Monday, April 2, 2012

Barnyard Basics 1 - Sheep And Goats

John 10:11-16 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 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. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

We all know that Jesus is the Good Shepherd. We recite Psalm 23 over and over again - “the LORD is my Shepherd, I shall not want...” Everyone claims that He is their Shepherd - but the Bible is very clear that not everyone is a sheep. In fact, Jesus teaches about some people who are sheep, some who are goats, some who are pigs, some who are dogs, and some who are wolves. These are five spiritual types of people - and they each have defining characteristics.

First of all, if you want to be one of His sheep, you have to line up with Leviticus 11:3. That is you have to have a split hoof and you have to chew the cud.

Remember, everything in the Old Testament is a picture of the New. And the Bible will interpret itself! So what does split hooves have to do with us? Every time the Bible talks about a person’s foot, it’s referencing their walk, their way of life and their destination. If you want to be one of Jesus’ sheep, you have to have a split hoof - that is, a separated walk. We call this salvation.

When you were saved, you were taken out of the world. Your life is now separated from this world’s system - divided, if you will. Now you have a different walk, a different way of life, and a different destination! If you were born again, congratulations! You are halfway to becoming one of Jesus’ sheep!

The other half is chewing the cud - this has to do with your diet. Every believer should have a diet of God’s Word. That is our only source of spiritual food! If you’re not feeding on God’s Word, you’re starving yourself!

You see, sheep have a very unique way of eating. I’ll spare you the details, but give you enough to illustrate the point! Sheep are constantly chewing their food. Whenever they have a moment of rest, they bring it back up to chew it over again! Disgusting? Sure! But there’s a valuable lesson here. Chewing the cud isn’t just reading God’s Word, it’s meditating on it! It’s thinking about it continually. Whenever you get a chance, your mind goes right to the Word of God! That’s what makes a person one of Jesus’ sheep!

But wait a minute! There’s another animal that Jesus talks about that has both of these characteristics! Goats have split hooves and chew the cud too! In fact, goats and sheep are nearly identical. They’re so similar to each other that casual observers often have problems sorting them out. But according to Matthew 25:31-33, you don’t want to be a goat. “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.” (a place of dishonor and rejection)

What’s the difference? What separated the sheep and the goats? Using the same symbolism, we can see that the goats are believers, as well as the sheep. They both have separated lives (split hooves), they both meditate in God’s Word (chew the cud) - what makes them different? In a word - behavior.

The dividing factor in Matthew 25 is their obedience. The sheep’s love for Jesus caused them to care for each other. The goats thought they were serving Jesus, but neglected their brothers and sisters. It was all about obedience. Every believer knows that we’re commanded to love each other. Rebellion is the sole reason that the goats in this story ignored their brothers and sisters.

I believe that Jesus was referring to goats again in Matthew 7. He said in verse 21-23, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” Can you see it? These are believers that call Jesus “Lord” but don’t do what He says!

That is the defining attribute of sheep and goats. John 10:27 repeats this concept; “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” When a shepherd took his sheep out for pasture, he would walk in front of them and talk and sing. The sheep would recognize the shepherd’s voice and follow along. That is the sheep’s nature, to follow!

Goats, on the other hand, have to be driven. You won’t see a goat herder walking in front of the goats. They have to go behind and drive them. Goats are rebellious and independent. They’re often running away and getting into trouble. The nature of goats is to do their own thing! Sound like anyone you know?

A lot of people claim to be one of Jesus’ sheep, but not everyone qualifies. First of all, they must be born again - that rules out those in the world. Then they have to meditate on God’s Word - that rules out worldly Christians! Most importantly, they have to submit and follow the Good Shepherd - that rules out rebellious believers!

Thankfully, if you’re not already, you can still become one of His sheep. Just follow Him! Just stay in His Word and do what He says. Then, and only then, does this passage apply to you:

The Lord is my shepherd;
   I have all that I need.
He lets me rest in green meadows;
   he leads me beside peaceful streams.
He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
   bringing honor to his name.
Even when I walk
   through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
   for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
   protect and comfort me.
You prepare a feast for me
   in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
   My cup overflows with blessings.
Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
   all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord

Psalm 23 only applies to His sheep!

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