WHAT IT MEANS TO BE SHEEP IN GOD’S FOLD

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE SHEEP IN GOD’S FOLD

Yesterday, we looked at how Jesus is our gateway and yardstick for discerning what preaching is genuine and what is not. But while the discussion on authentication is important, I also do not want you to miss out on the point of the parable. Because that parable holds a very powerful truth for us, one that, when fully grasped, will change our minds about the state we are in when we sin and show us why there is no need for us to fear when Jesus comes looking for us when we stray.

Let us start with the premise of the parable. When Jesus began the parable, did you notice where we, His sheep, were? That’s right. We were in the fold. Now, that is powerful, because that should unequivocally tell us that we are already protected to begin with. There is already a fence around us and there is already a gatekeeper assigned to keep watch over us, so that only the rightful One, Jesus our Shepherd, has the right to gain access to us. That is the reality that we must never miss out on.

You see beloved, we often think that our relationship with God starts out with us wandering in the wilderness of our lives. We often think that we started our lives neck-deep in the cesspool of the world’s sin; and that is why when Jesus comes along, we start to feel guilty about all the bad things that we have done and we feel that we do not have a right to the glorious wonders of heaven that Jesus came to bring.

But oh how wrong we are. Because Jesus is telling us here that all of us started out in the safety of God’s sheepfold. We have always been guarded and watched over. So what went wrong? How did we land up in our sorry states?

“All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;” Isaiah 53:6

There were times in our lives when we were led astray. Note – we needed to be led, brought, cajoled and fooled to go astray. The devil did not possess us one day and made us do stuff. We are not spawn of the devil and that is why there is an ingrained evil in us. We are merely sheep who know no better, and when an influence that is strong enough comes along, it is able to lead us astray.

So here’s something for you to think about. If we were originally from God’s great sheepfold and we were led astray, should we fear the Shepherd when He comes back for us? Or should we instead run to Him when we hear Him calling?

I mean think about it. If you brought your son to the shopping mall and he got lost, distracted by some shiny toy he saw in the window, does his being distracted and getting lost change his status? Is he no longer your son? Do you stop loving him? Do you even love him less? Or does his getting lost make you, the parent, even more anxious to get him back?

So “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:11

You see, we belong in God’s great sheepfold, each and every one of us. The fact that we have strayed does not change that fact. And when we get lost, you have no idea just how anxious our Father in heaven gets and how eager He is to find you and bring you home. If not, then why did He send Jesus? And why did Jesus tell us this?

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:4-7

When we are lost, Jesus goes out into the wilderness of our lives to look for us. And when He has found us, He lays us on His shoulders rejoicing; for indeed, there is much joy in heaven over one sinner who repents. Yes, beloved, read that last line again, there is much joy in heaven over one sinner who repents.

But what about the mess that we made while we were out romping in the wilderness and getting lost? Who is going to clean up and pay for that mess? Well, I kept something from you earlier, which I will reveal to you now.

“All we like sheep have gone astray;
We have turned, every one, to his own way;
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6

Yes, when we go astray, we do do silly things; silly sinful things. But, ‘the Lord has laid on Him, the iniquity of us all’, because you see, when Jesus came,

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted,…
He was taken from prison and from judgment,…
For He was cut off from the land of the living;
For the transgressions of My people He was stricken….
He had done no violence,
Nor was any deceit in His mouth.
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him;
He has put Him to grief….
You make His soul an offering for sin,…
And He bore the sin of many,
And made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:7-12

God the Father lay on Jesus every possible punishment known to Him so that He could bear the sin of many and make intercession for us, the transgressors.

So putting it simply, when you got distracted and strayed, when you fell into the cesspool of this world’s sin, yes, you chalked up one big slate of consequences; but, and please read this slowly,

The consequences of your sin were paid for, in full, by Jesus, when He hung on the cross.

For as Isaiah says,

“Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:4-5

He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. God saw fit to smite Him on our behalf; bruised for our iniquities just so that we can have peace and be healed. That, beloved child of God, is the point of the parable that I don’t want you to miss.

Yes, we created a mess. But Jesus has already dealt with that. So when He comes looking for us, He is coming not to punish us, but to bring us back to where our Father thinks we rightfully belong. We are sheep from God’s fold, beloved. And all Jesus is doing, when He comes for us, is to bring us home. Isn’t that a wonderful revelation?

Jesus said, “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.” John 10:9

When Jesus comes looking for you, all He really wants to do is pick you up and put you on His shoulders. He wants to tell all His neighbors about it and have them rejoice with Him. And He wants to put you back into the fold where you belong.

You don’t have to paw at the gate and bleat in a sad voice, hoping to win the Father’s mercy. You don’t have to find your way back in. You don’t even have to walk in. Jesus wants to carry you back into the provision and protection of our Father’s fold and all you need to do is let Him.

And if you would let Him, then say this to Him right now.

“Jesus, thank You for being my substitute. Thank You for bearing the consequences of my sin so that I don’t have to anymore. But most of all, thank You for loving me so much that not only did You bear my consequences, You did so willingly, and are now even coming to rescue me, anxious for my safety. I truly do not deserve this from you. And so I receive Your salvation with awe and abject wonder at Your unfathomable love for me. Amen.”

Beloved child of God, we who believe in Jesus are a miraculous bunch because of what Jesus has done for us. Never forget that God wants you in His fold and that is where you will stay because Jesus is looking out for you always. Let Him go before you and follow. And only goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life.

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