Good Shepherd Sunday Sermon
to Follow Christís ExampleĒ
ago I had a conversation with my cousin in law.
He was raised Baptist and had become a Lutheran when he married
my cousin. He still had
questions about certain Lutheran teachings.
We teach that a sinner is not able to cooperate with God in
helping to bring about his conversion to the Christian faith.
Our conversion Ė being born again Ė is entirely the gracious
work of God. He had been
taught that you become a Christian by your own choice.
By your own free will you choose Christ to be your Savior. He knew that these were two different teachings, but he
didnít understand what difference it made which teaching was correct.
After all, he argued, whatís important is that we are
believers. Itís not so
important how we became believers.
What difference does it make whether it was our choice or Godís
choice? Whatís important
is that we believe in Jesus as our Savior.
it does make a difference that God is the one who does the choosing. It does matter which teaching is correct.
It makes a big difference. God
chooses us. Jesus said:
You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should
go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you
ask in the Father in My name he may give you. (John 15:16)
chooses us. We bear good
fruit, we pray, we live Christian lives only after He chooses us.
We choose Him only after He has chosen us and changed us.
He makes the unwilling willing.
If it were up to us to choose, we would not choose Jesus.
We would not choose the Christian life.
We would not choose to imitate Jesus.
We would not choose to follow His footsteps.
St. Peter tells us in our text
that we were called by God to suffer.
We were called to follow the example of Jesus.
Jesus was reviled, slandered, mocked, and shamed.
He was crucified. Tell
me, is this what we would choose if the choice were up to us?
Of course not! We
would choose the easy road. We
do our level best to avoid discomfort, pain, suffering, and persecution. We choose our words and actions to avoid unnecessary pain.
Furthermore, when we are abused and insulted we do not by nature
respond as our Lord Jesus did. We donít want to turn the other cheek. We may know that we should simply entrust ourselves to Him
who judges righteously, but is this what we choose to do when the choice
is left up to us?
We are chosen.
God elected us in Christ Jesus before time began.
We are called. Last
week we talked about the divine call into the office of preaching.
Our pastors must be called by God.
God sends His preachers to preach.
The divine call places the preacher under obligation.
He is to say what God tells Him to say.
He may not deviate from Godís word, whether to the left or to
the right. If he sets aside the faithful preaching of Godís word Ė
whether for fear or favor Ė he is no longer a minister of Christ.
He has become a hireling. Listen
to what Jesus, the Good Shepherd, says of such self-serving preachers:
But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the
sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf
catches the sheep and scatters them.
The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care
about the sheep.
preacher who will not preach the truth is less than useless.
This is why is it vital that we listen only to pastors who are
bound to preach only the pure doctrine of Godís word.
The pastor does not choose what he must preach.
Jesus, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, has already made
that choice for him. The
divine call of a man to be a pastor does not exalt that man.
It places him under authority, the authority of Jesus Christ.
every Christian is called by God and is under the authority of Christ.
Every Christian is called by God in Holy Baptism.
Not all Christians are preachers.
But all Christians are called out of the darkness of unbelief
into the light of Godís truth. All
Christians are called to confess the true Christian faith.
As Jesus said, ďWhoever confesses Me before men, him will I
also confess before My Father who is in heaven.Ē (Matthew 10:32)
All Christians are called to die to sin and live for
Christians are called to imitate Christ, to receive willingly the cross
that God places upon them. This
is a divine call. It is
from God. It is to the life that God has chosen for us.
This is not a matter of human choice.
It is a matter of divine election.
He calls us and we follow.
donít need to know in any detail Godís plan for your life.
Thatís good because God is not giving us the details.
We donít have to try to delve into His hidden will and extract
what He hasnít already made perfectly clear in the Holy Scriptures.
We are simply to imitate Christ.
When we do we will receive what Christ received.
He is the example that God sets before us.
His life is the life we live.
In fact, it is in living lives that are joined to Christís life
that we find true joy even in the midst of suffering.
The cross of Christ on which our sins were removed lightens for
us every cross we must bear.
made it clear. He said:
If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up
his cross, and follow Me. For
whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his
life for My sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25)
can this be? We lose our
lives in order to gain them? It
doesnít seem to make any sense. It makes sense only in light of Christís suffering for
us. When we set out to
imitate Christ we must remember two things.
First, that we are called by God.
We donít choose this life for ourselves.
God has chosen it for us. Second,
that our imitation of Christ is not done in an effort to save our lives. We donít save our own lives.
We lose them. This
is crucial. We lose our
lives for Christís sake. Why? He suffered for us. Thatís
why. It is in His suffering
for us that our suffering finds true value.
Otherwise, suffering is just going through senseless pain.
If Christ did not suffer for us, there would be no point to our
suffering. But since Christ
did suffer for us He bore our sins in His body.
His suffering takes away our sin.
Now when we suffer we do so as children of God, as saints who are
washed clean of all our sin. When we suffer as Christians we are not being punished by
God. Jesus bore our sins in
His body on the tree. In
bearing that sin, He took its load off of us.
It cannot burden us. Our
suffering cannot be for us a sign of Godís displeasure.
It must rather be a sign of Godís grace.
isnít something one chooses for oneself the way you choose a Ford or a
Chevy. Itís not like
applying for this job or to that school.
In such cases you are at least to a certain degree in charge of
your life. But Godís grace in Christ takes our lives out of our hands
and puts them in better hands. Godís
grace in Christ seeks us out. As
God promised through the prophet Ezekiel:
Thus says the Lord GOD: ďIndeed I Myself will search for My sheep and
seek them out. As a
shepherd seeks out his flock on the day he is among his scattered sheep,
so will I seek out My sheep and deliver them from all the places where
they were scattered on a cloudy and dark day.Ē
grace seeks us out when we are lost without any idea of where to go. We are like sheep, hopelessly lost, in danger of wolves and
every other fierce predator. We
cannot help ourselves. There
is only one way back to God and that is through Jesus, the Shepherd and
Bishop of our souls. He is
our Shepherd and our Bishop. That
is, He feeds us and watches over us.
He knows our weaknesses. How
could He not know them when he bore all our sins on the cross?
In knowing our weaknesses He feeds us with just the right food
our souls require. He tells
us that our sins Ė though they are like scarlet Ė shall be as wool.
He tells us that we are His precious saints.
Our lives are covered by His life.
His life is our life. His
righteousness is ours. His
innocence is ours. His
suffering had brought this to us. Knowing
that He is ours and we are His we arenít afraid to face whatever
persecution may come to us.
under the cross is a sign of Godís grace.
If we suffer because of our own sins, obnoxious behavior, or
foolishness, thatís not a sign of anything at all except that you reap
what you sow. When
Jehovahís Witnesses have doors slammed in their face, this is not a
sign of Godís approval, though they may think that it is.
Witnessing to lies gains nothing but Godís judgment.
But when the Christian suffers on account of the fact that he is
a Christian he gains something more precious than any amount of money. He is honored by God. We
need to learn how to recognize it when we are being honored by God.
Otherwise we will misinterpret the honor and think that it is a
is necessary that when we imitate Jesus we be treated as Jesus was
treated. They say that no
good deed will go unpunished. Thatís
not just a cynical observation. It
is truer than we know. Jesus
never sinned and never said anything deceitful.
Yet He was hated. When
He healed the man born blind they hated Him for it.
When He raised Lazarus from the dead their hatred took form in a
firm resolution to have Him killed.
Why? The pure love
of God does this. It shows
sin to be sin. The light
shines in the darkness and those whose eyes are blinded by it will lash
out against it, try to darken it, to put it out, to remove that light
that exposes the evil of sin. Know
that when you stand on Godís word and confess it, you will be opposed.
When you say what comes naturally to a Christian to say you will
not need to search for persecution.
It will come. And thatís the way it must be as long as we are living as
Christians in this world. We
know this is so. Knowing
this, we accept this as a fact of life and we entrust ourselves to Him
who judges righteously.
how do you entrust yourself to Him who judges righteously if you
arenít righteous? You
cannot. If you are not
righteous the One who judges righteously will surely judge you and
condemn you. This is why
people who donít have the forgiveness of sins must spend their lives
judging others. They know
of no other way to live because only in this way can they deflect
Godís judgment away from their own conscience.
But we belong to the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls, who
purchased by His own blood the lives He feeds and protects.
When we entrust ourselves to God, we do so in full knowledge that
Jesus bore all our sins in His body on the tree.
This means that we are forgiven.
All our sins are forgiven, never to rise up to accuse us again.
We have nothing to fear from the God who judges righteously.
We can confidently entrust ourselves into His hands without any
doubt at all that he will defend us.
We donít need to do Godís work for Him.
Heís perfectly capable of doing His work without our help.
He called us to faith. He
called us to the lives we live by faith.
Just as He didnít need our help to call us to faith in the
first place, He doesnít need our help to punish those who do us wrong.
Jesus entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly. Since He is ours and we are His, we can do the same.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus