To Follow Yah'shua (Jesus)
Sabbath Day Sermon: Saturday 9 September 2000
"The watchman 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" (John 10:3-4, NIV).
I wonder if you have ever seen a small child who has lost his mother? Small children, like adults, are inquisitive by nature and love to run off and explore the world on their own. Though this is true of both boys and girls, it is particularly true of boys who, when they are grown up, tend to be the explorers and pioneers. Our history books are full of them, of men who are constantly reaching out in the sphere of science and exploration hoping to make new discoveries.
To reach out into the unknown is not, as most of us recognise, an easy thing. We hear of the success stories immortalised in our history books but we hear little of the failures. Indeed, there are far more failures than there are success stories, and we rarely hear of these. To reach out into the unknown does not guarantee success, and even those success stories we do hear about reveal, upon closer inspection, a long, hard journey. Sometimes we hear of the failures like Scott of the Antarctic, the British explorer who died in the attempt to reach the South Pole before Amundsen of Norway. Inspite of his failure Scott is hailed as a courageous hero battling against the ferocious elements. But I wonder if his family were of the same opinion? I know I have often wondered if it was worth laying down one's life in order to be the first to stand on a piece of remote ice, a point of land where the earth rotates on its axis, indeed, a point which has changed in earth's history. The great Norwegian explorer Amundsen could so well have been in Scott's shoes and died in his place. I wonder what his family would have though if he had died? I must confess that I have had little sympathy for mountain-climbers and others who engage in dangerous sports who risk their lives for personal glory or for the glory of their country. It is quite another thing, however, to risk your life experimenting with deadly viruses and bacteria in a laboratory in order to try to develop a vaccine to save other peoples' lives. As we know, Yah'shua (Jesus) says that to lay down your life for your brother is perhaps the greatest love that there is. That is called agapé love, which we discussed last Sabbath.
When I was a boy my mother taught me the well-known addage: "If at first you don't succeed, try, try, try again". Whether that saying stuck in my mind, or whether it was in-built, or both, I don't know, but I have always made it a principle to keep on heading for what I consider to be a worthwhile goal inspite of failures.I'm sure most of you here will remember that song sung by the imprisoned scientists in the King of Vulgaria's castle in the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang which goes like this:
Every bursted bubble has a glory,
Each abysmal failure makes a point;
Every glowing path that goes astray,
Shows you how to find a better way.
So every time you stumble, never grumble,
Next time you'll fumble even less.
For every big mistake be grateful,
That mistake you'll never make again.
Every shining dream that fades and dies,
Generates the steam for two more tries.
There's magic in the wake of a fiasco,
It gives you the chance to second guess.
Now disaster didn't stymie Louis Pasteur,
Eddison took years to see the light.
Alexander Graham knew failure well,
He took a lot of knocks to ring that bell.
So when it get's distressing, it's a blessing,
Onward and upwards you must press:
For up from the ashes, up from the ashes,
Grow the roses of success.
Now there is much truth indeed in this song. The world is not an easy place to live in and if you want to get anywhere you have got to break your back with hard work, be prepared to get your hands dirty, and sweat alot. For those of us who know our Bibles well, we indeed expect life to be like this, at least for the person who wants to become a better person as a result of it. Even though I admit there have been times when I have wished I had been born with a silver spoon in my mouth, in retrospect I am glad I was not, because the idleness that comes from wealth not only fails to develop a person's character but more than likely ends up destroying it as well. This, I know, I have spoken to you about a number of occasions, but it bears repeating because Christ warns us in no uncertain terms that few rich people ever make it to heaven. One might say that the cards are stacked high against them - which is why He advised the young nobleman who was rich to sell all his possessions and give the money to the poor inspite of the fact that he was living (as he supposed) all the commandments.
Today's Western society, fuelled by the dechristianised American Protestant ethic, tells us to go and get what you want. Everywhere you look you are encouraged to go and be successful in the world and make your fortune. And nowadays, in our post-Christian era, you are encouraged to walk over others in order to achieve your goals. It is a fact that nobody can deny that the resources of the world are insufficient to make everyone rich. This means in practice that for every person who "makes it big" and earns a fortune, there are the equivalent of about 10,000 people who must, as a consequence live in poverty.
Let us imagine that a group of people live in an orchard and that the apples must be shared out. Let us suppose there are 1,000 apples to be harvested. The philosophy of this group of people is "first come, first served". So one enterprising individual gets up at 3 a.m. while everyone else is asleep and starts picking apples in the dark. By the time dawn has come and the others have gone into the orchard, there are no more than about 50 apples left. The hard-working, enterprising one has 950 applies to last him a good while, whilst the others must share 50 apples between them. No matter what you may say about each of the people involved - some are lazy, others are hard-working, etc., the fact remains that there were only enough apples in the orchard for them to be evenly shared out. Our political and economic system, which is called capitalism, is based on the principle of "first come, first served". It was a system founded by the first anti-christ, Nimrod, who introduced weights and measures. He also established the first cities in which to do these things. We discussed him one Sabbath last summer. Although on the surface the system apears to reward the hard-working and enterprising and leaves the lazy to suffer, in principle it does not work like this, because the system is so abused that once the first hard-working person has amassed a fortune, his own children can then use that fortune without ever having done any work to keep the other less successful workers in bondage. In our society today all the wealth is controlled by a very few rich people who pass it down from one generation to another. There are, of course, new people who struggle to the top and make a fortune - there's the multi-millionnaire Rökke in Norway, but for the most part the honest, hard-working person remains a the bottom of the economic heap. And even though we live in a supposedly enlightened and democratic country, the results are basically the same as they always have been: a few people have 950 apples and the rest must fight over the remaining 50. It's simple mathematics, really - there just isn't enough for everyone to be wealthy, and never will be.Some economists have calculated that in order for everyone on the planet to have the same standard of living it would be necessary for us here in the West to lower our standard of living by more than half. That means we would have to live a much simpler way of life.
Now there are a group of people - the socialists, which includes the communists, who believe that in order to be fair we should force the rich to surrender their wealth and then distribute that wealth to the poor. We have seen one century of communism and the horror that was for the masses that were enslaved by it. Money was redistributed but those countries were not blessed by God at all. Not only did they reject God and persecute those who believed in Him, but they destroyed all the initiative that comes from being free to do with one's money as one wants to. Worse, in order to redistribute wealth, they had to do it by force. In short, the government - which represents law and order - had to steal the wealth of those who obtained it both dishonestly and honestly. In short, the communist state was, in terms of God's laws, a criminal one. Though communism isn't dead yet, it has disappeared from most of the countries that once practiced it.
Today we have what is called social democracy, or what I call "pink communism". The socialists in our Western countries are essentially trying to do what the communists did but using a different method. Instead of killing, imprisoning, and openly stealing money from the wealthy, they allow people to earn their money using the capitalistic Nimrodian system and then take it all back by levying high taxes. They steal honest men's and women's money through heavy taxation, and then supposedly redistribute the wealth thus obtained. Here in Scandinavia, and in particular Sweden, we have been ruled by socialists for nearly a century. The country is is quite well-off, showing that the system does work to a certain extent, but the country has the highest taxes in the world, people are not motivated to work hard because they expect the state to take care of them, and the country is spiritually bankrupt. Today most people are either atheist or New Age.
God has created within man two basic needs: (1) To be free to choose; and (2) To love and obey God. At first these two may seem contradictory or mutually-exclusive but in actual fact they very much go hand-in-hand.
There may be said to be two basic types of person in this world: (1) the Leaders, and (2) the Followers. There are some who are clearly gifted to be leaders and others who are most definitely not. Of the leader-types, most are selfish and ambitious for personal power and wealth, and of the follower-types, most choose leaders who will meet, as they suppose, their selfish but lazy wants. The followers rarely get from their leaders what those leaders promise because the leaders are too busy getting wealth and power for themselves. There are exceptions, of course, but they seem always to be in the minority. So long as people are steered by their fallen, carnal natures, the leader-types will exploit the follower-types.
The Scriptures describe the leader-types as "shepherds" and the follower-types as "sheep". Yah'shua (Jesus) has much to say about both. If you know anything about farming and in particular about shepherding you may perhaps be surprised to know that a European farmer, for example, looks after his sheep in a very different way from an Oriental one. You will find the European farmer driving his sheep with a stick and, sometimes, with the help of sheep-dogs. But not so the Oriental farmer who does not drive his sheep at all but leads them wherever he wants to take them. At night he leads them into the fold for safety. And in the morning he leads them out to pasture. This is very interesting because you will find throughout the Gospels that Christ never drives His followers but always leads them. He goes before us, and His followers naturally follow Him.
Whilst, as I have said, some of us are leader-types and some follower-types when it comes to other men and women, it is a fact that every one of us was created to be a follower too. Which is why Christ calls us "sheep". The man or woman who tries to lead all alone is a lonely person indeed and is more than likely to lead his followers astray when he himself is not being led by God. We are all sheep - we are all followers. And it is no accident that Yah'shua (Jesus) likens us all to sheep.
Human beings can often be very self-confident, like that little child who wanders away from mother in the supermarket. He is at first thrilled by his unilateral declaration of freedom to go wherever he wants and, then, suddenly, the awful truth hits him: he is all alone amongst hundreds of strange people and mother is nowhere to be found. Panic seizes him and he begins to cry. People go through life like that child without God and think that everything is going well and then, suddenly, they realise they are hopelessly and utterly lost. They thought themselves secure and happy and then discover it is all an illusion - they are, after all, desperately alone, like a lost sheep in the wilderness. Even though they may be surrounded by people, many of whom may be kind and helpful, these nice people are nevertheless not mother. Similarly, people go through life building their security on other people, many of whom may be very nice, to then discover that what they really need is our Heavenly Father.
Sheep need to be led. They have no such instinct for finding their own way as most other animals have. As human beings we are like sheep on the spiritual level. Over the centuries people have invented their own religions to comfort themselves but when that awful moment comes, when they desperately need the true God, their religion fails them. The religion may have many good points but if it doesn't give them what their soul really needs, then their religion (or lack of it) is in vain.
People are like sheep, and sheep need to be led. There are some people who say we need no leadership at all and they are equally mistaken. Take away leadership and choas results both in the spiritual realm as well as on our physical one.
Look at those countries which have no government - there are many in Africa today - there is chaos and bloodshed. The soul which is not being led by God will be lost. Everyone, no matter who, needs leadership; and sadly, many turn to false religion and to Satan for it, only to be led to spiritual destruction.
You may have noticed that sheep have a tendency to wander away and that a lost sheep never finds its way back. Never. That is why he Bible says: "All we like sheep have gone astray". In Matthew's Gospel we read: "When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harrassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Mt.9:36, NIV; also Mk.6:34). He also said of His followers: "I am sending you out like sheep amongst wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves" (Mt.10:16, NIV).
We are sheep, like it or not, even though there may be some leader-sheep amongst us, but even the leader-sheep need a Shepherd. Yah'shua (Jesus) said that all of us have wandered away and got lost, like that little boy who lost his mother in the supermarket. And He also tells us that we can never find our way back home again if the Good Shepherd did not seek us and lead us back. Christ leads His people gently. He goes in front of us, leading us. He is not standing behind us with a big stick like the European shepherd. He is very thoughtful for the weak sheep too. The Scriptures say: "He gathers the lambs in His arms, and carries them in His bosom". He never leads His sheep too fast. He takes them sometimes over rough and dangerous ways, but He never loses any of them. No sheep has ever been lost by Christ who was under His guidance, not even on the most perilous paths. Once we are in His care, by surrendering our lives to Him and doing what He tells us through His commandments, we are safe. Always safe.
There was once an old tourist guide who lived in the Alps. One day, whilst guiding tourists, one of the tourists was too afraid to trust the guide to help him over a perilous ledge. The guide stood there with his hand outstretched to help him over but he was gripped by fear. "This hand never lost a man," said the guide to him. And Christ has never lost a man or women to date. Not one. He has led millions of souls home over the world's paths, but not one of them ever perished in the way. He said: "Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and not one of them is lost".
The world is a big and exciting but also dangerous place. The cards are stacked against you unless you belong to that élite which has all the power and wealth. They are called the Illuminati and they control most of the banks and governments of the world. They are all occultists, most are Satanists. And Satan rules the whole political and economic scene. You may succeed in the world but you may lose your soul in the process. And if you do succeed, and become wealthy, remember that many thousands of people must suffer in abject poverty for you to enjoy your wealth because there simply isn't enough to go round.
For most of us, life is difficult, and the choice is whether we intend to walk it alone or in the care of the Good Shepherd. Yah'shua (Jesus) tells us that He leads His sheep to pleasant pastures and by still waters. Sometimes He leads them over deserts, and along thorny paths, and through dark gorges; but He is always just ahead of them, and where He is they are safe. Finally, at the end of our journey in life, He leads us through the valley of the shadow of death and into the heavenly fold. There we shall be safe forever, and be blessed by His love. Won't you follow the Good Shepherd and trust Him to lead you through life and its perilous paths? Or will you find yourself like that lost boy in the supermarket, alone and in panic? That boy found his mother (some don't - they get abducted, raped and murdered) - but if you're alone when death takes you by his hands, you will be alone forever. May such not happen to any of us. Amen.
This page was created on 5 February 2001
Last updated on 5 February 2001
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