22 June 2007

"I AM The Good Shepherd"--John 10:11-18

When the Bible talks about Christ being our Shepherd, many people don’t quite grasp what that means. They think of it as some title of nobility. Fact of the matter is, when Christ walked the earth, shepherds were looked down upon. Their job was to take care of a bunch of animals that were as dirty and smelly as anything could be. But besides that, sheep are just plain...dumb. So when the Bible refers to us as “sheep,” that ain't a compliment. Think about that. Christ is our Shepherd, and we are His sheep. Sheep are dumb and filthy. We’re sheep. Do the math. We need a Shepherd. And the Lord Jesus Christ was willing to leave His throne in heaven, where He reigned and ruled with our Heavenly Father. He came here, dressed as a sheep, and lived with us dumb, filthy, dirty, smelly animals so that He could guide us home. Because we didn’t know the way.

But as dumb as sheep can be, they do know one thing. They know the sound of their shepherd’s voice. Our pastor talked about sheep one time, and described the scene in an open market that someone had told him about. That even in the middle of the market, with countless numbers of flocks, that each sheep knew the sound of its master’s voice. And if someone else tried to call them, they wouldn’t follow. Again, we’re like sheep. When we hear the voice of our Good Shepherd—if we really do belong to Him—we will follow Him. We will not be deceived by another. Not only that, but our Shepherd laid down His own life for the sake of His sheep.

Now, we’ve been looking at the pictures that Jesus used to describe Himself. And how many times, in the Book of John, He coupled that description with the phrase, “I AM.” Today, we are going to look at John 10:11-18. There is one passage of Scripture that most people think of when they think of Christ as our Shepherd. It’s one passage of Scripture that, if somebody knows no other passage, they know this one. It’s the 23rd Psalm, the Psalm of the Good Shepherd. This Psalm is not just some flowery speech to give at funerals. It’s not some magic spell we’re supposed to chant when we’re in trouble. But that’s what the world would have you believe. There are many movies, and many that are very ungodly, that use this Psalm. If you didn’t know better, you’d think that this was some password we’re supposed to recite when we get to the pearly gates and ol’ Saint Pete decides whether to let us in our not. (And that’s a whoooole ‘nother sermon right there.) This Psalm, and the words of our Lord Jesus in John chapter 10, are meant to reflect the ways in which GOD takes care of His own sheep. And if we’re not careful, and if we don’t give these words their proper due, we can miss out on this humongous blessing that the words of the Psalmist can give us.

You know, if it wasn’t for shepherds, I think the whole sheep species would almost cease to exist. If a flock of sheep doesn’t have a shepherd, they’d like to die. Have I mentioned they're dumb? They wouldn’t know how or where to find food. Or water. They wouldn’t know enough to run away from trouble. And even if they did, they're not exactly the swiftest animal on the planet. You won't find a bunch of sheep out there LOOKING for a Shepherd. And in much the same way, WE weren’t looking for a Shepherd. Because we didn’t know we were lost. But Christ did. He saw us when we were lost, when we were sinners, when we were dumb, filthy animals, wandering around on our own, going whichever way we wanted to go. And He stepped down from His glory and called us by name. He had to, ‘cause we weren’t gonna call out to Him. Romans 3:11—“…there is none who understands, there is none who seeks after GOD…” But He sought after us. And He found us.

Well, first we’re going to look at Christ as our RIGHTEOUS SHEPHERD. What kind of a shepherd would let his sheep go without what they need? Or leave them to fend for themselves? Or just run off and leave them? That’s a shepherd that isn't doing his job. But Christ, our Good Shepherd, is our PROVIDER, our PROTECTOR, and He is PERMANENT.
First, we see Him as our PROVIDER.
Psalm 23:1-3.
"The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake."

That word, “want” means “lack.” “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not lack.” In these three verses we see five ways the Lord provides for us. He supplies our needs. He gives us rest. He leads us to the water. He restores our soul. He leads us down the righteous path. Why? So we can be comfortable? Not hardly. GOD never promises us a problem-free life no matter how closely we follow Him. 2nd Timothy 3:12—“…and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Unfortunately, some people think that following our Shepherd is like turning a key that will open up some heavenly bank vault. There was a fellow that came to the Knoxville Coliseum back in April preaching that nonsense. But I won’t mention Jesse Duplantis by name.

Don’t get me wrong. GOD will pour His goodness upon us. But it will be according to His will, not because we’re trying to strong-arm Him into giving into our wishes. Listen to James 4:3—“You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” GOD will provide. And He gives us what we NEED, not always what we WANT. Do we NEED a Hummer? No. Do we NEED a big screen? No. Do we NEED salvation? More than anything! And of course we need food, shelter, and clothing, etc. Guess what? The Lord is our Shepherd, we shall not lack.

Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-30
“…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown in the oven tomorrow, will He not much more clothe you…?”
Problem is, many people read Psalm 23 like this: “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall drive a Benz. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall watch the game on a big screen. The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall own a house in Sequoyah Hills.” Our Shepherd will give us what we NEED, not necessarily what we WANT. And more often than not, that’s a good thing.
Next, we see Him as our PROTECTOR.
Psalm 23:4-5.
“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”

This is just one of those passages ya gotta read in the King James, Amen? I’m not gonna get into the whole preparing a table and anointing with oil, I'll do that another time. But look at verse 4. “Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me.” How many of us here got whuppins when we were little? How many of us were glad at the time that we got that whuppin? “How many of us climbed down from daddy’s knee, rubbed our bottom and said, “Thank ya, Daddy?” I didn’t think so. But ya know, when there is a reason, punishment is a good thing. It keeps us from running out into the road. It keeps us from grabbing that hot pan on the stove. And when punishment comes from GOD, it’s a real good thing. Hebrews 12:5-6—“My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the Lord loves He chastens, and He scourges every son whom He receives.” See, when GOD sees us going off the path, He’ll take measures to make sure we don’t do it again.

Now, we know what the Shepherd’s staff is for. It’s for corralling those sheep that are a bit off line, and guiding them back in. But the rod, it had two purposes. First, the shepherd would use it to fight off any wolves or other predators. But, if there was one sheep that was being just a bit too ornery, the shepherd would take that rod, and break a leg of that sheep, and carry it on his shoulders. That usually broke the sheep of that habit. So the shepherd protected the sheep from predators. And he also protected the sheep from themselves. Kinda like…us. isn't GOD good about protecting us from ourselves?
Our Righteous Shepherd is our Provider, our Protector, and He is PERMANENT.
Psalm 23:6.
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

Look at the first part of verse 6. “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” GOD will always be with us. A lot of people, when they are going down a road better left untrod, like to quote Hebrews 13:5—“For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”” But they always leave out that first part. “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have.” There were times when David wasn’t content with what he had. We know that on at least one occasion, he coveted another man’s wife. But he also knew GOD to be a merciful GOD. Listen to what he writes in Psalm 25:6-7—“Remember, O Lord, Your tender mercies and Your lovingkindnesses, for they are from of old. Do not remember the sins of my youth, nor my transgressions; according to Your mercy remember me, for Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.”
Psalm 103:8—“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.”
Psalm 145:8—“The LORD is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy.” Nehemiah 9:17—“…thou art a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness…”
Then look at the last part of Psalm 23:6—“…I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

How is it that we “dwell in the house of the Lord forever?” That brings us back to John 10:11-12. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”
Again, picture David. Before he was king, he was a shepherd boy. And in 1st Samuel 17:37—“David said moreover, The LORD that delivered me out of the paw of the lion, and out of the paw of the bear, he will deliver me out of the hand of this Philistine.” In much the same way, our Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, delivers us from the paw of the lion, and the bear, and the wolves. And He has delivered us from the power of sin, and one day will deliver us from the power of death.

Well now, we see Christ as a RELENTLESS SHEPHERD.
Luke 15:4-7, 10
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!' I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance…Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

It’s a good thing Jesus is so relentless, Amen? He has to be. He was calling to me for 20 some-odd years before I finally listened. Looking back, and reading this passage from Luke, it dawned on me that in the relationship between the Shepherd and His sheep, there are four things that happen.
First, WE RUN OFF.
Luke 15:4.
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?”

Jesus refers to this present world as a “wilderness.” Ain't it the truth? And in this wilderness, we’re sheep. Dumb as the day is long. We go wandering off, distracted by every bright, shiny object we come across. You’ve heard about kids having ADD. Well, when it comes to the things of GOD, we've all got a bit of ADD. We get distracted, we go wandering off. But Jesus, the Good Shepherd, does the will of the Father, and goes after us.
Then after we run off, HE REINS US IN.
Luke 15:5-6.
“And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'”

Remember that rod? You wouldn’t think that having your legs broke would be a good thing. But when it comes from Christ, it is in a way. Imagine if He were to let us, His sheep, just go wandering off wherever we wanted. And that when we stood before Almighty GOD, thinking we were entering into eternal rest, we were instead told, “Depart, I never knew you.” But you see, that’s not the will of GOD. This same parable is found in the book of Matthew, and that apostle records these words of our Lord in Matthew 18:14—“Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” And Jesus, doing the will of the Father, will not let us perish.
John 10:2-4—“…he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”
John 10:27-28—“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.”
We run off. He reins us in. WE REPENT.
Luke 15:7.
“I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.”

When we get our leg broke, it hurts. We don’t want it to happen again. So we say, “I really don’t want to go through that again.” And this is where we as humans are a bit smarter than the average sheep. We remember a little better. And, because we love our Shepherd, we do His will. Listen to this parable Jesus gives us in Matthew 21:30-31—“A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went.” Does that sound like us or what? We sometimes don’t want to do what we need to do. But His rod and His staff give us the direction and security we need to do what we need to do, whether it’s “comfortable” for us or not.
We run off, He reins us in, we repent, and THE ANGELS REJOICE.
Luke 15:10.
“Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”

When we come to know Jesus Christ as our Lord and our Savior, there is a party in heaven, thrown by the mightiest creatures GOD ever created. And I’d say that the Father’s pretty happy about it as well. Colossians 1:19-20—“For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” GOD the Father was pleased that in Christ, all of His fullness and perfection and majesty should dwell. And the Father was pleased to make peace with us through the cross of Christ. And all the angels of heaven, who do the will of the Father, rejoice in the fact that the will of the Father has been fulfilled in that one sinner repenting. You know that part of the Lord’s prayer that says, “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in heaven?” That’s what it’s talking about. That we should seek to do the will of the Father even as these most mighty creatures do. And that includes rejoicing over someone getting saved. We have a RIGHTEOUS SHEPHERD. We have a RELENTLESS SHEPHERD.

And finally I want to show you our ROYAL SHEPHERD.
John 10:29-39.
Remember the title of this series. “I AM.” That name YHWH. Look at verses 29-31. “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. I and My Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.” Why? Because they thought He was delusional? No. Because He hurt their feelings? No. Look at verse 33. “The Jews answered Him, saying, "For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.” There are people who will try and tell you that Jesus never claimed to be GOD. Hmm. “I and My Father are one.” And look at His response to these guys. When the Jews said to Jesus, “…because You, being a Man, make Yourself God,” did Jesus deny this? Did He say, “Now, hold on a minute. I’m not trying to say I’m GOD.” NO! If you skip on down to verse 38, He says, “The Father is in Me, and I in Him.” The Jews knew exactly what Jesus was saying, that’s why in verse 39 they took up stones to stone Him.

Folks, we have a Shepherd who supplies our every need. A Shepherd loved us dumb, filthy animals enough to leave His throne in glory, and do the will of the Father and chase us down and bring us into His kingdom. And He now sits at the right hand of the Father, reigning and ruling over His creation. And He will return one day to lead us, His sheep, into His eternal pasture.

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