|The “before” picture|
On Friday afternoon, I finally finished a job I had been meaning to do for months – fixing a loose rusty old latch on one gate of our backyard fence. I think I actually bought the new latch last fall, but other things always seemed to take priority. The night before, the neighbor children were having fun kicking a soccer ball around and occasionally it would sail over our fence into the backyard making it necessary for them to open our gate and retrieve the ball. Of course, most of the time it was left unclosed as it was difficult to open and shut – putting aside the forgetfulness of a group of nine and ten year old boys. So, I decided it was time to fix the thing and make their play, and our yard work, a little easier.
Armed with a drill, extension cords, hammer, nails, screws, and a screwdriver set, I began reinforcing loose boards, removing the old latch, and securing a new one. It wasn’t the easiest job as our lawn slopes down and my balance isn’t the best. At last, the work was all done and I was quite pleased with the result, for an amateur.
|The “after” picture|
The purpose of our fence is mainly to keep out neighborhood dogs and hungry deer and to protect the garden we try to maintain. It doesn’t do much to deter raccoons as they climb right over it! The other day, a cat had strayed in and judging from the disturbed birds I figured it may be after their nests. So, I shooed him away only to see him slink right under the fence! Never mind, it helps to discourage bigger animals which can be more troublesome.
All this brought to mind a passage in John 10 where Jesus said, “I am the Gate”[i]. He too was concerned about that which He was trying to protect – not gardens, flowers, and vegetables, but His own flock of people who belong to Him. I’ve always loved these verses as it shows the extent of Jesus’ love, compassion, and protectiveness of His children.
“I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through Me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (NLT)
This is such a beautiful picture of how Jesus cares for His children once they come to Him. He is the only way that leads us into a personal relationship with God. In John 14:6 He said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” I was reading another passage this week about this “gate” we need to enter. Matthew 7:14 says, “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Once we believe that Jesus Christ is the only One who can provide the gift of eternal life, we enter through Jesus, the Gate, into a life filled with all the hope, blessings, security, peace, and lasting joy that He longs for us to have.
A true shepherd not only is the one who can open the gate for the sheep, but he/she knows every one of the sheep by name. “He calls his own sheep by name…his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”[ii]What intimacy is portrayed here! Jesus knows me by my own name and distinguishes me from every one of His other children! Likewise, I must learn to know Him better each day so I will recognize His voice and follow it implicitly. This only develops as I dig deeper into His Word, the Bible, and learn about His character and how I can become more like Him.
Jesus also called Himself, “the Good Shepherd”[iii] and illustrates to what lengths He will go to protect those who believe in Him. First of all, He was willing to lay down His own life to secure our salvation. Then He protects his children from the “wolves and thieves” who attempt to steal away believers in Christ to some other belief system or lead them on paths that would cause their relationship with Jesus to be weakened or even destroyed. Our responsibility is to stay close to the Shepherd, listen to His voice, obey what He teaches us, and become wise to those who would distort the truth of God’s Word and deceive us.
Until next Sunday,