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“Jesus, the Good Shepherd,” John 10:1-10

 

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1[Jesus said:] “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out

Word and Sacrament

all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

      7So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Being a Christian is not based on what you do, but on Christ and what He has done for you.

Though you are not holy, Jesus is.

His holiness, His righteousness, His goodness is counted as your own through faith in Him.

Like Abraham whose faith God counted to him as righteousness, as Abraham believed the promise of God when God promised him a son to be born of his own body, though he was old and his wife Sarai was past the age of child bearing, so your faith too is counted as righteousness—as you believe in Christ who died and rose again for our salvation (Genesis 15:1-7).

Jesus did not stay dead in the grave following His crucifixion.

“The third day He rose again according the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father” (Nicene Creed).

To be Christian means to have Christ as your own, to have Christ’s righteousness counted as your own.

Christ’s righteousness counted as your own means that such righteousness has not, nor does not, depend on you.

Such righteousness does not originate from you, is not founded on you, and is not kept by you.

The righteousness of Jesus, reckoned by God as yours through faith in Christ, is therefore certain, true, and sure.

Your identity as the righteous of God is found in Jesus, the One who makes you whole and acceptable to God.

It is what God has done, Jesus’ Word and work, that makes you who you are—a saint; forgiven and not condemned; redeemed and not forsaken; a child of the living God, baptized, cleansed, and holy.

Through faith you take hold of these declarations of God and say “Amen” to what God has said.

God speaks His Word.  He reveals to you your Savior.

 Even “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

“God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).

“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

This is all good news!

God has not left you in your sin.

He does leave the decision to you.

If He did, you would all be lost.

None who are dead in their sin can make a choice, choose, decide for, or accept Christ, contrary to what well known preachers such as Billy Graham and now his son, Franklin Graham, or any others, fervently preach and who call for nonbelieving hearers to pray a prayer asking Jesus into their heart for salvation.

God is not only willing save sinners.

He does, in Jesus Christ!

It is not the sinner who chooses to believe.

It is God who creates the faith to believe, for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

Just as Adam was lifeless apart from the breath of God breathed into Him, so is the sinner lifeless when it comes to the things of God unless God first give that longing for His mercy, forgiveness, and life according to His Word (Genesis 2:7).

It is as St. Paul writes, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

“But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

God, by means of His grace, reveals His Son, Jesus Christ, not as judge, Law giver, or a new Moses, but as Savior and author of eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:9).

Therefore, do we say that ‘we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to Him.  But the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, and kept us in the true faith.’ (Meaning to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed).

Jesus comes to you—in Word, water, and with His very body and blood.

What you receive in Word and Sacrament are the gracious and salvific gifts of a loving God.

This is the blessing of the abundant life promised by the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is why He comes to you, to give you everlasting life.

He comes not to destroy, but to save.

He comes, not to steal, kill, and destroy, but to protect, to make alive, and to preserve for all eternity.

The abundant life Jesus speaks of is more than anything this world could ever offer.

The abundant life Jesus speaks of does not have to do with having abundance of the things of this life.

Jesus Himself said it this way, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

The answer to both questions is–nothing.

It is of no profit if a man gains the whole world and loses his own soul.

Nothing can man give in exchange for his soul.

One might have everything in this life, yet really have nothing at all.

All the riches of the world amount to nothing compared to eternity.

One might have nothing in this life (by the world’s standards), yet have everything, and all the riches of heaven.

The difference between the two, between the one who has nothing and the one who truly has everything, is not in the quantity of things possessed.

It is a matter of Who has you. It is a matter of Whose you are.

If God has you in Christ and you are His, you have everything, though you don’t now fully see the fullness of all that is yours.

True and lasting treasure is that which God gives unto eternity, where both moth and rust cannot ever destroy (Matthew 6:19-20).

If God doesn’t have you, if Jesus is not your Savior according to His Word, you really have nothing, though you might think that you have everything.

False and counterfeit treasure is that which does not remain.

It is by nature temporary, a façade, only a mirage.

This is the kind of treasure that the world seeks after. It may offer momentary comfort, but such is only pale in comparison to that which of eternal value and gives true peace with God.

God’s Word—not the world’s—does not and will not fail (Joshua 21:45; 23:14).

God’s mercy—not the world’s—endures forever (Psalm 118:1, 2, 3, 4, 29; 136:1-26).

God gives to you His Word that you distinguish between what is true from that which is false; that which is of God from that which is not of God.

So, His people do.

God’s people discern between what is of God and what is not of God—because they are of God.

All who are of God believe Jesus, because Jesus is God.

All who believe Jesus follow Him.

They know Jesus’ voice.

They don’t follow another.  They don’t listen to another’s voice, because another voice they do not know.

Only the voice of Jesus do they recognize.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

He leads His sheep, His people, only to the good pasture, the pasture of eternal life.

To all that follow Him and hear His voice, He gives life that has no end.

Such life, here and now, is not trouble-free and without challenge.

Such trouble-free, challenge-free, or prosperous life in the sense of the world’s ideas and dreams is not what the Lord promises.

The Lord promises the life where Christ is, preserving, sustaining, and saving.

True preachers preach Jesus according to what the Bible says.

They preach the preserving, sustaining, forgiving, and saving Christ.

False preachers preach something different.

False preachers very readily make use of the Bible, but they do not use the Bible rightly.

They use the Bible to their own ends, not for the salvation of sinners.

They do not preach Christ aright.

Those who follow Jesus hear, and only want to hear, preachers who preach Jesus rightly.

They don’t listen to strangers. They don’t listen to false teachers.

The sheep of the Good Shepherd therefore care about discerning the difference between what is true from what is false.

They love the Word of the Lord (John 14:23-24).

They believe the words of Jesus.

They distinguish between Law and Gospel.

They abide in what God reveals in His Word and not by novel interpretations.

God’s people concern themselves with the truth and cling to the Word.

They seek to avoid error and false teaching.

They take doctrine seriously, for doctrine, the teaching of God, they have come to know, is life.

Christ’s sheep, therefore, only listen to Christ and His Word.

They love the Lord and His Holy Word.

For preachers faithful in preaching only Christ’s Word, they give thanks, and they avoid preachers who preach something different.

Because they long to hear the Word, because they long to hear of Christ, where Christ is preached, they gather.

Where Christ is given, there they receive.

Where He speaks, where Christ’s voice goes out, there they rejoice, and live, in God’s abundance—in that which He freely gives. Amen.

 

O God, through the humiliation of Your Son You raised up the fallen world. Grant to Your PrayingHands&Cross1faithful people, rescued from the peril of everlasting death, perpetual gladness and eternal joys; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the 4th Sunday of Easter)

Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and take them to heart that, by the patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. (Collect for the Word)

 

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“Surety in Christ according to His Word”

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?  For what can a man give in return for his life?  For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38)

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

bible-cross1It is not of the Gospel to be unsure or uncertain of God’s grace and favor in Jesus Christ.  The grace of God in Christ, without a doubt, is of faith, according to the Lord’s Word.  In this, such faith is sure and will die a thousand deaths.

In a 1992 interview of Diane Sawyer with Billy Graham, speaking about his death, Graham had commented, “I don’t want them (people) to say big things about me because I don’t deserve them.”

He’s right, and such humility is encouraging, and true.

Graham continued and said, “I want to hear one person say something nice about me, and that’s the Lord. When I face Him, I want Him to say to me, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’”

These latter words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant,” are words from Holy Scripture (Matthew 25:21, 23; Luke 19:17), and in Christ, because of Christ, the Christian has the certainty that these words will certainly be said of him.

Yet, keeping this in mind, Graham continued by saying, “But I’m not sure I’m going to hear it, but that’s what I would like to hear.”(http://newsvideo.su/video/8349827)

I pray that his answer had changed since that 1992 interview.

Graham’s statement, “I’m not sure I’m going to hear” those words, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” convey, not sure faith in the Lord’s promiseGraham,  Billy.jpgs, but rather, wavering confidence and doubt, which is not of faith.

 

Certainty of faith does not come from what “we” think or what we “want,” but alone from God’s grace in Christ according to God’s revealed Word.  By this, Christians know God’s love in Christ, are sure of heaven, and are certain of God’s favor.

In the Formula of Concord, it is stated, “6. We believe, teach, and confess that many weaknesses and defects cling to the true believers and truly regenerate, even up to the day they are buried [1 John 1:8]. Still, they must not on that account doubt either their righteousness, which has been credited to them through faith, or the salvation of their souls. They must regard it as certain that for Christ’s sake, according to the promise and ‹immovable› Word of the Holy Gospel, they have a gracious God. (McCain, The Lutheran Confessions, Formula of Concord, Epitome, III. The Righteousness of Faith, 481).

Why had Graham voiced uncertainty with regard to what God would say of him in that interview when such a promise of God is made in Christ?

Graham seemed to be sure of being unsure.

A theology like this centers on something other than Christ and His Word, despite their uses and references.  Because of this, the conclusion is not the hope that the Bible gives, but whatever the person engenders, which can and will not be assertive before God of God’s undeserved forgiveness and His unmerited kindness.

Yet, God gives certainty.  This is the fruit of God-given faith.

It is therefore necessary to make distinctions between that which is, and that which is not, of God.

Not all get Jesus right and have full confidence in Him, because not all abide by the Word alone concerning Christ the Savior and His salvation.

When Peter said of Jesus, “You are the Christ,” he was of course stating the truth, the truth that he hadn’t come up with himself, but the truth that had been revealed to Him by the heavenly Father.  Not one of disciples could come to this confession of the Christ on his own.  And no one can come to faith in Christ on his own.

It is for this reason that Jesus had said in St. Matthew’s Gospel, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17).

Flesh and blood cannot make out who Jesus is on its own, for “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Man, by himself, cannot know God as He is.  He knows that there is a God, but he does not know, nor can he know, who that God is unless God reveal Himself.

This is why St. Paul can say in another place that “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing” (1 Corinthians 1:18).

It was by means of Jesus’ Word that Peter confessed Jesus to be the Christ, because the Word of Jesus is the Word of the Father in Heaven.  To hear Jesus is to hear the Father.

To dismiss Jesus’ Word is to reject God’s Word.

To want a Christ apart from the Word is to have a different Jesus.  That’s where Peter went wrong in our text.

Peter wanted a Savior who wouldn’t suffer, who wouldn’t be rejected, who wouldn’t be killed.

Apart from God’s revelation, we, like Peter, want our own kind of god and savior.

first-commandmentApart from the Bible, man makes his own god.  As a result, he makes his own Jesus, not one who suffers and dies, but one who abides by the will of sinful man and follows the dictates of own heart.

The Jesus of one’s own making does not save.  He is an extension of man’s own wickedness.

The Jesus of Scripture is not this way.  The Jesus of the Bible is not He who would be rebuked by Peter for telling the truth.  The Jesus of the Bible is He who would rebuke Peter and who rebukes all who would have their own Jesus and their own god and not the one of the Bible.

There is no other Jesus than the one who was bloodied by the scourging, who wore the crown of thorns, who suffered miserably, and who died so ingloriously.

There is no other Jesus who conquered sin and death by means of His own death.  There is no other Jesus who humbled Himself as man in flesh and blood, though He Himself is One with Father (Philippians 2:8; John 10:30).

There is no other Jesus than He who was sent of God, who was rejected by men and still is rejected by men who don’t want to hear, because they refuse to believe what He says that they may have life and peace with God.

Just as there is no other Jesus than He who gave Himself for you and even He who gives Himself to you by means of His Word and body and blood in the Lord’s Supper for thejesuswomen4 forgiveness of your sins, so there is no other life of the Christian than coming after Jesus, denying self, taking up the cross, and following Him.

All who would go their own way bear the name of Christian in name only.

This is the easier way, for “Wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matt. 7:13-14 NKJ).

The way of the Christian is different.

With Paul, the Christian also confesses, “What things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (Philippians 3:7-10).

The way of the Christian is the life of the cross.  It is the way of death, not only of Christ’s death, but of one’s own—dying to sin, crucifying the sinful flesh and desires and lusts which war against the soul, and seeking help and salvation in Christ alone, casting aside lady reason and man pride; having nothing to give but only everything to be given on account of the real Jesus who suffered and died; the real Jesus then, and the real Jesus now, whose Gospel word is life, lasting life.  Amen.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, aid me in putting to death my sinful flesh, denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Jesus according to His Word. Amen.

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