Sermon:  Following God

Summary:  When we accept God as our shepherd, guide, and master, he will lead us to true 
peace and true prosperity in spite of the struggles we may encounter with hardships and 
enemies.  Our Lord the shepherd keeps his watchful eye over us, lovingly doing only what 
is best for us.

Know:  God is with us at all times.  As long as we follow him, nothing will harm us

Feel:  Peace and comfort in God's leading as shepherd

Do:  Reflect on the nature of the dangers and struggles in this life and how God keeps you 
safe through them.  Identify placed, activities, and people that God may be leading you to.  
Pray for direction and commit to go wherever God may lead, even if it seems uncomfortable.

Text:  Psalm 23

Scripture Reading:  John 10:11

1.  Every been on a sheep farm?
2.  Psalm 23 is a very familiar Psalm.
	a.  We need to look at it closely to get a fresh hearing
	b.  "Shepherd" - A common designation for kings
		- David did not see himself as sovereign
		- David was subordinate to God and relied on God
		- David did not appoint himself as King, he was the Lord's anointed
	c.  This is not a sermon about how stupid and smelly sheep are
		- God does not view us with contempt
		- Shepherds invest their lives into the sheep and care for them
		- Bible refers to us as, firstborn, bride, family, body of Christ, etc.
		- Always in endearing terms
3.  Several pictures in this Psalm
	a.  God as a shepherd who faithfully guides us
	b.  A journey through life with the Shepherd who guides and protects us
4.  We will focus on three images for God in this Psalm

I.  God as my Shepherd
	A.  The result is "I shall not want"
		1.  He has everything he needs
		2.  Peace and tranquility - Green pastures, still waters
	B.  Interesting choice of words - "Makes me" lie down in green pastures
		1.  Why?  Sometimes  busy looking for greener pastures elsewhere
			a.  Other side of the fence, other side of the river
			b.  Muddy the waters trying to get there
			c.  By everything I need is right here.  What more is there?
			d.  Green pastures, water, the flock, and especially God
		2.  God's provision is adequate, but more than outward physical
			a.  He restores my "soul"
			b.  In Hebrew - Nephesh "soul" means the whole self, not a 
   	      			part of the self
			c.  God provides physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually
			d.  Not just eternal life at some distant time in the future
				- John 10 - Jesus came to give us abundant life
				- True living is something God offers us in the now
		3.  But only way to have this life is to accept our Lord as shepherd
			a.  Our Lord is only one who can give true life
			b.  If we don't follow him, will miss the simple blessing
		4.  Israel is an example of this.  God led them in the wilderness
			a.  No longer oppressed property, joined to benevolent God
			b.  God offered life of justice and equity, made they "lay 
			     down" in the wilderness
			c.  But Israel could not see the simple blessings God offered
				- Had what they needed, plundered the Egyptians
				- Egyptians said, "here take what you want, just leave 
				  before any more plagues come on us"
				- God fed them Manna, gave meat periodically, water
				- All could see was grass behind the fence they left
			d.  Problem:  Didn't accept God as their shepherd
				- Wanted to get a new shepherd and return
				- Some thing continues to happen
	C.  This Psalm does not mention several things
		1.  Does not mention palaces, riches, money, power, indedendence
		2.  Does not mention much of what the world desires
		3.  The scene is a simple peace offered by God
		4.   In his book, Desiring God, John Piper states, " We can be content with 
		      simplicity because the deepest most satisfying delights God gives us through 
		      creation are free gifts from nature and from loving relationships with people. 
		      After your basic needs are met, accumulated money begins to diminish your 
		     capacity for these pleasures rather than increase them. Buying things contributes 
		     absolutely nothing to the heart's capacity for joy."
	D.  This is why God "makes us" lie down in green pastures
		1.  He brings us peace and well being under his care
		2.  Whatever goals and ambition in life, only peace with God 
			a.  Whether job, school, advancement, grades, etc.
			b.  If you let God lead you, will lead to fulfillment
		3. That why, guides me in paths of righteousness for his name sake
			a.  Not about me, but about God
			b.  He is the shepherd I am the sheep
		4.  Does not mean that there will not be danger and struggle
			Next point…

II.  God My Protector
	A.  The valley of "tsalmavet" shadow of death?
		1.  Usually associate this with funerals
		2.  It is "deathly shadow" or "darkest shadow"
		3.  Psalmist left the pasture and into the crags and canyons
			a.  Dangers lurk in the shadows
			b.  Robbers, animals, dark
	B. If David wrote this, it fits David's life well
		1.  David had dark times when enemies were on his heels
			a.  They lurked close by
			b.  Saul plotted and chased him into the wilderness
			c.  David lived among his enemies the Philistines
			d.  His son Absalom pursued his death as well
		2.  David didn't despair
			a.  Sure, he lamented, but concluded with faith, trust, praise
				-  Many "Psalms" of David are thanksgiving & praise
				-  Different than Israel why? Accept God as shepherd
				-  Able experience blessing of God in all its forms
			b.  Source of David's confidence?  
				-  Could talk about rod & staff 
				- Rod was shepherd's nun-chucks
					- Staff a walking stick, sometimes with a crook
				- It was God's nearness - "For you are with me"
					- God a faithful shepherd, watchful eye
					- Will not let the enemy touch them
		3.  John 10 - Jesus the good shepherd, lays down his life for sheep
			a.  Jesus leads them in and out to pasture, gives life
			b.  No one can take it away
			c.  Many believers do not understand this
		4.  Life not necessarily wealth, lack of danger or suffering
			a.  Experience verifies this through the ages till now
			b.  1 Pet 4:12 - Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal
				- If persecuted Jesus, those who follow will be
			c.  How is David able to fear no evil?  How Jesus give "life?" 
				- What is life?  Not overabundance of things….
				- Not having lots and lots of friends, popularity
			d.  Life is fellowship with God - John 17:3
				- It is being with God, being a part of the family…
				- Nothing can take that away
	C.  ILL:  Reminds me of something I read in Uncle Tom's Cabin
		1.  Tom a slave who became a Christian and sold to Legree
		2.  Tom refused to whip a lady Legree ordered him to
			a.  Legree beat him and reminded him he paid $1200 for him
			b.  He said he paid for him and owns him body and soul and 
			     could do what he want with him
		3.  Tom's response - "No! no! no! my soul an't yours, Mas'r! You 
		     haven't bought it,—ye can't buy it! It's been bought and paid for, 
		    by one that is able to keep it;—no matter, no matter, you can't 
		    harm me!"  
		4.  Legree hated him - He knew he truly didn't "own" him
			a.  Tom refused to do anythiing immoral or unjust and was 
			      kind to the other slaves and respectful to all
			b.  Legree hated him because he could not "touch" Tom
				- Beat & whipped, but couldn't not touch inner man
				- Tom belonged to God, and there was not a thing 
				   Legree could do about that.
				- He hated knowing he didn't "own" Tom, Tom was 
				  free in spite of his slavery
			c.  Legree eventually killed him, something Tom preferred 
			     because it brought him out of this world and to God
			d.  (Rom 8:35-39) Nothing separate us from love of Christ
	D.  Like the Psalmist, we can say we will fear no evil
		1.  If ridiculed, slandered, persecuted, or killed.
		2.  God is with me, nothing can change that, not even death!
		3.  God conducts me to his house and nothing can stop that!
			Final image…

III.  God my Host
	A.  Have you ever been honored before?
		1.  You get announced when you come in
		2.  You get the seat of honor, served first
		3.  Perhaps someone gives speech in your honor
		4.  That is sort of what God is doing here
	B.  God prepares a table to honor you
		1.  He is the host serving me at his table
		2.  Anoints my head with oil
			a.  Typical gesture for an honored guest
			b.  In other words, you get the royal treatment
		3.  God gives only the best and the finest for you!
			a.  God is honoring and serving you at his table!
			b.  Awesome, humbling, inspiring, overwhelming
	C.  It is in the presence of my enemies
		1.  Enemies nearby, but can not do a thing about it
			a.  You are safe in God's house
			b.  They cannot overtake you
		2.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me….
			a.  "Mercy" is the word "hesed" - Covenant loyalty
				- God's loyalty and faithfulness
			b.  Will "follow" me, literally "pursue" me
			c.  So God's goodness, loyalty, faithfulness pursues you
			d.  Not the enemy, but God in his faithfulness
	D.  But in God's house, we are not just guests that have to leave
		1.  "And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever"
		2.  This world is not my home
			a.  We are on a journey
			b.  Sometimes the pasture is green, and waters still
			c.  Sometimes the way is dark and dangerous
			d.  But God is with me and leads me
		3.  (John 14:1-3) I go to prepare a place to you and will come
			a.  If you believe in God and his son, he will be your 
			     shepherd too  
			b.  He will conduct you through this life
			c.  Nothing can keep you from there, not even death

1.  How about you, who is your shepherd?  Where is he leading?
2.  "Believe in God, believe also in me"  Do you believe?
	a.  Troy Metheny, and friend, said - "It isn't just whether you believe, but 
	      how you believe
	b.  Obedience (Invitation)
3.  If you have done this, this consider this your song too
	a.  God will provide what you need and be with you
	b.  Nothing to fear, go where he leads
	c.  If it leads through danger, go with him
	d.  If it leads through simple blessings, go with him
4.  The question is - Will we truly follow where he may lead?
	a.  Even if it is a small inconvenience?
	b.  Remember he is with us and will give us what we need
	c.  Don't worry about being able to make it
5.  Will be able to reflect some more on this in your groups.
	a.  Here what I would like to see happen
	b.  Don't just talk about it, but come up with a plan
	c.  Where he leads I will follow
	d.  Maybe you can decide to go an do some sort of ministry during your group rather than 
	    Bible study…. Where is God leading?


Small Group Questions:  Following God.

Summary:  When we accept God as our shepherd, guide, and master, he will lead us to true peace 
and true prosperity in spite of the struggles we may encounter with hardships and enemies.  Our Lord
 the shepherd keeps his watchful eye over us, lovingly doing only what is best for us.

- When do you most want peace and quiet? 

Explore:  (Psalm 23)

1.  In what ways does the Psalmist describe God in this Psalm?  What is God like?  What activities 
does he do?

2.  In what ways does the Psalmist describe our relationship to God?

3.  What was the source of confidence and comfort for the Psalmist?

4.  What does God do about the dangers, struggles, and enemies in this Psalm?

5.  How does John 10:7-15 complement this Psalm?  What does our Lord want from his sheep?


6.  What are some places, activities, and people in your life that God may lead you to engage in for his 
name's sake?  Which of them are ones you have not considered before?

7.  What are some of your fears, dangers, and struggles in considering what God may be leading you to?

8.  How does the message of this lesson put some perspective on these fears?

9.  What might God be leading you to do as a group by way of service or ministry?

(Pray for direction and commit to go wherever God may lead, even if it seems uncomfortable)