Free Bible Study
ENCOUNTERING JESUS IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN
About this series
Jesus Unfiltered - Follow
If we think about it very hard, we admit that there’s not much in this life we actually control. In this series, from John chapters 6 – 10, Chip Ingram explains that to follow someone or something means we willingly let someone else lead. When Jesus asks people to follow Him, He means He will take on the responsibility to provide, lead, protect, and love – and as followers, we agree to believe, trust, and obey – even when it’ll take everything we’ve got, to do that. Chip details the journey from forgiveness to freedom, as he fills in the blanks of what it means to follow Jesus.More from this series
In all the time the earth has ever been, the most important thing that ever happened wasn’t simply the birth of Christ, as wonderful as that is, and not simply His life, but the fact that that being fully God and fully man, He died, rose from the dead to give life.
Now, here is the question in light of that. Consciously or unconsciously we all ask a question or two as we go through life and what I want you to know is how you answer these two questions will determine the course of your life. I’m not overstating that.
If you’ll notice, I put a teaching handout, I put the two questions there. Question number one is: In light of this resurrection, this Man who claimed to be God, all of history – B.C., A.D. – how do you see God? What comes to your mind when you think, God? What is He really like?
Is He harsh? Is He down on you? Is He kind? Is He angry? Is He mildly ticked off? Is He distant? Is He really engaged in what is going on or kind of impersonal? Did He just set this whole thing up and whatever happens, happens?
When you think, God, what comes into your mind? When you pray, what is the visual image of what God is like, who is listening to you?
The quote I put there by Tozer, I think is profound and accurate, “What comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about your whole life.”
Because what you think about God, there is an invisible law of the soul, you will be drawn to or repelled by the image or the picture that you have. And I would guess, for most of us, who we think God is and who He really is, are two different people.
The second question might even be more important: How do you think God sees you? Imagine, if you will, long before computers, long before servers, long before Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instragram, anything – the infinite mind of God, who knows all things about all people, every moment, your thoughts, your behavior, your motives – when the picture of you comes up on the screen of this infinite God, how do you think He thinks about you?
What is His response? How does He feel? Is it like, Man, I wish you’d get with the program. Or, How come you’re never doing enough? Or, Oh, brother, still working with this one. Or is it, You’re cherished, you’re special, you’re loved, you matter, I designed you, I’ve got a plan for you, there is a special purpose for you.
How do you think God thinks about you? Because what I can tell you is, most of us don’t answer that question very accurately as well.
In Matthew chapter 9, toward the end of Jesus’ life, He comes into Jerusalem and He sees a multitude of people, not unlike in this room. Probably more.
And when He looked at the people, and He wasn’t just looking physically, as He looked at their heart, their motives, their lives, their marriages, their singleness, their work, their pain, their hurt, their cancer, the betrayals, the struggles, the infighting, the division. He says, “He looked at the multitudes, and seeing the multitudes, He felt compassion for them.”
Would you circle the word in your notes: compassion? I don’t think most of us know what that means. He felt compassion for them for two reasons. Because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd.
Put a line under distressed and a line under downcast. Distressed, that doesn’t take a lot of explanation, right? Stressed out, worn out, burned out, struggling, relationships not working, looking for purpose in life.
But the word downcast is a little bit different. Downcast is a shepherd’s term. Sheep wander around and they lie down. And sometimes they get where the grass is very soft and there is a little indentation and it feels really good. And they will lean over. And if a sheep leans over a little too much it gets almost upside down, it can’t get up. It can’t get up.
You know what happens to what is called a “cast sheep?” One hundred percent of the time, they die, unless a shepherd comes and lifts them and gets them back on their feet.
When Jesus saw the multitudes, when He sees us, He sees our distress, He sees our hurts, He sees our struggles, He sees our insecurities, He sees our pain, He knows our past, He knows what people have done to us, He knows the mistakes we have made, He sees our distress and He sees us as downcast. That we are in a situation that we can’t solve on our own, because we are like sheep without a shepherd.
And guess what it stirs in Him? This is how God thinks about you. Compassion. Not down on you; not, Get with the program; not, Do more; not, What’s wrong with you? Why did you make that mistake? Why did you make that decision?
It says He saw the multitudes and He felt compassion. The Greek word here means, literally, from the innermost parts or the bowels. The Hebrews thought that the seat of your emotions was visceral. If you have ever had your heart go out to someone where almost you watered up just when you saw someone’s pain, and it was almost like something down in your stomach hurt, that you had to do something to help them. That’s this word.
In fact, in English, I put a good definition there. It’s a deep awareness and understanding of another person’s struggle or hurt or pain that compels you to want to help them.
Sympathy: I feel sorry for you. Sympathy and compassion are very different. Compassion is: you are compelled and you just long to help solve it and make it right.
I have a little grandson, his name is Noah. And I have ten grandkids, four grown kids, and nine of the ten grandkids, the moment they walk in, “Grandma, Grandma, Grandma,” right?
There is one, him, who it’s, “Papa! Papa!” Right? So we have gotten really close. And
his mom was just mopping a floor and he came running behind and just slipped in a very unusual way, came down on his knee, and he broke his femur.
And when he hit, Theresa got a call from Annie, “Mom, I don’t know what’s wrong. He’s crying and no matter what I do, he is uncontrollable. It’s like he’s in terror.”
And so they took him to the ER and then they took him to the orthopedic guy and by the time I heard about it, I drove over to the orthopedic guy across from Good Sam’s and I walked in. As I walked in, the orthopedic doctor had put up his x-ray. I saw this bone, it had this diagonal fracture in it.
And he was just beside himself. And if it moved at all, this poor, little kid who I am so close to. And Annie had been in there for a couple of hours. And so she had to go get a drink of water and the doctor and everybody left.
And I just sat there with this little guy and he looked at me with terror in his eyes, like, Fix me! Papa! What’s wrong? And everything in me, something happened, has this ever happened to you? Something happened down deep inside of me like, I just wanted to say, It’s going to be okay! And it’s going to heal up. And probably five years from now, you won’t even remember.
And, of course, he’s nineteen months old. He can’t understand anything. And then just a little bit later, we couldn’t even put him in a car seat, couldn’t move him. And so I put him up in my arms because his dad hadn’t made it there from work yet.
And we had to get him to Good Sam’s, I still remember, room one-seventy. And I walk out of the doctor’s office and he is just in terror and crying over to room one-seventy, across the big highway, lying down. And then he just looked at me like, Papa! Why don’t you help?
Here’s what I want you to know. What I felt inside when I saw his need is how God feels about you when He sees your need. Splagchnon is the word. When He sees the divorce in your past, when He sees the strife in your marriage, when He sees the depression and the anger, when He sees the conflict that is happening at work, when He sees whatever need; the cancer that you’re battling, the parent that is dying, the kid that just doesn’t seem to get with the program.
Your deepest hurts, needs, and mistakes are like a magnet that draw Jesus’ love and compassion to you. That’s what the Bible teaches God is like.
Now, I don’t know about you, but that’s not the picture that I have had of God most of my life, and I have been a pastor for over thirty years. And I can tell you that that is intellectually the picture I know is true, but I have this default mechanism. Anybody have that?
Like, on any given day, I can think, Oh, I don’t think I measure up, I don’t think I’m doing very well, God is probably kind of mad at me. None of that is true, but I act that way.
And part of my family of origin, and part my personality. And so we have to be reminded. Why did He come? It was compassion!
Sometimes a word picture helps people grasp it, especially if it comes out of a culture, so we can take these concepts and get them into real life.
And so two hundred times in the Old and New Testament, God makes the metaphor of sheep/shepherd, sheep/shepherd. Because that is their world.
And sheep are dependent, vulnerable. Has anyone ever seen a wild sheep or a documentary on a wild sheep? You know why? They don’t exist. They don’t exist. They don’t.
A sheep without a shepherd – here is the game plan – die. They can’t find water on their own; they are vulnerable. If they are not moved to get new food, they will sit and eat the grass there down until the roots kill themselves. If they roll over or cast, they can’t pick themselves up. They have to be led.
Don’t take this personally, God calls us sheep. Pigs are way smarter than sheep. Sorry. And Orangutans are way up there. And so sheep are these not-that-intelligent animals. But they are super valuable. Their wool, their milk, whole villages, whole nations have lived on the great value and specialness of what a sheep brings.
And so all through Scripture, God helps us understand the compassion and what He is really like by the shepherd and the sheep.
There was a time where Israel had, just to use the vernacular, blown it big time. And you would think God would be just like, You know what? I’m just going to start over.
In Ezekiel 34, after speaking to a group of shepherds who were fleecing the sheep, literally, and using them and just messing up things, this is God’s word to them in Ezekiel 34:11. He says, “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out.” And here’s the metaphor, or the simile, “As a shepherd cares for his herd in the day when he is among his scattered sheep, so I will care for My sheep, and I will deliver them from all the places in which they are scattered on a cloudy and gloomy day. I Myself,” it’s Yahweh, Elohim, this is God the Lord, and He looks at His people and He says, “I Myself, I am going to go after them like a shepherd goes for his scattered sheep.”
And He doesn’t stop. He says, “I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest.” Anybody here need rest? I don’t mean just physical, I mean in your soul. “…declares the Lord God. I will seek” – who is He after? “the lost, I will bring back the scattered, I will bind up the broken, and I will strengthen the sick.”
Even David, when he was trying to express the intimacy that he had with God. Remember what he would say? Here’s a guy that was a king and psalmist and powerful. And then on a really, really weak moment on a bad day, commits adultery, and then covers it up, and commits murder.
And yet the New Testament looks back on this very flawed person who was very gifted and said he was a man after God’s own heart, not because he never messed up, but because of the tenderness of his heart.
What he understood was, here’s what David got, I see how God sees me. I see that God is a God of mercy and compassion and forgiveness and wants to restore. And so the Holy Spirit led him one day to say, “The Lord Yahweh is my Shepherd and I won’t be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures and what He does, He is going to lead me by quiet waters because He is going to restore my soul.”
And he says, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I won’t fear evil, because He is with me. His rod, His staff, they comfort me. He will lead me in paths of righteousness. He is going to direct my life.”
And there will be a day when I come through all these difficulties and there is going to be this victory banquet and He is going to allow me, “He is going to set a table” – a buffet, if you will – “in the very presence of my enemies.”
And then just like in the big buffets and the huge moments, “He will anoint my head with oil,” like what happens on these marvelous celebrations. And then instead of waiting for the other shoe to drop and something bad to happen, “His mercy and His love will follow me,” and the word literally is: pursue me, come after me, chase me, “all the days of my life.”
Do you think of God like that? So good, so kind, so loving that He is trying to chase you down to say, Would you let Me give you the best? And then maybe the last thing, “And I know,” he says, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
And so Jesus in John chapter 10 is speaking to a group of people who just can’t figure out, some believe in Him and some have rejected Him. And He wants them to know, even those who are trying to kill Him, about His compassion and His love, of why He came.
And you pick up the story in John 10. Open your notes if you will. And as you do, John chapter 10, we are going to get the story of Jesus speaking to a mixed group of people, some trying to kill Him and some who believed.
And so He gives them this metaphor, and what you are going to see first is you’re going to see a parable, because He longs for people, even those who want to kill Him, He longs for them to understand God’s compassion infinitely more than I wanted my little grandson, Noah. And I couldn’t get through to him.
And He wasn’t getting through to them. So He gives them a picture in their world that they can understand.
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus says, “‘the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in some other way is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman or the porter opens the gate for him and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and he leads them out. When he has brought them all out, his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him, because they know his voice. But they will not follow a stranger, in fact, they will run from him, because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.’ Jesus used this figure of speech or parable, but they did not understand what He was telling them.”
Now, I don’t know about you, and I didn’t grow up in the church, didn’t grow up reading the Bible, but if I wanted to know about God’s compassion and I heard those six verses about a parable about sheep, it didn’t do a lot for me, okay? Anybody here get a warm, ooey-gooey feeling in that one?
If you understand the culture, you’ll understand what He now says later. What He basically said was, “Look, you all understand how life works with sheep.” It’s an agrarian culture, they are shepherds, they can’t grow a whole lot, the land isn’t all that good.
So if you’re the youngest son, your job is to be the shepherd.
And then in the village, you lived off the wool, you lived off, you could sell the wool, the milk, occasionally you would sacrifice one.
And so I am a shepherd, you’re a shepherd, he’s a shepherd, she’s a shepherdess. And so at the end of the day, we would go to the village, and in our village would be a shepherd’s pen, if you will. It often would be about four feet high, all made out of stone, a large area, and there would be a gate.
And so I would bring my sheep and I would stand and I would put my rod and I would count them, and maybe I’ve got fifty-three sheep. And then the next shepherd or shepherdess comes and they’ve got thirty-five, fifty, forty. And so this whole big area is filled with sheep.
And there is an entrance. He is just describing their everyday life. But now He says some things that they really get. And if you have ever seen a documentary or this still happens today – shepherds name their sheep. And sometimes it’s Striped-Legged or Bad Attitude or stuff like that, or White Spotted Face. But they name all their sheep and they know them personally.
But they build this intimacy and relationship, it’s why Jesus uses this. So, when a shepherd would come in the next morning, all the sheep are there; they are safe. He might come and they almost have a talk. He might go, “Yo-ho! Yo-ho! Yo-ho!” And all about fifty sheep, they look, and he walks and they follow him. None of the other sheep move.
And then another shepherd comes and goes, “Oh-oh! Oh-oh!” Another thirty-five sheep, and they walk out. So He is explaining how it happens.
And then He says, “Thieves and robbers,” see, at night, it’s about four feet or so of stone and some might be a little bit higher. A thief would come during the dark and he would climb over and have a couple friends slit the neck of a sheep and then get as many as they could. Robbers didn’t just steal, they would beat up who was on guard, often kill them, and try and get the whole herd.
So He is just describing a world, about the relationship between sheep and shepherds. Now, listen carefully, because now He applies it to Himself. We pick up the teaching in verses 7 through 10.
Verse 7 says, “Therefore, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, I am the gate,’” or, “the door for the sheep. All whoever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate.” Here is His offer, “Whoever enters through Me will be saved,” He is talking about a spiritual salvation in the context of this book.
“He will come in and go out and find pasture.” So, Come to Me and believe in Me; I will provide for you and I will protect you. “The thief comes only to steal and to kill and destroy.” And then He gives His purpose statement for why He came, why we are here, what the resurrection is about, what the ascension is about, and why He is coming back. “I came that you might have life and have it to the full,” or, “have it abundantly.” Literally the word means, to excess and to overflowing.
And so the teaching here, Jesus is saying, That door, the entranceway in and out and relationship – I am the answer. I am the Shepherd.
In fact, what He says, you might jot it in your notes, He is saying, “Jesus is the Good Shepherd."
“Jesus is the Good Shepherd.” And what they knew in their day, boy, that’s what you need. A Good Shepherd. This is the part of your view of God, my view of God, most people’s view of God I think is completely skewed. We don’t believe He is good. And you can’t trust someone who you don’t think is good.
We don’t think if we left the decision about a future mate to Him, He would make a very good decision. We don’t think if we left the decision and wanted His guidance about what job to take or where our kids ought to go to school or is it this roommate? I should live over here or there?
Down deep, we want to control. We think we know better. And so He wants them to know, because the barrier to belief is you’ve got to trust. And He wants them to know, “I am the Good Shepherd.”
Now the teaching goes on and He is going to say, Let me prove it to you. And He is going to say, “The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”
In other words, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down your life for your friend.” And He says, I want you to know, I am going to lay down My life.
And as I read this, you’ll count maybe three, four different times He talks about laying down His life, laying down His life.
And as He does, He is going to say why He does it. He is going to say that He offers this for all people. And then He is going to say, I am doing it voluntarily. What you’ll learn in this passage is Rome did not kill Jesus and Jews did not kill Jesus.
Follow along as I read. Let’s pick it up at verse 11. “I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns 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 for the sheep. 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;” repeated, “I lay down My life for,” circle the word for, we’ll come back to it, “I lay down My life for the sheep.”
And then He is speaking to Jews here, but He expands, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also,” He is speaking of us Gentiles. “The reason My Father loves Me is I lay down My life only to take it up again. No one takes it from Me; I lay down My life of My own accord. And I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up. This command I received from the Father.”
Now notice the response. They are going, Oh come on. Are You kidding? “At these words the Jews were divided. Many of them said, ‘He is demon possessed, He is raving mad; why listen to Him?’ And others said, ‘These are not the sayings of a demon possessed man. And can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’” In the last chapter, He opened of the man blind from birth.
And so He says His offer for life is that little word for. “I give My life, I lay down My life for the sheep.” In Greek, there are two words for “for.” One is “on behalf of.” I do it for you. The other is, “I’ll do it on behalf of you, but in place of you.” That’s this word.
In other words, what He is saying is, I am going to lay down My life for you as a substitute. And what you deserve for your behavior and your sin and what I deserve for My behavior and My sin and how I have treated people and what I have done – instead of Me receiving that, He says, I’ll lay down My life and I’ll take what you deserve and you can have what I deserve before God’s presence.
And then He says, I am offering this to whosoever will believe. And then finally He says, It’s voluntary. No one is making Me do this. There is no group to blame. I have the power to lay My life down, I have the power to lift it up.
Finally, the Good Shepherd reveals His identity as Savior and God. And this is critical. Because what He is going to say is, I am not one of many. The thieves and the robbers that He is talking about, Josephus makes this comment. He is a Jewish historian of the time, and he talks about Jesus and he talks about that period of history. And there’s a little hyperbole here.
But before Jesus, the last fifty, sixty, eighty years before Jesus, he said there were tens of thousands of messiahs. Well, obviously there weren’t really that many. But what happened is there were groups. And a messiah, someone would claim, “I am the answer. Follow me. We will take down Rome!”
And listen very carefully, because this really hits close to home today. These messiahs would willingly be martyred, they didn’t care if their followers were killed, because they all had the same core theology. They believed that they were ushering in a new apocalyptic day. And the way that day would come is that you followed him and he would die and you might die, but that is going to bring the end of the world.
How many people have done much reading on ISIS? Start reading. They are not a bunch of crazy people who just are bloodthirsty, who just want to kill people for no reason. It is a very clear theology, and it’s not a new theology.
ISIS believes that they are bringing in an apocalyptic age, that the end of the world is coming, that their role is to kill all infidels, which means if you’re not ISIS, you’re an infidel. Even if you’re a moderate Muslim, you’re an infidel.
And so they believe that as they kill these people, they are doing a great act of serving Allah and that it will bring in the ushering of the end of the world. And Jesus is saying, those false messiahs, that’s what they were trying to do. And what did it bring? Killing, stealing, and death. It’s what we see today.
He says, “I came to bring life, and bring it abundantly.” Not a religion of fear and death and intimidation, but a relationship of life and love and forgiveness and restoration.
In fact, your hurts and your needs and your mess-ups and your problems causes Jesus to feel about you the way I felt about my little grandson. I so wanted to fix it, I so wanted to help him, but he couldn’t understand.
Well, you’ll notice there are two responses to this Good Shepherd. He makes a promise in verses 28 and 29. He reveals His identity in verse 30. And then at the very bottom, you’ll see there are going to be two responses where one group wants to seize Him and arrest Him, and a great many other people instead believe.
Pick up the story at verse 22, “Then came the Feast of the Dedication at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was in the temple, walking in Solomon’s colonnade. The Jews gathered around Him and said, ‘How long are You going to keep us in suspense? If You’re the Christ, if You’re the Messiah, just tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered, ‘I did tell you, but you do not believe Me. The miracles I do in My Father’s name speak of Me, but you do not believe because you are not My sheep. My sheep listen to My voice; I know them and they follow Me.’”
Notice, here’s His offer, and it wasn’t just for them. It’s for every person in this room, “I give them,” grant, in other words, grace, “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.”
And then He makes the statement where they want to kill Him again, “The Father and I are One.” And grammatically here He is not saying, “One person.” He is saying, “One essence.”
In grammar you have male, female. And in Greek you have neuter. This is grammatically, “The Father and I are one being,” or, “one essence.” Two people, the third one is the Holy Spirit.
And so what is the response? “Again, the Jews picked up stones to stone Him. But Jesus said, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father; for which of these do you stone Me?’” Was it when I raised the little girl from the dead? Was it when I fed the five thousand? Was it when the blind man could see? How about the lame man by the pool? How about when I fed the four thousand? How about the young man who was in the coffin near the village and I touched the coffin?
These are all historical things that happened. These are not myths. These are not nice tales.
These are not a competing religious salad bar or diet.
This is a Man who historically lived, both inside and outside the Bible. And then after He died and rose from the dead, it’s not like He told two of His special friends and we are supposed to believe them or they had a dream.
For forty days, space/time history, walking in a resurrected body, to over five hundred eyewitnesses. It holds up in any court of law. That is the Jesus that we are worshipping. That’s why all of history is A.D./B.C.
Now, here is the big question: If this whole resurrection and visit by God to the planet was that He could help us, restore us, love us, cleanse us – that our hurts actually emote compassion from Him, here’s His big request, and it’s just amazing. If you get this, it will radically change your life. Jesus wants to be your Shepherd. That’s the goal.
He is not trying to sign you up to be some rigid Christian, He’s not trying to sign you up to become some religious fanatic. He wants to be your personal Shepherd.
And what I thought I would do to close our time is I want to tell you what you could expect of Jesus if, before you walk out these doors you said, You know something? Everybody trusts something or someone.
I have got a family of origin, I was educated here, I have basically thought about life here, I’ve trusted a lot of people what they have said. When I look at the evidence, I think the smartest, wisest thing to do, since He is the only one who has come back from the dead, He is the central figure of history – I think the smartest thing to do is allow Him to be my Shepherd. I am going to ask Him to forgive me, come into my life, and be my Shepherd, and then I am going to start following Him.
I want you to know what it would look like, and what He wants to give you, okay? Because this is not how you see God. And this is how most people can’t even dream God would see them.
Jesus wants to be your Shepherd, number one, to meet your deepest needs. Jot that down, will you? He wants to meet your deepest needs. Your deepest needs are not just health, it’s not finding the right person, it’s not for your kids to come out right, it’s not to get a better job, it’s not to get a second home, it’s not to remodel your kitchen, it’s not for your kids to get in the right school. Those are fine. It’s not that you someday, someway go public.
Your greatest need is to be deeply loved and accepted; to feel significant in who you already are, not what you do; to have a deep, overwhelming sense of security, that it is well with your soul and you can handle any circumstance; and have a very clear purpose in your life. That’s your deepest need.
Now, what I will tell you is our workaholism and we have to do this or we have to have that and I have to look a certain way and I have to earn so much money and drive a certain car, my kids have got to be in this school. And if I’m single, I’ve got to get married. If I’m married, I don’t like it, I’ve got to be single.
All of that is about what? Trying to meet these needs of, Now I’m a somebody! I’m significant! Look at what I have. Now I’ve got security, I added one more zero to my portfolio. Now I’ve got purpose in life! I’m going to raise the greatest kids in the world and when they are successful I’ll feel like, vicariously, I have really done something.
We run our lives like crazy, trying to meet needs that only God can meet. And what He would say is, If you’ll let Me be your Shepherd, then you know what? All those things, the right time in the right way, become tools that I can love you and you can actually have in your hands to help and love other people.
Because at the end of the day, all of us, or at least most of us, we have at least enough relationships with people that have all that, have been all that, and are super successful, and ask them, “Is it enough?” And it never is.
And so we run around trying to gain what other people who are already there, their lives scream, I’ve been through three marriages, I’ve got lots of zeros, I have a house here, a house here, and a house there. The most unhappy people I have ever met in my life are people, not in abject poverty, people who have run it and thought if they had this, this, this, this, this, and this, then. And they have it and they can do whatever they want, any day of the week and go wherever, and it’s empty.
Those aren’t bad things, they just can’t deliver life. “I came that you could have life, and have it abundantly.”
Second, He wants to restore your soul. “He makes you lie down in green pastures, He leads you beside quiet waters, He restores your soul.” The word soul, we get our word “psychology” from. It’s “psyche,” “psykhe.”
Think of what is broken in us – our shopping addictions, our sexual addictions, our alcohol addictions, our work addictions, our pleasing people addictions, our co-dependency addiction, our addition that everyone has to see me a certain way. We run around like crazy and what we have is a soul problem. Our soul is messed up. It’s warped.
He says, “I want to restore it.” Literally the word restore means, “I want to turn it back and bring it to where it really belongs.” And notice He says how He does it, two ways, He goes, “I’ll make you,” that doesn’t sound very fun. He says, “I’ll make you” – what? “I’ll make you sit down,” or, “lie down in green pastures.” This is where it’s good.
But, see, sheep are not all that smart. And some sheep are hardheaded. They have an Ingram tendency in them, that, “I want to do my own thing.” And God says, “No.” Right? He is going to lead us in paths of righteousness. There’s a bad path; there’s a good path. Some sheep, even from the time they are lambs, don’t listen very well.
So what a shepherd would do in that day, with a sling, they were really good. Put a rock in it, tchoo! And then about two feet in front of this sheep it’s this string, and smart sheep will go, Oh! I think I’m going to get back with the other sheep. But some sheep aren’t very smart. And they just keep wandering and wandering. You know what’s going to happen? They are going to die. A wolf is going to get them. And so the shepherd, literally, it’s called, “the bell sheep.”
The shepherd, on purpose, would go over and break the leg of the lamb. And then he would set the leg, then he would take the lamb and put it on his shoulders. And for the next few weeks while that was healing, that lamb would be on his shoulders all the time.
Well, he heard his voice, it built intimacy, it built connection. And then, I’m guessing four to six weeks, that’s what I hear with every broken bone, he would put a little bell around this sheep and it was called, “the bell sheep.”
And because of what happened, one, the pain; the shepherd’s love in the pain; the intimacy – that sheep would never leave the shepherd’s side. Closer than any others. So all the other sheep when they hear, Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! There’s the shepherd.
Can I just, I want to say this gently, some of you are going through horrendous times right now in a relationship or in your finances or at work. Horrendous. And there is bitterness and hurt and betrayal and struggle or cancer. And God doesn’t cause evil, because He is good. But He uses evil and difficulty.
And sometimes He does discipline His sheep, and you know what? So He will make you lie down in green pastures. That’s not a good relationship, and, wow, I lost my job. I’m spending my money here, my time is going here, I forgot, ooh, wow, this happened. Sometimes the kindest thing God ever does is bring difficulty into your life.
Because when difficult things happen, what happens to your attention? All of us, right? I have a kid in ICU, I pray differently. I lose my job, I pray differently. I have a friend going through a horrendous time, I pray differently.
I have been a pastor for a little over thirty years, and this is what I can tell you, and it’s just personal observation. But the people who have been hurt deeply seem to have the greatest appreciation and intimacy with God and seem to display the characteristics of Christ more fully, more brightly, and more powerfully than other people that I know.
So God, He wants to restore you. So sometimes the difficulty is He wants to get your attention. You’re here! Right? Some of you, if you were like me growing up, if someone said, “Do you want to come to church?” “What? On purpose? Are you kidding?”
I had a very warped view of God. And I met a lot of Christians who helped me get it, to be honest.
Third, He wants to guide you and direct your life. “He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” Don’t we all have personnel decisions to make? Should I marry this person, not marry this person, good roommate, bad roommate, should I take this job, don’t take this job, hire this person? We have personnel decisions to make.
Don’t we have wisdom decisions to make? Should I change jobs, should I go this university or that university? Forget universities, I’m an entrepreneur. I should probably…
You have decisions to make, right? Do you want to make good decisions that put you on a good path, or do you want to make bad decisions or wrong decisions that put you on a bad path? Okay. That was a rhetorical question.
Now, just for a moment, lean back. If God is who He says He is – all knowing, all powerful, eternal, all wise, knows all things actual and possible – and your hurts, even your hurts and pains and struggles and mistakes and your sin causes His compassion to well up, infinitely more than me for my grandson, and He wants to help you, and here’s the offer: I know everything. Tomorrow, next year, end of the world. I know how you think, I know everything about everyone. Would you like Me to give you My counsel on what to do tomorrow, on what relationship to get into or out of? On what school to go to or put your kids in? Would you like to know where to invest and what to do with your time, your energy, your money? Because you are My sheep.
And what do shepherds do? They take care of them. Why? Because they love them. They don’t bail out.
So you have this option. He could be your Shepherd, or you could just read the Wall Street Journal. They’re right all the time. Read it on the Internet. You know that’s true, right? I’m messing with you.
Or you could just say, “I got it. I know what’s best for me.” Well look at some of your past decisions. Honest. This is the Dr. Phil moment. How is that working for you? And Jesus is saying, I want to be your Shepherd. I want to meet your needs, I want to restore your soul, I want to direct your life,
I want to protect you from evil. “Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” This is not talking about dying.
This is talking about the sheep, in the summer, in the lowlands, the grass starts to dry out, you have to take them through these ravines up into the mountains and the plateaus where the grass is green. And so when you do that, instead of the big group coming, there are these narrow places and it gets dark and shadowy. Well, that’s where the wolves take out his sheep.
And so David is saying, I have been in some of those times. Partly because I got myself in them. The Bathsheba deal was all me. I blew it. The murder, that was me. Other times, man, that guy betrayed me.
Here is the most amazing thing about God. Whether you mess up your life or someone else messes up your life, the moment you come and say, I just need help, you know what you receive? Compassion. I don’t understand it. Compassion. I’ll forgive, I’ll restore, I will reset it, I will make it right.
And so He says He wants to protect you from evil. It says there is a rod and a staff. And it’s interesting because the rod was a power thing. It was like a billy club of a policeman, wood, and
then it had a big ball at the end and had spikes or nails that would come out of it. And sheep, wolves, they would fight with that. And then the staff was of comfort. It was the long thing with the hook and the sheep is in the briar, you have to pull it out; or it’s in a ravine, you help it out. Or maybe a little nudge to keep him on track.
And all I can tell you is I didn’t grow up as a follower of Jesus, and I remember I was a young pastor, maybe twenty-eight years old, coming out to California. And I saw God’s power.
And since I have had multiple things like this. And it’s not because I’m a pastor, it’s just I’m a sheep and my Shepherd wants to take care of me. So I’m on my way to California, going to the airport. I’m living in Texas; young pastor; little, tiny church.
And I wanted to come learn, I actually was coming out to this church way back when to learn some stuff. And so it’s Texas, it’s super, super hot and it hasn’t rained in a long time. And it starts to drizzle. And in Texas, they call it black ice. There is oil that has been there. And when it just mixes right, it gets literally like black ice.
And so my friend, my buddy and I are driving, actually, it was the pastor over at Westgate, if you know Steve Clifford. He and I are in the car. And we are driving.
And all of a sudden I look three, four hundred yards, and the cars are spinning. It’s like a movie. Tchhh, tchhh, tchhh, tchhh, tchhh. They are all spinning.
I was like, “Oh my gosh!” And so being the intelligent person that I am, I slam on the brakes, right? And so it’s not like it’s snowing, so I wasn’t thinking. And so I slam on the brakes, and the brakes lock, and we start speeding up. I’m going about sixty, now I’m going about seventy.
And all I can tell you is, F-O-R-D. And it was there and then pretty soon it filled the complete windshield. And I don’t know if you have ever had one of these, I have had two, at least, in my life where I thought, I didn’t think, literally the thought was, I didn’t think this is how I would die.
And so I’m in the car like this and Steve yells, “Get off the brake!” And so I did, but I did it like this. It was just like, “Ah!” I put my hands up and everything. The car does this with no one on the steering wheel. Like this. And then shoots through fast through spinning cars. I believe in angels. It’s impossible.
And then I looked back and there are twenty-five cars all strewn over and my heart is going. God just saved my life.
Now, I’m not saying that He does that all the time for everybody, I’m just saying He wanted me to know, Chip, I am your Shepherd. I want to protect you from evil.
In fact, sometimes He doesn’t use the rod, sometimes it’s the staff. So a few years ago, my wife got cancer, and I prayed. And she prayed. God didn’t remove the cancer. God doesn’t promise He takes us out of the world.
We went to Stanford every week. We had treatment after treatment after treatment. I didn’t know if she would live or if she would die. But He comforted us. And I praise God for smart and great doctors and medicine and technology.
And I will tell you this, this happened in my marriage. I thought I had a four-speed car and I had no idea that there was a fifth gear. But our fifth gear came because I didn’t know if I would have her. And there was a level of intimacy and connection that happened after cancer with us and with God that I would never trade, because God says, “Even though you go through the valley of the shadow of death, My rod and My staff, I am with you.” Do you want a Shepherd like that?
The fifth thing He promises, He says, “I want to fill your life with joy.” It’s that picture that I shared of a big battle has happened and there is the big buffet. This is hard to get because so many people think God’s arms are crossed and He is down on you and waiting for you to mess up.
God wants to deliver you from your enemies. And He wants you to have a buffet life of joy. And He wants His goodness and His mercy and His kindness to pursue you. You don’t have to live with, Oh, the shoe is going to drop and what about this? I’m sure something bad is going to happen.
When people live in fear like that, you make really dumb decisions, and you don’t enjoy what you have. Most people in the world don’t enjoy what they have. They are always fearful about how they might lose it or what is going to mess up.
And the final thing He says is just beyond my wildest dreams, He says, “I want to give you eternal life.” He says, “I will dwell in the house of the Lord” – notice, “forever.”
Your hurts, your needs, your struggles and mine, your mess-ups did something down deep and if I can use this word, into the bowels of God, of His compassion, and He ordained that on a certain time at a certain day He could tell you, I love you. I want to be Your Shepherd. But in order for that to happen, you must recognize that I am King, that I am God, and that I have forgiven you.
And in the empty hands of faith, you need to turn away from sin that you know is wrong and ask Me to forgive you, and I will come into your life on this day, in this room, forgive your sins, and then we will walk together. And it won’t be easy, but it will be amazing. And, by the way, it’s for this life and forever and ever.