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“Resurrection Life Builds Security”
May 7, 2017
The Fourth Sunday Of Easter
Nehemiah 9: 6-15 / Psalm 23
1 Peter 2: 19 – 25 / John 10: 1 – 10
Bishop Ricardo Alcaraz
Praise be to God! I am grateful that you are all here. The Patriarch also speaks nicely of you. He has been watching what you have been doing, and he especially likes how the Cathedral church is being built. He knows what is happening, and he talks well about you. He says that you are an inspiration and an example especially to other churches.
Today, we are grateful that we can listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd. Jesus Christ is our Good Shepherd; He is the Risen Lord. As we are celebrating the Season of Easter, we are grateful that we are not listening to someone who lived a good life long time ago, spoke some words, and died and all that we have is the memory and a chronicle of his words. Rather, we are serving Someone who has risen from the grave. He is alive!
Today, our theme says that we have security in resurrection life. Our security lies in our walking with our Risen Lord. We follow Him and we walk together with Him. God is Someone who cares about us. God is Someone who loves us.
In the Holy Scriptures, we find the Lord identifying Himself as the great I AM. We have symbols in the gospel that talks about Him. Firstly, He is the Good Shepherd. Secondly, He is the Door. He says, “I am the Door; I am the Living Bread from heaven; I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” All of these things communicate to us what He is, what He has done, and what we can do in Him. Today, we want to focus on the Risen Lord, being our Shepherd, and the Risen Lord, being the Door and what these mean to us.
The gospel says, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. For him, the doorkeeper opens, the sheep hears his voice, and he calls his own sheep by names, and leads them out. When he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them and the sheep follow him for they know his voice.”
Let us focus on Jesus as the Risen Lord, as our Shepherd. It signifies to us that He is the One who truly cares for us. It signifies to us that He not only loves us as a flock, but He loves us individually. In one of the parables of the Lord, He talks about bringing His flock who was supposed to be one hundred of them, but then, He saw that it was just ninety nine. The Lord is not a businessman who says, “Well. Okay, I lost one. I still have ninety-nine. I still profit.” He is not a General who calculates, “This is our acceptable loses as long as we win the war.” Rather, He is our Shepherd who truly cares for us. It is not a job to Him. We are not just assets to Him. He truly cares for us individually. He leaves the ninety-nine for one. He knows that they are protected and they are not exposed, that He looks for the one that is lost. He is not sacrificing the whole for the one. He is making sure that everyone is accounted for. This shows that our Lord is Someone who deeply cares for us not just as a Church, not just a whole, but who cares for us individually.
How many of you pray every day? Jesus says, “But you, when you go into the secret place, your Father is there in secret listening to you.” Do you know that when you go to your secret place, He goes ahead of you? He is waiting for you. He is excited to see you. He does not find you annoying. He does not find you a disturbance to what He needs to do. He longs for your presence.
We need to see the heart of the Father. We need to see the heart of the Shepherd. We know that we long for the presence of God. Scriptures says, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul longs for You.” There is a yearning that is within us, but at the same time, we need to see that God doesn’t just show up as formality. He is not someone who says, “I am a King. I’ve got to do this. I promised them.” No, He longs for you to be there. If you enjoy the presence of God, God enjoys your presence more. God anticipates your presence. He expects you. He is waiting for you. Sometimes, we get so very busy to tell Him, “Sorry, I can’t be present at this time. I will be there next time.” He is disappointed, but He still loves you, and He will show up again the next time.
John 1:3 says, “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” Notice that it says, “He calls you his own.” “He calls you by name.” It also says, “The sheep hear his voice.” What does these talk to us about? It talks to us about relationship. The Lord is not Someone who says, “Okay, guys, I died for you. I came down. I did My part. I went to all the suffering. I died on the cross. I gave you everything, and I have done everything for you, so stop bothering Me.” He did everything for us; we failed Him. He saved us, but He doesn’t look at us like we are a burden to Him. Rather, He longs to be with us.
I have tried to keep my prayer times especially in the morning. In the beginning, I said to myself, “How long will this be?” We try to follow the suggested time we were told to observed, and we say, “What am I going to say in one hour?” I remember when my wife and I got married, and we were discussing our prayer time. Now, that we were two in prayer, we then can do the prayer of agreement. We started discussing what we were supposed to agree on. It took us three hours to find out what we would agree upon and to ask God for. We were living in a house, and it was not ours, so we asked for a place of our own and the appliances included. We were agreeing on what to ask and it took us some time. We had a list and we agreed on it and asked it in prayer; and it didn’t even take a minute. Talking about the list was longer than our prayer.
We did this way back in 1984 when we got married in December. We got the answers in 1987. When I went to Kalibo, I found this apartment and when the owner found out that we were missionaries, he let us use his place, and even gave us the furniture and the appliances. I say this because God answers prayers. But how do you fill one hour of praying to God? For me, it is just something we need to do, but we need to know the presence of God, and you find out that it is not that hard because you get lost in His presence.
I have kept an hour for prayer. Recently, God has been waking me up earlier than my usual praying time. I am verbalizing what I felt, “God, I would go back to sleep,” and He would tell me, “Why don’t you start now?” I said, “Don’t worry, God, I will not withhold my prayers, and I have set this hour for you.” He said, “No, keep that hour. Why don’t you start now?” I did start, and I have been getting this lately. I said, “Can You help me confirm this? Is this just me or what?” The Scripture came to my mind in Psalms 8 where God says, “What is man that You are mindful of?” God’s mind is full of us. He is thinking of us constantly. If you love someone, you can’t help but think of that person. God told me a verse in Song of Solomon and this book is not one of my favorites because for me, it is too mushy. I know it is a king talking to a woman and I know that this is King Jesus and the bride of Christ. The woman says, “How can you love me? I am dark. I am not smooth-skinned.” The Lord says to her, “I am looking at you and I see you beautiful. When you look at Me, I am ravished by you.”
I told myself, “God, do you talk like this?’ God said, “I am ravished by you, my sister, my bride.” It says, “When you look at Me, I am confused.” I am not saying that God loses control over us, but He is using language which we understand. He is trying to convey to us the depth of His love and of how much He values us. He is trying to convey, “I like you to be here. I can’t wait for the day when you and I will be together again! Finally, there is no distance between heaven and earth, when the new heavens and the new earth comes; and going to heaven is just as simple as thinking of being there when the veil is taken out and heaven and earth become one.”
I saw this article from one minister from Australia, and according to him, they were facing a situation that he needed an answer from. This was something quite urgent to him. He said to his wife, “I am not going to go work today. I am just going to spend the day praying and seeking God concerning this situation.” They had breakfast and the wife goes to work. The minister spends time praying, seeking God, asking God what he needs to do, meditating, worshipping Him, then he breaks for lunch and still doesn’t have the answer. He continues in his prayer until finally, the day was about over and he received a text from his wife who was out in a corner. He understood that it would take her wife two minutes from the corner to the house. He said, “Lord, I am grateful to have spent this time with You. I am still seeking for the answer.” The Lord said, “Get a paper. Get a pen. I will tell you the answer right now.” The minister gets the paper and pen and the Lord tells him the answer and what he needs to do and what the situation is all about. He writes them down and the answer was so clear. He said, “God, I have a question for You. I spent the whole day praying, seeking You. You could have given me the answer at any time. You could have given it to me in the morning. You could have given it to me before lunch. You could have given it to me during lunch. You could have given it me after, but why, O God, did You wait the last two minutes to give me the answer?” The Lord said, “If I have given you the answer earlier, you would have left. I wanted you to stay a while with Me.”
We are living in a season where the Lord is wanting to manifest Himself more and more. We have gone through a season where it seems like the culture of darkness tried to make its presence felt. We’ve got stuff like gothic, black, vampires, and dragons, but God is going to show us how heaven is going to look like. It is going to be heavenly invasion. He is going to show us that life is greater than darkness, but we need to be intimate with Him. He wants to show us that He is not unreachable.
When Jesus received the anointing of the Holy Spirit, He said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He never meant for the Kingdom to be unreachable; He wants it to be closed at hand for the unreachable and He is doing it now. We are in the infancy stages of this heavenly move and the Church needs to be prepared from this. We don’t want the story in the Book of Acts of Ananias and Saphira.
When we talk about relationship, it is not just something that we say, “Well, Lord, I want to have a relationship with You. I want to know You. I cling to know You, in Jesus Name!” We can’t just claim it; we have to spend time with God. It is like spending time with someone before he becomes your friend. You got to learn to know his voice.
There was this particular incident in China long time ago when it was dangerous being a Christian and spies were going to find out where the Christians were worshipping. One day, the Pastor said, “Guys, we are going to meet again next Sunday, but I am not going to tell you where because there are people here who are not with us. Next Sunday, I will meet you and we will worship. If you want to find out where the place is, ask God.” There were no cellphones, texts, emails. The next Sunday, almost all of the Church except for possibly two or three were missing. They met in a place that was not revealed, and they were all there except for two or three; so, they knew who the spies were.
I believe that this is going to be something that we will be experiencing in this particular season that we are in. We are seeing what is going on in the world today. We have questions. We have these Presidents from this and that country. Somebody exploded a missile and it exploded in mid-air. It is a time of security and we are not really sure what is going to take place. If we listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd, we will avoid the pitfalls, the snares, and the traps of the enemy.
God has a plan for each and every one. In Psalms 139, the Bible clearly says, “You saw my substance yet unformed. The day fashioned for me, even before I live one of them.” Somehow, God had already planned our everyday life. When we came to earth, the plan was there. It is not that we were born and God would say, “What am I supposed to do with you?” No, even before we were formed, God had already a plan for us. We have to understand that if God has a plan for us, the enemy has also a plan for us not to achieve the destiny that God has for us. He is the voice of the stranger. Sometimes, what he says might seem nice and logical, but if want to live in the security of what we have, then, we must listen only to the voice of our Good Shepherd because He cares for us. He loves us completely. He loves us thoroughly.
John 1:4 says, “ And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” What happened at that time was that they had a sheepfold, and sometimes during the night, the shepherds tend to share the sheepfold with their sheep. There is a gatekeeper and the gatekeeper knows who the shepherds are. He watches the sheepfold and the sheep begin to mingle. But then in the morning, when it is time for them to go again, the shepherds take their posts and they let out their call. The sheep recognizes the voice of their shepherd, and they go to their respective shepherds. No one gets lost. During the night, when they were in the sheepfold, the fences protected them. Now, it is time for the shepherd to bring them to fresh pastures. There are stocks in the sheepfold, but the food is stale, so as the good shepherd, he brings them to green pastures and the sheep begin to follow him. When they leave the sheepfold, there will no fence to protect them. Their only protection lies in them following the shepherd. The shepherd becomes their protection. If they follow, they will be protected.
This is God’s goal for us. He is not going to have a plan and He is not going to fashion your days for you, and then abandon us to the enemy. He is going to make sure that we reach our highest potential. He is going to make sure that you are going to be what God wants us to be.
In John 1:7, Jesus says, “I am the door. You go in through the door to pasture, and you got out blessed.” As the door, He is the one who cares for us. He is our only Source. If we want to have the blessing of God in our lives, we cannot find it outside Christ. We can only find it in Him. All the good things that God has prepared for us can only be found in Him. The gospel says, “You can trust Me. You cannot trust the voice of the stranger or the enemy because he might say nice things to you, but his goal is to steal your dreams, to steal your God-given destiny, to steal, kill and destroy.” But Jesus says, “I have come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly. I am not here just so that you could exist. I am here so that you could live, and live life to the fullest.” We need to understand that living life to the fullest is from Christ’s point of view, not from our point of view.
How do we then walk in the security that God has given us? We can only do this by following Him. The wisdom of man might sound nice at times, but we need to listen to the voice of the Good Shepherd even when it is sometimes difficult.
I know that many times in the past we have been hurt. Many times in the past, we have been betrayed. One of the greatest mistakes that we can do is to allow our lives to be shaped by the things that hurt us instead of allowing our lives to be shaped and influenced by the One who heals us. It doesn’t matter what happened in the past. God is able to redeem that. Just follow Him!