Worship Theme: He Lives as Our Faithful Shepherd
Sermon Theme: Listen to Him!
Listen to the Good Shepherd in John 10:1-10 as he warns about those who only want to take and take and take from you until you have nothing left but sin and guilt and death and hell. Listen to the Good Shepherd who gives and gives and gives. “Listen to Him!” April 30, 2023.
There are few times I can remember being so overwhelmed. We had just finished an exhausting, uncomfortable nine-hour bus ride from Lusaka, Zambia to Livingstone. Our intention was to take a short taxi ride to the border and walk across to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. But the moment our bus parked; it was swarmed like ants to a fallen popsicle at a picnic. We clearly stuck out as Americans, and everyone wanted our attention. People were banging on the bus and shouting through the windows. As soon as we stepped off the bus, dozens of people surrounded us and were calling out to get our attention and our business. Having never been there before, it was somewhat frightening. Whom do you trust? Whom do you follow? Who has your best intentions in mind? Who wants to take advantage of you and lead you astray? It was so overwhelming!
If you’ve ever been to Cancun, you’ve probably felt the same. The moment you get through baggage, people are swarming you, calling out in English and in Spanish. One nice lady stopped our family and asked where we were going and said she would help us. Well, the next thing we knew we were off to the side listening to a sales pitch about timeshares and snorkeling adventures. (Face palm) We managed to pull away with no dollars spent, but as soon as we walked outside the airport doors, hundreds more were waiting, calling out to us, begging for our attention. Whom do you trust? Whom do you follow? Who has your best intentions in mind? Who wants to take advantage of you and lead you astray? It was so overwhelming!
Maybe that’s how you feel on the journey of life. So many voices! So many people calling out to you! News stations twisting stories to their own slanted views. Radio stations airing their public opinions and complaints. TV, movies, and music shaping the way we think. Advertisements begging you to buy or demanding your vote. Social media filled with posts, shares, tweets, and memes, all screaming for your attention. Athletes and celebrities using their platform and power to influence. There are even people whose job is to be an “influencer” these days. Whom do you trust? Whom do you follow? Who has your best intentions in mind? Who wants to take advantage of you and lead you astray? It is so overwhelming!
In some ways you can say that this is good. It should be overwhelming, because this is not only a matter of being anxious. If we listen to the wrong voice or follow the wrong person, we aren’t just going to end up in an overpriced taxi going the wrong way or accidentally buying a timeshare in Mexico we didn’t want. Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Listening to the wrong voice and following the wrong person means going the wrong way, believing lies, and getting death. The consequence is not lost time and money, it’s being lost forever in hell. The voice you listen to matters.
Over the years, the platforms, the opinions, and the people may change, but the overwhelming danger for God’s people does not. Two thousand years ago, there were also many people crying out and clamoring for the attention of believers—Greek and Roman poets, priests, and philosophers. Jewish political zealots plotting rebellion against the empire. And then there were the religious leaders of the day. Perhaps one of the loudest voices demanding attention was that of the Pharisees. Their fake piety and the phony extra laws they invented screamed at the people, “Do more! You’re not good enough!” Their voice proclaimed loudly a religion of works and holiness, and guilt for those who didn’t meet their standards.
The gospel we heard today in John 10 is really in the middle of a story. We heard the first part of it a few weeks ago before Easter. Jesus had healed a man of his physical and spiritual blindness, and the Pharisees were sharply criticizing that man and Jesus. John 10 picks up in the middle of that as Jesus warns the Pharisees and anyone who might listen to them.
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice.” In verse 8 Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.” And in verse 10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”
Thieves. Robbers. Steal. Kill. Destroy. Just like the Pharisees and others back then, so today enemies to the sheep are dangerous! They’re calling out to you because they want to take something. Your sinful heart screams at you wanting you to "take what’s yours,” to “do what feels good,” to “follow your own heart,” and to “believe your own personal truth.” Listening to yourself would be like a sheep wandering on its own away from the shepherd or out of the sheep pen because they think it’s better. Your sinful heart wants to take your trust in your Shepherd away. It’s dangerous!
The sinful world around us wants to climb over the fence and invade the safety of the sheep pen and steal you away from the Shepherd. All those loud celebrity voices in music, movies, and sports want you to act a certain way. The world wants you to think a certain way—to question God’s existence, to be critical of the Bible’s truth or accuracy, to challenge what God says is right or wrong. But the world is calling out to you with its enticing voice because it wants to take something as well. It wants to take your humility, take your honesty, take your sobriety, take your purity, take your decency. It’s dangerous!
All the while Satan is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for lost sheep to devour. If we stray from the sheep pen, we’re exposed. If we stray from fellow sheep, we’re vulnerable. If we stray from the Shepherd, we’re weak and helpless. Satan promises the world to us to lure us with his lies, but he gives nothing in return. All he wants is to take—to take your soul with him to hell forever. It’s dangerous!
Listen to Jesus’ description again today. Thieves. Robbers. Steal. Kill. Destroy. The devil, the world, and our sinful flesh don’t want to give you anything. They want to take. They want to kill. They want to destroy.
God forgive our ignorance and sheepish foolishness when we listen to them! We must admit there’s a problem. If we are listening to podcasts, politicians, or pundits, if we are listening to celebrities and influencers, we are listening to Fox News or CNN more than we are listening to the voice of the Shepherd, that’s a problem. If we spend more time scrolling through TikTok or YouTube than we do scrolling through the pages of Scripture, that’s a problem. If we spend more time enjoying fleeting worldly pleasures than we do enjoying the green pastures of rest in God’s house on Sundays—that’s a problem. How lost we sheep can be when we listen to the voices of others first. It’s dangerous! It’s overwhelming! It’s sinful!
But how thankful we can be with our special focus for worship today that the Lord is our Shepherd. He is the one who came to seek and to save the lost, to lead us out of the eternal valley of the shadow of death. He came to lead us on paths of righteousness not because of what we have done but for his own name’s sake. He is the Shepherd who came to lay down his life and to become the Lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
It was not long before Jesus went to Jerusalem for his sacrifice that he was on a mountaintop with Peter, James, and John. There he transfigured before them and was shining bright as the sun, when a voice from the heavens said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” What a reminder from our God!
Jesus is God’s beloved Son who always listened to the voice of his heavenly Father. He was so pleased with his Son Jesus because of his obedience, his love, his perfection. He was so pleased that his Son would carry out his will of living and dying to save the lost sheep of this world. He was so pleased that his Son would become the Passover Lamb whose blood pays for sin and buys us back from death and hell. So the Father says, Listen to Him!
So do just that. Listen to Him today. Listen to the Good Shepherd as he warns about those who are robbers and thieves and want to steal, kill, and destroy you. Listen to the Good Shepherd as he warns about those who only want to take and take and take from you until you have nothing left but sin and guilt and death and hell. Listen to the Good Shepherd who does just the opposite. He gives and gives and gives.
Did you hear that in your Good Shepherd’s words? “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” In fact you have been named at your baptism. You were marked and branded with the cross and washed with water as you were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. You were named after Christ as you became a Christian and he leads you out to live in this world by faith in him. Sometimes he leads you to green pastures and beside still waters, sometimes it’s through that valley of the shadow of death. But it’s still Good Shepherd who is leading us. We silly, sinful sheep had nothing to do with this. The Good Shepherd is the one who jumped to action. He found us when we were lost. He bought us back from death. He gives us his righteousness. He forgives us. He called us by name and he leads us.
What other religion has a God who takes action for his people? What other religion has a solution where everything is done for you? Who else can compare to our Shepherd-Savior whose voice calls out to you so clearly? Listen to Him in verses 9 and 10 today, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Jesus is the only gate and entrance to life in heaven and he is the only Shepherd who will lead you there. Listen to Him!
If we truly understand who we are in Christ, that we are children of God, dearly loved and completely forgiven, that we are sheep bought with the Lamb’s blood and brought by grace into the safety of God’s sheep pen—if we truly understand this, we will follow our Father’s heavenly advice and Listen to Him! But that also means that we will live by faith in this world with care and caution. Listening to Jesus means we are not going to listen to others. Jesus said in verse 3, “The sheep listen to his voice.” Verse 4, “His sheep follow him because they know his voice.” Verse 5, “But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Verse 8, “All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.”
Maybe it would be a good idea for us this week to do a little personal reflection. How much do you listen to the Good Shepherd? How carefully do you listen to the Good Shepherd? Look at your phone sometime and check out your screen time. How does your screen time compare to your Scripture time? How much time do you spend listening to your favorite music playlists when you could spend even a little time listening to an audio Bible or a devotion? How does your family or your children’s TV time compare to family devotion or prayer time? How does your joy of going to a Brewer’s game or a concert or performance or a night out with friends compare with your joy of coming to hear the Good Shepherd’s voice in church?
The Good Shepherd is so good he gives us many earthly blessings. Many of these things can be good and useful and enjoyable. But Jesus tells us to be in the world, but not of the world. He doesn’t want you to get lost in it and stray from him. Jesus loves his sheep. He wants you to know him personally and to follow him closely and to live with him eternally. Reflect on how you can do that by his grace.
In the last verse today, Jesus the Good Shepherd said he wants you to have life to the full in him. Jesus wants us to lie by the cool waters of the peace he offers. He wants us to enjoy the green pastures of his provision and blessings. He wants us to drink the living water of his forgiveness. He wants us to walk on his paths of righteousness. He wants to comfort us with his rod and his staff as he protects us and lead us through the valley of the shadow of death in our worst life moments. He wants to prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies and make our cup overflow with blessings. And Jesus wants goodness and mercy to follow us all the days of our lives until the day we dwell in his house forever. That is the life to the full that the Good Shepherd wants you to have. So . . . Listen to Him! Amen.
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