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Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Good Shepherd, Part 2 (Love For The Flock)

The Good Shepherd, Part 2
(Love For The Flock)
John 10: 11-21

In November of 1932… only two months before the Nazi takeover of Germany… the protestant established churches of Germany held an election of new presbyters and church officials.

There were two opposing groups vying for control of the Old-Prussian Union Evangelical Church.  They were the Nazi supported and extremely nationalistic German Christian movement… and the Young Reformers who were supported by evangelical pastors such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Karl Barth.

Despite the efforts of Bonhoeffer, Barth and many other pastors… the rigged election gave controlling power within the church to the Nazi backed German Christian movement.

Bonhoeffer, and many others, remained vocal in their opposition to the direction that the Nazi party was taking their country… and their church.  Two days after Hitler was installed as Chancellor, Bonhoeffer delivered a radio address in which he attacked Hitler and warned Germany against slipping into an idolatrous cult of the Fuhrer (leader), who could very well turn out to be Verführer (mis-leader, or seducer).  

And just as we see today… when those who are in control don’t like what’s being said, cut off your microphone… Bonhoeffer was also cut off the air in the middle of his sentence.

He was the first to raise his voice for church resistance to Hitler's persecution of the Jews, and he worked unceasingly behind the scenes to turn the German church away from its Fuhrer worship… back to Christ-centered biblical teaching and worship. 

Because of his continued defiance of the Nazi regime… and his efforts at its overthrow… Bonhoeffer was condemned to death on April 8th, 1945 by an SS judge.  It was a drumhead court-martial… no witnesses were called… no records of proceedings were kept… no defense allowed. 

At dawn the next day… April 9th, 1945… Dietrich Bonhoeffer was stripped of his clothing and led naked into the execution yard… where he was hung… just two weeks before soldiers from the United States 90th and 97th Infantry Divisions liberated the camp.

A student and friend of Bonhoeffer's, writes of a man who saw the execution: "I saw Pastor Bonhoeffer... kneeling on the floor praying fervently to God. I was most deeply moved by the way this lovable man prayed, so devout and so certain that God heard his prayer. At the place of execution, he again said a short prayer and then climbed the few steps to the gallows, brave and composed. His death ensued after a few seconds. In the almost fifty years that I worked as a doctor, I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God."

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Folks… there are shepherds… and then there are shepherds!  Dietrich Bonhoeffer is an example of a shepherd who had a true love for… and devotion to the church of Jesus Christ.

He had a deep seated desire to preach the gospel… to build up the body of Christ and keep it focused on Jesus Christ as its Head.  He was an outspoken advocate of the downtrodden and persecuted… and despite living under the rule of an anti-Christian, Jew hating dictatorship… at the cost of his own life, he remained faithful to his calling and His Shepherd… to the very end.

But, there are other shepherds who are little more than hirelings.  They aren’t the owners of the sheep… but are hired to watch over them for a time.  They seek their own gain, and mind their own things.  They won’t risk their lives for the flock under their care… so when the going gets tough… they pack up and get going.

As we learned last week… Jesus contrasted Himself with the religious leaders of His day.  The Pharisees are likened unto the “strangers” in verse 5… the “thieves and robbers” of verse 8… and today, they’re the “hirelings” of verses 12 &13. 

Christ, on the other hand, revealed Himself as the “door” in verses 9 & 11… and today, we see that He is the Good Shepherd.

And as the Good Shepherd of the sheep… the first characteristic we see is that…

I. He Dies for Them

Joh 10:11-13 NKJV "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. (12) 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. (13) The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.

Joh 10:17-18 NKJV "Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. (18) No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father."

Frequently… throughout the OT… the Lord God is shown to be the loving Shepherd over His sheep, Israel.  For instance… David declared to us in… Psa 23:1 NKJV The LORD is my shepherd…

And then the rest of that psalm describes the loving concern and divine providence the Lord shows toward His sheep.

In Psalm 80… Asaph calls God the Shepherd of IsraelPsa 80:1 NKJV …Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, You who lead Joseph like a flock…

And then through Isaiah, it’s revealed that… Isa 40:10-11 NKJV …the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand, And His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him. (11) He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.

But now… in this 4th “I am” statement of Christ that we see in John… He boldly tells us… and the Pharisees that He’s been speaking to throughout this discourse… that He is the “Good Shepherd!”

He’s set apart from all other shepherds.  He’s the perfect and authentic Shepherd who is in a class all to Himself.  He is preeminent above all others.

He isn’t like the Pharisees who were carnal and self-serving… They were shepherds who were more concerned with being seen and admired for their position… than anything else. 

They were like many shepherds are even today.  Shepherds who are only interested in advancing their own agendas… Shepherds who stir up racial strife in order to be seen by the world as “leaders”… Shepherds whose primary concern is the size of their bank accounts… their homes… their cars… their airplanes.

Shepherds who think that successful ministry is measured by the size of the church they pastor… rather than the lives truly changed by the grace of God.

No… Jesus is the Good Shepherd… not a self-serving one.  And that He uses this adjective… “good” in reference to Himself is also telling.  Because we see elsewhere when He’s approached by someone else who calls Him “good”… that He question their understanding of the word, and its implications.

He asked the rich young ruler… Mar 10:18 NKJV …"Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.

It’s as if He were saying, “Since only God is good… do you understand what you’re saying when you call me good?”

But Jesus is the faithful, “good Shepherd” who is not only willing to risk His life to protect His sheep… He actually will lay it down”.   In less than a year from this point, He’ll die at the hands of the Romans in a horrible, but completely voluntary and sacrificial death on the cross.

And though they may think that they’re the ones in control… that His death will be no different than the thousands of others they’ve already crucified… Jesus makes it clear who is actually in control when He says…

Joh 10:18 NKJV  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father."

It couldn’t be said any clearer that His death would be completely voluntary.  Jesus would not only die for the salvation of all who will believe… but He will also take that life up again by rising on the 3rd day!

And that voluntary and vicarious death (meaning that He took our place)… was an actual atonement for our sins.  Now, a simple method I learned as a child to understand what atonement means is that it’s “At-One-Ment”.  We were meant to be one in fellowship and unity with God… but because of sin, we’ve been separated from that fellowship. 

Since there can be no forgiveness without the shedding of blood… Heb 9:22 NKJV And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission.

The Second Person of the Trinity came to this earth in human form in order to become the sacrificial Lamb of God on our behalf to atone for our sins.  Rom 5:8 NKJV But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

As the “Good Shepherd”… He was willing to do all of this for “His own sheep”, because…

II. He Loves Them

Joh 10:14-15 NKJV I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. (15) As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

You know… I’m so thankful for my wife.  There is no other person on this planet who knows me better than she does.  And you know what’s amazing about that?  She still loves me.  Even after knowing just about everything there is to know about me… she loves me anyway.

And here we see that in a very similar way that my wife knows me… Jesus knows me better still.  I can’t honestly say that I tell my wife every little detail of my life… and there are some things I’m pretty sure she can’t see in me.  But nothing is hidden from the Good Shepherd.

He knows me even better than I know myself.  And not only does He know me… He knows each and every sheep that the Father has given to Him.  He knows them by name… and He has the same affection and intimacy with them that He does with me!

The Good Shepherd knows His sheep.  Sometimes… we might be deceived.  Some that we think of as “sheep” are actually “goats”.  Some that we look at and think, “They’re outside the flock”… are actually in the “flock”.

For example… who would have thought that Lot would be considered a “righteous man”, if the Bible didn’t tell us that?  Also… when Jesus sent Judas out with the 12 to preach the gospel… none of the disciples knew that he was of the “devil”.

The Good Shepherd knows His sheep… and He tells us that His sheep know Him.  He says that He is… Joh 10:14 NKJV … known by My own.

Just as we spoke of last week… those who belong to Christ… recognize His voice… and they follow Him.  We follow the Shepherd because we know Him experientially and personally.  Through the new birth, He gave us new life and the He empowered us for that life by sending His Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

It doesn’t get more experiential or personal than that.  Jesus Christ isn’t simply some outstanding figure in history to us… He’s the savior of our souls.  And get this… the love and affection and intimate knowledge that exists between the Good Shepherd and His sheep is similar to that which exists between the Father and the Son!

Joh 10:14-15 NKJV … I know My sheep, and am known by My own. (15) As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father…

Isn’t that amazing!  As the Father knows the Son and the Son knows the Father… so also does Christ know His sheep and His sheep know Him.

Now I don’t claim to fully understand this.  I think this is one of those things that we’ll completely understand only when we’re with Him in glory.  But whether we understand it or not… it’s the Truth of the Bible.  There is an intimate relationship that exists between us that surpasses our understanding… but because of it… our Good Shepherd was willing to lay down His life for us.

Joh 10:15b NKJV … I lay down My life for the sheep.

“I give my life as an atoning sacrifice for their sins. I die in their place, to redeem them from sin, and danger, and death.”

And… now the third thing that the Shepherd does for His flock is that…

III. He Unites Them

Joh 10:16 NKJV And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Joh 10:19-21 NKJV Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because of these sayings. (20) And many of them said, "He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?" (21) Others said, "These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"

The “other sheep” that Jesus is speaking of here, are the Gentiles.  They aren’t of the “fold” of Israel that He’s been speaking of… but are of another fold.  The Good Shepherd will gather “His own” (as He calls them in verse 3 & 4) out of these two folds and will combine them into “one flock” under Him as the “one Shepherd”.

That much is pretty straight forward and easy to understand.  However, I want to point out a couple other things that might not be quite as obvious.  The first is that Jesus tells us… Joh 10:16 NKJV And other sheep I have…

These aren’t other sheep that He’s “going to” have.  They aren’t sheep that He “shall” have.  No… He’s very clear in this.  These other sheep… “I have”.  They are as much a current possession of His… as eternal life is a current possession of ours!

He has them because they were given to Him by the Father, from eternity!  Eph 1:4-5 NKJV just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, (5) having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will

They can be just as much His current possession from eternity past as they are one day in the future because time and space don’t mean the same thing to the Creator of Time and Space as it does to us, who were created within Time and Space.

To us, a thousand years are like an eternity… but to our Creator… Psa 90:4 NKJV … a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night.

Time and Space mean very little to the One who sits outside of Time and Space.

And the second thing I want to point out is that these other sheep that Jesus has as His current possession… He says… Joh 10:16 NKJV … them also I must bring

He not only has them… He must bring them.  There’s no uncertainty here.  There’s no possibility of failure.  Those who believewill be saved… because from the foundation of the world… the Son covenanted with the Father to redeem “His own”… and that they would hear His voice… and that they would be brought into one flock.

And that not a single one of them would be lost!  Joh 6:37, 39 NKJV (37) All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. (39) This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.

And as is always the case… both then… and now… the teachings of Jesus will cause division.  Those who aren’t His… will dismiss His words without a thought.  They’ll ridicule Him and His followers.  They’ll reject out-of-hand, the salvation He offers.  And they’ll call Him a liar… a fraud… a charlatan…

But there will be some others… who aren’t so blindly biased.  And that voice of the Shepherd… that used to be muddled and garbled in their ears… will become clearer and clearer… until finally, one day, they hear Him say...

“Follow me”.

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