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 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.

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