Get To Know Jesus!
Many times I have heard the slogan: "It's not what you know, but who you know?"
The basis of our faith isn't built so much on what we know as it is on Who we know.
John's gospel reminds us that we know the Good Shepherd.
To understand what it means to know the Good Shepherd it is important to understand
that we are like sheep in a sheepfold who are in desperate need of a shepherd.
Not many today know anything about sheep apart from the nursery rhymes
like "Baa, Baa, Black Sheep" or "Mary Had A Little Lamb."
Probably 80% of the listeners to Jesus made their living off the land, and many of these were shepherds.
They lived in the fields with their sheep.
The shepherd is indispensable.
The flock is never without a shepherd.
When the sheep would wander off, the shepherd found them.
When they fell, the shepherd carried them.
When they were sick, the shepherd healed them.
Sheep aren't the smartest animal in the world.
They tend to look for water and running creeks and get stuck in them.
Sheep need a shepherd to lead them to still waters.
Sheep have no natural defense no claws, no horns, no fangs.
Sheep need a shepherd with a "rod and a walking stick" to protect them.
Sheep have no sense of direction.
Sheep need a shepherd to lead them "on paths that are straight."
George Buttrick has a favorite story of coming upon a farmer who had just rescued a lost sheep.
When he was asked how the sheep got lost, the farmer replied, "They just nibble themselves lost."
He explained, they go from one patch of grass to another, until at last, they have lost their way.
How often has that happened to us?
We go along from one thing to another one day to the next one year after another not realizing
that something is not right; and not realizing that we are losing our way until we stop and look up
and discover that we have no idea where we are.
Then we are happy that we follow a shepherd who will leave the 99 to come to look for us,
and bring us back into the fold.
As sheep we are not responsible for the shepherd, the shepherd is responsible for us.
Although we may think we are both the shepherd and the sheep and that we have to both guide and follow.
We are truly free to live life to its fullest when we realize that the shepherd is responsible.
Our shepherd doesn't drive us to slaughter
our shepherd cares for us and guides us.
Our shepherd is trustworthy and willing to lose his life that we might live.
Our shepherd loves us and knows us each as individuals.
Our shepherd is never off duty either.
At night, when the shepherd goes to sleep after he is gathered the sheep into a sheepfold
built adjacent to his tent or fixed directly onto his home.
Surrounded by a low stone wall that ensures if anyone or anything tries to sneak in
that the shepherd will hear and respond.
In the morning, when it is time to go out to pasture, the shepherd gathers his flock by calling to them
in his own unique way.
Jesus paints a Palestinian picture in our Scripture passage that is very similar today.
Often flocks mixed together at a water site.
After the watering is over, each shepherd goes up different sides of the valley,
and each calls out his peculiar call; and the sheep come out of the crowd to their own shepherd
and the flocks pass as orderly as they came.
We have a shepherd who knows His flock; and He calls to His flock and leads His flock to safety.
Jesus said, "The shepherd calls his own sheep by name and leads them out
the shepherd goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice."
If we are sheep in desperate need of a shepherd, then our next question needs to be,
who are we listening to?
When we wake in the morning; when we rest in the afternoon; when we come home in the evening,
what voice do we hear?
Do we hear the ones who beat us down?
Or do we hear the One who leads us into salvation and peaceful pasture?
Jesus is the gate through which we pass into the security of salvation.
We are saved from worrying about what tomorrow holds for us because we know Who holds tomorrow.
We are saved from worrying about what the next life brings because we know Who brings us into the next life.
We are saved from thinking that maybe this is as good as it gets because we know
that the Shepherd who leads us came that we may have abundant life here, and live forever and ever.
It will be a better life than we could ever dream of.
We are saved from fearing the darkness because we know that our Shepherd is in the house
waiting to rescue us when the thief, bandit or stranger tries sneaking into the fold.
We are saved from the fear that we will be forgotten because through our faith we have been adopted
into God's family, and God knows each one of us as if we were an only child.
"God Loves You."
You and I are loved without condition.
Don't listen to those voices that tell us that we will never amount to anything or that life will never get any better.
Don't be so consumed with how we don't measure up that we can't see that there is Someone
who loves us with a perfect love.
God loves you and me, and wants us to know that love today.
We can know that love by knowing Jesus Christ.
How long has it been since you spent time listening to God?
How long has it been since you spent time with Jesus?
Have you spent enough time in the presence of the Good Shepherd hearing the sound of His voice
so that you will recognize it when He calls to you?
God wants our individual attention.
God wants to spend time with us.
And that time can become the highlight of our day, if we attune our listening skills.
I read of a man who married an opera soprano.
She loves concerts.
Her college years were spent in the music department, and her earliest memories are
of keyboards and choir risers.
He loved Monday Night Football and country music.
He also loves his wife, so on occasion he attends the opera with her.
They sit side-by-side in the same auditorium, listening to the same music,
with two completely different responses.
He sleeps and she weeps.
The difference though is more than taste it is training.
She spent hours learning to appreciate the art of music.
He has spent none.
Her ears are geiger-counter sensitive.
He can't differentiate between staccato or leggato.
But he is trying.
In fact he even managed to stay awake during one opera.
He may never have the same ear as his wife, but with time, he is learning to listen and appreciate the music.
Equipped with the right tools, we can learn to listen for and to hear when Christ call us.
Here are some many ways that some have found helpful.
Have a regular time and place to spend time with God.
Set aside time in your schedules for God.
Some do this at the beginning of the day while others prefer evening or the ending of the day.
Still others have many encounters with God throughout the day.
Many turn breakfast tables or porches or a corner in an upstairs office into holy places
where they spend time with God each day.
Some years ago a deacon and myself sat with Vance Havner, and heard him say
that before anyone got up in the morning he would walk up the side of the mountain and find a quiet place,
and spend several hours with God each day.
My mother would have her time with God in prayer right before bedtime, and she ingrained this habit in me.
I cannot go to sleep until I have spent some time with God.
Take the time.
It may only be 15 minutes or it could be 50.
Put a value on the quality of the time over its length.
But take enough time to say what you need to say, and for God to say what He wants to say to you.
Have an open Bible.
Ask for God's guidance to help you understand what you read.
Pray for insight into what God wants to say to you.
Read the Bible prayerfully and carefully.
The Bible is not a newspaper or library book to be skimmed it is a gold mine to be quarried.
Read the Bible a little at a time.
God often gives us a little kernel here or a nugget there for us to chew on.
Read it until something "hits" you, then stop and meditate on it.
Write it down, and reflect on it throughout the day.
God will reveal Himself to you.
Don't be discouraged if reading reaps only a small harvest.
Some days a lesser portion is all we need.
It's like the child who came home from her first day of school and her mom asked,
"Did you learn anything today?"
The little girl replied, "I guess not. I have to go back tomorrow."
Understanding comes a little at a time over a lifetime.
I am still learning in my advanced years.
Never stop learning!
Develop a listening heart.
We are listening to the voice of Christ when we read in the Bible, and what we reflect on
in our devotions is what others see exhibited in our lives.
If we want to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, then we must give ourselves to God
through regular prayer and Bible study.
The more we do that, the more we will hear what Christ says to us.
If you're stuck trying to know the what about Jesus, consider shifting gears,
and get to know the person, Jesus.
Forget the what for a while, and introduce yourself to the Who.
It will make all the difference in your life.
A professor worshiped at a church in a small town.
The pastor recognized the professor one Sunday and knew him to be very meticulous.
So he spent extra time on his sermons to try and impress this man with his knowledge of God in the world;
and his eloquence of speech.
The pastor began trying to convince the professor to join one of the upcoming, new member class.
This went on for about two of three classes, and finally the professor decided to go,
and eventually joined the church and was baptized.
On the following Sunday, the pastor asked the professor what was the deciding factor
that influenced him to receive Christ and become a member of the church.
The pastor expected to hear the professor complement him on his excellent preaching and teaching,
but the minister was humbled when he heard the professor's answer:
"One Sunday, shortly after I began attending, as I was leaving the building,
an elderly woman approached me and greeted me.
In the course of our conversation, she asked me about my faith journey.
I couldn't tell her much as I didn't have much of one.
She leaned into me and motioned me to come closer as well, and said,
"Son, let me give you one piece of advice that will make all the difference in your world,
give yourself to Jesus.
Get to know Jesus.
Learn the voice of Jesus.
It'll make all the difference."
I'll tell you pastor, those words stuck with me and when I finally decided to get to know Jesus,
I was amazed at how right she was."
I would say to all who are here today who know not Jesus.
Give yourself to God.
Let God love you!
Get to know Jesus Christ, and your life will become richer and fuller than you could ever dream of.
Get to know Jesus
and you will realize that the fullest life you discover can never be found
anywhere else because this abundant life comes from One
who claims your worth is not of this world
It is of God's world.
Get to know Jesus!
It will make all the difference in your life.
The sermon has been adapted from several sources by Dr. Harold L. White