June 11, 2010 David Balzer

John 10: Proud to be a sheep!

q       Put your hand up if you knew that this is a Presbyterian church.

q       Put your hand up if you know what “Presbyterian” means.

A focus on ELDERS is ONE area that separates us from some denominations.

q       Put your hand up if you know whether Presbyterians are reformed, or not reformed. Yes, they’re reformed.

q       Put your hand up if you know what we MEAN when we talk about being REFORMED. (doctrines of grace, Calvinism, Reformation, God’s sovereignty).

If you’re REFORMED it means you emphasise that it’s ALL ABOUT GOD. Your whole salvation and life and eternity is to do with HIM, and NOT YOU.

If you’re REFORMED, one of the places you turn to/ to help understand the process of how you’re saved. Is Jn 10.

Which talks about Jesus being the good shepherd. And Christians being his sheep.

It’s a chapter where Jesus addresses three of the most important questions we can ever ask. All three/ questions REFORMED PEOPLE like to emphasise.

And here they are:

  1. Does God choose me, or do I choose God? Who chases who? Theologians call that unconditional election.
  2. Did Jesus die with me in mind? Did he die for a particular group of people, or did he die for EVERYONE, but no one SPECIFICALLY? How much does Jesus love me? Theologians call that the doctrine of particular redemption, or limited atonement.
  3. If I’m a Christian, can I fall away, or will God hold me tight? And theologians call that the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints.

People have been asking these sorts of questions even since the time of Christ. And they’re really important. Because they affect the way we LIVE.

One person goes through life cautious, and worrying, and doubting whether he’s done enough, or whether he’s still in God’s good books. Not sure whether God might, one day, choose to change his mind, and let him go. And leave him stranded.

The OTHER person lives with confidence, and gratitude. Confident Jesus has done all she needs/ to be friends with God. Confident that when Jesus promises to never let her go, that’s what he means.

And it means she can live life the way it was designed – full and rich and true – ABUNDANT life is how Jesus puts it in THIS chapter.

It’s this sort of confidence that’s in the Heidelberg Catechism. (We’ve been working through the Westminster Shorter Catechism – it was written in England in 1674.) And the Heidelberg Catechism was written in Germany about 100 years earlier. In 1563. Not long after the beginning of the Reformation. And it’s been used ever since to teach people about the Christian life. Particularly in the Reformed Church.

Now what’s so good about THIS CATECHISM/ is that it starts with WHAT’S GREAT about the Christian life. From our experience. What COMFORT we have as Christians. WHAT IT IS that makes the Christian life worth living. Question number 1. “What is your only comfort in life and ?

And look at the answer. Comfort’s to do with CONFIDENCE. We’re SURE about where we stand before God, and SURE about where we’re going when we die.

I’m going to read question one out, and I want you to answer me. And let the words be God’s message direct to you from his word – which is where the catechism gets all its promises.

Question 1. What is your only comfort in life and ?

Answer. That I, with body and soul, both in life and , am not my own, but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious , has fully paid for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil. He preserves me so that unless my heavenly Father decides, not even a hair can fall from my head. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also ASSURES ME of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live for him.

There’s great confidence there, isn’t there? That you belong to Jesus. Why is that such a comfort? How can yo be so CONFIDENT?

Because Jesus paid for you FULLY. Nothing owing. And he KEEPS you his. And that through his Holy Spirit, he ASSURES you of eternal life. Which are all the things REFORMED people want to emphasise.

And Jn 10 is a great place to go to get some info on those things. It’s a chapter that uses a different picture about the Christian life. But its purpose is the same. To give us A CONFIDENT TRUST – COMFORT – that Jesus is the shepherd who leads us. He CHOSE us, He lay down his life because he lives us. We know his voice and follow him, he leads us in and out to good pasture. In other words, he KEEPS us. And that he’ll never let us go.

In other words – that we’ll know ABUNDANT LIFE. The GOOD life being a sheep! And that’s why the title of the talk is “Proud to be a sheep!” That’s me! What about you?!

1. Two sorts of Shepherds

The first thing to notice about Jn 10 is that it follows straight on from chapter 9. (That’s not terribly clever, is it?) But the point is/ at the end of Ch 9 Jesus has just finished calling the Pharisees blind, and guilty and sinful. Hopeless for someone who’s supposed to be looking after, and leading, God’s people.

And so, as we listen to Jesus’ description about TWO SORTS OF SHEPHERDS, it’s obvious who the BAD ONES are. Who Jesus is having a dig at.

10:1 “I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep.

The Pharisees are the ones who jump over the wall, looking to steal some sheep. They’re the jolly swagmen with jumbucks in their tucker bags. More concerned with feeding on lamb chops than caring for their sheep.

It’s a picture of bad leaders Jesus has taken straight from the Old Testament. In Ezek 34 God’s BLASTING the leaders of Ezekiel’s time because they’re doing the same thing. Looking after THEMSELVES rather than the sheep. (Eze 34:2-4)

This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? 3 You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. 4 You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost.

And so God promises that HE HIMSELF will search for his sheep and look after them. He’ll rescue them from wherever they’re lost. And then a bit further on he promises to send a HUMAN shepherd. A Son of David to look after them. Down in v23.

23 I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. 24 I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken.

And so Jesus comes on the scene. Jesus, the Son of David. Sent by God to be his SHEPHERD PRINCE. And he says (v14).

14 “I am the GOOD shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me- 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father-and I lay down my life for the sheep.

The picture’s a bit different from sheep stations in Australia. Where the farmer drives the huge mob of sheep in front of him while he rides behind on a motorbike. Swearing at the dumb sheep who won’t go where they’re guided. And lots of dogs herd the sheep around, snapping and barking.

In Palestine, even TODAY. Shepherds look after SMALL flocks. And at night, they’re penned up in a walled compound. Probably with all the flocks in the village. With one door in and out. And when morning comes, the shepherd walks through the gate, calls his sheep, they hear his voice, and they all come out from the rest of the flocks, and follow their leader.

And it’s THAT PICTURE that Jesus says is JUST LIKE HIM.

A. Election

He looks out on the whole of humanity. And he knows the sheep who are his. See it there in v2?

2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of HIS SHEEP. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. HE CALLS HIS OWN SHEEP BY NAME AND LEADS THEM OUT.

Even before you were a Christian – before you were following Jesus, he looked out across the great expanse of humanity. And knew you were one of his. And he CALLED you. “Come and follow me.”

How did Jesus know which sheep were his? Well, the SIMPLE answer is because they’re the ones his father GAVE him. Look down to v27.

27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can them out of my hand. 29 My Father, WHO HAS GIVEN THEM TO ME, is greater than all;

A few chapters on in Ch 17. Jesus repeats the same idea. V1.

“Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. 2 For you granted him authority over all people THAT HE MIGHT GIVE ETERNAL LIFE TO ALL THOSE YOU HAVE GIVEN HIM.

Or down to v6

6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word.

Same thing again in v24.

24 “Father, I want THOSE YOU HAVE GIVEN ME to be with me where I am,

When God sat down at the beginning of time to plan out the history of the Universe, he CHOSE who would be his.

The start of 1 Peter is addressed to Christians. And here’s how he describes them.

To God’s ELECT, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, 2 WHO HAVE BEEN CHOSEN ACCORDING TO THE FOREKNOWLEDGE OF GOD THE FATHER,

Revelation puts the same idea into PICTURES. This time talking about those God DIDN’T choose. Rev 17:8.

The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast,

God wrote the book of life before the world was made. And he chose SOME names to be in there. And SOME names WEREN’T.

Which is enough to make you DIZZY. As you try to get your head around it.

But it begs the obvious question. But what if I’m not IN the book of life? What if God HASN’T chosen me? How I know if I’m one of Jesus’ elect?

Jesus gives us the answer. And it cuts through a lot of the difficulties people have with this idea. If you are one of Jesus’ sheep, if he’s chosen you. And called out your name. Then this is what happens. Look at v3.

He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out ALL HIS OWN, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep FOLLOW him because they KNOW HIS VOICE.

You are one of God’s elect if you have HEARD JESUS’ VOICE. If you’re FOLLOWING him. Trusting him with your life. And your salvation. Living with him as your King. That’s the test.

So ask yourself the question, Is that YOU? Have you HEARD JESUS’ VOICE. Are you FOLLOWING him. Trusting him with your life?

If you honestly answer Yes to that, then you’re one of his sheep. One of the ones chosen by God himself before the creation of the world! How cool is that?!

B. Particular redemption

The NEXT wonderful truth that flows out of this passage is that Christ died SPECIFICALLY for his sheep. If you’re one of Jesus’ sheep, then he went to the cross with YOU in mind. That’s how much he LOVED YOU.

Have a look at v11.

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

And then he compares himself to the hired hand, who doesn’t CARE for the sheep, because they’re NOT HIS. But Jesus gives up his life for the sheep because they’re HIS SHEEP. And he CARES for them.

And he’s not FORCED into it. Overcome by the events of history. He CHOOSES to do it. Down to v17.

17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life-only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.

Done FOR YOU, the sheep he LOVES.

Another verse that talk about Christ’s PARTICULAR love for his people is Eph 5:25

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

Imagine a husband who wants to buy his wife the best anniversary present ever. He does his homework, meets with the jewellery designer, takes out a huge loan, and finally presents his beloved wife with a gorgeous matching set of diamond earrings, necklace, and eternity ring. Cost a fortune.

And she LOVES it! How SPECIAL she’d feel. How LOVED!

But what if, as he gave it to her, he happened to mention that he’d got a good deal on them. So he bought a job lot. And gave one to each of the women in the street. A wonderful gift for EVERYONE. Suddenly it wouldn’t seem so special.

Jesus hasn’t laid down his life for EVERY WOMAN in the street. He’s laid down his life for his beloved bride, the church. His FLOCK.

And when we catch a glimpse of the richness and undeserved generosity of that act. We follow along after our good shepherd. Honouring and serving and obeying and LOVING him. Proud to be a SHEEP.

That’s the SECOND truth. Particular redemption.

C. Perseverance

The THIRD truth we learn about in this chapter is PERSEVERANCE. Is it possible to fall away? Or is it once saved, always saved?

It’s a serious and genuine question. Because we probably all know people who looked like they were Christians, and then turned their back on it. And we all know how fickle, and easily tempted WE are. How quick we are to have our attention distracted by SOMETHING ELSE.

And if it all depended on OUR ABILITY to keep following Jesus, there’d be GENUINE CAUSE TO WORRY.

And so Jesus REASSURES us. Look down to v25. He’s arguing with the Jews again. And in v26 he says,

you do not believe because you are not my sheep.

And then he talks about HIS sheep.

27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

All things we know already. But he goes on.

28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can them out of my Father’s hand.

Those who are truly Jesus’ sheep. Who hear his voice. And who FOLLOW him. He gives them eternal life. That’s IN THE PRESENT tense. When he CALLS them, and they hear his voice, they’re BORN AGAIN. And they BEGIN eternal life. That’s the ABUNDANT life Jesus promises in v10. FULL AND RICH AND TRUE life. Life that’s the BEGINNING and the TASTE of the life we’ll live for ETERNITY.

And once you’ve GOT it, you can’t LOSE it. No one can you out of Jesus’ hand. Or out of his Father’s hand, who’s greater than all.

And if you’re worried whether you’ve been born again. Ask yourself those questions I mentioned before. “Have I heard Jesus voice? Do I trust him? Am I following him? Am I ignoring the other voices around leading me away?”

And if you answer YES to all those things. Then you can have a ROCK SOLID CONFIDENCE that Jesus is the good shepherd who will hold onto you and never let you go.

Because it’s all about HIM, and not about YOU. He’s CALLED you. He DIED for YOU ESPECIALLY. And he’ll NEVER LET YOU GO.

In Eph 1 Paul paints a huge panorama of God’s purposes for you. All the things we’ve talked about today. Eph 1:11-14. And notice how it’s all about GOD, and not about YOU.

11 In him (that’s Jesus) we were also chosen (that’s ELECTION), having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were INCLUDED IN CHRIST (that’s REDEMPTION) when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance (that’s ASSURANCE) until the redemption of those who are God’s possession-to the praise of his glory.

Let me close by asking you a question. And as you answer it, dwell on the words. And make them YOURS.

Question 1. What is your only comfort in life and ?

Answer. That I, with body and soul, both in life and , am not my own, but belong to my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious , has fully paid for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil. He preserves me so that unless my heavenly Father decides, not even a hair can fall from my head. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also ASSURES ME of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live for him.

Amen.

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