We have now said this for 16 weeks: John has an objective and he is walking us in process towards it.
Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31)
In this series we have seen and been challenged a lot in the process as it ties to our personal responsibility in process. Today is not the first, but a focused moment of Jesus’ responsibility in that process.
Let’s start off with this: What causes insecurity? It is complex and powerful. Insecurity is felt by everyone sometimes and by some most of the time. It is both predictable and unpredictable; it can be managed or unmanageable; it can be logically overcome, or it can be beyond logic.
What causes insecurity?
We could try to process everything about insecurity today--or actually acknowledge that it is a big, unique, complex, moving target. Let’s recognize and acknowledge it for a moment, but not get stuck here. Let’s realize that all of us deal with it to some extent at some point.
I have issues. Some of these issues can cause insecurity: rejections or failures from the past, shame, guilt, poor self image, people-pleasing...I could go on!
But what happened to me that when someone says, “We need to talk,” I immediately assume that I failed and he or she doesn't want a relationship with me anymore? Maybe I'm not alone in these things.
Every step of life is an opportunity to choose--secure or insecure?
In what ways have people in your life caused you to feel more secure in relationship with them?
It is time for us to start walking towards John’s objective, which is relationship with Jesus; knowing Jesus as Messiah and finding life in His name. And the “problem” is that we can get to that objective by taking a path of trust and security, but we can also get there by taking a path of insecurity and mistrust and force.
I have lots of knowledge about what scripture says, but I can often feel insecure in my relationship with God.
There are several verses that can / should be ringing in our heads. Paul’s words in Romans 8 are bright shining lights pointing towards security in relationship with God through Jesus:
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)
Peter puts it this way:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 1:3-5)
Before we bring Jesus’ words from John 10 to the surface, take a minute to rank your security in your relationship with God from 1 - 10, with 1 being very insecure and 10 being very secure.
Now think about this:
What is one thing that God could do in order to move your security in relationship with Him score one or two points higher?
To be clear, this isn’t a moment we’re trying to twist God’s arm or manipulate Him. And maybe you’ve never felt freedom to be able to put these kinds of things into words and you’re just drawing a blank. That’s okay. We’re going to take a couple minutes to process.
Now we are going to share. As you listen, let me encourage you to be encouraging, and to seek understanding and empathy. Listen to what everyone wrote and share what you wrote. Focus on being encouraging.
Why is it hard to remember/believe/trust/personalize/take to heart some of the truths we see in scripture?
How do you feel the last ten minutes impacting your security in your relationship with God?
If you’re like me you don’t often make time for these kinds of processes, and then when you do them in a group setting, you might think, “Wow, that was so impactful; why don’t I do that more?”
And then you get alone and you maybe don’t know where to start or you feel like you don’t have permission to jump back into processing.
Our goal is not to fix anything, but I do just want to speak a simple truth that you, as a child of God, have full permission to process and connect with God, and that feelings of not being good enough or not being allowed to process are not from God. And insecurity can be all wrapped up in this.
But let that perspective help us and give us a shared starting point as we walk into John 10.
John is communicating to a group of people that would know and would have memorized Psalm 23:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23:1-6)
God is often pictured as a shepherd in the Old Testament.
The idea begins as early as the Book of Genesis, where Moses called the LORD the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel (Genesis 49:24). In Psalm 28:9, David invited the LORD to shepherd the people of Israel, and to bear them up forever. Psalm 80:1 also looks to the LORD as the Shepherd of Israel, who would lead Joseph like a flock.
Isaiah 40:11 tells us that the LORD will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm. Micah 7:14 invites the LORD to “Shepherd Your people with Your staff…As in days of old.” Zechariah 13:7 speaks of the Messiah as the Shepherd who will be struck, and the sheep scattered (quoted in Matthew 26:31).
And in the New Testament, Hebrews 13:20 speaks of Jesus as that great Shepherd of the sheep, 1 Peter 2:25 calls Jesus the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls, 1 Peter 5:4 calls Jesus the Chief Shepherd. This picture of shepherding is all throughout scripture.
The role of shepherd was not a desired position. It’s remarkable that the LORD would call Himself our shepherd. “In Israel, as in other ancient societies, a shepherd’s work was considered the lowest of all works. If a family needed a shepherd, it was always the youngest son, like David, who got this unpleasant assignment…Jehovah has chosen to be our shepherd, David says. The great God of the universe has stooped to take just such care of you and me.” (Boice)
Shepherding sounds like a pretty boring job. Sitting around watching sheep and making sure they don’t die. And leading them to new grass. That’s it.
But there are certain characteristics that really set a great shepherd apart. A good shepherd could call for his sheep and they would know his voice and be able to follow him. But not just communally--a good shepherd also had personal connection with each sheep. It was said that the best of shepherds could call each sheep by name and they would be able to understand their unique name. And when thieves would come and try and lead the sheep away by voice, all it took was for the shepherd to come and call out and the sheep would recognize his voice, and at that point there’d be nothing for the thieves to do but watch the sheep return to their shepherd. And a good shepherd was rare. Not only would they take risks for the lives of their sheep but would do so to the point of risking their own death.
Through the first 9 chapters of John we see Jesus exhibiting these characteristics: He calls His disciples by name and invites them to follow Him. He is gentle with their questions and doubts. He gives of Himself even when it wasn’t His time yet (wedding at Cana). He clears the thieves away from His sheep (clearing the temple courts). He pulls in stray sheep who weren’t yet part of the flock (the woman at the well, Nicodemus). He cares for the sick sheep (man by the pool of Bethesda, the official’s son). He feeds His sheep (miraculous feedings of thousands) and calms them when they are frightened (disciples on the boat in the storm). He also allows sheep to leave if they really want to and doesn’t force them to stay. Finally, He calls out the people who claimed to be shepherds but weren’t shepherding in a good way.
With all of this in mind, we turn to John 10.
“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
The Jews who heard these words were again divided. Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” (John 10:1-21)
Remember what we have already been working on: the process of being secure and insecure, the complexity of being secure in Christ, and the knowledge that we have responsibility, but in this moment seeing God’s responsibility.
It is easy to say, “You need to be secure in your relationship with Christ.” But even reading and re-reading this portion of scripture can bring up so much insecurity for me. For example, “Real sheep know God’s voice? Well I don’t feel like I know His voice so I must not be a sheep. I must be bad or whatever the opposite of a sheep is.”
It would do us well to process these moments of “scripturally driven insecurity,” for lack of a better term. And not just to listen to what other people have to say about scripture, but to come to personal understanding of truths that seem unclear to us or cause us to feel insecure.
Let’s re-read John 10:10 just as a reminder.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
How does Jesus’ being the good shepherd impact your security in relationship with Him?
John invites us into the process building security in relationship with God through Jesus. He won’t betray us or abandon us when things get hard or scary. He knows us completely and is also knowable for us. We can hear and recognize His voice and be secure in it.
And all of these things we’re talking about right now can’t be things I give to you or you give to me. These are the things that have to be pursued and processed, and we have to connect directly with God for these truths. It’s good for us to encourage one another and to tell one another what is true.
I’ve used this idea before and it still stands: After meeting my wife, I could have spent a lot of time going around to all her friends and family asking them about her--what she likes, what she doesn’t like, what her temperament is, what her hobbies are, and even what she thought about me. But if I never took the time to actually go and have conversations with her, I wouldn’t really know her.
The same is true with God.
But sometimes our response to insecurity is an attempt to build a safe world--to avoid the insecurity and not address it.
John is opening the door for us to process this.
- What happens to your relationship with God when you try to avoid insecurities?
- What happens to your relationship with God when you address your insecurities?
- What is the impact of insecurity in your relationship with God?
- What can God do? What can you do?
Take It Deeper Questions:
- Read John 10:1-21
- Share a little about your closest relationship with an animal.
- Hypothesize as much as possible about an ideal sheep and shepherd relationship. What about a less-than-ideal sheep and shepherd relationship?
- What does this picture reveal about a healthy relationship with Jesus?
- What happens to your relationship with God when you try to make insecurities safe?
- What happens to relationship with God when you address your insecurities?
Bible Reading Plan:
- Exodus 33
- Exodus 34
- Exodus 35