Now we're turning to the word of God, to John chapter 10, for our reading - quite a long reading this evening from John chapter 10. I want to speak to you later on identifying God's sheep. What are the marks of a sheep, or a child, of God? There's great confusion in the days in which we live over what, or who, is a child of God, and what are the attributes of one. How do you recognise one? Well, God doesn't miss the mark when He tells us, specifically, how to recognise one of His children - it's very clear in the word of God, but some of us, at times, can miss it.
We'll read the majority of chapter 10 of John. These are the words of the Lord Jesus: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers. This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them. Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I 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 shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd. Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of him that hath a devil. Can a devil open the eyes of the blind? And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter. And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch. Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him".
And we know that the Lord will bless the reading of His truth. Let's pray to the Lord and seek His face, and let us pray - if you're a believer in this meeting - let's seek God's face together that He may speak to those who, perhaps, think they're God's sheep, but they're not; to those who want to be God's sheep, but don't know how. Let's pray that the Lord may come by His Spirit and speak to us all.
Our Father, we bow before Thee and we thank Thee for the confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ that can say: 'I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God'. Our Father, we thank Thee that in the Lord Jesus Christ we have life, and we have eternal life. As Thy word tells us, through His death, through His resurrection, through His ascension, and through His intercession at this moment for us, we have salvation. We are saved in Christ. Our Father, we thank You that we can not only be told that we are saved, but we can know for sure, within us, a witness that we are saved. Lord, we thank You that by faith alone in Christ alone we are saved. We thank You, our Father, that we are justified, and being justified by that faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We thank You that, because we are Thy children, the Spirit Himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God. We bless Thee tonight Lord, and praise Thee for that blessed assurance that Jesus is mine. We thank You that we are persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, or powers, or things present, or things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Lord, this is a great salvation, it is a sure salvation - but, Lord, it is our prayer tonight that the unregenerate sinners in our gathering may behold what Jesus the Saviour has done for them. Lord, by Your Spirit, that You would show them how He suffered for them, how He was forsaken, the Son of God died in their place a substitutionary death for wicked sinners. Lord, that they would see how the King of Heaven condescended in love to this earth to be a sacrifice for sins forever. Lord, that You would open their eyes to see how He prayed, hanging on the cross: 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do'. There He hung under the burden of sin, under the burden of shame, under the guilt of the wrath of God that was laid upon Him, that we might be called the sons of God, and that we might be made heirs to His throne. Lord, we thank You that He won our victory, we thank You that He made an end of all our sin and shame. We just pray tonight, our Father, that You would show that and reveal that by Your Spirit to those who are backslidden, to those who are not saved and outside of Christ. We say: glory be to Jesus for our great salvation, but we pray that it would be seen simply by them - and, Lord, that You would give them the grace to receive Christ. Lord, let us know the nearness of Your presence, and the fullness of Thy power - for Thine, oh Lord, is the greatness and the power, and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is Thine. Thine is the kingdom, oh Lord, and Thou art exalted as head above all. Amen.
Now I want to read two verses, just two, from this passage of Scripture. It's a great passage of Scripture, so many wonderful eternal truths within it, and we won't have time to look at them all. But what I do want to do tonight is study the word of God, be a bit different this evening, for the simple purpose that I really do want to make these things clear in your minds - especially to some of the young people, but not just to some of the young people.
Now, I know we don't believe in chance - but the chances are, through probability, that in this gathering not everyone who thinks they're saved are saved. Now don't ask me how I get to that statistic, but by reading the word of God I read that there are those, and will be those, in the last days who believe that they are right with God, but the tragedy will dawn on them that they are not. What I never want to happen is that someone who was a member, or a child, or a friend, of the Iron Hall should be one of those individuals. You say: 'It can't be me!' - well, the very people that do say that are the ones who have to beware. In recent days I've counselled folk, good Christian folk, who were in tears - worried that they would go to hell. There was no chance of them going to hell, they were as saved as Paul the apostle - I could see that, and everybody else could see that. The thing about it is: the people that don't see it who are the people that need to worry, those that never question their salvation, that just assume that everything is okay.
Now let's look at these two verses tonight, verse 27 and verse 28 - how we are to identify the sheep of God. "My sheep", the Lord Jesus says, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand". The plan of salvation is a wonderful thing, and it's outlined within this chapter - John chapter 10 - in a way that, perhaps, it's not outlined anywhere in the whole of the word of God. God's plan, after the fall of man in the garden of Eden, was to save a people, a believing people, for Himself out of every nation, and tongue, and tribe, and people. We find that at the very end of the book, we look at the back of the book and we find that that was the purpose - that the Lord Jesus Christ would have worship from every people, every tribe, and every tongue, washed and bought by the blood of the Lord Jesus.
That was the plan, that was the purpose, and verse 16 tells us that if you look at it. The Lord said, speaking to Jews now: "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring". There are other sheep, other people who will believe out of every other tribe, and nation, and tongue. It's not just for the Jews, but this gospel is for the whole of the world, and they will believe. We call that group of people the 'church' - it's not a building, it's not an establishment or an institution or a denomination, but the Greek word is 'ecclesia' which means 'to call out'. That is the plan, that God should call out from a dying, damned world a people to glorify His name, and a people that He can conform to be like His Son.
Isaiah 53 verse 6 tells us that: 'All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Christ the iniquity of us all'. In the way in which we have all gone astray, that call of the Gospel goes out to all - but sadly not all come. In verse 3 we find out that it's only His sheep that hear His voice - He calls His own sheep by name and He leads them out. In other words, if I can illustrate it like this: whatever calls people to Buddhism, or to Islam, or to Roman Catholicism, it is not the Lord Jesus Christ. He calls His own sheep, He only calls His own - He doesn't borrow sheep, He doesn't proselytise sheep, He doesn't say: 'Well, I know they're Buddhists, I know they're Islamic, I know they're Roman Catholic, I know they're Mormon or Jehovah's Witness - but I'll just, by My grace, stamp the word 'Jesus' on their head and they can be Christian. I'll take them all in under My wing' - no! He only calls His sheep, people - sheep - who will take the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
That's clear from this passage because He says anyone who tries to get into the kingdom another way is an impostor. We looked at that great verse, verse 5, in weeks gone by: they don't follow a stranger. Verse 9: they go in through the door that is the Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 10: anybody else who doesn't go in through the Lord Jesus is a thief and a robber. So you see this: He only calls His own sheep, and His own sheep will never follow a stranger for they do not know a stranger's voice. That is the plan: that that great people, His sheep, should be called out of a dying, sinful world.
Now what is the way? The way is verse 9, look at it: "I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture". That is the way, one way: 'I am the door, and the only door'. What is the means? He is the way, that was the plan, but what is the means? Verse 11: "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep". Verse 18: "No man taketh [my life] from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again". The death and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is the means to bring those sheep, to cleanse those sheep, to give those sheep eternal life, and eventually - in our resurrection - to take those sheep to glory when the church will go to be with Christ forever. That's the plan, that's the way, and that's the means.
Now, let's narrow it down. What does that mean? It means this, verse 14: "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine". It means you can't fool Him. You can't fool Him! He knows His sheep, He knows them that are His. Not only does it say that, but His sheep know that they are His - there's a double knowledge. He knows that you're His child, and you know that you are His child. There's no bluffing, there's no being saved without knowing it or realising it - it's a total impossibility! There's a great answer to pluralism that we find in our politically correct society, where everybody's saved as long as they're sincere, and we can't say there's only one God, and only one way, and only one plan, and only one means - well, look at verse 16. The Lord Jesus, who never lied: "Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd" - one flock and one Saviour!
Now, the plan and the way and the means bring an awful accusation against humanity. It's found in verse 25 where the Pharisees came to the Lord Jesus after hearing what we have just heard from the lips of God incarnate: "Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you". What an awful accusation! 'Why do you not believe? I've told you all this, this is the truth. You've seen the works that I've done, you know the prophecies of the Old Testament, yet you still haven't believed! Why do you not believe? You're not my sheep".
Now that tells us very clearly the qualifications of being a sheep of the Lord Jesus Christ - what is it? Belief - 'Because ye have not believed, ye are not my sheep'. Now the natural response of many folk that grow up in Christian homes, and frequent Christian establishments, is: 'I understand that message, I believe, I believe it! I know that Jesus came, and I know that He died and rose again, and I believe it all'. When we were at the conference there was one of the speakers who said he came from the Bible Belt in the Southern states of America - he called it the buckle of the Bible Belt, it was so much of the Bible Belt. He says there that everybody is saved - everybody! Of course he wasn't being literal, he was saying everybody thinks they're saved because somehow they have a connection to a preacher, or to a missionary, or to a family member that is saved.
Is that not a problem that we have, perhaps, in our society today? It's a problem of belief, but there is nothing but belief! The problem with belief alone is found in James chapter 2 and verse 19, where James says this, listen: 'Thou believest that there is one God; you do well: because the devils also believe, and they tremble'. That means believing something alone does not save you! That's a shattering verse of scripture, in fact it made Martin Luther himself quake and think, perhaps, that James wasn't right in some way - but he is right! This is the word of God! Faith alone, without any evidence in your life of salvation, is not true faith.
Now, let's look at the relevance of a message such as this, and I'm going to do my best to get through it tonight because I think it's so important. What is the relevance of preaching something like this? Well, as so many people have said - and I've said it from this pulpit and others - most believer's children make professions and decisions at some stage in their lifetime. Don't get me wrong, I work with children every summer and I don't minimise the value and the beauty of a child, in simple faith, trusting Christ - it's a beautiful, beautiful thing. But let me say this: one of the greatest tragedies, perhaps, of Christendom is for parents of children who make decisions to cement that decision in the child's mind when there is no evidence in the child's life. Now, we do that, and it's natural - it's a natural affection. You want your child to be saved, so you hope that that decision they made was a genuine decision - but you look at your child's life and there is absolutely no sign of the life of Christ in them!
What many parents do is they reassure that child: 'But you prayed that prayer, and you came in simple faith to the Lord Jesus' - and perhaps that child has got it into their mind, and many people in East Belfast have, for the rest of their days: 'I said that prayer, I made that decision, and when I get before God everything will be alright'. Now, that's the relevance of this message. I believe, parents - just on a side issue - that what you should be doing is looking for evidence of salvation in your child's life and, if it is not there, telling your child: 'You know, there's very little in your life to tell me or anybody that you're saved - are you sure?'. You should be questioning it for their sake, for their eternity!
Secondly, there is unrepentant faith. To put it bluntly, that means no changed life. I spoke to a lady in the past couple of weeks, and her husband died of cancer six years ago. As he was on his deathbed it was found - he said, at least - that he trusted the Lord. You know, the family was ecstatic, they were over the moon! His wife really wanted to believe it was so, and she still doesn't know whether to believe it or not. But she said this to me in confidence: 'David, you know I left my Bible at the side of our bed in his last days, I left it sitting there, and I even left it open. I know for a fact that it had never been read, and I just wonder was a work of grace really done in his heart?'. I'm not making an announcement about whether that man was born again or not, no-one knows but God - but what I want to bring to you is that woman's spiritual discernment to realise that there has to be a changed life. There has to be a desire after God, there has to be a repentance to know that a man or a woman has been born again.
First of all there is that decision, perhaps, as a child that has come to nothing. Secondly there is the unrepentant faith. Thirdly there is unbiblical backsliding. I was just thinking as I was sitting here, now maybe you can correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe that the word 'backslide' appears in the New Testament. It appears in the Old Testament, but it doesn't appear in the New. Now, I'm not saying there's no such thing, but I'm saying this: that I don't find in the New Testament a believer who can be happy and content in a life of constant sin - it doesn't exist. If it doesn't exist, and you're living it, you need to ask some very serious questions.
It's interesting to note that in Palestine it was very difficult to tell the difference between sheep and goats. They looked the same. Only the trained eye can tell the difference between them, and that's nearly what this passage is about: telling us how to know the difference between a sheep of Christ and a goat. Now, there's three things from these two verses, verse 27 and 28, that I want you to look at - and we'll be looking at other Scriptures as well.
First thing: if you're a sheep of Christ you hear Christ's voice. Verse 27: 'My sheep hear my voice' - you can't get any more categorical than that! Now don't be thinking that you need to hear the Lord Jesus speak in His human voice in your ear, or you need to hear an audible voice in your head or something like that - that is not what the word of God is talking about. It's talking about what we find in Romans chapter 10, where it says: 'Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved', and then we find, 'How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace'. What is that saying? It's saying this: that the voice of God is heard in the word of God, through the gospel of God. If you're one of Christ's sheep you hear His voice - you've heard it! You've heard it in the Gospel, you've heard it specifically to you, but it's more than just hearing it - the actual word, literally, is 'you listened to it'. Listening to something anticipates a response, you're engaging intellectual and spiritually with the truth that you are understanding.
That is what we find here, and the response that we find in John chapter 10 is in verse 26: you believe! There is a response of belief. John Calvin, the great reformer, said this: 'Christ thinks nothing of those who will not obey the gospel'. That's what the Lord is looking for! Belief! He wants you to hear His voice in the word of God, to hear the Gospel of God, and say: 'I believe' and step out in faith. Doesn't Peter say: 'What shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?'. But you know, it's not only that initial step of belief in the gospel, but I believe it's a love for God's word. You see, once you're saved you don't just set your Bible underneath the television and let the dust gather on it. You hear some people say: 'I don't get anything out of the Bible', and they've no desire to read the word of God. I would have to say that they are not hearing His voice, they don't want to hear His voice! If you don't have a desire for the word of God and to be where the word of God is preached, I would have to put a question mark - according to the word of God - over your salvation!
It's the gospel call, it's the love for the word of God, and do you know what else it is? In antithesis it is not listening to strangers, not listening to false teachers. It says in this passage they'll not follow a stranger, His sheep. It says in 1 John chapter 4 verse 5, those who do follow false teachers '...are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them'. There's no freelancers in this sheepfold, there's no people out on their own. They listen to the word of God, they listen to the church of God, they dwell among the people of God, they are God's sheep. The miraculous thing about it is this: He knows who they are! He knows! 'They hear my voice, and I know them' - but the powerful thing that I want you to know tonight is verse 14 of chapter 10: 'I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine', you can know too! That's where I want to get you this evening: to know that you are one of the sheep of the Lord Jesus Christ.
But that's the first thing: you have to hear Christ's voice. Secondly: 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me'. Early Christianity, we find this in the book of Acts, was called 'The Way' - the way. You remember Jesus, the Lord said: 'I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me'. They got that nickname 'The Way', because they preached the way to God, and the only way, the one door to God's Throne and God's presence - and that way was the way of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. But that way was another way, elaborated on by the Lord Jesus - Mark 8:34: 'Whosoever will come after me', follow after me, 'let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me'. It is the way of the cross.
Now I want you to turn with me to 1 John, and we're going to read quite a wee bit here from it because this is an epistle, and the message of the epistle is the message that I'm preaching tonight. So don't think that this is something I got from America, or something I've learned recently, this is from the word of God. First John chapter 2 and verses 3 to 5, now as you read these verses ask yourself: 'Do these apply to me?'. Wait till I get the right book! First John chapter 2 and verses 3 to 5: "Hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him". Can you get any clearer than that? You follow Him, and if you're not following Him you're not of Him! It's very simple, it's very clear in the word of God. If you look at verse 15: "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him" - he doesn't love the world, neither the things that are in the world.
Chapter 3 and verse 4: "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him"! If you are living a life of sin you're not saved! A continual, abiding abundance of transgression and you are comfortable within it - the word of God says that you cannot be saved! Chapter 4 and verse 8 and 9, if you've a problem loving other people, you're a bitter person, a hateful person: "He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him". Do you know what he's saying? You see if you've been to the cross of Christ and been saved by grace, you'll not be a bitter person, you'll not be a wizened-up, wicked soul! You cannot be! If the grace of God has penetrated your life that is what will happen to you, the love of God - for God is love - will go right through you.
Here's the thing: 'David, you're saying you have to be perfect' - no I'm not. I sin regularly, but I hate my sin, and I hope that I do what I can by the Spirit of God not to fall into sin. There is no such thing as perfection until we get to glory, but what I am saying here is: if you love your sin, if you live in your sin, and if you are content with your sin - you are not a child of God! I'm not preaching 'saved and lost', that you have to keep up the momentum in your spiritual life, that you can't go down a bit, or be depressed, or be spiritually dejected - but I'm saying this: that there is something wrong if that is your constant state, if you fail to show fruit for Christ on a daily basis, if you do not follow Christ's way, or have no desire to follow Him. If you are in conscious sin, or continual disobedience, you can't be saved! The proof of conversion is not a list of statements that you prayed as a child, or doctrines that you've nodded to in agreement at, but the proof of conversion is a life radically changed for Jesus!
It's the message of James. You say: 'Don't we believe in the doctrine of faith alone - sola fide? From the Reformation, that's what we believe - not by works lest any man should boast'. Well, I believe that too, and that's what the word of God teaches, but do you know what James says? If you turn to it quickly, James chapter 2 and verse 14 - now note this, young people: 'What does it profit, my brothers, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? Can that faith save him?'. What James is saying is that faith is not faith at all, for the faith that saves has works with it. You're not saved by faith but verse 17, look at it: 'Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone'. Faith without works is dead! Faith without works is not faith at all! As one of the reformers said: 'Faith alone saves, but that faith is not alone!'. Faith alone in Jesus Christ the Lord will save you, but if you have that faith it will not be on its own, it will not be without works! The works don't save you, but it's a package that comes together - and if you don't have the works you don't have the faith!
If I can illustrate it to you: saving faith is like accepting the head of a family, the father, into your home to stay there - and a couple of days later the neighbours are walking down the road and they see the children playing in the garden. They know that the father has taken up residence in that home - that's what works is like. When they see the works in the front garden of your life, it doesn't save you, but it's proof that that saving work of faith has taken residence within your heart. The fruit will be seen in your life because the head of the family, faith, is there. The Lord Jesus said, didn't He, that every tree is known by its fruit.
First you hear His voice. Secondly you will follow Christ's way, and thirdly and finally: you will possess Christ's life. 'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand'. You possess the life of Christ! Eternal life! Life, life, eternal life! It doesn't say 'I will give it to them', it's the present tense, a present possession: 'I have given now'! That's why in John 10:10 He says: 'I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly'. That's why John chapter 1 and verse 12 says: 'As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, to them that believe on his name'. That's what it's about: that when you believe, you receive the eternal life of God, and that eternal life will be shown in the fruit of the Spirit.
In 1 John 1 verse 4 we read this: 'These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full'. How is your joy full? Do you know how your joy is full? In the knowledge of salvation! In the knowledge that you possess as a present possession, God's rich salvation! Do you have it? Do you hear His voice? Are you following in His ways? Are you living a holy life, trying to be pleasing in the Spirit to Him? Have you the joy of the Lord in your soul because of the work of Christ done within you, because of His efficacy at the cross? 'I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish' - security! Never perish! Not 'safe in your fruit', but 'safe in Christ's hand' - no-one will pluck you out of His hand! You're safe!
If that's not enough, you're not only in Christ's hand but you're in the Father's hand - and imagine, the Father who is omnipotent holds you in His hand if you're saved. You know, that was the purpose of 1 John, the book, that was the purpose of John's gospel - what was the purpose? The purpose of this message tonight: 'These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you might know that you have eternal life, and that you might believe on the name of the Son of God'. The purpose of John's gospel: 'These are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name'. Do you hear His voice? Are you following Him? Do you have, as a present possession, eternal life and security in Him? Have you believed?
Let me finish with this story. In a Highland village there was a shepherd, and the shepherd had a little daughter. He would take his little daughter when going across the moors to tend and fold the sheep, and most of all the young girl loved going with him to hear her father call the sheep, and watch the sheep follow him into their fold. The shepherd would cry, and sounding free and beautiful down the wind and over the moors was that cry that the sheep reacted to. By and by that little girl grew up to be a beautiful young woman, and she went off to the city of Edinburgh. At first her letters to her father were regular and frequent, every week. Then eventually the intervals came between them, and they grew longer, and finally they ceased altogether. The rumour circulated that little Highland town that the shepherd's daughter was seen in bad company and in questionable places. One day a lad from the village told how he'd gone down to Edinburgh, and he had met the girl and she had totally ignored him. Hearing that, the shepherd was so annoyed that he put on all his shepherd clothes, and he packed a case. He went to Edinburgh, with his staff in his hand, to seek and find the lost daughter. Day after day he sought her in the avenues and in the slums, but all in vain. Then one day he remembered how his daughter loved to hear him give the shepherd's call, and this time he went out as usual in sorrow, but he sounded his cry loud and free among the streets. You can imagine the passers-by turning in astonishment to hear such a sound, and to see such a sight - a shepherd in the middle of the metropolis! At last, at last, in a house in a degraded street of Edinburgh city, his daughter - sitting in a room with her lost, depraved companions - suddenly looked up with astonishment in her face, why? There was no doubt about it, it was her father's voice, it was the shepherd's call. Flinging wide the front door she rushed into the street, and her father took her in his arms and carried her to her Highland home.
What happened? She heard, she followed, and she was safe. Do you hear? Will you follow? Will you be saved and be sure?
Now let us bow our heads, and we're just taking one or two moments to set these things straight. You're here tonight, you've grown up in a Christian home, let me ask you a question: if you could just transport your life into a non-Christian home that you were born in, would there be much difference with the way it is tonight? Would your life change in anyway? Apart from going to church, and going to Sunday School, and having a bit of a knowledge of the word of God. Have you heard His voice? Are you following Him presently? And are you assured of salvation?
Backslider, you're in a very precarious situation, because no-one can tell you that you are saved - you don't know it if you're living in sin! Older believer, cold in the faith, lost your joy and nobody knows about it: are you sure that you're in the household of faith? May we all, tonight, work out our salvation with fear and trembling. I'll be free to speak to anyone tonight after the meeting.
Father, we thank Thee that this salvation is sure, that it doesn't depend upon our works. We thank Thee that it is by faith alone, for the grace of God has been revealed to men through our Lord Jesus and His cross - but yet, Lord, that faith is not alone: it's so great that it brings with it a transformed life, that we are new creatures in Christ Jesus. Lord, we cannot have the faith without the new creation. We pray that those who, Lord, are trying to hoodwink Thee, or dupe themselves, or going on a wing and a prayer hoping that it'll be alright on the last day, and that they'll have done what's needed - Lord show them their awful condition, and impart saving faith to them this evening, in the blessed name of our Lord Jesus. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly, Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the tape, titled "Identifying The Sheep Of God" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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