How can I grow closer to the Good Shepherd? Part 2

“I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” John 10:14

I can also grow closer to the Good Shepherd when I REALIZE HIS INTIMATE KNOWLEDGE OF ME (John 10:14-15). “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.” (John 10:14). It was important for a shepherd to know his sheep. He must know their needs, weaknesses, and their problems. Without this kind of knowledge, he would not be able to adequately provide for the needs of his sheep. Christ is the Good Shepherd not only because He lays down His life for us, but because He has an intimate knowledge of us.

Jesus repeats His “I AM” statement when He says, “I am the good Shepherd.” “I AM” was the name of the Self-existing God who had revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). Since Jesus is the Self-existing God, He knows everything about us – the good, the bad, and the ugly – and He still loves us. It is also important that the sheep know their shepherd. They must know his voice so they can respond when he calls them. They must learn to trust their shepherd so he can provide for their needs.

In this technological age, it is easy to begin feeling like a number on a computer instead of a person. We are identified by our Social Security number rather than by our name. We receive junk mail addressed to “Resident” instead of personalized correspondence. Such impersonal methods may cause some people to conclude, “No one cares about me. No one knows where I am or how I am feeling.” But that is not true. Jesus cares. He knows you by name (John 10:3). He knows you intimately (John 10:14).

We never need to feel like the young student who felt slighted when Edward VII, the king of England from 1901 to 1910, was visiting a city to lay the cornerstone for a new hospital. Thousands of school children were present to sing for him. Following the ceremony, the king walked past the excited youngsters. After the king was gone, a teacher saw one of her students crying. She asked her, “Why are you crying? Did you not see the king?” “Yes,” the young girl sobbed, “but the king did not see me.” King Edward could not have taken notice of each child in that throng. Jesus, however, gives individual attention to each of us. Christ knows who you are. You matter to Jesus.

You may think God has forgotten you and that He is a thousand miles away. But He is not. He has got His eyes on you. There has never been a moment when God took His eyes off you. Never. He has seen every breath you have ever taken, every thought you ever had, every word you have ever said, everything you have ever done good or bad, and He has constantly looked at you with eyes of love. 

It is hard for us to imagine that Jesus pays that much attention to us because we don’t pay that much attention to Him. We don’t notice God twenty-four hours a day. But every moment of every day God has His eye on you. Jesus said in Luke 12:6-7 “…  God never overlooks a single sparrow. And He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail – even numbering the hairs on your head!” For some of us that is not very difficult! God loves you with a love you have never imagined. He has always paid attention to you. He has never taken His eyes off you.

The more we understand how intimately Christ knows us and loves us, the more we will want to “know” our Shepherd on a more intimate level like the Son knows the Father. “As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” (John 10:15). The Son must know the Father to follow His will, just like the sheep must know the Shepherd to follow Him faithfully. Jesus taught that the relationship the sheep enjoy with Himself is unique, as His relationship with His Father is unique.

Jesus’ intimate relationship with His Father is what enabled Him to obey His Father even to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8). He laid down His life for the sheep. When Jesus was verbally and physically abused by His enemies, He did not retaliate. Instead, “He committed Himself to Him Who judges righteously” and He “bore our sin in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed.” (I Peter 2:23-24). Peter explains further why Jesus bore our sins in His own body. “For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (I Peter 2:25). When Christians face injustice and suffering, they can be reassured that they have a good “Shepherd” who cares for them and provides for them. This Good Shepherd is the “Overseer” of their souls who protects and watches over them.

I am reminded of a story I heard about a Christian woman who invited her unbelieving feminist female friend to church one Sunday. After the pastor finished preaching about the role of men and women in marriage from Ephesians 5:22-33, the feminist looked at her friend and said, “I could follow a man who is willing to die for me.” The Christian woman replied, “There is such a Man and His name is Jesus Christ.” Knowing the love that Christ has for us draws us closer to Him as our Good Shepherd. When you know that Someone genuinely loves you enough to die for you, you can trust Him to lead you and care for you.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, living in this time of COVID and social unrest, it can be easy to feel alone and unimportant. We may feel that You have lost our address and do not even care about us. But Your Word reminds us that this is not even close to the truth. You are our Good Shepherd and You know Your sheep intimately. Our feelings may tell us that we are all alone and unimportant to You, but Your voice of truth reminds us that You are always with us and Your eyes and ears never take their focus off of us. Your love for us is constant regardless of our past. You demonstrated this when You died for us even though we were still undeserving sinners (Romans 5:8). The more we focus on the truth of Your constant love and care for us, the more we will want to draw close to You. Your love casts out fear. Your love removes the barriers we have erected to protect ourselves. Though we were once lost sheep, we have now returned to You, Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd and Overseer of our souls. We can now trust You to provide, protect, and guide His precious sheep so we can live to please You alone. The more we know You, the more we want to make You known. In Your matchless name we pray. Amen.  

Are you investing in what lasts?

“John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ” John 1:15

After explaining that the Word, Jesus Christ, is the Creator God and only source of eternal life Who became a human being (John 1:1-14), the apostle John records the testimony of John the Baptist (John 1:15-36). He begins with, “John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me’ ” (John 1:15).

We are told that John the Baptist “bore witness.” What does it mean to be a witness? Is witnessing something one is or something one does? Sometimes we think that to be a witness for Christ means “I just have to live a godly life and that is enough. I don’t ever have to tell anyone how to be saved. They will eventually come to Christ on their own.” But listen. The Greek word translated “bore witness” (martureō) is used in a courtroom setting. And it means “to testify, give evidence, or speak the truth.” What would happen if you took the witness stand in a court of law and never said anything? The judge would hold you in contempt of the court.

Living the holiest life does not tell people how they can obtain eternal life. No amount of watching your godly life tells me how I can know Christ personally. If you live a holy life, it tells me something has happened to you, but it doesn’t tell me how I can have the same experience or what causes you to live that way. Maybe you are a person of high morals. Perhaps your parents disciplined you as a child. Words are more than just helpful for me to know Christ: they are essential. Sooner or later, someone has to talk to me about Jesus in order for me to know Him personally.

If we live a holy life but never tell people about Jesus, then the world will give us all the credit instead of glorifying the Lord. Silent believers are like beautiful road signs with no words or directions printed on them. They are nice to look at, but they don’t tell you how to get where you need to go. We need a balance. Yes, we need to live a godly life, but we also need to use our lips to tell people how to have eternal life through believing in Jesus alone (John 3:16).

When John the Baptist testifies about Jesus, he is not speaking softly. The Bible says he “cried out.” The Greek word translated “cried out” is krazō. This word is imitative of a raven’s piercing cry. It expresses an urgent scream or shout from someone who has deep emotions about their message. John was extremely passionate regarding what he was about to say. Why? Because he understood Who Jesus is and he also understood his purpose. John the Baptist was “sent from God… to bear witness of the Light,” Jesus Christ (John 1:6-7; 8:12). He understood his identity as “the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make straight the way of the Lord’” (John 1:23; cf. Isaiah 40:3). John’s purpose was to prepare the people of Israel “that all through him might believe” in their coming Messiah-God for His gift of everlasting life (John 1:7b; 3:36; cf. Acts 19:4). John’s voice was temporary, but his message was eternal.

John the Baptist’s message centered around an eternal Person. He cried out, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me’ ” (John 1:15b). The word translated “preferred” (emprosthen) denotes having greater dignity or rank than another (cf. Genesis 48:20; John 1:30).

In Bible times, chronological priority meant superiority (those who were born first were considered superior). John is saying that Jesus is superior to him because Christ came before him. John the Baptist recognized the pre-existence of the Word, Jesus Christ, as God (John 1:1-2). Even though John the Baptist was born six months prior to Jesus (Luke 1:26, 36), John says “He was before me.” How could John the Baptist say this? He could say this because Jesus was always before John in His Pre-existent state as God.

In the Old Testament, the Lord God of the universe said, “This is what the Lord says— Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: ‘I am the first and I am the last; apart from Me there is no God’ ” (Isaiah 44:6; cf. 41:4; 48:12). The God of the universe has no beginning and no end because He is eternal. This is what makes Him uniquely God.

In the last book of the Bible, the exalted Lord Jesus Christ said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8). The apostle John shares Jesus’ testimony, When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. Then He placed His right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last’ ” (Revelation 1:17; cf. 1:13).  At the end of the Book of Revelation the exalted Lord Jesus Christ said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Revelation 22:13). Make no mistake, the Lord God of the Old Testament is the same as the Lord Jesus Christ in the New Testament. This is John the Baptist’s message. He is acknowledging Jesus’ superiority as the eternal God with no beginning and no end when He says, “He was before me” (John 1:15b).

With the Coronavirus in the news a lot, all of us are confronted with the frailty of humanity. None of us are promised life on earth tomorrow. God is using COVID-19 to persuade people to think about what is eternal.

Since Jesus has no beginning and no end, we are to invest our lives in what lasts. What two things on this planet last for eternity? It is not your bank account… cell phone… video games… house… car… job… or your achievements. I have done a lot of funerals, and I have never seen anyone pull a U-Haul behind a hearse. What lasts forever on earth is people (Matthew 25:46) and the Word of God (I Peter 1:23-24). We have an incredible opportunity to invest in both by preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the unsaved (Mark 16:15) and then training those who believe in Christ through the discipleship process (Matthew 28:19-20).

Whom are you sharing the gospel with and training in discipleship? If we are not evangelizing and then discipling those who believe the gospel, we are failing to invest our lives in what is lasting. But this need not continue. Today, you can decide to invest your life in what lasts forever.

Prayer: Lord God Almighty, the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End, I bow my heart before You in worship. You are so amazing! You could have remained in heaven for eternity receiving glory from all of Your angels. But instead, out of love for me and all people, You humbled Yourself and became a human being on earth without ceasing to be God. And You were obedient to death on a cross to pay the penalty for all of our sins! Therefore God the Father has exalted You to the highest place and given You the name that is above every name, that at Your name, Jesus, every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that You are Jesus Christ the Lord, to the glory of God the Father! Forgive me my Lord for focusing so much on what is temporary. Thank You for reminding me to focus on what is eternal. Use my voice, Lord Jesus, to proclaim that You are the eternal God who offers eternal life to those who believe in You. Please use me to multiply followers of Yours while there is still time on earth. I pray this for Your glory and honor, Lord Jesus. In Your name. Amen.

How does God feel about you?

HOW DOES GOD FEEL ABOUT YOU?

1 O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before,and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it.” Psalm 139:1-6

I would imagine that most of us have been to a funeral where we hear people say some very positive things about the person after he or she is dead. But you do not have to die before you can hear God say some beautiful things about you. Psalm 139 is a very descriptive Psalm written by King David that expresses how God feels about you and me. For the next four days or so, Lord willing, I am going to look at this Psalm.

Today we will discover just how important we are to the Lord. God knows every minute detail about us because we are so important and valuable to Him (139:1-6).

“Lord, You know me as well as if You had diligently and thoroughly investigated me” (139:1). God has “searched me” like a miner searching for minerals or a lawyer investigating legal facts.

“Lord, You know everything I do while sitting down” (139:2a). The words “sitting down” and “rising up” are a merism which refers to everything between sitting down and rising up.

“Lord, You know what I intend to do long before I ever do it” (139:2b). The word “thought” can also include intentions or motives. The word “afar” is speaking of distance in time. God knows what we are going to think long before our thoughts are even developed.

“Lord, You know everything I do publicly and privately as if You had painstakingly sifted and separated each act from another” (139:3). God knows everything I do publicly on a “path” far from home and privately (“lying down”) in my home. The word “comprehend” (zarah) refers to winnowing or sifting. God’s concern for me is reflected in His intricate involvement in knowing everything I do. If God did not care about me, He would not pay so much attention to every detail of my life.

“Lord, You know all my ways because before I speak, You know exactly what I will say” (139:4). God knows what I am going to say before I say it.  

“Lord, Your intimate knowledge of me makes me feel surrounded and controlled” (139:5). The word “hedged” is a military term used of an army surrounding a city on all sides. God’s thorough knowledge of me causes me to feel completely encompassed (“behind and before”). It seems like God has “laid” His “hand upon me” so that He makes me do whatever He wants me to do. Your intimate knowledge of me is a threat to my autonomy and wanting to act independently. Your control springs from Your complete knowledge of me.

“Lord, Your thorough knowledge of me is beyond my power to escape” (139:6). The word “wonderful” (pili or pali) means difficult or incomprehensible. God’s thorough knowledge of David is way too much for him! It is “high” like city walls that are too high to be captured. When David said, “I cannot attain it,” he meant that he could not overcome or get away from God’s complete knowledge of him.

Someone who knows all about us may reject us or expose our weaknesses, and this is scary for us to consider. We may feel overpowered and out of control. This was how David felt when he wrote this part of Psalm 139.

On the flip side, the fact that God is so interested in knowing everything about us shows how valuable we are to Him. You may feel unimportant and insignificant because no one seems to pay attention to you here on earth. But stop right there! God is crazy about you, so much so, that He has done a thorough investigation into your life. And He knows everything about you. You are not some piece of tissue or collection of chemicals. You are the object of God’s care and concern. This is why He has painstakingly sifted and separated every thought, action, word, and motive in your life. YOU … ARE … VALUABLE … TO … GOD!!! Let this soak into the depths of your soul. No one cares more for you or has more interest in you than God!!! Spend time with Him and get to know Him. Let Him show You how important you are to Him.

Prayer: Precious Father God, thank You for showing me how important and valuable I am to You. You know everything about me – what I do publicly and privately, what I think and say, and even my motives. Such complete knowledge of me, Lord, makes me feel surrounded and controlled. My tendency is to run from someone who knows me so well because I fear rejection. I fear that no one could love me as I am. But Your knowledge of me is not intended to scare me, but to show me how valuable I am to You. Thank You for showing me this today. Help me to believe it so I will stop trying to prove my worth through what I do. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How do I know the Bible is True? Part 6

6. The evidence of SELF-TESTIMONY supports that the Bible is true. 

Self-testimony is valid evidence in a court of law. The Old Testament authors often made claims like, “And the Lord spoke to me, saying…”or “The word of the Lord came to me, saying…” Henry Morris in his book Many Infallible Proofs(San Diego: Creation Life, 1974, pp. 156-7) claims there are 2,600 such claims of divine inspiration in the Old Testament. The New Testament also claims to be inspired word-for-word by God. Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17-18). According to Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus says the Bible is accurate down to each letter of a word and each stroke of a pen.