Outsourcing God: How Good Sheep Get Lost

outsourcing God by Cameron Conway

Podcast Of This Message

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GOD IS GOD AND I AM NOT, it’s an easy thing to say but it is entirely different to live out on a daily basis. We say that we pray and have faith in God but over and over again we seem to either grow impatient or deep down we believe that God won’t actually listen to our prayers. It feels as if our heart has outsourced God’s power, rulership, authority and holiness and replaced it with our own. This is especially true if you have had several prayers which have gone unanswered.

Have you ever wondered why some believers have a harder time trusting God for great things to happen? It’s not because of “backsliding” or sin, or unbelief but it is because they have over and over again faced this fork in the road and chosen the wrong path. The crossroads between what God wants and what we want. I’m not picking on certain believers, but this applies to all of us, myself included.

There are times when God moves mightily and then there are other times where it feels like He took a vacation in the Andromeda galaxy right when we needed Him the most. How we respond in each of those situations will determine how our heart reacts the next time there is a need for prayer.

Our Source of Strength

We can either look to our own strength or the strength of others to help and guide us or we can put our trust and obedience in God. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t ask for help in times of need but I am encouraging you to look inside yourself and see who your faith is in. Is it in a person, a group, a thing or even yourself instead of God? Jesus once told a parable about building a house either on sand or on the rock (Matthew 7:24-27) and the same principle applies to us here.

If your foundation is built on God and His rightful place in not just the universe as a whole but your own heart then you with withstand the storms of life. If however you have set yourself above God in your thoughts, actions, prayers or in any other way you will either find your house toppled over or you will slowly sink down in the sand until there is nothing left of you for anyone else to see.

We picture ourselves with rippling muscles moving whatever stands in our way but in reality from God’s perspective we are just silly sheep bashing our heads into a log.

A great test to see where your heart comes in this question: Do you even bother to pray in your daily lives when there isn’t even a crisis? This matter is critical, and not just because of some religious obligation but because of relationship. Without relationship we are just treating God like a genie or as a vending machine that is supposed to spit out whatever we ask for as long as we drop in a few quarters or our tithes. When we think and act like this God is no longer God in our hearts, but merely our servant.

Look at what it says in Psalm 100:2-3 “…Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” (NKJV) Notice here that it doesn’t say come to God with your shopping list, or a work order we are to come before Him in joy. Not the joy we experience when we get what we want on Christmas morning, but something deeper and more wonderful.

I can do baaaaatter

Throughout the scriptures we are faced with this truth of God being the high and mighty one while we are the equivalent of sheep (Psalm 95:7, Isaiah 40:10-11). We at face value might be a little offended by that, sheep are not known for being the smartest of animals. They get stuck in ruts, overgraze if left alone, go on mad stampedes, drink tainted water if not forced to good streams and so on. Being called a sheep would be considered an insult to many and even in our culture someone who is seen as being a blind follower is often referred to as a mindless sheep. (For an in-depth and life changing view on this subject check out “A Shepherd Looks at Psalms 23” by W. Philip Keller. Click here: US Canada)

What we need here is perspective, when we compare ourselves to a sheep we hold up our intelligence, creativity, technology and ability to express and go “ha take that sheep, now into the oven with you.” We see ourselves high and above those natural sheep because in our world there is nothing higher than mankind. But now let’s flip the perspective lets compare ourselves to God, if we hold ourselves up against Him it is not wonder why God’s favorite nickname for people is sheep.

We are no where near as intelligent, powerful, caring, wise or highly exalted as God is. Compared to Him we are nothing more than dumb and stubborn sheep, who need constant guidance and supervision, so we don’t drink poison, fall off a cliff, get turned upside down or die of starvation because we ate all the grass and are too lazy to move on. If a sheep ran into an obstacle on the path do you expect it to muster the other sheep together so they can all lift it out of the way?

No, that would be ridiculous to expect, so why is it we think the same way about ourselves. We see obstacles in our lives and have these thoughts that we can just go over there and pick up the log or rock and hurl it out of the way. We picture ourselves with rippling muscles moving whatever stands in our way but in reality from God’s perspective we are just silly sheep bashing our heads into the log.

Jesus the sheep herder

Our help and redemption though comes from Jesus who said in John 10:14-16 “14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” (NKJV) Jesus is the one who can come and move those logs and obstacles from our lives, well as long as we are on His path and not some dark forest trail we ran off into.

Jesus is the one who can come and move those logs and obstacles from our lives.

Jesus through his love and compassion sees us as these loveable, stubborn, and helpless sheep and He offers us the opportunity to join His flock and to be under His protection (Mark 6:34). No longer than are we to act as if we are king of the sheep or can we convince a fellow sheep bring over a trench coat and stand on our shoulders so we appear to be like the shepherd. No, no matter how hard we try to live our lives as the one in charge, or how cleverly we pray, or how independent of God we consider ourselves to be it will never change what we are.

We are created in God’s image but we are not independent from Him, we are not gods, or not the rulers of the universe, but we are children of God adopted into the family because of the sacrifice of the good and great Shepherd. When we follow (2 Peter 2:25) and depend on Him everything changes, yes there are still bad days, loss, pain but we know that we are following Him on a path which leads to better things. We are no longer alone, and we are no longer trying to solve God problems with the methods of a sheep.


John 10:14-16 “14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.” (NKJV)


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Outsourcing God: How Good Sheep Get Lost by Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

To go deeper in your journey with Christ check out my new book Understanding Who You Are: A Survey of 21st Century Christian beliefs which is now on sale. Available in paperback (Canada or USA) and eBook! Get your copy today and discover not just your purpose but how you can build the Kingdom of God here on the Earth

The Roots of our Identity as Christians

Roots of our identity as Christians - CCR dogwood forest 1

Podcast Of This Message

EACH ONE OF US IS LIKE A SAPLING IN THE GARDEN OF GOD, we bask in the light of the sun and strive to grow higher and closer to the source of our nourishment. We push through the dirt of this world and continually look up higher, all the while we are trying to understand our identity and what we are supposed to look like. A plant has no idea what it looks like, it just knows it’s a plant. It’s identity is based on what it does, so it digs into the soil, baths in the light of the sun and produces seeds so that the area around it will be filled with more plants like it.

There is no striving or confusion, the plant doesn’t try to be like a rabbit or a rock it is living out the purpose God created for it. It is the same with us, God desires for us to be like this plant for us to grow, develop, reproduce and enjoy the life God has created for us to partake in. We are to follow after the nature and purpose God has created us to be like, for those who have been redeemed by Christ and were brought into the New Covenant our spiritual DNA has been transformed from that of a rock to a living plant. No longer cold and hard but alive and drawn to the light of the sun.

Our identity then doesn’t begin with our name or our personality it begins with something deeper, it begins with the roots we are all connected to, Jesus. In John 15:1-8 Jesus speaks of those who follow Him as being like branches which are connected to a grape vine which is Himself. He goes on to speak of how we cannot produce fruit without His presence and support and without Him our branch simply dries out and is thrown away. We see then that Jesus is our source, He is our battery, He is our wi-fi, He is our water and so much else.

Understanding who Jesus is becomes our first step in understanding who we are

Understanding who Jesus is becomes our first step in understanding who we are, before we were disciples we saw our identity according to our own accomplishments, hobbies, desires, talents, jobs, education and so on. However, something changed when we entered into that covenant through faith in Jesus, our identity is no longer grounded in who we are but in who Jesus is. I am not saying through that we all have to wear the same clothes, listen to the same types of music, have the same hair cut or anything else like that. No, what I am saying is that Jesus becomes our common language which we speak. Jesus becomes the air which we all breath, and Jesus is the roof which covers us all, when we understand this then and only then can we live out the revelation of Galatians 3:28.

With plants there is an infinite variety of types shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors, even with these differences they are still all plants. They all still live in the ground, absorb water and soak in the sun, they are still part of the same “family” despite their differences. So it is with all of us who are united in Christ, we were each created with infinite creativity and uniqueness and we are not destined to simply be clones of one another. We are individuals with varying interests, hobbies, cultures, languages and tastes but there is something deeper which unites us into one family.

Looking to Jesus for our Identity

When I speak about rooting our identity in Christ I’m not talking about walking around in a tunic with shoulder length hair and a beard (which would be extra awkward for women) I am talking about being reflections of Jesus’ words, compassion, justice, mercy, power and love. Jesus is the supreme prototype for how we are to live. We can see Him as the great tree which all other plants not only emerge from but are dependant for nourishment.

It is through our compassion and actions that we imitate Jesus in this world.

When we look at how Jesus lived in this world we see that He demonstrated compassion, love, frustration, emotion, grief, and a whole host of other expressions. He was merciful when mercy was needed but he was also firm in times of conflict. He offered grace to the woman caught in adultery but held the Pharisees to a standard beyond what they were used to. He rejoiced when the people came to him and he lamented when towns rejected Him, with these towns Jesus did not call down fire on them but spoke with a broken heart because He knew the consequences of their actions.

Jesus then becomes the gatekeeper, or firewall which determines what comes out of our mouth, what dwells in our minds and what we do with our hands. This is what Paul eluded 1 Corinthians 11:1 when he declared, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (NKJV).  In John 13:12-17 Jesus commands the disciples to follow His example of washing each others’ feet as an act of servitude and humility. Notice He doesn’t say to wear their clothes in a certain way, or to wear a custom bracelet to show the world they are Jesus’s followers, no it is through their compassion and actions that they imitate Jesus in this world.

I am who I am says I am

With this abundance of uniqueness which God has blessed each of us with it is no wonder why we have such and expansive list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 15, or it is why we have a five-fold ministry instead of just a singular priesthood. God made us all unique and so that we can fulfill the totality of the Great Commission, there are those of us created for compassion, some for teaching, some for artistry, some for business, others for evangelism.

There are those who are introverts others extroverts, some are exuberant while others are soft spoken and no one is better than the other. Each one was uniquely created to serve God and to have an impact in the place and time God created them to live in, because there are people both inside and outside of the church who can only be helped but someone just like you. For God crafted you to be unique, quirky, flawed, talented and so many other traits right from the beginning.


Psalm 139:15-17 “My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them. 17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!” (NKJV)


 

What do we do next about our identity?

Going forward we have to first learn and understand who Jesus is and use that inspiration and foundation to build our own identity upon. We are to be holy, but not “holier than thou”, we are to be loving but not taken advantage of, we are to be firm in our biblical convictions but not judgmental, we are to live by faith but not by wishing, and we are to be ourselves but without the flaws of the flesh. At the end of the day you are to go out and live like a plant, be it a tree, flower, grain, bush, vine, grass it doesn’t matter what kind you are.

What is important is that you remain rooted deeply in the ground, your drink in the water of life, you bath in the light of the sun and your grow and grow so you can produce fruit and seeds so the great garden continues to spread throughout the earth.