A Christ Centered Perspective
Devotionals, Leadership, Life
Well, actually I was moving on to the next part of this verse this morning, but then I read something from Spurgeon this morning that I thought I needed to share from his morning and evening devotionals: “When the Lord in mercy passed by and saw us in our blood, he first of all said, “Live”; and this he did first, because life is one of the absolutely essential things in spiritual matters, and until it be bestowed we are incapable of partaking in the things of the kingdom. Now the life which grace confers upon the saints at the moment of their quickening is none other than the life of Christ, which, like the sap from the stem, runs into us, the branches, and establishes a living connection between our souls and Jesus. Faith is the grace which perceives this union, having proceeded from it as its firstfruit. It is the neck which joins the body of the Church to its all-glorious Head.” This is important to remember. God gives us not only our physical life, but our spiritual life as well. When Adam sinned in the garden, we lost that spiritual life and entered into spiritual death. Now it takes a “rebirth” to become alive spiritually. God (in His great mercy) can accomplish this creative act as well. However, this 2nd birth takes our involvement. Our acceptance of that rebirth.
How about you?. I don’t think I can do better to describe this “rebirth” or being “born again” better than the conversation that Christ had with Nicodemus in John 3: There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.”
It can’t be said any more plainly than that. Have you accepted that gift of the new birth? Have you been born spiritually?. Have you been made alive when you were dead? If not, do that today. Admit your sin. Turn from your sin and to Christ. Affirm the fact that He is God. Accept the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross in payment for your sin. And then start to experience life as it was meant to be lived.
Father. O Lord, do not rebuke me in Your anger. nor chasten me in Your hot displeasure. Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak; O Lord, heal me, for my bones are troubled. My soul also is greatly troubled; but You, O Lord–how long? Return and deliver me! Save me for Your mercies’ sake. O Lord, You are so good to us. You have saved us from destruction. You have condescended to keep us from going to hell. From been separated from You. I ask that You indeed forgive me for my sins. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit that I might be kept from sin. Thank You that when I do sin I have Your Son as the Advocate for me. That He intercedes on a constant basis for me. Let the Holy Spirit teach me the things I need to know this side of heaven. Let me walk with You and He and Jesus. Moment by moment, let me not stray from Your side. Keep me in all my ways. Let me share Your great love in the congregation. Let me share it with all of those that I meet. Let me never forsake this great love You have for me. I ask these things in Your Son’s most precious name. Amen
The beginning of this verse reminds me of the very first words in the Bible, “In the beginning God” the first chapter in Genesis! So for me at least, this verse goes back to the very beginning. It goes back (like everything else) to God! But then it continues and it reminds me that God created me! Genesis 1:27 “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” and then Deuteronomy 4:32 “For ask now concerning the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether any great thing like this has happened, or anything like it has been heard.” and then Malachi 2:10 “Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?” And from the psalms Psalm 100:3 “Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” It all goes back to God. He is the creator. We are His creatures. If we keep this straight everything else will just fall into place.
How about you? (I should really title this portion of the devotional that!). But really How about you? Do you understand that? You aren’t an accident. You aren’t the outcome of some long process and now you just happen to be here. No, you were planned from the beginning of the entire creation. God had His heart set on you, just as you are! That is pretty amazing. I have to confess there are times (many times if I’m being truthful) that I forget that basic fact. That God made me and loves me for who I am. He has plans for me as well. He has laid a path for me, and even promises to shepherd me through the dark valleys as well as the bright sunshine of that path. The only think I need to do is to quit relying on myself and trust Him completely, for everything. So how about you? Have you turned everything over to Him? Confessed your sin, stopped trying to be good enough on your own and let Him be your righteousness? He is willing. He is waiting. He made you so He could be your all in all. You’ve tried on your own, how has that worked out for you? Give Him your life. Give Him your all, and see if He doesn’t make beauty from the ashes
Let me rejoice Father because I have put my trust in You. Let me ever shout for joy, because You have defended me. Let all of us who love Your name be joyful because of You. You bless the righteous with Your favor, You will surround them with a shield. O Lord. You indeed made me. Let me come to know my purpose. May it be worked out during my walk with You. Grant me the filling of Your Holy Spirit. Let Him empower me and guide me. Let me fulfill those things You have laid out for me to accomplish, but let them be done in Your power and your strength, not my own. Let my life be one of praise to Your Son for the great sacrifice He made on my behalf. Let not a moment go by where I am not found praising and honoring Him. Let love for Him be the hallmark of my life. Let love for His chosen people be evident for all who look upon my life. May my thoughts, my words and my actions be acceptable in Your sight. I ask this in His most wonderful name. The name of Jesus. Amen
There are some great promises in the Bible. This is one of them. It assumes some great things about our Good Shepherd. First, that He has the power and authority to be able to provide all our needs! Since we know that God is omnipotent (all powerful) there is not a problem with that. It also assumes that God would want to do this for us! Well, another attribute of God is that He is a good God. Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” So we can see that God has the ability and the desire. What about that “want” word? Strong’s says this about the word want: “חסר châsêr khaw-sare’ A primitive root; to lack; by implication, to fail, want, lessen: – be abated, bereave, decrease, (cause to) fail, (have) lack, make lower, want.” So I shall not be in short supply of anything that might be needed. It appears to even go beyond that. According to this definition, it is anything that by not having it, we make me bereaved (to have something taken away) or anything that I don’t have that we cause me to fail at something. In other words, it’s a pretty inclusive word. It includes my basic needs obviously, but even those on a myriad of levels. Spiritual, emotional, physical, mental, relational. God is a good God, and He desires that we have no want of the good things He has in mind for us.
How about you? Okay, so Paul, are you telling me that I can have whatever I want? Are you one of those guys who teaches the “prosperity gospel”? Name it and claim it? Blab it and grab it? No. By no means. But I think what this verse (and others) tells us is that God is concerned about every single area of our lives. He has some grand promises for us. Consider this: “Yet you do not have because you do not ask.” (James 4:2b) Isn’t that a great promise? You just have to ask. Of course we learn from other passages that we must ask in accordance with His will. 1 John 5:14: “Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” So we need to ask, and have it be in accordance with His will. Anything else? Yes, we can’t be greedy little gimmie gimmie monsters. God isn’t going to bless us just so we can keep it! In fact, that verse we looked at earlier in James is surrounded by a couple other thoughts: “You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.” (James 4:2-3) So yes, let us ask the Lord in full anticipation of His granting that request. To supply all of our needs, but let us ask in humility and in accordance with His will, and see what He does for His sheep!
Father. give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my meditation. Give heed to the voice of my cry. You are my King and my God. To You I will pray. My voice You will hear in the morning O Lord. You are the infinite, all powerful God. You are the One who spoke and everything that is was created. The seen world, the unseen world Lord. By Your voice all things were created. By Your Word all things remain and have their being. There is nothing or no one apart from You. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit. Teach me how to ask aright. Let Him give me wisdom in to know what to ask. Let me be humble and have Your heart for those requests. Let Him give me boldness to ask for those things I should, and great humility to know those things I should not ask for. Grant me the great grace of knowing You more fully. Teach my heart to sing songs of praise to Your Son. He who is worthy of all praise, not only for who He is, but for what He has done. In obedience to You Father, let me share that same obedient heart. I ask these things in His most precious name. The name of Jesus. Amen
One last thing about this portion of the verse. If indeed the Lord is my Shepherd, there will be some people He is not the Shepherd of! Of course we can first think of those who deny Him. Who want nothing to do with His rules and sacrifice. (Is it true that one time I myself was in that camp. What a sorry, miserable, lonely, hateful place to be). But there are others as well. Adam Clarke in his commentary on the Bible says this: “Neither the backslider in heart, nor the vile Antinomian, who thinks the more he sins, the more the grace of God shall be magnified in saving him; nor those who fondly suppose they are covered with the righteousness of Christ while living in sin; nor the crowd of the indifferent and the careless, nor the fiery bigots who would exclude all from heaven but themselves, and the party who believe as they do. These the Scripture resembles to swine, dogs, wandering stars, foxes, lions, wells without water, etc., etc. Let not any of these come forward to feed on this pasture, or take of the children’s bread.” Quite the list. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7: 21-23) It’s pretty plain, not everyone who thinks he belongs in the sheepfold does.
Tough words from our Lord. You know by now what I am going to ask. How about you? Where are you with Christ? Have you acknowledged your sin? Have you turned from it to God? Have you acknowledged that Christ is God? Have you come to believe that He died on the cross in payment for your sin? Have you taken the free gift of His love? Have you consented to follow His will for your life? If so, then you are His! He will keep you. Philippians tells us that “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; (Philippians 1:6). So He is the One who will bring you through this. How do you run a self-diagnostic on this? Well Christ tells us in John that “”If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). You can’t do it on your own though. You need the gift of the Holy Spirit that He gives you. (Read John 14 to see how that works!) Let’s continue to check our hearts. Let’s continue to stay close to Him. But if you should sin. You have an advocate with the Father. “1 John 2:1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Christ has us covered past, present and future. He is the Good Shepherd, make sure today that you are one of His sheep!
Father. have mercy on me Lord, hear my prayers. The Lord will hear when I call. You have put gladness in my heart. I will lie down in peace and sleep, for You have set a watch over me. You alone make me dwell in safety. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit Father. Let my spirit know that I am Yours and Yours alone. Complete that good work that You have started in me. Do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Keep me as one of Your own. Not for my sake Lord but for Your glory. Let all look upon me and marvel at Your goodness. O LORD, let my hearts cry be to bring praise to Your Son. Let me continually walk in His ways that I would not bring shame to His Name, nor become a block of stumbling to those who might take offense at how I live my life in front of You. In my own power Lord this is a hopeless request, but I can and will do all things through Him who strengthens me. I ask these things in Your Son’s most precious name. The name of Jesus. Amen
We understand that shepherds (at least the ones who did their jobs) did a lot for the sheep. And we saw how from the sheep’s point of view, it might not have been appreciated. But there is one other thing to mention before we move along. It pertains to the psalm as a whole. The voice of the shepherd was known by the sheep! This is interesting and vital to understand. Sheep can tell the voice of their shepherd. Here is at least anecdotal confirmation of that: “James Freeman (1972) writes:
Travelers have noticed the wonderful readiness with which the sheep of a large flock will recognize the shepherd’s voice. Though several flocks are mingled they speedily separate at the command of the shepherd, while the word of a stranger would have no effect on them. Porter thus describes a scene he witnessed among the hills of Bashan: “The shepherds led their flocks forth from the gates of the city. They were in full view, and we watched them and listened to them with no little interest. Thousands of sheep and goats were there, grouped in dense, confused masses. The shepherds stood together until all came out. Then they separated, each shepherd taking a different path, and uttering as he advanced a shrill, peculiar call. The sheep heard them. At first the masses swayed and moved as if shaken by some internal convulsions; then points struck out in the direction taken by the shepherds; these became longer and longer until the confused masses were resolved into long, living streams, flowing after their leaders.” – Giant Cities of Bashan, p. 45.
Pretty cool isn’t it? Even “dumb” sheep know their shepherd’s voice and obey it.
How about you? Do you know your Shepherd’s voice? Christ says in John 10:3-5: “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”” How can you follow the Shepherd if you are not used to hearing His voice? And something else interesting in this passage from John also states… “He calls His own sheep by name!” Listen for Him. He is indeed calling your name. Remember what 2nd Peter 3:9 says: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” Answer His loving call. You are ‘sheep’, you have a choice right now to choose the Good Shepherd John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.”
Father. Arise O Lord and save me O my God. Salvation belongs to You. Let Your blessings be upon Your people, fill me with Your Holy Spirit. Let Him train my ear to hear from You. Let Him train my heart to do those things that You command. Let my thoughts and speech be of praise to Your Son concerning the great things He has done. Indeed, let me come into His sheepfold Father. Make me One of His own. Let me rejoice in His tender care. Let me not forsake His chastisements. Fill my heart with love for Him and His people. Let me be His servant doing His will. I ask that You would condescend to use me again for Your glory… Not because of my worth, but that You can show Yourself strong and wise by using the weak and foolish things of this world. I ask it in Your Son’s most precious name. Amen