The image of Jesus as our Shepherd has been a source of comfort for Christians for thousands of years.
It's a picture that teaches us that ultimate comfort is not found in outcomes or results, but in surrendering to His authority. What brings you comfort? Not just comfort in the prospect of death, but comfort in life. True, so satisfying, so resting comfort. What calms your fears?
What quiets your anxieties? Is it something you tell yourself? Is it something that you need to hear from others?
What is it? Is it an outcome that you're striving to achieve? A goal you're trying to reach? What makes you feel that you are okay? For me, I think I can look back and I can see that my ultimate comfort, where I found comfort, it kind of changes throughout different seasons and stations in life. I can remember in my teens when I show up at a new school and I'm standing there in the cafeteria wondering who will accept me, who will be my friend. And then move on into my 20s and I think, oh, it's finding a spouse that's going to make me feel that life is okay.
Or around that same time, getting into my career, my profession, securing a job is what would make me feel secure. And that the breath in my lungs is, I'm worthy of that breath. And then I hit parenting.
Oh my. Right? You parents know, right? The questions that constantly barrage you are, am I doing this right?
Right? Is this, am I doing this okay? And I need just someone to say, yes, yes, you're doing it right. And you'll find some people that say, yeah, you're doing a great job, just keep doing what you're doing.
But then you'll hear another expert or another experienced parents say, no, no, no, you're doing it completely wrong. And comfort for me as a parent would be to know that I'm not ruining my kids and they're going to turn out all right. Maybe comfort for you is in a favorable prognosis, or maybe comfort is in thinking about leaving a legacy that someone will remember you.
Well, about 50 years after the start of the Protestant reformation, it was 1563. The entire theological faculty at Heidelberg University in Germany came together to put together a resource of to teach people the basic foundations of the Christian faith. And they put together this resource and they in the very first question that they ask in this resource is this. What is your only comfort in life or death? They didn't say, what's your greatest comfort? They didn't say, what's your comfort in this season or that season? They said, what is your only comfort? Do you want to know their answer?
Their answer? That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death to my faithful savior, Jesus Christ. Essentially, their answer was that ultimate peace is not an outcome or results, but ultimate peace rests in surrendering to Jesus's authority. Now, if that's true, it depends wholly on what kind of authority Jesus has, how he uses his authority, what kind of ruler is he?
Does he have my best interest in mind? And so if you have a Bible, either a paper copy or digital copy, go with me to John Chapter 10. If you don't have it, it'll be on the screen. And in John Chapter 10, Jesus reveals himself as the Good Shepherd, which is a metaphor that captures the essence of how he uses his authority. John Chapter 10, beginning in verse 10, says this, the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees.
The wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he's a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd.
I know my own and my own know me. Jesus is the shepherd and his people are his sheep. Now, I don't know everyone's background, but I know that my background, there's not a lot of familiarity with sheep and shepherds.
But basically, the extent of my handling with sheep involved putting glowing cotton balls on construction paper as a kid, right? And my vision of shepherds is shaped by nativity sets and Christmas plays. But the people that Jesus was speaking to, they were much more familiar with sheep and shepherds. But not only that, they were also very well aware that kings were often referred to as shepherds. See, just like shepherds provide and protect their sheep, kings were meant to provide and protect their citizens. Shepherds rule over their sheep.
Kings rule over their citizens. The Old Testament speaks of this. The Old Testament speaks of kings and shepherds. It also describes God as the shepherd of his people. If you want to go and chase that on your own, go to Jeremiah 23, read Ezekiel 34, and perhaps you're familiar with Psalm 23. Now, we might envision here in John 10 that Jesus is telling this story of him being the good shepherd to a group of children who are circled around him.
Maybe one child on his lap. But that's not the context at all. We actually can read the context in John chapter 9 and what's going on there is the religious leaders are having this debate as to whether Jesus, his authority, like who is this guy?
It was kind of like who do you think you are type of moment. So Jesus is responding by claiming ultimate authority. He's saying that he is the shepherd, that he's the king, that he's the ruler, that he's God. Because these rulers, these religious leaders, they knew Psalm 23, the Lord is my shepherd. And so to hear this man, Jesus, claim that he is a shepherd was a claim to be God.
And that's why some people thought Jesus was insane or demon possessed. Jesus is the good shepherd and his followers are his sheep. So let's consider this in today's message. How are we like sheep and how is Jesus the good shepherd? Now, what I hope you get from this message is not only a greater comfort than the comfort that can come from unknown outcomes and unknown results, but I also hope that this message gives you confidence and courage to follow the shepherd where he is calling you to go.
So let's begin. How are we like sheep? How are we like sheep? A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I, we were up in the mountains on a hike, just the two of us. And we were actually visiting one of our church plants and we were going up this hike. And my wife asked, do you think there are any bears around here? I said, oh, yeah, definitely.
I think there's a bears around here. She goes, what do we do if we encounter one? To which I confidently said, we remain quiet and back away. She said, I thought we were supposed to be big and loud.
And in that moment, I realized two things. A, my wife is far more courageous than I am. And B, I actually have no clue what to do if I encounter a bear. But you know what we didn't worry about? We didn't worry about encountering a wild sheep. Never heard of a wild sheep?
No, not at all. Most animals that get separated from their owner, they either run free like horses and hogs. Or they're smart enough to find their way back home, like the dogs and cat and home are bound. But a sheep's response, panic. Sheep do not survive on their own. Sheep are vulnerable, dependent and dumb.
This is not a flattering picture of us. A stray sheep doesn't become a wild sheep. A stray sheep becomes dinner. Yet sheep do stray. Isaiah 53, six says this.
It says, all we like sheep have gone astray. We have turned everyone to his own way. See, we think that we know what's best for ourselves. We all want to be our own authority. We want to choose our own path and to be told you are not your own. That's not comforting. That's offensive.
Well, why is that? I totally like autonomy. I like to make my own decisions.
I like having my own things. When I think about this, I think about seven months after my wife and I got married, we moved cities. And for a couple of months, we moved into her parents' house. And I have the best in-laws in the world. I love them.
They are great. But after living on your own and having your own place for a while, then living under someone's roof, it felt kind of restraining. Now, my mother-in-law, she's awesome. She has such a servant's heart. She even did our laundry for us.
So there were some perks. And not only did she wash and dry our laundry, she did something that I didn't know still existed. She ironed them. And I remember one day putting on these khaki shorts, and I looked down and I thought, these aren't mine. There were pleats in them. Like, I never worn pleats before. And I was like, that was not my style.
But I didn't have the heart to tell her. Even when someone was helping me, I still wanted to do things my way. I still want it done my way.
I didn't want pleated pants. So going our own way, it feels right. I can do this on my own. I know what's best for me. But do we really know what's best for ourselves?
Do this thought experiment with me, okay? Think back to yourself five or ten years ago. Is there anything that you would like to say to yourself then? Right, so like, I am 37 right now. And when I look back at my 27-year-old self, there are many things I would like to tell my 27-year-old self. I look back on my 27-year-old self, and no matter how mature I was compared to other 27-year-olds, I see a lot of immaturity. Of course, my 27-year-old self could look back on my 17-year-old self and see even a lot more immaturity. But if that is the pattern that we can look back and see in our life, I imagine that in ten years from now, when I'm 47, I'll probably look back on my 37-year-old self and be able to point out a lot of mistakes. But of course, right now, when I'm 37, I don't feel like I'm making mistakes.
I feel like I am mature. So I think that I know what's best for myself, but I'm limited in my understanding. Right, there are things that I can't see. I'm like this little sheep, and there's rocks over here, and there's water that I see over here. So I'm going to choose to go towards the water.
But the shepherd who can see over me sees that that water is actually the top of a waterfall. I am limited in my perspective, so I don't always know what is in my own best interest. So I just want you to consider that being your own authority might not always serve you the best.
Not to mention the consequences of living in a society where everyone believes that they are their own authority and everyone feels the freedom to do what is right in their own eyes. Can I just give this warning from my heart? Be very careful of the narrative that says you have to define yourself. You need to create who you want to be.
You be you. You do what you want to do. This is why I feel that is so dangerous, because following that perspective, it is going to make you more vulnerable to the approval and the affirmation of other people. You are going to have this craving for others to affirm the path that you have chosen and to approve of the identity that you have created. Oh, you will find that approval. That's not my fear.
You can find it everywhere. But to those who are approving you, do they really have your best interest in mind? Or is them affirming you be you justify them being them? You don't have to depart from God's design to reach your highest and best. You don't have to be better than all the others around you to be significant and satisfied. You are uniquely valued by God.
And so you don't have to be anxiously chasing after this image that you are creating to define, to gain your own value. God values you. This isn't even my notes, but a lot of commentators and researchers and pastors, they think that the reason God chose to use this image of his people as sheep is, yes, because sheep are vulnerable, but also because sheep were the most valued animals in that culture. Pound for pound, sheep were the most valued animal. You could use their meat, which was delicious.
You could also use their wool and you wouldn't even have to kill the animal. They were valuable. You are valuable to God.
Let's get back to my notes. So if choosing your own way isn't the best option, what's the other options? Letting others rule over you?
That sounds dangerous, doesn't it? Maybe you've been seriously wounded by others. You trusted someone who turned against you. Using the metaphor in this passage, there are thieves and robbers. There are people who only value what they can gain from you.
There are also hired hands, people who care about you until it gets costly for them. And then they flee, abandoning you in your moment of need. What we need is a good shepherd. A good shepherd takes radical responsibility for his sheep. A good shepherd will protect his sheep, promote his sheep's flourishing. Sheep can't survive on their own.
We are vulnerable to the self-interest of other people. So we need a good shepherd. Well, how is Jesus the good shepherd? There's four statements that I want to show you from John chapter 10. Look with me first in verse 10.
It says, the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. Here's the phrase, Jesus provides abundantly. Jesus provides abundantly.
Jesus is for you. His intent is for you to flourish. But now we need to be careful here that we don't impose our cultural understanding of an abundant life in what Jesus meant here. Abundance doesn't mean more stuff. Not that stuff is bad, but accumulating things, it rarely results in satisfaction. Often more stuff just results in a desire for more. You get a dog and then you need a trainer for that dog. And then you begin looking for a house that has a bigger yard. And then you need a fence for that yard. And then you need another dog to come play with the first dog.
It just keeps snowballing. The possessions that we consume have the power to consume us. I find this so interesting. In 1 Timothy chapter 6, it's a passage that Pastor Tanner spoke from a couple months ago. But in 1 Timothy chapter 6, Paul is writing to young Timothy and he's telling Timothy how to instruct those in the church of Ephesus who had money. And he tells them, hey, tell them not to put their hope in the uncertainty of riches but to put their hope in God, to be rich in good works and to be generous.
Now here's the part I find so interesting. So that they may take hold of that which is truly life. I imagine if you and me, we were able to go back and visit that town of Ephesus, that city and see the church there and we saw the people who had money that he was referring to, we would assume that they had the desirable, the optimal life. But Paul is warning them that no, they could actually live and exist without finding true life. That there is a life that is truly life. The abundant life is not measured by health and wealth. The life is joy and peace. You know, I've met many Christians who possess joy and peace even when health and wealth are being stripped away from them.
The abundant life is free from the need to self-promote or self-protect. I love being around people like that, don't you? They're so life-giving. You're around them and you feel enriched. They're not panicked.
They're not fake. They're not bitter or angry. They're not desperate for your approval.
They're refreshing. They're not living with this hole inside of their soul. They're looking for you to feel.
They're not trying to build a life and either use you in the process or abandon you for something better. They give of themselves because life overflows. They know they are not their own but belong to a good shepherd who provides abundantly. So Jesus is the good shepherd.
He is for you and his intent is for you to flourish. Look with me at verse 11. John 10 and 11 says, I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Here's the next phrase. Jesus protects sacrificially. Jesus protects sacrificially. The thief values what he can gain from you. The hired hand values himself more than he values you. So it's either rob you or flee from you. But the good shepherd values you more than his own life.
He takes radical responsibility for your well-being. The sheep that wanders away from the shepherd is choosing to go his own way. We've already considered some of the consequences of choosing to go our own way. We make mistakes. It adds to us this anxious burden, this hunger for affirmation and approval of others.
But there's another layer. When we choose to go our own way, we stray from God's design and his direction. And it breaks the relationship that God created us to have with him. We sense to communicate, God, I know better than you do.
God, I don't trust you. And we run away from him. The Bible is clear, separation from God is death.
God wants you to flourish, but we choose death to go our own way. So how can this relationship be restored? Well, God could have chosen to never allow it to be restored. He could have locked us out forever, but he didn't. He provided a door. He provided a way back to him. Is the way back following all the rules that he's given? No. If that's the road you're choosing, I can go ahead and tell you, you won't find peace along the way.
You will always be wondering, how good is good enough? Is God okay with me? Am I okay with God? But instead, God sent his perfect son, Jesus, to die in our place.
He paid the penalty on our behalf. Isaiah 53, 6, we read it a minute ago, but let's read that again in verse 7 afterwards. It says, We like sheep have gone astray, we have turned everyone to his own way. And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth. Like a lamb that has led to the slaughter and like a sheep that before its shears is silent.
So he opened not his mouth. This is the gospel. Jesus in your place. The Good Shepherd became a sheep and died for you. Imagine receiving an invoice like a bill that you owe God. And on that invoice, it details out every single mistake you've made in your life.
Every rebellion, every time that you have not trusted God at his word, and you've chosen to go your own way. It is an amount that you cannot pay. But Jesus comes and he says to you, if you trust me, give me that invoice and I'll take care of it. I'll pay it in full. And oh, by the way, as I am paying your account in full with my life, here's my account. My perfect record.
No mistakes. Perfect faithful obedience. And you get the credit for that account. You get the reward and the riches that I deserve. And I'm going to take what you deserve. That is what the Good Shepherd does for you.
And he does this completely from his own willingness. John 10 18 says, no one takes it from me. No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it up again.
This charge I received from my father. One author wrote, if we do not understand Christ's death as voluntary, we do not understand his death. See, Jesus was completely willing to die for us, to die for you. He did it out of his love for God the Father.
He did it out of his love for you. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who willingly lays down his life for the sheep. The third statement comes from John chapter 10 verse 14. Jesus says, I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own and my own know me. Jesus knows us intimately. Jesus knows you intimately.
This is really beautiful. Jesus knows you to the bottom and he doesn't run away. I imagine that if all the thoughts that I've had, even in this past week, were put up on this screen, you would distance yourself, turn me off as fast as you could and I would not blame you. There's this tension that we all experience of wanting to be known, yet afraid to be fully known. Pastor Tim Keller states it like this. He says, to be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved, well, that's a lot like being loved by God.
It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us. A Good Shepherd stays with his sheep. He knows each one's name, each one's behavior, each one's tendencies.
Like a mother of twins who knows each one distinctly. Jesus sees all of you. He knows every thought. And with that knowledge in view, he still laid down his life in your place. The fourth statement comes from John chapter 10 verse 17, where Jesus says, for this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. The statement is that Jesus leads purposefully. Jesus leads purposefully. Everything Jesus does is deliberate.
It says, for this reason I lay down my life that I may take it up again. He has total authority. All authority in heaven and earth is his. No one tells Jesus what to do. God the Father takes joy in his son's willing obedience. You know, multiple times throughout the Bible, God says that he delights in obedience more than sacrifice.
And I really came into a new, fresh understanding of this when I became a parent. See, because there are times in my household when one of my sons may be upstairs and I'm saying, son, come here, son, come here. But he doesn't want to come here.
He wants to delay. And so he thinks to himself, oh, well, maybe if I do things that I know dad likes, I won't have to listen and obey and come. And so he'll begin picking up his room. Now, I like it when my boys pick up their room.
But in that moment, what I want more than a clean room is for my son to come. I desire obedience more than sacrifice. Jesus, his sacrifice was his willing obedience.
And this is a source of great joy to the Father. No one tells Jesus what to do. But we try to, don't we? One pastor said it like this. He said, we don't really want a shepherd. We want a consultant.
Right? If there's an area in your life you need help with, that's when you get a consultant. And you only share what's pertinent to fixing that area.
And when the problem is fixed, the relationship ends. Jesus is for you. Jesus knows you better than you know yourself. His aim is for you to flourish. But Jesus will not follow you. He's not interested in just being your aide when there's something that you can't do yourself.
He's the leader, not you. And this is where our ability to trust Jesus, it gets tested. Because Jesus may lead you where you don't want to go. We may not understand why we have to journey through this or that.
But our circumstances don't define his goodness. Even when the outcomes are unknown, we can take comfort that we are not our own but belong fully to our good shepherd who takes radical responsibility for our well-being. I began recently reading a book to one of my sons.
It's called A Place to Hang the Moon. And in this book, 12-year-old William Pierce, he's the oldest of three siblings who were orphaned during World War II and the three children have lived the past few years under the harsh guardianship of their grandmother. William, being the oldest, has taken responsibility for the nurturing and the care of his younger brother and sister. But when his grandmother dies, their future is unknown. 12-year-old William thinks about their aged housekeeper, Miss Collins.
And he wished she would take him in her bony old arms and tell him she'd be in charge and he need not worry any longer. There is comfort when we let go and instead entrust ourselves into one who truly cares. Jesus is the good shepherd who provides abundantly, protects sacrificially, knows us intimately and leads us purposefully. So what's a sheep supposed to do? Listen and obey. What does that mean for you personally? What is the next step of obedience that God is calling you to today? You probably know that already, but maybe you lack the confidence to take that step of obedience.
Remember that our comfort is not in outcomes or results because we don't know the outcome or results. But if Jesus is the good shepherd, your role is to follow his lead and let him deal with the outcomes. As a church, we're in a season where many people have made a commitment of financial generosity, many for the first time, many in ways that stretches them. And from our perspective with the way things are in the economy, it can be scary to follow where God is leading us. One family in our church, they turned in their commitment card.
The next day, his company announced that there were layoffs coming and his job was being eliminated. But I love their response. Their response wasn't, well, I need to change my commitment. No, it was God, you led us to this commitment. We're trusting that you will provide the means for us to fulfill it. There are people in this church that God is leading them to move their lives to a country where there are people who have never heard the gospel of Jesus that you have heard proclaimed today. But in following that leading, there are a lot of questions and uncertainties that arise. Will we get the support that we need?
Will I find someone to marry? Will our kids be bitter that we're moving them? Who will take care of our aging parents? Follow his lead and trust Jesus with the results.
There are students thinking about their next summer, should they give it to City Project even though their parents don't want them to raise financial support? And there are advisors telling them that you're going to get behind, you're going to get delayed in your career goals? Follow Jesus' lead and trust him with the results. Maybe there are singles in our church who they know abstinence is what God is calling them to, but in following that course may mean the end of a relationship may seem that they won't have a successful relationship. Will you trust where Jesus is leading you and trust the results to him? What is your next step of obedience? Maybe your next step is baptism. You know baptism is a step that believers take to acknowledge that Jesus changed their life and that they are putting him first.
Our next baptisms are happening December 1st and 4th. I remember when I was wrestling with, should I get baptized? I thought that others would think that it was silly. I had been in church all my life and I had delayed and delayed and delayed and I thought that others would look and say, well, why didn't he do this earlier?
How silly is he? But then I finally came to the realization that if Christ gave his life for me, there's nothing that's off the table for him, right? That I can gladly stand before others and proclaim that he is first. So I don't know why you may be fearful to get baptized.
I don't know what outcomes and results you may be fearing, but trust him with the results. If you're interested in getting baptized, you can text the number on the screen and one of our leaders will follow up with you and just talk you through what baptism is. Maybe your next step of obedience is to stop going your own way and relying on your own strength and for the first time in your life truly surrender control to Jesus.
If that's you, you can do that today. So I'd ask everyone to close their eyes and bow their head. And if that's you, if you today realize that going your own way is not leading down a helpful path and you are ready and willing to give yourself to Christ, then silently you can pray this prayer to God in your own heart and mind. Just pray something like, God, I acknowledge that I have rebelled against You. God, I believe that Jesus died in my place to restore the relationship with You. And God, now I commit to putting You first. God, I want to pray for every person hearing this message. God, that this picture of You as Shepherd would be a source of comfort and would also embolden their obedience so that we may follow You wherever You may lead. In Christ's name we pray. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-11-19 14:08:50 / 2022-11-19 14:21:30 / 13