Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on August 28, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 10:22-42. Today will be our last Sunday in John chapter 10. I hope that all of you took me up on my encouragement to saturate yourself with this chapter this month. As I stated before, there are massive truths found in this chapter that are crucial to your adoration of God and your assurance of your salvation. It breaks my heart that many churches desire to keep these truths from their congregations, for it is these truths that get us through the hardest of times.
John 10:22-42 – “22At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30I and the Father are one.” 31The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. 32Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” 33The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” 34Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken-- 36do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? 37If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; 38but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” 39Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands. 40He went away again across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing at first, and there he remained. 41And many came to him. And they said, “John did no sign, but everything that John said about this man was true.” 42And many believed in him there.“
A Pack of Wolves
As we begin this morning let us first get our bearings. The events of our text today take place during the Feast of the Dedication. This Jewish feast was not like the other feasts that we have seen in the Gospel of John, such as the Feast of the Tabernacles and the Passover. Those feasts find their origin in the beginning of Israel’s history and are set out in the Old Testament. The Feast of the Dedication was a recent addition. It finds its beginning after the Old Testament cannon was closed, in the year 164 B.C. Many of you are familiar with this Feast by the name Hanukah. The mention of this feast does not seem to be particularly important except to be a helpful reference in regards to a time-line in the ministry of Jesus. As many of you know Hanukah is celebrated sometime during the month of December. This is true now, and it was true then. We can see the connection, with verse 2, “it was winter.” Because it was winter, it was common for teaching to take place, not in the open courts, but instead in a place named the Colonnade of Solomon. This place would later be the place in which the first Church would regularly meet. Acts 5:12 says, “Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem.”
In our text today, however, the Jews mentioned in verse 24 did not hold Jesus in high esteem. In fact the opposite was true. On this particular day, these Jews surrounded him like a pack of wolves and posed a loaded question, ““How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” I say this was a loaded question for two reasons.
First, Jesus response in 25, “I told you, and you do not believe.” Throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus has made some very strong statements about who he is. In John 2 he declared God to be His Father and that he was the Temple of God. In John 3 he declares that he is the Son of God who came to give eternal life. In John 4 he tells the Samaritan women he is the Messiah. In John 5 he declares himself equal with God and declares that all Scripture is about Him. In John 6 he declares he is the Bread of Life and if you believe in Him you will live forever. In John 7 he declares that he is the source of rivers of living water. In John 8 he declares he is the Light of the World and that he was self-existent before Abraham. In John 9 he declares he is the Son of Man as prophesied in Daniel. And as we have seen in John 10 he declared that He is the Good Shepherd that was prophesied about in Ezekiel 34. And these are just the statements that are recorded in the Gospel of John.
The second reason I say it is a loaded question is because of their response to Jesus' answer. Look at verse 31, “The Jews picked up stones again to stone him.” I am convinced that this entire event was a set up. They conveniently surrounded Jesus and posed a question, not because they wanted an answer but because they wanted him dead. And why did they want him dead? Because Jesus claimed to be equal with God.
Isn’t it interesting how nothing has changed? Today, we see the same thing. Many people desire to remove all forms of Christianity from the public eye. Why is this? Why do so many people reject Jesus and want to banish him from the World that He created? It is because they don't believe.
The determining factor that dictates what side you stand on, the side of God or the side of Satan is belief. Everything hangs on believing. John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 5:24, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” John 6:29, “Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” John 6:47, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” John 7:38, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” John 8:24, “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” Everything in this life and the next hangs on whether you believe that this Galilean Carpenter is the incarnate Son of God.
The Jews did not believe. Despite Jesus plainly and repeatedly telling them and despite the numerous miracles that backed up his claim, they still didn’t believe. Why not? Verse 26, “but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.” The ultimate, decisive reason that the Jews reject that Jesus is God, despite Jesus telling them and showing them, is because they are not his sheep. If they were his sheep, they would then believe. We see them mentioned in verse 4, “the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” The reason people follow Jesus is because they already know him. Again in verse 16, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.” It is guaranteed. Then again in verse 27, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”
The sheep who respond to the Gospel call and believe in Jesus are called the elect, this is not a Phil Parsons' word this is a biblical word. It is used numerous times in the Bible to speak about this specific reality. The elect are a group of people chosen by God before the foundation of the world to be saved. For those of you who believe in Jesus, the reason that you believe is because you have been chosen by God. You are sheep, and because you are sheep, when your heard the voice of Christ through the preaching of the Gospel you followed him.
The Gift of Eternal Life
But let us know as, what advantage is there in being a sheep and believing in Jesus? Look at verse 28, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish”
The benefit of believing in Jesus Christ is the gift of “eternal life”. What is the gift of eternal life? Let us start with the word life? What does life mean? Earlier in John 10:10 Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” If this is true, which it is, this must mean that life is not merely breathing, for Jesus came to give life. The world is full of people physically alive, but they do not have life. They are merely breathing. Jesus came to give life. So it must be something deeper then just breathing.
In John 1:4 it says, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” So life is found only in Christ. And this life in Christ is also the light of men. What is the function of light? It is so that we can see. Light gives us the capacity to see form, colors, depth, height, beauty. So Christ has life, and this life gives humanity that ability to see. Now listen to John 17:3, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” Once again, life is not about breathing, it is about knowing. Knowing who? God and the Son of God. To live is to know God.
This world is full of people who are breathing, but they are not living. Why? Because they do not know God, and to live means to know God. This is the essence of being human. This is the function of existence. You do not exist to breath, you exist to gaze upon the glory of God and see Him as glorious. And this is what is so amazing, seeing God as glorious produces in you evidence of life, chiefly the fruit of joy.
Psalm 16:11, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.“ The fruit of life is joy. Jesus says this in John 17:13 as he is praying to His Father, “But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves.”
This is what it means to live, to see God, to know God, to enjoy God. Breathing is not living. Living is glorying. And this is the gift that Jesus gives the sheep.
Life in abundance. What does Jesus mean by abundance? It is eternal. This gift of life is a forever gift. It does not fade, it does not run out, it does not end. It truly is pleasures forevermore. He does not give his sheep temporary life. He does not give them a year's worth of life. He gives them eternal life.
And why does Jesus give his sheep eternal life? Because they earned it? No! Because of God's grace. They did not work to receive eternal life, and they do not work to maintain it. This is the blessing of being chosen by a Sovereign God who showers us with His Sovereign grace. The Sheep of God will never perish.
Eternal Security of the Sheep
And why is this gift an eternal gift? Verse 28, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” The reason that this gift of life in Christ is secure, is because of the sovereign grasp of Jesus Christ. Jesus will not let go of his sheep. He is not just a good Shepherd, he is a strong Shepherd. There is no power that exists that is stronger than Christ. No matter how hard Satan tries to tempt you to turn your back on Jesus, he never will be able to.
Here are two examples: Job and Peter. First Job. Job was a man who feared and worshiped God. Satan believed that if God allowed Satan to destroy his livestock, kill his family, and take his health that Job would curse God to his face. God allowed Satan to take everything from Job, except his life. Did Job lose his faith in the Lord? No. Job 2:9, “Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.”10But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”a In all this Job did not sin with his lips.” Why did Job's faith in God endure? Because he is God's elect.
Second, Peter. This is what Jesus says to Peter on the night of his arrest. Luke 22:31, ““Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you,d that he might sift you like wheat, 32but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Just like Job, Satan thought he could destroy the faith of Peter. But he couldn’t. Why not? Because the Good Shepherd was holding him in his hands. Jesus interceded for Peter that his faith would not fail. And Peter's faith was as small as a mustard seed on the night of the crucifixion, but it did not fail. Peter's faith endured. Why? Because Jesus was keeping his sheep.
Jesus says this himself in John 17:12, “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.”
This security in Christ makes sense when you think about who the followers of Jesus are. They are a gift from God the Father to God the Son. Do you recall what Jesus said in John 6:39, “And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” Jesus loves the Father, and his joy is to do His Father's will. Do you for one moment believe that Jesus either doesn't want to do the Father's will or does not have the capacity to do the father's will? If you do, that is blasphemy. If it is God's will that not one sheep will be lost, then you can guarantee that Jesus will not lose one single sheep.
In addition, think about how Jesus came into possession of his sheep? John 10:11, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” The Son of God became a man and laid down his life. Why? For his sheep. Their is no greater price that could have been paid then the blood of God. It does not make sense that the omnipotent Christ would purchase a sheep by his blood, just to see Satan reclaim it and drag it to Hell. When Christ makes you his, you are his forever.
Which leads us to a question posed in Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can bei against us?32He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.j 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Isn't that good news? If my salvation was dependent upon me, I would have lost it within hours of receiving it. Praise be to God that I am saved by grace and I stand in Grace.
I cannot overemphasize how important this Biblical truth is for a Christian. It is the source of our peace, the source of our comfort, the source of our strength. Knowing that we are eternally secure in the Sovereign Hands of the Good Shepherd gives us the freedom to live with reckless abandoned for Christ. We can stare trials and tribulations in the face and find joy in them for they are merely a vessel to display the power of Christ in keeping his sheep.
Preached at Cascade Hometown Days on August 21, 2016
As we begin today, I want to start by saying thank you to the Cascade Hometown Days committee for requesting that Cornerstone Church provide a Worship service in the park. It was one of those requests that I did not have to think twice about. At Cornerstone if there is one thing we love to do is to proclaim the Glory of God through the preaching and teaching of the Bible.
Speaking of this, we have a table that has a number of Bibles on it. If you don’t have a Bible, we want you to have one. Every person in Cascade should have a Bible. Feel free to grab one before you leave today and take it home with you.
This morning the title of my sermon is “Homesick.” This is my attempt to connect with the theme of this weekend, Hometown Days, with the sermon this morning.
My guess is that all of you have experienced the feeling of being homesick. As a child I use to suffer from it terribly. I would go to a friend’s house with the intent to stay the night, and I was usually fine until everyone fell asleep. Then in the midst of the silence, I would look around and for the first time it would hit me, I was not at home. I was in a strange room, with strange shadows, strange sounds, and strange smells, and I did not belong here. I was an alien in a foreign land. And this realization caused a great deal of anxiety and a deep longing to return home.
This feeling of homesickness parallels what I believe many people in this world feel about life in general. In the moments that we pause and look around and hear about all of the wars, and crime, and disease, and natural disasters, and divorces, and addictions, and greed, and all around brokenness we get a sense deep inside of us that something is terribly wrong. This world and our lives with all of its problems, which there are many, seem inconsistent to how we believe the world should be. Our hearts long for a better home. We are in a sense, homesick.
Our First Home
The question I want to ask is this morning is where does this come from? Why is their an inner longing that exists in every person for a world with no more tears, no more pain, no more death?
Turn with me to the first book in the Bible, Genesis Chapter 1. If you need a Bible, just raise your hand and we can get you one. The word Genesis means the beginning or the origin. The book of Genesis is the historical narrative of the origin of all creation. We see this in verse 1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” As we look through this Chapter we see God creating light, the atmosphere, land, seas, vegetation, animals, and then humanity in his image. We see the authority of God over all creation. He is the Potter and all creation is His clay.
As you walk thought this chapter you start to see a pattern. Look at Verse 4, “And God saw that the light was good.” Verse 10, “And God saw that it was good.” Verse 12, “And God saw that it was good.” Verse 18, “And God saw that it was good.” Verse 21, “And God saw that it was good .“ Verse 25, “And God saw that it was good.” Then in verse 31, at the end of God creation, as he sat back and looked at his work it says this, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”
The world in it original form was could only be described with two words, “very good.” This was the world that God originally created.
If you turn to the next chapter we move from a 30,000 foot view to a 1,000 foot view of creation. And in chapter 2 we see God place man in a Garden named Eden. In this Garden there was everything the humanity needed, food, companionship, life, and even God himself. There was a beautiful harmony that existed in the beginning. God the sovereign creator, humanity under his authority, and creation under the dominion of man. Everything fit and everything was very good.
Strangers in a Foreign Land
Unfortunately, we cannot describe the world in its currents state as “very good” or as a Garden of Eden. Genesis 1 and 2 seem like something that fairy tales are made of. Once upon a time in a land far, far away. So what went wrong? If that was what use to be, why is it not that way now?
Turn to Genesis 3. In Genesis 3:16 it says, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” This was the one rule that God implemented. God had given them life, given them companionship, given them a home, given them food, given them purpose, but he said no to one and only one thing, the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil.
Did they keep the command? No, they rejected God’s goodness and His authority and exchanged them for the lies of Satan. They effectively committed mutiny in the midst of God’s Garden. And immediately things fall apart. We can see evidences of this in Genesis 3:7-8 right after they disobeyed God, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. 8And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”
At the moment of their rebellion they were separated from each other and separated from God. Why? What occurred at the moment of their rebellion? Sin entered the world. At that point Adam and Eve were infected with the disease of sin. And with this opening of Pandora’s box, their dispositions had changed. Yes, they still bore the image of God, but the image was tragically marred. They were broken, if you will.
And as God stated to them, the end result of this event was death. And why is this? Because as it says in Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death.” This was not how it was originally, but this was the way it was now. Adam and Eve had a new enemy.
And not just them, but everyone after them. Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—“ The sin of Adam became a spiritual genetic defect that infected all of mankind, and they wages of every man's sin is the grave. Why? Because we are all sinners.
But if that wasn't enough, not only would Adam and Eve die, but no longer was creation on their side. Look at Genesis 3:17 God says this to Adam, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life”
No longer was their harmony between this world and man. The world became an agent of God's wrath. For many of us, we can feel this reality. Life is hard. From morning until night, many of us find ourselves just trying to survive; wondering if we are going to make it through another year.
If that wasn't enough, God, at the end of his rebuking, does one last thing. He sends Adam and Eve out of the Garden. Genesis 3:23, “therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.”
This is where all of us now live, not in the Garden, but East of Eden. The famous author John Steinbeck wrote a book named, “East of Eden” and it based somewhat off of Genesis 4. The story is a story of jealousy, covetousness, suicide, depravity and all around brokenness. To be honest, it is a story that many of us can relate to. Why? Because it is the story of the current world.
And this explains why this world is such a mess. Sin. Adam and Eve sinned, and we sin. Humanity has rejected God's way, and instead chosen our own way. And out of this rebellion flows a wake of brokenness.
And in the midst of this brokenness, perhaps as we lay in our beds, we dwell upon the pain of this world and our hearts ache for the Garden of Eden. We long for how God originally created the world. A world that is “very good”. A spiritual homesickness is a symptom of what once was and what now is. These deep longings are an echo of our heritage. CS Lewis, the author of The Narnia series once wrote, “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
The Snake Crusher
Which leads us to the question, will we ever get back to the Garden? Will we ever find rest and find peace for our weary souls. Is their a solution to the sin of the World?
Yes. And we first see him mentioned in Genesis 3:15 in God’s cursing of Satan. Right after sin entered the world for the first time, in the midst of his punishment, this is what God says to Satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Who is this? Who is God referring to? Who is this seed of Eve. And what does it mean he will bruise the head of the ancient serpent, the devil?
This passage is called the protoevangelium; which means the first gospel. The first good news. And why is is verse 15 the first good news? Because God is foretelling the coming of our one and only hope, Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God will come, not in all His glory, but as a seed of Eve, as a human. And his coming is for one purpose, to bring a fatal blow to the power of Satan. This is what is meant by the bruising of the snakes head. 1 John 3:8 says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”
And how does he do it? How does he destroy the works of Satan? He does it by living the sinless life that we could never live, and dieing the death that we deserve, and overcoming sin and overcoming death and raising himself from the tomb. As he says in John 16:33, he has overcome the world. And at this moment he sits at the right hand of the Father and he offers to all of you forgiveness and eternal life if you repent of your rebellion and put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
Galatians 1:3-4, “the Lord Jesus Christ, 4who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,”
This is the seed of Eve, who lays down his life so that you can be delivered from this depraved and broken world. This is why Christ came; to fulfill the longing of your heart and take you out of this world and back to the Garden of Eden.
Back to the Garden
And if we turn in our Bibles to the last book, the Book of Revelation, this is exactly what we see. The book of revelation is book about the end times, and in the end we see all humanity standing before God on the day of Judgment. And in Revelation 20:15 we see these dreadful words, “And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” What is this book of life? It is the book of the life of the lamb that was slain. If you do not believe in Jesus Christ, your name is not in that book. And if your name is not in that book that you destiny is not the garden, nor is it this world. Your destiny is hell.
In a way, your longing for a better world, a better life, are warning signs of things to come. Everyone in this park will stand before God in judgment. If you do not get right with God through faith in Jesus Christ, then the brokenness of this world is nothing compared to what is coming in eternity.
However, for those whose names who are in the book of life? Those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ, what is in store for them? Revelation 21:1-4, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people,b and God himself will be with them as their God.c 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Where do those who have trusted in Jesus Christ find themselves? They find themselves in a place that is not strange, or foreign, or broken, but a place that can only be described as very good. They are reconciled with God. They are back to the Garden.
So the question I have for you today is simple. Have you repented of your sin and put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. John 3:16, ““For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
Getting back to the garden cannot be done by human effort. It can only be done through faith in Jesus Christ. There is no guarantee that any of you will have a tomorrow. Choose today to run to Christ and find rest for your weary souls.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on August 14, 2016
Turn with me to John 10:7-18. This marks the third week that we are in this chapter 10 of John. I plan on spending one more week in this chapter and then we will move on to chapter 11. I hope that all of you have been reading and meditating on this chapter as much as I have. I truly believe it is one of the more theologically significant chapters in all the Bible. With that said, let's get right to work.
John 10:7-18 - “So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
The Gospel, the Call of the Good Shepherd
If you recall from last week, we addressed the question why do some people believe in Jesus and some people don't believe in Jesus. Jesus answered that question in verses 4 and verse 26. First look at verse 4, “and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” The key word in that verse is “for.” The reason people follow Jesus, I.e believe, is because they already know Jesus. There is a relationship that exists that precedes the call. We see the same thing, but the reverse in verse 26, “but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” The reason people don't believe is they are not part of this special group that has a per-existing relationship with Christ.
This pre-existing group is called the elect. Those chosen by God to be a gift to his Son. We see this in verse 29, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.” The “them” in verse 29 are the sheep, those who hear the voice of Christ and follow Him.
Therefore, if you believe in Christ, it is because you are of the elect. If you die and never believe in Christ, then you are not of the elect. Believing in Christ is a product of being chosen by God before the foundation of the World. Ephesians 1:4, “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the World, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace.” This is, in a nut shell, what we unpacked last week.
Today, what I desire to unpack is found in verse 16, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold, I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one Shepherd.” As you can see from verse 16, Jesus has two folds in mind. Two groups of sheep that he will call his specific sheep out of. The first fold, as I stated last week was the nation of Israel. Jesus, as a Jew himself, was first sent to the lost sheep of Israel. The Jews were given the first opportunity to put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Messiah, the Son of the living God. As we discussed last week, some did, and some didn't. In fact, most didn't. According to Acts 1:15, there only appears to be 120 followers of Jesus after he ascended into Heaven. That is not very many sheep.
This leads to the question, is that it? If the sheep must hear the call of the Good Shepherd, and the Good Shepherd has gone to Heaven, is there any hope for anyone else? Yes, there is. Turn with me to John 17:20. If you recall, we briefly looked at John 17 last week. Chapter 17 contains what is known as the the High Priestly prayer. This is the prayer of Jesus the night of his arrest before the cross. John 17:20, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” The “these” he mentions are the disciples. Prior to verse 20 he is praying for the disciples, but verse 20 indicates that the disciples will be the ones who carry on the mission of bringing in the sheep. They will be proclaiming a word. And this word will be compelling. People will believe in Jesus through the words of the disciples.
Which leads to another question, what is this word? It is the gospel. Romans 1:16 says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. .” Romans 10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
In John 10, Jesus says that his sheep hear his voice and follow him. However, we know that Christ has ascended to the right hand of the Father and will not return to Earth until the final day. So how are the sheep to hear the voice of Christ? It is through the Gospel.
What an amazing reality. When we proclaim the Gospel, we are speaking with the voice of Christ. A voice of Christ that comes with power. A power to call the sheep to the doorway of Christ an into the pastures of eternal life.
We see this exact thing unfold in Acts 2, after Jesus ascended into Heaven. Peter stands up before the flock of the Jews on the day of Pentecost, and proclaims the Gospel, and what is the result? 3,000 sheep come out of the fold of Israel and dedicate their lives to the Good Shepherd. The voice of Christ, through the preaching of the Gospel, resonated deep in their heart, and they repented and believed in Christ.
Those 3,000 people did not put their faith in Jesus Christ because Peter was a good Christian community member who never cussed and always lent a hand in time of need. No, their lives radically changed because the Gospel proclaimed by the lips of Peter cut their heart so deep that they were ready to abandon all this life had to offer so that they could grab hold of Christ, their newest and greatest treasure.
And Peter by the preaching of the Gospel was fulfilling the prophecy of Christ in John 17. People were believing in Christ by the preaching of his word, the Word of Christ.
However, the events of Pentecost, is not the other fold. It is still the fold of Israel. The disciples had yet to leave Jerusalem in Acts 2, but they would.
The Second Fold
When Jesus says, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold, I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one Shepherd” who is he talking about if he is not talking about Israel? The answer is that he is talking about everyone else. The other fold, is the world at large, minus the Jews. This group is called the Gentiles in the Bible. The gentiles are the other fold that Christ plans to call his sheep from.
This statement would have been very controversial to the Jews of Jesus' day. They believed they were an exclusive group, handpicked by God to receive the blessings of God. They believed that if you wanted to be a sheep of God you would need to become a Jew first. Then, and only then, could you belong to God's family. But Jesus does not say this. Jesus teaches that he has sheep from two different folds. First the Jew and then the rest of the world.
And this should not have been a surprise to the Jews. In fact, God proclaimed this to their father Abraham. Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Jesus was the fulfillment of this promise to Abraham. Jesus was “in Abraham” for he was a Jew, and it was Jesus who would be a blessing to the families scattered over the world.
It was also in the Jewish hymn book, the Psalms. Psalm 22:27, “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you.” The worship of the one true God is not just for the Jews, it is for the nations. No people group has a corner-market on God.
And Jesus began to remind and teach his disciples this over his three year earthly ministry. John 3:16, “For God so loved the World, that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.” Jesus didn't just come for the Jews, he came for the world.
Perhaps the most familiar teaching on this by Jesus is the great commission. Matthew 28:19, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The disciples were commissioned to go to all nations, not just Israel. The beginning of the Messianic age would launch in Jerusalem, but it was to expand to all nations. In fact, the expansion to the nations is a prerequisite before Christ returns. Matthew 24:14 Jesus says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” Why? John 10:16, because Jesus has other sheep that are not of this fold, and he must bring them in.
The Elect Gentiles
And once again, what does the text say? Verse 16, Jesus says, “I have.” Meaning that he already possesses them even before he brings them. This is just like we unpacked last week. Believing in Christ does not make the Gentiles Jesus sheep. They are Jesus' sheep, therefore they will believe. Once again, we are talking about the elect.
Perhaps a good picture of this is found in Acts 10. I will not read it all to you but merely summarize it. A Gentile named Cornelius was visited by an Angel in a vision telling him to call for a man named Peter to come and speak with him. Upon the arrival of Cornelius's men at Peter's house, God told Peter to go with the men. Peter did so, and upon his arrival at the gentile home, he preached the Gospel to them. And we read in verse 44 these words, “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word.45And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles.” So did Cornelius and his household become sheep after they believed, or were they sheep, therefore they believed? Cornelius was a sheep from the other fold, and Christ was calling him and his family out of the world and into fellowship with him through the preaching of the Gospel by Peter.
Now Peter was not the most prominent gospel voice to the Gentiles, he was just merely the vessel that God used to open the door. The person who kicked the door down was the Apostle Paul. In Acts 9:15 God says about Paul, “he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” And make no mistake Paul obeyed his calling, for he was relentless in his Gospel proclamation. Town after town, synagogue after synagogue, beating after beating, Paul was steadfast in proclaiming the name of Christ to the Gentile fold of sheep.
One town he proclaimed the gospel to was Corinth. Corinth was a city very similar to modern day America. It was very affluent and very wicked. Corinth was at the cross hairs of trade, the world met at Corinth to conduct business. And we read about Paul's arrival in Corinth for the first time in Acts 18. Turn with me there, so that you can see for yourself the connection with John 10:16.
Upon arrival at Corinth, Paul met up with Aquila and his wife Priscilla and stay with them for some time. While there he would occupy himself with the Word and sharing the Gospel every Sabbath with the Jews at the Synagogue. Eventually, Paul was fed up with the Jews and he says this in verse 6, “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” And to the Gentiles he went and started to proclaim the Gospel. Being in such a wicked and worldly city, you would think that Paul would not have much success is convincing people to repent of their wealth and follow Christ. But at Jesus said in Matthew 19:26, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
So with that in mind, look at Acts 18:9-11, “And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, 10for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.” 11And he stayed a year and six months, teaching the word of God among them.” Once again the word “for” is crucial in understanding what is going on. Why did God desire Paul to stay and preach the Gospel in the worldly town of Corinth, “for I have many in this city who are my people.” To say it the John 10 way would be to say, “I have many sheep who are in this town that I must bring to me.”
And how would Christ bring these sheep out of the Corinthian fold and to him? Paul was to preach and not be silent. Once again it was the Gospel that was the call of the Good Shepherd to the sheep. And what was Paul's response to this information? He stayed a year and six months teaching the word of God. So the catalyst behind Paul proclaiming the Gospel in Corinth for 1 ½ years was the doctrine of election. Paul believed the elect, the chosen ones of God, were among the people of Corinth and he was going to go an get them for Christ.
And this is not the only place we see this election based evangelism with Paul. Romans 9 is the most direct chapter in the Bible concerning the doctrine of election and it is immediately followed by Chapter 10 which says in verse 10-14, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?c And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” This is how Paul, the greatest missionary ever to walk the planet thought about missions, in a John 10:16 sort of way. That Jesus has sheep that are out there, they must be brought in, and because they are sheep the will follow; therefore let us go an preach the Gospel.
How Does this Relate to You?
So what does this have to do with you? Everything. My guess is that very few of you think about evangelism the way Paul does. Most likely you see evangelism being about your ability, not about election. You think that the only reason someone would believe in Jesus is because you nailed it and were articulate and funny and winsome, and you just overwhelmed them with your gospel charm. And because of that false belief, you never share the gospel. You have effectively psyched yourself out. Therefore instead of speaking you remain silent.
I want you to imagine instead, Jesus showing up to you tonight in a vision and saying to you, Phil, I have many sheep in Cascade, I need you to stay there and preach the gospel. How does that change Monday morning? Do you feel the pressure of your ability? No, you feel compelled to proclaim the Gospel. It is not about you, it is about election. John 10:16, “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold, I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.”
All you have to do is to proclaim the Gospel. The simple Gospel. It is not rocket science, it is merely the testimony of who Christ is and what he has achieved for us on the cross. If you are a Christian this is the one thing that you know, for it was the Gospel that you heard and believed that justified you before God. Immediately upon believing the Gospel, you have everything you need to go and make disciples.
And we can find peace in knowing that it is not about us, it is about God. If we preach the true Gospel, the sheep of Christ will respond and come out of the fold and to Jesus. Our requirement is merely to be obedient and allow God to use us.
I love the way Paul states it in 2 Corinthians 4:7, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. “ The treasure is the Gospel. The jar of clay is us. We are merely messengers of the King summoning God's citizens into his Kingdom.
This week, by God's Sovereign will, we have opportunities to be doers of the word, not just hearers of it. Tomorrow at 6:00 a number of us will be meeting here at Cornerstone Church to go and share the Gospel and invite people to come out to the worship in the Park this Sunday. Likewise, on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. We will be walking in a parade handing out Gospel tracs and once again inviting people to come out and listen to the Gospel at Worship in the Park. Lastly, Sunday morning from 7:30-11:30 we will be hosting a pancake breakfast and a church service for Cascade Hometown days. God willing we will have a number of people from Cascade and with each person who comes there will be a gospel opportunity. The question is will we be obedient.
Remember, it is not about your silver tongue or lack thereof, it is about the the sheep of Christ hearing the voice of Christ through the speaking of the Gospel. This reality is the foundation of the boldness that we need to build the Church of Christ. So let us go and make disciples!
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on August 7, 2016
Open you Bibles to John 10. Today is our second week in this chapter, and I plan on spending at least one more week if not two covering all of the massive truths in this text. Hopefully, many of you have taken me up on my encouragement to read John 10 over and over again and think about the implications of what Jesus is saying, because they are eternally massive. Today we are going to read verse 1-30.
John 10:1-30 – “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. 7So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. 11I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. 14I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” 19There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” 22At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30I and the Father are one.”
Last week we took a 10,000 foot view of this text, and we examined it through the lens of redemptive history. What I mean by that is that since the beginning of history, God has always had a plan of redeeming a people to himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. Prior to Jesus coming in the flesh, God used the nation of Israel to point forward to Christ’s arrival. And we saw how Ezekiel 34 did just that. 500 years before Jesus was born, God declared this in Ezekiel 34:23, “And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the LORD; I have spoken.” In John 10, Jesus is declaring that he is the fulfillment of God’s promise as stated in Ezekiel 34. Jesus is the servant David, he is the Prince among them. He is the One Shepherd.
Today, we are now going to go deeper into the text to understand how this Shepherding comes about. As I stated last week, to understand what Jesus is saying, we must understand to some degree the art of 1st century shepherding.
Last week we discussed how Shepherds would bring their sheep into a community fold. This fold was a fenced in area that could hold dozens, and perhaps hundreds of sheep. In this fold there would be sheep from different shepherds. If you were to look into the fold, you would see all the sheep intermingled. You would not be able to tell whose sheep were whose. When morning came, the shepherd would approach the front of the fold where there would be a very small doorway. This doorway was no wider than one sheep. The shepherd would then stand in the doorway and call his sheep.
Every sheep in the fold would hear the call of that particular shepherd. However, only the sheep that were his respond to the call. This is different than how we move animals from point A to point B. Today, we are accustomed to driving animals. We use force. This was not so with these sheep. They came because they wanted to.
And why did they choose to come upon the calling of their Shepherd? It was because of the previous relationship with the shepherd that made the call effective. So if the shepherd owned ten sheep, and those ten sheep were inside a fold of 100 sheep, when the shepherd comes to the door and calls out, those ten sheep hear his voice and walk to him out of the midst of the fold. Until the call, you have no clue which sheep is the shepherd's. The shepherd then leads them out of the fold and to the lush green pastures of Israel. This is the picture that Jesus is using to describe who he is and why he came.
The Fold of Israel
With this understanding under our belt, let us now look a little closer at the text. In verse 1 we see Jesus mention the sheepfold. Then in verse 16 we see Jesus say, “I have other sheep that are not of this fold.” This leads us to the question, what is Jesus referring to in verse 1? What is the sheepfold in verse 1? What is “this fold” in verse 16? Take a moment and think about it.
The fold Jesus is speaking about is the nation of Israel. The biological descendants of Abraham are the “this fold.” When Jesus came in the flesh, he came first for Israel. He was born a Jew, raised a Jew, participated in all of the Jewish festivals and rituals. Above his head on the cross was the sign, “King of the Jews.” Jesus speaks to this reality in Matthew 15:24 when a Gentile women is seeking his help. He states, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This explains why Jesus’ earthly ministry taking place only in Israel. God sent him first to the sheepfold of the Jews.
The Call of the Shepherd
As Jesus walks about Israel, what was he doing? He was teaching and preaching. Jesus says in Mark 1:38-39, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.” The Good Shepherd, the Prince among them, was sent by God to the sheep of Israel to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
And what was the result of this teaching and preaching? The result was that some people believed he was the Christ the Son of God and some people did not believe. In fact, this is a reoccurring theme that we have seen chapter after chapter in the book of John. As Jesus stands before the fold of Israel and proclaims who He is, some people swallow it hook, line and sinker. Others do not. But the real question, I want to address this morning is why?
They Know His Voice
Why do some of the Jews believe in Jesus and some do not? They all see the same man, hear the same words, witness the same miracles. Why do some people give up everything to follow Jesus and some people want to kill him?
Look at verse 4, “the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” The NIV uses the word “because.” Circle, underline, put a star by the word “for”. This word is the key to understanding why some people believe and some people don’t. Verse 4 has logic to it. It tells us that the reason why people follow Jesus is that they know his voice. When Jesus stands before them and preaches that he is the Light of the World, they recognize his voice and they follow him. His words resonate inside their soul. His words speak to them. Why? Because he already has a relationship with them. And this pre-calling relationship is not a general one, it is specific, it is personal. Look at verse 3, “he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” Andrew, follow me. Peter, follow me. Philip, follow me. Nathaniel, follow me.
Have you ever wondered why the disciples so easily left everything behind to follow Jesus. I always thought it was strange how easy it was for Jesus to say “Follow me” and the did automatically without any apparent hesitation. John 10 explains why.
Now let us look at the negative side of this. Look at verse 26. Jesus flips it and uses the other side of the coin to explain why some people don’t believe, “but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Once again, circle, underline, put a star by the word “because.” The reason why people do not believe in Jesus is because they are not his sheep. If you are not his sheep, no matter what Jesus says or what Jesus does in your presence, you will not believe. It is not possible. Why? Because they are not his sheep. Once again this explains why so many people could see the amazing miracles of Christ, hear him preach like no other person on the planet, and cast out demons and still reject him. They were not his sheep.
Many people, and many Churches believe and proclaim the exact opposite of what Jesus teaches in John 10. Some of you may, in fact, believe the exact opposite of what Jesus is teaching. Many of you think that you are sheep because you believe. That is not correct. The correct understanding is that you believe BECAUSE you are sheep. Sheep first, then belief.
And I would argue that this makes sense when you think about your faith in Jesus. What is the explanation that you believe in Christ? Why do you like reading your Bible, praying, coming to Church, telling people about the Gospel? If we are honest, the story of Jesus, God's Son, coming in the flesh and dying on the cross in our place is somewhat ludicrous, yet we believe it. Why? Because we are his sheep.
The Gift of the Father to the Son
Let us, however, go deeper and ask how. How did the sheep of Jesus become the sheep of Jesus? If sheep are sheep before faith, then by what means do sheep become sheep? Look at verse 29, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” The sheep of Jesus are a gift from the Father to the Son. Therefore, before the sheep were Jesus' they were the Fathers. And verse 29 matches what we saw in Ezekiel 34. The sheep are God's and then he sets over them Jesus as the one Shepherd.
This is not the only place we see Jesus says things like this. Listen to what Jesus prays in what is called the High Priestly prayer in John 17. This is the prayer that Jesus prays before he is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Verse 6, “I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.” Then again in verse 9, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours.” I remember wrestling immensely with that text a number of years ago. How is this so? It is so because the sheep of Jesus are a gift of the Father whom Christ has come to rescue.
This reality is not just in the book of John, it is throughout the Bible, and now that some of you have heard this you will see it absolutely everywhere. Romans 8:29-30 is perhaps the most familiar, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” Foreknown does not mean informational, it means relational. Before there was an us, God had a relationship with us, and he destined us to become like Christ. The first step of this, is for the sheep to here the call of the Good Shepherd and to come. When we come we are justified by his blood and we are destined for glory. Everyone who is foreknown is destined. Everyone who is destined is called. All who are called (By name) are justified. All who are justified will be glorified. Not one sheep is lost! God's purposes will stand. The gates of hell shall not prevail. The Good Shepherd shall receive and keep his sheep.
Another verse that I love that speaks to this amazing truth is Revelation 13:8. This chapter is talking about the end times and those who will worship a world leader that the Bible calls the beast. Verse 8 says, “and all who dwell on earth will worship it [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.”
So before the world began, there was a book. The name of the book is “The book of life of the Lamb who was Slain” and names were written inside this book. Whose names? The names of the sheep. Those sheep whom Jesus calls by name. And it is because they are in this book that they will not worship the beast. Remember what it says in John 10:5, “A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” They flee from the beast, for they are not the sheep of the beast, they are the sheep of the Good Shepherd.
According to the Purpose of His Will to the Praise of His Glory
So we have established that people believe because they are the sheep of Jesus, and they are the sheep of Jesus because the Father has given them to him, but can we go even farther than this? How are they God's to begin with? Is there something beyond this, or is God the Father then end?
Ephesians 1:3-6 - “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.”
The answer is no. There is nothing beyond God. He is the Alpha. We are God's sheep because he choose us. The all knowing, all powerful God, before time began chose us before there was an us outside the mind of God. This was the purpose of God's will.
And this leaves us with one and only one conclusion. God is sovereign. He is the only free agent in the entire universe. He has the ultimate free will, all other wills flow out of His will. This is what makes God god. This is what distinguishes him from the angels and from us. We are not ultimately free, He is ultimately free. Which leads us to one and only one response, to praise his glorious grace.
Our salvation is 100 percent a gift from God, from beginning to end. As we stand before God on judgment day we will have nothing to brag about. Romans 11:36 - “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.”