Separating Sheep From Goats

(1 Corinthians 11:17-19)

One of the greatest issues in the church over the many years of its history has been the problems of division. Consider the church as it exists today in its many forms. Who knows exactly how many denominations, groups, sects and independent churches there are in the world today.

And yet when we look back, it all began with just one group and just one church.

Jesus came and presented man with the teachings that established the first church, which He set up through the twelve apostles. But after Jesus returned to the Father we began to see the gradual disintegration of the early church into sects and factions. Many of the New Testament writers wrote of this issue and here we see Paul explaining part of the reason why divisions occurred.

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Two Flocks

(John 10:16)

There is an interesting comment that The Lord made in this one verse of the bible. He alludes here to the fact there there are two flocks that in time will come together so that there will be just a single flock who will follow The Lord. Look at what the verse says.

The little flock follow Jesus
Photo sourced from www.aljabakphoto.com

“And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

Now the question is, who are the two flocks? Who is this second flock that He will bring along to join the flock He is speaking to or about so that they become one single and united flock following Jesus. I have to say that there are a number of possible explanations as to who and what He was speaking about, and on this point I would especially like to hear any thoughts you may have. Please feel free to add your comments below. In the meantime though I will give my opinion as to what this means to me.

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I Am The Good Shepherd

(John 10:11-15)

There is a significant difference between Jesus and all others who came both before and after him. And not just because he was and is the Son of God. The big difference was in what he was prepared to do for those who love Him and the Father and His compassion and caring for His people.

Jesus describes himself in this section as the Good Shepherd, and so he is. He is the great and good shepherd of all mankind for those who desire to follow in his ways. We too, especially those who are in any kind of leadership roles, need to also learn the ways of the Good Shepherd and try to make them our own. For in this section Jesus also makes a distinction between His ways and the ways of a hired hand, and they are very different and in stark contrast to each other.

In fact there are some today who are in leadership roles in the church who display attitudes more like a hired hand then a shepherd. This is a great shame and a serious problem for those who should be under the care of the shepherds in the church for rather than leading them along the right ways, they take them down paths that lead away from The Lord.

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There will be No Sneaking In

(John 10:1-6)

I’m a bit old to go to nightclubs, but I have seen plenty of video and film footage of what they are like. To get into the really exclusive places you have to go through the front door. And there is always some really big dude with muscles on his muscles, a T-shirt that is a size or two too small, and a bad attitude towards anyone who tries to sneak in or jump the cue.

You have to enter by the door

Well getting into the kingdom of God is kind of like that too. You ain’t gonna sneak into heaven. You can only get in through the door. Some people are going to try to get in through sneaky methods, but that will not help. It’s through the door or not at all.

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Who are the Little Flock?

(Luke 12:32-34)

Did you know that there are two flocks that follow Jesus? At least there are or will be until all is accomplished and the two are combined into one flock. Jesus talks about a little flock in this section of scripture saying, “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Verse 32) Now I don’t know about you, but if the little flock is going to be given the kingdom, and it will be the Father’s fear not little flockpleasure to do so, then that’s a flock I’d like to aim to be in. But who are they?

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Representatives and Rewards from God

(Matthew 10:40-42)

We must be careful how we treat people and especially the people of God. Jesus shows in this section that we should consider whenever we are dealing with the people of God that we are dealing with the Father himself. He says in verse 40, “”He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me.” So if we receive a brother or sister in the Lord, it is as if we are receiving Christ himself, and if Christ then it is as if we are receiving and dealing with the Father directly.

All who represent Christ represent the Father for Christ himself represented the Father. Jesus said to the disciples that, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) As we are being changed into the image of the Father through Christ Jesus and the working of the Holy Spirit, Jesus showed that He was already in the image of the Father. In John 10:30 Jesus also says, “I and the Father are one.” He is not saying they are the same person, but in their thinking and decision-making, in their attitudes and nature and in the way they do, judge and behave in all things they are the same. This is what it means to be in the image of one another. They are one and united in all things as if they are mirror images and reflections of each other’s nature.

Now as to the rewards in this section of scripture, we see that Jesus says that if any person receives a prophet or a righteous man or a disciple and provides for them in some way, they will receive a reward. God will reward those who provide for his people but the person receiving these followers of the Lord will also receive the rewards from the people they are assisting. What is the reward of a prophet? It is prophecy and teaching and the understanding of God’s ways. What is the reward of a righteous man? It is the understanding of righteousness and the peace that comes through the knowledge of the righteousness that comes from God.

Jesus stated that if anyone gives a disciple even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, he would not go without reward. There are two things to consider here too. Firstly, a disciple can be a person who is young in the Lord and still with much to learn. They may have only just come to the Lord and begun their walk with Christ and are not advanced in the word of God. Yet God still sees them as very important and will reward anyone who aids them or assists them. Secondly, even if the assistance is as minimal as giving them a cup of cold water, which is such a small thing to do, they will still receive their reward.

To be rewarded by the Lord does not require big things or great gestures. You do not have to go out and build churches or schools or communities. You do not have to go to the wild places of the world and set up missions. There is nothing wrong with any of these things, but you do not have to do any of these things to receive the rewards of God. All you need to do is to receive God’s people and if they need only a cup of cold water, to provide it. It is the small things that God sees as well as the big things. And often it is the small things that make all the difference. A cup of cold water to an extremely thirsty man may be a small thing to the giver, but to the receiver it could be the most precious gift of all.

Jesus showed the importance of this point and the significance of assisting his people in the parable of separating the sheep from the goats. (Matthew 26:31-46) In this parable we see the Lord separating those who were his and who had assisted him in a time of need from those who did not help him when they could have. In both cases the people said, (and I paraphrase) “When did we see you in need of help and minister to your needs?” Jesus replied that whenever the person saw someone in need and either assisted or didn’t assist him or her they were doing it to Jesus. The rewards they received for assisting these people and thus Jesus were entry to God’s kingdom. But those who failed to help when needed were cast out.

Do not underestimate the good that is done and can be done in the small things you do for people. Do not think that you are not doing much in the name of the Lord or not serving him. For whenever you assist one of his people with something they cannot do themselves, you are serving not just them, but them as the representatives of Christ, and Christ as the representative of the Father. Everything you do for the Lord’s people you do for God. And you will be rewarded by God for the things you do.

Sheep Without a Shepherd

(Matthew 9:27-38)

In the previous post we saw Jesus showing that faith was a key requirement for the people to receive healing. On several occasions he made the point that the healings they received was done according to their faith. We see now in this section that as Jesus continued his work he began to get opposition from the Pharisees and he made the point that the people were not being cared for as they were like sheep without a shepherd.

In the first section of this scripture (verses 27-31) we again see the position taken by Jesus that faith is a key to healing. Two blind men came crying aloud after him saying, “Have mercy on us, Son of David.” When Jesus went into the house where he was staying he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” to which the men answered, “Yes, Lord.” Jesus then touched their eyes and they received their sight.

Now the key in this section is that the men first confessed their faith and that they had the faith to be made well. It was evident they knew who Jesus was for they referred to him as the Son of David. They had no doubt heard of the miracles he had previously done, and so believed that Jesus was able to heal them of their blindness.

Jesus was not looking for glory from all the healings he was doing. He was not seeking fame or self-glorification or the praise of men, for after doing this healing he charged the men sternly to tell no-one. Jesus did this a number of times, but it was impossible to hide these wondrous things. For when these men went back to their homes and families and could now see, the people would immediately ask and wonder how such a miraculous thing could occur. And in this case the men went away and spread his fame throughout all the district. Jesus on other occasions instead said for the people to give the glory to God and that si what we should do too when we receive his gifts today.

There is a twist too that we see in the next part of this scripture. A dumb demoniac was brought to him and Jesus cast out the dumb demon and the man spoke. The people marvelled at such a thing having never seen anything like it before. But what we see also is that the Pharisees become jealous of his growing fame and reputation and they begin to stand against and accuse him. What they do not realise is that they commit the unpardonable sin in their comments saying, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.” The one sin that will not be forgiven is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit as Jesus showed in Matthew 12:31-32. What is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? In this case it is calling the wondrous works of the Holy Spirit or attributing the work of the Spirit to the devil. These Pharisees were saying is that Jesus was casting out demons, not by the power of the Holy Spirit but by the power of Satan…and this is blasphemy. In Matthew 12 this topic will be covered in more depth for the scriptures there are more revealing and we can begin to understand why this is the unforgivable sin.

In the final paragraph of this text we see Jesus moving about the villages amongst the people, preaching and teaching the word of God and the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. The truth and the power of his words were confirmed by the signs attending him as he healed all sicknesses, diseases and infirmities. Matthew wrote that Jesus had great compassion for the people for they were like sheep without a shepherd and he said to his disciples to pray that the Lord would send out people to minister to the people.

Is this any different today? There is today still a great need for the Lord to send out ministers to preach and teach the truth of the gospel. There have been many people today hurt by the church and those who should have been helping and protecting the flock, but instead used then for their own gain. There are preachers today who distort the words of God and the Bible to justify their own ends and to seek advantage over others. This should not be so and the Lord will judge those people accordingly. Are all the teachers and preachers today like that? No they are not, but it is often difficult to tell the good from the bad. For as the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”

If Satan disguises himself to look good, so do his people. Jesus said you would know them by their fruits and so it is important not to blindly accept what anyone says purely at face value. We must study and learn the words of God in the Bible and ask for the Holy Spirit to come to us and teach us so that we can discern truth from error and see deceitful men for what they are. If we come to the Lord in humility and ask him to lead us, he will do so and will expose impostors and take us to where his people can be nurtured in the truth. As Jesus promised, “Seek and you WILL find.”

Beware of False Prophets and False Teachers

(Matthew Chapter 7, Verses 15-20)

One of the greatest challenges all Christians face when trying to seek out the truth is…who do you believe. Jesus warned us in this section about being careful to spot and avoid false prophets or false teachers. If we choose to follow the wrong teachings from one of these people then we may be taking in information that is not aligned with the truth or even put ourselves in a position where we are being taken advantage of by unscrupulous people ministering lies for profit.

Many people have been hurt by false teachers and false prophets through accepting false teaching. I recall an instance where at a church one time a speaker made an altar call at the end of the service for people to come up who had been hurt in some way by the church. With the exception of just a handful of people, the whole church of several hundred people stood and went forward. Such a situation is an absolute travesty and speaks much about the extent of corruption that can exist in Christianity today through false teaching and false prophets.
But what can you do about it? Well Jesus also provided some good information in this section of scripture on how to spot these frauds and what to do.
Firstly we need to understand that they may be hard to see. He talks of wolves in sheep’s clothing, meaning that these false prophets will look as if they are good and will be well disguised and camouflaged. They will have all the appearances of being good teachers and doing what is right. But like all liars, they will not be able to hold onto their lies and evidence will begin to show up that shows them for what they truly are. In order to perpetrate a lie, a liar must tell more lies to cover the original lie. They must then continue this path and weave a web that they will eventually be caught in as inconsistencies arise. Jesus said, you will know them by their fruit. The fruit is the teachings and the things they do. Fruit does not immediately appear on a tree but must go through a process of pollination, germination and growth before it is ripe and ready for picking. So too these people will take time to show their true colours.
Next we see that Jesus shows that they will not be able to help going down this path for the evil will bear evil fruit, but good people will do good. It’s like the old saying that a leopard can’t change it’s spots. These false teachers or false prophets are exactly the same.
Finally it is important that when you come into contact with Christians you need to do two main things. Firstly, you must have an understanding of the truth in the Bible and weigh up all that they say or do against that knowledge. And secondly, you need to spend time to watch these people and see what they do over time, for Jesus says when their fruit ripens you will know them by their fruits. Over time there will be a pattern from these people. If the pattern is to help, assist, speak good things aligned with Bible truth and respecting others, then they may be true prophets teaching truth. But if their words and actions are self-serving, seeking to get gain from those around them and using people to get advantage, especially when falsely using the teachings in the Bible to get power over others, then their fruits can be considered bad.
These are the wolves Jesus is talking about. They feed their own appetites and do nothing unless it is to their own gain or advantage. They are proud and arrogant, but at the same time will disguise themselves well with cunning and deception. As individuals we need to learn from the Bible, seek the truth, and ask Jesus to give us understanding so that we can spot these false teachers when they come along. For as sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, they will come. There are many people who see Christianity as a means of gain and will use it to further their own devices and designs. While there is gain through Christianity in godliness, as the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 6:3-6, the gain comes through contentment, not material gain. And these false prophets are not seeking contentment but rather are seeking material gain or power. This is not of God and as Jesus said, we must beware.
In due course they will be seen for what they are, and even if their disguises are very good, they will be cut down by the Lord. He will protect his church from these people, but it is important for us to likewise recognise them and take action so that we are not hindered through false teaching.