Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Psalm 95:6-7 ESV
His Own Heart Ministries is humbled and overjoyed that you’ve chosen to join us as we celebrate Lent 2019 together.
If you’ve followed this series in real time, you likely know that we’re heading into Week 4 of our study, The LORD is My Shepherd. If, on the other hand, you’re joining us for the first time, we’re so grateful to have you with us. You’re more than welcome to jump in right where we are today or have a look at what we’ve covered in Week 1, Week 2 and Week 3 by accessing their respective hyperlinks.
At any rate, here’s a very basic review of where prayerfully we’ve been and where prayerfully we’re headed on this seven-week trek though the season of Lent. We’re examining the aspects of what the very title of our series states. What, in other words, are we saying when wesay with sincerity and heartfelt conviction thatThe LORD is My Shepherd? What does the idea entail? Looking beyond the surface – to its roots and the rich soil of Hebrew context that embeds it – what does the statement imply about Jesus Christ? About you? About me?
These are some of the overarching questions we continue to pursue on our deliberate march toward Resurrection Day on April 21, walk past that gigantic stone and peer into the tomb of our Savior; a tomb we’ll find – SPOILER ALERT – magnificently empty.
Regardless of where this week’s post finds you, don’t forget to watch for our three basic truths to unfold as we continue evaluating factors that make our lives so much better when we let go and let Christ lead us as our undisputed Shepherd:
- Jesus is the perfect Provider; He provides all needs for one’s soul.
- Jesus is the perfect Protector; He defines and defends His flock.
- Jesus is the perfect Promise; He delivers on His Word at any cost.
Our goal for the whole of this series, then, is to seek the divine revelation that brings these truths together as we consider the following topics:
- The LORD is my Shepherd: Are You Pulling the Wool?
- The LORD is my Shepherd: What Does That Make Me??
- The LORD is My Shepherd: Oh No He DIDN’T!?!?!
We concluded the first leg – Are You Pulling the Wool? –last week with a third look into Psalm 23, During that first leg, we discussed the shepherding roles that Christ serves for followers who accept by faith His identity as Only Son of God and Savior of the world. We also looked at references the psalm makes to the provision God offers to us through His rod and staff. Finally, we delved into the concluding verse of the psalm to examine a theological revelation about the Shepherd as well as our own eternal security.
This week, then, we’re setting out on the second leg of our journey to explore the last part of this conditional phrase: If the LORD is my Shepherd. What Does That Make Me??
The short answer to the question – as today’s Passage of Focus attests – is that it makes us sheep. In other words, not nearly the most intelligent or life-skilled creatures to board Noah’s ark.
There’s good news and bad news and worse news in this realization, but the sooner we come to terms with the bad – and then the worse – the sooner we can graze on the life-sustaining nutrients of the good.
The bad news is that no matter how you try to fluff up a sheep, that sheep’s a sheep: visually impaired; stubborn as all get-out; easily distracted from its shepherd.
But wait; there’s more. The worse news is that we – as in you and I – for all practical purposes are spiritual sheep. No matter how we try to spin it outwardly, our spiritual vision is seldom what it should be; we stubbornly resist the things that God knows are best for us; we are far too easily distracted from the all-knowing leadership of our Shepherd.
That’s hard, downright humiliating for me to digest. And I get it: you don’t like the taste or even the smell of it either. It’s imperative, though, that we muster every bit of gumption we have to take that dose of medicine.
Because, until we digest it, we can’t properly digest those nutrients I mentioned a few paragraphs ago.
Which means we’ll never fully benefit from the goodness of the good news those nutrients give us.
If you’ve read this far hoping to learn that you’re not a sheep after all – well – that’s not quite the case. No matter how you try to fluff it up, a sheep’s a sheep. So unfortunately you’re still a sheep; so am I.
But here’s the thing – the good news – is that if you’re a believer in Christ, you’re not just a sheep. You’re His sheep. And being His sheep entitles you to some special benefits as spelled out in God’s Word – perks, in other words, to which everyone hasaccess but not to which everyone chooses to gain access. The Door to our Shepherd’s fold is open to all, but a sheep enters only through acceptance of and submission to Christ who died and rose that we may live (John 10:2-3).
In this section of our series, then, I’d love for you to join me in looking at some scriptural passages that define us as sheep of the Shepherd and a few of the divine benefits that flesh out our identities. For this and the two coming weeks, I’ve intentionally chosen passages that call for a look into their context to avoid the pitfall of misinterpretation.
Let’s begin with a close look at Romans 8:28-29:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
One of the things I like about pastor/author Rick Warren is his ability to break the first verse of this passage down phrase by phrase. Here’s how he dissects it:
This is one of the most misquote and misunderstood passages in the Bible. It doesn’t say, “God causes everything to work out the way I want it too.” Obviously that’s not true. It also doesn’t say, God causes everything to work out to have a happy ending on earth. That is not true either. There are many unhappy endings on earth.
We live in a fallen world. Only in heaven is everything done perfectly the way God intends. That is why we are told to pray, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10). To fully understand Romans 8:28, you must consider it phrase by phrase.
We know: Our hope in difficult times is not based on positive thinking, wishful thinking, or natural optimism. It is a certainty based on the truths that God is in complete control of our universe and that he loves us.
That God causes: There’s a Grand Designer behind everything. Your life is not a result of random chance, fate, or luck. There is a master plan. History is His story. God is pulling the strings. We make mistakes, but God never does. God cannot make a mistake – because He is God.
Everything: God’s plan for your life involves all that happens to you – including your mistakes, your sins, and your hurts. It includes illness, debt, disasters, divorce, and death of loved ones. God can bring good out of the worst evil. He did at Calvary.
To work together: Not separately or independently. The events of your life work together in God’s plan. They are not isolated acts but interdependent parts of the process to make you like Christ. To bake a cake, you must use flour, salt, raw eggs, sugar, and oil. Eaten individually, each is pretty distasteful or even bitter. But bake them together and they become delicious. If you will give God all your distasteful, unpleasant experiences, He will blend them together for good.
For the good: This does not say that everything in life is good. Much of what happens in our world is evil and bad, but God specializes in bringing good out of it. In the official family tree of Jesus Christ, four women are listed: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba [see Matthew 1]. Tamar seduced her father-in-law to get pregnant [see Genesis 38]. Rahab was a prostitute [see Joshua 2]. Ruth was not even Jewish and broke the law by marrying a Jewish man [see Ruth 1]. Bathsheba committed adultery with David, which resulted in her husband’s murder [see 2 Samuel 11]. These were not exactly sterling reputations, but God brought good out of bad, and Jesus came through their lineage. God’s purpose is greater than our problems, our pain, and even our sin.
Of those who love God and are called: This promise is only for God’s children. It is not for everyone. All things work for bad for those living in opposition to God and insist on having their own way.
According to his purpose: What is that purpose? It is that we become like His Son. Everything God allows to happen in your life is permitted for that purpose [Ephesians 4:15]!
Arguably this twenty-eighth verse may be one of the most oft-quoted, sought-after passages of the New Testament when life throws curveballs, but for the born-again Christian Romans 8:28 isn’t the end of the story. The same Apostle Paul who declared that “all things God works together for the good of those who love Him,” immediately followed up in verse 29 with a statement that clarifies and sheds light on the path of the Christ-follower’s being “conformed to the likeness of [God’s] Son.”
If we read these verses it seems Paul intended – as a unit and not independent of each other, what might they suggest concerning the sheep of Christ’s pasture?
Consider the contextual argument that – together with the Savior’s sacrificial death and resurrection – they reveal to us that the Shepherd Himself carved five beautiful birthmarks into our hearts to encourage, sustain and see us through each one of those all things mentioned in verse 28:
- He foreknew us individually.
- He predestined us as His own.
- He called us as His disciples.
- He justified us on the Cross.
- He sealed us through the Resurrection.
Think of it.
Being a sheep of the Shepherd – the LORD – means that we were foreknown; that we were predestined; that we were called, justified, sealed.
These birthmarks travel with us in this life. They remind us not so much of “who we are” but of “Whose we are.” They’re there through the “all things:” the sicknesses, the disappointments, the nail-biting decisions, the deaths of loved ones, the rejections, the pain, the suffering, the guilt, certainly the sorrowful repentances and pleas for forgiveness. In the midst of every last bit of the chaos and the confusion, God molds, melds, shapes the Christ-follower in order to – don’t miss this – conform us into His likeness.
This very conformity, this glorification, is the “good” of which Paul speaks in verse 28. Man and woman were created in God’s own good and perfect image but the image was marred in the fall to sin that took place in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1-3). When Jesus returns, His followers will be restored to that good and perfect image (1 John 3:2). As we wait for His return in the here and now, our birthmarks remain etched into our DNA to remind us that each trial we experience, each fire we walk through, each storm we withstand is experienced, walked through and withstood with Him. For some of those times He’s at our side; through others we’re in His arms. But make no mistake, He’s there, fully involved in our lives. Bending. Filing. Forming us bit by bit into reflections of His own image.
Working all things out through the Shepherd.
For the good of His sheep.
– Copyright 2019 Carole Anne Hallyburton. All rights reserved.