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Dec 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

December 18, 2011

I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. John 10:11 (Read 1-15)

INTRO: I have posed the question, What entered world at Christmas?

We have limited our answer to four Christmas gifts that we find in four  “I am” statements of Jesus, quoted in John’s gospel
– the gift that we unwrap today is, “I am the good shepherd”

Three initial observations

  1. It was around our Christmas time that Jesus delivered this teaching (a fortunate coincidence; vv. 22-23)
  2. Jesus was using a “figure of speech” (v. 6)
    – he was making words do something they don’t normally do
    – he used an ordinary situation to communicate spiritual truth
    – it would be as if I tried to communicate a profound truth in a story of an ordinary event, such as, “I had my car serviced this week and the brakes had to be repaired.”
    – that was how people around Jesus heard his story about a shepherd and sheep
  3. The first words out of his mouth exposed a potential threat
    This reveals the main point of this lesson:
    – his unique role in the life of his sheep
    – the danger that impostors, posers, and predators presented
    – how to tell the difference

The potential threats

Jesus indicates four types of people that represent danger
– what ties them all together: the way they look at the sheep — they see them differently from the shepherd
– they see a market to be exploited for their personal advantage

Thieves and robbers – look at sheep and see dollar signs
– opportunists – can smell a potential profit
– this was going on as early as Paul’s ministry

For we are not like many, peddling the word of God, but as from sincerity, but as from God, we speak in Christ in the sight of God (2 Cor. 2:17)

– v. 10, “thief comes to . . .”

  • steal: to take what they have not labored over or built
  • kill: if the sheep die, it makes no difference – there’s a profit to be made either way
  • destroy: a healthy work of God is no advantage to them
    – an unhealthy church suits them better
    – it will be less discerning and more desperate

You would be amazed at the number of ways people make money off churches

Strangers – look at sheep and see an audience
– a simple fact: some people enter ministry to meet ego needs

  • some pastors are socially disabled – religion provides them a power over others
    – authoritarian preachers
    – many Christians are taken in by the person who speaks with authority, as if they alone know the absolute truth about God and scripture
    – many Christians want an authoritarian preacher — they don’t have to think for themselves
    –  they either don’t know or don’t care they’re being misled
  • some pastors have insatiable egos
    – their concern isn’t to shape individual Christian lives but to build an audience

Two authors wrote a book that explained how pastors could draw more people into their churches — they advised:
– make the service entertaining and exciting
– “louder music creates more energy”
– “Songs that are upbeat and more celebratory in nature will generate a positive attitude from the congregation.”
– self-help sermons also interest people more than Bible studies

Paul told his young apprentice to “preach the word . . . For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires” (2 Tim. 4:3)

– the teachers who go into to ministry to get something out of it for themselves are all too willing to oblige those who want their ears tickled

Hired hands — look at sheep and see a paycheck (vv. 12-13)
– Jesus makes three important observations about them:

  1. the hired hand is “not a shepherd” – shepherds developed a certain character
    – David, wrestling a sheep from a lion and a bear
    – the shepherd that looks for lost sheep and carries it home on his shoulders (Lk. 15:5)
    – these people are not that — they don’t put themselves out and they don’t take risks for the sheep
  2. the hired hand is “not the owner of the sheep”
    – they do not value the sheep enough to care
    – shepherds gave names to their sheep – they were like pets to them
    – the hired hand would not bother to learn the names of sheep
  3. the hired hand is “not concerned about the sheep”
    – whether they are taken to good pastures, get enough water, etc.
    – their concern is only for the paycheck

Wolves — look at sheep and see a potential to do harm
– this may seem incredible, but it’s a reality: There are people who find pleasure in destroying churches

Lloyd Rediger says Clergy Killers “are marked by intentional destructiveness. They don’t just disagree or criticize, they insist on inflicting pain and damaging their targets.” They incite “others to do their dirty work” and cause “victims to self-destruct.”
– he mentions antisocial personality disorder (sociopaths) and borderline personality disorder
“Such disorders contribute to confusion and contention in the church because they can be masked. Or, the disordered person might be misunderstood as simply ‘difficult to work with.’ The conflict may be viewed as normal dissension arising from diversity, disagreements, personality clashes, and boredom.”
– but the fact is, these people enjoy inflicting pain or harm on others, on creating chaos, and breaking apart friendships and communities

Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them (Acts 20:28-30)

The real deal

The first “I am” in this passage is not, “I am the good shepherd”
– rather, “I am the door of the sheep” – this could be confusing
– when shepherds spent nights in open fields, they would herd their flocks into enclosures with low rock walls
– there were no gates on the enclosures, so shepherd would lie in doorway – literally the door
– sheep could not get out without climbing over him
– thieves could not get in, unless thy “climbed up some other way”

In verse 11 the definite article appears twice — Jesus is literally saying, “I am the shepherd, the good one”
– Jesus meant for this to place him in contrast with the others he has mentioned

What defines the good shepherd?

  • several Greek words are translated into English as “good” — this particular word means beautiful; a perfect fit
  • his relationship with the sheep (vv. 3 & 14)
    – “the sheep hear his voice” and “know his voice” — there is a recognition of their true owner
    – “he calls his own sheep by name”
    –  what does it mean to you when someone remembers your name? — you matter to them
  • he takes the point position (v. 4) – like Jacob with his family (Ge. 33:1-3) — he goes first, taking the risk of danger on himself
  • he gives life to his sheep
    – in one place, he describes it as “abundant” (v. 10), and in another, as “eternal” (v. 28)
    – the abundant life is eternal and we receive it now, in this present life
  • he lays down his life for the sheep
    – Jesus really emphasizes the fact that he lays down his life
    – it is his life and his choice to lay it down
    – this tell us a lot about his leadership, especially that his concern is for the health and safety of his followers (above his own)
    – his willingness to lay down his life for the sheep endears him to the Father (v. 17)

Is there any question that Jesus, as shepherd, is the one in charge? He has the authority
– Paul has a good word regarding authority: “. . . authority which the Lord gave me for building up and not for tearing down” (2 Cor. 13:10)
– authoritarian pastors don’t lay down their lives for the sheep — they consider themselves superior to the sheep

Jesus is definitely superior to his sheep, yet he treats them as if they were superior
– this is his beauty and his majesty

CONC: Where do we come in? – verse 16

Jesus is the one pastor we need – he is our “counselor,” “teacher,” and “Lord”
– the one who we can be sure cares more for us than himself

So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD (Ho. 6:3)

– we contemplate him in prayer to keep him at the center of our experience and our lives
– we keep coming back to trust in him — life in this world makes trust inevitable
– we seek him every day to walk with him, to know him and learn to recognize his voice

This is our Christmas gift from God — the Shepherd, the good One

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