John 10:1-18

Theology, sociology, psychology (and many other “ogies”) have all
weighed in and added their two cents worth on life. While I respect their
academic efforts and their many theories, they have not really brought
together a cohesive working understanding of human behavior and society
that has relieved individual and mass suffering and oppression. Yet, man
continues to look into these arenas for answers and saviors. Most wise
men know that what we observe in individual behavior and society are
symptoms of something systemic. In other words there is a backstory,
something deeper and foundational that we must drill down into if we are
to really discover cause. A single verse of scripture has served me more
than all the “ogies” in thinking about the foundations of reality.

The thief comes to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they may have
life, and might have it abundantly. (NASB)

A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have
real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. (MSG)
These are both John, chapter 10, verse 10 from different translations of the
bible. This is a one sentence pronouncement by Jesus’ on ultimate cause
and intent. So, as a follower of the Shepherd, this verse naturally weighs
heavily into the way I understand the whole of scripture and the whole of
life. In both the bible and in life there are many things I cannot fully
understand or explain. Truly, we are immersed in mystery. John 10:10 does
as much to explain the foundational reality to our mysterious backstory as
any sentence or thought I know of.

Its contribution for me is this; Behind the stories and scenes of our
individual and corporate experience, there is a very accomplished thief
and a very Good Shepherd vying for our hearts (and through them, the
dominion of this earth). So, how does this sentence serve me? It is very
simple. When I see something that has been stolen or is being stolen;
when I see something that is dead or is dying; when I see something that
has been destroyed or is being destroyed, I immediately presume its the
thief, the Shepherd’s enemy, who has climbed over the fence somehow
and has gotten into the sheepfold. On the other hand, If I see life (where
new things are being birthed and growing) I assume the Shepherd is
involved. Since I didn’t take any courses on systematic theology I have
adopted this basic premise as a cornerstone value in my systemic
cosmology (or belief system). Stated even more simply; God is good.
Satan is purely evil. This foundational orientation to reality is not only a key
to wisdom and discernment, it is essential to how we will learn to hear the
Shepherd’s voice.

He calls His own sheep by name…and the sheep hear His voice…and He
leads them out…I am the Good Shepherd…and I know my own, and my
own know me. (verses 3 & 14)

I have followed this Shepherd for more than 36 years. He has never
permitted the enemy to ravage me. But, due to my own doing, the wolf
has dug his teeth in to me on occasion. I have told the story in many ways
but it required the help of a few of the Shepherd’s apprentices to help me
identify the tracks of the beast where had regularly been crawling over the
fence and into my heart. The doorway (or gate) into my heart is through my
eyes and through my mind. I learned that the enemy had been trafficking
in the domain of my thoughts in subtle ways since I was a child.
So thorough was the dissemination of his lies in my belief system,
that it effected who I believed myself to be.

After discovering this, we (the under-shepherd and I), identified those
patterns of thought that were contributing to death in all it expressions. I
broke my associations and agreements with those old familiar ideas about
God, myself and others and evicted them. The result is that today I am
more apt to hear the condemning, accusing tones of the enemy’s voice
and reject them as the voice of a stranger who I will not follow.
And a stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because
they do not know the voice of strangers.

In 1976, I entered through the gate and was saved. Jesus served as a
living bridge that I crossed over from the domain of the thief where I had
been ripped off and lied to (and was condemned to die) for 23 years into
the Kingdom of God, where I have been given safety and pardon for my
many years of agreement and obedience with the prince of this present
evil age. I have some bite marks to be sure; but they only serve to remind
me that we are still at war. As I approach the beginning of my sixth decade
and reflect on the story He is writing on my life I can concur with John
10:10 that He truly is a good Shepherd and is faithful to provide a real and
eternal life; a more and better life than I ever dreamed possible.

Father, may you teach us to recognize the enemy’s voice where it is
entangled in the root system our depressions, our sickness, our
hopelessness, our fear and all other places where death and decay are
stealing and eroding away at the foundations of our life – robbing us of our
truest identities in Christ and the abundance that is intended to flow from
our innermost beings in Him. In Your precious and wonderful and name.

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