talked about this morning, it provides spiritual and moral authority which we so desperately need. But, maybe most significantly, it serves as what the writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 4:12, it’s living and active. This is not a dead book. It’s living and active. And God wants to basically use it as living and active in our lives, and it goes on and says, and He uses it as a sword that pierces our hearts and speaks into our hearts, into our core, into our innermost being. God speaks personally to His people through His Word.
But I’ve been reading this week through the book of Hebrews and on Tuesday, I read Hebrews 2, and Hebrews 2:1 starts off with these words. It says, “We must pay very close attention to what we have heard.” Now, back then, when it came to the Word of God, they didn’t have Bibles. They didn’t even have scrolls. They had to go to the Synagogue where they would hear the Word of God taught, where it would be read. We see Jesus do that. Remember when He goes and reads Isaiah 53? And then He says, now, this is fulfilled today in your presence. But that was common, that they would go to the Synagogue and they would hear the Word of God. We don’t have to hear it, even though it’s fine to hear it. We have the opportunity to read it, and so, Hebrews 2:1 should say, we must pay very close attention to what we hear and what we read in the Scriptures. Why? He says, because if you don’t, you’ll drift away from God. That’s why it plays such a crucial role in our lives. So, as we leave today, I would challenge you with these words to think about. Am I diligently seeking God, and seeking hear from Him and drawing close to Him each day, or am I at a point in my life where I’m just kind of slowly drifting away, or just kind of drifting. And I share this, guys, because it’s so apparent that the state of our spiritual life is ultimately our responsibility. And that’s why we’re told, draw near to God and He will draw near to you.