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The Good Shepherd

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
May 29, 2023 12:01 am

The Good Shepherd

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 29, 2023 12:01 am

Hired hands may abandon the flock when danger comes, but the Good Shepherd defends His sheep to the death. Today, R.C. Sproul looks to Jesus as the One who laid down His life for His flock, the church.

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Grace To You
John MacArthur
Beacon Baptist
Gregory N. Barkman
Beacon Baptist
Gregory N. Barkman
Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul
Beacon Baptist
Gregory N. Barkman

We need to remember that God never promises His people that they don't have to go into the valley of the shadow of death. We all will enter into that veil at some point, but the absolute promise that God gives to His people is that He will never send us there alone.

And I can't think of any place that I would have to be frightened if I knew the Lord was with me. And so that is our hope as Christians that we can count upon the ultimate Shepherd of our souls to be with us no matter what. Who is Jesus?

If you ask a group of people, you'll have a variety of answers and opinions. But the question that we really should be asking is who did Jesus say that He is? Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham and thank you for joining us today for Renewing Your Mind.

This week R.C. Sproul will be doing just that as he considers several of Jesus' I Am sayings from the Gospel of John. I am the resurrection and the life, the way, the truth and the life, the true vine, and other I Am sayings. Now I'm sure you're familiar with Psalm 23, the Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Well today Dr. Sproul reflects on Jesus' declaration that He is the Good Shepherd.

Here's Dr. Sproul. Once again we're going to continue with our series on the I Am's of Jesus. And in our last session we looked at Jesus' pronouncement, I Am the door, in which He spoke of the door to the sheepfold, or the gateway to eternal life, to the Father's house. And that saying was in response to the reaction against Jesus healing the man born blind, and that in that same discourse Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd. And I mentioned that we can distinguish between the statement I am the door to the sheepfold and I am the Good Shepherd, but they belong together as part of the same discourse that Jesus had with His people. And before we now look at the I Am the Good Shepherd, let me just make one last comment about His statement, I Am the door, because we saw that at the end of that phase of His discussion, He said that if anyone enters by Me, he will be saved.

And He speaks of salvation in connection to His being the gate or the portal or the door. And I just wanted to call your attention back to Romans chapter 5 after Paul goes through his exposition of the gospel and of the doctrine of justification by faith. When Paul then moves into chapter 5 of Romans, he talks about the consequences or the benefits of our justification, what it is that Christ has won for His people in His work of justifying us. And we read in chapter 5 of Romans these words, therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. So that's the first benefit that we are reconciled to God.

The estrangement is over. There's no more warfare between us and God. We have peace because of our justification. And then the second benefit that the apostle mentions is this, through whom? That is through Jesus. Also, we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand.

And so the word that Paul uses there to describe what Christ has won for us is access to the Father. And that's what Jesus has in view here when He talks about His being the door. The door is a point of access. If I want to go into my house, I don't crawl through the window unless I've lost my key or something.

Usually if you see somebody crawling through the window of a home, you call the police because you figure it's a burglar. The normal means of entering into a building is through the means of access, which is again a door. And so Jesus is that door or that way of access into the Father's house, into the Father's presence. Again, remember, this imagery is tied to the whole imagery of the barrier to access that goes all the way back to Genesis, that when Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden, God posted a sentry. God posted an angel with a flaming sword at the gateway to paradise, prohibiting access back into the presence of God.

And we see that same imagery taking place in the construction of the tabernacle, first in the Old Testament and then the temple where there is this wall of separation or division, the partition that screams the Holy of Holies from the holy place where no one except the high priest and then only once a year and again after elaborate rites of purification could enter into the Holy of Holies. But when Christ died, the veil of the temple was torn asunder, the barrier was removed, and access was now given to the people of God through the work of Christ. And so He was the door through the barrier. He was the door into the inner sanctum.

He was the door by which we have access into the presence of God. Well, having said that, let's go back now to the discourse and follow it where Jesus adds to the imagery of His being the door, the idea of His being the Good Shepherd. In verse 11 of chapter 10 of John's Gospel, Jesus says, I am the Good Shepherd. And 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. Now let me just compare those words of Jesus with the very famous psalm from the Old Testament from the Psalm of David, the 23rd Psalm, when He likens God to the Shepherd where He says, the Lord is my Shepherd.

I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul, and He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. And yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil. Why? Because the Shepherd is with me.

Your rod and your staff, they comfort me. It's interesting language there in the Psalm where David is recalling his own days as the Shepherd. You remember when he was still a boy, and the troops of Israel were faced against the armies of the Philistines when the giant Goliath came into the valley and called out a challenge for there to be a champion to come forth from Israel who would take on this giant in hand-to-hand combat where winner takes all. Whoever wins the fight wins the day for his army. And Saul looks around, and he can find none of his warriors who are willing to go up against Goliath. And David happens to appear because he's bringing his brothers their lunch there in the army, and he hears this challenge, this defiance out of the mouth of this pagan Goliath, and he can't believe that no one in Israel will stand up to Goliath. And so he comes up to Saul, and he says, let me go and fight the giant. You remember the story. And when they scoffed at him saying, you're just a boy.

You can't do this. He said, wait a minute. I handled a bear when the bear attacked my sheep, and God delivered me from the bear. He'll deliver me from Goliath.

And of course, the rest is history. And so David was experienced in fighting to defend his sheep against the lion, against the bear, and so on. And he had a rod and a staff. Now you've seen the shepherd's staff with the crook on the end. And in the prayer, David says, God's staff, God's rod gives him comfort. And that crook that you see in pictures and paintings of the shepherd's staff with that bend on the end, it was for the shepherd to reach out and pull the sheep to safety if it is veering towards the edge of a cliff or gets caught in a crag somewhere or in a ditch. The shepherd can retrieve him, rescue him by the use of the staff.

The rod was the defensive club that the shepherd used to ward off the wild animals or even the thief who would come and try to steal the sheep. And so David now is looking to God as the great shepherd and he's saying, Oh God, your staff and your rod comfort me because I know that your strength is there to protect me. And even if I go into the valley of the shadow of death, I don't have to go alone. Again, we need to remember that God never promises His people that they don't have to go into the valley of the shadow of death. We all will enter into that veil at some point. But the absolute promise that God gives to His people is that He will never send us there alone. And I can't think of any place that I would have to be frightened if I knew the Lord was with me. And so that is our hope as Christians that we can count upon the ultimate shepherd of our souls to be with us no matter what.

And what a wonderful metaphor this is. And what a wonderful thing that David who is, as I said, the shepherd king and the one who anticipates the coming of his greater son, who is the incarnation of the divine shepherd, the incarnation of the one that David celebrates in the 23rd Psalm, the one who indeed is the good shepherd. Well, let's go back now to the text of John and pick it up again, where in the beginning when Jesus says, I am the good shepherd, and the good shepherd gives his life for his sheep, notice that first thing he does here is that he contrasts the good shepherd from the hireling. And the difference was this, the good shepherd owned the sheep. The sheep were his. He made his own personal livelihood from the sheep. He was committed to the welfare of the sheep. The hireling was somebody that you would bring in for an hourly rate, hire him for a little while to look after the sheep, but he had no vested interest in the sheep. He didn't own the sheep. He had no affection for the sheep. He had no ultimate concern for the well-being of the sheep.

So at the first sign of trouble when the wild animal, the devouring animal would come, or the thief would come, the hireling would turn tail and run. But what Jesus is saying is, that's not how I am with my sheep because I'm the good shepherd. And the good shepherd defends his sheep to the death. And Jesus says here, anticipating the cross, I lay down my life for my sheep. And this isn't the only time that Jesus uses that language in the New Testament. And again elsewhere, he makes it clear that when he is the good shepherd, gives his life for his sheep, nobody is taking his life from him. You remember how he's taunted when he's on the cross.

They say, you save others, you know, save yourself, come down off the cross. And Jesus knew that he had legions of angels at his disposal that had he responded to that taunting, he could have called upon heaven and killed everybody there at the foot of the cross. But then he wouldn't have maintained his call. He wouldn't have done what he was called to do. He didn't have to die. Remember on the occasion when they sent out all the guards to take him and to capture him, and he wasn't ready?

And he just walked right through them, and nobody laid a hand on him. Because he didn't have to die until it was time to die. And he even told his captors, you have no power over me except that which God has given to you. And he makes it clear that even in his death, it is a voluntary sacrifice. He is laying down his own life.

Why? Not for his own benefit, but for his own benefit. But for his sheep. And his sheep are the ones whom God the Father has given to him. And he said, I know them by name, and they know me. They recognize my voice.

Again, Jesus uses that statement more than once in the New Testament, even when he's on trial for his life before Pontius Pilate, and Pilate is asking him about his pretenses of being a king. And Jesus said, hey, for this reason I came into the world, to bear witness to the truth, and all who are of the truth hear Me. You see, My sheep know who I am. My sheep respond to My voice. My sheep, who are My possession, they're the ones that the Father has given to Me, and so they follow Me, because I lay down My life for them. But the hireling, who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep, and flees.

And then the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them, and the hireling flees because he's a hireling, because he does not care about the sheep. But I am the Good Shepherd, and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father, and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold, and them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice. There will be one flock, one shepherd."

Now let me just pause there. Jesus introduces into this discourse something that's totally inflammatory to the Pharisees who are listening to it. When He compares the relationship between the Good Shepherd and the sheep, how that the shepherd knows the sheep, and the shepherd loves the sheep, and the sheep know the shepherd, and the sheep love the shepherd, He likens that to His relationship with the Father. The Father knows Me just like the Good Shepherd knows His sheep, and I know the Father. And He makes this somewhat cryptic statement, and other sheep I have which are not of this fold. Now I told you when we looked at the I am the doer statement that the sheepfold, the larger sheepfolds, would contain more than one flock and more than one shepherd.

And it was only because the shepherds knew their sheep that they didn't get mixed up and lost in this big mass of sheep in the pen that was being held there. But Jesus said, you know, I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I've seen all kinds of interpretations of this passage, some of them even bizarre. I've seen this passage used as an argument for extraterrestrial beings, that after Jesus came to save people on earth, He went to other planets or to other stars, and there He gathered His people from these other places and had them join the whole fold.

I don't think that's what He's meaning here. I think it's pretty easy to discern that to which Jesus is speaking when He's speaking to a Jewish audience. He's speaking to a Jewish audience. He's speaking of the mystery of the New Covenant, that God's sheep are not limited to Israel, but from every tongue and tribe and nation, Jesus has His sheep. And He's bringing sheep from the Gentiles, from the God-fearers, from the Samaritans, into His body, the church, in His church, there's one flock and one shepherd. Not a different shepherd for the Gentiles, not a different shepherd for the Samaritans, but one flock, one shepherd, and they all belong to Him. Just the other day, I heard a rebroadcast on the radio from the late, great Dr. James Montgomery Boyce, and Jim was talking in this lecture about the propensity that we have as Christians to think that the only way that God is pleased with is our way. And if we're not doing the work of the kingdom the way we do it, then we're probably not even in the kingdom, when in fact no one of us has a perfect grasp or understanding of the things of God. And when I see somebody who's in a different church or a different ministry from ours, who does things a little differently from how we would do it, when they're doing the work of Christ, what are we supposed to do?

We're supposed to rejoice at that. It's not this kind of ecumenicity where we say there aren't any differences, and it doesn't matter what you believe, and I'm not saying that. It's not that way. But I'm saying that even as zealous as we are for what we believe is the truth, we still have to recognize that among real Christians, there are all kinds of different styles, systems, ministries, concerns, and they don't always match ours. But we're all in Christ.

We're all part of the same flock, and we look to the Good Shepherd, and He gives us our marching order. Then in verse 17 He said, Therefore my Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it up again. Again He refers to that temple that He's going to rebuild in three days after it's destroyed. He said, I can lay down my life.

I can die, but I can get back up again. Now, who in the world understood the words that He was saying here at the time that He was saying it? But who would not, who was there, not think of those things on the resurrection Sunday? I have the power to lay it down, I have the power to take it again, and this command I have received from my Father. Now, we are told elsewhere that Jesus is the Bishop and the Shepherd of our souls. That's the vocation that God has given to Christ, that He is the Son of God, and as the Son of God, God makes Him responsible for and gives Him the authority over our very souls as the Shepherd of our souls. And so He said, This command I have received from my Father.

Then look what happens. Therefore, there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings, and many of them said, He has a demon, and He's mad. Why do you listen to Him? And others said, These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind? It's good thinking.

It's good thinking. The devil doesn't have that power. And they said, Wait a minute. He's just proven that He's the Good Shepherd by ministering to that sheep who was blind from the day He was born. Before Jesus left, in one of His last discussions with His disciples after the resurrection, He met with Peter. And three times He asked Peter, Peter, do you love Me?

And three times Peter said, Yea, Lord, you know that I love you. And three times Jesus said to Peter, and by extension to the church of all ages, If you love Me, feed My sheep. They're not Peter's sheep. They're not My sheep. They're His sheep. And we are called to follow in the footsteps of the Good Shepherd.

That was R.C. Sproul on today's edition of Renewing Your Mind, and he spent his entire ministry seeking to feed the sheep, whether he was teaching in the classroom or recording series, like you heard today, or writing articles and books. He wanted God's people to know what they believe and why they believe it, and critically, who Jesus was, who He said He was. So I encourage you to respond today with your donation of any amount to request his series, Knowing Christ, The I Am Sayings of Jesus.

This series is eight messages long, and in addition to receiving the DVD, you'll get digital access to the complete series and the study guide. So give your gift today at, or by calling us at 800-435-4343. We'll only be featuring five of Jesus' I Am Sayings this week on Renewing Your Mind, so to hear them all, respond today with your gift at Before Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, He made the death-defying declaration that I am the resurrection and the life. That's the I Am Saying we'll consider tomorrow, here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-05-29 02:34:40 / 2023-05-29 02:43:20 / 9

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