Summary: Encouragement to confirmands to stay faithful and focused on the Good Shepherd.

April 29, 2012 John 10:11-18

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 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. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

Dear Isaac, Tristan, Zach, Walker and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ,

The call to Christianity has never been an easy thing. You have been trained by now to know that Jesus didn’t promise you happiness in this life, not as far as the world thinks of happiness. He predicted that things would go from bad to worse in our world. Your own sinful nature will not stop harassing you once you are confirmed. You will not stop having sexual temptations or problems with anger or arrogance or indifference. The devil will not run away from you. He will look for ways to drag you into hell. Your sinful nature will not want to fight. It will want life to be easy. “Take up your cross”, Jesus said. The cross was never meant to be easy. Know that well.

Whatever Jesus calls us to go through; it pales in comparison to what Christ had to go through; what He volunteered to go through. Jesus compares Himself to a shepherd, and we are compared to the sheep. The most attractive thing to Jesus is that He lays down His life for the sheep. We love it when Jesus feeds us and gives us food and drink and good health. But all of those things are temporary. They still have the stink of death attached to them. It sickens me to see the flocks flowing in to hear preachers talking about Jesus the money manager and Jesus the success maker instead of Jesus the crucified. It is a different Jesus than the Jesus of the Scriptures they are seeking and receiving.

Think about the picture of Christianity and Himself that Jesus draws in today’s text. We are compared to sheep, helpless and weak sheep that go wandering through a wilderness. We have no fangs. We have no sense about us. We run when the wolf comes. The wolf is Satan, who chased humanity from the safety of the Garden and into the wilderness of sin and death. It is such a weak and pathetic picture we don’t like to even think of it. But the Bible is not a humanistic book. It talks about sin as if we were infected with it from head to toe. It portrays the devil and demons as very powerful and evil spirits that have control of the world. It tells us we are weak, dead, wicked and fearful people. We like to think of ourselves as strong as in control, especially when we’re younger. We sometimes do really foolish and dangerous things because we think we’ll never die. We sometimes fall into temptation because we over estimate our own spiritual strength. We say, “I’d never have sex before marriage. I’ll never get divorced. I’ll never get drunk.” Then the devil has us right where he wants us; in a condition of pride. Sooner or later we all come to the realization of our own weakness; when it comes to temptation or old age; we are all weaker than we think. That’s what the Bible says. We’d do best to pay attention and take its insults for real.

Jesus is different. He comes into our world from heaven above; the eternal God takes on flesh through the Virgin Mary. He seems so weak as a little baby in the manger. Yet He’s a perfect little boy and even goes to the temple to learn all of His Bible passages and ask engaging questions of His teachers. He is baptized and taken into a desert to fight against Satan. He’s not weak at all! He confronts the false prophets. He heals the sick and raises the dead. He preaches the truth. But then after all of this strength, He is crucified on a cross, not for His own sins, but for the sins of the world.

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