The Gift of SecurityPastor Lutzer | March 6, 2016
Selected highlights from this sermon
Jesus called Himself a shepherd. The Father gave Him sheep, and He still cares for them today. Those who are His sheep are truly in the hands of a Good Shepherd. And this Shepherd doesn’t lose his sheep.
Can God lose those who are saved through faith in Jesus? Absolutely not. We are the sheep, and He preserves us according to His gracious kindness.
The questiaon of whether or not a truly born again person can eternally be lost is one that has often divided the church. The reason that there is a difference of opinion is that there are some passages in the Bible that seem to teach (they are warning passages) that a genuine Christian can, in the end, rebel against God and be lost forever. But there are also some passages of Scripture that clearly teach otherwise and both cannot be correct. And when we look up those passages that seem to teach that you can fall away permanently, we know that there are alternate interpretations which make good sense.
So the bottom line in this: What I’m going to be arguing for in this message is the security of the believer. For those who have genuinely put their faith in Jesus Christ, their souls are eternally secure. And this happens to be a message entitled The Inheritance of the Redeemed and this is number seven: The Security that Comes to All Those Who Believe in Christ.
I want you to take your Bibles and turn now to John 10, and we’re going to read a few verses. And I will comment on those verses, and then we will continue through the passage very briefly.
John 10: “Truly, truly, I say to you (Jesus, of course, is speaking), he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”
In verse 7 you have one of the seven statements of Jesus – I am: “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.”
Just that far for a moment! Some commentators have wondered how Jesus Christ can be both the door and the shepherd. Well, in the Middle East it is sometimes said that when sheep are resting in a cave during the night, there have been shepherds who have actually lain across the door and slept at the door so that if anyone tries to get in to steal the sheep or to trouble them, they have to go past the shepherd. So Jesus here is using a metaphor that can be used in two ways. He is the door. Through Him we have access to the Father, but He is also the Good Shepherd.
And who are these that come before Him who are thieves and robbers? They are not the prophets of the Old Testament, the faithful prophets. They are rather some of the prophets that were false prophets. And they were in it for the profits. And so Jesus said they are spurious. “They are false shepherds, but I am the Good Shepherd.”
Now let me explain to you exactly what we’re going to do in this message so that you can follow it, I hope, with a clarity and blessing that will absolutely be overwhelming. What I’m going to do is to give you four things that the Good Shepherd does for His sheep. And I want you to open your heart to God and just be blessed by how good our shepherd is and what He does on our behalf.
First of all, you’ll notice that He calls the sheep. He calls them. The text says there in verse 3 (we read it), “He calls them all by name and leads them out.” You know, in those days shepherds (because they were connected to the sheep for wool and some of them lived for ten years) actually built a bond with these sheep and gave them names. Often they were descriptive names that might actually describe the sheep, like Black Ear or Short Legs, or whatever. But the shepherd gave them names and he knew them by name, and the sheep recognized that they had a name, and they heard his voice and they knew it.
It is said that in the Middle East when there were herds or flocks of sheep that spent the night together, in order to separate them the shepherd would simply go outside of the cave and he would speak words. And immediately those who belonged to him would come toward him. And another shepherd would do the same, and the sheep would separate themselves because, “they know the shepherd’s voice.” Notice that he calls his own sheep by name – an intimate relationship.
Jesus knows your name exactly, and you know His voice through His Word. It is not only that it is a personal name – a personal relationship – but another way to describe it is that it is really a sovereign relationship. In a few moments Jesus is going to be talking about the fact that there is this group of people that has been given to Him as a gift, namely his sheep.
You know, in the Bible, that word calling really has two different meanings depending on the context. There is the general call: “Many are called but few are chosen.” But then there’s the specific call to salvation. And Paul says, “Not many of you are called. Not many rich, not many noble are called.” The called are biblically the elect, and they receive a special call from God.
Now later I’ll explain that you can know whether or not you are part of that company. But it is so personal. Perhaps at Founder’s Week you heard Stephen Davey give that wonderful illustration that he was in India. And he walked into this hotel and a man walked next to him. He came over to him and said, “I want to tell you your future.” He was very impressive – dressed in a white suit. And Stephen didn’t want to, but the man was so persistent. “I want to tell you your future.” And finally Stephen said this to him. He said, “I’ll let you tell my future to me if you answer this question. Tell me my name.” And the man looked down and said, “I can’t do that.” He said, “Well, you know the deal is over then.”
Isn’t it wonderful that you and I have a shepherd who knows our name, and He’s the one who also knows our future? And when you think of the shepherd out there with all of his sheep, even historically during the time when Jesus was speaking this, which would have been so relationally correct in terms of the people and their knowledge of sheep, the shepherd has all of the sheep on his heart. And He’s very vigilant as He sees them all. Today God has you on His heart. He calls us.
Not only that, He leads us. That’s what the text says. He leads us. He leads us out. Now this happens in two ways. First of all, He goes before them (That’s what the text says.), and the sheep follow Him.
So I want you to visualize this happening, how that the shepherd is going ahead, and all of the sheep follow. He does not want those sheep to go anywhere where he hasn’t gone because he needs to keep them from poison grass. He needs to keep them from danger along the route, and so he never expects them to go alone. He’s always ahead of them. And when he comes to a stream and the sheep don’t want to follow him, he’ll go into the herd – into the flock – and he’ll pick up a little lamb and put it on his shoulder, and then he will walk across the stream, and pretty soon the mother – the ewe – follows. And after that the others say, “Okay, she’s going. All the rest of us will go.”
And isn’t that what God sometimes does in life? He takes a little child or an adult, and when they are home in glory they are reminding us of the fact that we need also to have a perspective to follow our shepherd all the way – not just across a stream, but across a river to make it on the other side.
Now, sometimes the shepherd, however, isn’t leading them. He has to be shepherding them. And there are various kinds of sheep, I’ve been learning, as I studied for this message. There are sheep, for example, that are cast down sheep. You can see this very clearly. There are many pictures of it. A cast down sheep is a sheep that is on its back because the center of gravity is such that when it tried to get up it discovered it couldn’t. And now it’s on its back and it can’t get up alone. It can’t be righted alone. All that you have, you know, is a sheep with its legs in the air, pawing the air but getting nowhere. You see, David was a shepherd, and that’s why in the Old Testament he said, “Why art thou cast down, oh my soul?” That’s the imagery.
You sometimes feel like that. I’m sure that I have felt like that, where we are just cast down. Nothing that we do materializes. We are going nowhere and we feel helpless. And we can’t get ourselves righted apart from the shepherd coming along and setting us upright. “Why art thou cast down, oh my soul? Hope in God,” said David.
And then there are just foolish sheep. They go from one clump of grass to another, and pretty soon they are far from the herd, and the shepherd has to bring them back. And then there are rebellious sheep. They’re the ones, you know, that get all tangled up in the briar patches, and they are just insistent. And the shepherd has a rod, which was really like a club that he used, which was an extension of his arm, and an extension of his power. And he will use that to get the sheep back on track. Sometimes he may throw it. Sometimes he may throw it ahead of the sheep to warn it as to where it’s going, or he may use it more directly. His rod brings them back, and that’s why David said so beautifully in Psalm 23, “Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.”
A staff was used to perhaps pick up a little lamb that had wandered away and was stuck in the bushes. You see, God not only leads us, He restores us. David says, “He restores my soul,” because we as sheep have wandered away. And the Good Shepherd has to keep us in line, and He does it through discipline, through situations, through trials and in many other ways. What He wants to do is to make sure that we stay in line with Him. He restores us and He rejoices when we come back.
Many years ago in the 1800s, a man by the name of Henry William Baker wrote these words:
The king of love my shepherd is,
Whose goodness faileth never.
I nothing lack if I am his,
And He is mine forever.
And isn’t this your testimony and mine?
Perverse and foolish oft I strayed,
Yet in love He sought me.
And on His shoulder gently laid,
And home rejoicing brought me.
In death’s dark vale I fear no ill
With Thee, dear Lord, beside me.
Thy rod and staff my comfort still,
Thy cross before to guide me.
The Good Shepherd calls His sheep. The Good Shepherd leads and guides His sheep. The Good Shepherd dies for His sheep. You know, there in verse 10 where Jesus made this amazing statement, He said, “I am the door. If anyone enters…” Verse 10: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” You and I know that there’s a ministry here in Chicago named By the Hand Club for Kids. And what a transforming ministry it is, and that’s really their verse – to be able to give children who are under-resourced and in need life abundantly all because of Jesus.
But then He says in verse 11: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep.”
Jesus, here, makes a contrast, a contrast between the shepherd who owns the sheep (That word own occurs a couple of times in this passage.), and therefore in his mind he thinks of the sheep first and himself second. Shepherds oftentimes did lay down their life for the sheep. You know, they’d be fighting off wolves, or fighting off marauders, and they’d lay down their life. In fact, in the Old Testament if you lost a sheep, you’d have to prove that it wasn’t your fault. And that’s why it says, you know, “Bring a piece of the animal,” and so forth.
And Jesus here is contrasting himself with a hired hand who thinks of himself first. He is in it for the money and that’s all he cares about. And I don’t need to tell you, do I, that today on the airwaves there are all kinds of false shepherds? My heart breaks when I think of the amount of money genuine Christians sometimes send to ministries that are clearly fraudulent and run by false prophets and false shepherds. I’ve sometimes said that sometimes I think God’s sheep can’t tell the difference between grass and Astro Turf.
How do you tell whether or not he’s a false prophet? He’s the one who says, “Send me money. The anointing is on me and the Lord just showed me today that no matter how much you send, within a month you are going to get seven times the amount in return.” False shepherds abound. And Jesus says here that He’s the good shepherd.
I think I told you years ago about being in Dallas, Texas, when I was a student there, and we attended this huge tent rally with seven thousand people. And the false prophet was up there making a huge profit. As a matter of fact, he was actually… As I recall we had several offerings. People were putting their wrist bands and their wrist watches into the offering basket. And I remember he said, “I’m really fleecing God’s sheep today.” (chuckles) And the people still gave. Well you can fleece sheep many times but you can skin them only once, and once you do that people finally learn.
So Jesus says that there are false shepherds who over-promise, who draw attention to themselves, who do not properly distinguish between the false and the true, and they are hirelings. They are hired hands who will never protect the sheep because they come first. But He’s the good shepherd. He lays down His life for the sheep, and you and I know that Jesus died for us. Imagine how He values us that He would die for His sheep.
We continue on. He calls them. He leads them. He dies for them. He keeps His sheep. Sometime later Jesus was having a discussion. You can see it there in the beginning of verse 22 at the Feast of Dedication. And people came to Him. “So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, ‘How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.’” That’s very interesting. Jesus is saying that the reason you can’t hear is because you don’t belong to me. And yet at the same time we know that to belong to Him there has to be a hearing, but it’s a hearing created by God in the human heart. “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life (that is life without limit – it is a surplus of life), and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one (one in essence).”
Notice what Jesus is saying: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them. They follow me. I give them eternal life.” That means life forever without any sin ever coming in between. Don’t you look forward to that – when we can be with the good shepherd and there’s no sin that mars our fellowship? Life begins now. Eternal life begins now but after death and after the end of time, that’s when we really experience it in its fullness. Jesus says, “I give to them eternal life, and they will never perish.”
Notice (I love this.) two sets of hands. “They will never perish. No one will pluck them out of my hand.”
“Oh,” you say, “but free will! I could pluck myself out of his hand.” It’s a little more difficult even than that, and that is, according to the Apostle Paul, we are His hand. We are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. So Jesus said, “No one will pluck them out of my hand and my Father who has given them to me is greater than all, and no one will pluck them out of the Father’s hand.” So you have the hand of the Father, and you have the hand of the Son – hands in harmony. And that’s where the sheep are – secure, belonging to Him forever. And He will see to it that they arrive home.
When you think of the security of the believer, please keep this in mind - and this is the major bottom line I want you to understand today. When you think of the security of the believer, remember this: It is not even rooted in our own faithfulness, though obedience is assumed on the part of those who are genuinely converted. It is really dependent on God.
Your Bibles are open. I hope they are (or your cell phone), and you’ll notice it says this: “My Father (verse 29), who has given them to me, is greater than all.” The sheep are a gift from the Father to the Son. This is found all throughout the Gospel of John. And Jesus said that they are a gift. Now can you imagine Jesus losing one of the Father’s sheep?
Let’s suppose, for example, that you had a situation in which a shepherd was given a hundred sheep. And he comes back in the evening and they count them and there are 95. They say, “Where are your other five sheep?” “Well, you know, they were rebellious. They have free will. They wandered around based on their own freedom. And what was I to do? I mean I didn’t want to interfere with their free will.” The other shepherds would laugh at him and say, “Free will! Big deal! You were given a hundred sheep. At midnight you have a hundred sheep here. If you count 95 when you get in, you go out and you find the other five, and you bring them so that they are all home by midnight. That’s what good shepherds do. They don’t lose sheep along the way.” (applause)
“Oh,” you say, “but you know I knew this boy who really loved God. He was converted. He attended Bible studies, and now he doesn’t believe anything, and he’s out there living like the world.” Let me say two things about that boy. First of all, the reason that he’s in the world is probably not because of any doctrine or because of any intellectual argument. It almost always has to do with lifestyle. That’s the first thing I’ll tell you.
And the second thing is that maybe he… Or the first thing, maybe he didn’t genuinely believe. You know, when Jesus told that story about the seed, He said that there was some seed that fell on shallow ground, that immediately sprung up and brought joy to the sower, but it had no root. Maybe that’s an explanation. I don’t know. But second, may I encourage you by saying that as long as that person is living, we still have not seen the end of the road. There are some people who God has to drag from one briar patch to another, and let them suffer and get entangled in everything until they say, “I’m coming back to the Shepherd.” There are some people like that. Oh none of you, of course. (laughter) You would not… I’m not talking to anybody who is stubborn. (chuckles) We all are. And at the end of nightfall, God’s sheep will be in the fold safely.
By the way, there are many of you listening to this. I hope that you are not taking this promise for yourself unless you are indeed God’s sheep. See, it’s easy for you to listen to this and say, “Well, you know, here I am. I’m a Christian.” And I would assume that most of the people listening to this message are, but that would be a wrong assumption if I thought everybody was. Like one guy said, “Am I a Christian? Well, I’m in church, aren’t I?” Yeah! I wasn’t planning on saying this, but so is the devil.
Unless there’s been a time in your life when you recognized and you repented of your sin, and received Christ as Savior… It doesn’t happen just by going to church, though I appreciate the fact that you’re going to church. It happens only through those who come in repentance and faith. And that’s how you find out whether or not you are a part of the crowd of the elect that we’ve been talking about. You come to Christ and He will receive you.
There is a woman by the name of Lina. Really her name was Karolina, but she became known as Lina. This was in the eighteenth century, and her last name was Berg. So it’s Lina Berg from Sweden. At the age of 23 Lina was on a boat with her father, and the boat lurched and he fell overboard. He had been a pastor. And she watched helplessly as he drowned. Then three years later her mother died. And then she married and they had a son who died.
What do you do with all that grief? You can do one of two things. Either A, you can choose to become bitter and angry at God. That’s one possibility. It’s a very detrimental and bad choice, but it happens. Or what you can do is to do something different and say, “I’m going to pour my grief into something that will be of benefit to others because the circumstances of life are not going to interfere with my absolute confidence that the trials of life do not count against God’s love for His sheep.”
So Lina Berg wrote the lines of a hymn, which is:
Day by day and with each passing moment,
Strength I find to meet my trials here.
Trusting in my Father’s wise bestowment,
There’s no cause for worry or for fear.
But she also wrote another song, a Swedish song, of course. When I became the pastor of a Swedish Baptist church north of here many, many years ago, people began to die. I don’t think that there is any direct connection with my coming. (laughter) There were a lot of older people in the church, and I remember counting. I think I had 25 funerals in maybe the four or five years that I was there. And at every funeral, because of the Swedish background, this song was sung. We have already sung it but I have asked Tim that we sing it a second time.
Children of the heavenly Father,
Safely in His bosom gather.
Nestling bird nor star in heaven,
Such a refuge e’er was given.
Neither life nor death shall ever
From the Lord, His children sever.
Unto them His grace He showeth,
And their sorrows all He knoweth.
Though He giveth or He taketh,
God His children n’er forsaketh.
His the loving purpose solely,
To preserve them pure and holy.
If you are God’s sheep you will make it to the other side of the river where the good shepherd is going to call you by name, and express His love to you as a gift of His incredible grace. “My sheep hear My voice. They know Me. I follow them. They follow Me. They will never perish.”
Father, we ask in Jesus’ name that You’ll give us a great deal of comfort by the fact that we do know You, and that through faith in Christ we are one of Your sheep. For those, Lord, who aren’t, we ask that You will help them to understand their need. Overcome their blindness to their own need, and show them the beauty of Jesus, the Savior, the Good Shepherd, who leads us, who directs us, who restores us all the way to eternity. We pray in His name, Amen.