A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on June 5, 2011 by Pastor Dale Raether Let’s Walk in the Steps of Our Good Shepherd. I Peter 2:19-25Children, does this lamb look scared or happy? I think he looks happy. In Bible times sometimes a lamb might wonder away, but the shepherd would find him and then carry him home. Maybe that’s what happened to this lamb. Or, sometimes a lamb might see a mean wolf off in the distance, yet the lamb wouldn’t have to be afraid, because the shepherd would keep the wolf away. But maybe the scariest of all was when the shepherd had to lead his sheep through dark places into order to take them to a really nice place with lots of grass. But even then the sheep didn’t have to be afraid; their shepherd was with them. Children, you are Jesus’ little lambs. This morning listen for why we too never have to be afraid. And now I have a picture for you grown up sheep. For you radio listeners, this is picture of a young man on his knees holding on to Jesus, and Jesus is stooped down and holding on to him. Does this sheep of Jesus look afraid? Not anymore, but he used to be. Our text this morning was first written to people, who were facing persecution by the Romans. Also, many of them were poor and the people they worked for often took unfair advantage of them. This was not a happy time for the early believers. Nevertheless it was God’s will that they cheerfully keep doing what was right and tell everyone they could about Jesus. Now, thankfully our life is easier. We can worship safely here, and it’s not like in some Muslims countries, where churches are being firebombed, or in China, where a pastor can be arrested if he lets more than three people worship at the same time. Still, there is some persecution here in America. For example relatives might shut you out or make fun of you, because they say you’re “narrow-minded.” By “narrow-minded” they mean you believe there’s a right and a wrong, and the only way to heaven is through faith in Jesus. Christians are also sometimes attacked at their work. Co-workers might tell lies about them or they make sure they don’t get the promotion, but that it goes to one of their own. So, how do we fight this? Do we fight fire with fire? Not at all! Rather, Let’s Walk in the Steps of Our Good Shepherd. 1. By His suffering He made us His sheep. 2. He showed us how we are to live. We read in verses before our text, “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good – I Peter 1:1-3.” When people treat us unfairly and it results in lots of things going wrong in our life, it’s easy to get a “why me?” attitude. However, if we get a “why me?” attitude, that can affect how we treat others. On the other hand, because we are Jesus’ sheep, we can choose not to have a “why me?” attitude. And so, we can also choose to get rid of all malice. Now, we do have malice, if we enjoy watching someone, who made our lives miserable get what they have coming. But Jesus wants us to act like grown up sheep and gladly help even the people who hurt us. Peter also tells us to get rid of deceit. Deceitful people are those who say whatever they have to in order to manipulate getting their way. Because Jesus is our Good Shepherd, we don’t have to do that. We can be open and honest and not fear that we’re going to be taken advantage of, because even if we are, Jesus can replace whatever might be taken from us. Another thing we can choose to get rid of is envy. Are the rich of this world better off than we are? Not if they don’t have Jesus. But why can’t we have Jesus and riches? Well, our Good Shepherd knows what’s best for us to get us safely home. And so, let’s concentrate on being content, and trusting in Jesus each day, and showing love to those around us.This brings me to one more thing we need to get rid of – slander. No matter what people do to us, no matter what they say behind our back, we can choose not to repeat their sins to others or tell nasty jokes about him. Instead because we are sheep of the Good Shepherd, let’s only say those things that are helpful for building others up. So, now that you’ve heard how Jesus wants us to act, how do you feel? Maybe like a sheep who’s strayed. Maybe worn out from trying to be the kind of person we know we should be, but we realize we can’t do it. Let’s go back to that picture of a young man I showed earlier. What do you think this young man is feeling? Do you see the cross in the background? I believe he’s feeling relieved, because he knows that in spite of his many sins and failures, Jesus still loves and accepts Him. And He will us too. We read in our text. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly – I Peter 2:22-23.” Jesus never sinned. Because of that, some hated Him. His goodness made their evil stand out by comparison. And so, they often tried hard to make Jesus look foolish. When that didn’t work, they told everyone Jesus was demon possessed. They also twisted His words and accused Him of saying very of opposite of what He actually said in order to get Him into trouble. However, when Jesus reacted by continuing to do good, they really lost it. They began beating Him. Yet even then Jesus warned them and prayed for them and showed everyone proper respect. Now, it’s not as though Jesus had lost all sense of justice for Himself. But He left justice in God’s hands, and He trusted that God would work everything out in the right way and at the right time. But we might say, “That’s fine for Jesus, after all He’s God; but I can’t be that good.” Yes, we can be and it is God’s will that we be! We read on our text, “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,”but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls – I Peter 2:24-25.” By being this good, Jesus was fulfilling God’s Law for us. His perfect righteousness is our perfect righteousness. Also, when Jesus’ enemies beat Him and nailed Him to a cross, He was suffering in our place, because God had laid on Him the iniquity of us all. As a result, all our sins, including all our malice, deceit, envy and slander ARE paid for. And because our sins are completely paid for, God is completely just in remembering our sins no more. So, then, if ever we are in agony because of our own guilt or because of the way others are treating us, we may hold on to Jesus. Also know that Jesus is holding on to us. For example, today we’ll be celebrating the Lord’s Supper. In the Lord’s Supper Jesus wills to us upon His death – forgiveness, strength to live our faith, and God’s Fatherly care until we’re safe in heaven. The proof that Jesus has died, is His true body and blood which are present with bread and the wine. So, maybe we’re surrounded by our spiritual enemies not the least of which is our sinful nature. But our Good Shepherd feeds us. His true body and blood is food for our souls, and through these Jesus lifts us off our knees, so we can go back into our world and live our faith. Another way that Jesus holds on to us is through the pure milk of His Word. Now, you know that when a baby decides it’s time to eat, it’s time to eat. And you can try to put him off with a pacifier, but that only works for so long. In the same way, Peter urges us to crave pure spiritual milk. But how can we make ourselves crave something? Well, take another good look at this picture on the screen. Try to put yourself into it. Can you feel what that young man is feeling? Now, savor knowing that you too are 100% forgiven and accepted by Jesus. Also, having tasted that, don’t settle for this world’s pacifiers. Worldly things cannot fill us. Likewise let’s spit out the sour milk of work-righteousness. By this I mean the false idea that we can make God love and accept us by what WE do. Rather, our strength to follow Jesus and do what is right is not from within us. It’s in Jesus alone. However, as we continue to hold on to Jesus and follow Him, we will grow spiritually. Now, growth doesn’t usually happen overnight. Yet, here are some things we will keep striving to do. Peter writes in verses before our text, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right – I Peter 2:13-14.” What kind of government leaders are we to submit to? Only those who are Christians? Or, only those with whom we agree? No, but to every human authority, for “It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people – I Peter 2:15.” But what if the government tells us not to worship Jesus like what’s happening in some countries? Then we ought to obey God rather than man, but leave justice in His hands. We read on in our text, “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh – I Peter 2:17-18.” The word “harsh” literally means crooked. How can we respect a crooked boss? By in our hearts putting the same value on him that Jesus has put on him. And you know how much Jesus values that person – enough to go to the cross for him. However, will such love and dedication and hard work on our part, actually do any good in this world? It will! The early Christians followed their Good Shepherd, and as a result persecutions stopped, because in time there came to be more Christians than unbelievers. Now whether that will happen again or if today is Satan’s last hurrah before Jesus comes again, remember this – We are Jesus’ lambs and sheep. In his arms we are forgiven and safe. Let us keep following Him. Amen.

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