Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Walking With The Shepherd #6: My Assurance

Walking With The Shepherd

Psalms 23:6 My Assurance

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            Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.


Sir Walter Raleigh was a famous explorer, poet and writer. He was instrumental in exploring the New World land of Virginia and in making tobacco popular. In 1618 he was arrested and beheaded in the tower of London. They found in his Bible these true and striking lines, written the night before his death:

            Even such is time, that takes in trust
            Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
            And pays us but with age and dust;
            Who in the dark and silent grave,
            When we have wandered all our ways,
            Shuts up the story of our days.
            But from this earth, this grave, this dust,
            My God shall raise me up, I trust!

   I wonder how many of us would have that kind of confidence facing our own death? In the years I have been a Christian and the years I have pastored I can say that I have met and know many Christians who because they knew the Good Shepherd also knew the peace and assurance that comes with that relationship. It is the subject of this sermon the last in our series on Psalms 23.
My Assurance. Psalms 23:6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The Good Life Now

Boasting on the Shepherd

Phillip Keller writes, "The sheep with such a shepherd knows of a surety that his is a privileged position.  No matter what comes, at least and always he can be perfectly sure that goodness and mercy will be in the picture.  He reassures himself that he is ever under sound, sympathetic, intelligent ownership.  What more need he care about?  Goodness and mercy will be the treatment he receives from his mater's expert, loving hands.  Not only is this a bold statement, but it is somewhat of a boast, an exclamation of implicit confidence in the One who controls his destiny."

            The sheep has traveled with the shepherd from the winter fold to the summer mountain pastures.  He has been through the thunderstorms and the attacks by wild animals.  Through it all the shepherd has protected and dealt with every trial.  Always when the sheep needed help or confidence the shepherd was there.  Looking out over the flocks, his presence a constant source of comfort.
Do We Realize How Good it is to Have Jesus?
 How often do we, as New Testament sheep, stop and boast of our shepherd?  Do we fully grasp the concept that all I really need in this life is to have Him near me? 

            Many Christians seem to be more interested in what the shepherd can do for them than having the shepherd with them.  They cannot see past the food and water to see the one who provides and leads. 

Scripture: Matthew 6:25 Jesus once said, "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?"
He is telling them and us to quit worrying about the peripherals and to start concentrating on the things that mattered. 
            In physical matters and especially in spiritual matters the source of our "life?" is Jesus!  Life itself was more important than clothes or food and God was the source of that life.

Illustration: Mary, Martha & Jesus

Scripture Luke 10:38-42, the story of Martha and Mary.
Martha was probably the oldest daughter.  This meant she was responsible for caring for any guests.  In this culture there was no greater shame than not taking care of your guests.  Martha was upset by Mary's seeming disregard for this important duty.

Was Mary wrong in not helping? Not unless you want to argue with Jesus.
Was Martha wrong in wanting to serve the Lord?  No, not at all.  She was only worried and concerned to the point of distraction from spending time with the most important guest she had ever had.  Time with Jesus was more important than doing things for Jesus.

Jesus said, "One thing is needful?  He was needful and knowing him personally would mean much more than serving food to Him.

            Scripture: John 11:17-27.  What is revealing about Martha leaving the home during her own brother's time of mourning?  At a time when even greater pressure to do what is right was on her she left all those who had come to mourn and went to the only one who could comfort her heart. She went flying to Jesus.
We all need to ask ourselves, "Am I aware of the presence of Jesus in my life right now?"  It is not a matter of doing things that Christ would want us to do, but of living with and through Christ.  This is the real understanding of goodness and mercy.  It is in the person and presence of the Shepherd.


Now in the second half of the verse, David moves from the life he has in the present to the life he will have forever.

The Good Life Forever

Basking at home

            Now we come to the final thought, the last phrase, "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever."  The sheep are returning back to the safety of the shepherd's fold and as they reflect upon the year that has preceded, they realize how good it is to dwell with in the shepherd's house. 

            The word house used here means a dwelling place, a place of habitation.  It can refer to houses for people, a shelter for animals or even our bodies as a dwelling place for our souls.  To David it meant dwelling in the household of the shepherd, a place of protection, security and eternal love.  Nothing that he could ever encounter would take away his confidence in dwelling with his shepherd forever.

Assured of Going Home

What of us?  Are we in the “house of the Lord?” Do we belong to this household of faith? 
I have to enter in by the door of the sheep if I am to belong. There is only one way into the fold.  I must enter "through the gate."  I must accept Jesus as the only way of forgiveness and salvation.  I must open my heart to Him and allow Him to deal with the sin there.
Only a complete trust in the Shepherd who gave his life for me can bring his shed blood upon the sin of my life and make me righteous before God. 
Only a sheep who has experienced the forgiveness and cleansing of God can be a member of God's house.

            Once I experience the ownership of Jesus as my shepherd, I also should know the confidence of the eternal security that comes from belonging to the Creator of the Universe. 

            Some are never sure they can be sure, but isn’t that really a distrust of our Shepherd.  It means we do not believe He can do what He has promised.

Scripture: Eternal Security, Eternal Assurance

John 3:16  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 10:28-29  And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.

Romans 8:37-39  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,  Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ecclesiastes 3:14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.

Psalm 37:23-24  The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD: and he delighteth in his way.  Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the LORD upholdeth him with his hand.

Hebrews 7:25  Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Philippians 1:6  Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

Illustration: The Assurance of Saints and Sinners

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Three years after the nation's foremost atheist vanished in a still-unsolved mystery, her diaries will be auctioned off to pay creditors and back taxes.
            There are some 2,000 pages of handwritten material from Madalyn Murray O'Hair scheduled to be auctioned on Jan. 23. The pages open a window into the mind of a woman who won the 1963 Supreme Court case barring prayer in public schools and who tried to remove the phrase "In God We Trust" from U.S. currency.
            O'Hair wrote often about money problems and sometimes about her desire for power or political office. At least a half-dozen times, sometimes set off in a separate box, she pleaded: "Somebody, somewhere, love me."
            Most often, she was the fiery woman who rarely lost an argument or an interview.
"We eat what we like, do what we like, like whom we want and gripe and beat hell," she noted in a volume from the early 1950s.
            O'Hair, her son and her granddaughter vanished in 1995. There were allegations that they took more than $600,000 from one of several atheist organizations she founded. She was 77 and suffering from diabetes and heart disease. The Internal Revenue Service seized her home and possessions for back taxes. Her back taxes and other debts totaled more than $250,000.
            O'Hair's wrote of her ambitions: "I want money and power and I am going to get it. By age 50, I want a $60,000 home, a Cadillac car, a mink coat, a cook, a housekeeper. In 1974, I will run for the governor of Texas and in 1976, the president of the United States."
            There was melancholy, too: "I think atheism is done for this time. I have failed in marriage, motherhood, as a politician. ... At age 58, I have never had a bedroom of my own."
   In the end Madeline Murray O’Hair was murdered by one of her employees at American Atheist along with her son and her granddaughter. Their bodies were cut up put in barrels and buried at a remote ranch, they were not found for 5 years after they had disappeared.

            Let me contrast that with another murder, the murder of Dietrich Bonhoeffer a Lutheran Pastor who had the nerve and courage to oppose Adolf Hitler in Germany in the late 1930 and throughout WWII. When other pastors either fled or shut up for fear of being arrested Bonhoeffer stood up in his pulpit and preached against the genocide and tyranny of Hitler. He even worked against Hitler as a spy and with the underground resistance. He was arrested and on April 9th 1945, he was hanged with piano wire in a Nazi concentration camp. If fact it was the last execution order Hitler signed before he took his own life.

   The last record we have of him was written by a fellow prisoner at the camp.
 “Sunday, April 8, 1945, Pastor Bonhoeffer held a little service which reached the hearts of all. He had hardly finished his prayer, when the door opened. Two evil-looking soldiers came in and barked: ‘Prisoner Bonhoeffer, come with us!’ The words meant only one thing, the scaffold. As he bid his fellow prisoners good-bye, he said, ‘For me this is the beginning of a new life, eternal life.”

   What a contrast, what a difference one life filled with despair and pain in the midst of freedom and money, the other courage and joy in the midst of prison and the certainty of a coming death. One life lived in denying the love of God, one life lived in declaring the love of God.


How assured are you?
Are you sure that you belong to God's flock?  If you are then can you confidently boast as David did, "I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever!” 
If you cannot then you have not really learned to trust the shepherd.  First come in through the door, Jesus Christ. Then walk with him, journey out to the pleasant pastures and through the dark valleys.  Look for him there by the still waters and in the green pastures and when you’ve traveled to the tablelands you will know as David did the love and care of the Good Shepherd.

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