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Archive for September, 2019

GoodShepherd

Jesus the Good Shepherd

“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me — just as the Father knows me and I know the Father…” (John 10:14-15)

As astounding as it might appear, Jesus desires that we (His sheep) know him in the same way that the Father knows the Son and the Son knows the Father.  More astounding yet is how few of us know that this is the level of deep relationship to which we, as Christians, are called.

All who call themselves Christians have received and believed the “Good News” that the Eternal Holy One, who created us, loves us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us that we might come into a relationship with Him as “Our Father”. What we sometimes have a hard time understanding and experiencing is that He also wants that relationship to be one that involves more than just believing that he is our Father but actually coming to such a personal relationship with Him that we actually “KNOW” Him as  Father.

Because of His transcendence, the person of God is by definition unknowable by us in our human state.  For this reason, God in demonstrating His magnificent love for us became flesh in the person of His Son so that through Jesus we might obtain the unachievable, namely a knowledge of Himself  through a relationship with His Son.

Once when challenged by the Pharisees as to His Father, Jesus answered, “…if you had known me you would have known my Father” (John 8:19)

Sincerely believing in Christ brings us to eternal life; knowing Him transforms us  through the concomitant personal self-denying relationship with Him. All this is not due to our efforts; it is accomplished by God’s grace – by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit moving in us through conversion and prayer. This is the essence and foundation for discipleship because it is only through such a sincere giving of ourselves in a loving relationship with Jesus that the Holy Spirit can mold us into the image of Christ to continue the works of Christ here on this Earth. All that is required is for us to unreservedly give ourselves over to Him.

Unfortunately not many of us expect to enter into such intimacy of relationship mainly because we never bridge the gap between ‘believing” and “knowing”. One of the main reasons is that our faith has not taken us beyond the intellectual confidence in what we believe to the next step which is an experiential “knowledge” of the person of Jesus through a living and personal relationship with Him through prayer.

Even Jesus’ disciples had trouble understanding that relationship with the Master was the doorway to a relationship with His Father. Phillip was speaking for the twelve when he asked Jesus to show them the Father. Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how do you say, Show us the Father?” (John 14: 8-9) [emphasis mine].

He told them however that He would soon be leaving this world but that he would not leave them (or us) as orphans and that He would come to them by revealing himself to them in a new way – a way through which they would “know” He was in the Father and they in Him.  By this He was telling them that the relationship he wanted with them (and us through their testimony) was a relationship of such depth and intimacy that it would be like they were part of His person and He part of their persons in the same way as the abiding relationship He had with His Father! Now that is intimacy!

“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  After a little while the world will behold Me no more; but you will behold Me; because I live, you shall live also.  In that day you shall know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.” (John 14: 19-20) [emphasis mine; notice the use of the  word “know” not just “believe”]

This new way of experiencing Jesus was not evident to Judas (not Judas Iscariot) who then asked how it is that He would reveal Himself to them but not to the world. Jesus indicated that the world would not be able to receive this revelation because it involved a love-derived obedience, which only those who believe in Him would receive.

If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. (John 14:22-23) [emphasis mine]

Now here comes the hard part.  Many of us, including myself, tend to judge that relationship with Jesus and the Father by the depth of our devotional life However, John in His first epistle asks his readers to really test the effectiveness of that relationship to determine if they really KNOW the Father through the Son. That test goes beyond the devotional life of an individual.  It should not surprise us that the test is how well we express God’s Love through our daily lives. Listen to what John is saying:

We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness; he does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded him. (1 John 2:3-11) [emphasis mine]

This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence (1 John 3:19)

Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. (1John 3:24)

Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1John 4:8)

We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. (1John 4:13)

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. (1John 4:16)

This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. (1John 5:2)

After our initial conversion, our devotional life is important because it is through  the intimacy of prayer that we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to bring the Father’s Kingdom of Love into this world. But if we do not act on the Love that the Holy Spirit infuses in us through the Word and prayer, we cannot bear fruit. And the tree that does not bear fruit is cut down[1]. The ultimate test of the effectiveness of God’s abiding presence in us is the fruit of love that we bear by being channels of His Love (John 15:1-8)[2].

Another hard fact we have to bear is that when we sin, and we all do, we break this fellowship, this intimacy of love, we have with the Father and the Son.  In fact, if we are truly in relationship with Him we feel this loss at once in our consciences and our souls are saddened with guilt and shame.  Everything in us calls out to be restored to fellowship with the Lord.   John also addresses this problem in his epistle. With respect to getting right with God he says:

“We write this to make our joy complete. This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives. My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 1:4- 2:2)

The good news for us is that not only has God the Father provided for the forgiveness of our sins after our initial conversion through confession and the continuing application of Jesus’ atonement, as indicated above, but He has also provided for reconciliation, the restoration of the intimate fellowship with Himself through the person of His Son.  I believe that, after repentance and confession, the Lord may move in us to this restoration in many ways, sometimes though the reconciliation in our personal relationships, sometimes through the pastoral care we receive in our churches, and sometimes through the counsel of the Holy Spirit in our devotional life. Whatever the case, our loving Father, looking at the sincerity of our repentance will always lead us to the place where the reconciliation with Him, already secured by the blood of Jesus, can be affirmed in us through faith.

In my reflections on His Word I have also come to believe that the main means He established for this spiritual restoration was through the ordinance of Holy Communion.  It is through this ordinance that Jesus told us that we are restored to the intimacy of His Abiding Presence in us.

‘Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.

Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6:53-60)

And it is indeed, to some of us, a hard teaching, even today. However, I urge you not to reject it out of hand. Rather, in your personal fellowship time ask the Lord Himself as to what He meant by His own words. After all we have already heard that “… We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands” and certainly this is one of His commands!

It is important that you hear it from Jesus directly so that you “know” in your heart the truth of His Words – not as something that you may question as coming from the traditions of man but as from the Word of God quickened in your hearts by the Holy Spirit!  It is a Word you need to act on in faith – and acting on this Word in faith will bring results!  I can attest to that!

One of my most memorable transforming experiences occurred on the last day of the spiritual retreat where I surrendered my life to Jesus and asked to be baptized in the Holy Spirit (May 10, 1975). This memorable event occurred as I participated in Holy Communion with my co-retreatants and His Words about His Flesh and His Blood resounded in my mind and in my spirit.

This worship and communion service was like none other I had ever experienced. Not because there was any significant external difference in the proceedings but because with my just-renewed spirit I was open to God’s Spirit, His Word, and His Presence in the worshipping community and in the reception of the communion elements (The Body and Blood of Jesus).

As a cradle liturgical Christian I was no stranger to the communion table. But what made this service so special was that I not only did I sense the stirring of God’s Spirit in me but I actually experienced “Holy Communion” itself.  In my renewed spirit I sensed that I was indeed in union not only with the Lord Himself but also with all those present as they their hearts in praise and worship before the Throne of Glory. Above all was the deep communion I sensed with the Spirit of Jesus as I, in faith, received the elements of bread and wine as His Body and His Blood!

It was a communion experience that lifted my spirit to a point that I thought I was indeed in heaven and before the Holy Presence.  From that point on in my life participation in the Eucharistic Ordinance changed from one of an obligatory and rote participation in what had become, for me, an overly familiar ritual to an opportunity to encounter Jesus anew, to renew and strengthen the presence of His Spirit within me, and to re-dedicate myself to truly serve others in His Name and with His Spirit.

It was an Emmaus experience[3] that I was graced with that day. For like those two disciples, it was in the breaking of the Bread that I became aware of His Presence in my life. An awareness that remains to this very day, as my heart burns within me every time I meditate on His Word.

It was the opening of a door to my spiritual journey into intimacy with the Lord. A journey where I would find out just how sinful and weak a person I really was, but with the consolation that my Redeemer was at my side, conversing with me, forgiving me, lifting me after every fall, covering me with His compassion and love; a journey where I learned from every experience (however good or bad) how to walk closer and closer to the Lord.  The Holy Spirit teaching and strengthening me as I stumbled on!  It is a journey I do not hope to complete in this life – a journey that will continue on to the next life – in His Presence!  Praised Be His Holy Name!

My usual meditation upon receiving the sacred elements is as follows:

Lord Jesus I thank you for giving yourself to us in this manner;

For opening the door to Abiding  Intimacy with You and the Father,

For being broken  for my wholeness and shedding your blood in a sacrificial death

so that I, in turn,  might become truly alive in You.

In receiving the Bread of Life I receive wholeness from Your brokenness.

And I dedicate this wholeness of body, soul, and spirit to you, Lord, so that through this gift

I may truly be an able servant to all to whom you have given me to serve..

In receiving Your Precious Blood Lord, I receive Your Spirit,

so that Your Life may permeate my being entirely – body, soul, and spirit,

so that everything  I say and do and think emanates from your presence within me.

O Lord, as I receive You, abide in me, Be my Lord, be my King, and be my God

so that I may truly serve others in Your Name, and for Your Glory.

May this be so, In Your holy Name!  Amen!

Your Brother In Christ … Bartimeaus

Recommended Link:

https://quietplace4prayer.wordpress.com/2009/09/06/jesus-the-source-of-living-water-and-us/

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-20019].


[1] It is not my intent to imply by this statement that our salvation depends on our works but that our ability to be God’s instruments in this world is greatly impeded when we do not act on the personally activated Word of God (rhema) that has been placed in our hearts. (see Matt 7:19)[2] See John 15:1-8

[3] Luke 24:30-32

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