July 23, 2015
For years I've been intrigued with a statement that Jesus makes. It's found in the Gospel of John and almost comes across as an off-handed statement. It comes in the midst of a confrontation with the Jewish religious leaders.
Both sides have hurled accusations at each other and just to make it interesting, Jesus heals a man born blind from birth. Talk about getting the upper hand. Not to be outdone, the religious leaders continue their legalistic tirade, despite the fact that a human being has just been given the incredible gift of sight.
Their relentless adherence to dogma and duty blinds them to their own darkness and need for spiritual renewal. For Jesus though, the stakes are too high. Their leadership of the Jewish community reflects the false shepherds that the prophet Ezekiel denounced; extracting from Jesus the charge of "thieves and robbers," who are bent towards their own self-interests than care for those under their charge. In the Good Shepherd Discourse found in Chapter 10, Jesus delivers the tome for which all of life resounds. It comes in two parts and they are found in verses 9-10.
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. (John 10:9-10 NLT)
The proclamation of "I Am the Gate" is a stark reminder that Jesus is the only door to salvation. A statement that will undoubtedly ring uncomfortable in the ear of the masses who espouse "anything goes" spirituality. It's the second statement that has me intrigued.
For those who do "enter the gate," they will enjoy a "rich and satisfying life" as opposed to the havoc and destruction the thief offers. The phrase "rich and satisfying life" is one word in Greek. It can mean abundant, extraordinary, remarkable, exceedingly, beyond measure.
It pictures a life of excess, but an excess of what? Most commentators don't know what to do with this statement. They're content with stating the fact of the phrase but not always its implications. Others, simply see it as comparable to "eternal life."
I personally think its a theological cop-out to relegate it to an eschatological promise. It would then imply that there is little benefit to becoming a Follower of Jesus while alive, something I can't for a second reconcile, especially as I read John's Gospel. There is a second problem; that of experience.
If the "I Am the Gate" statement would make most uncomfortable, the promise of a "rich and satisfying life" would likely cause many to state it is improbable. After all, life is rarely a smooth and easy ride for any of us. Yet, this is what Jesus said. The starkness of the statement should cause us to pause and take inventory of our spiritual lives.
This statement has been for some time a key measurement tool in my own life. It's not easy as a rubric for spiritual health, but few disciplines are. So, in light of what Jesus claimed, I've put together 10 key questions to help you determine your spiritual health.
It all starts here. Spirituality is not some feel-good buffet where you get to choose what makes you feel spiritual. It's a life of repentance that acknowledges Jesus as Lord and surrenders wholly to Him. He is the Doorway to eternal life and everything else is just a sham.
Remember Jesus saying "You will know the truth and the truth will set you free." The context of that statement is very important because its preceded by Jesus saying, "You are my disciples if you hold to my teachings." It's being a disciple who follows the teachings of Jesus where truth and freedom are found. So, do I thirst for the Scriptures? Do I long to commune with Christ through prayer and meditation and is my heart open to being conformed to His likeness?
How many believers are still caught up in the hurts and trauma of the past? As believers do we really embrace the fact that we are new creations and given victory over those areas of our lives. It's not that we ignore them or deny they ever existed, but Christ has cleansed us from their effects on our lives.
Do we remain in a state that just cycles bad behaviour without being transformed? The apostle Paul spoke of removing these bad behaviours but he never advocated for just leaving a vacuum. Instead, he encouraged us to replace them with the fruits of the Spirit.
I can't tell you how many people come to me just hoping to gain some peace in their lives. Peace that passes all understanding is a by-product of spiritual health. We tend to find our personal value in what we do or who we are related to, as opposed to who we already are as Christ followers and children of God.
The way we interact with others is a huge testament to the working of the Spirit in your life. When someone asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, he gave one that was obvious, to love God, but surprised him with a second. To love others which was as equally important as the first. We simply cannot say we love God if we do not reflect the heart of Christ to others.
Let's be honest, forgiveness is a big deal. We all struggle with it to one degree or another. But here is the rub. When we don't forgive, it holds us hostage to the past and impedes our ability to view tomorrow through hopeful eyes. Without that ability it is seldom easy to thank God. Further, we are least like Jesus when we don't forgive and we are most like Him when we do.
There is a problem with most modern definitions of discipleship. They tend to think in individualistic terms. Growing in Christ is not exclusively a self-help and self-improvement exercise. It's for the sake of others. A spiritual gift is not for your benefit. It's for the benefit of others and for the glory of God. If you consider discipleship in any other way you simply become a spiritual consumer, not a contributor.
One of the key indicators of whether you long for God's Kingdom is in the way you pray. Do your prayers sound more like "help me, bless me, give me," or are they more like "may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven?"
To trust is to surrender and believe the best regardless of how things may appear. It’s easy to take matters into our own hands, to try and fix it, or to manage our sin rather than repent it to before God. Life is essentially an exercise in faith – do we trust in our own self-reliance, or do we trust God with all that we are?
Those are my 10 key questions to help gage your spiritual health. I think Jesus wants us to live lives of abundance and satisfaction, despite the darkness around us. In fact, it may be exactly what He was alluding to when He called us to be salt and light to the world.
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