Friday, August 29, 2014

"The Good Shepherd loves His sheep!"

Day #245:  Daily Bible Reading Plan - August 30th

Scripture Reading:  John 10 - 12 …

Jesus is the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep.  Not all people are His sheep.  So how do you know if you are one of Jesus' sheep?  That may sound like a math problem, but both the statements and the question are important as to whether you have eternal life or will perish in eternal death.  Jesus said "I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved" (10:9).  "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (10:10).  People debate about religion and all kinds of philosophies of life and ideas about how to live life ... but that's not what this is about - it's about life with God, now and forever!  Jesus came to call SOME to Himself and He tells us who His sheep are.  Not everyone is one of Jesus' sheep and not everyone will have eternal life ... in fact, most won't!

How do you know if you are one of Jesus' sheep ... one of God's chosen people?  Jesus says, "I know my sheep, and my sheep know me" (10:14).  So first of all, you need to KNOW Jesus.  That means that you have a relationship with Jesus through faith.  You believe who He is and trust in Him.  You believe that He is the perfect, eternal Son of God who entered into the world to bear God's wrath against sin, to die and rise again, to establish His reign, His rule, His kingdom in the hearts and minds of ... HIS SHEEP!!  "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me" (10:27).  If you don't know Jesus, if you don't believe in Jesus, if you don't obey Jesus, you are not one of His sheep, it is that simple.

Jesus told the Jews who were following Him that if they were His sheep they would listen to Him, they would believe in Him.  Their reaction:  "He is demon-possessed!" (10:20).  Their reaction:  "We are not stoning you for any of these, but for blasphemy because you, a mere man, claim to be God" (10:33).  Had ANYONE EVER done the works Jesus was doing?  Had anyone ever spoken with such absolute authority?  Had anyone ever taught the things Jesus was speaking?  As if to prove His point, Lazarus dies.  The timing was not by accident.  It was almost time for Jesus to go to the cross.  The Pharisees were watching.  Their power and influence was being threatened and they were more afraid of the Romans than they were of God.

Back to Lazarus.  All of this was orchestrated by God to teach all of Jesus' sheep who would live between that moment and His return that even death has no power over those who belong to Jesus.  Most of us have heard Jesus' words spoken at the death of a loved one, "I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die" (11:25).  Jesus had promised that not ONE of His sheep would be lost!  "I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand.  I and the Father are one" (10:28-30).

Both Mary and Martha, and the Jews as well, believed that Jesus could have healed Lazarus - while he was alive.  But after he was dead ... not so much!  But Jesus said this was for the Father's glory.  God's power is without limit.  He is GOD!!  To tell God that He can't do something is foolish.  If Jesus is God, to tell Jesus He can't do something is foolish.  That's what people thought:  "Jesus, you can heal people, but you CAN'T raise people from the dead!"  Really?  "LAZARUS!  Come out!! ...  Take off the grave clothes and let him go" (11:43-44).  Who could doubt Jesus' power now?  Who could doubt His words?  Who would NOT believe in Him?

Those who are not His sheep!  The response of the Pharisees was predictable (because they were not Jesus' sheep - at least, most of them weren't) ... "From that day on they plotted to take His life" (11:53). To those of us who believe, who ARE Jesus' sheep, that response is itself unbelievable.  How blind can you BE?!  But think of the billions of people around the world who do not believe in Jesus, in spite of the eye witness testimony that is the Gospels.  While countless church signs and pastors and teachers claim that Jesus loves everyone the same, the truth is that the Good Shepherd loves His sheep and lays down His life for His sheep.  He knows who we are and He came for us ... not because of US, but because of HIM ... because He loves His sheep!

Now the scene has been set.  Jesus heads to Jerusalem to give His life FOR HIS SHEEP!  As the crowds welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem they fulfilled the prophecy of Zechariah, who predicted that their King would enter on the colt of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9).  Jesus predicted His death again and declared judgment on the world and the "prince of this world" (12:21).  "When I am lifted up from the earth (crucified), I will draw all men to myself" (12:32).  Jesus did not mean "all" as "every person," but people from all nations.  "I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen (Jews).  I must bring them also.  They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd" (10:16).

The conclusion:  "Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in Him" (12:37).  Isaiah predicted the blindness of those who were not the sheep of Jesus.  A few of the leaders believed He WAS the Messiah, but they were afraid to come forward.  Jesus' sheep hear His voice, they believe in Him and they follow Him because they know He loves them.  How do they know that?  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for HIS sheep!  As Jesus raised Lazarus, so He Himself rose from the dead and conquered death FOR HIS SHEEP!!!

You can know that YOU are loved by the Good Shepherd if you hear His voice and believe in Him!  He came that you may have life ... REAL life ... ETERNAL life, now and forever.  Know His love today and follow Him wherever He leads, for He loves His sheep.

"My Father in heaven, in love You sent Your Son to save those who are His sheep, to bring them into the safety of Your presence, and to give them eternal life.  I thank You for saving ME, for making me one of Jesus' sheep.  I was helpless and lost until I heard the voice of the Good Shepherd.  My life is His, purchased by His blood shed on the cross.  Thank You, Jesus, for saving me and opening my eyes to see who You are, moving my heart to believe in You and making me YOURS!  Father, I give You glory and praise, in Jesus' name, Amen"

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