But life’s not easy for sheep! Here’s the problem: There are a lot of shepherds. Jesus isn’t the only one who wants to lead you and your family. There are lots of voices calling you. Lots of influences in our world. So Jesus gives us a warning. “The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns 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.” Not every voice calling you is really concerned about you and your soul.
So do we know our Shepherd’s voice? This is one of the most important aspects of a Christian’s life: Distinguishing the voice of Jesus from the voices of the world. Let’s prac-tice. Ready? “Your faith is between you and God.” Is that Jesus’ voice? No! What does Jesus say? “You are the light of the world…. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). Here’s another voice: “It’s not your place to judge anyone.” Is that Jesus’ voice? No! Do you know what God’s Word says? “Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). How about: “There are many different paths to the same god.” Is that Jesus’ voice? No! What did your Shepherd claim? “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). It’s hard, isn’t it? It’s hard today to distinguish the voice of Christ from the voices of the world. But this is so important! When you follow the wrong shepherd, what ultimately happens? “The wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.” The devil wants to tear us and our faith to pieces. Do we know our Shepherd’s voice?
Sadly, people often realize this too late. There’s a site online called the Babylon Bee that writes Christian satire. It publishes made-up, ironic stories about Christianity to teach important lessons. This past week, there was an article with the headline: “After 12 Years of Quarterly Church Attendance, Parents Shocked by Daughter’s Lack of Faith.” In this made-up article, the parents are quoted as saying, “We don’t understand! We came to church whenever there wasn’t a sporting event or something more important going on, at least once every three months. How could she fall away?” Do you catch the irony? Who’s your kid’s shepherd? Is it a sports coach? A TV show? A video game? A superhero? Who’s your shepherd? Who do you spend the most time listening to? If it’s not Jesus, do you know what’s ultimately going to happen? The devil’s going to eat us up!
You know who the most dangerous voice in your life comes from? You! We lead ourselves astray more than anyone else does. When troubles come, who is the first one to criticize you? You are! Who is the first one to tear you down? You are! When temptations come, who is the first one to encourage you to give in? You are! Who’s the first one to tell you to cover up whatever sin you’ve committed? You are! One of the greatest influences in your life is the way you speak to yourself! I think Jesus is right. I’d like to think I’m a lion or a tiger or a bear, but I’m really nothing but a sheep, who so easily wanders off after this voice and that voice. What about you? Sheep?
To every sheep, here’s what Jesus says, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” Jesus knows me. Jesus knows you. Last week, I was driving through Minneapolis after visiting someone at the hospital. I had to stop at a stop light. Right next to me on the sidewalk, three people were screaming at each other. It was awk-ward! Know what they were screaming? “You don’t even know me! You don’t know any-thing about me!” How often are you screaming those words inside? You know who really knows you? Jesus does. Your Shepherd. You are never alone. You are loved and known and treasured. Even more than your spouse does. More than your parents do. Jesus knows you!
But we can’t stop there. Jesus is with us. Jesus knows us. But that’s not the heart of Jesus’ message. Look in your bulletins at the second paragraph of our text. What phrase comes up over and over again? “I lay down my life for the sheep.” Here’s what’s amazing: Jesus knows. He knows you as you really are—not the false front we can put on for other people. Jesus really knows you. And he still died for you. He knows you, and he still loved you enough to die for you! He’s not just a guide. He’s our Savior. He laid down his life for us so that we can live. That’s upside-down! Sheep are supposed to be sacrificed so that the shepherd can live. Our Shepherd laid down his life for his sheep.
Now when you hear the voices calling you, when you feel people pulling you away from Jesus, ask