Most of us remember as children our parents telling us to be aware of strangers. If someone we didn't know approached us, we were to run away. Run to a safe place, whether it be home or to someone you knew would protect you. We tell our own children to be aware of strangers. I often wonder, if there is any place in our world today where parents feel that their kiddos are completely safe.
When our daughter Kristi was in second grade, she was friends with a girl in our neighborhood who was a couple of years older than her. Kristi and Sarah kept asking me to let Kristi walk home from school with her. Maybe I was playing it safe, but I was a bit hesitant. Those two girls kept hounding me. The school was only a few blocks from our home. So after talking with Sarah's mom, we decided it would be ok to try. We set up how it would work. The girls would meet on the playground right after school and walk home together.
The day came and Kristi was so excited. We went over the plan once again (too protective you think?) before I took her to school. But Sarah forgot. Kristi waited and waited for Sarah, who never showed up. After awhile, Kristi decided to walk home by herself. She obviously knew the way. As she began walking, she felt so grown up. All of a sudden she realized that a car with a man in it, was following her very closely. If she stopped, the car stopped. I guess it was all my "beware of strangers" comments that shouted out to her. She knew something was not right and she, being the smart little seven year old that she was, decided to go back to the school pretending she forgot something. Kristi was still on the grass of the park that surrounded the school so it could look like she really forgot something. She went straight to the school office and they called me. Immediately I drove to the school to pick her up. It turned out that the man following her had been doing this for a few days and the school had reported this to the police.
I was completely relieved that my girl was safe. That she was smart and that she had listened to me. I never got angry, I was grateful beyond words that my girl was protected. I have no recollection of what I said to Sarah or her mom, but we decided Kristi was not ready to walk home from school yet.
In the tenth chapter of the Gospel of John, Jesus tells us that He is the Good Shepherd and that we are His sheep. Sheep, when not grazing in the fields with the shepherd are placed together in a pen.
These are the words Jesus spoke in John 10:1-5
"What if someone does not enter the sheep pen through the gate but climbs in another way? That person is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him. The sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own sheep, he goes on ahead of them. His sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger. In fact, they will run away from him."
When we believe in Jesus, when we want Him to be the ONE who guides our life, we become His sheep and He becomes Our Shepherd. If you know anything about sheep, they are not very smart and often can get themselves into trouble by wandering off from their shepherd. The Shepherd is the one who keeps them from harm, who protects them and guides them. After a time, the sheep learn that their shepherd is the one who truly cares for them.
Often times I know I am nothing but a dumb sheep. I get myself into trouble and then wonder, "how did this happen?". Umm, maybe its because I try and do things, figure out things, without asking my Shepherd what to do.
Jesus said that the sheep know His Voice and follow Him. The shepherd calls them by name and they follow Him. Do I know that? Do you? How do we as believers and followers of Jesus Christ know His voice? I believe it is mostly through His Word, the words written all through the Bible. If we don't know His Words, how will we ever know if we are being deceived or not. If we aren't asking Jesus to reveal Himself and His truth to us, and are listening to others opinions, how do we know what is really truth?
If you believe in God and that He is Good, then it most likely follows, that you would believe there is also evil and that is bad. In the Bible, the devil is God's enemy. He will do whatever he can to try and catch us off guard, to get us to believe something is true when it isn't. The devil wants more than anything for us not to follow God, not to listen to Him, not to read His Word, not to obey what He asks of us. Throughout the Bible, the devil is referred to as the father of lies, the deceiver, the thief. He is the enemy of God and he is our enemy too.
In John 10: 10, Jesus tells us:
10 A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so they may have life. I want them to have it in the fullest possible way.
A thief, THE thief is the devil. He wants to destroy us. He wants to believe what we want. He wants to take us away from Jesus and will do anything he can to make this happen. He is the STRANGER that we need to run from; always. The devil is the one who wants to harm us, to steal us, to kill and destroy the full life that Jesus wants to give us.
I have come to know with certainty that God's enemy is out to deceive and destroy God's children. Loving and choosing to work with my college age friends, I have seen over the past few years, how satan (one of the devil's names) is deceiving us. We have come to the Bible as if we have come to a smorgasbord. We pick and choose what we want to believe. You know when you go to a buffet, there are so many delightful foods to entice you, and then there are the few that might possibly even repulse you and you choose to stay away from them. That is what we are doing today in choosing what we want to believe as God's truth and what we want for our own lives.
Just a few examples of this.
The issue of having sex before marriage. According to his books, Unchristian and You Lost Me, Dave Kinnaman says that later adolescents today ( adolescents are now being described as people from ages 12-26), those that profess to believe and follow Jesus, believe that it is ok to have sex before marriage-especially if you are in love with the person. If we are to believe that the Bible is God's Word and it is truth, how do we reconcile what the book of Hebrews 13:4 says:
"Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral."
I surmise by this that sex between a husband and his wife is the only form of sexual relations of which God approve. But don't take my word for it, ask God, read the Bible , look up verses and study tools. It is too easy today to rationalize our own thoughts and feelings when we want to do something. But would we do something that God says not to, if we knew He was right with us? Because He is. Ask yourself, would I keep doing what I'm doing if I could physically see Jesus right here with me? Just because we cannot "see" Him, He promises us that He is always with us.
I know this is a smorgasbord topic. I want to have sex with my boyfriend, with my girlfriend. I want what I want, who cares what the Bible says. I get it; really I do. I had sex before I knew Jesus when I was in college. I had sex when I did know Jesus when I wasn't married. Guess what? Now I wish I hadn't. Because after 38 years of marriage, I know that sex is pleasurable and fun, but it really means what God intended for it, in marriage-when you feel safe and loved and cared for.
Another smorgasbord topic that we want to pick and choose from is the whole issue of homosexuality. This is a buzz issue today in the Church of Christ. What I want more than anything is for you to go to God's Word, to God Himself, to ask how you should respond, get your viewpoint from God, not others. There is so much anger and hatred that has been spewing out of what Christians say, that I am embarrassed. I wrote two blogs in 2014 and one in 2013 about this that you can read if you want:
But again, Please don't get your opinion from me, ask God for His Truth and I pray then, "that you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32)
There are many other buzz topics, smorgasbord choices, believing what we want to believe and choosing to not believe others. What I am trying to get across here is that the thief is right here coming to steal and destroy us from the reality of Jesus. The devil is the STRANGER, the one we need to RUN AWAY FROM, the one who wants to do whatever it takes for us not to believe GOD.
RUN AWAY FROM THIS STRANGER. RUN TO GOD, RUN TO JESUS. He will be the ONE who protects you, who wants the very BEST for you, who cares for you and loves you unconditionally. He is the GOOD SHEPHERD who longs to hold you and comfort you and give you His peace. LISTEN to HIS VOICE. KNOW HIS VOICE and above all FOLLOW HIM.