Sermon delivered August 7, 1999

by Pastor Donald J Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.

Sheep Need the Shepherd

I have good news and bad news for you. The good news and the bad news is that the Bible compares us to animals. We're not compared to poodles or bears or leopards, although some of us could be compared to animals that I will not mention. But the Bible does compare us to sheep. Now, that's bad news, isn't it, because sheep are stupid. Their IQ level is way down there in the single digits. I want to talk about sheep today.

Where do they keep sheep? At night sheep are kept in a pen. And there's a shepherd that takes care of them.

A visitor went to the holy land and found a sheep pen. And he said to the guide, "There must not be any wild animals around here at all because I notice that on your sheep pen there's no gate." The old, deeply tanned, shepherd said: "I am glad to tell you about the sheep today, But want to tell you that I am the gate. That opening is my bedroom where I sleep at night."

That's brought out in our scripture reading (John 10:1-14) today that was read to us. John 10:7-9. Therefore Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture."

It is dangerous to sleep in the opening. Sheep are wanting out, and wolves are wanting in. Thieves are wanting to dome in and take the sheep. The shepherd was literally "the gate." Only through the gate could that be possible. As you you're reading this sermon today, I don't want you to think about sheep. I want you to think about Jesus. Okay? Any sermon that you hear/read, you ought to be thinking about how this gives you a good idea or new information about our Savior. And how you should or could relate to the master Shepherd. Because, only through Jesus, the good Shepherd and only through the Gate to life, can we find God. Not through Buddha, not through Mohammed... not through any other means. Only through Jesus Christ can we be saved. No one else.

A Palestinian shepherd of Jesus' time used simple equipment. He had bag he carried his food in. He had a shepherd's rod with a crook on the end of it. He had a sling shot that was well used, and some rocks. He didn't have much. But he had a heart. The shepherd often tended the same flock of sheep for many years. he got to know them. They got to know him.

Jesus is our Shepherd. It was not easy to be a shepherd. Their life was very hard. They were never off duty. You're thinking about Jesus, aren't you?

There being little grass, the sheep were bound to wander, and since there were no protecting walls, no barbed wire (it hadn't been invented yet), that shepherd had to be with those sheep. the sheep had constantly to be watched. Where is Jesus? He's with you. On either side of the narrow paths the ground dipped sharply down to the craggy deserts and the sheep were always liable to stray away and get lost. The shepherd's task was also dangerous, because he had to guard the flock against wild animals, especially against wolves. There were always thieves and robbers ready to steal the sheep. Shepherds were not sissies.

John 10:11-14. "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. Who owns the sheep? Who owns you? Jesus does. 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..." Do you know Jesus>

Jesus is the good Shepherd, the true Shepherd. Because of this I have always been dumbfounded and mystified that in picking His disciples to care for the early church Jesus did not choose shepherds. Have you ever thought about that? What do fishermen know about caring for sheep? I'll have to preach about that someday. There's an interesting lesson there.

Jesus was a typical Palestine shepherd, an extraordinary one. In Palestine the typical shepherd slept on some high moor, where each night he could hear the wild howl of hungry animals. If you chanced to meet him, you saw a sleepless, far-sighted, weather-beaten man leaning on his staff, and looking out over his scattered sheep, a kind gentleman, a person who had the sheep on his heart, who loved the sheep, and who took care of them, who was always thinking about the sheep, and always with the sheep. Then you begin to understand why in the Bible they chose the shepherd of Judea to call their king, and made the shepherd the symbol of their leader. David was a shepherd. He was a loving, caring person. Then you know why Christ took him as the type of self-sacrifice. Constant vigilance, fearless courage, patient love for his flock, were the necessary characteristics of the leader of the flock.

John 10:15. "just as the Father knows me and I know the Father- - -and I lay down my life for the sheep."

Friend, can you see anything new about Jesus today? Can you see how He is with you. He's like a shepherd to you. He wants to care for you. Can you visualize the depth of His kindness and His Love? He's a wonderful savior that we have. He's ever awake to help you. He would risk His life for you. He would die for you, and He did. What a wonderful Savior that we have.

Now, I am going to preach to myself, Don Gettys, for a minute.... I'm going to preach to myself, because ministers also are supposed to be shepherds. I guess in Germany they would call their pastors, "German Shepherds!" (Alsatians) (Elder Gettys likes puns.)

I Peter 5:2-4. This talks about shepherds, of which I am one. I read these verses quite often for myself because they pertain to me. They also pertain to Elders. Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers--not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.

What is one of the major job descriptions of a shepherd? Well, if you read Psalm 23:1,2, it says something like this, The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters... The good shepherd is going to provide green food, healthy food, healthy water, not stagnant water. He's going to feed that flock.

A good minister, and I'm preaching to myself, needs to feed the flock. How can you fed the flock with anything but the green pasture? What is the green pasture? To me, it's the Word of God. That's the only food there is. And where the food is, they will feed. And where they will feed, they will be nourished. And so, ministers need to preach nourishing sermons that will grow healthy sheep. Their flock is growing and vibrant. Their church is not a concentration camp of emaciated spiritually starved saints. They are Bible fed.

Have you ever been to the Morris Antique Mall in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Nothing on the inside distinguishes this antique store from dozens like it in Chattanooga. It smells musty just like ours do. You get that certain odor, they play that old music from back in the fifties or somewhere. They've got you when you come in there. But if you look closely at the outside of the Morris Antique Mall, they tell me that you'll see something that makes it distinct from nearly every other antique mall in Chattanooga. Because, before it was an antique store, it was a church building. And I will tell you that probably that church was a resting place for rusty relics. Or else it was growing, let's hope it was growing and it sold the old building and moved to a new building. I don't know. But a church is not a antique store. It's not a place where rusty relics can rest. It's a green pasture where people should be fed and grow to be like Jesus Christ, into Christ-likeness.

Paul gives advise to pastors in Acts 20:28-30. Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!

The greatest need of the sheep is for shepherds of integrity, ministers of character, ministers of morality, leaders who can be trusted guides who personally know THE Guide, minister who pray. How can a minister point the way to life when he is walking on some other path?

Matthew 7:15 addresses this: Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.

Some leaders might look ever so good on the outside, but in secret they are corrupt wolves. Sheep deserve Christlike leaders. We need pastors who love their flock. If you can't stand the smell of sheep, you shouldn't be a shepherd.

How do shepherds guide their sheep? By leading where the sheep should follow. Sheep need good leaders. General Eisenhower used to demonstrate the art of leadership with a simple piece of string. He'd put it on a table and say: "Now, you can pull it and it'll follow wherever you wish. If you push it and it will go nowhere at all." You've got to lead. You can't force.

Of course Jesus is the Master Shepherd and has eternal integrity and always leads us to green nutritious pastures. You can never go wrong following Jesus.

-SHEEP-

Now I am going to preach about you (and me, because I am a sheep and so are you)! We are sheep. Ministers are sheep and also shepherds at the same time. That's a unique duality. You need to know that in God's Word you are called sheep.

What are some of the characteristics of sheep? Listen closely and you will benefit because if we know our weaknesses we are far more prepared to deal with them.

Isaiah 53:6. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

What are sheep notoriously noted for? They go astray. They get lost easily. We get lost at the drop of a hat and we have no ability to find ourselves. Did you ever get lost and couldn't find yourself? We are helpless. Sheep are totally dependant on the Shepherd, on Jesus Christ.

You have heard how the sheep in the Highlands of Scotland are rescued when they wander off and become stranded? The vegetation on those high places is pretty spare. And yet, down on maybe a little cliff down below on a ledge down about ten or twelve feet is a little ledge that is grassy. It hasn't been eaten because sheep don't go down there. And some of them will smell that lush grass and they will go down on that ledge, jumping ten, twelve feet, landing on all fours like a cat and they will eat that lush grass. Well now, there's no way they're going to get back up by themselves. Soon their bleating is heard as they try unsuccessfully to return to higher ground.

The shepherd does not rush right over to rescue them. He just lets that sheep stay down there on that ledge below. There's no way he can relieve it until all the grass is eaten and until the sheep begins to get hungry and thirsty. There's no water there. Finally the sheep gets so weak that he can't even stand up. At that point, when he's at the bottom of the barrel, the shepherd will come and will lower himself down over that ledge and rescue that sheep. And he knows that if he comes any sooner that stupid sheep, of which we are sheep, will jump over the ledge to its death.

And I think often times that God waits until we are at the bottom of the barrel. I wish He wouldn't wait so long. You ought to pray that the grass will run out a little quicker.

1 Pet 2:25 makes a statement about us. This is talking about us. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

You know, we as human beings should invite Jesus Christ back into our life if we have strayed away. If you have strayed away, you have the freedom of choice. Actually we're like sheep, but we also have a brain as human beings. We're superior to sheep in that way. God gives us the freedom of choice and we need to invite Him back into our lives. Sheep can't do that. Return to Him. If the world has let you down, if the forbidden grass has not satisfied you then you come back to the shepherd. He is inviting you. Maybe through my voice. Every Sabbath morning I have prayer, and I pray, "Lord, who am I to be worthy to speak to these people? I am nothing. But I pray that You will speak through me, despite me." Because I just want to be a vessel and He is our only hope of rescue.

Sheep need the shepherd. One afternoon a shepherd came upon two coyotes that had stealthfully crept right into the midst of the flock. There they had killed a lamb and were eating it. The other sheep just stood around watching them. They didn't know the danger. They're stupid. We are stupid to think that we can save ourselves. Sheep need the protection of the shepherd. Sheep have no claws, no sharp teeth, no terrible horns. They can't climb trees or squirt mace like a skunk. There is no mighty roar to frighten their enemies and no armored plate. They can't fly away.

You can't save yourself. You're dependant on Jesus. We are totally dependant on Jesus for our protection. We must stay in Jesus' presence. And you might think, "I'm going to quit the church. I can't stand some of the things that are going on in this place. Always butting heads with other sheep. It stinks around here. Some of these sheep stink. I can't stand these people. I'm going to get out of here. I'm going to quit the church. I've got to leave the fold." It's a bad mistake. That's what the bible says. You can't contend with the wolves on the outside. You have no defense. You are defenseless. You can't do it. You may think that the shepherd is ugly. The church isn't quite right. You may even think that some of the other members are doing wrong things. The church is making wrong decisions. I've got to get out of here, I've got to get out of this fold. I think God would tell you to stay in the fold.

Psalm 100:3. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his ; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Stay in His pasture. Are you in Jesus fold today? Are you a sheep of His pasture? Sheep need direction. If you drop the reins of a horse they claim the animal will eventually head home. You can't do that with a sheep. If you let go of the sheep, he gets lost and stays lost.

If we are the sheep, then what would our children be called? They are Lambs, aren't they. Dr. W. B. Riley spent a vacation several years ago on a Scottish sheep herders ranch. His host met him at the Railroad station and on the long drive out to the ranch the visitor could tell the old shepherd was heavy of heart. He said, "You seem so downcast, what is wrong?" At that tears began to flow from the old man's eyes.

"Well, I lost sixty five of my best lambs last night," he said. "Wolves got in." The pastor was sympathetic and asked, "And how many sheep did they kill besides?" The shepherd looked surprised. "Sheep? Don't you know that a wolf will never take an old sheep so long as he can get a lamb!"

Who is the devil seeking today? Well, all of us, but primarily today he is seeking the lambs. He goes after them like a roaring lion. A survey was done of the baptisms in one conference in one year.

Isaiah 40:11. He (God) tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. We need to be gathering lambs to the fold. Parents, when your children ask you, "Can I be baptized?" You need to think very carefully before you say "No." The lambs need to be led to Jesus before they get older and the draw of the world entices them away. That's why the church has an Adventure Club. That's why we have a Pathfinder Club. That's why we have Sabbath School and church school: to try to get these lambs into the fold.

One of the finest things a sheep can do is to fall in love with the shepherd, with Jesus Christ. And to do that you must be knowledgeable about the Shepherd. Do you know Jesus?

A famous actor was once the guest of honor at a social gathering where he received many requests to recite favorite excerpts from various literary works. An old preacher who happened to be there asked the actor to recite the twenty-third Psalm. The actor agreed on the condition that the preacher would also recite it. The actor's recitation was beautifully intoned with great dramatic emphasis for which he received lengthy applause.

The preacher's voice was rough and broken from many years of preaching, and his diction was anything but polished. But when he finished there was not a dry eye in the room. When someone asked the actor what made the difference, he replied, "I know the psalm, but he knows the Shepherd."

What a tragedy that so many folks know Psalm 23 but do not know the Shepherd. They don't know Jesus. If you don't know Jesus as your Shepherd, you're lost. Sheep recognize the voice of their personal shepherd. Do you know Jesus?

Years ago my wife and I went to Palestine. They told us about two Bedouin shepherds. A tourist visiting there saw a terrible thing. Two flocks of sheep came on crossed paths and hundreds of sheep got mixed up together. Even worse, they were not branded. It was hopeless. After some confusion, each shepherd went a distance down the road and turned and called his sheep. Instantly the sheep became polarized as each headed toward the voice of its shepherd. They knew that voice.

Zechariah 13:7. Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered... I want to tell to you stay close to Jesus. Don't leave His side. He's our Savior. He's our Shepherd. I urge you to lead your lambs to Jesus. Make sure that your sheep don't jump the fence and leave the fold.

Opening Hymn: #1 Praise to the Lord
Scripture: John 10:1-14   
Closing Hymn: #545  Saviour Like a Shepherd Lead Us

000807Gettys#185


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