It’s In Your Hands!

The story is told of some young foolish boys who were always trying to fool a wise old man who lived in their village. It had become somewhat of an obsession with the young boys, because every time they went to the old man with what they thought was an enigma, the old man would come up with an answer!

So one day, one of the little boys came up with what he thought was the perfect plan to stump the old man! He told his friends that he would go to the old man with a live bird within his closed fists and ask the old man if the bird was alive or dead. If the old man said the bird was alive, he would close his fists tighter and kill the bird! If the old man said the bird was dead, he would open his fists and the bird would fly away!

Completely satisfied that the plan would work, the boys took off to go see the old man, almost unable to contain their excitement at the thought of finally fooling the wise old man. When they arrived at the wise old man’s house, they eagerly presented him with their fool-proof riddle. They said: “Old man, Johnny has a bird in his hands! Tell us, is it alive or dead?” The old man sat silent for a moment, intently looking at their mischievous little faces. Then, the old man simply said, “The answer is in your hands!”

Well, that’s the way life is! Although many think it is in the hands of the governments, family, friends, circumstances, or situations, the ultimate success or failure in your life is in your hands! You can live life with open hands to give and receive, or you can live life with closed fists, attempting to hold on to what you have, not realizing that while a closed-fist secures what you have, it also prevents you from receiving more!

But not only is it in your hands, it is also in your head! Much of life is not ‘what it is,’ it is ‘what you think it is!’ The Bible says: “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he!”  The poet, Walter D. Wintle wrote:

If you think you are beaten, you are;

If you think you dare not, you don’t;

If you’d like to win, but think you can’t,

It’s almost a cinch you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost,

For out in the word we find

Success begins with a fellow’s will,

It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you’re outcasted, you are;

You’ve got to think high to rise.

You’ve got to be sure of yourself before

You can ever win a prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go

To the stronger or faster man;

But soon or late the man who wins

Is the man who thinks he can.

Several years ago, I read Zig Ziglar’s book: See You At The Top, Ziglar wrote: “How you think determines what you become. . . The mind is a dutiful servant and will follow the instructions we give it. . . I am convinced your business is never either good or bad – out there. Your business is either good of bad between your ears. . . . You are what you are and where you are because of what has gone into your mind. You can change what you are and where you are by changing what goes into your mind. . . Realistically, most locked doors are in your mind.” In his famed work: Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz writes: “A human being always acts and feels and performs in accordance with what he imagines to be true about himself and his environment. This is a basic and fundamental law of the mind. It is the way we are built. . . .You act, and feel, not according to what things are really like, but according to the image your mind holds of what they are like. You have certain mental images of yourself, your world, and the people around you, and you behave as though these images were the truth, the reality, rather than the things they represent.”

Yes! But not only is it in your hands and in your head, it is also in your feet! Some weeks ago, I rode a bike for the first time in many years and I found out that it’s true what they say; if you ever learn how to ride a bike, you will never forget! Riding a bicycle teaches several fundamental lessons of life: The only way to remain upright and balanced is to keep moving forward at certain rate of speed! As long as the bike is moving forward; you’re making progress toward a destination and you are balanced. It’s alright to stop peddling for a while and coast, but if you wait too long before you start peddling again, it will be almost as hard to regain your momentum as it was when you first started! And if you keep coasting and never start peddling again, you will eventually stop; progress will no longer occur, you will lose your balance and you will fall, if you don’t stick your leg out! Yes! In many ways, life is like riding a bike; to make progress, to reach your goals, to maintain balance, you must keep moving forward at a certain rate of speed!

My bike-riding experience also reminded me of another truth! I noticed as I was riding that I had to constantly adjust my direction! Nothing major, just constant minor shifts! The same thing happens in driving a car! Even on a straight road, you have to make slight and minute shifts and adjustments. That’s the way life is! It is never perfectly straight! But, to get to where you want to go, you must first of all, have somewhere to go! We are designed to have goals and to work progressively toward them! In Psycho-Cybernetics, Maltz talks about the fact that human have a built-in success mechanism that must have a goal or a target. It’s in your feet because you will only find fulfilment in life as you walk or peddle your way toward your goals, making slight adjustments and sometimes major turns along the way!

Yes! It’s in your hands, it’s in your head, it’s in your feet, and it is also in your mouth! In your mouth, there is either a miracle or a mess! We used to say as kids: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me!” Well, I found out that is not necessarily true! Not only can words hurt; words can kill! Jesus said: “I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matt. 12:36-37 CSB17) The bad words other people say to you ‘may’ or ‘may not’ hurt you, but the bad words you say to yourself ‘will’ hurt you! When I say ‘bad words,’ I don’t mean profanity, I mean the put-down-words, the negative conversations we sometimes have with our selves! If others say we can’t do it, we can use that as motivation to prove them wrong! But if we say to our selves that we can’t do it; we’re doom to fail, because who can successfully argue with themselves and win?

Lastly, not only is it in your hands, in your head, in your feet, and in your mouth; it is also in your heart! Your heart is your uttermost desire! Your heart is what you want most in life! The commercial asks: “What’s in your wallet?” But an even more important question is: “What’s in your heart?” Jesus said: “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.” (Matt. 12:34-35 NKJ) Your heart contains the will and the fortitude necessary to get and achieve what you really want in life! You heart contains the treasure or the trash that motivates everything you do!

Yes! It’s in your hands! It’s not up to the government! It’s not up to the economy! It’s not up to your spouse or your children! It’s not even up to God! Ultimately, you must accept full responsibility for your life and say: “If it is to be, it is up to me!” Whatever you make out of your life, it is in your hands!

Blankets With Holes

Have you ever witnessed or been a party to this scenario? You’re in a church service or at a conference and the speaker is giving a word of prophecy that goes something like this: “I decree and declare that this is your season to be blessed! Whatever you’re going through right now, the Lord told me to tell you that it is over! Your time of suffering is over! Your time of being the tail and not the head is over! Now, turn to your neighbor and tell them; ‘My time of suffering is over! My day of victory is here!”

Well, this sounds well and good, but there are some fundamental problems with ‘blanket’ declarations or prophecies such as the one I just described. First of all, when a speaker is speaking to a congregation of people, any and all broad declarations made similar to the ones I just described are always based on an assumption! The speaker assumes the people he or she is speaking to are in a position to receive what they say God is giving them! But more often than not, that is not the case! Let me show you what I’m talking about! It doesn’t matter what the prophecy may be, if a person is not in right-relationship or fellowship with God, they are not in a position to receive the blessing! For instance, if a person is living in known and open unrepentant sin; they are not eligible to receive the blessing! How can God bless mess? This is the main problem I have when people make blanket declarations; it gives a sense of false hope because usually the speaker does not express the conditions of the blessing!

Conditions of the blessing? Yes! Most blessings, particularly the ones that most people crave and the ones many ‘prophet-profits’ espouse, have conditions attached! I heard a choir singing about the fact that we are blessed in the city and we are blessed in the field! However, the biblical passage from which that song is derived says: “And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the LORD thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God. Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field.” (Deuteronomy. 28:1-3 KJV) Do you see the condition? The passage does indeed say that Israel would be ‘blessed in the city and blessed in the field,’ but only ‘if’ they were careful to diligently hear and obey all of the commandments! Most of the promises of God contain an ‘if-then’ condition: If we obey, then God will bless! If we are in right-relationship or right-fellowship, then God will do this or do that! Even salvation is an ‘if-then’ condition! Romans 10:9 says: That ‘if’ thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, (then) thou shalt be saved.” (KJV) People say that God is a ‘forgiving God,’ but even God’s forgiveness is conditional! In order for God to forgive us, we must repent (turn from, forsake, change our mind) from the wrong offense! If we don’t do that, God will not forgive! Jesus also said in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”(KJV) So, if we want forgiveness, then we must be forgiving!

Therefore, I would like to suggest that many of the ‘blanket prophecies’ that are being declared are blankets with holes! The prophecy may or may not cover you! Here’re another insight to consider: Let’s just supposed the prophecy is that the Lord is going to immediately bring you out of a certain bad situation. But, it could be that you’re in that situation because of some foolish decisions you made and the Lord may choose not to immediately deliver you from your ‘mess’ because He wants you to have time to learn the message (lesson). So you hear the prophecy and you think your day of deliverance is near, when in fact, it might be awhile!

There are countless factors you should consider before you accept a blanket declaration as being from the Lord. Although it might be a blanket-declaration, it might not cover you because of the ‘holes’ in your life! It might not be for everybody, just some! Therefore, be leery of prophets, profits, and others, who are quick to utter blanket decrees and declarations, because more often than not, those decrees and declarations are blankets with holes!

What is the Kingdom of God?

Recently, a friend posted on his Facebook page the poster you see above. I replied to his post by saying: “Good admonition! The problem is that most modern Christians have no idea what the Kingdom of God is!” Now, the irony of that reality is that the main theme of the ministry and life of Jesus was the Kingdom of God! The Kingdom of God was the subject of every one of his sermons! The Kingdom of God was the object of every one of his teaching sessions! The demonstration of the power and presence of the Kingdom of God was purpose for every one of his miracles! Yet, those who claim to follow him today, know very little about the Kingdom of God as he presented it!

Now, I hope you noticed what I just said: I said, “Those who claim to follow him today know very little about the Kingdom of God ‘as he presented it!” Most of what we think we know about the Kingdom of God today was gathered from the writings of theologians (Early Church and modern) and from ideas in art and culture, but what did Jesus say about the Kingdom of God?

As I write this, I am reminded of the frustrations I experienced as a young teen, helping my father in his work. My father was a greens-keeper at a golf-course and in the course of his work, he repaired and worked on small engines and the equipment used to maintain the course. When I first started working with him, during the summer-breaks from school, my frustrations stemmed from the fact that I was a little slow in remembering the names of the tools he worked with. For example, when my father would have his hands full working on a machine, he would ask me to bring him a Phillips-head screwdriver or a crescent-wrench. More often than not, before I got the hang of it, I would bring him a flat-head screwdriver or a pair of vice-grips instead! It was really frustrating for me to be rifling through the tool box, not knowing exactly what I was looking for! Often, when I couldn’t figure it out, I wouldn’t bring him what he asked for, I would just bring him what I thought he asked for!

Well, that’s the way it is with many Christians today! They really don’t know what Jesus meant when he said: “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. . .” And since they don’t really know what he meant, they just go by what they think he meant! Just like the difficulty I experienced when looking in my father’s toolbox, it’s difficult to look for or even find something, when you don’t exactly know what you’re looking for!

So, what did Jesus mean when he said; “But seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness. . . ?” Well, I finally learned the tools my father needed by the process of elimination. In other words, even before I found out what vice-grips were; I found out what they weren’t! Therefore, let’s first look at what Jesus ‘did not mean’ when he talked about the Kingdom of God. Now, there were times when he did, but most of the time, when Jesus was talking about the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven, he WAS NOT talking about the Heaven we most often talk about! I remember as a young Christian, when I first read Matthew 6:33, I just assumed that Jesus meant that our first priority should be; to seek to live a good life so that we might go to Heaven after we die! But that is not what he said and that is not what he meant!

Most often, when Jesus talked about the Kingdom of God, he was talking about the sovereign rule or the authority of God; the realm of God’s rule. In the preaching and teachings of Jesus, the terms; Kingdom of God and Kingdom of Heaven were not primarily referencing a place or location, but rather the act of ruling or the state of submission to God’s rule. Therefore, to ‘see’ and to ‘enter into’ the Kingdom of God in John 3:3 and John 3:5 are not references to seeing and walking through the pearly gates after death, but rather, to perceiving, understanding, and submitting to God’s sovereign rule in one’s life now! Note the tenses, Jesus did not say; ‘will not see’ or ‘will not enter’ (future tense), he said; ‘cannot see’ and ‘cannot enter’ (present tense). Now, there were times when he referenced the future aspect of the Kingdom of God. In the parables, he talked about the angels separating the wheat from the tares and separating the good fish from the bad fish. He talked about going away and preparing a place for us in John 14; that was future tense.

So in summary, here is what the Kingdom of God is from what we have discussed so far:

          The Kingdom of God is the sovereign rule of God.

          The Kingdom of God is a present reality.

          The Kingdom of God is a future hope.

Now, I don’t want this post to be too long, but I just want to focus on the aspect of the Kingdom of God as a present reality before I go. While traditional Christianity has done a good job of presenting the Kingdom of God as a future hope, it has done a very poor job of presenting the Kingdom of God as a present reality! The reason for that might be because it seems to be hard for people to wrap their heads around the reality that the Kingdom of God is not one or the other, but rather, the Kingdom of God is both! The Kingdom of God is indeed the culmination of history when God shall subdue all evil and sin, death and sickness will be no more and we will reign with God throughout eternity. Yes! That is the Kingdom of God! But the Kingdom of God is also, the sovereign rule, authority, and power of God working in and through the lives of His people for the purpose of His will being done presently on earth as it is done in Heaven! You see, the problem with traditional Christianity is that only one aspect of the Kingdom of God has been presented! We’ve done a great job in preparing people to die, but we have ignored the fact that there is one thing everybody must do before they die; they must live! We’ve done a great job in preparing people for life in the here-after, but we’ve done a dismal job in preparing people for life in the here-and-now! The Gospel that Jesus preached was like the candy I used to eat as a kid, called; Now-and-Later. But the gospel we preach makes the same mistake we made with the candy when we were kids! Although the actual name of the candy was and is: Now ‘and’ Later, we called it:  Now ‘or’ Later!  Jesus preached a ‘now and later’ message, but the message of most modern preaching is ‘now or later!’ And that message has no appeal to a person who is struggle to make ends meet and to survive in life! It’s really no real consolation to know that things will be better after they die; they need some relief now! The Gospel of the Kingdom of God that Jesus preached addresses that need! In Mark 10:28-30, we read: “Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.” (Mk. 10:28-30 KJV) Did you read what Jesus said? He said; ‘now in this time. . . and in the world to come. . .” The real Gospel, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, the Gospel Jesus told us to actually preach is the now ‘and’ later Gospel!

 There is a lot more I could say about what the Kingdom of God is, but if I keep going, you will quit reading! But read Matthew 13 in your Bible. In that chapter, you will discover several examples of what the Kingdom of God is and what the Kingdom of God is like; now and later!

Eternal Life: Not Just a Lay-a-Way Plan!

One of the first Bible verses that many of us learned was John 3:16, which, according to the King James Version, says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (Jn. 3:16 KJV) The same verse, in the English Standard Version (ESV) says: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (Jn. 3:16 ESV) The terms; ‘everlasting life’ and ‘eternal life’ are synonymous; the KJV says ‘everlasting,’ while most of the modern translations say; ‘eternal.’ In the Greek text, it is the same word, which literally means; ‘without beginning and end, that which always has been and always will be 2) without beginning 3) without end, never to cease, everlasting.’

Now, I used the term ‘literally’ because although the definition talks about not having an end, the term is used, in most cases in the Bible, not to signify the length of life, but rather, the quality of life! When you really think about it, the truth of the matter is this; everyone who has ever lived, will actually live forever! The big question is; where? For you see, when the Bible speaks of death, it is not talking primarily about annihilation or a cessation of existence, it is talking about separation! The Apostle Paul described the condition of the Ephesian believers before they became believers as that of being ‘dead in your trespasses and sins.’ (Eph. 2:1) In 1 Timothy 5:6, Paul described a widow, who was living in luxury as being ‘dead while she lives.’ In each case, the primary meaning of death was separation. Physical death is the separation of the human spirit and soul from the body. Spiritual death is the separation of a person from correct fellowship and relationship with God. Eternal death is the eternal separation from the fellowship and correct relationship with God. According to the Bible, everyone of us came into this world DOA; dead on arrival. The most important thing in life is the race against time! For it is of the utmost importance not let death (physical death) catch you dead (spiritually dead)!

Well, that’s enough about death, the purpose of this post is to talk about life! More specifically; eternal life! Now, what most modern believers do not understand or have otherwise failed to incorporate into the practical reality of their lives, is the fact that eternal life is a present-possession of every believer! If you are a true believer in Jesus, you will not get eternal life when you die and leave this world; you have eternal life now! Jesus said in John 5:24: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (NKJ) John, the Apostle wrote in 1 John 3:14-15: “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” (NKJ) Most ‘religious Christians’ don’t read the Bible correctly! They believe they will gain eternal life when they die! But the truth of the matter is; if you don’t possess eternal life now while you live, when you die, it will be too late! Those same ‘religious Christians’ also believe they will enter the Kingdom of God when they die, but according to the Bible, a person is either in the Kingdom of God or the kingdom of darkness; right now! Paul wrote in Colossian 1:13: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.” (ESV) Note the tenses! Paul didn’t say: “He ‘will’ deliver us. .” He said; “He ‘has’ delivered us. . .” Paul didn’t say that God ‘would transfer’ us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,” He said that God ‘has transferred’ us to the kingdom of His dear Son! The sad reality is the most Christians are not aware of this awesome reality! They have placed their hope in a delayed lay-a-way plan wherein they only hope to receive eternal life and enter into the Kingdom of God; after they die, in the sweet by-and-by! But that is NOT what the Bible teaches! The good news of the Gospel is that those who believe in Jesus, have eternal life; right now! Those who believe in Jesus are in the Kingdom of God; right now!

Well, what is ‘eternal’ or ‘everlasting’ life? As stated earlier, although the literal meaning talks about the length of life, the biblical emphasis is not on the length of life, but rather on the quality of life. Jesus, who is the Life, gave this definition in his high priestly prayer in John 17:1-3, where we read: “Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said: ‘Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you gave him authority over all flesh, so that he may give eternal life to everyone you have given him. This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and the one you have sent– Jesus Christ.” (Jn. 17:1-3 CSB17) According to Jesus, eternal life is knowing the only true God and the one He sent – Jesus Christ! Now, we should note at this point, that ‘knowing’ in the Bible does not signify a mere intellectual exercise, but ‘know’ or ‘knowing’ in the Bible, denotes an intimate close relationship! (Such as in: “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain. . .” Gen. 4:1 KJV) Therefore, Jesus defined eternal life as an intimate relationship with God the Father, through His Son; Jesus Christ! Eternal life only comes through and by way of the One who said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn. 14:6 CSB17) Do you really ‘know’ Jesus? If you do, then you have eternal life right now! This eternal life is the life Jesus came to give, according to John 3:16 and John 10:10. Eternal life is Jesus living His life through us by way of the Holy Spirit, according to the Apostle Paul’s words recorded in Galatians 2:20.

Oh fellow believers! We have such a great salvation, but the sad reality is that too many believers die with most of their food still on their plates! They die without ever scratching the surface of the depth of provisions God had for them in this life! They are like the story I read about a couple who saved all of their money to pay for a cruise. They had never been on a cruise before! In fact, prior to this cruise, they had never even left their small home town! Well, after they boarded the ship, during the entire cruise, they never ventured out of their room! Every day, they sat in their room, eating the sandwiches they had packed, looking out of their windows at the ocean and at other people who were enjoying themselves on the ship. Since, they never ventured out of their room, when the captain learned of their absence from all of the ship’s functions and festivities, so he sent a steward to check on them, for he feared they might have died during the voyage! When the steward knocked on their door, he was amazed to discover the couple had been happily secluded in their room for the entirety of the cruise! He asked them why they had not partaken of the amenities and festivities of the ship. The couple replied that they couldn’t afford it! The steward asked to see their tickets and after inspecting their tickets, he was almost speechless! He explained to the couple that when they paid for their tickets, every meal, every amusement, every show, and every amenity was also included in the price of their tickets! The sad reality was, by the time the couple discovered this, the cruise was over and the ship was returning to port!

Well, that’s the way it is with many Christians today! They have packed their lunch and they are eating in their rooms because they believe their only reward will come after they die and go to Heaven! They have not read Romans 8:32, where the Apostle Paul said: “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (KJV) They don’t realize that over two thousand years ago, every blessing was bought and paid for on Calvary’s Cross! The Apostle Peter reported: “His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Pet. 1:3 CSB17) Yes! Everything we need for this life, God has already provided! It’s all included in ‘eternal life!’ Jesus said: “So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat? ‘ or ‘What will we drink? ‘ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt. 6:31-34 CSB17) Freedom from worry and anxiety is included in eternal life! Seeking the Kingdom of God and his righteousness is eternal life! All these things (the things we need in life) being added is included in eternal life! What is eternal life? Eternal life is the abundant life! It is the life of intimate communion, fellowship, and relationship with God the Father through Jesus the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit, who resides in every believer! When is eternal life? Eternal life is now . . .and later!

An Honest Look at John 10:10

I think one of the most egregiously misquoted and misapplied biblical passages today is John 10:10! I cringe every time I hear it misquoted and misapplied. Even more distressing is the fact that the misquotes and misapplications are being done, not just by people in the pew, who have had no theological training, but also by preachers in the pulpit! I would like to suggest that this passage, this quote from Jesus, as of late, has been notoriously misquoted, misapplied, and misunderstood by too many pastors, preachers, and parishioners.

Now, let’s look at the passage:

      The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (KJV)

       The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (NIV)

We can see, just from just a quick glance, the glaring misquote that most people make! Jesus DID NOT SAY: The ‘enemy,’ Jesus said: The ‘thief.’ There is a substantial difference between an enemy and a thief! Perhaps the gross misapplication stems from the misquote? When the term ‘enemy’ is used, the devil quickly comes to mind. But Jesus did not say ‘the enemy,’ he said ‘the thief’ and Jesus WAS NOT REFERRING TO THE DEVIL when he used the term; ‘thief.’ (Please excuse the all caps, I realize it is interpreted as shouting, but I want to shout to get my point across!)

Now, before we get into the context of the text, I think it would be good to stop for a moment and understand why it doesn’t make sense for Jesus to have referred to the devil as a thief. There is an interesting exchange between Jesus and the devil in the wilderness temptation accounts that many have allowed to go over their heads. Let’s look at Luke 4:5-8: “Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, ‘All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.’ And Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, `You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve.” (NKJ) The interesting thing about this dialogue is that Satan claimed that the authority over all the kingdoms of the world and their riches had been given to him. He also claimed to have had the right or the authority to give the authority and riches of those kingdoms to whoever he wanted. Now, the interesting thing to me is that Jesus did not dispute this claim! Surely, if the devil was lying at this point, Jesus would have known it and since the devil knew that Jesus was the Son of God, he knew that Jesus would have known that he was lying! In addition, if the devil was lying, the temptation wouldn’t have been a temptation at all! Therefore, since the devil, whom the Apostle Paul also referred to as ‘the god of this age’ has authority over the kingdoms of the world and their riches, what sense does it make for him to be trying to steal material things from believers? In fact, the more reasonable strategy (the one the devil actually uses and the one he tried on Jesus) would be for the devil to tempt us with the offer of material goods! Therefore, to say that the devil is the enemy who comes to steal, makes absolutely no biblical sense! If any thing, the devil comes, not to steal our material blessings, but to actually give material riches for the purpose of attempting to seduce us away from God! Furthermore, if the devil would want to steal anything from us, it wouldn’t be our stuff, it would be our faith and joy!

But, let’s get back to the passage! One of the primary rules of biblical interpretation is context! So, in order to put John 10:10 in proper context, we have to look at the overall conversation Jesus was having and more specifically when he first started to talk about the thief. Consequently, in order to put John 10:10 in its proper context, we have to at least, go back to John 10:1, where Jesus said: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” (NKJ) So, we see that the thief in the context of John 10, is not trying to steal what the sheep have, but is actually trying to steal the sheep! In verse 8 Jesus said: “All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.” (NKJ) So, we see that Jesus used the terms; ‘thief,’ ‘thieves,’ and ‘robbers’ to refer the religious leaders who came before him, who were taking advantage of people (the sheep) for their own selfish gain! The thieves and robbers were the religious leaders who sought to gain access to the sheep by some other way than Jesus; the door of the sheep (v. 7).

Therefore, when taken in its proper context, it is obvious that John 10:10 was not a direct statement about the devil, but rather it was a statement about the false religious leaders who did not care to properly instruct the sheep, but rather abused the confidence of the sheep for their own gain! The thief, who comes but to steal, kill, and destroy in John 10:10 is NOT THE DEVIL, but rather is the false prophet, the false teacher, the false religious leader who abuses and uses the people of God for selfish personal gain!

To further substantiate this conclusion, it is interesting to note that, in the Greek text, the word that is translated as ‘kill’ in John 10:10 is a word that is used only 14 times in the entire Greek New Testament and only once in John! It is not the normal word that is most often translated as; ‘kill.’ It is a word that denotes, not just a simple killing, but rather killing in the form of a religious sacrifice. Since the thief kills the sheep as a religious sacrificial offering, this further supports the identity of the thief as a religious personality!

Even after verse 10, Jesus continues his argument, but shifts the analogy of the false religious leaders from being thieves and robbers to being hirelings; mere hired-hands. The hireling, Jesus says in verses 12-13, cares nothing for the sheep, therefore, runs when he sees the wolf coming because he is in it only for the money!

Now, I hope no one gets the impression from reading this that I am a devil’s advocate! No! I am not trying to defend the devil, I am just arguing for handling the biblical text with exegetical integrity! We should be most careful to do due-diligence in reading, studying, preaching, teaching, and interpreting the biblical text! The Apostle Paul cautioned his young protégé Timothy by saying: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15 ESV)

(Just as an aside, when 2 Timothy 2:15 is quoted and referenced, most often used is the King James Version, which says: “Study to shew thyself approved . . .” But even in quoting and applying this text, there are two things that most modern biblical readers don’t realize. First, the Greek word that is translated as ‘study’ in the KJV is a word that means, ‘1) to hasten, make haste 2) to exert one’s self, endeavor, give diligence. Secondly, during the time the KJV Bible was written, the English word; ‘study,’ did not have the primary meaning it has today! Today, when we think of study, we think of intense reading, meditating, and remembering. But when the KJV was written, the primary meaning of ‘study’ was; ‘to endeavor’ ‘to try.’)

The lessons I hope to convey in this post are manifold, namely: 1) Don’t simply assume or accept a meaning or interpretation of a text simply because it’s the meaning or interpretation most people give it, even if those people are preachers and pastors who are supposedly biblically literate. 2) Remember the primary rule of biblical interpretation is context, and 3) Make every effort to become astute in handling the Word yourself! Your salvation and spiritual well-being is too important to leave solely in the hands of some pastor, preacher, Bible teacher, or any other person!