Monday, July 29, 2019

The Lord is My Shepherd


Psalm 23:1 NASB - "The LORD is my shepherd . . .”
             
One of the great metaphors of Scripture is God as the Shepherd of His sheep. This is carried into the New Testament where Jesus declares, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). God’s people are sheep in need of a shepherd.
           
This is an amazing metaphor. Human beings are made in the image of God. We are the most intelligent of all of God’s earthly creatures. We have a wonderful capacity for creativity. We design and build whole cities and there seems to be no end to our resourcefulness. And then we think of sheep. Sheep are not intelligent, they are not resourceful; in fact, they are just plain dumb. They are prone to wander off and have to be under constant surveillance. They have no natural defenses, no fangs or claws, so if they are left to themselves, they are easy prey to other wild animals. They need a shepherd to guide them, protect them, and care for their needs. They are probably unaware of the watchful eye of their shepherd. They are content to feed in the security of the flock as the shepherd leads them to “green pastures” and “still waters.”

Why is it that God describes us as sheep? It crushes our pride and independence. It reminds us how dependent we are upon God’s provision, leadership, and protection. Jesus Christ is our Great Shepherd who continually leads, feeds, and defends us and will safely bring us home.

It also reminds us of the importance of the local church. We are a flock under the gracious protection of Christ who promises His unfailing presence among us. He has also blessed the church with pastors, Christ’s under-shepherds. Peter writes to pastors, “Shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:1). This is humbling for human pastors. How can those who need shepherding possibility shepherd others? The answer is encouraging. Because Jesus Christ is our High Shepherd. Weak, human under-shepherds merely point men to Him. He has provided us with the food of His Word and filled us with His Spirit to lead and guide us.  Earthly pastors merely have to feed, lead, protect, and love Christ’s people.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Living in a Fallen World


Psalm 59:2 NASB - "Deliver me from those who do iniquity . . .” 

As Christians we walk a dangerous line of demarcation in this world. There are clear boundaries which we must never cross, and yet, the temptation is always before us. 
 
Christianity is not a call to a monastic life of strict separation from this world. We have an obligation to interact with the people of this world. The Great Commission commands us to make disciples of the nations. This demands living among and interacting with them so that we can bring the Gospel to them. It demands that we make friends of lost people, but always with great caution. There is always the danger of being enticed by their ways. The Psalmist pleads for God to deliver him from workers of iniquity. Psalm 1 declares: “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers.”

We must be cautious about the company we keep and how we interact with them. We must maintain the balance between Gospel engagement and Gospel holiness. We must always remain distinct, apart, and other than. We must never compromise the principles of righteousness. This is where we face the greatest danger. Standing apart can be most difficult, especially around those closest to us—lost family members, coworkers, and the many with whom we interact with on a daily basis. They do not have regard for the Law of God, and they will not understand our commitment to Christ. The tension is for us to take the path of least resistance, to make small concessions for the sake of peace and harmony. These small concessions quickly become full-blown sin. 

Sometimes, we face people in this world with whom fellowship is impossible. We must maintain strict separation to protect ourselves from becoming infected by them. Paul’s word to us is, “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness. Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate, says the LORD. And do not touch what is unclean.” On one hand we must follow the lead of our Savior who was referred to as a friend of sinners. On the other hand, we must avoid friendships that will lead us into sin. It demands from us great discernment.

Monday, June 3, 2019

The High Calling


As you continue to press on towards the high calling of Christ, don’t forget your great value to the work of the Kingdom. I’m afraid too often Christians float through life content without really understanding the wonderful life they’ve been given. They fail to recognize the glorious gift of reconciliation—that they have been made right with God. They fail to fully appreciate the wonder of their adoption—that God has actually made them a part of His family. And they fail to recognize their high calling in Christ, a call to holiness. When Jesus called His disciples “salt” and “light” He was speaking of the profound effect they have upon the world around them. Is your life really making a difference? 

Is your life a blessing to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Is your life a testimony to them in such a way that they are encouraged. When Paul suffered in prison it encouraged others who were suffering — “that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear" (Phil. 1:14). As your brothers and sisters in Christ observe your life, is it an encouragement or discouragement? Are they seeing your progress in holiness? Do they see your example as one to emulate—consistent in attendance and service at church; faithful in love, graciousness and patience? Do they see you as a person of high character and integrity, or do you compromise your principles easily. Are they encouraged as they see you face trials with patience and faith? 

What do the lost see as they observe your life? Too often, by the time some professing Christians finish making concessions and allowances there isn’t much left that would identify them as a follower of Christ. How wonderful it is when the world looks upon us and sees absolute commitment to Christ. How wonderful it is when they witness people who are loving, kind, gracious, and merciful. These are characteristics not often seen in this world. The person who possesses them will stand out. Such people will have a great effect upon those who do not profess Christ. Peter gives us great encouragement—“In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior” (1Pet. 3:1-2). Peter is saying that our Godly lives can have a great effect upon unbelievers. May God help us to live such lives.