Let us pray: Dear Savior, renew in us today a sense of purpose to our lives! Give us an appreciation of who we really are: Your blessed sheep who have been bought and paid for with Your precious blood. Armed with such confidence move us to also go out and confess Your name and Your truth boldly. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE GOOD SHEPHERD OF OUR SOULS!
TEXT: John 10: 11-18
Fellow Redeemed Sinners Who Have Been Turned Into God’s Sheep:
Reede Gray was the long-time superintendent of the school district in which I grew up. He was a wonderful man, kind, gentle, but with steel in his back-bone. I knew him a little more intimately than most students because my dad worked for him. Thus, I saw him in his office when my dad had something he needed to discuss.—I was a young tag-along. As I got older, I was also his paper-boy. And I can still remember his kind greetings as I delivered the afternoon edition. When Reede Gray retired it was a huge event in our little town. It was an even bigger event less than one year later when he died unexpectedly.
Over time, I’ve observed that many retirees seem to die “young.” And I have a theory about that. I think most are so wrapped up in their job, it’s their purpose for living; so that when they hang it up, they have no reason to go on. And thus, they die.
Every human needs a sense of worth in their lives. We need a reason to get up each morning, get out of bed, and do something worth-while. Jobs provide that reason. So do kids, pets, hobbies, and taking care of others in need. But, eventually, no matter how active you are, these reasons seem to dwindle, or even die out. And the result is people give up on life because they lose their sense of worth.
As we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday, I want to remind you that you don’t need to find yourself in such a situation. Why? Because:
TRUE WORTH COMES FROM BELONGING TO CHRIST
You and I are the most important and valuable people on planet earth. All Christians can and should confess such weighty words because they are true! And why are they true? Well, it isn’t because we’re the best looking people on this earth, or the wisest, or the most athletic, or the richest, or best known. It isn’t because we are naturally more holy and good than anyone else—because we’re not! We’re sinners with all sorts of warts, failings, and nasty habits. No, we’re important because our souls have been bought and paid for by the blood of God’s Son. We’re important because God has showered His love upon us and linked us to our Good Shepherd via the gift of faith. Christ refers to all this and more when He says in our lesson: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…I know my sheep and my sheep know me (that is, we have faith in Him and His loving work of attending to our needs.)”
Many of you have never really not known Jesus. That is, you came to faith as a child by baptism, and you’ve remained in your baptismal vows all your lives. Others of you were wayward sheep, lost sheep, in that you strayed from Christ, got yourself caught by the thorns of sinfulness, and by pure love He rescued you and brought you here. That being said, all of us have experienced times when we felt worthless in our lives. All of us dabbled with drugs, alcohol, promiscuous sex, or just plain, old depression. At times, we’ve all been rebellious sheep who were seduced by the call of pride.—The old: “I can take care of myself,” or it’s variation: “I have to find myself.” But, in the end all such side trips away from Christ and His flock got us into trouble, and the Good Shepherd had to go out and find us.
Sinful seductions take on many forms. But, in the final analysis, they come from one source: Satan, the wolf, in our text. And that wolf uses everything from “friends” who really aren’t friends at all, to spiritual gurus, who try to get us to turn our backs on the tried and true ways and teachings of Christ. But, I ask you: “When the chips are down, when you’re down, who is always there to take you back? Who is always there to support and comfort you? Who is always there to love and forgive you?” It’s Christ, isn’t it? It’s also faithful Christian friends and pastors who don’t merely drop you like a hot potato because you can no longer feed their ego.
Again, Jesus warns us of such “hired hands” when He says: “The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.”
And yet, another picture is portrayed in our lesson. A wonderful, comforting picture. “I am the good shepherd…and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Just this past week, I was given another Godly glimpse into our Savior’s loving care. One of our elderly members has been very sick in the hospital, near death. Part of him wanted to give up because he looked at his aged body wracked by pain and felt: “I have no worth anymore.” But, slowly he improved, and then went into the rehab hospital. There he met a roommate who grew up in the same town, went into the same military unit in WWII, journeyed overseas on the same ship, knew many of the same places and people this fellow did, and yet, they had never met until that day in rehab! This Godly circumstance has given that older fellow a new lease on life. It has provided him with a sense of worth—as he’s now going to write about it for the local paper. Yes, even in moments of sadness and depression, God uplifts, comforts, and renews His sheep!
Each of you can have that sense of renewal, too, if you but focus on the Good Shepherd. He has invested His most precious possession in you—His blood and His life. He has called you personally to be one of His flock. He has enabled you to go out and make other sheep—armed with heavenly tools, namely His love and forgiveness for all sins. No matter you age, you can always glorify the Good Shepherd. You can always learn something new. You can always make an eternal difference in another’s life. Yes, my friends, we have true worth and it comes from belonging to Christ. Cling to that truth and you’ll always have reason to get up and get active each morning. Amen