Sermon given in Spanish at El Shadai DC, in Manassas, VA July 7, 2019.
Good afternoon. Welcome to El Shadai DC. For those who do not know me, I am Stephen W. Hiemstra. I am a Christian author. I live with my wife in Centreville, Virginia.
This afternoon we begin a new sermon series on the assurance of salvation in Jesus Christ. In a world with so much uncertainty, only Jesus Christ does not change or let us down. Today we are going to start with the passage most famous for this subject, John 10, and I will focus on the nature of eternal life.
All praise and honor is yours for you hear our prayers, comfort us in our afflictions, and give us life eternal.
We confess that we not worthy of your affections and we thank you for teaching us to love.
Draw us now to yourself. In the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts, illuminate our minds, and strengthen our hands in your service. In the precious name of Jesus, Amen.
Today’s text comes from John 10:27-30. Here the word of the Lord:
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. (John 10:27-30 ESV)
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Who knows someone who accepts no responsibility for themselves and is a constant pain in the neck? Unfortunately, for every one of us a different face comes into view. Normally, when I see someone who annoys me, I tell my kids: there goes another person who Christ died for (2X). This is a private joke in my family that gets frequently repeated.
This joke points to a image of Christ that is the opposite of a person who lacks fiber and is, as they say, a free spirit. By contrast, a shepherd is someone who lives with the sheep in the field and protects them from coyotes, wolves, and lions with only a rod and staff. This is respectable work, but it is also dirty and dangerous. It is an image of physical and emotional strength and is our picture of a natural leader.
Who is the perfect image of a shepherd in your life? (2X)
The First Sentence: Intimate
In the first sentence of our text of the day Jesus uses the image of a good shepherd to demonstrate that our relation with him is intimate. He simply says: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Those that are saved listen and follow like sheep. This sentence is interesting because it is laconic—Jesus uses a minimum of words to describe deeply profound concepts—laconic.
In the middle of this sentence is an unexpected phrase: I know them. We expect: they know me. In context, we expect: My sheep hear my voice, and they know me, and they follow me. By means of this unexpected phrase, Jesus makes an important point.
Here we encounter unexpected familiarity—our heavenly shepherd knows us personally. God knows us sufficiently well to call us by name. This inference is credible because in real life, good shepherds call their sheep by name.
The Second Sentence: Secure
In the second sentence of today’s text, Jesus promises eternal life and explains that our relationship with him is secure. He says: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” It is impossible to understand this security without understanding first eternal life. Permit me to focus the rest of my time on this concept of eternal life.
In his first letter to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul uses his famous metaphor of the body of Christ. (2X) Listen for the word of God:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body– Jews or Greeks, slaves or free– and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. (1 Cor 12:12-14)
Here Paul is speaking about the nature of the church, but a second interpretation is possible.
In Christian thought, we frequently speak about the soul that today we refer to as our identity. In Hebrew thought, this word soul implies the body, mind, spirit, and the people that we are in relationship with. (2X) When we come to Christ, the Holy Spirit enters our life which is the means by which we come into relationship with God. Our souls change forever. Much like we become the body of Christ (as the church is described), we also become united with God, who is eternal.
Being one with God implies that our identity is now held in common with other believers from the past, present, and future. Because God is eternal, being one with God implies that our identity is also eternal. It is also complete because God knows us just as much internally as externally whereas our family and friends only know us from external things (2X).
For those not accustomed to this notion of a shared identity and the soul, what happens to your identity when your mind becomes taken over by a disease such as Alzheimer’s? Do you stop being a person? Do you lose your identity because you no longer remember who you are? No way. When you encounter a person with Alzheimer’s, their identity is retained by the people around them who care for them, order their favorite meals, and tell their stories to other people.
It’s no different when we die. When we die, our identity is retained not only by the many people who have known us, but, in the case of Christians, by the Holy Spirit, who is eternal. God who created us from dust can easily re-create us complete with our identity, our souls, because we have a complete relationship with God.
In this explanation of eternal life, our relationship with God determines if we experience the assurance of salvation or not. When Jesus said: “no one will snatch them out of my hand.” It is clear that no one can interfere in our relationship with God. But, we must accept Christ into our hearts and give him priority in our lives every day. Everything else has been made possible by the blood of Jesus. (2X)
Heavenly Father, Good Shepherd, Holy Spirit,
All honor and glory are yours because you love us and value our lives more than anyone else.
We confess that we do not deserve this attention and love.
Thank you for the life and sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
In the power of your Holy Spirit, grant us a faith that will persist loner than any stress in this life. In the previous name of Jesus Christ, Amen.