KEY THOT: It has been said that a text taken out of its context is a pretext. Today’s devotional text is an example: Jesus' eternal assurance. Billy Graham was once asked what would be his first thoughts when he reached heaven and he replied, “Thank God, I made it!” For a world-reknown evangelist who has shared the gospel with millions of people around the globe, this is quite an astounding statement. It is astounding because it does not have the same kind of cock-sure assurance that many Christians have—that their eternal destiny is guaranteed. He implicitly accepts what Jesus says that “the one who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt 24:13). Unfortunately, John 10:28 has often been used to teach an unconditional eternal guarantee by reading only part of Jesus' words: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” But seldom is it asked to whom is this guarantee given to? If we read the verse just before it, it says: “My sheep hears my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” In other words, Jesus gave his guarantee of eternal security to the disciples of Christ (1) who hear his voice; (2) whom he knows personally, (3) who follow Him. Let’s unpack these three qualifications:
- “my sheep hears my voice”: The shepherd and his sheep have a very intimate relationship. The sheep follow their master because they recognizes and responds only to his voice; when he calls, they come. (Watch this Youtube demo of a farmer and his sheep: https://youtu.be/e45dVgWgV64). The sheep do not listen to other voices because it recognizes only one voice: the shepherd’s. If we are the believers who recognize and respond to the Master’s voice only, and not to other worldly voices, then the eternal guarantee applies to us.
- “I know them”: Not only do the sheep recognizes and responds to the Shepherd’s voice, the Shepherd also knows his sheep. There is an intimate relationship between sheep and shepherd. The foundation of all personal knowledge is communication. Like any relationship, it is built on two-way communication between two persons. For us, it would means a daily habit of on-going listening prayer—talking to God and listening to Him as well. It’s not that we are saved by performing these spiritual disciplines but that they keep our love relationship with our Lord current and alive. It is like the relationship between husband and wife: their marriage is the foundation of their relationship, but if they are not to drift apart and become strangers in the same house, they must keep their communication channel opens and "online" always.
- “they follow me”: But it is more than just talk—an intimate relationship with the Shepherd requires us to follow Him wherever He goes. As we have seen in earlier video, once the sheep hear the master's voice, they don't remain in the same place--they go to the farmer and follow him wherever he goes. In our present case, our Shepherd is in heaven, but He continues to lead us by His Spirit. So, we must learn to listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying and keep in step with the Spirit: "Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit" (Gal. 5;25). When He speaks, we must obey Him and step out in faith.
So, before we "claim" the eternal guarantee that Jesus gives us in John 10:28, let's ask ourselves if we are the sheep who hear the Master's voice and follow Him unconditionally wherever He may lead us by His Spirit. This guarantee applies only to true disciples/followers of Jesus.
Father, thank You for Your assurance of eternal security for those who choose to listen to Your voice and follow You. Amen.