Its not enough to only introduce someone to Jesus. We also have a responsibility to care for that person until he or she is strong enough to walk with Him on their own. So many obstacles and dangers confront every new believer that without proper care their new faith can be badly damaged or even extinguished. They immediately face pressures from their own flesh, temptations from the enemy, persecution from those who oppose their faith and even deception from false teachers who quickly recognize a vulnerable mind. In other words, that person is suddenly subjected to a very cruel environment which could overwhelm any one of us unless we have someone to watch out for us. A new believer needs someone to pray for them, someone to model how this walk with Jesus really works, and maybe even someone to take them in if they have been abandoned by others. If left alone, if there is no one to coach, no one to pray, no one to patiently help as they struggle to grow, what began as a beautiful birth can be lost. Their new faith which started out pure can end up so distorted its not a saving faith anymore. Unchecked flesh can produce so much bondage and shame that all confidence is gone; unanswered questions can allow doubt to grow until God is viewed with suspicion, not trust.
So lets say it again: Its not enough to only introduce someone to Jesus. We also have a responsibility to care for that person until he or she is strong enough to walk with Him on their own. And if we accept that responsibility and begin to care for the faith of others, well discover weve entered into a process that is very dear to the heart of God. We will sense that He is deeply pleased and that we are not really the ones caring for that person, we are only helping the Great Shepherd care for His sheep.
Invitation and promise (Jn 6:36-45)
The Fathers gift (Jn 6:37, 39, 44-45, 65)
The Father knows those who are His in every place, in every generation. Each one is precious to Him. Some have been given a lot of light and some have been given very little, but what sets them apart from those who are not His is that these have seen and responded to the light they were given. Theyre not sinless. No one is. In fact, they are painfully aware of their sin and long to be free from it. The difference between this group and others is that these listen when God speaks and are willing to see what He reveals. They respond in humility and faith when they understand. These are the ones the Father gives to Jesus (v37). These are the ones the Father draws to Him (v44). These are the ones who have heard and learned from the Father (v45). These are the ones to whom it has been given by the Father to believe in His Son (v65).
If taken out of context of all Jesus taught, these statements can be misunderstood to mean the Father will only allow certain people to believe in His Son, and for some unexplained reason will prevent others. That false teaching makes the ministry of Jesus very confusing. He can often be heard inviting people to come to Him, but if, as some people falsely teach, the Father only allows certain ones to respond, then Jesus invitation is a bit deceptive. He sounds like He wants everyone to come to Him and believe in Him, but according to that notion He secretly doesnt. Those who teach this believe these verses mean there are only a few God really wants to save. But thankfully, were not left to wonder. He told us. Here are a few clarifying statements from the Gospel of John.
John 1:9-12 as many as received Him
John 3:14-21 whoever believes
John 4:10 those who ask
John 7:37 anyone who is thirsty
John 10:4 those who know His voice
John 12:25 those who hate their life in this world when compared to eternal life
John 12:43 those who love the approval of God more than the approval of men
Luke records a statement Jesus made we shouldnt overlook:
I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. (Lk 10:21)
Hes beautifully expressing a foundational truth we all know: God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble (Jas 4:6; 1Pe 5:5). So the process of selection is going on inside of us, not Him. He wants all, but He knows all dont want Him. Matthew records an answer Jesus gave when His disciples asked why He spoke to the crowd in parables. It gives us an even clearer answer.
Jesus knew He was speaking to many who refused to see, refused to hear and had hardened their hearts, so He spoke to them in parables. If He confronted them with propositional truth they would only resist and grow harder. So He clothed spiritual truth in stories in the hope of getting around their defenses. If a person had any integrity they would go home and ponder what He said and the Spirit could reveal to them His meaning. What were seeing at work is not Jesus rejecting hard-hearted people, were seeing Him tactically trying to reach those who refuse Him. Were seeing a Savior trying to reach everybody.
Everywhere Jesus went He watched for people who really loved God, because if they loved God, they would also love Him because He is just like His Father. Very likely there had been some scattered among the crowd that ate the loaves and fish, and very likely some were sitting in front of Him that day in the synagogue. There may have even been some hungry hearts among the religious leaders who had come from Jerusalem. Not all were hard-hearted, and He knew it (Jn 3:1-2). So even in that synagogue where He was forced to confront opponents, He still invited those who were hungry and thirsty to believe in Him. And as He did, He made a promise to each one. He said after they came to Him He would care for them and guard them until the day they didnt need it anymore. He wasnt just asking them to commit themselves to Him, He was committing Himself to them. If they would come to Him, they would not walk into a dangerous future alone. He would go with them.
A shepherds heart
Later in this gospel Jesus will introduce Himself as the Good Shepherd (Jn 10), but we already hear that shepherds heart in the words He spoke that day.
v37 He said all who belonged to the Father would come to Him.
v37 He said He would not reject anyone who came to Him.
v38 He said saving people was His assignment from the Father.
v39 He said the Father instructed Him not to lose one of those He gave to Him, but that He was to watch over each one until He resurrected them into eternal life.
Listen to how He said this as the Good Shepherd:
My sheep hear My voice and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Fathers hand. I and the Father are one. (Jn 10:27-30)
Listen to this parable about sheep:
What man among you, if he has a hundred sheep and has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open pasture and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? (Lk 15:4)
Matthew records that He then said this:
So it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones (children) perish (Mt 18:14)
Not only does Jesus invite us to start a walk with Him, He commits Himself to see that we end that walk well. He is determined to provide everything we need to stay in Gods family forever. He pursues the lost, He protects the young, He restores the fallen, He rescues the wayward, He feeds the hungry, He heals the wounded, He strengthens the weak, and He defends the vulnerable. Paul says Hes constantly at the Fathers right hand interceding for us so that our sins cannot condemn us (Ro 8:34). He says theres no power on the other side of the grave or even in hell itself that can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ro 8:38-39).
Jesus promised those listening to Him in the synagogue that day that He would guard all who came to Him in faithevery single one of them. But then later He said to those who followed Him:
as the Father has sent Me, I also send you (Jn 19:21)
He never planned to care for His flock alone. He always intended to include us. He told Peter that if he loved Him he would shepherd My sheep (Jn 21:16), and He would say the same to us. Yes, He provides so much care directly by His Spirit, but He also wants to care for His lambs through His peopleyou and me. Through us He wants to pursue the lost, protect the young, restore the fallen, rescue the wayward, feed the hungry, heal the wounded, strengthen the weak, and defend the vulnerable. Why? Because Hes fulfilling His assignment through us. Our assignment is to help Him do His assignment. Lets hear that assignment once more:
This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day (Jn 6:39)
And in response to that great promise, lets join Paul in declaring our faith:
for I know whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. (2Ti 1:12)
Were never alone. The Shepherd promised!
1) As you look back on your life, name two people God used to nurture your faith. What did they do that helped you?
2) Have you ever helped a new believer grow in Christ? What did you do? Are you still involved in that persons life?