Thursday, April 19, 2012

NEEDED - One Good Shepherd!

(Preached a few years ago on Misericordias Domini at Trinity Orthodox Lutheran Church, Sierra Vista, Arizona)

Homily on John 10:11-16

"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 is not the owner of the sheep, sees the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and is not concerned about the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd."(NASB)

Christianity is NOT all about Christians. Christianity IS all about Christ! To many who claim the name "Christian," this religion revolves around them: their ideas, their needs, and their feelings.

This could be seen clearly in a newspaper article in Friday's paper. The article was about how various churches here in town carried out "evangelism." One Pastor — it doesn't matter who — said that asking people if they're "saved" wasn't very useful. Rather he wants to know if people are being disciples of Jesus. "Of course, Jesus is the Savior too," he said, almost as a throw-away line, "but what's really important is whether or not they are living as Jesus' followers."

Now, that is taking the Bible and turning it inside out and upside down. You could say the same thing about any and every wise man or philosopher who ever lived, and any religion on the face of the earth!

Look again at the words of Jesus from John 10. Does he talk mostly about the sheep, or about the shepherd? Where is the focus? Is it even on the behavior or feelings of the sheep, or is it on the behavior and feelings of the Good Shepherd? The answer is crystal clear. If we ask —

God answers, Yes!
We Need A Shepherd To Die For Us!
We Need A Shepherd To Protect Us!

What is the main message of the Good Shepherd? Once again, it has very little to do with the sheep. People ARE sheep. They are foolish. They are easily led astray. They are stubborn. They are more often than not disobedient. And, they love to wander. Thus, just like sheep, people need a shepherd. The fact is, they need a Savior! This isn't just PART of Jesus' work, and a minor part at that, as some seem to think. The work of paying for our sins is the main and most important work of the Good Shepherd.

As I said, we have a lot of sins to pay for. We have to pay for them because God, our Maker, deserves complete and total respect and obedience, and will not and cannot tolerate anything less. This isn't a matter of His "feelings," or about Him being picky or overbearing. This is a fact of His existence that He cannot deny, no more than He could lie. The fact of our existence is that we have not, indeed, cannot give God what He rightfully deserves — complete holiness and righteousness. Thus, we owe a tremendous debt that we could never hope to repay, not even with our very lives.

So, the entire message of Christ, and of the whole Bible, is a simple one of "transference:" By grace through faith God transferred our guilt to His only Son, and made Him pay the ultimate price, and also transferred Jesus' perfect righteousness to us. Then the Father raised His Son from the dead to put His own seal on the deal. This was the promise given to Adam and Eve, and to the Patriarchs, Kings, Prophets, the people of Israel, and nations of the world.

So, the message of the Good Shepherd is not about us — unless it's about our sin and our inability to remove it ourselves. No, the message is all about the work: the life, preaching, miracles, and entire ministry of Jesus Christ. We really DO need a shepherd, and He is the BEST!

But neither does our shepherd simply fight one battle for us and retire to the old shepherd's home! He stays with the flock, and each and every individual member of the flock to fight every day, and every hour of every day to protect us from the only real evil there is — hell!

Here again, look at some shepherds today. Far too many refuse to fight. They have become spiritual "draft-dodgers," religious "peaceniks," and "objectors" to Biblical warfare without a "conscience!" They take no stands, offend no one, confront no sins, and proclaim no eternal truths. They want people to have the peace of Jesus without giving them any piece of the real Him at all!

Note what Jesus calls these kinds of shepherds, "hired hands!" They are not the owners, nor do they even belong to the owner's family. At the first sign of trouble or difficulty or danger, they run away as fast as they can. In other words, they are only in the "religion" business for the money, and even then only when that good.

So, why do so many people follow such worthless shepherds? Remember — people are sheep! And most of these shepherds themselves are "lost sheep," who do not have Jesus as their Good Shepherd!

But Jesus is always with us. Not only is He among us with His spiritual presence. He is with us and within us through His precious Sacraments. And He is beside us with His ever-powerful Word, to lead us against our common foes: fear, doubt, worldly wisdom, false teachings, Satan's lies, and our own temptations. The Bible is indeed Christ's very own "rod and staff' that comforts and guides us through life and death. Without a pure, true, and completely trustworthy Bible, we would once again be wandering sheep.

So, what is Christianity all about? Is it about people doing good, being nice, living right, having faith in the goodness of people, and trying to be like Jesus as much as possible? NO! Christianity is all about Jesus Christ, God's Son, and Him horribly crucified for all the rotten, dirty, nasty, disgusting sinners in the whole world. It's about His message of forgiveness and peace with the Father through His sacrifice, which is ours only by faith. It's about the Means of Grace He left behind to create and strengthen saving faith — the Gospel in Word and Sacraments. It's about His Church, commanded by Him to preach ONLY His Saving Word to the world. It's about His Ministry, set up by Him to serve believers with the Means of Grace and announce the Gospel to all people. And, finally, yes, it is about believers, working together to preserve His pure Word and being used by the Holy Spirit to extend the kingdom of His Word.

Those other churches may not need a Good Shepherd to die for them, or to protect them from a very real and deadly devil, but we do. We Really Do Need A Shepherd – A Good Shepherd! Praise God we have one, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Amen.

Pastor Spencer

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments will be accepted or rejected based on the sound Christian judgment of the moderators.

Since anonymous comments are not allowed on this blog, please sign your full name at the bottom of every comment, unless it already appears in your identity profile.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License