OTHER SHEEP WHO ARE NOT OF THIS FOLD

Bible Reading: John 10:16

I have other sheep [beside these] that are not of this fold. I must bring those also, and they will listen to My voice and pay attention to My call, and they will become one flock with one Shepherd” [John 10:16 Amplified Bible]

This morning we were singing in the meeting the words, “Spirit break out, Break our walls down.” There was a wall between the Jews and the Gentiles, and Jesus came to break down that barrier. Paul writes, “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us” [Ephesians 2:14 NLT]. When Jesus spoke of ‘other sheep that are not of this fold’ He was speaking about the Gentiles. These were literally anyone who was not a Jew.

Israel was called by God to be His instrument of blessing to the Gentiles. God’s original covenant with Abraham was that in him all the families of the earth would be blessed [Genesis 12:3]. God’s purpose for Israel was for them to be a model nation to other nations and that through them “all the families of the earth would be blessed”. Solomon also made it clear that if Israel honoured God then His reputation among the nations would draw them to Him [1 Kings 8:41-43].

Israel tragically failed, through sin, disobedience and rebellion to fulfil God’s plan to reach the Gentiles. God has never stopped loving Israel. Jesus Himself was a Jew, and His earthly ministry was primarily to the people of Israel. Apart from some rare exceptions His ministry was to Jewish people. Our Bible verse today is the only time in John’s Gospel that Jesus specifically speaks about non-Jews coming into God’s Kingdom, although He implied it when He prayed for those who would believe on Him [John 17:20-21], and it is obviously implied in “For God so loved the world that whosoever believes…”

Now to the church Jesus has given the task of gathering in the harvest of people saved out of every nation. The great danger is that we forget this amazing call, through myopic vision and selfishness. Like Israel we are called to be stewards and not hoarders of this vision. We are called to reach the least, the lost and the last. Let’s break out of the walls that hinder us, and reach those who are still waiting to hear, on whatever continent it might be. Let’s not be like Israel and miss God’s purpose.

Questions:

What does it mean that there should be one flock and one Shepherd?

What are the sins that Israel fell into and thus failed to fulfil God’s purpose? Why is that an example for us?

On a personal level, when did you last share the Gospel with someone who is still lost? Israel was meant to allow the gentiles to come to them, but we are called to go to the lost everywhere. What are you doing personally about this?

GUIDANCE MADE SIMPLE

Bible Reading: John 10:1-6, 27; Acts 16:6-10

Jesus as our Shepherd has promised to lead us and guide us in the ways of righteousness. This is the heart of the Trinity, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

When the psalmist wrote, “The Lord is my shepherd” [Psalm 23:1] he used the Hebrew word for Lord that means Jehovah, the self-Existent and Eternal God.

When Jesus returned to heaven the Holy Spirit was given in His fullness to us. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would be another Comforter, who is just the same as Jesus, and would guide us into all truth.

God speaks to our hearts and leads us, but this requires that we take time to listen for His voice. He often speaks with a ‘still small voice’ that is difficult for us to hear when we are too busy and besieged by so many other voices. We must take time to be quiet in God’s presence! For many Christians, however, guidance is a struggle, with hours spent in prayer and pleading for direction, or even giving up in despair because He doesn’t seem to speak. I don’t think the Shepherd ever intended that it should be that difficult.

The psalmist said, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you desires of your heart” [Psalm 37:4]. A direct Hebrew interpretation of this verse is “Delight yourself in the Lord, and he shall give you His desires.” A similar verse in the New Testament says, “If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you will ask what you desire and it shall be done for you” [John 15:7]. The meaning of the word abide is “to live in.” In Christ we live and move and have our being. We love Him and we love His Word. Surely this is the meaning of the words of the psalmist, “Delight yourself in the Lord.” As we delight and abide in Him, His desires increasingly become our desires. When we ask according to God’s will and His desires our prayers will be answered.

As we abide in Christ we make our plans, and God is perfectly capable of correcting us if we make a mistake. In the Book of Acts Paul and Silas planned to go into Bithynia but it was not what God wanted, and so the Holy Spirit corrected them, and then showed them what to do [Acts 16:6-10].

Many years ago a lovely Christian girl approached me. She had been offered a job in Australia and wasn’t sure if this was God’s way for her. She had spent three weeks seeking God, praying and fasting, but still had no direction. She had to make a decision the next day, and asked me what she should do. I asked her if she really loved Jesus, and was not aware of any conscious sin in her life. Her response indicated a love for Jesus and a purity of heart, and so I told her to go to Australia. She replied, “Surely guidance is not that easy!” Nine months later she wrote to me and said that going to Australia was the most wonderful move for her, and God had so blessed her there.

Questions:

Why do you think that we have made guidance, and hearing God’s voice such a difficult thing?

Will you take a few minutes each day over the next week to ask God to speak to you and direct you, and then begin to make that a lifestyle?

JESUS LEADS AND WE FOLLOW

Bible Reading: John 10:1-6, 27; Romans 8:12-17

Over the next two days we are going to look at the promise of Jesus to guide us in the path of righteousness.

The shepherds in Israel went before the sheep and led them [John 10:4]. They knew his voice and followed him. Jesus takes this picture of Himself as the Good Shepherd who leads His sheep. He led, not herded the sheep, knowing each one of them individually. He directed their path. He would go before the sheep and remove anything harmful that would hurt them including poisonous plants in the fields. The sheep learned to recognise his voice and to trust him. Have you noticed that as you walk with God you recognise the voices that are not His voice. The Holy Spirit witnesses with our spirit when something is not right.

God has promised to lead us. In the Old Testament He led Israel in the wilderness by a pillar of cloud in the day and a pillar of fire by night [Exodus 13:21]. The Psalmist said, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with my eye” [Psalm 32:8]. Paul writes about being led by the Holy Spirit [Romans 8:14; Galatians 5:18].

People often ask me how to hear God’s voice. He speaks in many ways. Very occasionally we hear Him speak in an audible voice. He speaks through His Word, but also through dreams, prophecy, circumstances and other people.

His paths are always righteous and fill our hearts with peace. If you have no peace, then do not go in that direction! If you sense that God might be leading you in a way that contradicts His Word, then it is not the voice of God. He will never contradict Himself. If you sense that God is telling you to go in a certain direction, but are not totally sure, then ask Him to confirm it to you in a way that gives you absolute assurance.

It is important to recognise that God doesn’t necessarily speak directly to us to guide us every day. Through all his pain, God did not speak to Job until Job chapter thirty-eight. If we don’t hear Him giving us specific guidance or direction, then we should continue to do that which is right and pleases Him. The prophet Micah made this clear when he said, “He has told you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you except to be just, and to love [and to diligently practice] kindness (compassion), and to walk humbly with your God [setting aside any overblown sense of importance or self-righteousness]?” [Micah 6:8 Amplified Bible]. Keep doing what is right and expect God to show you what to do!

Questions:

Could you list some of the ways in which God speaks to us?

Why is God’s Word an infallible part of genuine guidance and of hearing God’s voice?

According to Micah 6:8, what are the three things that God requires of us?

NO MAN TOOK JESUS’ LIFE FROM HIM

Bible Reading: John 10:17-18; 19:28-37

Jesus made it very clear that no man took His life from Him, but rather that He laid it down, and has the power to take it up again. Jesus was killed by the Romans at the request of the Jews, so in what way can we understand that no man took His life from Him? It was Jesus who made the choice to willingly lay down His life, and in that sense no man took His life from Him. Just before He died, Jesus said, “Father, into your hands I commit My spirit” [Luke 23:46]. Despite all that he had suffered, Jesus was in total control of the situation. He knew exactly what He was doing.

There is another reason why it might be said that no man took Jesus’ life from Him. Although He died on the cross, it was not the crucifixion that killed Him. Crucifixion was the slowest, cruellest, most humiliating and most painful of all deaths. Execution by hanging or guillotine is over in seconds but not crucifixion. Not only was He stripped naked and beaten mercilessly, before being nailed to the cross, but also, on a cross a man might remain alive for as long as six days. He remained alive until his legs were too weak to support him. As long as his legs were strong enough to support him, he could push up and breathe, but when the strength went from his legs the victim would just hang by his arms, and so breathing became more difficult and he very quickly died of suffocation.

The Jewish day began at six o’clock in the morning, and Jesus was crucified at the third hour of the day [Mark 15:25]. That was nine o’clock in the morning on the Preparation Day of the Passover Festival [John 19:31]. From the sixth to the ninth hour, that is from mid-day until three o’clock in the afternoon when Jesus died, darkness covered the land [Mark 15:33,34]. Jesus had been on the cross for six hours when he died.

The Passover Sabbath began at 6.00pm on the Preparation Day. The Jewish leaders demanded that the bodies on the cross should be removed before the Sabbath, and so they asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and the bodies removed [John 19:31-32]. The Jews wanted these three men buried before 6.00pm! The Roman soldiers broke the legs of the two criminals crucified beside Jesus, but when they came to Jesus they did not break His legs because he was already dead [John 19:32-33]! Why had Jesus died so quickly?

To make sure that Jesus was dead the soldiers put a spear into His side. John witnessed this and wrote about it [John 19:34-35]. First blood and then water poured out from His heart. The only way that Jesus could have died for this to happen was a ruptured pericardium – literally a broken heart. It wasn’t the cross that killed Jesus, but a broken heart! Why? Possibly because of the sin of mankind that He bore that day, but it might also have been because His Father turned His face away, because He could not look upon sin, and Jesus had become sin and taken our judgement.

Give thanks today that Jesus willingly went to the cross, in complete control surrendered His spirit to the Father, and died of a broken heart!