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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

My Sheep Know My Voice (John 10.22-30)

August 15, 2010
Youth Mission Sunday

I further shortened the planned sermon in the midst of so many significant and scriptural youth testimonies. You can hear the audio of those and my message with the audio players below. My originally planned sermon manuscript follows after that.

New: Some of the service music used
  • I Could Sing of Your Love Forever (Smith)
  • How He Loves (McMillan)
  • Mighty to Save (Morgan and Fielding)

Morgan Shuler (John 14:15-18)

Kathleen Katibah (Romans 8:28)

Will Dolinger (Matthew 22:37-40)

Mid-High Testimony (taken from video)

Karen Katibah (Deuteronomy 31:6)

Robert Austell sermon (John 10:22-30)

Maddie Shuler testimony and song

(download) **Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

Today’s sermon is a little shorter than usual, but we’ll still be looking at one of the “follow me” sayings of Jesus. It is not framed in those words as in other places, but is still an important piece of understanding what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Today’s text comes from the Gospel of John and is an exchange between Jesus and a group that gathered in the Temple during one of the Jewish feasts. The exchange is really just a question on their part and an answer on Jesus’ part, but Jesus imparts so much for such a brief answer, for those with ears to hear. In fact, having ears to hear is exactly the point he makes.

Let’s look at the exchange and then consider several direct applications for those who would follow Jesus today.

Question and Answer

At this point in Jesus’ ministry, his reputation is growing. There are some who are declaring him to be the Messiah, or “Christ” in the Greek language. And so at the Jewish feast some people ask him directly, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” (v. 24)

So that’s the question: is Jesus the Christ, the Messiah or “anointed One?”

Listen carefully to his answer: “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in my Father’s name, these testify of me.” (v. 26)

Basically, Jesus is saying that he has already answered their question, they are just too deaf and blind to realize it. He says that he has told them, but they don’t believe. He says that his works (such as the miracles) provide witness to his identity, but they can’t see that.

That would be sufficient answer to their question, but he presses on further. Having said that their not listening and not seeing result in their unbelief, he explores that situation further using an analogy. He compares himself to a shepherd. Note that he has already been teaching on God and himself as Shepherd earlier in this chapter, so this is not out of the blue. And now he does two things with that analogy. He tells them that their unbelief identifies them as being not of his sheep. And he goes on to identify the characteristics and benefits of being of his sheep. Let’s look at those briefly.

Jesus says that his sheep HEAR his voice and FOLLOW him. This is just the opposite of what his questioners have done. And tied to that listening and following, Jesus adds that he KNOWS his sheep. What does it mean to be a Jesus-follower, a Christian? It means listening to and following Jesus.

While one might argue from this passage that one is predestined to be of his sheep or not, that would be a distortion of the full biblical witness. God indeed does know His own, but He also issues the invitation to come to Him and believe, and I think that invitation is implicit in this text. In answering these questioners in the way he does, Jesus doesn’t just tell them off, but invites them to a new way of relating to him. I believe he invites them to follow him – to identify as one of his sheep.

Jesus goes on. Those were the characteristics of a Jesus-follower. The benefits are these: Jesus gives ETERNAL LIFE to them and that identity and life are SECURE (v. 29). What a great and reassuring promise! Let me pause to note that this salvation, this security and eternal life, are not just tied to a verbal profession of faith, but to ongoing obedience and discipleship. That is one of the very important applications of this passage.

And finally, Jesus grounds all these statements in the authority of God the Father. In fact, when he concludes by saying, “I and the Father are one,” the crowd picks up stones to stone him for blasphemy. He has given them a clear answer, despite their unbelief, and they have persisted in unbelief and turn on him.

So in just a few verses, Jesus has covered a broad distance. He has explained why some do not believe. He has described why some do believe and what that means for them. He has issued an invitation to that kind of living faith. And he has identified himself, not only as the Messiah but as the Son of God, one with the Father. What application can we take from this rich exchange?

Listen Carefully!

Broadly, this passage holds out an invitation to come to Christ and an invitation to grow in Christ. In order to be a Christian, we must not only believe that Jesus was who he said he was – the anointed Son of God and one with God; we must also listen to him and follow him where he leads us. To tune out his words and actions are to tune him out.

I think this passage is directly illustrated through the mission experiences of our youth. I can’t speak for them, but I remember my own experiences of short-term missions. ONE of the most dramatic and tangible elements (there were many others) of a mission trip was leaving music, computers, games, and in some cases, friends, back home. In short, I found that I was able to tune in to God more clearly on the mission trip because all those distractions were missing. There is nothing magic about the mission field; rather the time away was an opportunity to break out of habits and focus on God. Sometimes I struggled to remember the lesson when I got home, but eventually it sank in. The reason those distractions hurt me were that they so often kept me from listening to God, which in turn kept me from following God. But the trips were just a wake-up call.

The challenge is incorporating those lessons into every-day life. One of the hopes I have for the youth sharing with you this morning is not that you’ll just think, “How nice for them,” but that you will be challenged – perhaps even have your own wake-up call to something like this. After all, Jesus could not have made the point much more strongly. If you listen to and follow him, you will have eternal life; if you do not listen and follow, you are not his sheep! Remember that distinction in Scripture? Even the demons believe … but they do not follow! A Christian is one who follows. And to follow we must listen; to listen, we must believe.

So how do we reduce distractions, listen more carefully, and follow more obediently?

Here’s a starter list of two for simplicity’s sake – you may well hear other ideas from the youth or think of your own.

1. Scripture: it’s the #1 way we can hear and know God’s Word today. Read it; study it; pray it; soak in it. Come to Sunday school or participate in a Bible study. Don’t just think, “I learned all those stories long ago.” I learn something new every single week – it is a living, breathing Word that God speaks freshly into our lives if we will listen and obey. Make time for it and give it your attention like your life depended on it!

2. Silence: turn off the TV, radio, iPod, and other distractions. Read scripture and then sit and let God breathe into your life. Pray but don’t just rattle of a list of wishes, but be still before the Lord and don’t rush on. Give yourself time to ponder, process, and ingest. After a sermon or a song or a scripture, stop and think through what you have heard and how it applies to you before moving on to the next thing. Be an active learner; that’s what equips you to be a faithful follower.

Remember the big question I keep coming back to: “What is God doing in and around you and how can you be a part?” That question presumes the lessons in today’s text. In order to answer it, we must see and hear what God is doing and then respond and follow in obedience. Take some time today – during lunch or after lunch. Think through this text or what you’ve heard some of the youth say. Ask yourself what you will take away and what you will do with it.

And if you are inclined to let me know, I’d love to know! Amen.

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