Sermon Notes: “Believing The Shepherd”

sheep

(These are the notes from a sermon that I preached a while back. Feel free to use them for your own study. Note, this is not a manuscript so some of the thoughts may seem scattered.)

Text: John 10:22-30

Introduction
I like using the Lectionary when I’m trying to decide what passage I need to preach because it will force you deal with things in the passage you may not feel comfortable dealing with. In a way, I think we should all (preacher or layman) get on some kind of a reading plan that will force us to read the Bible as a whole because you will find yourself in parts of the Bible that you ordinarily wouldn’t read and you’ll end up learning some things you didn’t know before, and you end up in a situation where the Bible confronts you and begins to tear at the fabric of what you were always taught to believe, and when this happens we need to let the Bible drive any of our pre-conceived notions that do not line up with what we’re reading in Scripture.

“We must allow the Word of God to confront us, to disturb our security, to undermine our complacency and to overthrow our patterns of thought and behavior.” ― John R.W. Stott

So tonight, I’ll be using John 10:22-30 as my main passage, but I will be jumping around to different parts of Scripture so that I can show you what the Bible forces us to deal with as we read this passage and seek to understand it’s meaning.

At the beginning of this passage, there’s three things we need to notice about the setting. There’s an important place, an important person, and an important party.

Important Person – Jesus the Messiah, the Jewish leaders have been hounding Him to tell them plainly if He is, in fact, the Messiah. And if you are paying attention to the chronology of John, then you’ll notice that this actually one of the more humorous passages in the Gospels and you’ll see why in a little bit.

Important Place – The Temple, more specifically, Solomon’s porch. “This place is important; it was the porch or portico on the east side of the Temple and was called the “Porch of Judgment.” From this location, the King would make his judgments and exercise justice for those who were brought before him. And here is Jesus strolling through this historic location, physically embodying justice in this place of justice — something his life and teachings were all about.”

Important Party – The Feast of Dedication, sometimes called the Festival of Lights, and today this event is known as Hanukkah. The Jews celebrated (and still celebrate) Hanukkah to remember a time when God kept the lamps in the temple burning for eight days even though there was only enough oil to last one day due to an oil shortage because of war in the land at that time.

As we keep these things in mind, let’s also notice that Jesus has been in Jerusalem since the Feast of Tabernacles which you read about in John 7 and He has been periodically teaching in the temple and revealing Himself as the Messiah that was promised in the Old Testament.

Our 3 points will be the following:
The Reason for Unbelief (verses 24-26)
The Reason for Belief (verse 27)
The End Result (verses 28-29)

The Reason for Unbelief (verses 24-26)
Notice what verse 26 says, “But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep.” It doesn’t say “you are not of my sheep because you do not believe.” See, we can’t simply look at the passage and say, “Well then, their problem is that they simply do not believe. They’re just blatantly ignoring the facts.” While there’s truth to that, the problem isn’t simply unbelief, unbelief is only a symptom of a greater disease. The greater disease is deadness in sin. Remember what Paul says in Ephesians 2, “You were dead in your sins.”

We often like to imagine Jesus as a lifeguard that throws us a life saver as we’re drowning in the sea of sin, but that analogy wrong, because Paul says the wages of sin is death. So, if you’re not saved, then you’re not sick in your sins, you’re not the brink of death in your sins, you’re dead in your sins.

So then, Jesus isn’t some lifeguard that throws you a life saver, He actually swims to the bottom of the ocean and carries your corpse up out of the sea, and breathes into you, the breath of life. So, then the problem people do not believe what Jesus is plainly telling them isn’t simply unbelief, it’s unbelief as a result of dead men walking in their sin.

In another place, Jesus makes a clear distinction between sheep and goats, so if Jesus is telling these Jews, “you do not believe because you are not my sheep” then it must follow that they are goats. And Jesus says, there will come a day when He separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on His right hand, and the goats on His left hand.
“Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matthew 25:41 NRSV]

Jesus is making the clear distinction, unless you believe what He says about Himself in the Scriptures and follow Him, then you are nothing more than unbelieving goat.
“How do I know if I’m a sheep or a goat?” It’s simple. Do you desire to follow Christ and believe what He says? Then you’re a sheep. If you’re confronted with Scripture, and it doesn’t phase you or change you, then you’re a goat. Sheep love and follow Jesus.

The Reason for Belief (verse 27)

“My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me.” – [John 10:27 NRSV]

“Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” – [John 10:1-5 NRSV]

What is He saying here? When the shepherd calls, the sheep follow.

Do you remember that old song, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”? In the old school, when someone would make a decision for Christ, we would strike up the band and sing “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” That’s all well and good as long as we understand we don’t make the decision on our own apart from the inward drawing of the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

“No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.”
– [John 6:44-45 KJV]

Let’s look at verse 45 in the NRSV just to good grasp of the meaning…
“It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” – [John 6:45 NRSV]

Notice, Jesus says, “It is written in the prophets…” Anytime you see that phrase mentioned, you need to look in the Old Testament to the passage that is being quoted and read it in context.

“And they all shall be taught by God.” – Although this is not a direct, word for word quote, Jesus pulls this from two passages in the Old Testament that speak of the same event – the promise of the New Covenant.

“But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”
– [Jeremiah 31:33-34 NRSV]

“All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the prosperity of your children.” – [Isaiah 54:13 NRSV]

Here’s the big question: What does all this mean for us? It means that God, in love, has brought us into His covenant and placed us in fellowship with a covenant community of believers.

It means that our belief does not come from within us, it comes from God who loves us, draws us, saves us, sanctifies us, and will one day, glorify us. God is the cheif operator in our salvation, not us. John makes that clear at the beginning of His gospel account in John 1.

“He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
– [John 1:11-13 KJV]

Prior to being born again, we were enemies of God without hope in the world, but the will of God intervened for us, and drew us to a point in our lives where we knew we had to come to Jesus or be lost forever.

The End Result (verses 28-29)

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” – [John 10:27-29 KJV]

Let’s think about John 3:16 for a second. We know John 3:16, we love John 3:16, we can all quote John 3:16. We don’t dispute it. Yet, when it comes to verses like John 10:28-29, we want to say, “God gives them eternal life, but…” or “I know it says no one can pluck us out of God’s hand, but…” There are no ‘buts.’ There is nothing in the text that indicates that Jesus DOES NOT mean what He says.

There’s only one condition here. The sheep must follow, and He gives them eternal life.

Here’s how it works.

The Shepherd calls, the sheep follow, He gives them eternal life.

The Shepherd ALWAYS calls. The sheep ALWAYS follow. The Shepherd ALWAYS grants eternal life to the sheep. This is the beauty of Unconditional Election. Our election in Christ is sure. Our salvation is secure. There is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING that can be done for our salvation to be lost.

I can hear someone asking now, “But what if the sheep ever stop following?” Then that’s not a sheep, that’s a goat. The sheep may stray, but shepherd always brings the sheep back.

“How do we know who is a sheep and who is a goat?” It’s none of our business, Jesus will separate them Himself.

Now, here’s the big question for you tonight? Are you a lost sheep? Do you need Jesus to find you? Do you need hope that only salvation can give? You may be here, and you may be saved, but you need the joy of your salvation restored. Jesus can grant you joy unspeakable and full of glory.

 

The Lord Guides The Heart

“The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will.” – Proverbs 21:1 (ESV)

“John, to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” – Revelation 1:4-6 (NKJV)

When we were saved, we were brought into a kingdom, but we weren’t just brought into the kingdom, we were made into a kingdom. If you were to read Revelation 1:5b-6 in the English Standard Version, it says,

“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom,priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

The ESV actually emphasizes in verse 6 that we were made into a kingdom. We could go on and on and talk about how in 1 Peter 2:9 talks about how we are a chosen generation and a royal priesthood, but the point is because Jesus is royalty we were made into royalty by his blood so that makes us kings and priests unto God.

I’ve prayed about things that I feel that God wanted me to do and honestly, I just didn’t want to do it. I wanted to obey God, but I didn’t want to do specifically what he was asking me to do and so I said, “God, I want to obey you, but my heart isn’t in this. Will you please change my heart to do what you would have me to do?” Then one day, he brought me to Proverbs 21:1. My pastor had been teaching a lot recently on our identity as kings and priests and so when I read how that the king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord, I immediately identified that with myself. I may be a king, but Jesus is the King of Kings and so I humbly serve and humbly live under His kingdom and lordship. God has the power to change my heart and yours to do his will.

Philippians 2:12-13 (ESV) tells us,
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Take a good look at verse 13 because that’s where verse 12 ties together. Verse 12 tells us to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Verse 13 tells that we can only work out our own salvation with fear and trembling because God works in us to will and to work for His good pleasure. So, God has to mold and transform our heart in order for us to do His will because God is a gentleman, He will never force Himself in you, but He will change your heart to where you do want Him and want His will.

I hope you have a blessed day today. Thank you for reading and following.

Reflections on Psalm 2

“Why do the nations conspire
    and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth rise up
    and the rulers band together
    against the Lord and against his anointed, saying,
“Let us break their chains
    and throw off their shackles.”

The One enthroned in heaven laughs;
    the Lord scoffs at them.
He rebukes them in his anger
    and terrifies them in his wrath, saying,
“I have installed my king

    on Zion, my holy mountain.”

I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:

He said to me, “You are my son;
    today I have become your father.
Ask me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.
You will break them with a rod of iron[b];

    you will dash them to pieces like pottery.”

Therefore, you kings, be wise;
    be warned, you rulers of the earth.
Serve the Lord with fear
    and celebrate his rule with trembling.
Kiss his son, or he will be angry
    and your way will lead to your destruction,
for his wrath can flare up in a moment.
    Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
– Psalm 2:1-12 (NIV)

So, I’ve been trying to pray through the Psalms for the last couple of days and I just wanted to share my reflections with you on this passage. I’m going to try not to get into the deep theology of the text, and just get to what I felt that God was trying to show me.

This morning as I as was getting ready to the open the store that I work at, Psalm 2:1 just kept going through my mind. “Why do the heathen rage? Why do the people imagine a vain thing?” (I think Scripture in KJV because I was raised on it.) What is the psalmist really asking here?

In this passage, the psalmist is addressing kings and leaders that would try to overthrow the dominion of God in the earth. In Colossians 1, we read about how Jesus has created everything, sustains everything, and is ruling all of creation. Any power or authority that anyone has politically or otherwise comes from God.

“Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and they will be punished.”
– Romans 13:1-2 (NLT)

So, what does all this mean on a practical level?

Revelation 1:6 tells us that we are kings and priests unto God. Because we are kings and priests unto God, we always answer to Him for everything we say and do. As a matter of fact, the Scriptures are clear that we will have to give an account for our works (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14; Matthew 12:36-37; 1 Corinthians 3:12-15). When we don’t surrender our lives under the full authority of Jesus Christ we become just like these foolish rulers that David is addressing in Psalm 2. When we try to direct our lives without God we are simply plotting in vain and setting ourselves up for disaster.

Knowing and Praying the Will of God

“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.” – [Colossians 1:9-12 ESV]

Lately I’ve been thinking about the will of God for my life. I’ve been praying and earnestly seeking Him about some decisions that have to be made, and while I was working on my commentary for Colossians I kept coming across these verses and it occured to me, God’s will for my life isn’t some big mystery that He wants to hide and let me go off on a wild goose chase to find. I would even dare say that it is the father’s good pleasure to share His will with His children for their lives. I believe that God not only wants to share His will with us, but He wants us to want His will. For those of us who have been in church for forever and a day, this sounds like an elementary concept, but the fact is there are people out there who are really trying to figure what God wants for them and they are having a hard time figuring it out because we often make out to be this angry guy living in the attic of the universe ready to strike someone down for even thinking about the word ‘sin’. I was raised under the impression that if I didn’t say the blessing over my food then God would allow it to be poisoned and kill me for being an unthankful wretch. People who are under this impression need to know that God is more merciful and loving than that. He has a deep love for all us and longs for us to know what He has in store for us. As a matter of fact, He even wants us to pray for His will.

“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; so neither can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for apart from me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatsoever ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; and so shall ye be my disciples.” – [John 15:4-8 RV]

Normally, I’m an ESV man, but in John 15:7 the ESV uses the word, ‘wish’. The word ‘wish’ to me has almost a fairy tale meaning. As one who studies the Greek, I’m not sure that Jesus was implying that God is like a fairy godmother that grants wishes, but rather He is a loving and generous Father and care-giver that gives us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4).

I love John 15 because it shows us that we will know the will of God for our lives if we continue to abide in Him. What a profound thought that knowing the will of God is a direct result of abiding in Christ.

I want us to look now at Psalm 34:7 and see what exactly God is speaking to us through the psalmist.

“Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” – [Psalms 37:4 ESV]

What’s interesting about this verse is that it doesn’t mean that if you make yourself happy in God, He’ll give us a nice Lincoln or a big house if that’s what your heart desires. It actually means that God will give you the desires of your heart, if your submit yourself to Him.

The Hebrew word for ‘delight’ that is used here is ‛ânag which means ‘to make soft or pliable’. A more accurate translation would be ‘Make yourself pliable before God, and He will give you the desires of your heart.’ When you make yourself pliable before God He can mold you and make you. When He begins to mold you and make you, He often changes the desires of our heart so when God is changing our desires, we begin to want what God wants and then when we pray for what God wants, He gives it to us, because He knows what is best for us.

“The desires of God and the desires of the righteous, agree in one; they are of one mind in their desires.” – John Bunyan

I hope this has blessed you and encouraged you today.