By Dr. Keith Wagner
When Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press he began to print bibles. This enabled the common people to have access to the scripture. Until then, only Church officials had access to scripture and everyone had to rely on their interpretation. This caused a paradigm shift. No longer would the world have to depend on church leaders to read the bible, they could now read it for themselves.
In laymen terms, a paradigm shift is a popular, or perhaps, not so popular shift or transformation of the way we humans perceive events, people, environment, and life altogether. It can be a national or international shift, and could have dramatic effects on the way we live our lives. When Galileo, for example, determined that the Sun was the center of the universe and not the earth it totally changed the way people viewed the world.
In 1610 Galileo pointed his telescope at Jupiter and observed the orbits of four of its moons. He believed that there was a force (which we now call gravity) that keeps the moons of Jupiter in their orbits and the same force could keep the earth’s moon going around it as the earth moved around the sun. His observations convinced him that the earth orbits the sun along with the other planets. Thus Galileo refuted those who believed that the sun and all the planets orbited the earth.
However the consequences of that paradigm shift went far beyond astronomy. The Church opposed the scientific change not because it had a biblical position but because it believed that the earth was the center of the universe. Galileo and others believed that science was a higher authority than the Church. As a consequence the authority of the Bible was undermined.
Life is constantly changing but we do not always accept things that change. The internet, for example, has greatly changed the way we communicate. If you don’t have email you are living in the dark ages. The internet has also become our primary source for information. You don’t have to wait for the morning newspaper or watch the evening news. You can get instant, up-to-date information by using the Internet.
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When Jesus introduced the concept of the good shepherd, he was attempting to shift the religious paradigm of his day. People looked to the Pharisees as their spiritual leaders. Unfortunately they took advantage of common folks and retained power for themselves. Things like healing, salvation or repentance of sins, required their permission. Jesus, on the other hand, wanted them to understand that a spiritual leader is one who is like a shepherd who acts as a gatekeeper.
A shepherd knows his flock personally. Each person counts. No one is better than another. His voice is a familiar one. He cares for his sheep and has their best interest in mind, rather than his own. Sheep follow him because they trust him. He cares for them by protecting them at night and at the same time he sets them free during the day.
Jesus explicitly said that “anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.” In other words there is only one door that leads to salvation; the door of Christ. Jesus was the new paradigm, he was “the way the truth and the life.” This teaching greatly threatened the Pharisees as they were not willing to except a new paradigm when it came to matters of faith.
The Pharisees resisted any change that would undermine their authority or might cause them to lose power. They attempted to destroy Jesus, but as we all know, they were not successful because the love of God prevailed as god raised Jesus from the dead.
In the previous story of the healing of the blind man, Jesus was trying to enable society to “see.” This time he is trying to get them to “hear.” This time he attempts to teach them by using an object lesson. Perhaps if they understand that he is the “gate” for the sheep, they will understand. If you read ahead in verses 19-21, you will note that some got it and some did not.
What about you? Are you able to acknowledge this new paradigm for your life? Can you accept the fact that Jesus is the doorway to salvation, the door we need to choose in order to “have life, and have it abundantly?”
Recently I heard Joel Osteen tell the story about the time he was thinking about purchasing several acres of land. He didn’t really need it, but he wanted it. He couldn’t justify the purchase since the money could have been given to some worthy cause. He happened to be flying over the area one day about five miles up. When he looked down at the land below him it was a tiny speck in relation to the whole earth. He determined that since it was so small, God wanted him to have it. Osteen is one who would equate “abundance” with success and prosperity. But, for Jesus abundance means something quite different.
To live abundantly is to be aware that God knows us personally, like a shepherd who knows his sheep. It means we have the confidence that we are cared for. It also means we are tuned in to God’s will for our lives, like the sheep who listen to the familiar voice of the shepherd.
When we experience a paradigm shift it means we have to change. To accept the paradigm of Jesus as our door we have to do the following. First, we have to live our lives as though we are dependent on God. Second, we give the voice of God the highest priority. Third, we follow. When we do these things we are living in abundance.
When dealing with people who are having problems it has been my experience that they rely too much on their own resources instead of getting help. In other words, they depend on themselves instead of depending on God. We humans like to control the doorways to our lives instead of giving God the opportunity to open and close them for us. Since Jesus is the “doorway” to life then we must be willing to enter when the door is open and stay put when the door is closed.
In the last few weeks there have been a number of events that have taken me out of my routine. Doors have been opening and closing at the wrong time and in the wrong places. Consequently it has been difficult for me to go with the flow. Apparently I am experiencing a temporary paradigm shift in my routine and I am having trouble adjusting. I need to be more like a sheep who depends on the shepherd.
Jesus was trying to get people to listen to him but not everyone was tuned in. Those who weren’t were resistant to change. They wanted life to stand still. They weren’t willing to accept the simple fact that Jesus was the good shepherd who would take care of them. We live in a society that speaks to us in many ways. Everyone wants our attention. The only way to know what voices are sincere is to discern the motive. Like Jesus said, “to enter any other door is to be taken advantage of.” Those who love us don’t abuse us. Those who want us to succeed give us the freedom to be ourselves. Those who care about us are those who listen to us.
During World War II, Franklin Roosevelt said, “We have nothing to fear but fear its’ self.” Roosevelt was attempting to change the paradigm of the people from despair to hope. Another great statesman of that era was Winston Churchill. Churchhill once said, “We can make a living by what we get, but we can make a life by what we give.” He too was trying to change the paradigm of society. To follow Jesus as sheep follow a shepherd means to be persons who give. It is an old paradigm which when followed results in a new kind of world.
Copyright 2010, Keith Wagner. Used by permission.