Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, September 27, 2010

An Open Letter to the Church

Church attendance is down in many Christian churches. There are a number of reasons for this, but I blieve the main reason lies in the hearts of individual believers.  People are simply putting other things before their commitment to serve God.   I think it is important to address this, because I believe that church attendance is key to maintaining our salvation.

So I want to offer the following Bible study as a way to encourage you to attend church. Your attendance shouldn’t be to please me, but because you have identified yourself with Jesus.

Hebrews 10:23-25
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

I want to take this passage of scripture and break it down so we can get at what the scripture is speaking to us.

Hebrews 10:23
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Let us hold fast to our confession of hope. As Christians we have hope in Jesus. Jesus has promised us eternal life. He has promised us heaven. The wonderful thing about this is that heaven is promised to us, not because of what we have done but because of what Jesus has done. In Buddhism, there is the idea of Karma: That your karma affects what happens to you after you die. Karma says that how we live in this lifetime will affect where we go as we wait to be reincarnated. Karma tells us which level of hell we are assigned to and the life we will have when we are reincarnated. It is all based on how we live. But you and I know that we have all done things that are wrong. We have all damaged other people and we have all violated guidelines for righteousness. So if it is up to us we can never achieve heaven. The Buddha cannot change our Karma; he can be no help to us as we go through our lives. It is dependent on us. There is no hope in that. The bible tells us that we all fall short. It tells us that there are none righteous. That includes me and it includes you. So in that belief system we will be doomed to repeat life over and over with no hope of entering heaven. But in Jesus we can have hope because he has died for us. In a way he has changed our karma. Heaven isn’t dependent on us, it’s dependent only on what Jesus has done and us confessing faith in him and repenting.

If we’re Christians we believe that Jesus paid a price for our sin. We need to hold fast to that confession of faith, because it is the basis by which we will be judged. That phrase “hold fast’” means to grab a hold of it and not let go. How do we do that. We can hold fast by doing things that will increase our faith in Jesus. Or doing things that build faith.

1. Prayer. Prayer strengthens our relationship with Jesus. Think of it like this: If you have a friendship with someone but you never speak to that person or spend time with them what happens to the relationship. It will begin to break down, because there is nothing to strengthen that relationship.

2. Read your Bible. As you read the Bible you see the faithfulness of God demonstrated over and over. You can see the prophecies that have been fulfilled. When Jesus was born that was the fulfillment of more than 300 prophecies. As you see his faithfulness and the truth of prophecy you can realize that you can believe God. God never changes he is just as faithful today as he was in Biblical times.

3. Go to church. The Bible in Romans 10:17 tells us that, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Hearing the word of God strengthens faith.

These things will help us to hold fast to that confession of Faith.

Let’s now examine verse 24 of our text:

Hebrews 10:24
24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,

This verse speaks of being an example. We are to consider each other in an attempt to stir up love and good works. Let’s face a fact here, people are watching our lives. What do other people see when they watch your life? Is what your doing stirring up love and good works? Is your life an encouragement to others to do the will of God?

This is the real issue. We are not alone in our salvation. There are other people involved in our destiny and the will of God for our lives. We look at other Christians to understand how to live and to act as a Christian and other people look at our lives. Someone else fulfilling his or her destiny in Jesus may be dependent on our example. All of us are examples to someone else. We are definitely an example to other people in the church, but beyond that friends and families gain their understanding of Christianity from watching us. Does your example demonstrate the importance of living out the will of God? Can someone who isn’t saved look at your life and see how important Jesus and your salvation are to you? Do they see you talking about Jesus, maybe even confronting them about Jesus, but don’t see you placing any importance on being in church? Because believe me they are forming their opinion about Jesus from watching how you live.

In the last verse of our text we read this:

Hebrews 10:25
25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

This verse simply tells us that we should attend church. Through our attendance we are exhorting (encouraging) one another. We build our faith and we help to build someone else’s by church attendance. This is vital if we want to have the faith to endure until the end. I’ve been preaching a number of sermons, recently, on faithfulness. Faithfulness is a sign of our faith. But if we’re not there to hear them how can we be stirred up to love, good works and faith.

Finally, we must understand the purpose of the church. The purpose of the church is to reach the lost for Jesus. In a number of cases that means friends, families and coworkers. Our goal is to reach them as well as neighbors. We are placed in this place to reach people in Taoyuan City. That’s what this church is placed in this city to do. But we lose momentum when people don’t faithfully attend church.

When we don’t attend church:

1. We send a message to our friends and families that church isn’t really important to us. We are telling them that church is just a place where people gather, like a social club, but that there is no power to change lives there.

2. The Bible establishes that God has chosen the foolishness of the message preached to save those that believe (1 Corinthians 1:21). If we don’t attend church we miss God’s chosen method of salvation and change.

3. When we don’t attend and someone we have invited does, then the only connection that they have to the church is missing. They have come because of the relationship they have with you. They are likely to not come back because you have let them down.

Assembling ourselves together builds bonds between us: Bonds that will help us to weather the attacks of the enemy. It is important to us to come together as a fellowship of believers:

1. To build up each other’s faith.

2. To strengthen our own faith.

3. To develop relationships that will help us to reach our own personal destiny in the will of God.

4. To hear the word of God preached, God’s method of change and salvation for us.

An excellent question to ask yourself is this, “Is my salvation important to me, or are there other things that I have placed before my relationship with Jesus?”

The rich young ruler asked Jesus what must I do to inherit eternal life? The question is what thing shall I do to go to heaven. Jesus answers him in an interesting way. He begins to list off commandments: Specifically, the commandments that deal with our relationships with other people. And the ruler tells him, “Cool, I’ve done these things since my youth.” Then Jesus tightens up a little bit, he says, “There’s one thing you need to do still, sell everything you own, give it to the poor, take up your cross and follow me.” Jesus isn’t saying that you have to be poor to be saved. But what he’s doing is focusing on the issue in this man’s life; his possessions. He’s saying if you value something more than your relationship with Jesus, you can’t inherit eternal life. He says that in another way in the Luke 14:

Luke 14:26-27
26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.27 “And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

That word hate doesn’t mean what we take it to mean in our generation. It only means to love less. So what Jesus is saying is that we can’t be his disciple if there is something we put before Jesus. Jesus wants to be first in our lives. If we are going to call him Lord, we need to treat him like he’s our Lord.

This letter is intended to encourage you and exhort you to be an active part of the church. It is not intended to condemn anyone. I want to see you get the most from your relationship with God and I’m concerned that some of you are putting other things before your relationships with Jesus. I understand about work commitments and I understand about family commitments. But I really want you to focus on what is keeping you from church.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bethesda: The House of Grace

Many of us can look at our lives, the things we came out of, and see what it is that Jesus has done for us. We can look at our lives before Jesus and see what we had made of them. We can look back and see what the sin that we had allowed to enter our lives had done to us. If you’re a Christian today, you sit in church changed and set free, by His grace and mercy. Today I want to share with you a moment of grace and mercy from the Bible.

John 5:1-13
1After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 2Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew, Bethesda, having five porches. 3In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had. 5Now a certain man was there who had an infirmity thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, “Do you want to be made well?”  7The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me.”  8Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” 9And immediately the man was made well, took up his bed, and walked.  And that day was the Sabbath. 10The Jews therefore said to him who was cured, “It is the Sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your bed.”  11He answered them, “He who made me well said to me, ‘Take up your bed and walk.’”  12Then they asked him, “Who is the Man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?” 13But the one who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, a multitude being in that place. 14Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”

The House of Grace

The word Bethesda in Hebrew means House of Grace. It is probably named that because of the grace, or mercy, shown to the ill and lame who were healed in the pool. Bethesda had five porches. Five is the number of grace; in the same way that six is the number for man and seven is the number of completion, or perfection.

So here at the pool of healing we see Jesus with a man who is afflicted: A man who has suffered his affliction for many years. This is the place where he meets Jesus; the place where he has that one encounter with Jesus that makes him whole; that sets him free of his afflictions. He has suffered this affliction for thirty-eight years and in one moment of time his affliction is swept away. In one encounter with Jesus his suffering ends. It takes place right here, at the pool of Bethesda. It’s interesting that this meeting took place here at the pool. It didn’t happen on the streets of Jerusalem. This man didn’t meet with Jesus, on his own, some place. He met with him here at the “House of Grace.”

There is a House of Grace in our lives, as well. There is a place where we can meet with Jesus and the pain and suffering or our affliction can be taken away in a moment, just like the man at the pool. Our affliction may be a physical affliction that requires physical healing, but it is also a spiritual affliction. We can have an encounter with Jesus that frees us, in one moment, of the affliction of sin. The House of Grace in our times is the local church. The local church is the place where you can have an encounter with Jesus that will set you free. At the altar of repentance you can meet Jesus and be transformed. Through His death on the cross He has made it possible for our sin, our affliction, to be taken away. By His stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53:5
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.

He is the Angel of the Lord that stirs the water and brings healing. We meet with Him at a place like this where He transforms us, in a moment of time, and heals us of our transgressions and afflictions.

Entering Into the Pool

In order for this man to be released of his affliction he had to enter the pool. The Bible says in verses three and four of our text

John 5:3-4
3In these lay a great multitude of sick people, blind, lame, paralyzed, waiting for the moving of the water. 4For an angel went down at a certain time into the pool and stirred up the water; then whoever stepped in first, after the stirring of the water, was made well of whatever disease he had.

After the water was stirred up, the first one who entered into the pool was healed. You have to submerge into the House of Mercy to be healed. But how many people do you meet that tell you they’re Christians; they tell you their believers, but they have no home church? How many people have you met that have a long list of churches that they’ve attended but not a church to which they’re committed? The problem is that they’ve spent their lives on the fringes. They’ve never been willing to put themselves into God’s method of transformation for their lives, which is to lock into a church. They’ve never allowed themselves to be immersed into God’s will for their lives. They’ve been around the church but aren’t willing to ground themselves in God’s word. Because of their unwillingness to step into that they continue in their affliction.

I used to know a man, who asked me about my church. He wasn’t interested in the church’s doctrine. He asked me about how many people attended. He asked about fellowship opportunities. He told me that he played softball at his church. But he shared with me that he didn’t think they would ask him that year. He said he hadn’t attended church lately. Actually, he didn’t attend at all, he just played softball with them. He had the aura of church attendance, but in fact, didn’t attend church at all. There was no change in his life. He continued to live the way he lived before: His wife was ready to leave him his life was a mess. He was still caught up in his affliction because he was on the fringes. He never immersed himself into the pool of healing.

What do we see in our text? On the porches there was a multitude of people. There were a lot of people on the fringes. They see the power of God manifested in the lives of those who enter the pool. They see the miracles, they see the transformation, and they want those things to take place in their lives but they never make it into the pool. They aren’t aggressively seeking the miracle, they’re hanging around the pool, they’re close to the pool, but…

It makes me think of the woman with the issue of blood.

Luke 5:25-29
25Now a certain woman had a flow of blood for twelve years, 26and had suffered many things from many physicians. She had spent all that she had and was no better, but rather grew worse. 27When she heard about Jesus, she came behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment. 28For she said, “If only I may touch His clothes, I shall be made well.”  29Immediately the fountain of her blood was dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of the affliction.

This woman aggressively sought healing. The Bible says she, “suffered many things from many physicians.” She was looking for a cure, when she heard about Jesus. She knows that if she can reach Him she can be healed. So she’s willing to risk arrest.

She had an issue of blood, so she was unclean. She was required to walk the streets and call out, “Unclean.” She could touch no one. But here she is, she pushed her way through a throng of people to reach Jesus. She had to press past maybe hundreds of bodies to get next to him. She wanted to touch him; she wanted to enter in; she wanted to be made well.

She could have stayed on the fringes. She could have waited for Jesus to notice her. But she risked it all, she went to Him to be healed and set free. The question is, “Are you willing to allow God to stir up the waters of life in you? Are you willing to step in and immerse yourself in the will of God/

The man in our text tells Jesus, “I have no one to place me in the water and when I come down someone gets there before me.” But he wasn’t aggressive about reaching the water. He could have set his cot right at the water’s edge, so when it got stirred up he could roll off the cot and into the water. If you really want it you’ll be at the edge of the water ready to dive in at the first sight of movement not back up in the fringes or on the porches. "Oh look the water’s moving, quick, someone carry me to the pool. Oh, it stopped, oh well maybe next time.”

In order to be healed of the affliction you must immerse yourself. You must enter into the will of God for your life. It’s not going to happen until you take the step, like the woman with the issue of blood, and aggressively seek God’s miracle for your own life. You must enter into the pool with a desire to be healed and transformed, and then God can work with you, and change you.

Continuing in Sin

Finally, let’s take a look at Jesus’ final comments to this man at Bethesda.

John 5:14
14Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.”

Jesus is admonishing that if he continues in sin a worse thing can happen to him. You know, you can attend church and lose your salvation. After this kind of encounter you can’t continue in sin, because something worse can come upon you. Understand tis, just because his grace is upon you, you can’t continue to sin and rely on that grace. That’s not how grace is intended. Grace is intended to give us a fresh start, a new beginning. We abuse grace by accepting grace and continuing to sin.

Romans 6:1-2
1What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?

What’s interesting here is that as this man sat on the fringes, Jesus came to him. In this moment we see a snapshot of His grace as He reaches into this man’s life and gives him the healing he desires. We can see the same snapshot of grace as Jesus reached into our lives and brought healing and transformation to us. He desires that all of us have an opportunity to be cleansed and healed. He wants to use us as instruments of His grace to reach out to others.

But there is a warning here to us that we can fall from his grace, by continuing to sin. How valuable is your salvation to you? How valuable is the free gift that was given to you in the moments of Jesus’ death and resurrection? Are you willing to put to death the “Old Man of Sin”? Or do you esteem so lightly the grace that was given through His suffering that you would put Him on the cross once again? Is there sin you are unwilling to give up?

I know a man who was saved about 25 years ago. Throughout his life God changed him and showed him much grace and mercy. But he continues to smoke. In fact, the day I met him and he found out that I was a Christian he told me, “I know God is going to deliver me from smoking, but he’s going to do it in His own time.” Well, the fact is, that God’s time is now. But God couldn’t deliver him from smoking until he took the first step and put it down. The problem was he wasn’t willing to put off the old man of sin. Then he was diagnosed with lung cancer. I told him, “Look man, God is trying to get a hold of you right now. This is what God is doing to get you to lay that stuff down.” His reply was interesting,, “I already have cancer, now, so why quit.” I was sad to attend his funeral.

In our text Jesus is warning us that if we continue in sin, “a worse thing can come upon us.” We need to take our salvation seriously. He paid for that gift of grace with his life. He willingly gave his life and it cheapens his death by continuing in sin and letting that grace abound.

It is like when somebody gives you something of great value and you don’t take care of it because you paid nothing for it. Are you that way with your salvation? Do you care so little about it that you don’t guard it and ensure that you never lose it? That you don’t work to keep it healthy?

Pastor Glen Cluck once said, “If you live your l;ife like you could lose your salvation, you probably won’t.” In other words if you are aware that your salvation could be lost and live with that awareness, then you will do what it takes to preserve it.

Here is a fundamental truth for life: We need to enter into the House of Grace and submerge ourselves in it. We need to dive into the will of God, so that we can receive the promise of mercy and spiritual healing. Total immersion in the will of God is what does it.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Identifying with Jesus: The Shepherd

I recently read a history book about one of America’s Generals. This man fought in America’s Civil War that resulted in the end of slavery in America. After the Civil War he fought Indians in the United States Cavalry. These are mounted horse soldiers. His career culminated in a battle called the battle of the Little Bighorn, (a river in the northwestern United States.) against an overwhelming army of Sioux Indian Braves. 225 soldiers willing to fight to the death for General George Armstrong Custer followed him into this battle. The Battle is known as Custer’s Last Stand. Why were these men willing to follow Custer into a battle that would result in the death of every single man?

They followed because they identified with the courage and ideals of their leader. They bought into his vision. Many of his men loved him and they dressed like him, they affected his mannerisms. Their identity with him led them to follow him and obey his commands.

Identity is a powerful force. When we identify with the vision of the leader, we’ll follow without reservation. This happens in military organizations all over the world. It happens in Fire Departments, Police Departments, and just about any aspect of life that you can imagine.

It should happen in the church of Jesus Christ, as well. We should buy into His vision and willingly follow our leader and shepherd: Jesus Christ. I want to continue with my series, “Identifying with Christ.” I believe that the keys to life change and deliverance lie in identifying with Jesus.

John 10:14-16
.14 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.15 “As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.16 “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Jesus Knows his Followers And We Know Him

Sheep calling contests are common in the Palestine. Several flocks of sheep are placed in an enclosure and mixed together. Then shepherds whistle a distinctive tune; some call or shout in a peculiar manner. Some shepherds use a pipe with a particular pitch. Each shepherd’s signal is understood by his own sheep and they respond immediately. They make their way through the crowded enclosure to where their shepherd is waiting. The shepherd who collects a given number of sheep in the shortest time is the winner.

Why do the sheep respond to their own shepherd’s peculiar signal? They respond because they know and trust their shepherd. They know he brings them to food and water, that he protects them from wolves and lions. He has even rescued from death and injury. So, they recognize his call and respond. This is the way we should be with our shepherd: The one who has rescued us from the danger of sin and saved us from spiritual death. Jesus is our shepherd and as His flock we should know and trust Him.

A good shepherd knows his sheep. He knows which are stubborn and which are compliant. He knows which ones tend to wander. He has to know and understand each one in order to keep them safe and within the fold.

The same is true of Jesus. He knows His followers. He knows what’s going on in our minds and hearts. He understands our attitudes and behavior. He’s a good shepherd; He knows His sheep. The Bible tells us He knows us intimately.

Matthew 10:29-30
29 “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.30 “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

God knows how many hairs are on our heads. He knows what makes us tick. He sees what’s in our hearts. Have you ever known someone so well that you could understand how he or she would react to something? You could guess what decision they would make. That comes from knowing someone really well. You understand their personality. You know how they think, how they will feel about something. That is being able to see their heart. You can see the good things in their personality and their character and you see the bad. You see their heart.

The Bible tells us that God looks at men differently than we look at men. God doesn’t look at the outward he sees the character of the man. We make judgments about people by what they look like don’t we? That girl is beautiful and has a nice smile; she must be a nice person. That guy’s big and good-looking; he’s probably a good leader.

That’s how we think, but it isn’t how God thinks. He knows us well. He sees our hearts. The amazing thing is that even though He sees what’s deep inside. He sees the things that we even try to hide from ourselves and He still cares for us. He cares enough that He gave His life for us. That’s the ay a shepherd acts, he gives his life for his sheep.

John 10:11-13
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.12 “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.13 “The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.

This scripture tells us something about Jesus’ character. He’s like a shepherd that gives his life for his sheep. It speaks of His faithfulness. He faces danger and death for His sheep. This is what Christ has done for us. He has given his life. It wasn’t taken from Him…He gave it.

It’s interesting to watch shepherds as they work in the Israel. We don’t really see shepherds much in Taiwan. But in Israel the shepherds lead the sheep, they walk before them in front of them and the sheep follow them. They crowd around the shepherd and stay close.

We should be like those sheep wanting to be closer, not following because we have to, but because we wnant to be near Him. That’s why the sheep press in on the shepherd like that…they want the comfort that comes from being near him. They don’t just go to the shepherd when there’s trouble. They go to him and follow him all the time.

But people are different, aren’t they? Most of us only come to Jesus when there’s trouble in our lives. When things are going well we don’t see the need. Have you noticed that? When things are going well in people’s lives, they become hit and miss about church attendance. When we have the things we need or want, we give those things precedence over the one who provides them for us. I can’t begin to tell you how many women I have known that prayed for a husband then as soon as they found a boyfriend they gave up all their ministry and disappeared from church. When we get what we want, suddenly we’re not crowding around the shepherd anymore. Things are safe, there’s no apparent danger.

The shepherd understands the needs of the sheep. He provides for those needs. He leads them to food and water. He protects them from danger. He looks out for their well-being. Someone who understands your strengths and weaknesses is in a better position to meet your needs and to protect you…from yourself. In order for jesus to be qualified to be the shepherd He must understand us; and he does.

Hebrews 4:13-15
13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

No creature is naked to Him. He sees all of us. He sees beyond the image we project to the world. He knows our hearts and He can sympathize. That word sympathize means He can enter into the feelings of another. In other words He knows what it’s like to be us. There’s compassion in that. He wants to see our needs met.

In Matthew Chapter 8, a leper comes to Jesus and he says, “If you will, I can be cleansed.” In the New King James Version, Jesus replies. “I will…be cleansed.” But look at his response to that statement as it is presented in the Weust Expanded New Testament. (A type of Amplified version of the Bible.) “I desire it from all of my heart.” That’s how Jesus feels about meeting our needs. He desires it from all of His heart. He knows and understands our needs and desires to see them fulfilled.

We Follow Willingly

The sheep in our illustration follow the shepherd closely. They gather around him. They walk close to him. They respond to his voice. That’s a picture of how it should be for us to follow Jesus. The problem is that we miss this idea. We think we can be independent of the shepherd and still see him meet our needs. There are few of us who give ourselves completely into the care of the shepherd. I know two women that are about the same age, both unmarried.

One of them is looking for a husband. She’s desperate. She sees herself getting older and there’s no man in the near future for her. But that’s what she prays for. God bring me a man. She had been saved about 8 years and there weren’t any men for her yet. So she became angry with God and left the church.

The other woman has told me she’s waiting for God. She gets lonely sometimes but she isn’t desperate for a husband. She says she’ll get married when God brings a man for her and says, “This is Him.” Her whole philosophy is to wait for God and God’s guidance.

The second one is the one who has given herself completely into Jesus’ care. She follows closely by the shepherd, listening for His voice, looking to see where He will guide her. And do you know what? Time after time I have seen God move in her life, meeting her needs. That’s how a shepherd works in the lives of his sheep. But do you know what the key is? It’s the surrender of her own will to follow the will of the shepherd.

Look at your own relationship with Christ. Are you pressing in to be close to Him? Or are you lingering out on the fringes? Are you looking for the shepherd to guide you, or are you making your own decisions? Are you surrendering your own will to follow the will of the shepherd?

Surrender is the key to many of the locked doors in your life. It’s the key to real change in your life. It’s the key to deliverance. It’s the key to God’s provision. Without willingly surrendering yourself into his care those doors will remain closed.

I want you to think about that statement for a moment. When you turn your will over to His will and you begin to follow closely. You will see that His ways are not like our ways. As you endeavor to live His way and to think like He would think, His thoughts will become your thoughts and you will act accordingly.

Now what does that mean? You will find yourself looking at the world, not from your carnal, selfish way of thinking, but from His way of thinking. You will then respond with actions based on His way of thinking. Christians often talk about being “Born Again” but being born again comes from taking different actions than you took in your old way of thinking.

This is where deliverance springs from, you’re dependent on Jesus for direction and protection. Too many times we turn to sin for comfort. We mistake lust for the love that we’re searching for. We mistake the feeling of drugs and alcohol for the joy and happiness that we’re seeking. By following Jesus for direction and protection we can experience real love and know true joy and happiness.

If we follow Christ He will bring us to places of provision. That’s what a shepherd does. He provides food and water for the sheep. He is the provider. If we follow Jesus He will see that our needs are met. The sheep that follow the shepherd have surrendered their lives to the shepherd. We also need to surrender to our shepherd and follow willingly, wherever he leads us.

What does it mean to Follow Him

John 10:3-5
3 “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.4 “And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.5 “Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

The sheep in this scripture are listening for the voice of the shepherd. They listen for that one voice. They don’t answer to just any call. They listen and respond only to His call.

There are so many people who go to this church and that church. They go looking around, shopping around for a church that will satisfy their needs. They aren’t listening for the call of the shepherd in the place where they are, they’re answering every call.  This is a dangerous behavior. There is no surrender there. It’s still a carnal, selfish way of thinking. “I’ll find out what’s the best thing going!”

John Chapter 6 tells of a story of people that are not surrendered. They’re still looking to have their own needs met. They’re looking for Jesus to be they want Him to be, instead of surrendering their lives and following Him.

Jesus has just fed 5,000 men and their families on a young boy’s lunch. The people begin to follow Him because of that miracle. They are looking to keep their bellies full. They’re looking to have carnal needs met. But Jesus begins to tell them that He’s the Bread of Life; that following Him will give them Eternal Life and they reject that. They aren’t looking for spiritual food. They are looking for a messiah that will meet their physical needs and so they turn away from Him.

Jesus turns to the 12 disciples and asks them, “Do you want to leave, too?” Peter answers for them all and says, “To whom would we go? You have the words of Eternal Life.” Peter has surrendered his will to Jesus. He is following Jesus closely. He’s not bouncing from man to man, looking for a Messiah that fits his picture of a messiah. He’s following his shepherd.

You can see the change in Peter as you read through the New Testament. He changes from Simon, the brash, prideful, compulsive fisherman to Peter, the leader of the first century church. How did he change? He surrendered to the will of the shepherd.

There is one last point I want to make; that is that Peter shows evidence that he follows Jesus by asking the question, “To whom would we go?” We show evidence of our surrender through the following of his commands.

John 14:21
21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”

He who loves me follows my commands. The sheep are guided by the command of the shepherd and they follow and have affection for the shepherd.

My daughter has a cat. When she leaves to go somewhere that cat sits by the door and waits for her to come home. When she does he sits in her arms and rubs his face against her. He doesn’t do that with the rest of us only her. There is affection that he has for her. He follows her everywhere. Where you find Emily you’ll find the cat. That cat will hear Emily’s voice and run in that direction, not the rest of us. This is what Jesus says about the sheep. The sheep follow him, they know his voice, and they follow only him

If you love Jesus you will follow His commands…willingly…even the ones you don’t want to follow. If you identify with Jesus as your shepherd, you can see real change in your life. You can experience deliverance and you can know real joy.