By Pastor Jim May
When our country was young and the herds of cattle ranged freely on the plains, before barbed wire fences came into being, the only way that a rancher could positively identify his cattle was by placing a brand upon their flanks. Some of the brands, like the Flying W, the Rocking Horse, the Z Bar, the Running W of the King Ranch and others are famous and some are still in use.
It wasn’t hard in many cases for the cattle rustlers to change the brand so they could steal them without being noticed. One of most famous brand changes happened when the XIT Brand was changed to a Star with a Cross in the middle. Cattle rustlers were pretty ingenious when it came to changing brands, but many were caught and executed on the spot.
It isn’t only cattle, horses and other animals that are branded though. I want you to know that you are branded as well. In fact, every man, woman and child on the face of the earth carries a brand, a mark if you will, upon them.
Surely, there will come a day when the Antichrist will require everyone alive to take his mark. What that mark will be is very much in question, but it is unmistakable that it will be a mark that is easily seen either by the naked eye or by some sort of scanning equipment because no one will be able to buy or sell without the mark. It will be universal in its application and all who refuse to take the mark will be persecuted and sentenced to death.
But the Antichrist, under the direction of Satan, is not the only one who places his mark upon mankind. God marks those who are His also. His mark is not one that can be seen with the eye or with a scanner like that of the Antichrist, but the mark is there nonetheless.
For some, the marks in their bodies, resulting from service to the Lord and the persecution of men, are marks that identify them as a Christian. The Apostle Paul had some of these kinds of marks. The scars of beatings, the disfigurement of tortures and the physical pain resulting from imprisonment, shipwreck, stoning and being left for dead by those who were anti-Christian, were plainly visible in Paul’s body.
Galatians 6:17, "From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus."
But the mark that God has upon those that are His are much more than just these kinds of physical marks. They are visible in other ways as well.
John 13:35, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."
Love is one of the marks of God’s people. It is a love that goes deeper than the love of the world. The compassion and sympathy of God’s people goes farther and deeper than anything that the worldly crown can do.
That has been proven in the past several months with the recent disasters that have stricken our nation. One news report that I heard yesterday quoted a research finding that said that Faith Based Relief efforts to all the devastated areas was far quicker in coming, had a far greater impact and was able to help people when they needed it most. The Federal Government, with all of its money, power and manpower could not do what the Christian community could do to meet the needs of people when they needed it most.
In addition to the character traits and attitude differences between Christians and the people of the world, there is yet another way that we are branded.
2 Timothy 2:19, "Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity."
The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write these words to the Corinthian church in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."
In effect God was saying to all of us, “If you will be my Son or Daughter, then you will stand apart from the world. You will be marked, branded and clearly distinguishable from those who are serving the devil. There will be as much difference between you as there is between light and darkness, and between Jesus and Satan, and there will be no mistaking those who are truly mine with all their heart.”
If you have any doubts that you are branded and marked as a Child of God, let me read to you what the Bible says in Matthew 13:30. You and I, if we do not use the powers of discernment, and don’t examine the spirits around us, can often be fooled. We sometimes can’t see the difference between one who claims to be a Christian and one who really is. But God knows who belongs to Him.
Matthew 13:30, "Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn."
In the rapture God will take only those who bear His brand. They are marked by His robes of righteousness, covered by His blood and made heirs with Him. According to Matthew 14:49, God will send His angels forth to gather the harvest, separating the wicked from the righteous. God knows who is His and who is not and not one foot, of one sinner will leave the ground to go in the rapture. All that is identified with Satan will remain here upon this earth, in the kingdom of the devil, until their judgment comes.
Matthew 25:31-33 says that, "When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left."
I have not been around sheep very much, but I believe that even I can tell the difference between a sheep and a goat. How about you? Is there enough difference to know which is which?
There are a lot of differences if you will notice.
Sheep have fleece, or woolen coats that must be shorn annually. If they aren’t shaven and the wool removed, they will soon become so matted and weighed down that they will be hardly able to move.
Do you get the point? God’s people have to lay aside every weight that will hang upon them. They have to lay aside the things of the world and learn to cast their care upon Jesus; and all besetting sin must be cleansed by His blood. We must consistently and constantly go back to Jesus, kneel as His feet, confess our sins and let Him take those sins away. If not, we will soon be so weighted by sin that we can no longer be effective.
If you get around the sheep and goats you will also notice that they have a different sound when they speak. A sheep will say, “Baa”; but a goat says, “Maa”.
That’s a second mark of a Christian as well. His language, his manner of speaking and the words that he uses are not like those of the world. His is a language of faith, trust and worship of Almighty God, while the world only praises itself and what it values most.
God’s sheep know His voice and they won’t follow anyone else, but the goats of the world will follow every little wind of doctrine; whatever feels good for the moment, do it.
Most goats naturally grow horns, but most sheep are polled (naturally hornless).
Doesn’t that strike you as being very symbolic when we talk about God’s sheep and Satan’s goats? Isn’t it strange that goats would be more recognizable by their horns – one of the very appearances of Satan in most artwork and pictures that you will see? You can see who is a goat by the way he acts and the way he talks. He takes on the characteristics of his father the devil.
There’s one difference between sheep and goats that I find disturbing because it just doesn’t seem like the comparison would be fair.
According to nearly every study ever done it has been determined that sheep are stupid, while goats are smart. I love the sheep, but they are so dumb that no one would ever bet that a lamb could find its way out of a maze. A goat, or even a mouse, could get out quicker. A lamb would only get out by sheer luck and not by deductive reasoning.
It should not be surprising then to note what is written in Luke 16:8, "And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light."
Christian should be wise but often we fail to use common sense and wisdom. Perhaps it’s because we rely on God to take care of us and we aren’t so concerned with events around us. Trusting in the Lord is wonderful but it should be no excuse for not using wisdom.
As we examine the differences in sheep and goats and relate them to the mark of God upon His children there are a few more differences that are very interesting.
Sheep need less copper than goats. Some mineral supplements that are great for goats can be toxic to sheep. There could be no better symbol of the fact that God’s people should not be caught up in the love of money.
The Bible says in Matthew 6:24, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
The wealth and power of this world is what drives everything to be the way it is. If you want to find out why things are happening, just follow the money trail. Wherever there is money to be made, the course is set to get it, no matter what it may cost others down the road.
I’ve seen a lot of Christians who seemed to be motivated by the dollar too. But that shouldn’t be so. Our focus must be upon serving the Lord and doing His will. When we get our eyes off of the spiritual wealth and start placing our treasures in things of the earth, that’s when we can become a goat instead of a sheep. The sheep will die with too much copper in its diet. Too much wealth in the life of many Christians will cause them to die to the things of God as well.
Another thing that is different between Sheep and goats is that sheep are very skittish. Their instinct is to run, not to fight. Not so with a goat. A goat will stare you down and then run at you to knock you down if he has the chance.
I have seen this in operation in a lot of people. As soon as the devil starts a little dissention in the church, or as soon as someone hurts their feelings, some people just take off at a dead run to find another pasture to graze in for a while. They are constantly running from one church to another, to another, looking for greener pastures. The devil’s favorite game with them is to make them run. If he can keep them running, they won’t ever grow.
It might also be noted that sheep will eat only grass and herbs of the fields. They will eat close to ground and cause it to be nearly bare before they move on, but a goat will eat just about anything that he can get his teeth on, including the shirt off your back if they get hold of it.
That’s indicative of what it’s like with God’s people and those of the world too. God’s people should only eat that which is good in the sight of God for their spiritual health.
Philippians 4:8, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
So much that the world has to offer in the form of reading material, entertainment and social gatherings is truly unfit for human consumption, especially for those who are called, anointed and chosen by God.
God’s sheep should be marked by the fact that they devour the Word of God and try to get every bit of nourishment from the Bible that they can. They should be marked by their differences in reading habits and their differences in the places that they go.
One last difference between sheep and goats is that Sheep need hoof trimming much less (maybe twice per year) than goats (once or twice monthly).
All of us need to be trimmed of some things that enter into our lives and weigh us down from time to time. If you remember, the washing of Peter’s feet carried this message with it. But the difference is that if we are alive in Christ then we are dead to sin and it will not reign in our hearts.
God has placed his mark, His brand, upon us and given us a new heart. It’s a heart after God and His righteousness, not after sin and the things of the world. Our desire is serve and please our Lord Jesus Christ and to stay as far from the things of the world as we can.
But the goats, the children of the devil, don’t care how much sin they do. The weight of sin upon them grows greater with each passing day. They really need to be trimmed often, but most don’t even know how bad they are walking. The only way that trimming can come is by kneeling at an old-fashioned altar, confessing that sin to Jesus and allowing the Blood of Jesus to wash the sin away.
All of us have a brand upon us, but which brand do we carry? Has Satan tried to take the mark that Jesus has placed upon you and attempted to be a rustler by changing the brand to look more like you belong to him?
I see a lot of Christians who appear to be more like the goats than the sheep. Perhaps the devil has stolen them from the sheepfold because they strayed a little too far and were too dumb to find their way home again.
It is far easier to get out of the Way of Righteousness and go into the ways of the world, than to get out of the way of the world and get back into the Way of Righteousness.
What brand is upon you right now? Does God recognize you as one of the sheep of his pasture, or does He count you among the goats? Make sure that you are wearing the right brand.