Heb 13:20 Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
Joh 10:1-5 ”Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers."
Over and over again in scripture the Lord is referred to as being our Shepherd. David knew what it was to be a shepherd and he knew his Shepherd intimately. Psalm 23 lays out for us that relationship. Our relationship with the Shepherd of our souls is meant to be an intimate one where we hear His voice, know Him and are satisfied by Him and through Him.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” Ps. 23:1
Too many in today’s church are not satisfied with the food their Shepherd gives them for their soul and they look to things in the world or other philosophies of the world to add to the gospel or to take away from it. Many look for experiences to satisfy them rather than their Shepherd’s satisfaction. Many turn to other voices - sometimes voices of wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. But our Shepherd’s voice is the only one His true sheep will listen to. They recognize it and can make a distinction between His voice and the voice of another, an imposter. Paul warned that when he departed many wolves would come in from among their own numbers and spoil the flock. Many shepherds in the church have failed to protect their flock and give them the rich green pasture of God’s Holy Word, but Jesus, our Shepherd and guardian has provided all that the flock needs for rich and full nourishment in His Word. Nothing else can satisfy His true sheep, and they know when they are in the pasture of their true Shepherd or in another.
The Shepherd provides all that His sheep need. He understands everything that they face and what will give them true peace and contentment. His presence gives them rest. When they hear His Word, they are immediately put at ease. To “not want” is to be content with one’s lot in life. If we have faith in our Shepherd and that He is in control of all of our life and our salvation, and the nourishment of our soul, and the sanctification of it, then we need not be in want. We need not look elsewhere. Paul said, “for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” How could he say that? Because He knew and trusted His Shepherd, and listened to no other voice. Paul never looked for "self-fulfillment", but he trusted the Shepherd of his soul to be His life. He said, Gal 2:20 "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."
It’s not that nothing bad ever happens in a Christian’s life or that he will see no suffering, as some seem to think. Our contentment has come from our Shepherd Himself and all He has provided for us and our relationship with Him – not from this world. We have quit looking for self-fulfillment, and happiness in this world through experiences, through things, or through people. We are content through our relationship with our good Shepherd – through the life He alone can give us.
Our shepherd has put his “mark of ownership” on each of His sheep, and He knows His sheep intimately. In Phillip Keller’s book, “A Shepherd Looks At Psalm 23”, p. 23-24, he describes this mark of ownership…
”The day I bought my first thirty ewes, my neighbor and I sat on the dusty corral rails that enclosed the sheep pens and admired the choice, strong, well-bred ewes that had become mine. Turning to me he handed me a large, sharp, killing knife and remarked tersely, ‘Well, Phillip, they’re yours. Now you’ll have to put your mark on them.’ I knew exactly what he meant. Each sheep-man has his own distinctive earmark which he cuts into one or other of the ears of his sheep. In this way, even at a distance, it is easy to determine to whom the sheep belongs. It was not the most pleasant procedure to catch each ewe in turn and lay her ear on a wooden block then notch it deeply with the razor-sharp edge of the knife. There was pain for both of us. But from our mutual suffering in indelible lifelong mark of ownership was made that could never be erased. And from then on every sheep that came into my possession would bear my mark… …For the man or woman who recognizes the claim of Christ and gives allegiance to His absolute ownership, there comes the question of bearing His mark. The mark of the cross is that which should identify us with Himself for all time. The question is – does it? Jesus made it clear when He stated emphatically, ‘If any man would be my disciple [follower] let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Basically what it amounts to is this: A person exchanges the fickle fortunes of living life by sheer whimsy for the more productive and satisfying adventure of being guided by God. It is a tragic truth that many people who really have never come under His direction or management claim that ‘The Lord is my Shepherd.’ They seem to hope that by merely admitting that He is their Shepherd somehow they will enjoy the benefits of His care and management without paying the price of forfeiting their own fickle and foolish way of life. One cannot have it both ways. Either we belong or we don’t. Jesus Himself warned us that there would come a day when many would say, ‘Lord, in Your name we did many wonderful things,’ but He will retort that He never knew us as His own. It is a most serious and sobering thought which should make us search our own hearts and motives and personal relationship to Himself.”
Will you put your whole trust in the Shepherd of your soul today? Will you trust Him to be a perfect Shepherd in every way and will you come to the rich green pasture that He provided in His living Word and not listen to the voice of another who would lead you away from that Word to another pasture with inferior food? Will you drink from the wells He provides and not another? Can you say today, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”?
Wherever Christ is, there is newness of life. No matter where we are, or what we are going through, in our worst circumstances or in our best, without Him they are meaningless; but with Him there in the midst of it we have newness of life being brought into our hearts through it all.
”Sorrow according to the will of God, tending to the glory of God, and wrought by the Spirit of God, renders the heart humble, contrite, submissive, disposed to mortify every sin, and to walk in newness of life.” – Matthew Henry commentary
Many of the hard things we go through cause us to see our flesh and bring about a godly sorrow in our hearts over it.
2Co 7:9-11 ”Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.”
The sorrow of the world is a self-centered sorrow of pride, one that brings death and not newness of life. But the sorrow God brings into our life, whether it be because of conviction of sin, or chastisement we are going through – the discipline and training all Christians receive, it brings newness of life and true righteousness.
Examine your heart today, if you are experiencing any kind of sorrow. What is it producing in your life? Does it cause a turning from self, to seeking God and His life, purpose, and will? Or does it draw you further into yourself, cause bitterness of heart, and lead you further from God. The one is a godly sorrow. The latter is a worldly sorrow. The one will bring newness of life - refreshing from God – character, inner strength, faith, and hope, forgiveness toward others. The latter will bring destruction, pride, bitterness, loss of faith, and ultimately spiritual death. The one will make you more “God-seeking”; the latter will make you more “self-seeking”.
I’ve heard Christians say, “suffering has never brought me closer to God!” No suffering will never do anything for anyone to bring them closer to God. It’s what’s in our hearts at the time of suffering and what we do with it that determines whether we will benefit from it or receive a “leanness of soul” from it. It depends on whether or not we have a godly sorrow or a worldly sorrow. It depends on whether or not we trust God to be our Savior to the uttermost and trust in His goodness, His righteousness, and His love in all of His dealings in our lives, or if we don’t. It depends on if we are willing to accept His cross as our own, accepting its work of crucifixion in our lives, or if we choose to continue to live for self and hold onto our self-life. The one will bring newness of life – resurrection life. The latter will bring leanness of soul.
Mat 16:24-26 ”Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”
But we were made in Christ for something better than our life in this world. Jesus did not come to “improve” our life. He came to crucify it! He came to bring newness of life in His cross and resurrection. Too many believers fail today to see this and think Jesus is simply part of their self-improvement program.
Rom 6:3-5 ”Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:”
If we do not see His cross as our cross, we will not find that newness of life in Him. When sorrow comes our way we will not turn it into a godly sorrow. When hardship comes, we will become embittered. But when we see His cross as ours, His resurrection as ours, we find life out of death. We find joy out of sorrow. We find strength out of weakness, and hope out of despair. There is no psychology in this world that can compare with the newness of life that comes through Christ alone and the power of His cross at work in our lives.
Will you choose this world’s life, or newness of life in Jesus? Will you choose to be self-seeking or God seeking? Will you allow the cross to have its way in you? Will you trust His heart when you don’t understand His hand? Will you allow, today, your sorrow to be made a godly sorrow that brings newness of life? Trust Him to do it.
Jer 17:7 ”Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.”
Lam 3:24 ”The LORD is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.”
It is a matter of truly trusting Jesus to be our Savior to the uttermost, in the uttermost times of our lives! In doing this we find newness of life.
John Darby - ”Therefore, being thus dead with Christ-professedly by baptism, really by having Him for our life who died-we believe that we shall live with Him; we belong to that other world where He lives in resurrection. The energy of the life in which He lives is our portion…”
Abba, Father, we put our trust in You alone today for newness of life, out of the dark places in our life, out of our sorrow, out of our good times and our bad. We give them all to You and trust You alone for the life that comes from fellowship with Your cross and resurrection.
Rom 8:5-8 ”For the ones that are according to flesh mind the things of the flesh. And the ones according to Spirit mind the things of the Spirit. For the mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace; because the mind of the flesh is enmity towards God; for it is not being subjected to the Law of God, for neither can it be. And those being in the flesh are not able to please God.”
Has the church forgotten today what it is to live by the Spirit of God? Many try to live the Christian life by “the flesh” rather than by the Spirit, trusting in, depending and relying on the indwelling presence of God’s Holy Spirit within them.
What are some of the things that we replace a Spirit led life with? We replace the Spirit’s leading with psychology, man-made laws, rules, commitments, promises, etc. – whatever is our effort to do outwardly what only God can do inwardly by His Spirit within.
Our flesh is so subtle – and even more so our “religious flesh”. It is all the more difficult to recognize, because it appears so “spiritual” and wanting to please God. But there is no other way to please God than to walk by faith in His Spirit and according to His grace, putting aside our religious pride of working out our Christian walk by fleshly means.
Do you have a weakness? More commitment, psychology, or striving will not crucify your flesh. Our victory lies in the finished work of Jesus Christ alone!
Rom 6:8-11 ”But if we died with Christ, we believe that also we shall live with Him, Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dies no more; death no longer lords it over Him. For in that He died, He died to sin once for all; but in that He lives, He lives to God. So also you count yourselves to be truly dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
How do we overcome weaknesses? By making covenants and promises with God? No! He has already made His perfect covenant of grace with us, sealing it by giving us His Spirit to help us in our time of weakness – Rom 8:26 ”And likewise the Spirit also joins in to help our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes on our behalf with groanings that cannot be uttered. “
Gal 3:13-14 ”Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us; for it has been written, "Cursed is everyone having been hung on a tree;" (Deut. 21:23) that the blessing of Abraham might be to the nations in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”
Gal 4:6-7 ”And because you are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba! Father! So that you no more are a slave, but a son, and if a son, also an heir of God through Christ.”
Gal 5:1 ”Then stand firm in the freedom with which Christ made us free and do not be held again with a yoke of slavery.”
Gal 5:16-18 ”But I say, Walk in the Spirit, and you will not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another; lest whatever you may will, these things you do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under Law.”
2Pe 1:3-4 ”As His divine power has given to us all things pertaining to life and godliness through the full knowledge of the One calling us through glory and virtue, by which means He has given to us the very great and precious promises, so that through these you might be partakers of the divine nature, escaping from the corruption in the world by lust.”
There are so many promises to us, God has given us to live by in faith in His Power in us, not by our promises to Him. Our religious flesh will get it backwards every time. Our religious flesh wants to do rather than be what God made us in Christ and allow His Spirit by faith to live in and work through us.
Our heart is deceitful. It must always be examined, not by our own selves or others opinions, but held up to the penetrating light of God’s Word. It’s there that our own “righteousness” will be shown for what it is in God’s light. It’s there that the thoughts and true motives of pride and self-righteous works are defined and exposed for what they truly are.
Heb 4:12-13 ”For the Word of God is living, and powerfully working, and sharper than every two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of both soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge of the thoughts and intentions of the heart; and there is no creature unrevealed before Him; but all things are naked and laid open to His eyes, with whom is our account.”
There are many “gospels” being preached today among God’s flock. Yet there is only one that is the gospel Paul preached, which is of Jesus Christ, which has “the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” – Rom. 1:16.
There is only one gospel that promises “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” - Eph. 1:3.
There is only one gospel that “has the same power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ Jesus when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places” - Eph. 1:19-20 and that “made us alive who were dead in trespasses and sins” – Eph. 2:1, and that “even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” – Eph. 2:5-6.
What incredible riches we have in Christ! Let us not fail to receive by faith these riches for ourselves. Let us trade our filthy rags for His perfect righteousness. Let us not accept the man-made substitutes in place of the glorious provisions He gave to us so freely, through His precious shed blood, and the Spirit He now freely and graciously gives to fill our hearts and lead us. He makes every provision for us to walk according to His Spirit by faith alone! Let us not fail then to do so!
Rom. 8:12-15 “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by Whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”
All throughout Paul’s writings we see him stressing a “new way” – a “new covenant” where old things have passed away – where we are no longer to live by being under and trying to keep a written code, or law. In Christ, we have the indwelling Holy Spirit. He said if we don’t have this Spirit, we are not God’s!
Rom. 8:9 “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His.”
Yet much of the “church” today lives the Christian life as though it is all up to them. They live as though God’s salvation were dependant on what they do rather than on what God has done! They live as though they did not have the Holy Spirit indwelling them, shunning the cross and not realizing all that is theirs in Christ. There is little difference in how they live their lives than the way any non-believer in the world lives. There is no more power to overcome sin than the world has.
This is because our flesh is hopelessly corrupt and can never improve. If we try to live by it, under its power and by its strength, and ignore what God has given us in Christ, we will be no different than the world.
If we try to use fleshly, human means to conquer our passions and problems, such as psychology, commitments, determination, behavioral techniques, covenants, promises, etc. we are no different than the world. But those who are Christ’s are different in that we have His Spirit indwelling us and we are no longer under the dictates of the flesh, or man. We are led by His Spirit. It is by His Spirit bringing us into union with Christ in His death and resurrection that our flesh is crucified and we are given new life unto Him. This is by faith alone in what He has done. It is an invisible thing taking place inside our spirits, yet a very real thing. It is not a matter of our minds conjuring it up by thinking hard enough on it – but a very real thing that has taken place in the spiritual realm when by faith we believed (relied on, clung to, trusted in, adhered to) Christ Jesus to be our Savior. As we reckon (consider – accept as true) all that Christ has done, and abide in that, the power of the Holy Spirit works in us to bring it to our experience. There is nothing we can do but put our faith in Him!
Pride that we must do something to earn God’s approval or change ourselves always keeps us from this truth. It is because grace is not understood. You see, right from the beginning Adam and Eve had everything they needed because of what? Did they do one thing to earn what God gave them? It was all by grace provided for them, given freely, and they walked in total dependence on God. But satan tempted Eve with the desire for independence. Sin is independence from God. Today our efforts to live the Christian life any other way than by total dependence on all Christ did is that independent spirit once again raising it’s ugly head of pride. It must be seen for what it is and surrendered to God, that we can be brought to a place of total dependency on Him, His provision, His grace – His unmerited favor and power to live unto Him and not be led by our flesh. There is still in us a desire for control – independence, when we think there is one thing we can do to please God outside of faith.
We are debtors not to the flesh - but we are debtors to God to be led by His Spirit alone, living by faith in Him alone. Why are we so afraid to do this? It is like jumping off a cliff and knowing that God will catch you – knowing that His Spirit alone truly will work in you and perform that which He said He would in you, letting go of fleshly means of accomplishing “righteousness”, giving up laws, man-made rules, pledges, and methods of changing, and trust God to be righteousness in you. Trust Him to be life in you. Trust Him to save you to the uttermost, everyday, in every way, all the way. Give up your independence!
As we walk in faith, abiding in Him, we have the mind of Christ, and will know His will. We will not need any other counsel but will recognize the true counsel that comes from His Word, that is filled with His life-giving Spirit in our hearts to lead us in every part of our lives, fulfilling God’s purpose in us through us, and for us.
Abba Father, thank You so much for Your glorious salvation! Thank You for giving us Your Spirit to live in us and guide us through this life and lead us home to You to be with You for all eternity. Teach us to walk in all you provided, led by Your Spirit.