Community Christian Church, Durant, Oklahoma
Sunday morning, May 25, 2014
Matthew 9:35 – 10:8, “Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying: “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.”
Matthew 11:28 – 30, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Proverbs 27:23, “Be diligent to know the state of your flocks, and attend to your herds.”
Someone has said it well, when he wrote – “Authority makes some men GROW – but others only to SWELL.”
A month ago – in conjunction with our Sunday afternoon Leadership Training, we began a look at the subject of church leadership. And, if you remember – I told you at that time - a month ago – that this time – this season of Community Christian Church’s history – has got to be one of the most important – most exciting and yes, one of the most frightening of any season up to this point for this church family. And the reasons are obvious, aren’t they?
I mean – we are embarking on a journey – a search – a process that likely won’t be easy, quick or simple. And, yet, as we look to God for help – as we invite Him to be IN this process – at the CENTER of this journey – I believe He will bring to pass some very great results.
And, that’s because – if GOD is in it – if we are looking to Him and His strength – if we seek His face continually on this trek – His name WILL be hallowed – His kingdom – His ruling and reigning – will be EVIDENT – and His work and will are certain to be performed – on earth – through US – if HE is in it!
This search – this process and journey – is in the direction of church leadership – asking God to raise up in our midst - HIS men – men who desire to GROW and who are resisting the temptation to SWELL. Godly men – godly men-in-the-making – and their wives and families – to lead the flock – to serve and strengthen the flock and to love people – GOD’S people – like Jesus loves them. That’s the direction God intends for this trek to go! So, what else do we need to know, to learn – to pray about – as we go from here?
Well, we’ve already learned a great deal, haven’t we? And, though I haven’t taken us in these messages – to places like Ezekiel 34 and John 10 and Acts 20 and 1 Timothy 3 – I expect YOU ARE – and I ask and invite you to do so. For there is so much to know, to learn and yes, so much to pray about when it comes to the subject of church and family leadership.
So, there’s your assignment – to dig into those other church and family leadership passages – and ask God to grow you in your knowledge, understanding and yes – even in your conformity to what God says to you in those texts.
O.K. – so here we are – ready to look one more time at Jesus’ word and example – as recorded by the apostle Matthew in, Matthew chapters 9, 10 and 11. And, what is set forth for us here – in this place – through the words printed in red?
What kind of shepherds – assistant shepherds – does God desire to oversee and care for His flock? Is He looking for the kind of men who are interested in GROWING as they learn to lead – or is He looking for the kind that are interested only in SWELLING?
I TRUST you know the answers to those questions – you see it, here – don’t you?
Jesus makes it really plain here, doesn’t He? Jesus’ desire – God’s intention – is that the men who lead His people be FAITHFUL MEN – FAITHFUL SHEPHERDS.
And, so what are the hallmarks of a faithful shepherd? What is God looking for – what ought we to be PRAYING FOR – as we embark on this journey?
How about this? God is looking for faithful men – shepherds – real shepherds – who realize and even rejoice in the fact that their work – is ALWAYS, ULTIMATELY WITH, TO AND AMONG the Wounded and Weary!
When Jesus urged His disciples to pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest – and then – when He called those very same 12 men to Himself – and gave them authority – when He put them in the position of ASSISTANT shepherd – He did not give them that authority for AUTHORITY’S SAKE! You know, to make them SWELL! No! Rather, He gave them authority – ability – and, with it – opportunity – Why?
For the sake of MINISTRY! For the sake of meeting the needs of the sick, the wounded, the weary – and yes, even the LOST sheep – in behalf of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
So, what are we to learn from this? Listen – Men of God – future Shepherds – the call to church leadership is NOT to gain glamor, but to give MERCY!
Jesus said it Himself, didn’t He – in Matthew 9:37 and 38: “I am looking for LABORERS – workers – not CELEBRITIES!”
At that time – 2,000 years ago – and at this time – in this place – Jesus is seeking men – men who along with their wives and children – will join Jesus in HIS ministry! And, what ministry is that?
Matthew 9:35 & 36 – Matthew 10:1 – 8: to put it simply, JESUS’ ministry and the faithful SHEPHERD’s ministry are the same – one and the same! They are a ministry, first and foremost of the WORD – preaching and teaching and equipping the flock of God to prepare them to join them in ministry. And, then, secondly, Jesus’ ministry – the faithful shepherd’s ministry – is a ministry of MERCY – a ministry of mercy to the fainting, the fearful, the bruised and the broken.
Yes, it’s a ministry of finding and rescuing those sheep that have strayed from the Good shepherd who loves them so much. Why? Because the One those weary and wounded sheep need the MOST is the very One whose gracious invitation is “Come!” “Come, unto Me!”
Jot this down – and add this to what we have already shared: “Thy kingdom come – Thy will be done” – We know those words, don’t we? Listen – Jesus’ AUTHORITY – His kingdom authority – and His ministering, saving ACTIVITY – “Thy will be done” – do you see it?
The reason Jesus says, “PRAY the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest” is because JESUS’ kingdom authority and saving activity are EXTENDED – I would say, MULTIPLIED – through the work of faithful shepherds!
Number two – what did we say? God is desirous of – looking across this congregation – in order to raise up men who are interest in GROWING – growing in Christian maturity – as they learn to lead His people – NOT men whose thought and intent is only to SWELL.
Why is that? Oh, listen closely, my friends – the reason we NEED shepherds whose heart is to grow, not SWELL – is because ULTIMATELY – what is their task?
To LEAD THE SHEEP to themselves? No! Their calling is to lead the sheep to JESUS! To lead the sheep to JESUS!
It may sound a lot like what I have already said – but, examine it from this angle with me nonetheless, will you?
As they minister the WORD to the sheep – whose VOICE is it that faithful shepherds must seek to be heard? THEIR voices? No! JESUS’ voice, right?
My Brothers, it doesn’t matter how powerful or persuasive – authoritative or eloquent you or I might be – when we speak. Listen – there’s only ONE Good Shepherd! Only ONE whose invitation is “Come, unto ME! . . . Learn of ME!” And, yes – there is only ONE whose voice Jesus’ sheep – hear me – JESUS’ sheep – really listen to!
A FAITHFUL shepherd’s work is ALWAYS – ultimately – to lead people to JESUS – not to himself! And, how does he do that?
He does so by giving VOICE to Jesus’ invitation, “Come unto Me! Come unto Me!”
But, then notice – Matthew 11:28 – 30 – faithful shepherds also are to use their HANDS – in carrying out their primary task – to lead people to Jesus – faithful shepherds are also to use their HANDS in order to see that Jesus’ promise – “I will give you REST!” – is fulfilled. Once again, it’s that ministry of MERCY! Jesus gives His assistant shepherds authority – ability and opportunity – chances to anoint the wounded and weary with oil – and to pray for them to be healed. Why? For the shepherds to show off? To flaunt what Jesus has given them to do? No!
The Good Shepherd – who also was the Consummate Servant – He gives His assistant shepherds authority and opportunity – Why? For what purpose? To SERVE! To SERVE!
We’ve learned a lot about the faithful shepherd’s TASK – his WORK – with, to and among the sheep – with, to and among the scattered, the lost – the harassed – in order to lead them to Jesus. Now, let’s take a few moments to consider the faithful shepherd’s REWARD – the faithful shepherd’s REWARD.
The writer of the Book of Hebrews puts forth a provocative challenge along these lines to his readers in Hebrews 13, verse 7. Take a look at it with me, will you?
He says it like this: “Remember – keep in mind – those who rule over you – your LEADERS – your shepherds – who have spoken the word of God to you – whose faith follow – considering the OUTCOME of their conduct.”
The Hebrew writer says – keep your leaders in mind – FOLLOW their faith – and – and – do that – do that – How? By keeping in mind the OUTCOME of their conduct.”
Now, here’s the 64,000 dollar question: WHAT IS the outcome – the end result – the REWARD of the growing in Christ – and growing in Christ like leadership – of the faithful shepherd? Peter says that “When the CHIEF Shepherd appears – faithful ASSISTANT shepherds will receive a crown of GLORY that does not fade away!” 1 Peter 5:4.
But, what does JESUS say? What does HE says?
Back to Matthew 10 – Matthew 10:32 and 37 – 40. Here’s what Jesus says:
Matthew 10:32, 37 – 40, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven.” “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it. He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”
Peter says that the faithful shepherd’s reward is a glorious, unfading crown. What does JESUS say? We read the words – you heard them, didn’t you? In effect, what Jesus says is: I AM YOUR REWARD – “When you confess ME before men – I will confess YOU before My Father in heaven.”
In effect Jesus says, I AM YOUR CROWN – In choosing ME – choosing to value ME and give yourself to ME – even if it meant separating from family and loved ones who HAVEN’T chosen Me – even if it means losing your LIFE for ME – guess what? You’re not really LOSING! No! You are actually WINNING! You will have ME as your crown! To put it simply, the faithful shepherd’s REWARD is always, ultimately, JESUS HIMSELF! JESUS HIMSELF!
Which leads us, then, to one final thought – one last question for those who are considering whether or not God is calling them to step up – to GROW – to GROW – as they take on the task of church leadership. What is that question?
How? How? How in the world can I be a faithful shepherd?
Matthew 11:28 – 30 – Some of my favorite Bible verses. We have already seen how these words are the tender invitation of the Good Shepherd to the sheep – VOICED and MADE VISIBLE – through the faithful shepherd – Jesus’ faithful assistant shepherds. Remember?
Through faithful men of God – and through their ministry of the Word and their deeds of Mercy - Jesus – the Good Shepherd says, “Come unto Me!” And what an amazing offer that is, isn’t it?
But, listen – here’s the part you may not have considered – men of God – godly men-in-the-making. You are thinking about the call to step up to GROW and to LEAD – and yet, mixed in with all of those thoughts is one daunting – maybe even haunting question: HOW CAN I? HOW?
Here’s how – the very same One who invites the SHEEP – also tenderly welcomes the SHEPHERDS – “Come unto ME” – for REST and for REFRESHMENT. Yes, “Come unto Me - LEARN of Me!” Enter into RELATIONSHIP with Me!
Yes, I intend to SEND you out in My behalf – but listen – because I care just as much for YOU – the shepherd – as I do the SHEEP who are entrusted to your care – I am inviting YOU to gather with Me – to come TO Me – so that, after you have been with Me – you might go out and minister FOR Me.
Listen, Brothers – it’s actually very simple – the answer to the HOW Can I question. And here’s what it is: JESUS – JESUS – the Good Shepherd – the Chief Shepherd – is not only the Best and Safest Place for the SHEEP – He also is the Best Place – the Safest, Strongest Place for the Shepherds! He is!
Sheep – Shepherds – and the Good Shepherd – LORD, give us men – men who want to know well the state – the condition of the flock. Yes, give us that kind of men! Much more, Lord – will give us men who want to know YOU!