Steven Furtick - He's Still The Shepherd
Stay standing for the Word. Stay standing, like you're on your front foot, ready to receive what the Lord is going to speak to you today. Clap your hands if you're ready for what the Lord is going to speak to you today. Open your heart. I'm going to give you this Scripture, and it's jumping in right in the middle, so it's going to sound a little abrasive, but we'll ease into it. I get to do my favorite thing today. I'm going to take a New Testament Scripture, and then I'm going to, after a little while, put an Old Testament story behind it to illustrate what we learn. I love doing that, kind of bringing the principle together with a picture. Then we can really get it. That's my desire for us: that we really get what God wants us to have. I'm never just trying to fill 50 minutes, y'all (what a sorry goal that would be), but to really impart faith to your heart today, and I believe the Lord is going to do that.
Galatians 3:3, the apostle Paul speaking. Watch how this one starts. "Are you so foolish"? It gets better from there. "After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh"? What a question. Maybe that's why I'm tired. Maybe that's why I'm discouraged. Maybe that's why I'm worn out. Maybe that's why I can't think clearly. Maybe that's why I can't sleep: because I'm trying to finish by the flesh what began with the Spirit. Then verse 4: "Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain"? Here's the fourth question: "So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles…" We were singing about miracles. "…does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard"?
Are you trying to finish in the flesh what began in the Spirit? So, the Lord sent me up here to remind you today… This is a reminder for some and a revelation for others. He wanted me to remind you…He's Still the Shepherd. If Paul sounds unpastoral in this letter, he's really not. He's writing to a group of churches in modern-day Turkey. They're not just one church. They're spread out. He started several of them on a missionary journey, and he's trying to get them back on track. He does it in a way… He's having a conversation with this church that every parent has with their kid every once in a while. The conversation goes like this: "Are you crazy"?
Ask the person next to you, "Are you crazy"? (This was not meant to be a conversation, just a rhetorical question. Some of y'all finished that question with an answer because you know them, because you live with them.) They are in Christ, but they're still crazy, and not the kind of crazy we often associate with people who are getting off track…not crazy on drugs, crazy having sex, crazy in strip clubs. None of that, but crazy because they've had a Jesus experience, but they're trying to put a Jesus experience on top of a Jewish identity. In the process of doing that… I chose those two words on purpose: experience and identity. The Jewish identity was the cultural one. That was the religious identity. That was the social identity. It was signified by circumcision, which, for most of us men, is a medical procedure.
In case all of the kids didn't go to eKidz this morning, I'm just going to let you Wikipedia all of the different benefits of circumcision later. To them it was a badge. It was like saying, "I'm in," and that was the custom. Then comes Paul preaching Christ and him crucified to let them know that it is in Christ… Next time somebody asks you where you are, say, "In Christ". No, don't do that. They'll think you're weird. I can't stand people who get really spiritual out of nowhere, but just know it inside of yourself. In Christ. So, you're in church today, but you're in Christ when you leave church. When you're in the grocery store, you're still in church because you are church. You are in Christ, and Christ is in you, and that never goes away. That's your identity: in Christ.
Now, you will have experiences every single day of your life that will seem to contradict that identity, because being in Christ doesn't exempt you from any of the normal challenges of life. We have to stop telling people, "Jesus will make it all right," because what they assume when they hear that is "My experiences, now that I'm a Christian, will always align with my picture, my preference". I don't want to tell you this, but we try to shape God like our own personality. All of those things have to be subject to Christ for us to be a true disciple. Let's go a little farther. Are you ready? Once you get an identity ingrained, and you think, "That's who I am," it is very difficult to receive any experience that is different than that identity.
I learned that where I grew up shaped me in amazing ways. Small town. It taught me how to be good with people, because in a small town, you have a certain accountability socially, what's considered polite and what's considered rude. When I grew up, if you didn't wave at people, even if they were strangers, that was considered rude…in Moncks Corner where I grew up. Where Holly grew up in Miami, Florida, it's perfectly acceptable and maybe even safer to not make eye contact. See, marriage is this merger of… We're walking down the street, and she's saying, "Who is that you just waved at"? and I say, "I don't know". She says, "Why did you wave"? "Because that's what you do".
How many are from the South? That's what you do. You eat grits, you never put sugar in them (I rebuke you, Satan), and you wave. She thought that was so silly. So now we split the difference. I only wave about every one out of three times. You can take the boy out of Moncks Corner, but you can't take Moncks Corner out of the boy. I might see you one day in the mall and I'll just wave at you. It's not because I know you go to this church. I was just trained to wave at everybody. Just waving at everybody, and then we've kind of come together. So, why do I bring that up? Because it is a perfect example of what's happening in Galatians. Paul is no longer in Turkey. This is central Turkey we're talking about, if you want to get a modern picture. He's no longer here in the flesh with the people, but he's still the shepherd. He still sees himself not as an influencer, not as a modern guru, like how we have people who give us advice, but he sees himself as their pastor and their shepherd even when he's writing them a letter.
He really never stopped being a shepherd no matter where his travels took him, no matter how much of the known world he went to evangelize, no matter how many Gentiles he preached to. He always loved these churches. You could take Paul out of Galatia, but you couldn't get Galatia out of Paul. Every parent who is called a so-called empty nester understands what I'm saying. I'm not one yet, but I imagine if they come back after I send them away, I'll have to open the door. I'm pacing myself for that. This thing is a marathon. I will still think you're doing something dumb when you're 50. You could be worth a billion dollars, and I'll still be like, "Are you sure this is the job that has job security for you? Don't you need something to fall back on"? You can take the kid out of the house, but you can never take the love out of the parent. Your kid can disgust you, but you're still going to be devoted to them. You're cussing them out, but you're cussing them out in love.
Have you ever cussed somebody out in love? Now we're back to Galatians 3. "Are you so foolish"? "Are you crazy"? Paul is in that high voice. "Are you crazy"? Holly's scary voice is her quiet voice. We tremble, because she's loud all the time. She's just a naturally loud talker. When it's quiet, it's really bad. "Are you so stupid as to really go back to circumcision, the outward sign, and think that's going to get you to the end"? The foolishness of trusting in the flesh. So, just answer the question your neighbor asked you a few minutes ago. Tell them, "Yes, I'm that crazy". In my flesh, I'm still crazy. How many still crazy saints are honest enough to raise your hand and say, "Catch me at the wrong moment, hit the right button, trigger the right reflex, and I'm still crazy"? Me too. I'm still crazy. I know that, and I'm glad I know that. God delivered me from so much, but there's some stuff that's still in me that he's dealing with.
Now it's all coming together because they're in Christ, but they're still crazy. Paul is not in Galatia physically, but he's still the shepherd. He is doing something shepherds do. He is directing the sheep, and he's directing the sheep realizing sheep are not dolphins. Dolphins are smart, especially the bottlenose dolphin. I was reading about the 10 smartest animals in the world. The bottlenose dolphin was #2. That dolphin is so smart it can recognize itself in the mirror. Smarter than me. Sometimes I don't even know who I am. Yet the Lord didn't talk about a dolphin. He said, "You are my sheep, and my sheep know my voice". Jesus said, "I'm the Good Shepherd". Paul is realizing, "If I am a shepherd, sometimes I have to direct the sheep where to go assuming they don't know where to go". "Are you so foolish"? "Yes". The moment you answer "No" to that question, you're in danger. The moment it's like… "Are you so foolish"? "No, man. I've actually pretty much got some stuff figured out".
I'm praying for you. I don't mean not being confident. Yeah, you know things. You know skills. I'm not talking about being insecure. I'm not talking about downplaying yourself. Those people are the most annoying people in the world. "I'm not good at anything like that, and I can't really do anything like that". Just shut up. What God gave you he gave you. What you're good at you're good at. You know, you're 7'2" and I'm like, "You're tall". "Well, not really. You know, the Lord…" Yes, you're tall. There's nothing worse than false humility. It's awful. It's not really humility. It's just drawing more attention to yourself through an act of humility. You're just acting. You sing a solo. "Oh, that was good. You sang good today". "No, no, no. It wasn't me. It was the Lord".
See, you're wrong about that, because it would have been much better if it was the Lord. It was just good. I didn't say it was perfect. I just said it was good. Let's bring it down a notch. Anyway, it's the power of realizing… Everybody say, "In Christ; still crazy". This side do "In Christ". This side do "Still crazy". This side do "In Christ" (Spirit). This side do "Still crazy" (flesh). Faith; flesh…both inside of me. Doesn't that explain a lot? Doesn't that make a lot of sense? How some of y'all will road rage even before you get off the church property today. It's all right. You can keep your Elevation Church sticker on the car. You don't have to take it off, because I'm still crazy. Well, I think we have the right, as the children of God, not in an entitled way but in an expectant way, that if Jesus lives in us and we are in him, I expect God to direct me.
You say, "Well, he's God. How can you tell him what to do"? No, no. That's what he told me he wanted to do for me, so I expect God to direct me. When I'm getting ready to preach, I expect God to lead me to the passage he wants me to preach. I don't come to this Bible thinking I have it figured out, and I don't come to the passage thinking I know what it means. I expect God to direct me. I expect him to direct me in my relationships. I expect that he's going to bring the right people in my life in this season. I not only want him to be the bouncer at the entrance but the exit. I want him to decide and direct in my life who gets in and who goes out, and I expect God to direct me. I believe every good and perfect gift comes from above, so I expect God to bring opportunities into my life.
You say, "That sounds cocky". No, no, no. I'm crazy, so I expect God to give me the opportunity because I know it wasn't by my own power. It wasn't by my own strength. Nothing in my life makes much sense. We wrote the lyric, "I think it over and it doesn't add up". That's the math. When I think of what God has done… How many have the same testimony? When I know how crazy I am, how crazy I can be, how many ways I've wandered along the path, how many left turns were a part of God getting me to the right place… You don't understand. I expect God to direct me in my future because the only reason I'm here right now is because of his faithfulness. So, when something comes in my way, I don't stick my chest out. I bow my knee and say, "God, thank you for another gift. Thank you for another opportunity. Thank you for another reason. Thank you for another level. Thank you for another harvest. Thank you for another breakthrough. Thank you for another open door. Thank you for another open road. Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you"!
I expect! Some of y'all came to church needing to hear from God today. Well, expect it! He's a speaking God. He's a talking God. He's a way-making God. He'll show you something you didn't even know to ask him for. "Now unto him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine…" I expect a blessing today. I expect God to be good to me. I expect my needs met. I expect them abundantly supplied, good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over! I expect it! I'm ready for it. I'm stretching my hands to heaven. I expect it! Touch three people and say, "I expect it". I haven't had y'all touching each other lately because COVID, but we need to touch somebody right now so it can be contagious. Somebody next to you lost their expectation because of their experience, but I don't come to God off an experience. I come to him because I know who he is. He said, "I'm the Bread of Life".
So if he's the bread, I expect to be fed. He said, "I'm resurrection". If he is resurrection, I expect him to raise me. I expect it! I expect it, and I'm bracing for it, and I'm believing for it, and I'm trusting for it, and I'm grateful for it. I expect it! He said he was the vine. That means if I'm in him, he's in me, and I will bear much fruit. I expect it! Since I expect the Good Shepherd to direct me, I have to be willing to accept when he corrects me. Yeah, sit down on that one. Some stuff you stand up about. Oh no. The Lord just set us up, didn't he? Why did you do that to us, Lord? It felt so good. The expectation of direction from God without the acceptance of correction from God is delusional. I can't expect God to direct me and then not accept when he corrects me.
"Oh, we love Paul. Paul is preaching the gospel of Jesus. Paul is so awesome. Paul is so amazing. Let's go over here, and let's continue to trust in the old stuff. Let's continue to be justified by faith, and then maybe we can have both. Maybe we can have our Jewish identity and our Jesus experience instead of having a Jesus identity and a Jewish experience". We're not conformed to the world. My experience is not the definition of my potential in Christ. If I try to make it about something it's not… Like the hymn writer said, the arm of flesh will fail you. This side of the room, flesh…you fail me. So salvation starts with this: Spirit. You can't complete or finish in the flesh what God started in the Spirit.
Paul is bringing correction to the Galatians and correction to us. We're not running around talking about circumcision, but we're running around counting followers, thinking how popular we are, how many "likes" something gets. I want to teach a Bible study one day. It won't work on a Sunday because it would take about three hours. I would do it over a series of weeks, but you forget everything by the time I get back to next week, so that doesn't work either. I'll just turn on the camera one day, and I'll record it on my phone…how to be led by the Shepherd in a culture of "like" and "subscribe". We like to be led. Doesn't it feel good every once in a while for somebody to take charge and it doesn't have to be you?
How many of you are over your company or over your division or over your small business or over your family? You're over something. Don't you just love it sometimes when somebody is like, "Here's what we're doing. Here's when we're doing it. Don't ask about it". You're like, "That's kind of cool". You'll marry somebody like that. I'm serious. It just feels good sometimes when you're over a lot, and somebody will just decide… How many of you like to be led? Now, you have a mental model of what it means to be led, and it's based on technology. Your mental model of God in a modern context is the woman on the GPS who makes suggestions. If you don't do what she tells you to do, she doesn't stop the car, but God will, because he's a shepherd, a good shepherd. What's a good shepherd?
That's what Jesus said in John 10:11, if you want to look up the reference. He said, "I am the good shepherd". All that other stuff… He's that too, but he is a good shepherd. So, that must mean he knows something I don't know and that he's going to get me there sometimes against my own human will or my fleshly desires. I thought about…Would it be a good GPS system in my car if, when I made the wrong turn, it was like, "Okay, cool"? Would it be a good GPS? Then I thought about…Would it be a good physical trainer if when you came in and said, "I don't feel like it," they were like, "Great. I don't really feel like training you either. Let's eat. Let's eat sugar, and let's eat crap. I really don't feel like counting your reps today either, so we're both on the same page. Let's go"?
Would it be a good God if he didn't put conviction alongside comfort? Is what you're going through in your life right now a correction, not from the Devil, but from the Good Shepherd? Do we give the Devil credit for the Shepherd's directions? "Everything bad that happens is the Devil". Not necessarily. He's a good shepherd. Now that we've had that New Testament perspective, let's go to the Old Testament. "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want". Do you know that psalm? I was at a funeral recently, and of course, that was the psalm that was shared, because for most of us, it's our favorite. Even if only by process of the fact it's kind of the only one we know, that's our psalm. "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want". He's going to direct me.
Do you remember all of the things it says? "Green grass. Still waters. Restoreth my soul. His rod and his staff, they comfort me". That's verse 4. Talking to God, "Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me". I love comfort, and I need comfort. Sometimes I need God to hold me because I won't let anybody else touch me. I'm serious. Sometimes I'm defensive in ways that God is the only one who can get in. I love that he can and he can comfort me. Sometimes there's a gap when I'm like, "I don't get this," and I'm glad God can comfort me. Sometimes I'm nursing my own wounds and licking my own wounds, and I'm making it worse as I'm doing it, so I need the balm of Gilead to come and comfort me, and I'm thankful that he comforts me. In the passage… "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want". That means I lack no good thing. That means the Shepherd knows the difference between what feels good and what is good.
The next part is the part most of us struggle with, because the first thing God does as the Shepherd… "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want". Verse 2 (you won't like this part now that you look at it this way): "He maketh me…" He makes me. I don't like anybody to make me do anything. You can suggest, but don't make me. You can plan it, but don't make me. I went back and read all of these books 10 summers ago that I was assigned in school, and I enjoyed them, but if you tell me I have to read it, I'm not reading it. I did. I read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens at the pool for fun. In eleventh grade I didn't read it. I got the CliffsNotes, because they were making me read it. I don't like you to make me, yet the first thing he says the Shepherd does… "He makes me lie down". "Hold on, God. I want you to be my shepherd. I want to be led where I want to be led".
My mental model of God is GPS. "I'll tell you the destination. If I get off track, then put me back on, but take me another way," because the Lord is my Alexa. The Lord is my Siri. The Lord is a good shepherd. That means he's not going to see you doing something that he knows where it leads and not say something to you about it. That means he's not going to let you sabotage yourself and your future without bringing correction. See, we don't really like that side of the Shepherd. It's like, "No, no, no. I expect God to direct me, so here's what I want: opportunities". Okay. What if a part of the opportunity God is going to bring you in two years is the character development of a disappointment that he takes you through right now? Is he still your shepherd when you don't like what he says?
Fire your trainer if they never tell you something to do you don't like. Fire your friends if they'll never tell you the truth when you're making a fool of yourself. Do you ever look back at pictures of stuff you wore and say, "Where were my friends? I had no friends". It's scary. "Nobody told me. That was so tight. It wasn't flattering. Let me tell you, it was tight, and I wasn't toned, and nobody said anything about that contrast". He makes me. His correction. I used to teach leadership a lot more than I do now. I don't know why I don't teach it as much anymore, but maybe I should start back. When somebody corrects you, that's an investment. Now, I don't mean people who don't know you, people who just insult you, people who are just spouting their opinion. Get that out of your mind. The Lord is my shepherd.
When you are led by somebody, and they love you enough… "Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me. Yes, Jesus loves me". How do I know this? I know he loves me not only because the Bible tells me so. I know Jesus loves me because Jesus leads me, and when he leads me, sometimes he uses a staff to bring me back. That staff doesn't feel good around the sheep's neck. Why do you always associate God with a good feeling? Sometimes you have to sit in something you don't like to get to something you want, whether that's peace or joy. When he brings you back, that's kindness. It's the kindness of God that brings me to repentance. I expect to be led by somebody who knows what's out ahead, and I don't, because I'm crazy. I will get so in what I want to feel right now that I will reach for something now that I'm going to regret later unless I have a shepherd.
So, I might as well tell you. I need Jesus. No apologies. I need Jesus. "Yeah, yeah. Me too. I need Jesus to forgive me so I can go to heaven when I die". Nuh-uh. I need Jesus way before I get to heaven when I die. The Lord is my shepherd. "Oh, I love green grass". But do you like when he makes you lie down? I want to get the green grass. All right. I give you from my own life… When I preach about things from my own life, I don't want you to think that's because I think my life is so important. It just makes it more real to me. If I open a sermon illustration book and say, "Okay. In the year 1376, a guy said this…" I don't even know if he really said that or not. That's just in a book. This is what I know is real. Maybe you can relate.
Two or three times in the last couple of years, I felt like the Lord was saying inside of me… This is never out loud for me. I have never heard God speak to me out loud, ever. And I've asked him to before, because then I would know, especially if he said it like Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption. I'd be like, "Oh, that's God right there. That's Morgan Freeman. That's the voice of God". So, inside there were a few times… I'll tell you what they were because I think it helps to flesh it out a little bit. When I started doing what Paul said in Galatians, trusting in the flesh (that's my own human strength)… Remember, they weren't going off snorting coke. That's not what Paul was correcting. They weren't going off and worshiping Satan. That's not what Paul was correcting. He was saying, "God started something in your life, and then you're like, 'Oh, thanks, God. I'm good. I've got it from here.'"
That's what we do with the Lord. I call it divinity on demand. We're like, "God, I want you for season 1, but I'll take season 2, season 3, and season 4. I've got it from here". You don't "got it" from here. And you don't know you don't "got it" from here until the plot twist happens that you didn't see because you didn't write the script, but God did, and he's the Shepherd. That's why you have to trust him not only to save you but to sustain you. There is a saving faith. I throw myself on the mercy of God. I throw myself on the grace of the cross of Christ, and that saves me, and it's done, but that same grace… Don't think you get that grace and then just grind it out the rest of your life. Don't think you just pray to God, parents, and say, "God, give us a healthy baby. Okay. We've got it from here. We'll raise him from here". No, you won't. You're crazy!
If you really think you can do this whole human experience without Jesus, you're crazy. Are you crazy? You stopped tithing because the economy was bad. Are you crazy? "No, I've got it from here, God. You blessed me with this, but, God, I'm going to keep it now". Are you crazy? God gave it to you, and now you want to grind it out. Are you crazy? So, here's where the Lord showed me. I was making a sermon, and I was figuring out what to call it. I knew the Lord gave me a title. I can feel it when the Lord tells me what to call it. If he tells me to call it He's Still the Shepherd, I call it that. You're like, "Okay". I know I could do sexier than that. I know I could do better clickable than that.
You know, "How to Navigate Seasons of Regret to Lead to Breakthroughs, More Sex, More Money, and Fat Loss". That would be clickable. And that's fine. There's a time for all that. There is a time to be strategic. There really is. There is a time to dial it in. There's a time, technically, to figure all that out, but all that comes after. When I'm preparing to preach to you, I can't do that in my flesh. I need the Spirit. God gave me something, and I said, "I can't call it that. It won't get clicked". This is not a conversation. I'm trying to make it a conversation. I can't say it to you how God… God speaks on the level of spirit, not the level of flesh.
So we're trying to tell you how it went. It felt inside of me like God said, "Is this what we've come to? Clicking? So, you won't preach what I tell you is going to help people and set them free that you really know in your spirit. You're talking about clicks. You're talking about practice". I really felt like God didn't like it. In fact, I almost felt like God said, "I hate this. I can't bless this. I can't work with this. If we're going after clicks, you ought to go make porn. That would get way more clicks. Are you going to try to figure out in the flesh what can only be done through the Spirit? Well, I don't do that. I don't put sermons on YouTube. I think you missed the point". I think we all do it all the time. We try to figure out what people would like. Are you crazy? Because they're crazy.
Now you're trying to base your life around crazy people, and what crazy people will like will lead to a level of crazy that is crazier than your original crazy that made you try to impress crazy people. Then you forget who you are. You forget, "Man, I'm not up here to be a performer". I'm a preacher, baby, and the Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach good news to the captives and recovery of sight for the blind and the breaking of chains and the liberation of those who are oppressed and the acceptable year of the Lord's favor. Now, do you want favor or flesh? Do you want to do it God's way? I preached this last week. God's ways seem weird, but they work. It works to trust God. It works to give it to him. It works to step out in faith. It works to stay in faith. It works to speak faith. It works to hear faith. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word, and then you get stuck in the space of trying to figure out in the flesh what God started by the Spirit.
Here's another time the Lord said, "I don't like this". Somebody asked me, "Will you go do this certain opportunity to share the gospel"? and I started thinking of all of the reasons I would not be good at doing it. The Lord said, "I don't like this at all, because you act like you were so good to get here to start with. I don't like this at all. You're getting this thing backward now. What started by faith you're trying to finish in flesh". "I've got it, God. Thank you for the house. I've got it from here, God". You don't "got it" from here. That house is not a home unless God's Spirit is in it. You need God to fill what he helped you build. Did you hear me? I'm scared it got missed. You need God to fill what he helped you build or what he gave you the strength to build or what he built for himself.
That was David's thing. He said, "The Lord is my shepherd". David wrote that because of his experience. He was a shepherd himself, a shepherd who showed up to the battle lines just in time. How many of you have a testimony, "God put me at the right place at the right time for certain things in my life; it was not coincidence"? I was thinking about Joe L. He was up here singing "Million Little Miracles". They don't even know. They don't even know that when you recorded that song in this empty room during the craziest time in the world… We were all COVID testing to record, and you weren't even supposed to be here for the recording, but I said, "Stay around just in case. There's a song 'Million Little Miracles' that we wrote, and I think you can sing it". You said, "I love that song. I heard the demo". I said, "Stay around just in case".
He sang that song, and the glory of God… (You can download it now on YouTube, but don't turn off the sermon. Do it after the sermon.) It's just amazing how David had this perspective. Watch what he said to Goliath. This is the most important part of the message, because now I'm giving you the picture. That's the principle. You can't finish in the flesh, your own power, your own strength, your own delusional desires that will lead you astray. The heart is deceitfully wicked. You can't trust that. I need the Spirit of God. I have to stay in touch with him. I can't finish in the flesh what started in the Spirit. Here's the picture. When David saw Goliath… The commentaries vary. He was at least 7'2". He could have been as tall as 9'9". The measurements aren't exactly the same. Let's just all agree that's tall. Can we get consensus on that? Okay. Too big to beat.
David is like, "Perfect. He's too big to beat. That means God will have to do it. That means God will get the glory and I'll grow in my faith. So give me my shepherd tool". Wait, David. We're not talking about sheep here. We're talking about a Philistine warrior with a sword. David is like, "Nuh-uh. I know these weapons. God has used these weapons. I've been keeping my father's sheep". So, he takes the instruments of shepherding and applies them to the strategy of warfare. It worked for his advantage, because Goliath never even got close enough to use his weapon. David knocked him out. You know that story, don't you? I can tell. You look kind of bored, like, "Really? David and Goliath? Okay". I have to give you that because that's how David started. He was so full of faith. He said, "I'm going to come at you without a sword so that everybody will know it was the Lord".
Some of y'all had that kind of faith or have that kind of faith, have experienced those types of moments. "I'm doing this because God told me. I'm doing this because I believe God is with me. I'm 55 percent sure God told me to do this, and that's as good as it's going to get, so here we go, Jesus". That's Peter getting out of that boat. He's like, "I think so. Oh no"! Falling down. Jesus picked him up. Moving the right direction. That's David. David becomes a king. He deals with a crazy king. Crazy King Saul tries to kill him. He can't kill him because he can't kill what God has crowned. He can throw a spear at it, but if it ducks… Saul can't kill him because David was full of the Spirit of God and was anointed by purpose. He was the eighth brother, and he was left out, but God anointed him anyway through Samuel, because when God has something for you, it doesn't matter what people say about you.
So, stop trying to impress people, get voted in by people. People have no final say. Only God has the final say, because he's the Shepherd. He's the King. Whatever he says is going to happen. He's now the king, and he does the craziest thing we ever see David do. Everybody listening to this right now who grew up in church thinks I'm going to talk about Bathsheba, but I'm not. That is David's most famous sin. He slept with a woman who wasn't his wife and had her husband killed on the front lines of battle. In the spring, in the time when kings go off to war, David was walking around his roof, and he saw a beautiful woman bathing. He said, "Bring her to me," and he slept with her. Then he had her husband killed to try to cover it up, but he couldn't cover it up, because Nathan came and confronted him.
That wasn't the dumbest thing David ever did. The Bible records that although that cost one man his life and David his own baby, there's something else David did that I have done that cost much more, and I want to show you that. In 1 Chronicles 21… We're a long way from where we were last week when David was bringing the ark, which represented the presence of God, back to Jerusalem, the city of peace. Stay with me. He's now in a position of power, and God has given him victory from his enemies. What he does next is so dumb it seems smart. The Bible says in 1 Chronicles 21:1 that Satan (this is where it started) rose up against Israel and… Watch this. Not what you expect Satan to do…attack them through the Philistines? No. He incited David to take a census of Israel.
What's so bad about a census? That's not one of the seven deadly sins. What's so bad about taking a census? What's so bad about David saying, "Hey, I want to know how many people we have so I can be ready for whatever"? He tells Joab, "Go through and count all of my subjects". I'm just going to tell you the story how it goes down, and then you can figure out what's so bad about it. He says, "Hey, Joab…" He is his military adviser and wages the wars for him on the ground. He's like, "I want to know how many men I have who are good with a sword, so go count all of the fighting men". Joab says, "I don't think you want to do that, David. Are you crazy? Respectfully, king, sir, David. Are you crazy?
If you need more, God will give you a hundred times more. May God multiply your troops times a hundred, king, but don't do this". Because God had commanded… There were only two times where a king was supposed to take a census. One was if you were taxing people, and one was if you were putting together an army for a battle, and neither applied. It lets me know that now David has moved from power of the humility of trusting in the presence of God to the pride of saying, "How many do I have? Find out, because I might have to fight. And if I have to fight, I want to know how many fighting men there are".
See, now he's measuring flesh. David didn't get to be king by measuring flesh. In fact, he was the one his brothers didn't even think should be in the room. So, how did the king who got to the crown by trusting God's Spirit and taking a sling in his hand against a big, tall giant… How did he come to this point where he's being led by his senses? Senses…census. If he had used his senses when he was up against Goliath, he would have run. If you would have gotten to this point by your senses, you would not be in church. You wouldn't. It was God who snatched you. It was God who led you. Come on now. It was God who helped you. This is the moment where you affirm the word and confirm the word with your own praise. It was God. He breathed on it. It was God. He stepped in it. It was God. He cleared the path. It was God. He made them lie down in green pastures.
So, you came this far, and now you're counting? You came this far by faith, and now you're trying to figure it out? Listen. Hear the word of the Lord. You have to stop trying to figure this stuff out in your flesh and then praying for God to give you direction. You have to stop sizing up… I heard a country preacher, Pastor Charles Randolph. He said, "The rest of the nation looked at Goliath and said, 'He's too big to kill.' David looked at Goliath and said, 'He's too big to miss.' Amen"? So, how did you go… No, question for you. How did you go from God's grace being the fuel and the strength and the hope and the joy of your life, and now you're like, "No, God. I've got it from here. Thank you, Lord, for putting me on this path. I can do it now". You can't, and you don't have to, because he's a good shepherd, and he leads you, but not by your senses.
So then when you're sitting there all night long… This is what worry is about. We're taking a census. We're listing problems. Then in our lowest moments, Satan incites us. He says, "Start thinking about what you have. Start thinking about how strong you are, because if I can get you to see how strong you are, I can get you to believe how weak you are. If I can put you in the flesh, I can kill what started in the Spirit. Then I can get you to leave your kids, and then I can get you to quit your ministry, and then I can get you to leave your church, and then I can get you to stop praising and stop rejoicing. If I can get you in the flesh, I can make you fail". Joab said, "Don't do it," and David did.
The numbers were impressive. Men love to measure, by the way. Joab came back and said, "You have 1.1 million and then 470,000 in Judah that aren't part of the 1.1 million. There you go". He didn't even count two of the tribes because he hated so much what David told him to do. He knew it was a bad idea, and he wasn't even the godliest guy in the world. He was like, "This is crazy. Are you crazy"? Even the world looks at us in the church sometimes and says, "Y'all say you trust God…" Anyway… Oh, the third time the Lord told me, "I don't like that…" I was telling Holly, "That sermon didn't go good," and she said, "How do you know"? I said, "The people didn't respond". The Lord said, "I hate that. You preach from revelation, not for response. I hate when you use your senses".
God hates when you use your senses to try to figure out what he wants to reveal by faith. He hated it so much he allowed a plague to bring David back. Seventy thousand people died after Joab came back with the count. We love to measure, especially men. I don't mean to be sexist, but the reason I think men love to measure the most… I was in a prison preaching a few years ago, doing a Bible study with some seminary students in the prison. They were doing a seminary program in the prison. I said, "I'll teach you a little, and then we can do Q&A". A guy raised his hand, the first guy. He said, "I've been wanting to know this. I read your books, and I've been waiting for you to get here so I can ask you this".
We were talking about it before. "How much do you bench"? Not the return of Christ…none of that. Not the book of Daniel. Just "How much do you bench"? I said, "We'll go out in the yard and find out after". You know, just messing around. Isn't that hilarious? Like, of all the things. We're still 15. We are still 15 years old. The problem with that measurement isn't that God doesn't want you to be strategic, but sometimes you have to repent of being rational where God has given you revelation. Repent of trying to be rational about what only the Spirit can reveal. The senses. The sin of the senses. Nobody in here today was going, "God, forgive me of the sin of counting. Forgive me of the sin of trying to figure out apart from you what you said you would help me do".
After that plague swept through, the Lord said, "I'm going to give you three choices, David. This is how I'm going to punish you". He spoke through the prophet. The kings would have a pastor, a prophet to the king. His name was Gad. Gad came to correct David. Be very open that God will use people to correct you. Not everybody, but God will speak… God speaks to me the most through my wife. The most. I have to be open to that. So, the prophet says, "Three choices. You can have three years of famine; you can have three months of your enemies invading you, and you can't stop them, and you're going to be on the run; or you can have three days of a plague". David said, "I'll take the third option, because the plague comes from God's hand, and he's merciful. I would rather be in the hands of my shepherd than be open to the attack of my enemy".
David got serious about it when he saw the sword over Jerusalem, the sword over the city of peace. David got serious about it. If you don't respond when God speaks to your conscience, you will have to respond when he speaks through the consequence. Verse 17 is, to me, the key for all of us who are guilty of trying to finish in the flesh what God started in the Spirit. David gets down in sackcloth and ashes, and watch this in verse 17. He said to God, "Was it not I who ordered the fighting men to be counted"? Now watch the next part. "I, the shepherd, have sinned and done wrong". That spoke to me. Church, that spoke to me that David is a king with 1.5 million swords under his command, but he's still the shepherd. In this moment, he remembers who he really is. "It was I, the shepherd. It was I, God, the one you raised up".
He has a flashback to the pastor, and he remembers, "It's not my might. It's not my strength. It's not my goodness. It's not my righteousness. It's not my wisdom. It's not my intelligence. It's not my finance. It's not my resource. I'm still the shepherd, Lord. I'm still that boy you raised up. I'm still Jesse's son who was left out, but you brought me in. I'm still the one you called…I, the shepherd. It's me, God, the shepherd, not the king. It's me, God. I'm not a parent right now; I'm a child. You're my father. I'm the shepherd, God. I remember what you did for me".
Some of you need to go back to your shepherd instruments. Some of you need to go back to your shepherd's faith. God raised you up. God set you high. God gave you blessing. God gave you influence. God gave you opportunity. God gave you time. God gave you leisure. God gave you space. God gave you breathing room. But he's still the shepherd. Get back to that radical root faith, that good kind of crazy that you have that says, "Hey, Goliath! I don't need a sword. I come against you in the name of God! Now go down before I make you go down. Lay down before I spin and head kick on you". He's still the shepherd. God said, "You still are".
When you sin, you're still a Christian. That's your identity. Sin is the experience. Child of God is the identity. You still are. I need whoever I studied this to help to receive it by faith and say, "I still am". "I still am, Devil. Back up off me with that shame, Devil. I still am. I was his child. I am his child. I was beloved. I am beloved. I was mighty in God. I am mighty in God". When I remember… "I, the shepherd". The plague stopped when he made a sacrifice and remembered. Then I see something else in the text. He said, "I, the shepherd". I believe he had a flashback to that pasture, but I believe he also had a flashback to Psalm 23, where he remembered not only that he's still the shepherd but that he's still a sheep and "The Lord is my shepherd".
So you got off track. He's still the Shepherd. So you did some dumb stuff. He's still the Shepherd. So you're crazy. He's still the Shepherd. So you smell bad. He's still the Shepherd. So you have no sense of direction. He's still the Shepherd. So you don't know what to do now. He's still the Shepherd. It's true in the valley. He's the Shepherd. It's true in the palace. He's the Shepherd. One reason I knew God wanted me to preach this word, He's Still the Shepherd, is because there's nobody in this room who doesn't need to hear it. If you're in a valley right now and feel like nobody, he's still the Shepherd, and he will leave the 99 to find the one. He's still the Shepherd.
If you have 1.5 million fighting men, like David, and God has made your dreams come true, don't get cocky. He's still the Shepherd. He's speaking to you, and he's calling to you. He's trying to get you out of your flesh into the Spirit so he can sustain you. "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in the place that he made me for". Oh, that staff doesn't feel comfortable, but I'm glad he'll bring me back. Aren't you glad that God will bring you back? No, y'all. We praise God for the wrong stuff. We have to learn to praise him when it's like, "Oh, he's bringing me back to the heart of worship. He's bringing me back to my shepherd staff. He's bringing me back to my first love, to my childlike faith, to my dependence on him. No more substitutions. He is my Shepherd. No more being led by my flesh. Devil, you're a liar. He's my Shepherd. No more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want"!
Close your eyes. Lift your hands. The Shepherd is here. He brought you here, and he's going to lead you out and every step in between. He's still the Shepherd. Even after all of the mistakes I've made, he's still the Shepherd. He will reroute you. He will redirect you. He will reinvent you. He will revive you. Ask Lazarus. He'll resurrect you. Even if you've been dead four days, he's still the Shepherd. Thank you, Jesus! Come on. There's no praise in this place. You have to give God a praise. Not clapping. Praise him with your mouth!
Thank you, Jesus! The Lord is my shepherd, and I don't live by senses; I live by the Spirit. I've been ending each service the last few weeks with some of those old hymns that speak about faith and faithfulness to bring some continuity to your spirit in a changing time, to know that he's the same God who delivered you from the lion and the bear, to get you out of your senses and into the Spirit. "The Lord is my shepherd". We don't live by senses.
With your eyes closed now, eyes closed so you're not looking around with your senses… One of my favorite hymns is "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine". It was written by Fanny Crosby. She was born in 1820. When she was six weeks old, she developed a condition in her eye, and the doctor was trying to fix it, but he made it worse, and she went blind. Fanny Crosby went on, by the age of 10, to memorize the first four books of the Bible and all four gospels. She was so gifted she went on to write 8,000 songs. She was quoted as saying, "If I could go back and find the man who operated on my eyes and made me blind, I would say, 'Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.' For had I not been blind, if I had had my sight, I may not have had this faith".
I think we need to thank God for all of the things in our lives right now that, according to our senses, according to our sight, according to our minds, make no sense, but in the Spirit… Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine! This is who I am. Heir of salvation… This is whose I am. …purchase of God, Born of his Spirit, washed in his blood. How about this verse? Perfect submission… What does it lead to? …perfect delight, Visions of rapture now burst on my sight. That a blind woman wrote about visions of rapture lets me know it is by faith. I don't care if you can see it right now. It's real. It is by faith. This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long, This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long. Lift your hands. Worship him by faith now.