Now before I say anything else, let me offer an apology. I know some of y’all really don’t like funny bulletin covers. And before anyone leaves upset, let me be as clear as I can, the cartoon isn’t intended to show any lack of respect or dedication. Rather, it’s there for two reasons: first, because I think it’s fundamentally true and second, because I believe it illustrates how we often approach God better than any words that I can think of. And that’s why it’s there. But if you do find it offensive, I’m sincerely sorry and ask that you kind of put it aside at least until you get home.
But you know, regardless of how you feel about whether it’s appropriate for a bulletin cover or not, you’ve got to admit it’s true, right? I mean, the baseball season has just started as have the both the NBA and NHL playoffs. And for the last couple of weeks the NFL draft has been analyzed and then, starting Thursday evening, has been shown live, in prime time no less. And whether it’s stuck in their ear or implanted somewhere in their brain, every male sports fan has been using a selective hearing aid like the one on the cover; am I right? Sure, and the nob has been almost superglued to T.V. And I’ll tell you, I think it’s working. I know, speaking for myself, I’ve been able to filter out all those little distractions so I can focus on what’s really important, who the Colts will take with the two hundred, forty-fifth pick. Now that’s selective listening.
But you know, I think we’d all agree that this doesn’t effect just men watching sports. It seems to me, we’re all pretty good at this kind of thing, you know what I mean, focusing on what we want to hear and see and believe while at the same time filtering out all the stuff that may cause us to question and wonder and reconsider. And that makes sense, at least to us. My goodness, we already know what’s right. We already know what’s appropriate. We already know what we should be doing and saying and thinking. We already know.
And so why should we think about any other opinion or approach? That would be stupid. And why should we waste our time looking at a situation from someone else’s perspective? That would be dumb. And you tell me, why in heaven’s name should we listen to anything that might cause us to question old standards or consider new possibilities? That would be ridiculous, da. If we already know what’s right, why should we do this? It just doesn’t make sense.
And so we don’t, even if it’s God who’s speaking. We turn that selective hearing aid either off or to something else, maybe something more comfortable, you know, in line with what we want to hear; of course, we’ll listen to that. Man, we’re even creative enough to pretend that it’s actually God who’s dishing out this cotton candy.
And although there’s nothing better than worshiping a God who thinks and acts like us, who values what we value and hates what we hate, and this is the best one, who enforces the commandments we think should be enforced and kind of let’s slide the stuff we enjoy doing ourselves, in other words, although there’s nothing more comforting than worshiping a god that we’ve created, when we do that, there’s really is a price to pay. You see, even though we may belong to Christ, when we’ve made this decision, we’re going to miss what he’s saying to us, unless that is he tells us what we want to hear. And even though he knows us, we’re not going to know him, not the one revealed in Scripture. And I’ll tell you, even though he’s called us to follow, we’re probably not going to do it; I mean, we’re probably not going to set as a top priority loving God and loving one another, much less loving our neighbors, not when it interferes with loving ourselves. Why, simply because we’ve decided that even when comes to Jesus Christ, our hearing is going to be selective.
But you know, that doesn’t have to be the case, not with us who have, at sometime, heard the voice of the shepherd and who are known by him and who have the opportunity to follow his example. You see, we really aren’t like those folks in the passage who didn’t believe, because they weren’t his sheep. We’re not like them, and for that reason, it makes no sense to act like them. Because, when you get right down to it, unlike them, we can make a different kind of decision. In other words, right this minute, we can decide to hear, to hear his voice, to hear him even when he says things we don’t like. And we can decide to recognize that he really does know us, that he knows us right to the core of our being, man, he knows us on our very worst day and he loves us anyway. And we can decide that we’re going to follow; we’re going to follow where he leads us and we’re going to do that even if it means we may have to change. You see, brothers and sisters, right here and right now, we can decide to listen to the Son of God. Now, are we ready to do that?
I sure hope so, because when we are, when we’re ready to hear the voice of Christ and to recognize that he knows us and to follow him out into the green pastures that surround this church, I’m telling you, God will give us three things we may never have experienced before. I mean, first, he’s going to give us knowledge, knowledge of who he is and why his son came. And even though at first glance it may not seem to be the case, that’s what I believe Jesus had in mind when he said about his sheep, “I give them eternal life.” I mean, listen to how Jesus himself defines these words: “And this is eternal life, (sounds like a definition to me) that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” You see, eternal life brings us this wonderful knowledge, this incredible understanding not sometime in the distant future, but right now, in the present. And it’s through this knowledge that we can not only believe that Jesus is the light of the world and the Son of God, but that through him, we, with all our weaknesses and warts, can enter into a relationship with the Lord and creator of the universe. Imagine that, the Lord and creator of the universe.
And I’ll tell you, I think that’s exactly why John wrote this in his first letter: “And this is the testimony: God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life... And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” Man, when we decide to listen, this is what we’ll know. This is what God will give us. But that’s not all.
And second, God is going to give us a source peace beyond anything we can imagine. I mean, just listen to what Jesus said, “The sheep which are mine...will absolutely never perish into eternity.” Now you tell me, how can it get better than that? We’re talking about eternity for crying out loud. You see, when John wrote that during his life, “[Jesus] didn’t lose a single one of those whom [God] gave [him],” so it will be for us. What does the psalmist say: “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.” Brothers and sisters, we are part of the flock; we are sheep in God’s pasture. And unlike “the thief [who] comes only to steal and kill and destroy, [Jesus] came that [we] may have life, and have it abundantly.” You see, that’s the kind of peace we can know, the minute we decide to listen.
And finally, when we turn the knob of the hearing aid to the good shepherd, we’re going have a sense of confidence that will enable us, working together, to change the world. I mean, do you realize that as soon as we stop talking and start listening, we’re going to hear our savior say about us: “and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” You see, Jesus is not like “the hired hand, who is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, [who when he] sees the wolf coming...leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.” No sir, that’s not the one who calls to us and who knows us. You see, “the hired hand runs away because a hired hand doesn’t care for the sheep.” But that’s not Jesus. Instead, he says to us, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep.” Now, just think about what that means. It’s like that story about the three little pigs, with one important difference. Instead of having to build our own house, God has already done the heavy lifting. I’m telling you, he’s already built us a house of brick that no matter how much he huffs and puffs, the wolf will never blow it down.
Or maybe even better than that, God has given a suit of solid steel, what Paul calls “the whole armor of God, so that [we] may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” As Paul wrote in his Letter to the Ephesians, “For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Wow! And that’s the kind of confidence we can have, when we listen.
Now, I think from time to time we can expect our internal hearing aid to either get turned off or turned away from some stuff that’s really important. Now, that’s a shame, but it’s probably going to happen at least until the Pens wrap up another Stanley Cup. But let’s try as hard as we can to not let it affect our relationship with Christ. Instead, let’s recognize that we are his sheep; therefore, we have heard his voice and he knows us and he’s called us to follow. In other words, let’s decide to listen, because when we do, God is going to give us knowledge and peace and confidence that can absolutely change our lives.