31/5/2020 [Thematic Message 103] www.lifechurchmissions.com
No One Can Snatch Them Out of My Hand <Jn 10:27-30; Lk 15:3-24>
Prelude: The Lord said, “I know my sheep... no one will snatch them out of my hand.” Perhaps throughout the Bible, this is the most important promise God has given to those who belong to Him. Think about it, if a father says, "No one will snatch my child out of my hand”, we will know how deep the love this father has for his child, and he will use his entire life to ensure this. But because of human limitations, when sickness, death, or a more powerful force comes about, regardless of how strong-willed we are, we cannot fulfill this promise. But if these words are spoken by God, we know that these words are reliable and assuring. <Num 23:19> says, “God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” Therefore, when we feel that God has left us, it is not that God's promise becomes invalid, but because we are human. Humans have a fickle nature and are affected by the environment and the words of people. Therefore, when we are frustrated, the problem is not that God's promise is no longer reliable, but we have changed. Think about it, why is it that we often encounter such a situation? This is because we live in a world with enemies. The power of the antichrist in this world either wants to snatch us away from God’s hand or to blind our hearts so that we cannot see the Lord who loves us. Some people get so busy when they get up in the morning that they cannot see the face of God. When some people hear certain news report, their heart and mind entirely forget that God is in control. When some people encounter a little shortage, they immediately cannot see the provision of the Lord. When some people are in friction and disputes with others, they feel wronged at one end and accused at the other end. In fact, there are so many things that cause our hearts to waver. But our problem is only one, that is, we forget, “Who is with us, who helps us". When the Lord said, "No one will snatch them out of my hand", these words are not just used for declaration, but used to face our enemy who wants to capture our heart, so that we do not lose our fixed perspective when following God. Sometimes, when our hearts lose the fixed perspective, we will always think of doing something to change our situation, and make ourselves feel better and more at ease. Some people stop attending services for the time being, some people think of leaving their work aside to go for mission trips, some people suddenly change their entire lifestyle. We all want to do something practical to make ourselves feel at ease. In fact, that is not only not at ease, but also a kind of struggle. That shows that our hearts lose the perspective that God is with us and that He will lead us. Hence, if the Lord’s sheep continues to be led astray, what would the Lord do? The Lord who loves him will definitely bring him back to the fold. God’s will to bring His sheep back to the fold is as great as His will to guard His own flock of sheep. This is similar to <Lk 15:3-7> which talks about a shepherd who has one hundred sheep and loses one, he would leave the ninety-nine in the open country and look for the one lost sheep. This is the perseverance of the Lord's love, indicating that the Lord will never abandon those who belong to Him. So, who is considered a sheep who has been guided back by the Lord? Some people left the church for various reasons and lead a churchless life. Even though they know that they belong to the Lord having believed in Him, they do not live in the communion of saints, and do not seek the benefits of saints, but they live the life of a lost sheep instead. For some people, although they are in the church, the direction of their life did not follow the eternal destination given to them by the Lord. Or some are still living in sin. The so-called living in sin does not mean occasionally being overcome by sin, but the way a person lives now does not reflect the life given to him by the Lord. His heart, mind and actions will grieve the Holy Spirit and are hated by God. Even if this person may belong to the Lord, he is just like a lost sheep in God's eyes. Certainly, God's persevering love will seek His lost sheep back from his wandering state. Today, if we find ourselves still in a lost state, we should not deceive ourselves, but recognize that everything God has done in our lives, is to bring us back. If we are one of those who have been found, we should also live an unwavering life for the heavenly Kingdom and have a fixed perspective in all things we do <Jas 1:8>.
1. The Lord says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”
1）The Lord’s voice comes from the word of the Lord
The voice mentioned here is not merely the sound we hear with our ears or the words from human mouth. Here, the voice refers to the beliefs of the speaker. Today, if I make a phone call from outside to my children, and suddenly tell them, “Children, from now on, in this world, we cannot depend on anyone else but ourselves.” Although it sounds to them like the father’s tone, their hearts know that it does not seem to be something their father will say. That is not the voice of their father. That is because after having a relationship with me, they know me as a person and also can recognize my “voice”. Therefore, when the Lord says, “My sheep recognize my voice”, the voice He is referring to is all the words He ever said. Within these are all of God’ attributes, His purpose and plans, including what He loves and detests. All these are make known in the word revealed by God. Today, we always hear some people in the church say, “We must learn to hear the voice of the Lord.” However, they do not have the Lord’s word in their hearts, or they accept God’s word selectively, thus what they hear is the voice they themselves want to hear. In the end, when the wolf comes to say a few moving or tempting words, they will be taken in. When this world uses some of God’s word and add some humanistic ideas to it, they naturally accept it. Their selective understanding of God’s word hinders them from recognizing God’s true love and holiness, but makes them misinterpret God’s heart. The evidence of this is they do not live a life following the Lord. They only live a Christian faith which is shaped by their own will. Their hearts do not have the purpose of the Great Shepherd, their hearts also do not love the holiness of the Great Shepherd, they live not to do the will of the Great Shepherd. They are people who cannot recognize the voice of the Lord.
2）The church must proclaim the Lord’s voice
The church is the place to bring out the voice of the Lord, and the church pulpit is the altar to proclaim the voice of the Lord. The chief responsibility of proclaiming the voice of God does not lie with the sheep, but with the shepherds who are teaching, shepherding and preaching on behalf of God. If a church does not preach the voice of the Lord, then no matter how magnificent that church building is, how grand the songs of its choir are, how exciting its weekly programmes are, how well its administrative management is, how excellent its small group caring efforts are, etc, they are all in vain. We must know that no matter how well done these are, those are not the voice of the Lord. That is because the various organisations of the world also can do all these very well. However, the church needs to hear the voice of the Lord. If the church is in suffering, it needs to hear the comfort of the Great Shepherd; if the church loses direction and sets its mind on earthly things, it needs to hear the Lord’s concerns and desires; if there are sins or unholiness in the church, it needs to hear the admonishment and rebuke of the Great Shepherd; if the church is not zealous about serving, it needs to hear the earnestness of the Great Shepherd. Without the voice of the Lord, how can we live a faith that is set apart and following God? Although saints live in the world and we can also receive the general revelation like the rest of the people, God’s unique revelation about redemption, how He will be glorified in every era, and His plan of saving His people from the world, is the critical voice the Lord has given the church. This is also what the church pulpit should continue to pass on. If such voice becomes rare, we will see that Christians become no different from the people of the world. Instead, over time, we will find that the moral teachings of the pagans are more attractive than ours, their good works can influence people more than ours, their systems are better organised than ours, the pop songs they sing are more appealing than our hymns, their counselling and psychology are more accepted by people, etc. This is because the church has not proclaimed the voice of the Lord, and has not preached the message of saints dying, burying, resurrecting and triumphing together with Christ.
3）Gradually, when the Lord’s word becomes rare, the Lord’s sheep in the church will be lost
In the church, those who distort the voice of the Lord are known as wolves. They specialised in twisting God’s truth, such that the Lord’s sheep are subconsciously led astray into believing the wrong teachings. In addition, those who are like working for the church and look after the sheep as part of their responsibilities entrusted by man, they are called hired hands. They may exercise some basic responsibilities toward the sheep, but they will definitely not sacrifice for the sheep. They only sustain the church operations by some traditional teachings and ways, but they will certainly not bring out messages which can renew, feed and heal the sheep. This is because they themselves also cannot hear the voice of the Great Shepherd. Perhaps they can sustain some church serving and their share of the work, but they will not be anxious when they see the sheep being weak, ignorant and blinded. This is like during the time of Eli the priest, in those days, the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions <1 Sam 3:1>. Under such situation, goats will flood to the church, many sheep of the Lord may still be in the church, but their lives are in fact in a state of being lost. They slowly cannot distinguish between heavenly and earthly, eternal and temporal, spiritual and carnal messages. The gospel they know conceptually cannot attract human souls, and all the more cannot make people cut to the heart after hearing it. As a result, the church will have many programmes and conferences, yet is full of sheep who are lost and living in sin.
2. The Great Shepherd wants to redeem His sheep and no one can snatch them out of His hand
1）When we draw near to the end of the last days, many forces and events which aim to snatch the sheep will emerge
In the current pandemic, a question that many people are asking is: “Is the world coming to an end? Is Lord Jesus coming soon?” Actually, right from the beginning, if we correctly understand from the Bible about the antichrist’s work in the entire human history, and look at the clues given us in the Book of Revelation, then we will know that whenever the world undergoes a very serious blow, the forces of the antichrist will rise up to influence the whole world. The Book of Revelation tells us that during the end times, the tripartite forces of the antichrist will rise up: (1) The beast coming out of the sea – had ten horns (ten kings), seven heads (seven great empires). Here, it refers to earthly political powers <Rev 13:1-2>; (2) the beast coming out of the earth - It had two horns like a lamb, but it spoke like a dragon. It also performed great signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to the earth in full view of the people. It also forced all people to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, which is the number of the beast’s name is 666 (which is the number for humanism). Here, it refers to the beast on the land <Rev 13:11-12, 16-18>. Therefore, the ultimate result brought by the antichrist is the unification of the state and the church. In the unification of the state and the church, Christianity will certainly move toward humanism. In obeying the instructions of the political powers, the church will gradually move toward preaching a message which is non-offensive and is acceptable by the masses. Therefore, the messages preached by many church pulpits will gradually lose the uniqueness, absoluteness, and eternal nature of Christ’s redemption; (3) the great prostitute – in the work of the first beast, what is so appealing is the great prostitute behind him who attracts many people. The Bible describes that she will sit on the beast and commit adultery with the kings of the earth, and make many inhabitants of the earth drunk. The Bible also says she is where peoples, multitudes, nations and languages dwell, and the great city that rules over the kings of the earth <Rev 17:1-3, 15, 18>. This great prostitute is the alluring culture brought by great cities. This may be the ideals, materials, livelihood, pleasures, comfortable life, etc which the great cities bring to people. When this tripartite work of the antichrist (control of the political powers, compromise of the faith, alluring culture of the cities) comes together, it is a huge force that captures the human souls. Under such force, who will still care about the heavenly and eternal gospel truth? Therefore, it is not hard for us to see now that from the church messages to the believers’ beliefs and living, it is mostly a compromise. The messages of the church and those of the world gradually become one. The church learns the methods of the world, and pursues the same dreams as people of the world. Indeed, the work of the antichrist wants to defile the churches in every era, but the sheep who truly belong to the Lord will be more and more miserable and lost.
2）Global crisis and the rising of the forces of the antichrist
Usually, every time when some global crises come, the forces of the antichrist will gradually advance from such crises. Thus, every time the Bible mentions the signs of the end times, it will surely mention the wars between men, famines, earthquakes, and human love growing cold <Mt 24:4-12>. These are things that bring terror to humans, making them helpless. However, this world will not come to a state of revering the Lord more or needing Christ’s redemption more. Instead, they will need one another more, then they will aim to develop human culture and civilization. Whenever there are wars, economy downturn or the emergence of viruses, we will see that some global organisations were being set up, such as the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, World Trade Organisation, World Health Organisation, etc. These organisations will bring people of the world into an organisational system, such that more and more people are being influenced and controlled by some scale of institutions. Therefore, it is not hard for us to see that the current pandemic will certainly lead the governments of the whole world to implement certain regulations and measures to control people’s movements and whereabouts. Here, we shall temporarily reserve our personal views, but we should also carefully observe the necessity of such measures.
3）The Lord wants to use the pure gospel to seek back His sheep
The Lord’s sheep recognize the Lord’s voice. When such work of the antichrist springs up, the unbelief of those who do not belong to the Lord will be exposed. They not only do not recognize the Lord’s voice, but they also go along with the evil worldly culture. But people who belong to the Lord can discern the evil culture and secular beliefs. When the people of the world are rejoicing, they will feel miserable and lost. Many of them will also fall into sin because of fears, helplessness and the lack of security. First, we must understand that the Lord’s people are elected by the Lord Himself. Only the Lord recognizes His elected people, and will in such critical moment execute His salvation. Perhaps, many of the Lord’s people have not heard the word of the pure gospel in their lifetime of faith. They may have only understood some Christian ethics, or think that being a Christian means to be zealous for the Lord, or they simply go to the church to seek blessings and grace, otherwise they just train in certain gifts, learning to speak in tongues and see visions, etc. They are extremely pitiful, they are like worshippers who have believed for most part of their lives yet still remain muddle-headed; they are at a loss every time they encounter suffering. Yet, because they are the sheep elected and known by God, when they hear the pure gospel, they are cut to the heart and will repent because of their sin. Some of them also rejoice because they understood the essence of the gospel and saw the Lord’s love and faithfulness. Some of them understand the reliability of the truth and abandon those useless teachings and methods. We see that these are ways by which the Lord seeks back His sheep. However, if no one preaches, how can people hear; if no one hears, how can anyone believe; if no one believes, how will anyone call on God? But who are the ones who preach? They are the evangelists who are sent by the Great Shepherd <Ro 10:13-15>.
3. We have all gone astray differently, but the Lord uses different ways to seek us back
1）Humans have gone astray in different ways, but God’s love is persevering to the end
Some people have gone astray because they have not heard the pure gospel. Others have gone astray because of the worries of this life. Yet others have gone astray because they were hurt in the church. Some have gone astray because they cannot recognize the value of grace. Others fall into a life of sin because they are really tempted by the world. From then on, they gradually cannot accept God’s word, but are lured and enticed by their own desires. There are various factors and circumstances to people going astray, and everyone more or less has experienced it before. However, the Lord’s love surpasses our factors and state of wandering, and because of the Lord’s persevering love, when we go astray, the Lord always takes the initiative to find us back. Thus, in the Lord’s parable of “seeking back the sinner” in <Lk 15:3-24>, we see that whether it is the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to go after the one lost sheep until he finds it; or it is the woman who lights a lamp, sweeps the house and searches carefully until she finds the one coin she lost; or it is the father who first saw the prodigal son and was filled with compassion for him, when the son was on his way back but still a long way off, all these reveal God’s proactive and persevering love.
2）God rejoices because of our repentance
The joy of finding the lost cannot be compared to that of not experiencing loss before. We as parents may be very happy and relieved when we raise a child who rarely commits wrong. However, when we raise a child who has done wrong and turned back, that joy far exceeds the other gladness. Why is that so? Because after losing and finding back, the value is greater than before. Perhaps when we enter the church, hear the gospel and receive the love of brethren, we will have a moment of joy. Yet, we may not have walked out of our sin. We still remain in our own life purpose and longings. Our lifestyle may still be the same as before. Thus, our joy will be gone very soon, and we will gradually fall into worries and distress. Perhaps, some people long very much to do something for the church and brethren to make themselves feel better. However, what God wants is your repentance. Only when you truly repent for your sin, then the Lord’s joy can come into your heart. Therefore, whether you are the sheep which has gone astray and is lonely and terrified in the wilderness; or you are the one lost coin, which has lost its value because it cannot be used; or you are the prodigal son who ended up in such a sorry state that he had to feed his hunger by eating the food of pigs, you only have to understand that what God wants is your true repentance. Nothing can replace the joy of repentance.
3）The life that is found by the Lord is a life that has fixed perspective in Christ
A person who has truly repented will no longer chase after the wind. He will also not change every day. Some people easily change churches, jobs, environments, friends, etc. They will be on very good terms with a group of people now, but the relationship becomes broken the next moment. God is the Lord who does new things, but sometimes it is not necessarily good that our lives keep changing. That may also reflect our relationship with the Lord. Think about it: When a lost sheep is found, it is already living under the guidance of the shepherd. A lost coin that is found already restored its value. After a prodigal son turned back, he already found the meaning of life. If we still do not have a stable heart and sure life direction in the Lord, that may be because what we wish to follow is still not the Lord. Our lives are still mixed with many of our own human-driven ideals and desires. Some people are on a job this year, have another thinking the following year, and have a new dream the year after next, when they see others do their own businesses. Such people will become a plaything of the world. Yet, for some other people, because they know the Lord, they lead their lives by centring on the church, relationships and evangelism, such that eventually, they have everything.