Levi Lusko - The Human Shield

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And once you have your Bible or your app, your device for taking notes, join me in John chapter 10. We're spending some time camped out in the book of John for a series of messages we've called Magnificent Seven. And in this collection of talks, we're exploring who Jesus said he is, who he wants to be to you. We began talking about how he's the bread of life. He'll nourish you. Then we talked about how he's the light of the world. He will illuminate your life. You don't have to walk around in darkness. You don't have to wake up feeling like every day, it's just without meaning. It's without knowing what's coming. You don't have to wake up that way. There's light that's ready to course into your life. And once light comes in, color comes in. Your life could take on a brand new, shades of color, a beautiful, dazzling display of rainbow-like intensity if you were to let Christ do what he wants to do in your life. Then last week, we talked about how Jesus is the door. But we said that if you listen to part three and didn't get part four, you'd be at a loss because these two messages have a lot to do with each other.

Now of course, all seven of them play off of each other and, you know, if you miss any of them, I would encourage you to go back on the app, on the podcast, and check that out. You're saying, what app is that? It's simple. You just open up iTunes or open up your Droid marketplace and you search for Fresh Life. And you're going to find our app there where the message is. Show up. You can listen to them. You can watch them. You can download them for your offline viewing enjoyment. And it's all, of course, free. And that goes for those of you watching on television as well. By the way, hello, Fresh Live television. We're glad to have you with us. It's a great privilege to be coming into your home all over the world, military bases, prison systems. Come on, let's say hello a little better than we just did. Glad to have you with us. So this week, Jesus is going to take what he said last week but expound on it, clarify on it. So we found out that he's the door but, he's not just any door. Here's what we need to know about the kind of door he is. He is the door of the, say it with me, sheep. He's a door, yes, and we talked about doors in general a lot last week. But this week, we're finding out more information. We're finding out that he's a very specific sort of door. He's a door for sheep to come in and out of, all right?

So that's last week. He's the door. Now we find out he's the door of the sheep. But that's not all, kids. There's more because he's also going to tell us that he is a shepherd to the sheep. At the same time he's the sheep's door, he's also their shepherd. And we're going to figure out exactly what that means in a message that I've called Human Shield. So if you take notes in church, jot that down: Human Shield. That will hopefully make sense in the next few minutes or your money back guaranteed. All right, here we go, John 10, starting in verse 11, Jesus speaking. "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives his life for the sheep". "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. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and doesn't care about the sheep".

I'm the good shepherd and I know my sheep. And I am known by my own as the father knows me. Even so, I know the father". "And I lay down my life for the sheep. 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. Therefore, my father loves me," verse 17, "because I lay down my life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have the power to lay it down and I have the power to take it again. This command I have received from my father". Then if you jump to verse 27, after some interaction amongst those who are listening, Jesus said this. Verse 27, "my sheep hear my voice and I know them. And they follow me. And I give them eternal life and they shall never perish". This is some good news. "Neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand. My father who has given them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my father's hand. I and my Father are one".

God, we just humbly ask that this portion of your word that we've just read as we now try and consider it and make sense of it in and turn it this way and that to try and catch the light and see different things in it, we pray your spirit would make all of that possible. Supercharge our efforts to understand what you're saying. And we ask that if anybody doesn't know how powerful, how epic, how beautiful it is, to have used their shepherd, they would discover that. We ask this in Jesus' name, Amen. Amen.

Human Shield, that is a hackneyed and trite element of a plot that is in almost any movie you've seen, any action movie you've seen in the past six months. You know, it's always this scene where, you know, the bad guy is running through a crowd, bank robber, whatever, terrorist, murderer, right? Kidnapper, and he grabs someone from the crowd and then he drags them with him, right? You're like, what movie? I feel like I've seen them. Yes, you have. It's in every movie, right? Liam Neeson in "Taken 94". You know what I'm saying? That's the 94th one and they still keep kidnapping his daughter. It's crazy, you know? Thought she'd see it coming, but no. They had candy, dad! Liam Neeson is going to chasing them down in a walker, you know? It's like, you shall pay too. And so the bad guy's got the victim, you know, frantic stranger, you know? Right out of central casting, you know? Terrified woman, and she's dragging her with him, right? And now, of course, you know, the police or the good guy, you know, whatever, is in this moment where he's like, he's trying to decide how best to navigate this situation because this coward is using a human as a shield. It's not just a trite, you know, element in movies or TV shows.

It's also a war crime according to the Geneva Convention for terrorist organizations or cowardly nations to put what they know will be a military target hidden or surrounded by noncombatants, where they put a playground or an elementary school where they're also, you know, storing weapons or soldiers or whatever, hoping that we will not, the other countries, take that target out because we don't want to incur civilian casualties. Human shield, Jesus here in this text, I don't know if you caught it, was basically utilizing that metaphor. That imagery springs off of John chapter 10. Not because he is using humans as a shield to protect himself, but the message of the gospel is this, Jesus became a human so that we would have a shield. That's why he came to this world, so that we would be protected by his body, by his flesh. It's what shepherds do. I remember being in Scotland for a weekend when I was in Bible college in England, and we had the chance on the weekends to leave town. And some friends and I, we went to Scotland one weekend and we were exploring. We were doing. What do you do in Scotland?

You know, we were eating haggis. That's disgusting. Highly recommend you hard pass on the haggis. And we visited some of the William Wallace sites. You know, they have a sword on top of this hill. It's sterling. And you go to Bannockburn and, you know, you get to experience some of the Scottish castles and significant spots in Edinburgh and all that. And it was awesome. But I remember at one point, we went to a place where there were sheep everywhere, sheep everywhere. And my friends and I who were there, we had just bought kilts because we were in Scotland. And we were wearing the kilts as one would. And so I don't know whose idea it was or how this happened, but someone said, you know, we ought to try and get a photograph holding a sheep with our kilts on. You know, boys will be boys, but man, we could not, for the life of us, get our hands on one of those sheep. I mean, we were running up and down those Scottish hills and doing our absolute best. We would try and flank them. We were trying to sneak up on them. We'd get them in a moment but they had little beady eyes, you know? And then they could corner real quickly. But our fun was interrupted by a loud voice ringing across the Scottish highlands. And they were screaming out something. We couldn't quite tell what they were saying. We thought maybe they're cheering us on.

So we tried a little harder, you know? We thought maybe they were giving us, you know, turn left. He's over here, you know? That's not what he was saying. In fact, what he was saying when he got close enough for us to hear him was, when you're in a strange land and we thought, how do you know we're not from around here? We perfectly blend in. When you're in a strange land, you don't worry the sheep. And we don't really understand what that meant. And then he got closer and we could see he was a farmer. He was wearing overalls. He was screaming at us. When you're in a strange man, you don't worry the sheep. Then we realized worry means, like, bother, stress out, agitate the sheep. Well, we found out later that, you know, we were in actual danger because we were trespassing on his property. And while they don't have guns in England, farmers are allowed to have shotguns to protect their livestock. And you know, so we almost died that day is the moral of the story. But we got to town later, got to a pub later, trying to get some lunch. And it was a real serious attitude all around town. This small, little community, everywhere we went were like, oh, these were the ones worrying the sheep. We are all out of fish and chips, actually. And so we got out of there.

But here's what I took away from that experience. I took away two things. I took away, well, you know, you got to give sheep credit because they're quick. And that's the second and maybe more significant conclusion I came to was shepherds do what they need to do to take care of their sheep. That's what shepherds do. And here in this fourth statement from John's gospel where Jesus is telling us who he is so we can understand who he is, therefore we can figure out who we are, he tells us I am a shepherd, but not much a shepherd. He says I am the good shepherd. And by that, we can infer that there are other shepherds who are not good. And that's the truth. Listen to me very carefully. Everyone has a shepherd. Everyone has a shepherd. That's kind of the big idea I want you to take away from this message, Whether or not you choose Jesus to be your shepherd, you still have a shepherd because all of us, The Bible says, are like sheep. All of us are like sheep, and there's no such thing as a shepherdless sheep. You will never encounter, maybe big horn sheep. But you'll never encounter just shepherdless sheep. Sheep do not live in the wild. They do not occur in the wild. They do not thrive in the wild.

Y'all, they weren't cut out for the wild, right? They were not cut out for the streets. They will just straight not last, right? Sheep, they're such a flimsy animal. They will die from eating good things. Because if they find something good, they'll just eat it until their stomach explodes. And what do they care? Oh, this is fantastic. Well, I'm feeling really full. Mmm. Like, this is a defenseless creature here, right? They are likely to die from flipping over like a turtle, right? They will just straight up, I took a nap. I don't know. I can still get some food. You've never heard of an attack. This is my guardian sheep. Like, it's just not going to happen. And so every sheep has a shepherd or is going to be a sheep that's short lived. You have a shepherd, I have a shepherd, meaning we have someone who's fulfilling the role of a shepherd in that it's what leads us, guides us, and helps us make our decisions because that's what shepherds do for their sheep. If not the good shepherd, you might look to one of these things to be your shepherd on this list I jotted down, by no means conclusive.

But feelings, friends, culture, do you make the decisions you make through the lens of culture? Money: that's a lot of people's shepherd in this world. What do you do? It's all about the money. Gordon Gekko status, right? Power, sports for sure, either sports that you participate in personally, that shepherds you through life, or watching other people do that. Education, parents for sure, there's people, parents aren't even alive anymore and they're still shepherding them. Still, all decisions they make through the lens of what does mom or dad say? Their kids, that's a backwards way to live your life where your kids are the shepherd of you, where the marriage is not the priority, the kids are, and the marriage is on the back burner. And then, lo and behold, empty nest leads to an empty home because you've been allowing that to be the center of the universe. Everything is about the kids. Everything is about the children. Sex, for sure, but we can go on and on and on and add lots of things that are on the list.

They're going to fill the place of shepherd if you don't put Jesus where he says he deserves to be in your life. Everyone has a shepherd. Jesus isn't saying there aren't other shepherds. He's just saying he's the only one who's the good shepherd because he didn't say I'm a good shepherd. He said I am the door of the sheep. I am the good shepherd. And really, the test of a shepherd's goodness comes down to what the shepherd does when life gets hard. Any shepherd could stand in and be good when life's good. But what about when life gets difficult? Isn't that what Jesus said about the hireling? We find out who the real shepherd is from the bad shepherd when push comes to shove. The JB Phillips translation of verse 13 puts it this way, the rent-a-shepherd who is not the shepherd, see what I did there with the rent-a-shepherd? He does not own the sheep, so he's not invested. He's not bought in. He doesn't have skin in the game.

Therefore, if he sees the wolf coming, he deserts the sheep and runs away. You know what I thought when I read this? I thought of the friends of the prodigal son who went off to that far off country. And was prostitutes and it was money and it was gambling and it was excess and getting drunk. And he made friends so fast. Everybody wanted to be his friend because he was buying rounds for the whole place. But the Bible says that an economic hard time came upon the land and all of his friends bailed out as soon as his money ran out. The Bible says, no one gave him anything. Where are all his best friends who were there to spend the money to celebrate the good times now? Turns out that they were bad shepherds. And so was the partying and so is him being his big shot, being his own person. All of his hired hand shepherds all died, all peaced out. They weren't there to help him at all.

And that's what happens to us when we build our lives on the wrong things. Jesus said storms reveal whether you've chosen to build your life on sand or you've built your life on the rock. And so an accident unexpectedly takes place, and you've lost the ability to move. And now you're in a wheelchair. You can't play the sport at the same level that you once were going to play it at or this happens or that happens or the DUI. All of a sudden now, the person we were counting on, the thing we were counting on, turns out to not be a good shepherd after all. And that is why the number one thing of several I want you to jot down that's so good about our shepherd is that he's willing to provide ownership.

Now this is ironically the thing that we love, if we'll get deep down, is also what we hate about the true claims of Christ. Listen to me very carefully. He is not interested in being your consultant or your personal assistant or someone who you just call when you need help here or there. He is interested in being your shepherd, and a shepherd doesn't provide just authority to the sheep. The sheep is the property of the shepherd. The shepherd isn't just his leader. He is his owner. The sheep doesn't just do what he wants to do and then occasionally check in with the shepherd like when he needs something, when he needs something. The sheep needs constant supervision and constant guidance because he will eat poison and be angry when the shepherd doesn't let him do it. But that's so good, right? No, we've had enough, Billy, right? Stop, the shepherd needs constantly to provide for the sheep's needs, and he only is able to do so if he is the master of that sheep's life. And that is the relationship God wants to have with you.

This isn't popular because we live in a day where we just want God to just hook us up here and there but then otherwise to just call the shots of our lives. But he wants to be your Lord. He wants to be in charge of you. He wants to be your shepherd, and the shepherd is completely and totally in charge of the sheep's life. Well, this is my personal life and this is my spiritual life. God, you can touch this, but don't talk to me about sex. Don't talk to me about money. Don't talk to me about this. That's not how it works. He's our owner for two reasons. Number one, he's our owner because he made us. Hello. In fact, Psalm 100 puts it this way in verse 3. "Know that the Lord, He is God. It is he who has made us and not we ourselves". You know, no, I'm a self-made man. Really? Which part of yourself did you make, man? You've grown kidneys in your garage or something? What's going on here? Right, no, no. We are his people and the sheep of his pasture. But if we're followers of Jesus, we also believe that he paid a great price to save us.

Doesn't first Peter talk about a ransom being paid? Hello, hostage situation? Don't we read about God paying a ransom to save your life from the emptiness you inherited from your ancestors? But it wasn't paid with gold or silver which loses their value, but rather with the precious blood of Jesus. Think about those movies where the hostage who's been taken tells the person the only way out of this is for you shoot me. And essentially that's what first Peter is saying, that Jesus, as your human shield, he said, point the gun here. And to save our lives, he allowed himself to be taken out. So I guess you could say we're doubly his. We're his because he made us and we're his because he bought us. And I wonder on a Sunday morning, is there anybody at all thankful that our God didn't just make us, but when we went astray and we followed our own desires and we sinned that he chose to redeem us with his blood to save us?

So then he becomes our owner twice over. And though we resist it because we want to be in charge, we want to be the master of our fate, the captain of our soul, we want to be our own person, I think deep down if we were honest, we would admit we actually want him to be our owner. Why would we want that? Here's why, because no one washes a rental car. I was on a preaching trip recently and I looked out the windows. In a Suburban prepping the talk, and I looked out the window and was like, that's funny. That guy's got his top down, convertible. And the only reason I commented on it is because it was raining. The guy driving me, he goes, probably a rental. And I was like, yeah, nobody would treat their car that way. That guy didn't, what did he care? It belonged to Enterprise. It was Alamo's problem. It was Budget's issue. I paid for it for the weekend, whatever. They can deal with the fact that the radio might not work or the leather's warped after this. God's not going to treat you badly because he's bought into you. He's your owner. He's got skin in the game. He's invested in how you're doing.

So you can expect to receive from him endless attention and meticulous care as your shepherd who owns you and wants to take care of his investment. First thing that makes him so good is, man, we get ownership. What a wonderful delight it is to be owned by him. Oh, by the way, when you belong to him, you always belong with him. Sociologists say that we have a hierarchy of needs. And, of course, first on the list are physical needs: air, water, food. Then comes safety needs: protection, shelter, et cetera. But right after those things are met, the most pressing needs they put into the category of love needs. And love needs can basically be boiled down to two things, we all crave a sense of being needed and known. We want to feel needed like we're needed somewhere or we could contribute something and how beautiful that God has an answer for that within his church. We're all needed here. We all have gifts to do. It isn't just come sit and listen to some band play a song and then a guy get up and give a talk, that we all have gifts to contribute. We all have a part to play.

There's greatness inside of you that's going to help what we're doing become more powerful. Needed but also known, that God wants us to know him and to know each other as well. There's a second thing. And it's friendship. Friendship: he's not just some cold, distant owner. He's a very personal friend to us. And that's why he chose the analogy he did he could have said like a farmer with its chickens, you know? But I don't think, I mean, I'm not sure. I can't prove this, I'm not sure that a farmer going into the henhouse to grab the eggs has the same familiar, loving relationship and bond that a shepherd does with his sheep. Because when I do a Google search in my mind of shepherd sheep, I think of that image of the sheep on the shepherd's shoulders. You don't see people doing that with chickens. You know what I'm saying? There's just not that same cuddly warmth when you're growing, you know, lizards.

As an herbatologist with, is what they call it? Herbatologist, creepy people, right? No, I'm joking. If you're like, I have a lizard collection, well, and we'll pray for you. No, listen. We're all different, all right? So, I'm so distracted by the thought of growing lizards. Just seems wrong. They're cold blooded, you know? There's this cuddly little lamb. And that's what God wants you to think of in the relationship he wants to have with you. In fact, that's one of the reasons he's the good shepherd. You know, we use the English word good far more broadly than the word Jesus chose in the Greek, by the way. Good could actually mean not that great. Because if I asked you how you're doing, you're like, eh, good, that doesn't sound very good. Or, how you doing? Eh, good, not great. Good, not great, that's really what good can mean. It can mean not great. Of course, it can mean really good as well, but usually we put some sort of modifier or tone change to show that that's the case.

And in fact, the word Jesus chose, we would be better served to write, like, so good because what he said was good and the word in the Greek means, listen, beautiful, lovely, pleasant, profitable, rich, or fertile. And in fact, one of the times you find this word popping up in scripture is describing good land. That land is good land, meaning it's land that can grow things. It's not full of rocks. It's not, like, there's no water to be drawn out of it. It's good land. I'm telling you, he's a good shepherd. He's a pleasant shepherd. He's a profitable shepherd. He's a rich shepherd. You can plant your life in him. He's a fertile shepherd. Things can grow in him. And he wants to be your friend. Isn't it friendly when he says, I know my sheep, my sheep know me? And he says, my sheep hear my voice. And he says, my sheep, they know the sound of their names being called. Your shepherd knows your name. You're not just a face in a crowd. You're not just one of billions of people on this earth.

You know, it's not impersonal. A shepherd knows his sheep's name. And I just encourage you to understand your Father in heaven, he knows your name, but he also knows the name that he calls you by. I've read this week that it was common practice in that day for shepherds to come up with nicknames for their sheep, you know? And maybe it had to do with situations they had been in, you know, gimpy leg or, you know, whatever it might be. But basically, they would speak different names over their sheep. And I'm telling you, your father, he speaks different names over you than have been spoken over you in this life. You might feel like you're unwanted. You might feel like you've been told you're lazy. You've been told you're no good. Your shepherd says, no, your name is bold. Your name is brave. Your name is beautiful. Your name is wanted. Your name is strong. Your name is courageous. Your name is valuable. He calls you chosen. He calls you child. He says you are royalty. You are worth having. You are worth waiting for. You are worth knowing. He speaks a name over you. He's not afraid to change your name either. Abram, your name's now Abraham. Your name's Simon, I call you Peter. Your name is Saul, I call you Paul.

He speaks over situations, different names. This is called this. I now call it that. I just encourage you to listen to the sound of your shepherd's voice because he's constantly speaking to you. At the end of the day, really, if you think about it, voices and names are both audible. Therefore, your shepherd really is whoever gets your ear the most. Who's your shepherd? Who gets your ear the most? You think about the list I put up, those things all speak to us, and we can listen to them. It's very hard to have a thriving relationship with God listening to six hours of Netflix a day and getting two minutes of Bible a week. Your shepherd could very well be the media that you consume, meaning you make your decisions through the lens of what you pour into your heart, videos on YouTube, podcasts you listen to, books that you read.

Whatever you're listening to the most, that's your shepherd because you're going to follow the sound of that voice. Jesus said, my sheep, they know my voice. They follow my voice. He's constantly speaking over you. Every day, he's speaking over your day. And you get to choose whether or not you open up this book in the morning before you rush into the business of your day. But I got a promise for you. He's speaking if you're willing to listen. The church service you miss, he was speaking there. Did the tree make a sound when it fell in the forest? You weren't there, so you won't know. But I'm telling you, he's always speaking as we gather in his name. He's always speaking through this book. He's always exalted in worship. He always floods in to those who put themselves out there. No one ever knocks and finds him not there. He never puts a do not disturb sign out. Those who seek me with their whole heart, they will find me. You got a good shepherd who will always take your calls. He'll never send you to voicemail if you have ears to hear what the spirit is saying.

And listen to me: he's good even when you're not. I love that about our shepherd. In fact, look how good he is because, you know, some of this is like, man, he sounds great. But man, I have so much that needs to change in my life. I want to know God. I love God, but as I look at my life, I just don't feel worthy of him. Good, that's fine. That's fine to feel that way because it's not about your goodness. It's all about his. What happens to the sheep that strays? What happened to the sheep that's swiping wrong? What happens to the sheep that falls back into that old life or that old addiction? What happens to the sheep that knows the path? I know the difference between right and wrong, but I just follow the voice of a false shepherd, a bad shepherd. I followed the rent-a-shepherd. It's not the good shepherd who's gonna fight the wolf for me. It's the moment it got hard, I was on my own facing the charges that came against me even though all my friends were there and we were all equally in it. But I'm the only one who's being prosecuted for it.

Now I got no shep, let me tell you something. Here's what happens to you when you stray from the path you should be on. Jesus said in Luke 15, "if the shepherd has 100 sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won't he lead the 99 others in the wilderness and go to search for that one lost sheep until he finds it"? And when he finds it, he will bring it back to the fold. Your shepherd's calling your name, but not to accuse you, not to condemn you, not to judge you, not to criticize you, but to say come back with me. Come back to life. Come back to forgiveness. Come back to restoration. Come back to me. I've got good things for you. You might still face consequences. You might face jail time. You might deal with that addiction for a long time, but you're not going to deal with it alone because you're going to have the help of your shepherd and you're going to have the help of his people who are going to be with you and not against you, not there to throw rocks at you, but to protect you, to nurse you back to health, to love you all the way to wholeness, and to believe that there are better days in front of you than behind you. He's so good, he's got goodness for the both of you. So when you say I feel like I'm a bad sheep, sheep only have one job.

Sheep only have one job. Verse 27 says a sheep follows their shepherd. You're like, I only have one job. It's to follow him, and I didn't no good at it. He says, that's cool. You don't feel like you've been good? I'm so good, it'll cover up a multitude of sins. That's the power of love. He's good even when you're not. That's friendship. Isn't it beautiful? I like how Timothy Keller put it when he said, look at this, " the understanding of God as your shepherd will fill up the greatest holes in your soul no matter what they are". And I know you have holes in your soul because I do too. There are areas of brokenness in all of our lives: pain, mistake, regret. We feel like we have holes in our soul. And when you have a shepherd, it will cover up the holes in your soul. Let me just tell you there's nothing more important than your relationship with the shepherd and your friendship with him. No matter where you go in life and where things take you and if today you're just laughing this all off, this is so stupid, you're so dumb, and it's going to take you 20 years. But if you wake up 20 years from now and you remember this message, just know your shepherd loves you and your relationship with your shepherd will cover up for any holes in your soul, and however you wasted time and racked up regret, your shepherd loves you and wants to welcome you back into his arms, friendship.

Partnership is the next thing that I see that's so great about our shepherd because you never read about a sheep who only has one, a shepherd who only has one sheep. This story we just read from Luke 15, the shepherd went chasing down one sheep. But what was his heart? To bring the sheep back to the other 99. There was a lot of sheep. Sheep are not really profitable if you grow them just one at a time. It's not really efficient and effective. It won't keep the lights on in your farming establishment, you know? Especially Middle Eastern sheep that lead their sheep from the front, they were always growing them for their wool. Sheep that were being driven to the slaughter, to the butcher, were driven from the rear. You didn't want to get to know them. They're just going to be eaten. You're just driving them from the back. But a shepherd that led the sheep from the front wanted the relationship so they were not stressed out so they produced the best wool.

There had to be a friendship for there to be good wool production. And if your goal, which is the case here because he talks about I lead them from the front and they follow me, he wants them to be full of peace so they would grow good wool, you wouldn't do that with just one sheep. What are you going to do with the wool from just one sheet? Make a beanie for a premie? Hey, if you just have one sheep, you can't do a lot with that wool. Like, that was so funny. That was one of the funniest things I've ever said. I just want to quit now while I'm ahead. All right, you know what? I'm out. Peace out. I'm just going to retire at the top. No, I'm just kidding. OK, so if you have 99 sheep, if you have 100 sheep, now talk about the wool from all the sheep, you can do something. That's the power of the local church. By ourselves, I got a little wool. But when you got your wool, I got my wool, you got your gift, I got my gift, you got this gift, you give that, when we're all sacrificing, when we're all believing in a vision, when we realize there's power comes from the flock all following our shepherd, then we can do something. We can have church in four different states on the same Sunday and reach church online and send our broadcast out on TV.

I'm telling you, there's something really, really cool about following the shepherd together. And I love that because it's not just what we can accomplish. Yeah, yeah, yeah, synergy unlocks new capability. That's rad. But it's also about the personal safety of our souls. There's this really hip, I mean, there's nothing new under the sun, but it just pops up every while where it's like, Jesus, yes. Church, no. I love Jesus for sure, but I don't need to be a part of a church to worship Jesus because I can go out to some beautiful meadow and make a duck call and read my Bible and just be with the Lord just in the duck blind or whatever it is that you would do. You know, just sing to God while I ski. I don't need church. I just ski and I'm free in the powder and it's just him and me there. And the powder washes around me. Hey, look, get your groove on while you're skiing, man. Get your praise on in your duck blind. Sing. But I'm just telling you the only one who wants you to be split off from the flock is the devil, just so you know. Jesus actually put it this way. Right, you can clap. You're in church. All the people who are doing that are gone, right?

Look, the wolf catches the sheep, it's all uncomfortable. You're like, that's what I was doing last weekend. No one knows because you're here now. Just go with me. The wolf wants to scatter the sheep. He wants them all off on their own. I'm a Jesus follower, but I don't need a local church. he Wants to scatter them. It's a lot easier to destroy a sheep that's been split off from the flock. When we're all in here together, there's something that happens, and it's safety. That's why the author of the book of Hebrews says, "let us not forsake the meeting of ourselves together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another and all the more as you see the day approaching". That's what this is about. Our gatherings, our small groups, our teams are about encouraging each other. Don't stop. Keep going. You got it. God loves you. Come on. Let's worship. And you're a part of it and you're celebrating the other baptisms and you're excited for the wins. And we all can be part of it together.

That's really good for you. The enemy wants to split you off, but it is not just about productivity and it's not just about safety. It's about continuing the mission that's in the shepherd's heart. Didn't Jesus say: look at it. He said, I got other sheep. I got other sheep that I want to be in this pen in addition to those already in the pen. I want to get them in. I want to gather them in. I want to bring them in. They're going to hear my voice. They're going to recognize my voice. Do you realize what he's saying? He's saying, don't ever come to a place where you're just this happy little sheep getting fat. Man, my shepherd's so good. I got ownership. I got friendship. I got partnership and say to the whole world, go to hell because we're not going to be about reaching more people. I'm telling you, churches easily become country clubs instead of hospitals. We've got to say, yeah, the water's good. Yeah, the food's good. Yeah, shepherd's good.

That's why we need to reach out to the rest of the other sheep. We need to reach more sheep. I need to reach sheep at work, in my neighborhood, in my city. We've got to have a heart to say, this sheep fold, we're going to kick down some walls and make it bigger. We're going to go to some new places. We're going to reach some more people. We've got to have a mentality like the shepherd that says, 99, that's great. 100 is better. 100's great. You know what's better? 1,000 and then 9,900 and then 99,000. When are we gonna stop? Never until we're in heaven. That's what Jesus said. Look at the verse again. That's the last phrase of that verse we just read. It says, "then it will be one flock, one shepherd". When's that? Heaven, no sooner. Heaven, no sooner, right now, there's pens all over the world. They're called local churches. And guess what? In heaven, just one flock. In heaven, just one shepherd. There's not the Baptist section in heaven, the Methodist section in heaven. It's not like that. And that means then, listen to me, that the other churches preaching the gospel, the other sheep folds around the world, they're not the competition. The wolf is the competition.

Anyone preaching Jesus, they're our family. In heaven, we're all worshipping him together. We're doing the same thing now. That's our mentality. We're trying to fight against those who are dying of heroin overdoses, taking their lives through suicide attempts, starving themselves, or throwing up after they eat. Our enemy are the things that are robbing this world of life, not churches preaching Jesus. All right, so we have in Jesus ownership, friendship, partnership. I also see in the text, a celebration of, listen, the strength of his grip. Write that down. It's so good. But I need some help preaching this to you because you need a visual. I like visuals. So I don't have a sheep. I don't have a little baby sheep, but I do have a little Lenox lamb. And this right here, this is my little Lenox's lamb. And in the scriptures, a relationship between a shepherd and his sheep is also compared to a father who holds his baby in his arms. Like a father, I think someone sees mama. He's got that tongue out. That's the new thing.

So a father and his son, a shepherd with a lamb, these things are used synonymously in the Bible. And Jesus said something real interesting to me about our security in Christ. He said, look at it. No one is going to snatch you out of my hand. Because sheep get fearful. It's what they do. Sheep get scared. You're not listening to anything I'm saying, are you? I'm OK with that. You want to see Lenox's new trick? Whoa, hey. Here's the new trick. Ready? You ready to show them how good your core strength is? That's good, buddy. OK, so sheep get fearful. They're easily worried. They're easily agitated. And what Jesus said is, I know you're afraid. I know you're afraid, but just know this. You're safe in my hands. You're safe in my hands. Why? We would say, I'm not that strong, Jesus. And he would say, I'm not trusting in your grip. I'm trusting in mine. Like, it's cute that Lenox is holding my hand, but I'm not trusting in Lenox's ability to hang on to me. I'm trusting in my ability to hang on to him. Lenox has been like standing up recently.

Watch this. Oh, by the way, matching kicks, look at that. Someone in our Salt Lake City, oh. Lenox, there's ladies here. OK, so Lenox, show them how you can stand. But look, I'm not trusting in Lenox's hands on me. He can let go at any moment. He's tiny and insane and drunk on milk, right? I'm trusting in my ability to hold on to him. And sometimes, Christians say stuff like, can I lose my salvation? I'd say to you this. No one can steal you out of his hand. No one can snatch you out of the father's hand. Well, what if I do a bunch of bad things? Am I gonna lose my salvation? He would say, how are you going to lose something you never earned in the first place? It was all about the shepherd's goodness. It was never about your goodness. Just trust in your father. Just grow in your relationship with Jesus. Just be like a little kid in his arms. He's got this under control. Does that encourage anybody in the slightest bit? So we can trust in the strength of his grip.

Now you might at this point in the sermon be thinking, hold on a second. Last week you said that he's the door of the sheep. And this week you said that he's the shepherd. Which is it? Is he the shepherd or is he the door? And I say to you, the answer is yes. Understanding something about Middle Eastern shepherding practices would probably be helpful. Back in that day, shepherds would lead their sheep all over the place into different areas. And they would come to little pens that had been set up for communal use, meaning any shepherd coming through could use them. And what they would find is a corral like you would keep horses or livestock in. It would be a pen, a sheepfold, but they didn't have any door. There was just a gap. There was an entrance. So the shepherd would come and he would bring his little sheep through. And so little sheep would get led into the pen. And they come skipping in. Bah. And all the shepherd would do is make sure that the little sheep had gotten into the sheep fold. And so they're lying down over here. And now they're all in the sheep fold, but there's a gap. There's no door.

So what the shepherd would do is he would position himself to lie down and go to sleep in the mouth of the sheepfold. So you'd say, where's the door? The shepherd would say, I am the door of the sheep. And so these little sheep in that fold, what did they have to do? They just have to worry about nothing because the shepherd's got it all under control. How good is our shepherd? He takes care of everything. How good is our shepherd? Look at Psalm 23. It's right here where my foot is. It says in Psalm 23, "the Lord is my shepherd". I don't have anything to worry about. Lenox has nothing to worry about. The shepherd makes sure he's got green pastures. The shepherd make's sure he's got still waters. The shepherd restores his soul, leads him in paths of righteousness for his namesake. How good is our shepherd? I get to the valley of the shadow of death, I don't fear evil. The shepherd is with me. The staff, it comforts me. He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies. He anoints my head with oil. He causes my cup to run over and goodness and mercy follows me all the days of my life. And I will dwell in the house of the lord forever. I got a shepherd who's in the doorway because my shepherd is also my door.

And guess what? While the shepherd lies here sleeping all night long, any wolf, any cougar, any mountain lion, or any bear that wants to get those sheep, guess what? He's got to get to those sheep over the shepherd's dead body. The shepherd would say, you want to get to them? You've got to go through me. You see the sheep who are in the fold? They got a human shield. They got a shepherd for a shield. They got protection. There's a barrier. Come on, how good is it to have a good shepherd? It's the best. Come on up here, worship team. We're getting real close to a conclusion. So here's my thought. My thought is, since we have a shepherd who provides ownership and friendship and partnership, we've got a shepherd with a really strong group who not even death can get to us because it goes through him first, because he lays his life down, wait, he did die, though. What about that? Yeah, well, here's good news. He lays his life down, but he also has the power to take it up again. So the shepherd who died on the cross for his sheep also rises up from the dead and can give us eternal life. Here, let's give little Lenox to mama. Let's hear it for what a great prop he was.

So listen. The shepherd that laid his life down also can take it up again and can give that eternal life to anybody who believes in him. So here's what's great about this. Our part is simple. What's the shepherd's job? We read it in verse 11. A shepherd who's good lays his life down for the sheep. What's our job? We read it in verse 27. There's only one job a sheep has got to do. Verse 27 says my sheep, they follow me. They follow me. So your job is to simply worship. Look at it: worship. What, you mean like singing? I'm supposed to sing all the time? Yeah, that is one tiny, minuscule portion of what worship is. If worship to you is only singing, you're probably not tapping into all the gears of worship you've been given. That's like driving your car only in first gear. You've been given the ability to live a whole life of following your shepherd. And as you serve and as you tell other sheep how great the shepherd is and invite them to come over to the pen for a meal, as you do all that you do giving, as you do all that you do working, your entire life, every second of it, if you're a PE teacher at a middle school, if you're a ski instructor teaching little ones how to ski, no matter what you're doing, if you're in stocks and bonds or if you're a parole officer, you're meant to live your whole life as an expression of worship and that in all you're doing, you're following your shepherd. That all is your response to worship. The shepherd's job? Lays his life down for you.

So what's your job? Follow the shepherd, for imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Imitate your shepherd. What's that going to look like? Here's what it's going look like. He laid his life down for you, so return the favor. Lay your life down for him. Lay everything down at his feet, for you will find the surprise of your life is you'll get to take it back up again. Here's the problem with American Christianity today, though. There's a whole swath of our culture wanting to take their life up again but never having laid it down in the first place. William Barclay put it this way and we'll close with this. "The world is full of people who missed their destiny because they wouldn't pay the price". The privilege of taking your life up again comes from following your shepherd's footsteps who laid it down. Would you pray with me?

Father, we're grateful for always seeing your word and how much it touches our hearts and lives. And we pray that we would, with open hands, and this is the posture of your heart. Maybe just put your palms to heaven. Just while you're sitting there, you can put them on your lap. Just open your palms up as a way of saying, I want to open my life up to you. As followers of Jesus, we all have strayed in different ways. Think of those ways even now as you tell them, I want to open my life back up to you and your direction and your leadership and your guidance. Thank you for being our good shepherd and thank you, father, that anyone who comes to you now in this moment will not be cast out. They'll be saved.

If you're here in this moment now as we're praying and you've never said yes to Jesus, you've never opened up your heart to him, you're not just a Christian who's wandered and needs to renew their commitment to Jesus. You're someone who never put your faith in Jesus hands. You don't have the promise of heaven. You don't have the peace that comes from knowing when you go into that casket or when your ashes are scattered that you're going to be in heaven with God. But you can because right here, right now, there's salvation in the name of Jesus. There's not a religious hoop you have to jump through. There's not a church you have to join or a verse that you need to memorize. There's a savior who you need to give your heart to. And he died for you and he rose from the dead and he's in love with you. But you have to open your life up to him. And that can happen right now. I'm going to say a simple prayer. And if you're ready to give your heart to Jesus, I want you to pray that prayer with me. And our church is going to pray with you to show that we're all with you in this decision. Say this to God, he'll hear you, he'll come into your life.

Dear God, I know I'm a sinner. I've gone astray like a sheep. But I want you to be my shepherd. I give my heart to you. Forgive me. Make me new in Jesus' name.

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