Controversial Jesus #13 - Security
Director of Young Adult Ministries & Life Stage Pastor Josiah Leuenberger looks at the John 10 passage of the Good Shepherd and looks at how we can find our security in Jesus.
This is an auto-generated transcript. Please excuse any errors.
Well, good morning. It is great to worship God together with you this morning. That's why we're here. We're here to remember who God is. We're here to remember all that he's done for us. And something that's on my mind this morning is any time we gather for worship, we all know, some days we come in here and we are on the mountain top. Things are good, we're excited. We're here praising God from a full heart. And other times we come here and we're in a desperate place. Maybe we're struggling with things that only God knows. So, as I pray for us this morning, my hope is that like every Sunday God's word will speak to us in not only a way that would impact our minds, but our hearts, and that would transform us, who we are and the way we live and our daily lives, that we would be encouraged and supported and challenged by God's word wherever we need to be.
So, let's pray about that together now. Would you join me? Father, we come into your house this morning and it is good to sing songs of praise and remember who you are, the God who is with us and the God who is for us. We thank you for your grace and we thank you for the gift that your word is to us. And so in this time, would you speak straight to our hearts, God?Would we be open to learning from you God, not just in a way where our ideas would change, but that our hearts would be impacted? Father, that we would see how we would live by faith in our daily lives and show the world the power of your love to restore, to heal, and redeem. And we ask this together in Jesus name. Amen.
Well, I want to start with a question here this morning for you to think about. I want to ask you, what is a moment in your life, what experiences have you gone through, where you came to see that life is absolutely out of your control? Just a light question to begin with. What experiences can you remember where you realize life is out of your control? I wonder what stories you would share if you were up here this morning. I was chatting with a friend of mine who graduated college the same year as I did and he, when he graduated, he got a finance job in New York City, a position that a lot of people would envy for. It paid well enough that he was able to sign a one year lease on an apartment in Manhattan. That ain't cheap. Moved to this beautiful apartment and then the week before he started this great new job in finance, his company folded. Financial crisis of 2008. Inconvenient timing with a one year lease in Manhattan and no way to pay for it. That's a bit of a bummer.
Sooner or later, we all go through those kinds of experiences where we realize that life is out of our control. And, of course, we all know the best way to handle those situations is to worry about things incessantly and control everything we can control and go crazy. Drive ourselves nuts in the process, right? That's the only logical thing to do. Instead of listening to people as we talk with them, daydream about all the things that could go wrong, maybe what we could do to change them. Then when we're exhausted and it's time to go to bed, why not just lay there some more and dwell on it some more? I mean, it only makes sense, right? Isn't that what we do, though? Oh, we drive ourselves nuts with worry and fear and doubt about how things are going to play out when we find ourselves in those moments. We do this in our daily lives. Guys, we even do it when we finally get a break.
I want to tell you a few weeks ago, my wife and I got a chance to go on vacation, and we went out West to California. We love to hike. We'd never been to California before, and we went on this beautiful hike where we climbed up this trail overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and as we are on this trail overlooking the Pacific, you know what I thought? I sure hope today is not the day we get attacked by a mountain lion. Mountain lions are one of my great fears. And so, what did we do? We carried rocks because no mountain lion could stop us if we have rocks in our hands. Though, they say they sneak up behind you and you never hear them coming, guys. So, watch out. Maybe you should be afraid of mountain lions.
But if I'm honest with you, I have to say it's not mountain lions that keep me up at night. I read a quote from an author, counselor, Ed Welch, he says, "Our most pressing fears, the things that really worry us involve the things that are most important to us. Things like acceptance, finances, love, health, and the well being of those we love."
Would you agree with that? Is that where the things that you're most fearful about would lie? I think, for me, that certainly rings true. It's responsibilities and expectations. Meeting the hopes of myself and then the people who I really value, relationship with. Wanting to be all that I can and hoping that it will be enough. We worry about things. Will we have enough? Will we be able to be there for the people who need us the most? Our friends, our family, the people who've always been there for us, our parents.
And what inevitably happens with all of us is we come to those kind of moments where we realize that those burdens we tend to carry, they're just too much to us. So, we control everything we can and then we worry about the things that we can't and we hope it will all line up, but sometimes we feel like we lack the security we really desire in life.
And so, what I want to say to you this morning is that I really believe this passage. Jesus' words here to his disciples, his words to us, I think they offer us a lot of hope in dealing with our own worry and even in times of pain and difficulty in our lives. I think they offer us some real words of security and stability that we can hold on to because what we see about Jesus here is that being fully God and fully man Jesus, he's not immune to the human condition. He understands our struggles. He understands the pain, the difficulty, the anxiety, the frustration that each and every one of us walk through and what's really beautiful in scripture is that we see that Jesus came to enter into all of that. He identifies with us and all that we experienced, so he's not apathetic to our struggle. In fact, Jesus came to bring resolution to our ultimate struggle in a way that would last for all of eternity.
And last week, we began in this passage. If you were here, Brady, our campus pastor from up in Butler spoke on the first 10 verses of John, chapter 10. It's a beautiful passage where we hear those words from Jesus. I came to bring life and that you would have it to the fool. And so what Brady talked about is how Jesus is the gate. He is the entry point for us into relationship with God. And what's really cool about the passage is that we see that Jesus isn't standing there at the gate checking ID's. He's not standing there like an angry bouncer at a night club who's looking to turn people away. Jesus is like a good shepherd who's looking out into the pasture for lost sheep. He's eager to draw us in. He's eager to bring us in to relationship with the god of the universe who made us.
We see that so clearly throughout scripture, all throughout the gospels. After Jesus' conversation with Zacchaeus, where he came to experience grace, we read, the son of man came to seek and save the lost. That's what Jesus was all about. And what's really neat is how Jesus, again and again, took the initiative. He goes out of his way to make that happen for people, people who need grace, people who need hope.
Matthew chapter nine, Jesus went through the towns and villages teaching in synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because he saw that they were like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus has an eye out for people in need and he's eager to meet us right where we are with all sufficient grace. That's what Jesus came to do. And so, in this specific passage, Jesus' words here, it's a discourse, a conversation between him and the Pharisees. These well known religious leaders. It seems most times or in the New Testament, we're looking at a passage, the Pharisees are the bad guys. In the Old Testament, it's always the Philistines. So, that's rule number one of Bible interpretation. If your name begins with a P, you're going to be a bad guy. Except Paul, Paul was a good guy, and Peter. Maybe that rule doesn't hold up.
Here's the thing about the Pharisees. What's really ironic with them is they thought they were the ultimate religious good guys. They were entitled. They believed that their standing with God was sealed in their performance. They were meeting the expectations of a right religious culture and they were making sure that everyone else fell in line. So, they felt as if they were insiders. But what we see is that they were totally missing the mark. In this specific passage, they've come to Jesus and they are fired up that he's healed a blind man on the Sabbath. How could you do such a thing? How could you heal a blind man on the Sabbath, break that law? And Jesus responds to them as essentially, well, let's talk about who's really blind here, guys. What's more important? The restoration of a life, that people would see the redemptive power of God, heaven breaking through onto earth through the healing of a man born blind or this mechanical observation of the law?
Jesus wanted them to know that he came to bring about the ultimate restoration for mankind, the ultimate rest for mankind, of which the Sabbath was really only a shadow. And so him healing this man, that is the Kingdom of God breaking through. So, the Pharisees are totally off track with what God desires. And so, in today's passage, this teaching, what Jesus does is show us the depth of care, the level of care that God has for his people by laying out the dichotomy between Jesus' care for his followers, and the Pharisees and their care for people. I think what we see is really powerful.
So, we're in John, chapter 10, picking up in verse 11. We read these words, "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays his life down for the sheep." And what we need to know, is that in the ancient near east, it was really common for shepherds to take risks for the welfare of their sheep. It was common for them to fight off predators. It was common for them to lead their sheep, to safe pastures, to places where they could drink, across dangerous terrain so they could dwell in safety. But here Jesus, he goes so far beyond even the most high standard of any shepherd. I'm the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. Think about that. What farmers is willing to die for his animals, his flock? I'm the good shepherd. I lay my life down for the sheep.
Jesus says that five times in four versus here. It sounds crazy. This level of care and commitment that Jesus has, it's complete. He's willing to take responsibility for his followers' welfare, he tells us, to the ultimate extent. And this really is not a comment made in passing, I mean five times in four verses. Jesus, he's outspoken here about his level of commitment. The way that he continues to teach on the depth of his care for his followers is by laying out that difference between his own leadership and that of the hired hand, that in this little parable, that's the symbol for the Pharisees.
Let's pick that back up. Verse 12, "The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So, when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing about the sheep." And so, what we see here is that the hired hand, he's ultimately in it for himself. So, when the wolf comes, the cost outweighs the benefit. Man, I'm out of here. Why would I put myself in danger for my flock? They're expendable to him because, really, he's in this for himself. He's not personally invested in the well being of his flock, so when the sheep come under threat, he has gone away. But the good shepherd, the good shepherd, he says, "I lay my life down for the sheep."
My friends, this can be a real encouragement to you and I when we walk through times of trouble in our own lives, because what we see in this passage is that Jesus Christ promises to each and every one of us who would come to him with our need and say, God, I am hopeless on my own. These fears, these anxieties, these situations before me, they're more than I can handle. I'm broken in my own sin and I need your restoration in my life. When we would turn to him, we can know that he will never abandon us.
My college roommate was a soccer player and you know, college students in your dorms we're too cheap to pay for any art that's actually appealing to adults. We put posters of bad movies and things like that on our walls to cover them. And my roommate, he had a poster of Liverpool football club on our wall and it had pictures of all these different soccer players from throughout history. And there's the insignia of this football club and below it was their slogan and it read, "You never walk alone." You never walk alone. When I read that, I thought for a minute, I should just drop out of college and become a soccer hooligan. Because who doesn't want that kind of security walking through life, right? You'll never walk alone.
What we see in this passage, Jesus' words to us are if we will turn to him with our need, the good shepherd has got our back. We'll never walk alone no matter what we face. And we can find so much hope in that because Jesus came to bring us security to the ultimate degree and the way that you and I need it most. If we will come to him with our need, we see in this passage, Jesus will never abandon us. He'll never turn our back on us. He'll never turn his back. We have friends, we have family, and there are times where they can't meet our deepest needs. We find ourselves so desperate. Even those people can let us down, but we know Jesus, he promises us nothing that we face will he walk away. He lays his life down on our behalf. He has our back, no matter what we face. He's willing to give it all for us.
So, what this passage tells us is that in the midst of the unknown, in the midst of our own anxiety, in our fear, we can have peace. The first key in this passage is because of Jesus. We can find peace and knowing that the good shepherd will never abandon us because when Jesus says, I lay my life down for the sheep, that's more than just an image. That's so much more than just an image. Jesus, he put his love for us into action through sacrificial service, by putting the welfare of his own before his very own life. It's the ultimate display of sacrificial service.
We have a college student here at Orchard Hill who serves as a volunteer firefighter. And I was talking with him a while back and I was asking him about what he does. Essentially these guys, without any pay, there'll be camped out when they're not at work waiting for a phone call. And when that phone rings, they run to those places where the rest of us, we want to run away from. A burning car, running towards what we want to run away, out of love, out of sacrificial service. In their case, for people they don't even know.
But if we want to talk about the ultimate display of sacrificial service, we don't have to look any further than Jesus because what we see in scripture is that for each and every one of us in the midst of our lostness, while we're turning and running away from God as fast as we can and wanting to be the god of our own lives without him, what does Jesus do? He ran to the cross. He ran to the cross to lay down his life to save us. I lay my life down for the sheep. That's how much Jesus loves you and I, each and every one of us who would simply come to him with our need and say, Father, I need your grace.
I know that every Sunday when we come here, we come from very different places. Some of us have been in the church for a long time and we would say this story is my own. I need to be encouraged by it. I need to be lifted up by it and remember this truth when I forget it for myself. There are others of us here who would say, if I'm being real, I am completely indifferent to the things of God. Maybe you're here this morning and God's been working in your life, stirring in your heart to lead you to this moment where you would say, you know what? I am in need. I am feeling that burden of carrying the weight of my life and trying to be in control myself, and it is absolutely exhausting. What I want you to know is today can be that day that Jesus takes your burden and gives you new, lasting, and eternal life in him if you'll come to him with your need.
I want to give you a moment now as we pray together. I'm going to pray for all of us together. If you're a Christian, if you're a follower of Jesus Christ and you've trusted him with your brokenness, with your spiritual need, you can pray these words along and remind yourself of the hope that you have in him. If this is a new thing for you and you say, I want to trust Jesus for the first time, I hope that you will make these words your own.
So Father, each and every one of us, we come here with open hands because we know there's nothing we can bring to the table on our own to make ourselves right with you. We are people completely in need of grace if we want to be right with you. But the good news is that because of your great love for us, you have sent your son, Jesus Christ to die on the cross to make a way for us to be right with you. Father, that gives us hope and life. That gives us such peace knowing that no matter what we face, you will never abandon us, Father. And so God, if there's someone here where this is the first time that they have chosen to put their hope in you, would this moment be a time they remember for all of their days, knowing that now and forever, you hold them in your hands, in the grip of your grace, you will never let us go, Father. In Jesus' name. Amen.
And that is our hope, that when we put our trust in Jesus Christ, he holds us in the grip of his grace and he will never let us go. That's something we can be sure of. He says later in this passage, "I give them eternal life that they shall never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand." So, what Jesus is telling us is, this is a promise that we can bank on because our lives of faith, they begin by grace through Jesus working in our hearts, we grow in faith. We live out our spiritual lives as the Holy Spirit who is given to us as a gift. He transforms us to become more like Christ. And we can know that the Holy Spirit will sustain us to the very end.
You and I, we may have moments that we stray. We may have our moments where we even feel like we are walking away from God. But if you have come to Jesus and you've said God, I am a broken person in need of grace, and you have put your hope in him, you can be sure that Holy Spirit inside of you, God will not disown himself. He will sustain us to the very end. That is our hope. This passage is so clear. Because of Jesus, we are secure. We have a stability in life, no matter what we face, no matter what we struggle with, we're never without hope. We'll never walk alone.
But, let's make no mistake. Following Jesus is never easy. I mean, Jesus said himself, John, chapter 16, "In this world, you will have trouble." We shouldn't be surprised when we walk through times where we wonder what's going on, where the path before us is uncertain or unknown. We shouldn't be surprised by those things, but Jesus also tells us even then, in this world, you may have trouble but take heart because I have overcome the world. And so, what we see next in this passage is this. We can actually counter fear and worry in our lives by living in light of the resurrection. We can counter worry by living in light of the relationship with God that we have received by grace.
We see that in verses 14 and 15 we read these words, "I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me. Just as the father knows me and I know the father and I lay my life down for the sheep." And so, ultimately, what those words assure us of is the richness of relationship that we share. There's this dance that we see in that passage of the connection between God, the father and Jesus Christ, and ourselves, that we somehow get to step into by grace. In our times of difficulty, in our times of pain, of frustration, of uncertainty, I think we can find so much hope in leaning into that relationship with God that we've been given.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I went over to some friends' house for dinner and they have some boys and one of their sons, he was about three years old. He prayed for dinner and when this kid prayed for dinner, the words he spoke, they are etched in my mind. He said, "God, you know us and you love us, and we know you and we love you." I have to tell you, I have spent tens of thousands of dollars on theology classes and it doesn't get any better than that. God, you know us and you love us, and we know you and we love you.
Man, what's more comforting than that? That the all powerful, perfectly holy, eternal God of the universe knows us. He knows our hearts completely. He knows our minds. I don't even know what's going on in my own heart half the time. God knows us and he knows our brokenness, but here's what's beautiful. He sent us his own son, Jesus, so that when we would recognize our need and turn to him in faith, we'd be able to experience his love. We'd be able to experience it completely. That we would know in that love between the father and the son, that somehow by grace, we get to share in that, ourselves.
What a beautiful truth that is for you and I. We can never downplay how big of a deal that is, that God knows us and loves. I think that is just so amazing. It's so comforting for us in our times of worry, our pain, our frustration. We feel so much weight. We feel so much responsibility for how things on fold. We make ourselves out to be the god of our own lives, but ultimately we're his sheep. And the good news is when we turn to our heavenly father, he's with us. He'll never abandon us. We'll never walk alone. That's all because of grace. Thank God for that. Jesus will never leave us or forsake us.
I love this quote from Charles Spurgeon. He talks about what do we really have to fear because of the Gospel. Here are these words. He says, "It's impossible that any ill should happen to the man who is beloved of the Lord. The most crushing calamities can only shorten his journey and hasten him to his reward. Ill to him is no ill, but only good in a mysterious form. Losses enrich him. Sickness is his medicine. Reproach is his honor. Death is his gain. No evil in the strict sense of the word can happen to him, for everything is overruled for good. Happy is he who is in such a case. He is secure, where others are in peril. He lives where others die."
There are moments where we feel totally overwhelmed, but the truth of this passage, it's so clear. Peace is available to each and every one of us who believes, because it's found in following Jesus, our good shepherd who will never abandon us. And we can counter the worry and fear in our lives by living in to that relationship with God we've received by grace. We are known, we are loved because of Jesus. And so, there's a choice that we have to make. If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, that is who you are. That is what you have been given. But the choice we have to make is will we focus on the fears before us, the fears that press in on us, or will we remember what we have been given by Jesus? When we put our hope, when we put our trust in the God who is eternally bigger than all of our fears are.
I want to wrap up sharing with you two thoughts for applying this, putting your faith into action in your life. And the first one I want to encourage you is this, accept your feelings of fear and anxiety as a reminder to trust God. Accept your feelings of fear and anxiety as a reminder to trust God. This comes out of Psalm, chapter 56, when I'm afraid I put my trust in you. Those are the words of the psalmist. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
Before I became a pastor, I was actually a track coach. I coached college track and on a few different occasions I would have athletes who were so nervous before races that they would just self implode. They would feel anxiety about their race and they would go inward. It was more than they felt they could handle, so they would just talk themselves out of performing to the best of their ability. What I used to remind them is, if you were not nervous, that's when I would be concerned, because your nerves are a sign that you care. And if you're going to perform at your best, you better care. So, when you feel those nerves, remind yourself, this is because I care. This is where I want to be. This is what I want to do.
So, when you find yourself in that place of anxiety, when you find yourself in that place of fear, don't allow yourself to go down that road of saying, God has abandoned me. Tell yourself, this is a feeling and that's all that it is. I may have fears, I may have anxieties, but I'm going to take this as a reminder from God to put my trust in him. God, when I fear I put my trust in you.
And second, I think we all need to acknowledge and remember, we need to acknowledge and remember that God alleviates our fears in response to our humility. God will alleviate our fears in response to our humility. And again, this isn't my idea. This is 1 Peter 5:6-7, "Humble yourselves, therefore under God's mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.".
And so, essentially, what this passage tells us is when you feel as if life is out of your control, remember it is. For once, you are right. When life feels out of control, we're right. The wise thing to do is to humble ourselves and come to the one who has it all covered, to turn to him. That feels so counter-intuitive to us, doesn't it? When I'm stressed, when I'm worried, when I'm fearful, when I'm in a moment of pain, I put that on myself. I can turn inward, I can do everything I can to control my circumstances and ultimately that gets me nowhere. When I finally find peace is when I come to God and say, Father, only you can handle this. Would you give me grace? Would you give me that peace that passes all understanding?
When we turn to him in prayer, that's really the promise of scripture that we see from the book of Philippians because of God's grace. When we turn to God in prayer, we humble ourselves and come to him. The peace of God, which transcends all understanding will quiet our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. In times of worry, we can turn to God in prayer and he'll give us peace in a way that we can't even understand.
In our faith, so many times we want to make sense of everything in our minds and that's a great thing, but some of the most beautiful things are things that we can't even entirely wrap our minds around. One of those is that when we come to God with our fears and anxieties in prayer, we give them to him. He'll give us a peace that passes understanding. Those prayers, they can come from your heart. They can be a pouring out of everything that you're thinking, and feeling, and experiencing, or they can just be very simple. God have mercy. God, give me faith to trust you. Something that simple. When you don't have words, you can even turn to scripture. Psalm 23, it's a beautiful prayer. The Lord's Prayer, it's a beautiful prayer, as well.
So, let's all remember that no matter what we face, the Good Shepherd is with us. He sees us, he knows us. We've come to him for grace. There's not a minute that he lets go of us. He holds us lovingly in the grip of his grace and he'll never let us down. The good news of Jesus, it's not just good news for us to share with others, it's good news for each and every one of us. It's good news for you and I every day.
God has also given us this hope as individuals, but he's also given us the gift of community that we can remind one another of it when we can't see it for ourselves, because we all have those moments. We need one another to lift us up and remind each other of the hope that we have in Christ in those times of struggle in our own lives. So, let me encourage you, be that kind of person in your relationships where people can open up and be real. You can set the tone in your relationships with your own vulnerability. Be willing to go there with the people that God's put you in community with. Be willing to put yourself out there and be real. And when people do that, let them know how much you care. Let them know, I'm here for you.
We can support one another in prayer as we share with one another the things going on in our lives, even our messiness. God has given us that gift that we have received grace. We can be real with one another about our needs and know that we will be met by God with grace, and grace with one another. Let's support one another in prayer. If you want that, there's so many ways you can find that here at Orchard Hill. I'd love to have a conversation with you about that, so would any member of our adult ministry team. They're out in the gathering place after the service. They'd also be happy to pray for you if there's any way they can. Our student ministry team would love to help you get connected if you're a teen. We have great opportunities for you to build friendships here at the church, as well.
One last thing I want to share with you about, we have so many ministry opportunities for both men and women. One thing we have coming up in October is our men's weekend and I'm really excited about this. This is an opportunity for us to really spend some dedicated time together, guys. We're going down to Oglebay Resort in Wheeling, West Virginia. We'll be speaking this year on living out God's mission in our lives. This event is really important to us. We always want to have great teaching, and so to make sure that happens this year, we're bringing in a wringer. His name is Dr. Kurt Bjorklund. I'm really excited about the message he has to share with us. You don't want to miss out on this. So guys, sign up. The early registration deadline is coming up soon.
All right, well it has been great to worship God. It has been great to hear his word together. I hope that you've been encouraged knowing that God is with you through Jesus Christ, no matter what we experience. Let's pray about that together.
Father, we do give thanks that you are over our lives, every square inch from beginning to end. Father, each and every one of us are people in need. But we see in your word that when we come to you with open hands, Father, you give us all that we need. We thank you that our lives are in the hands of the Good Shepherd and because of your work on our behalf, we'll never walk alone. We thank you that you sent Jesus Christ down to us to identify with us, but more than anything, that he's made a way for us on the cross that we might experience resurrection life, life to the full, life eternal because of his work on our behalf.
Father, we know that in this world there will be times that we face pain, that we face difficulty, where we face uncertainty unknown before us, anxiety and fear that's more than we can bear, but God, we are never without hope because you are with us. You know us, you love us, and you keep us in the grip of your grace, in the palm of your hand from beginning to end. Would you write that truth on our hearts, Father? Would we take our feelings of fear and use them as reminders to believe? Father, you are our hope for all of our days. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
All right. Have a great weekend. Go in peace.