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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 10.30am service, 2002-02-24

Text: John 10:1-28

In a message that was preached here two weeks ago we learned about having a truly blessed life - We learned from the Word of God that real blessedness is not found in one's material wealth, neither in a multitude of one's children nor in the great magnitude of one's lifespan on earth. And we saw that real blessedness can only be found in putting away our sins, living according to God's commandments, loving our fellow men and most of all, having an intimate personal relationship with God.

It would be good for us to take up this last strand of thought from that message - the blessedness of having an intimate relationship with God - and develop it a little further. As Christians, we stand in a very unique relationship with God, a relationship which is often likened to that of a shepherd's relationship with his sheep. This metaphor of the shepherd and sheep is found not just once, but many times in our Bibles. The most familiar passage is the 23rd psalm, which begins with those wonderful words, 'The Lord is my shepherd.' In another favorite psalm, which is Psalm 100, we joyfully acknowledge the truth that 'we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.'

The New Testament alone has over 70 passages that uses the same metaphor to describe our relationship with the Lord. For example, in Hebrews 13:20, Jesus is called the great Shepherd of the sheep. 'Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, make you perfect in every good work to do His will...' And in 1 Peter 2:25 Jesus is called 'the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.'

Shepherds do have a prominent place in the Scriptures. We all know that in the Christmas story, the first ones to hear the good news from the angels that Christ our Lord was born were the shepherds watching their flocks by night. The Old Testament patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all shepherds. Moses, the great Law-giver of Israel, spent 40 years of his life as a shepherd before he led the Israelites out of Egypt. And David, the greatest king of Israel, was only a shepherd boy when God appointed him to be king over His people.

But let us not imagine from all this, that shepherding was an easy, prestigious job, just sitting around and staring at the sheep all day and all night. Actually the opposite was true - it was lowly and hard menial work. The shepherd who takes good care of his sheep has to work very hard, and make many personal sacrifices. He had to walk great distances, looking for patches of grass, which were not abundant in Palestine because the rainfall there was very erratic. Even today water is still a big issue in Israel. That does not help the shepherds who have to find enough water for a flock that may be as large as a few hundred sheep.

Water is not the only problem. there were also predators like lions, bears and wolves who love to eat sheep meat. Sometimes they have to risk their own lives for the flock against attacks from these animals. The sheep also have to be guarded against robbers and thieves. Every single sheep has to be carefully accounted for and looked after, and this was difficult because sheep are not the easiest animals to care for. They are quite stupid and would often wander away from the flock. When a sheep is lost, it does not know how to find its way back to the flock, and it would just sit frozen in one place, until the shepherd finds it and has to literally carry it back on his shoulders (cf Luke 15:4,5).

Besides all that, the shepherd has to wash the sheep regularly, and tend to any wounds they may have. Sheep are prone to be infected with a disease called foot-rot, which shepherds have to watch out for. Once in a while, the shepherds would have to undertake the task of shearing the wool off their sheep.

When all these things are considered, I don't think any one of us here would like to exhange jobs with a shepherd, and especially to be a shepherd in Israel during biblical times. But knowing all this helps us now to understand why God chose to use the shepherd and sheep relationship as a picture of His relationship with us. It is precisely because the shepherd's task of meeting the needs of his sheep involves so much effort. So let us turn our Bibles to our text now, which is found in John 10:1-28, and read it (Read).

As we study this passage we will see that there are particularly three kinds of needs that Christ who is our Shepherd has to meet, in order for us to experience the blessedness of being His sheep. The first need is salvation.

The second is sustenance, and the third is security. And only when all these three needs are met can the sheep be truly blessed. Let us consider the first need - the need for Salvation

I. Our Shepherd Gave Himself For Our Salvation

A. His Privation for the sake of His Sheep (Jn 10:11,14-18) 

Let us read v.11 of John 10 again 'I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.'

Here we see that the test of a true shepherd is in the way that he reacts when his flock is being attacked. If he is not faithful to his calling, he will think only about his own safety. He will run away and allow his sheep to be destroyed, because he really doesn't care for the lives of the sheep. But a true shepherd will not think first about his own safety. His sheep are his main concern, and he must defend them at all costs, even if this means putting his own life in danger. And he will not rest nor give up until his sheep are fully out of danger.

This provides us with a picture of how the Lord has saved us from sin. Sin is like a ferocious predator, prowling around and ready to pounce on us and destroy us. Now when Christ our Shepherd saw that our lives were threatened with destruction by SIN, did He shrink away from the dreaded enemy and leave us to be devoured by the jaws of eternal death? No! Even though He knew exactly how awful and agonizing it was going to be for Him to face such a terrifying foe, He cared so much for you and me that He dealt once and for all with Sin. Jesus did not consider His own life as being too precious to lay down for His sheep. Not minding the danger to His own life, He bravely took hold of sin by its deadly jaws and delivered the awesome fatal blow to it on the Cross! However, in the process of doing this, His own life was taken. Christ our Good Shepherd was smitten, and for a while the sheep had no one to lead them, and were scattered. But when there seemed to be no hope at all, the Great Shepherd of the sheep came back to life, victorious over death, and was reunited with the sheep He loved so much.

Dearly beloved, we who have been saved from being devoured by sin should rejoice that our need for salvation from sin has been wonderfully met by our true and faithful Shepherd, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. How blessed we are to have Him as our Shepherd!

B. His Parable of The Lost Sheep (Luke 15:1-7) 

In one of the parables that Jesus told, we see again the same blessedness of having such a shepherd. This parable which is known as the 'Parable of the Lost Sheep' is found in Luke chapter 15, and I would like to read it to you: 'What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.'

Dearly beloved, you and I are just like that lost sheep, who had wandered far away from home. And Jesus Christ is that Shepherd searching for us, never giving up hope, climbing up and down the steep and dangerous mountain paths, until He finally finds us, and carries us home rejoicing! It is surely a great blessing to us, to have such a Shepherd - one who is willing to sacrifice the comforts of life and endure the worst of experiences to rescue us from sin. (Now, if there is anyone here today who is still lost in sin and under the sentence of eternal death, please, let me urge you not to delay to turn to the Good Shepherd. He will save you right now if you will turn to Him with all your heart.) 

And that is not all that He will do for His sheep, Let us go on to see another way in which we are blessed by having the Lord as our Shepherd.

II. Our Shepherd Provides Us With Sustenance 

This is blessing is the provision of our Sustenance. Here, we are looking at the day-to-day care of the shepherd for His sheep.

A. His Personal Care for the Sheep (10:3--calleth His own sheep by name) 

Let us go back to our text and read John 10:3-- 'To Him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear His voice: and He calleth His own sheep by name.' The point I want draw your attention to, is that the Shepherd calls His own sheep by name.

I believe that this indicates His Personal Care for His sheep. Let us try to understand this a little better by looking into the background of the situation described in this passage.

At the end of each day, the shepherd would bring his flock back from the pastures and lead them into an enclosure called a sheepfold. This enclosure was large and had high stone walls and only one door. The door was guarded by a porter who would not let anyone in except the shepherd. After having a night's rest at home, the shepherd would return to the sheepfold early the next morning. But there was one problem: sheepfolds were used not just by one shepherd alone, but usually by many shepherds to keep their sheep at night, and their flocks would all get mixed up together. And so, when a shepherd came, he would first have to separate his own sheep from the rest before leading them out of the fold. Now how could a shepherd do this?

Only by knowing each and every one of his sheep well by name. To an ordinary man every sheep looks the same, and it is very hard to tell one sheep from another. But to the shepherd who personally knows his sheep, each sheep of his has its own distinct features. He can easily recognize his own sheep, because he knows them all so well, even calling them by their own personal names. So when he calls them by their names, they come to him, and he then leads them out of the fold.

Now this is a picture of how well your Great Shepherd knows you. He is concerned not only about His church as a whole, but He is also deeply interested in the life of each and every individual in His church. He knows you personally and completely and He cares about your welfare. He is acquainted with every intimate detail of your life, and He knows exactly what you need, as well as how to meet that need. 

B. His Provision of Abundant Life for the Sheep (Jn 10:10, c.f. Ps 23:1-6) 

But more than that: He is able to meet every need of His sheep. In John 10:10 Christ says: 'I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.' This is a tremendous statement. Do you know what the Lord is saying? He is saying that His will for you is that you may have life, and not only life, but a life which is fuller, richer, and deeper than you can ever expect or imagine; a life which is much better than anything this world can offer.

He wants you to have life, and much more than life in your daily experience-- a life that is filled to overflowing with His blessings. This abundant life is graphically described in the 23rd psalm. Dr. John Davis, who wrote a commentary on the 23rd Psalm entitled 'The Perfect Shepherd' had this to say: 'in all the poetry of the world there is no passage that equals the charm, beauty and warmth of the 23rd Psalm. It has dried many tears and comforted troubled hearts throughout the ages.' I think he is right. If you just look through our hymnbook you will find many hymns that are based on the themes found in this psalm. Hymns like 'The Lord's My Shepherd,' 'He Leadeth Me,' 'All the Way My Savior Leads me' 'A King of Love My Shepherd Is'

This psalm was written by King David, the sweet psalmist of Israel and it is one of my favorite passages of scripture, because it assures me that as a result of our Lord's wonderful, loving care, we are blessed in all times, in all situations, even in times of great trial and danger. Let us turn our Bibles to this psalm and go through it verse by verse: 

'The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.' This very first verse speaks of a life of contentment.

'He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.' This speaks of a life of joy and of peace.

'He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.' This verse speaks of refreshment and guidance.

'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and they staff they comfort me.' This obviously refers to our Lord's provision for us when we are going through difficult trials and suffering in life. The abundant life does not mean a life without trials, but rather a life of victory over life's trials and sufficienct grace to meet them through Christ.

'Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:' This speaks of deliverance.

'Thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.' This phrase, can be translated 'my cup overflows' and it conveys the idea of abundance, as in the abundant life mentioned in John 10:10.

'Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.' The abundant life is meant to be the daily experience of everyone who belongs to Christ, and carries on right into eternity.

Well, after seeing all that our Great Shepherd promises to do for us, how can anyone of us not feel very blessed to be one of His sheep? But let us look at one more blesssing in having the Lord as our shepherd.

III. Our Shepherd Meets Our Need for Security 

This third and concluding point in our meditation, is how the Shepherd meets our need for Security. There are two important facts for us to observe here: The first is His Promise of Security for His sheep, and the second is His Power to Preserve His sheep.

A. His Promise of Security for His sheep: (v.9) 

In v.9 of our passage we notice that Jesus calls Himself the Door. This is a wonderful way of representing His provision of security for us. We all know that doors are very useful things. An open door may be an entrance to a place of delightful refuge and rest. But a door may also be locked to keep unwelcome intruders from coming into a place. And both of these ideas are found in our Lord's description of Himself as the door. In v.9 Jesus says that when we enter in by Him we shall be saved and find pasture. In v.8 and v.10 He mentions thieves and robbers, who want to break in to steal, kill and destroy. And in v.1 He states that thieves and robbers do not enter in by the door. They are unwelcome intruders and the door will never be open to allow them to enter in. And so they try to get in illegally by climbing in.

Actually what Jesus is talking about here is a sheepfold. A while ago I had mentioned that each sheepfold had only one door. And that door was open to let the sheep find security in the sheepfold at night. There is no other way that the sheep can get into the sheepfold, than through that door. And this reminds us that there is no other way for anyone to find God's security and salvation, than through Jesus Christ. A few chapters later Jesus said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.' Let us not be fooled by any others who claim to be an alternative door to salvation and eternal life. There is only one door, and it is Jesus!

The door of the sheepfold was locked and guarded at night to prevent thieves and robbers from coming in to steal the sheep. And in this passage the thieves and robbers refer to false teachers and false prophets who try to fool God's people into thinking that they are from God, when their intention is actually to take advantage of the sheep. History provides examples of false teachers who have started cults like the Jehovah's witnesses and Mormons.

Now, there is one more use of doors that provides security for us: The door of the sheep enclosure not only keeps intruders out, but also keeps the sheep in. Sheep are very prone to straying away from the rest of the flock. That is why Isaiah 53:6 says 'All we like sheep have gone astray.' The door of the sheepfold was kept locked at night to ensure that none of the sheep would be lost. Imagine what would happen if someone forgot to lock the door of the sheepfold. He would come the next morning to find the whole sheepfold empty, and his sheep scattered all over the countryside! Now this illustrates one very important need that we have - a need to be preserved to the very end, after we are saved.

B. His Power to Preserve His Sheep (Jn 10:8) 

And Jesus made this promise in John 10:28 'And I give unto them eternal life: and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand.' This is the promise given by our Great Shepherd. Do you notice how absolute and definite it is? There is no room in it for any doubt at all. Christ promises that not even a single one of His sheep shall perish. Every one who belongs to Him will not fail to obtain eternal life, no matter what happens to them.

Is there anything in this world that can provide better security than that? No. For even if a man could invent the strongest steel vault in the world, it would not be secure, because someone else who is equally smart would soon invent a way to breach that security and break into it. But the security which Jesus provides can never be breached. Even if all the armies of the world with every nuclear weapon available, should combine forces with Satan and all his fallen angels, in a concerted attempt to break through that security, they would never ever succeed!

Dearly beloved, if you truly belong to Christ, you have the greatest security for life and for eternity. Nothing can ever cause you to lose your security, not even yourself. Once you are saved, you are always saved.

This is one of the most important truths from the Scriptures we must always uphold, no matter what some others might say. No one who is saved can lose his salvation. But the question that you must ask yourself, is: Are you saved? Do you really belong to Christ? How can you know if you are truly one of the sheep of the ood Shepherd? Our meditation will not be complete until we have answered this question.

Let us look at our text again and we will find the answer, in v.27-- 'My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me' If you belong to Christ, you would listen to Him, obey Him, and follow Him. No one should ever claim to be a sheep of the Good Shepherd, if he constantly remains deaf to the Shepherd's calls and instruction, and always refuses to follow Him. Dearly beloved, do you listen to the Good Shepherd's voice when He speaks to you? Are you living in obedience to His written Word? Are you following Him faithfully?

We bring this message to a close with an important thought: While we are really blessed in this present life to enjoy the all-comprehensive care of our Lord the Good Shepherd, let us not be complacent. For if we are truly His sheep, we must resolve to hear His voice attentively and to do His will dilligently. May we all resolve anew to keep on serving our Good Shepherd faithfully, since He has declared, 'My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me'

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25