We’re going to continue on in the Book of John as we have been doing, I think I put this in my email, but I want to tell you all this in advance. We’re going to have a Breakfast at the BCC on September the 29th, and I’ll be speaking and so, I just wanted to let you know, but even more significantly, we have been really blessed to be able to line this up. On November 7th, which is a Tuesday, we’re going, and I’m not sending out a blanket email, this is something we’re going to do, we’re going to have a breakfast at BCC and Tim Keller is going to speak. And what we’re going to do, and I have to run it by the BCC, we’ll eat in the area, I don’t know what you call it, the men’s grill area, you know, the West Lounge room, all that place back there, and then we’re going to go into the East room and it will be kind of theater style, because we can get between 600 and 700 people in there. We’re working with the Club on the numbers. Anyway, what we’re asking you to do, it’s the 7th, it’s a Tuesday, it’s unusual, but he’s going to be in on that Monday, but we’re asking everybody to come and bring a guest. One guest. Preferably somebody that might not be a Christian, somebody struggling with their faith, struggling with their life, whatever, and then you’ve got to make a reservation through me. So, and that’s the way we’re going to do the numbers. There’s going to be a lot of tricky things as far as the parking and things like that, but, he’s agreed to do this, and so, we’re very grateful.
Unidentified audience member: Where does he live?
RS: New York. All right, we are back in John. We’re in chapter 10. This may be a very familiar chapter to you. It may not. As one of my friends says, there are a lot of good fundamentals in this tenth chapter. You know, the [unintelligible] issues of the Christian life. So, if you would, turn to John chapter 10, and take a minute and read verses, silently, verses 1 through 15. [Pause for reading] You know, the picture of the shepherd, and really, I guess you could say that sheep and shepherd relationship, is really woven into the language and the imagery of the Bible, and you see this in both the Old and the New Testament. Now, I realize that, in our country, we’re probably not that familiar with sheep and shepherds. But, as you picture this relationship, it seems like the two things that characterize this relationship, one, is a, the significance of protection and security that the shepherd provides to the sheep. But, as you’ll see, and I’m going to read you some interesting things about sheep, you’ll see that sheep are incredibly helpless, and, because of that, they are very dependent on the shepherd. And so, this is not any accident that God uses this picture of the sheep / shepherd relationship. Let me read to you this about sheep. And remember, he’s talking about us. We’re the sheep. He’s the shepherd.
“Sheep are the only herd animals that require full-time supervision. When a man decides to raise them, he must commit his life to them. Other herd animals can be fenced, fed, watered, and checked on occasionally, and they’ll probably be fine. But not so with sheep. They must be watched during the day and secured at night. In the Middle Eastern countries, the shepherds will even bring their sheep into their house at night. Sheep need full-time supervision because they are not trainable. Their problem is they never learn from their mistakes. They do the same dumb things over and over, again and again. Trainable animals are those that learn from mistakes. They respond to punishment. They remember pain. Sheep,” listen to this, “Sheep don’t remember anything. You never see sheep performing on television or in a circus. They go astray. They get in trouble. Despite this, they continue to stray from the shepherd’s care.”
Guys, this is us. This is why he uses that imagery, that metaphor. And, you know what, though, one of the most incredible things about them, if you want to say something positive about sheep, is that they have the ability, God must have given this to them, they have the ability to distinguish the voice of their shepherd from all other voices. Look at verse 2. Excuse me, look at verse 3. It says, “To him, the doorkeeper opens and the sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from them because they do not know the voice of strangers.” There was a guy by the name of H.D. Morton. He wrote a book called, In the Steps of the Master, and he tells, he witnesses, he was there at the scene in a cave near Bethlehem. Two shepherds had sheltered their flocks in the cave during the night. How were the flocks to then be sorted out? Well, one of the shepherds stood some distance away, and gave his peculiar call. They have a call. And, he says, which only his sheep knew, and soon, and he says, “I watched it with my own eyes. His whole flock had run to him because they knew his voice. They would have come for no one else, but they knew the call of their own shepherd.”
Now, a second thing that I learned, that, again, I didn’t know, is that over in England, really, particularly in Scotland, if you’ve ever been to Scotland, they eat mutton, but they eat a lot of lamb, and, primarily, in that particular area of the world, the lamb and the sheep are primarily raised just to eat. But, back in Biblical days, really more in the Middle East, they raised them for their wool. Now, at the end of their lives, they might eat them, but they primarily keep them and use them for their wool, and, I share that, because sheep were often with their shepherds for years, and therefore, the shepherd really got to know their sheep. Sometimes, they would really even give them names, and so, I’m going to share this, and I’m going to come back to this at the end, when we really kind of get into the application, the shepherds were very personal with their sheep. It’s like they knew them, and this is kind of a picture of what God desires for us. He wants to be personal with us. He doesn’t want to be a distant, unknown being. He wants us to know Him in a very personal way.
Now, the third thing I would just say is that when they would hear his voice and basically then, he would go and they would follow him. They would follow his voice. I guess the final thing I would say about this is once they knew their voice, it says they wouldn’t follow a stranger. They would only follow their shepherd. Now, I think this better explains, guys, the functional role of the sheep / shepherd. The roles the sheep and the shepherd have are very functional. The shepherd knows what his role is. It’s to lead and to guide, and to make sure that they were properly nurtured, and to protect them. I mean, it was pretty clear-cut what the shepherd’s role was. Now, the sheep’s role is even easier. The sheep are to stay close to the shepherd and listen to his voice. To stay close to the shepherd and listen to his voice. And guys, this is the way we’re called to function with God. He has promised to be our shepherd, to be the Good Shepherd in our lives, to lead us, to guide us, to nurture us, to protect us, but we have to play our role. We have to stay close to him. We need to seek to hear his voice, because when we do, He says, I’ll fulfill My role, you can count on it. The problem in the sheep / shepherd relationship is that the sheep always go astray. And I think that’s part of the human condition is to go astray. And when we do, we can’t hear His voice. And we’re generally not interested in hearing His voice.
You know, in Isaiah 53, in verse 6, you remember the famous Isaiah chapter, many consider the most significant chapter in the Old Testament? Just an opinion. It describes the Suffering Servant. It describes someone basically, that says, He bears the sins of the world. He’s pierced through for our transgressions. But, in verse 6, it says, “All of us, like sheep, have gone astray. Each of us has turned to his own way. And guys, this is the heart of sin. The heart of sin is an attitude of the heart that says, I want to go my way in this life. And we’re called to say, Lord, I surrender, I want to follow You, my Shepherd. This reminds me of something, keep your finger in John, and turn over to Psalm 81, and then I’ll stop and see if you’ve got any comments or questions. Go to Psalm 81. Everybody at Psalm 81. Bailey, you want to read for us verses 11 through 13, please?
Bailey: “But My people would not listen to Me; Israel would not submit to Me. So, I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices. If my people would only listen to Me, if Israel would only follow My ways, how quickly I would subdue their enemies and turn My hand against their foes!”
RS: Look at verse 13. Bailey read from the NIV. It says, “If My people would just,” basically it says, “would listen to Me”, but over in the NAS, the New American Standard, it says, “O, that My people would only listen to Me.” I mean, it’s almost like God is, it’s a frustration; “If only My people would listen to Me.” Let me stop here. Any comments or questions on what we’ve said thus far? Anybody?
Jase: In verse 8, Richard, when he says, all that ever came before me are thieves and robbers, do you think he’s talking about false religions?
RS: We’re going to come to that.
Unidentified audience member: Okay.
RS: Anybody else? You know, it strikes me, guys, what God is calling us to do, as sheep, is to seek to be, and to stay, close to Him. And that’s just a question I would ask you to think about this morning, that only you can answer. Do you feel like you’re close to God? I mean, do you feel like you have a close relationship with Him? I love what Oswald Sanders says about this. Listen to him. It’s really good. He says, “Today, right now, you are as close to God as you choose to be.” Think about that. You’re as close to God as you choose to be, and, in one sense, we determine the closeness of this relationship. And we talked about this back in January. Remember one of our first responsibilities as Christians is to seek God, because He promises when we seek Him, we’ll find Him. Now that doesn’t mean, and I’m going to come back to this also, that we can stray as sheep, and that doesn’t mean that He might not use means to draw us back to Himself. So, I’m to stay close to God. I’m to stay close to the Good Shepherd. I’m to seek to hear His voice, and where do you seek to hear His voice? Primarily it’s through the Scriptures.
This past Sunday, one of the readings was The Transfiguration, at Church, and, you remember what happens at the Transfiguration? Jesus takes Peter and James and John, and He takes them to a high mountain, and this cloud comes over them, and anyway, Elijah and Moses show up, and then, and they’re terrified. And then they hear the voice of God the Father, and you would think, knowing that Peter and James and John were just the, I mean, Jesus was going to be leaving soon, and they were kind of the key leaders that would be left behind, to lead, to found and lead the Early Church. And you would think He might have a lot to say to them. Remember what He says? Behold, this is My Beloved Son, with Who I am well-pleased.” Remember what He says? “Listen to Him.” And that’s it. He’s gone. Now, why wouldn’t God have spoken more into the lives of these three men? Because, basically, He’s saying, just listen to Jesus. He will tell you, He will give you all that you need to know. And guys, I don’t think that’s changed.
There’s a great verse, I love this verse, as we think about listening to Him, and I love it from the NIV. It’s Isaiah 48:17. It says, “This is what the Lord says, Your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, listen to this, ‘I am the Lord Your God Who teaches you what is best for you, Who directs you in the way that you should go.’” He teaches you what is best for you, and leads you in the way that you should go. Everything that we need to know in life, and about life, He will teach us. He will tell us. The key is, guys, we have got to listen to His voice. Comments or questions?
Unidentified audience member: That was Isaiah 14?
RS: 48:17, I’m sorry. 48:17.
Unidentified audience member: Psalm 32:8?
RS: Psalm 32:8 is another great verse. “I will instruct you, and I will teach you in the way that you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” Yeah, JK, what were you going to say?
JK: Were those same verses not spoken, or similar verses spoken, when John the Baptist was baptizing Jesus?
RS: Yeah, the dove came and landed and He just says, “This is My Beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased.” And this comes later. Anybody else? You know, I just wrote this down because I was thinking about it. You know, why do people not want to listen to Him? You know, John, I don’t know how many of you are familiar with it, but John 10:10 is a very famous verse, and we’re going to talk about it in a minute, about, “…the thief comes to steal and destroy, I came that you might have Life, and that you might have it abundantly.”
You know, it strikes me, and I’m thinking back in my own life, that that verse, before I became a Christian, I had it all wrong. I thought Jesus was the thief. I thought He came to basically steal my life away from me. To steal my happiness from me, and Jesus says, the thief comes to steal and destroy. I’m no thief. I came that you might have Life, that you might have it abundantly.
And, just late yesterday afternoon, I was about to lay down, and I looked up the word “life” in the Greek, you remember what the word that they use so often? It’s the name of a restaurant here locally. Zoe. You remember that word? It means “fullness of life”. That’s what Jesus brings us, and He basically, He desires to teach us, how to find Zoe. He wants to speak into our lives, to teach us to find Zoe.
So, this is, I guess, a good question, as we meet this morning, we need to ask, and really think about, as I just throw this out to you. And only you can answer it. Is the trend of my life one where each day, each and every day, I seek to hear God’s voice and follow Him and His Will? Because, if we don’t, you know what? We’re listening to the voices of the world and we’re leaning on our own understanding.
Let me read to you what Dallas Willard says, and then we’ll move on to something else in these verses. He says, “When our lives are devoted to the Will of God, He has reason to speak to us, but then, perhaps we don’t hear His voice, because we don’t expect to hear it. But then again, perhaps, we do not expect it because we fully intend to run our lives on our own and have never considered anything else. If that is the case, we will avoid His words, because His voice would be an unwelcome intrusion into our lives.” I heard a guy speak recently, and he said something that was very, very good. This is not rocket science, what he said. But he said, “When I go to the Scripture every day, he said, I go with the expectation that I’m going to hear God and His voice.” I go with that expectation that I’m going to hear from Him. And so, I would encourage you, as we go, as you turn to the Scripture every day, that you would go with an expectation of hearing from Him, and even pray. There’s a great verse, Psalm 43:4, it says, “Send out Thy Light and Thy Truth, and let it lead me.” Lord, I pray and ask that You would speak to me. It’s interesting what will happen if you will do that. Comment or question? Anybody?
Unidentified audience member: Can you put it in pill form and give it to your children?
RS: Yeah, that would be good, wouldn’t it? You know, that’s really kind of one of our responsibilities, to teach our children this, pass this along to them. In fact, I’m going to, very last thing, I’m going to make a comment about that. Anybody? Let me ask you this. Go back and look at verse one. It uses the word, the New American says, “the fold of the sheep.” The King James says, “the sheepfold”, and the NIV uses the word, “the sheep pen”. Now, I didn’t realize this, I haven’t really thought much about the life of a shepherd, but usually, he had his own place where he lived, and often, he’d have a place to keep them, and they’d have a permanent door to them. But most of them, because they didn’t have a lot of grass in this area, they would have to go to different places, they’d travel, you know, up in the mountains, for the sheep to be fed. And so, what you would find is throughout all this area, you would have what they call a “sheep fold”. I saw, I went and Googled it, and looked at some of the pictures of them. What they were, most of them, were little round, they were round areas with big rocks that were kind of stacked up, all the way, and it was kind of a circle, and they were about this high, so the sheep can’t get out. Sheep can’t jump, so it didn’t have to be that high, then it had a doorway, an opening, that you could go in and out of. So, you have this kind of area that’s enclosed, then you have this gap, this doorway, and, at night, the sheep would be in the fold and the shepherd would sleep in the doorway. He literally was the door. And it says, often you might have two shepherds that come to the same fold and they’d put all their sheep in there, and they’d easily, just as we read earlier, one of them would call out a sheep, and they’d come out. They’d hear his voice, and they’d come out and they’d leave the next morning. But, notice, the bottom line is, the shepherd is the door, and you can’t enter, or you can’t get out, except through the door.
And look at verse 9. What does Jesus say? “I am the door.” If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. Jesus is saying there, it is through Me, and Me alone, that you have access to the Father, that you can go into the fold. Paul says the same thing in Ephesians 2:18. He says, “Through Christ, we have direct access to God the Father.” Now, coming back to Jase’s question. In verse 5, it talks about the stranger. In verse 8, it talks about all those who came before me are thieves and robbers. In verse 10, he talks about the thief. In verse 13, he talks about the hired hand. And all of these, guys, stand in contrast to the Good Shepherd, who lays down His life for the sheep. Now, the question is, what do you think that’s in reference to? The stranger? Those who came before Me, the thieves and the robbers? The thief? The hired hand? What do you think that is?
Unidentified audience member: The world?
RS: The world. And what about the world? All of these have no real interest in the sheep. In fact, some of them want to harm them. By the way, I don’t know if you know this, but, you know, sheep are very, incredibly valuable animals because you could use every part of them. Their skin was used for clothing as well as the wool, and obviously, you could eat them. So, they were very valuable animals. And so, it wasn’t uncommon for somebody to come and steal them. Or seek to steal them. So, you don’t have any idea?
Unidentified audience member: The devil.
RS: The devil. A lot of people think He’s referring to the devil in verse 10, because you read about, we read that Satan comes to kill and to steal and destroy, so, could be. What else?
Unidentified audience member: False religions.
RS: How about false teaching? You see, what He says, because I looked that up, I didn’t know what He was talking about, He says, those who’ve come before Me, you know, they had issues with all these different sects. Some were called the “zealots” and basically, they were, there was a lot of false teaching out there, and William Barclay believes, what he said was that there were so many people, even in Biblical times, who came and claimed they were leaders sent from God, but they were not. You know, it’s interesting, if you read the Gospels, if you read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – I did a word study on this – Jesus uses the word “beware” a number of times. Now, when Jesus says “beware”, we need to beware. And you know what He normally tells people to beware of? You want to take a guess? False teaching. False teaching. He’s saying, it is so dangerous, beware of believing what is false. Think about this, guys. We look at this often because I think it is such a significant verse. In Matthew 7, it says, “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, is going to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” And it goes on and says, “On that day, many will say to Me, Lord,” I did this, and Lord I did that, Lord I did all these good works, and I expect to get into Heaven. And He says, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.” Now, let me ask you this, guys. “Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord,” the people He’s referring to, they had a false understanding of salvation, didn’t they? They thought it was by good works. Now, let me ask you this. Where do you think they got that understanding of salvation?
Unidentified audience member: There is a movement afoot right now in the Church to say we can’t discriminate against religions, the dogmas, that we all worship the same God, this is coming from Rome. They’re saying, and this is all coming from the Vatican; let’s all get together…
RS: I haven’t heard that. Is that something that has recently happened?
Unidentified audience member: I mean, it’s, it’s been afoot for centuries pretty much, but it’s culminating right now, where they’re saying, we can’t really discriminate, you know, between Jews, Christians…
RS: Well, that’s a whole other issue. You know, in fact, I’ve got a two-part series where I talk on that, if anybody is interested. It’s called, “The Uniqueness of Christ in a World Full of Religions.” If any of you are interested, I can give you a copy of it when we’re done. But, I hear what you’re saying, and, you know, I’ve got you. I think the greatest danger, my opinion, is false teaching, and I guess you’re kind of saying this too, Jase, but false teaching within the Church. That’s an issue. That’s a problem. I just finished, it’s kind of interesting, guys, I just finished reading II Timothy…
Unidentified audience member: Can I ask you a question real quick?
RS: Yeah. Fire away.
Unidentified audience member #1: I’m not asking you to point out…
Unidentified audience member #2: I will; point out the false teaching!
Unidentified audience member #1: Generally, though, it seems like the churches in Mountain Brook and Birmingham are, I’m just generally making a comment, that’s why I’m kind of asking, the doctrine is not false teaching, and it’s good, Biblical, Gospel-based teaching, would you say?
RS: I would say that there are a lot of churches where they’re just right on, as far as teaching, their teaching is in conformity with the Scriptures, all right. I think there are others that are not, and since I have not sat in there in those churches and heard them, I don’t know and I’m not going to say.
Unidentified audience member: I’m not asking you that, just generally.
RS: Well, let’s keep going on this, because I’m going to come back to what, really kind of what you just asked. I’ve just been reading in II Timothy, just finished II Timothy on Monday, and in the fourth chapter, you may be familiar with this, in the third verse, it says, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and they will turn away their ears from the Truth and will turn aside to myths.” I think it’s easy to hire somebody who’s a really charismatic person, who speaks, and will give me a message that will make me feel good. And, but, in the process they do it, as he says here, but not in accordance with sound doctrine. Let me ask you this question, guys. Do you think you can identify false teaching when it comes from the pulpit? I say this because it’s always a possibility. Now, I take incredible, I’ll just tell you all this real quick. I take incredible care in teaching. I’m very serious about wanting what comes from The Center to conform with the teachings of Scripture, because, in the book of James, chapter 3, are some very sobering words to anybody that teaches. It says, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that such, we will incur a stricter judgement.” Now, that gets my attention.
Unidentified audience member: James 3?
RS: Three, one. Makes me want to retire sometime, and let somebody else do it. But, in all seriousness, I take that very seriously. And, it was interesting, just this morning, I was reading in Titus, in chapter 2, verse one, it says, “But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. Then, down in verse 7, it talks about being an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine.” I don’t think sometimes we think about this, the importance and the significance, guys, of sound doctrine and sound teaching, because the worst thing in the world, I can’t think of anything worse, is to have a false understanding of God and salvation and the way of Christ. To have that all wrong. Comments or questions?
Unidentified audience member: Don’t you believe that’s the way the devil operates? Is to come in, just sleight, reflection of the truth, but not really just a slight little…
RS: No doubt about it. I think that’s one of his great desires. No doubt. All right. Let’s look at a couple of applications before we quit. Everybody knows Psalm 23:1. How does Psalm 23 open? Oh, come on guys.
Multiple unidentified audience members (concurrent): The Lord is my Shepherd.
RS: The Lord is my Shepherd. That sounds good, doesn’t it? I mean, it makes you feel good when you hear that. You know, you hear that at funerals all the time, make you feel good about the deceased. But, have we really ever faced the fact of what that really means as we live this life? That I want God to be my shepherd? I think we might like, again, I think we like the idea the way it sounds, but I’m not sure we want Him to be. You see, most businessmen that I find, and I look around and I see a lot of confident people in this room, I think most businesspeople think, well, I’m a fairly confident human being. I get my work done. I’m fairly intelligent, I’m not saying any of us are really brilliant, but, we’re fairly intelligent, and I’ve made pretty decent decisions. I mean, look where I am. And so, it’s easy to think, with that being the case, do I really need a shepherd? Tim Keller says, what most people want, most Christians really just want God to kind of be their consultant. You know, want to keep God on retainer over here. But, guys, I want to just tell you something. We need a shepherd. As we get to John 15, sometime this fall, you’ll see it. Jesus says, I am the Vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, bears much fruit, for apart from Me, you can do nothing. You can never be the man God wants you to be apart from Him. So, we desperately need a shepherd. But guys, if we’re going to have Him as our shepherd, you know what, we have to follow Him. We have to follow the good shepherd. And we have to follow Him comprehensively. And what does that mean? As sheep, God is calling us to complete Lordship. It’s kind of like, I read that somebody says, “He’s like a shepherd King.” And we’re to bring our entire lives before Him. Every area. Think about it. Going back to the sheep. Sheep need a shepherd for every area of their lives. He serves as a physician, as a provider, and as a protector. And in one of Keller’s sermons, he says, you know, most people come to Christ for the first time, usually, not always, but usually they come first time because there’s something they’re struggling with. You know, when life is going well, it’s kind of like, who needs God? But often, when we’re struggling with something, he says, it may be a career issue, it may be a marital issue, it may be something, I mean, I’ve had people come see me that were really struggling.
I remember one guy, he was interested in the faith because his children were struggling so much. And so, Keller says, we’ll invite Him to come in and help us because I’ve made a mess of my life in this particular area, and so, yeah, I want You to be Lord over my marriage. But, I don’t want You to be involved with my finances. I don’t want You to tell me how I need to spend my time. You see, when we come to Christ as our Shepherd, we’re really coming to Him, and saying, Lord, I want to follow You in every area of my life. And again, the great thing about it, so many men recoil to that because they don’t believe John 10:10. “I came that you might have an abundant life, fullness of life.”
Isaiah 48:17 “I came to teach you what is very best for you.” If you don’t believe that, then it’s hard for you to give Him your life comprehensively. But He is the Good Shepherd. He wants us to follow Him. He wants to give us a life that is abundant, that is full. Now, real quickly, I’ve got to keep going, I’m running right on time. There’s another component to this, of the shepherd and the sheep. I don’t know if you remember in Luke 15, it talks about one of the 99, there was 100 sheep, one of them gets lost, the shepherd goes and he brings him back and he puts him over his shoulder and brings it back to the fold, brings it home, kind of a nice sounding picture, but in the research I found that when a sheep goes astray and gets separated from the herd, and they’ll wander off and not even know that they’ve done it, they don’t even know where they’ve wondered off, but once they realize that they’ve gone astray and they don’t see the shepherd, they don’t see him, they panic. And it’s hard, when the shepherd goes and finds them, it’s hard to get them to say, all right, come on. He has to throw them to the ground, he has to tie his two front legs together with rope, he has to tie the two back legs together with rope after he’s thrown him to the ground, and sometimes that’s a battle, and then he can easily pick him up and put him over his shoulders. And, I share that because, in times like that, the shepherd has to treat the sheep roughly. He’s rough with him. I think, guys, there are going to be times in our lives, particularly when we go astray, that we’re going to find that true in our lives.
Unidentified audience member: Richard, I heard a sermon on that, and I think what it, it is you do go astray and sin, but know that that shepherd cares enough about that one sheep to leave the 99 to go get him.
RS: Absolutely. That just shows you his love. But when he goes and gets him, he has to be rough with him. And so, sometimes, if you’re looking at your life, and things aren’t going well, you know what, the natural response is, I had a guy come this week, he came to me and said, I’m going through a hard time, and was kind of like, why is God doing this to me? Why is he being so rough with me? If He is my shepherd, what’s the deal here? And I, always, when somebody is going through a difficult time, I say, well, you need to step back, and say, God, is there a purpose in this? Is there a reason for this pain in my life that I’m experiencing? That’s what Paul says, talking about the thorn. God gave him a thorn in the flesh. Remember why he said He did it? He said He did it to me to keep me from exalting myself. But guys, when our circumstances are bleak, well, let me just say, let me back up and say this, guys, going back to what Bailey said, a loving shepherd often has to treat the sheep harshly to save its life and bring it back into the fold. And so, when our circumstances might be bleak, or confusing, and there is a great deal of uncertainty, that’s when we really have to trust Him, we have to follow Him, we have to stay close to Him. Hear this. Please hear this. It is much easier to trust God, the Good Shepherd, when you’re close to Him, and in His presence, than when you have drifted away from Him.
Now, three final thoughts real quick and then I’ll close by letting, hearing from any of you. First, I want you to think about this. This is a good question. I started by saying the one thing that seems to mark the sheep / shepherd relationship is that the sheep are helpless and they need to depend on the shepherd. My question to you is, what do we depend on God for? Think about that. You know, we’ve talked about ways we can really depend on Him. When we did a session in prayer, do we pray for God’s protection, spiritual protection? Physical protection? Do we look to Him as our protector? Psalm 27:1 says, “The Lord is the defense of my life.” Do I look to Him? Do I trust Him with that? Seriously, what do I depend on? Do I just depend on myself, or do I really look to God for anything? Now, hopefully, we all sitting here this morning, we depend on Him for salvation, realizing, I can’t save myself. That’s where it all starts. But, what about your daily living? What do you depend on Him for? Second thought. Verse 3, it says, “He calls His sheep by name.” God wants, and this is the second point I want to leave you with. God, guys, wants to be personal with us. Verse 3, it says, he calls us by our names; the shepherd calls the sheep by name. Listen to this, and we’re going to get to this in a couple of weeks. In John 15, in verse 13, it says, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lays down his life for his friends.” And then Jesus says to His disciples, “And you are my friends.” He says, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing, but I have called you friends.” Incredible thought that the God of the Universe wants to be our friend. And the thing about friendship, now, let’s also remember, He wants to be our Heavenly Father. That’s kind of what I’m starting to experience with my kids, is that, I’m their father, I’ve always been their Dad, but, as they’re, you know, my oldest is about to turn 21, and they’ve all been home this summer, and we’re developing more of a friendship now because of their age, and having really good conversations. But, if you think about it, friends, hear this, friends talk regularly. You know why? They enjoy each other. What if you had a friend and all he ever called you about is when he, he only calls you when he needs money. What kind of friend is that? God wants to be
[Unintelligible comment from audience member]
RS: God wants us to enjoy Him. Seriously. And the final thing I’ll say is this. Let me just turn to it real quick. It’s in Isaiah 53. This is pretty interesting and this goes back to something somebody said a minute ago. It’s Isaiah 53, that chapter I meant to say, in verse 7, it says, he’s talking about the coming Messiah. “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers.” A lamb led to the slaughter. Guys, Jesus is our Shepherd who was willing to lay down His life for us, His sheep. He became the lamb that’s led to slaughter. So, it’s kind of interesting. He’s the Good Shepherd, but He willingly became the lamb that was led to slaughter. And so, on the other hand, I would say this. Though we are sheep, He desires for us to grow, to be equipped, to become spiritually mature so that we can become shepherds and therefore able to shepherd others. Are we on that path where we can shepherd the lives of other people, because that’s what we’re called to do. In John 15, we’ll read about it. It’s called bearing fruit in the lives of others. Any final comments or questions? All right, we’re going to finish up John 15 next week.