Saturday, February 11, 2017
Our Shepherd Securely Saves Us
Of all the metaphors Jesus could have used to describe His followers, calling us sheep is not very flattering (Matthew 15:24; Psalm 119:176). Yet deservedly so, for compared to Him, we lack wisdom (James 1:5), strength (Psalm 6:2) and even common sense (Psalm 69:5). We tend to wander away from the path (Psalm 107:40) straight into danger (Psalm 141:9), and to follow a herd mentality that collectively as well as individually often gets us into trouble (Job 14:1).
Without His guidance (Psalm 119:105), mercy (Romans 9:16) and protection (2 Samuel 22:2) we are helpless, vulnerable to predators, and doomed to death (1 Peter 5:8). But His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9), and He alone can save us (Acts 4:12) and keep us (Romans 8:39; 1 Peter 1:5). Sheep are simple creatures, and thankfully, so is the path to salvation – all we must do is believe (Acts 16:31).
Jesus criticized the Pharisees for not believing in Him, and therefore not being part of His flock (John 10:26). They were trying to confuse the simplicity of His message by adding to, omitting, and changing God’s Word (Revelation 22:18-19). Unlike the Pharisees, believers in Christ hear His voice; for He knows us and we follow Him (John 10:27).
Once we believe that He died to pay for our sins and reconcile us to Holy God (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2); that He was buried; and that He rose again (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) so that all who trust Him will live forever with Him (John 3:16), we have a relationship with Him in which He knows, guides and protects us and we trust , follow and obey Him (Psalm 23). This is so simple that a child can be saved (Matthew 18:3-4), just as a child soon grows to know, love and obey the parents who nurture, care for, and teach him (Proverbs 22:6; Ephesians 6:4)
In contrast, the Pharisees preached a doctrine of their own legalistic tradition (Matthew 15:3-6), in which salvation was based on following the law (Matthew 19:17-20), respecting religious rituals, and painstakingly counting out the tithe even from the seeds they gathered from their herbs (Matthew 23:23). But in this self-righteous system of salvation by good works (Galatians 1:8-9), they ignored the greatest commandment, which is to love God and to love one another (Matthew 22:36-40).
Although a good shepherd will guard his flock even to the point of jeopardizing his own life (John 10:15), earthly sheep eventually die from natural causes. But the Good (John 10:11,14), Great (Hebrews 13:20), and Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4) promises His sheep eternal life! (John 10:28)
Once we hear His voice, believe in, and follow Jesus Christ, we are His forever, for no man can remove us from His secure grip (John 10:28). He loves us infinitely (1 John 4:8), is omnipotent (Genesis 18:14) and all-knowing (Psalm 139:6), so it is His desire (2 Peter 3:9) and completely within His power and wisdom not only to save us (Hebrews 7:25), but to keep us and to give us eternal life (John 3:16).
Just in case we had any doubts about this, Jesus goes on to assure us that His Father is completely on board with this plan, being the ultimate backup defense. God the Father, Who is greater than all, gave all believers to God the Son for safekeeping, which is a fail-safe plan because Jesus the Son and God the Father are One (John 10:29).
To make it absolutely clear that once we are saved, we cannot lose our salvation, Jesus reassures us that we are in the double grip of His hand, surrounded by the Father’s hand (John 10:29-30). No one, nothing, no power could pluck us from the hand of God the Father, which surrounds the hand of God the Son, where we are securely kept from all evil, harm and danger.
The three Persons of the Trinity – God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit always act together, in one accord, for they are united in will (Luke 3:22). Therefore, the Holy Spirit must also participate in ensuring the eternal security of the believer.
Not only are we held securely in the impenetrable grip of Christ, and further protected by the omnipotent hand of the Father, but this fortress is also sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13; 4:30). No question that in this sealed double grip we are eternally safe!
In contrast, the Pharisees’ grip is weak and their religiosity completely impotent to save (Matthew 23:15). When they attempted to capture Jesus for alleged blasphemy, He escaped out of their hand (John 10:33-39).
As our pastor likes to say, religion is dangerous, deadly, and will lead you straight to hell. We are saved not by baptism, attending church, or tithing, but by His grace through our faith in His death, burial and resurrection, not by works (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Ephesians 2:8-9). Those who are “good Baptists” or those of any denomination, but who have never believed in Him, heard His voice and followed His lead are doomed to hell (Mark 16:16).
They may protest that they did many good works in the name of Jesus. But He will counter that He never knew them, command that they leave His presence, and call them “workers of inquity” (Luke 13:23-28; Matthew 7:22-23). Saved or unsaved, we are all sinners (Romans 3:23), but those who have trusted Christ are forgiven (1 John 1:9); our sins are paid for in full by His shed blood (Galatians 3:13), and removed from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).
He robes believers in His righteousness (Revelation 19:8), which is our wedding garment at the marriage feast, whereas those who have not trusted Him will be ashamed at their lack of this garment and be cast out into utter darkness (Matthew 22:2-14).
The parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15:1-7) illustrates that we can only be found when we know we are lost. Notice that the ninety nine sheep are not in the safety of the sheepfold, as the hymn states, but in the wilderness, which is a type of sin. The Shepherd leaves the ninety nine sheep who are unaware of their plight and finds the single lost sheep, laying it across his shoulders all the way home, and rejoicing with his friends and neighbors.
Jesus explains the parable by saying that all heaven will rejoice over a sinner who repents, rather than over ninety nine self-righteous people who think they are holy, have no reason to repent, and have no need of the Shepherd.
To drive the point home, He then tells the parable of the lost (prodigal) son, who was lost but was found when he came to the end of himself, realized he was unworthy, and returned to His Father (Luke 15:11-32).
Some reading this may protest that the backslidden Christian is no longer part of Jesus’ flock. But to argue this would be to contradict the doctrine of eternal security. If we did nothing to earn our salvation, there is nothing we can do to lose it, even if were foolish enough so to desire.
The Great Shepherd made an eternal promise with His sheep, wrote it in His shed blood, and He alone can make us perfect (mature or complete) in every good work, according to His will, for His pleasure. His “everlasting covenant” means that it can never be broken by our own actions, omissions, or evil thoughts, nor by anyone, anything, or any power (Hebrews 13:20-21).
Praise God that through Christ, our pastors, deacons and teachers can be undershepherds, feeding His flock with pure motives, not for financial gain, and being good examples for believers to follow. Praise God that when Jesus Christ, the chief Shepherd, appears, He will reward these undershepherds with a crown of glory that will never fade! (1 Peter 5:1-4)
© 2017 Laurie Collett