CHRIST'S INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS PEOPLE, 625
I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. (JOH 10:14).
Our text summarizes our Saviour's contrast which He revealed in JOH 10:13, "The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep."
Now, we want to notice how that He summarizes that contrast between Himself and the hireling. The hireling doesnt care for the sheep. But He said, I am the good shepherd and know my sheep and am known of mine. He is saying that He not only cares for the sheep but there is a harmony, an intimate relationship between Christ and His sheep.
To have a right understanding of what Jesus is teaching us in our text we need to grasp the full meaning of the Greek word ginosko (ghin-oce'-ko), which is translated as "know," and "known," in our text. The Lord Jesus says, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine." The words know and known are both taken from the same Greek word ginosko. It means to know in a great variety of applications. It means to be aware of, but it also means to feel. In other words, that there is a feeling of attraction for each other. There is a unity. It means knowledge of, but it also means to understand.
Many misunderstandings cause much dissension. Our text is saying that Christ understands His people and His people understand Him. There is no misunderstanding between them. They have a clear understanding of each other.
Webster's Christian series says the word know means "to be familiar with." It means to have a clear and certain perception of that without any doubt. This word know means that there is an intimate knowledge that leaves no doubt. There isnt any separation or misunderstanding between them.
We see an illustration of this in the Christian series in JOH 7:17, "If any man will do his will, he shall know [the same word for know is used here] of the doctrine, whether it be of God."
There will be no doubt. All doubt becomes removed. There is a clear, unquestionable knowledge. "He shall know." How do we find those who shall know? It is those who are willing to do the pleasure of God. They will know of the doctrine, whether it be of God. They will have a clear, intimate relationship with Him.
So, in the first instance let's consider the words of our text from the standpoint of the understanding Christ and His sheep have of each other. What is it that they have a good understanding of? Now, I want you to notice what Jesus said in JOH 10:30, "I and my Father are one." Jesus speaks what God the Father says. He and the Father are one. This knowledge, this intimate knowledge that Scripture says that the Father has of His children is also relating to an intimate knowledge that Christ has of His people. "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust." PSA 103:13-14.
What we need to understand from PSA 103:13-14 is that David is speaking of that intimate knowledge that God the Father has of His people. He knoweth our frame. He pities us. He has a loving, fatherly heart to His people, in spite of their shortcomings. He is aware of their falls and their pitfalls. He is aware of their weaknesses. He understands these things, and it is not a hindrance to His love and His pity for us. He knoweth our frame. He remembers that we are dust.
Now, Jesus says in our text, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep." The Lord Jesus knows each and every one of His sheep in this intimate way. He knows their pitfalls. He knows their weaknesses. He knows their down falling, He knows their uprising. He understands their thoughts a far off.
The intimacy of this understanding, and relationship is mutual. We are known of Him, but He is also known of us. We know Him. We see that He could righteously have cast us away forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins as we see in PSA 103:10-12. "He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities [He has a holy character, and He by right could have dealt with us otherwise]. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us."
Not only does the Lord understand and realize and intimately understand our shortcomings and our frame and that we are of dust, but we understand that He is infinitely wise and that He is holy and that He is righteous. We know that He has not dealt with us according to our sins, and that gives us a holy reverence for Him as a loving Father.
Now, in Jesus' analysis of His dear bride, His comparison with sheep teaches their true character. Our text says, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. (JOH 10:14). He knows our character. He knows our true character, and He compares it with that of a sheep. I want to unfold a little bit of the true character of a sheep. I want to draw that out and show you how that that is what Christ sees in us. That true character of His people is beautifully characterized with the sheep analogy.
In ISA 64:6, He shows us our true character outside of Christ; "But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away." That is what we are outside of Christ.
By the grace of God we are transformed into sheep. By nature we are not characterized as a sheep. By nature we are characterized as goats. By nature we are properly characterized as swine or as dogs. Like the Asaph says in PSA 73, "I was as a beast before thee." But by the grace of God, He transforms His people into the character of sheep.
What is the first characteristic of a sheep? They are clean animals. Now, we notice by nature we are as an unclean thing, but a sheep is a clean animal. ROM 12:2 says we are transformed; "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God."
Our attitude is the first place that this transformation takes place. Our state of mind is transformed. So, the first thing that takes place in this transformation or in this cleansing is that our attitude must be cleaned up. Our attitude toward God, which is enmity by nature, is changed. Our attitude has to be renewed.
Now, by the divine influence of the Spirit upon the heart, our desires are transformed, and we no longer serve under Satan's kingdom. We no longer desire to serve sin. Sin becomes abominable. A sheep is a clean animal. As we become sheep, we must be cleansed from our sins. We must be cleansed from iniquity and cleansed from a wrong attitude. The work of repentance works a right attitude.
Now look at COL 1:12-13 and see how we are transformed out of Satans kingdom and into the kingdom of God. It says in COL 1:12-13, "Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light [in other words, made fit in character]: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son." This is the work of grace, transforming us from a goat, or from a beast, from an unclean thing, and transforming us into a clean thing. In other words, delivering us from the power and service of sin, and transforming us from the power of darkness into the kingdom of His dear Son.
Now, our Saviour fully understands our need of cleansing before we are included into the fold. The point He is making here is that He knows His people and they know Him. He knows our need of cleansing. He knows who we are by nature.
He has such an intimate knowledge of our need of cleansing as we read in JOH 15:2-3; "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you." The Word has authority. The Lord purges away our wrong attitudes and our hatred and all the things that divide between Him and us. He purges that out, and now we are clean through the Word. The Word now has authority in our hearts. As the Word becomes our highest authority, we have a desire to know and serve under the banner of His love.
The great Shepherd of the sheep also understands another characteristic of His sheep. As the work of regeneration is performed in the heart, we will conform unto this character. This character of a sheep is set forth in MAT 10:16. I want you to see the characteristic of a sheep that we have to conform to through the work of grace. "Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves." A dove harms nobody. It is the characteristic of a sheep. They are harmless characters. They have no desire to hurt others. They are not going to slander. They are not going to do anything that would harm their fellow man. They are as harmless as a dove. That is a characteristic of a sheep, and the Lord transforms our character into that character.
Christ also understands the helpless, defenseless nature of His sheep. Most every other creature has some sort of defense, or weapons of attack, but their shepherd is the only refuge a sheep has. Deer have their swiftness as a defense. They can run escape danger. A rabbit can hide. Their color will change with the seasons so that they can disguise themselves among the terrain and be overlooked. Most animals have some form of defense. A skunk has a unique form of defense. Porcupines have quills as a defense. Most creatures have some sort of defense. The only defense a sheep has is his shepherd. He is their only refuge.
I want to show you this principle in JOH 15:4-5, "Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing." That is the urgency of abiding in Christ; we have no idea of how to figure out our own self-defense. Our defense is Christ. We find this in so many ways in our lives. If we, through our own human reasoning, can connive and work out and make it so that we can handle everything by ourselves, then we have no place for Christ. When we come to the end of ourselves, we find out that we are not able to clean up our own act. We find out that we are not able to change our own character; we are not able to cleanse ourselves. When we start to abide in Christ, we see the transformation because Christ is abiding in us. We abide in Him, and He abides in us. COL 1:27 says, "To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." There is nothing in ourselves that can have any affect on our own salvation. We need Christ in us.
I want us to see another characteristic of sheep. Sheep are gentle, and this is a grace that distinguishes a sheep from a goat. In JAM 3:13-18 we see the direct contrast in character between the wicked and the righteous, "Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure [until we become cleansed, until we are pure, until we have the characteristic of a sheep, we have no wisdom that comes from above. That also means that you cannot compromise purity or truth for peace sake.], then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace." Now we see the characteristics of a sheep.
See what a beautiful contrast there is between the sheep and the goats, between those who have been renewed and those who have not. Those who have not had the renewing of the spirit of their minds are filled with bitterness, envy, and strife in their hearts. That is the nature of man outside of Christ, but those who have had that work of regeneration are first pure, then peaceable and gentle, easy to be entreated.
Our Saviour knows His sheep. He knows how dependent they are on Him, not only for protection from every evil, but He must lead them out to pasture. You and I as sheep are as dependent upon Christ as a sheep is on the shepherd. The sheep need their shepherd to lead them out to pasture. For the blessings that we need for our souls, for the harmony and the love that we need in our hearts, we are dependent upon the Lord. We are as dependent upon Him for this as we are for Him to spare us from the evil and the harm of the wolves and of the wild beasts.
Carefully read PSA 23:1, "The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want." See how our text says, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine." Not only does the Shepherd know His sheep, but they know that their every want must be supplied by Him. Every want, every need, every desire is to be filled by our good Shepherd. We are so dependent upon Him, and we see how these wants are supplied in Verses 2-4: "He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul [See our dependence upon our Shepherd. We are not able to restore our own souls. We are not able to follow the paths of righteousness in our own strength. We are not able to find these green pastures.]: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." We see that we not only receive all from Him, but we return back to Him as the giver of all good and perfect gifts.
It is the comfort that we have from our heavenly Shepherd that goes before us, who has taken up His cross and has gone into the depths of His Fathers wrath to take the penalty of our sin. Now, as we take up our cross and follow Him, we are following Him in the ways that He has so well known, and He leads us and He directs us according to every desire of His heart.
As soon as sheep lose sight of their shepherd, they are prone to stray away. Even after we have been in the green pastures and experienced His love and His cleansing, if our eyes are taken off from that blessed Saviour, we begin to our fix our eyes upon the things of this life. When our eyes become fixed upon anything but Christ, we will go astray.
That is what we see in ISA 53:6; "All we like sheep have gone astray [That is the nature of sheep. We have a tendency to go astray]; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Christ knows the character and nature of a sheep so well. Do you know how well He knows it? He had it written in the books of prophecy long before He even came. He has known us from eternity. He knows our weaknesses. He knows our down sitting. He knows our uprising. That is why we are so often admonished that we keep our eyes on the Lord Jesus Christ, that we dont allow our hearts and our eyes to become fixed upon anything of this world.
What a blessing we find expressed in our text in JOH 10:14, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine." That He knows is such a consolation.
One time my mother told me how that her father told her that he was so thankful the Lord showed him that the Lord not only knows his falls and his sins, but that the Lord also knew the desire of his heart. The Lord also knew that the desire of his heart was to do His will and to live for His glory. He knows us so intimately. He not only knows our weaknesses and that is such a blessing. He knows our frailty, but He also knows the love of our hearts that we have for Him. He knows when it is our desire to serve Him, and He also knows our weaknesses in not being able to do it as we would.
Our blessed Saviour knows each one whom the Father has given Him with a special, intimate relationship, though they are unknown to the world. The world knows nothing of the intimate relationship that Christ has with His sheep.
We see in 1JO 3:1, "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not." The world has no knowledge of the joy and of the love that Gods people enjoy. They have no knowledge of this. Christ, and Christ only, knows all His sheep.
Now, I want to stress a point that is vitally important that you and I understand. If there is some little difference in what we believe or what we think, we may pass judgment on them as though they are not of Christs flock. It is very important that we understand the principle that the Lord teaches us here, where He says He knows His sheep. The world does not know them. Now you and I are not the ones to judge the other person, judging whether or not they are one of Christs sheep. I want to show you some Scriptures that very clearly bear this out.
We may often be deceived regarding some as sheep who are only wearing sheep's clothing. It is possible for a man to appear righteous before man, but the Lord knows the heart. "Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity," MAT 23:28.
On the other side of this same principle, there could be one who we would despise and that we would look down upon and it might be one the Lord loves most dearly. Now I want you to see how that you and I are not the ones who can be the judge of who are His sheep. He knows His sheep. You and I dont know. We have no way to know with certainty what another person is. We cannot pass judgment on some who are in fact among His chosen.
Now I want you to think about this example. Who would have distinguished between Lot and his wife? I want you to think about that. Lot and his wife were both taken by the hand by an angel from heaven, and they were both led out of the city of destruction. Who can distinguish between those two because they were both apparently godly people? Yet Jesus set Lot's wife as the beacon for this generation. A warning: Jesus Christ says to us in LUK 17:32, "Remember Lot's wife." He sets her as an example before this generation.
He chose Lots wife, not Abraham. He didnt choose Peter the apostle or Moses for the sole purpose that you and I distinguish for ourselves the characteristics of those who are truly His sheep. He said, "Remember Lots wife." Lot's wife was a professor of Christianity. The angels took her by the hand and brought her out of the city. So where was the distinction between her and Lot? This is the lesson that the Lord Jesus is teaching us. The Lord knows who are His. He knows His sheep.
Look at GEN 19:17, "And it came to pass, when they had brought them forth abroad, that he said, Escape for thy life; look not behind thee, neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed." Now, he told this to Lot and his wife. Now, the distinction was in her attitude toward the authority of God's Word. Her heart was set on the things that she was leaving behind. Her hand was put to the plow and looking back she was not fit for the kingdom. This is what you and I need to examine in our hearts. Are we putting our hand to the plow? Are we coming into the service of the Lord and then doing it with remorse, looking back on what all sacrifices we have to make in order to serve the Lord?
The distinction was her attitude as we see in GEN 19:26, "But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt." Now, the Lord Jesus set this as a beacon for this generation, and He said, Remember Lots wife. Now that simple glance over her shoulder may seem like a trifle, hardly worthy of notice in our estimation, and that is why I am cautioning, it is not for you and I to judge another man. We need to examine our own hearts. How trifling that would seem to us if someone happened to look over their shoulder. It revealed her true character. Her heart was still set on the sins of Sodom. She had not been cleansed.
Look at EZE 16:49, "Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom." What was it? Sodomy? No. That was not the sin of Sodom. Sodomy was the judgment God sent upon them for the sin of Sodom. Sodomy is the judgment that God is sending upon this nation for the sin of Sodom. What was that sin? It was pride, it was fullness of bread, "and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy." Their hearts were filled with vanity and excess. They had become so rich and they had so much of this worlds goods that they became proud. In their pride, they had fullness of bread and abundance of idleness, they worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator. This was what her heart was set upon. Her heart was set upon her luxuries and the things of this world. That is what caused her to look back. She had to see if all is really going to be destroyed. Is it really going to be that I am going to lose all? There is where her heart was, and that is what the Lord Jesus wants us to see when He said, "Remember Lots wife."
Many times those who command the most attention have the least grace. The Lord Jesus knows His own. There are many times that those who have the biggest fanfare about their religion have the least grace. They put on the most commotion about their experiences.
I want to show you this in MAT 7:22; they are going all about all they had done, and all the religion they had. "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?" They had a lot to be seen, but our text says, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine." He knows His sheep. He knows their heart. He knows that they are either a Lot or a Lots wife. He knows the difference. We do not know for certain which is which.
What does Jesus say of those who make so much ado about their experience and about all their prophesying and about all their casting out devils and about all their wonderful works. What does He say about them? They put on such a scene with their religion, yet they have not been redeemed from all iniquity. That is what He says.
Look at MAT 7:23, "And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." He says He knows His sheep, but to these, who have such a fanfare about all their religion, He says He never knew them! They have not been cleansed from their iniquity. They still live in their sin. Their hearts are still fixed upon the things of this life. The love of God has never been shed abroad in their hearts; they still have their love for the sin of Sodom. They still live in iniquity. Even in their entire fanfare about all their religion, their hearts have never been renewed.
So, who would have imagined when Jesus sent Judas forth with His true disciples that he was a devil? I want you to see the importance of this. That it isnt for you and I to judge a man, whether he is a true sheep or whether he is not. Judas went forth with the true disciples of Jesus to preach the kingdom of heaven. Who would have imagined that he was a devil? Jesus said in JOH 6:70, "Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?"
These thoughts make the words of our text exceedingly solemn, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine." (JOH 10:14). We have to see that there is a knowledge, an intimate relationship needed here, and it must be mutual.
How much do we live in the realization of what God's Word tells us of our Heavenly High Priest in HEB 4:12-14? "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession."
How much do we really stop to realize that as we go through this life, the Lord knows every thought and intent of our heart? He is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. You see, sometimes this becomes a great consolation for us, when our hearts are so desirous and so set upon knowing the will of God. When our hearts are so set upon knowing what would be pleasing in His sight, it is a great consolation that He knows that, even though we find we have so many shortcomings. He looks at the thoughts and intents of the heart, and He is our heavenly High Priest, and He is the One who intercedes for us before the Father, before the throne of His grace. What a privilege it is to have such a High Priest.
We must live in constant realization of what we read in GEN 16:13, "And she called the name of the LORD that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?" It is very important for us to really know and understand that God sees everything we do. God sees everything in our hearts. God sees, and He knows, and He understands every thought of our heart; that is what we read here, the name of the Lord was "Thou God seest me."
Our text says, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep," but it also says "and am known of mine." I want to touch on that just a little.
Christ's true sheep learn to know Him in His appearing as the Apostle Paul said in 2TI 4:6-8, "For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."
I want you to understand that when we have trials and when we have the work of grace in our hearts, that the Holy Spirit takes those precious things of Christ and reveals them unto us. He appears in our trials and in our struggles. He appears by faith and the Holy Spirit takes those precious things of Christ and brings them to our notice and to our knowledge. He brings them to us.
Christ's sheep learn to know Him in His appearing during this life in many different circumstances. Lets consider 1PE 1:3-6; "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations."
There is a revelation of that incorruptible and undefiled inheritance that is in store for His people. There is a knowledge of this that is reserved in the heavens for you, "who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation." There is knowledge of this when He comes by faith in our souls.
Why is our faith so often tried? We read, "Wherein you greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations." Now consider 1PE 1:7, "That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ." I want you to see how the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ becomes precious to His people, and they learn to know Him in His appearing.
Every true believer has learned in a greater or lesser degree to know the gift of God, in other words to understand, to have a faiths view of the love of the Father in giving His Son. True believers have had a faiths view of the love of Christ in giving Himself, the love of Christ in taking our place and satisfying and appeasing the wrath of the Father upon our sin. When a person is given a little knowledge of this and the power of indwelling sin, then he will understand what Jesus says in JOH 3:14-15. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life." That is why our eyes must not be fixed upon the things of this world. As we learn to understand that Christ must be lifted up, we see that we must take our eyes off all of these fiery serpents. We must take our eyes off from all of these things of death, and our eyes must be lifted up unto that blessed Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Those who have learned to know the healing power of Jesus and His blood know of a time when they have been able to look away from those fiery serpents unto a crucified Saviour and live. This is what we learn where He says that, "As Moses lifted up the serpent," the people were commanded to look, and when they look, they live. When we look away from the things of ourselves, when we look away from everything of the flesh and our eyes are fixed by faith upon Christ, we live.
We learn to know Him as we learn to know ourselves. We learn to see the preciousness there is in Christ. We learn to see the beauty that there is in the love of the Father. We learn to have a personal, intimate knowledge of this, and it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance. It is the goodness of God that leads us to a change of attitude. It is the goodness of God that leads us from the power of sin and delivers us from all iniquity.
Now, our text says, "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine." See what Jesus said about those who know Him in JOH 17:2-3. I want you to see why this is important that we learn to know Him, "As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." That is eternal life. Eternal life is founded on an intimate knowledge of Christ. Amen.
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