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“‘In those days, at that time,’ declares the LORD, ‘the people of Israel and the people of Judah together will go in tears to seek the LORD their God. They will ask the way to Zion and turn their faces toward it. They will come and bind themselves to the LORD in an everlasting covenant that will not be forgotten.
My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place. Whoever found them devoured them; their enemies said, ‘We are not guilty, for they sinned against the LORD, their true pasture, the LORD, the hope of their fathers.’
Flee out of Babylon; leave the land of the Babylonians, and be like the goats that lead the flock. For I will stir up and bring against Babylon an alliance of great nations…So Babylonia will be plundered; all who plunder her will have their fill.’ declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 50:4-10)
This image came into my mind as I was sobbing in very deep repentance over my sin.
I was repenting over my sin of fearing man (Proverbs 29:25). It prevented me from fully following Jesus, for I feared being reproached and rejected by some who professed to be Christians. “Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God” (John 12:42-43).
In this picture in my mind, I saw many more of Jesus’ sheep, lost and wandering around in false “christian” religion (that which is based upon the rules and traditions of men rather than pursuing an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:6-23).) However, when they heard Jesus’ voice calling out to them they realized just how far they had wandered away from him by following false “christian” religion. When they heard Jesus’ voice they began to realize just how much they were in the wrong place. As soon as they heard his voice, they immediately began to return to him. Lines of these repentant sheep were leaving the churches which practiced and promoted false religion and were gathering around Jesus. The false churches were dark and empty, but light was shining out of Jesus. The sheep were deeply repentant for not following Jesus alone. They were also repenting over their sin of fearing man. They were repenting of following other peoples’ voices rather than the voice of their Good Shepherd. They were no longer fearing the reproach of man but were returning to their Good Shepherd because they heard his voice.
“I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:1-5)
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:27-30)
True repentance means that we will experience persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). In the Western world, persecution usually comes from those who profess to be part of the “church” more often than it comes from those outside the church. However, may we be at peace with God and at war with man…instead of being at peace with man and at war with God. “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” (Galatians 1:10)
I have chosen the conventional imagery of traditional church buildings to symbolize the false church, which is a system invented by man. (In selecting this imagery I am NOT saying that all those who meet in church buildings practice false religion, for where we meet for fellowship, whether it be in a cathedral or in a house, is irrelevant, for, “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). What matters to God is the spirit in which we meet, not where we meet.) The false church stands in sharp contrast to the true church, which is made up of every born again believer (1 Peter 2:4-10). The sheep are symbolic of the true church (John 10).
“For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:25)
“You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” (1 Corinthians 7:23)
The following are characteristics of the true church and the false church:
Jesus Christ is the Head of his true, invisible church (Ephesians 1:22-23) Jesus is the figurehead of the false church (Mark 7:6-8).
Jesus is the true Shepherd and Overseer of men’s souls in his true church (John 10:1-30, Psalm 23, 1 Peter 2:25, 1 Peter 5:4); false shepherds in the false church usurp Christ’s Headship and authority over his church (Acts 4:1-22, Acts 5:17-41, Luke 22:24-27, 1 Peter 5:3 , 2 Corinthians 1:24, 3 John 9-10).
Jesus gives abundant life and freedom to his church (John 10:10, John 6:63, John 8:32, John 8:34-36); the false church controls people and puts them into bondage to Law and religion (1 Peter 5:3, 2 Corinthians 11:20, Luke 22:24-27, Acts 4:1-22, Acts 5:17-41, 2 Timothy 3:6-9)
Jesus leads his true church to the Father (John 7:18, John 17:3, 25-26, John 14:10); man leads the false church away from God into false religion and idolatry (Mark 7:1-13, 1 Kings 12:25-33, Exodus 32).
Shepherds (pastors) in God’s true church are servant-leaders who care for HIS flock, which has been entrusted to their care (John 7:18, 1 Peter 5:2-4, Acts 20:28, 2 Corinthians 4:2, 2 Corinthians 1:24, 2 Corinthians 2:17, John 21:15-19); false shepherds (pastors) in the false church gather their own followings in order to lord their own ‘authority’ over them (Acts 20:29-31, Galatians 4:17, 2 Peter 2:1-3, 2 Corinthians 11:13-14, 20, Jude 12-13, 2 Corinthians 2:17).
The true church worships the Father in spirit and truth (John 4:23-24), the false church worships itself and the things of this world (1 Timothy 6:3-5, Revelation 18, Revelation 3:17).
The true church seeks the glory and renown of God (Isaiah 26:8, Psalm 115:1, Matthew 6:10); the false church seeks its own glory and renown (Genesis 11:1-8, John 11:45-48, Matthew 27:18, Jude 16, Revelation 18:17).
The true church seeks the salvation of men’s souls into the kingdom of God (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 20:24, 3 John 7-8); the false church seeks more members in its congregation (1 Kings 12:25-33).
Men speak against God’s true church (Luke 6:22), but men speak well of the false church (Luke 6:26).
The true church will be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12, Luke 6:22-23, Acts 14:22, Jeremiah 1:17-19); the false church persecutes the true church (Acts 4:1-22, Acts 5:17-41, Revelation 17:6).
God’s true church exemplifies the holiness of Christ (1 Timothy 6:11, 2 Timothy 2:22); the false church strives to be be great (Revelation 17:5, Genesis 11:1-9).
God builds his true church (Matthew 16:18, Psalm 127:1, Ephesians 2:19-22); man builds the false church through his own efforts and worldly strategies (Psalm 127:1, Genesis 11:1-9).
God’s power is present in his true, holy church (Mark 16:17-18, John 14:12-14, Ephesians 2:19-22, Luke 10:18-20); the false church has a form of godliness but denies that power (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
God sends his true prophets to turn the hearts of the people to himself (Luke 20:9-19, Matthew 23:34, 1 Kings 18:37, Malachi 4:6); the false church gathers around them a great number of false prophets and false teachers to tell them only what their itching ears want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4, Lamentations 2:14, Jeremiah 19:14-20:6, Jeremiah 23:9-32, Jeremiah 28, 1 Kings 22:1-40).
“Come, let us return to the LORD…” (Hosea 6:1)
“For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.” (2 Chronicles 16:9)
(See also, “Freedom From A Religious Spirit” (John the Baptist Artworks Series), “Hosea”(John the Baptist Artworks Series), “It’s Time To Fly, Church”(John the Baptist Artworks Series), “Coming Out of The Confusion of Babylon Back to The Way of Zion”(John the Baptist Artworks Series), “Don’t Be Afraid to Come Out if You Can See”(John the Baptist Artworks Series) and “The Prodigal Son” (Events of The Bible Series)).