Rock Talk Write Up: “I am the Good Shepherd.”
Jesus makes some powerful "I am" statements in the Bible. One of them is found in John chapter 10, verse 11. It reads, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
The fact that Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd,” suggests that there are bad shepherds out there. There are those trying to lead the sheep in the wrong direction.
John chapter 10, verse one states, "I tell you the truth. Anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber!”
Jesus is talking about Satan, the enemy of your soul. I can tell you today that Satan has a plan for your life. It's a simple plan, and he's passionate about accomplishing it.
John chapter 10, verse 10 tell us, "The thief's purpose is to steal, kill, and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich satisfying life.”
Satan doesn't have a problem with you personally. It's really not your fault that he hates you so much. The reason that Satan hates you is because God loves you. Satan hates God. The problem that Satan faces is that he can't hurt God, no matter what he does. It's like a map trying to inflict pain on a mountain. The only way Satan can hurt God is to hurt the things that he loves. God loves you more deeply and intimately than you ever could imagine. So, Satan's tactic is this:To steal from you, kill you, and utterly destroy you.
Sheep are mentioned around 200 times in the Bible, much more than any other animal. Dogs are mentioned about 44 times. Cats, on the other hand, are not mentioned once in the Bible (unless you count lions). Furthermore, we know that the Bible says that Satan is like a roaring lion. So, the only reference to cats in the Bible is to say that they are Satan. Just saying.
In the Scriptures - and particularly in the New Testament - we are compared to sheep. It would be appropriate for you to feel offended. After all, sheep are stupid.
Have you ever gone to the circus to seed trained sheep perform? Have you ever seen a sheep trained to play dead?
There are challenges with being a sheep. And, unfortunately, the Bible says that we are sheep.
1. Sheep get lost easily.
I know something about getting lost easily. I can be driving down the road, looking at the sky, and find myself in a different state. The problem is that we have two interstates that run through our city. One goes north and south, while the other goes east and west. So, it's very easy to get on the wrong one. I once tried to drive to Castleton and found myself in South Dakota. I didn't realize it until I saw a big sign that said, "Welcome to South Dakota!" People, like sheep, get distracted. Just when we get our priorities right, a butterfly comes by, and we are wandering off the path.
2. Sheep are defenseless.
On their own, sheep are weak. They are vulnerable to wolves and bears and anything else that needs lunch. Around my wife's hometown in Norway, there is a nonprofit organization that will pay for your sheep after a wolf eats it. The frustrating thing is that the wolves don't even eat the whole sheep. The eat out the guts and leave the rest. Without a shepherd, sheep don't have a chance against the wolves.
3. Sheep are very stubborn.
Do you know any stubborn sheep? It's been said that if two sheep try to walk through a narrow doorway at the same time and get stuck, they will make all kinds of noise, but neither will back up. Sheep, apparently, don't have a reverse gear.
4. Sheep are filthy.
Sheep flocks are not like the white fluffy ones you see on TV. They get dirty. They will not clean themselves. Just like sheep can't clean themselves, we can't clean ourselves. We need the forgiveness of our Shepherd Jesus Christ.
What does the Good Shepherd do?
A. He guides.
Psalm chapter 23, verse three, says, "He guides me along the right paths, for his name's sake.”
John chapter 10, verses three through four, says, "The gatekeeper opens the gate for the shepherd, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice."
Do you know the Shepherd's voice? If you are in a crowded room full of 50 women, and you hear your wife laugh, you know exactly who was laughing. It's because you know her voice. Of all the voices in the room, you know her's the best. If you don't know what the voice of God sounds like, it is because you have not spent time with him. When Jesus is your shepherd, you learn to hear and know his voice.
Your God is a relational God, and he wants you to know his voice. He longs for you to know his voice.
If thinking about your spouse's voice in a crowd doesn't make sense to you, then think of this instead: Pretend you have brought your dog to a friend's house, and your dog is playing with all of your friend's dogs. Even when you hear all of the dogs barking at once, I know you know which one is yours!
B. He provides.
Psalm chapter 23, verses one through three, state, "The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He refreshes my soul.”
I find it interesting that this verse says that he makes us to lie down in green pastures. Sheep won't lie down if they are hungry or afraid. Our shepherd leads us beside still waters. Sheep won't drink from water that is moving. Think about it: They might slip in, and then all that will be seen is a cotton ball bouncing down the river. Do you know what wool is like when it's wet? It is heavy!
If you are not feeling refreshed today, I have good news for you. The plan God has for you is one you get to live feeling fed, feeling safe, and feeling rested. If you don't feel fed, safe, or rested, you are missing out on some blessing God has for you.
C. He corrects.
Wandering sheep don't like this.
Job chapter 5, verse 17 through 18, says, "Blessed is the one whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty. For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal."
It has been said that lambs like to runaway. There are many dangers in the forest for lambs who run away. A shepherd who really cares about his lamb will take that Lamb in his hands and break his leg. He then puts a splint on the leg and puts the Lamb on his shoulders. The shepherd carries the lamb until his leg is healed.
I have never heard somebody say, "Praise God! I'm being disciplined!" However, we know that the Scriptures say that God disciplines those he loves. Just like a shepherd, it is out of love that he sometimes applies pressure. Have you ever taken a child to get his or her one-year vaccinations? I remember when it was that time for Elizabeth. Inger Lise made sure that I was the one that Elizabeth was looking at! We were laughing and smiling at each other, and then the needle went in. The look on her face was terror and a feeling of betrayal. She could not understand that it was because I loved her that I was forcing this momentary pain on her. The most loving thing that God can do for us is to allow sin to hurt. It hurts because of the consequences that naturally follow our sinful choices.
Hebrews chapter 12, verse 11, says, "No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it."
D. He protects.
Psalms 23:4-6 tells, "Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."
This verse does not tell us that we will never feel pain. Rather, it assures us that we will never be alone.
Luke 15:4-6 says, "Suppose one of you has 100 sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the 99 in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home."
Our Shepherd's heart is most concerned about the sheep that has wandered away. Perhaps you have things in your life that keep you up at night. I can tell you what keeps Jesus up at night. He longs for you! When you have drifted away from him, you are at the front of his mind.
Have you ever lost a child in a place that was very crowded? Take a moment and picture yourself with your child. Pretend you're at the state fair in Minnesota, where there are 50,000 people. You turn for a moment to look at something, and when you turn back, your child is gone. You begin to look around, and as the minutes tick by, you get more and more frantic. Fear grips your heart that your child might have been kidnapped, or that somebody might be hurting him. You can see in your mind's eye the fear they are experiencing because they are lost. The emotion that your Jesus feels for you when you wandered away is far more intense than that!
Today, if you find that you are a sheep that has gone astray, you are the one that Jesus is thinking about right now. Sure, he loves those who are following him, but he's more concerned about you! All of his energy and attention is focused on being reunited with you!
Jesus went to the cross on Easter for one reason: that you would know his voice, that he could have a relationship with you that is so beautiful, so intimate, that he can whisper, and you would hear him. He's here for you today, if you will have him.
This Sunday, I want to invite you to The Rock, so that we can help each other be everything we were created to be. May the Lord richly bless you, and I hope to see you in church on Sunday.
Pastor Scott J Kruse