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The provision, protection and guidance we long for, are found under the umbrella of a relationship with God.
I have heard lots of reasons why people aren't members in a local church. 'I don't like organize religion.' 'I follow Jesus, I don't need a pastor.' 'I have my bible, I read it all time and I don't need a church.' 'The bible says wherever two or more gather, Jesus is present, so my wife and I have church together at home.' The truth is that many of those rebuttals to the local church are said from pain, fear and/or pride. But if we listen to Jesus and read the bible, we find that they both tell us that we are to be part of a local church, for obedience, protection, growth, purpose, community and pastoral care. In this sermon from 1 Peter 5:1-11 we find Peter telling the elders to shepherd the flock among them, and telling the flock to be subject to their elders. In telling elders to shepherd the flock, Peter is reaching back to words that Jesus had said to him, 'I am the good shepherd... I lay my life down for the flock... I protect the flock' and later, before Jesus goes to the cross He tells Peter, 'Feed my sheep.' In this text we see the call to be part of a local church body, to have shepherds that oversee it and a flock that submits to it's shepherds, and that both all are to clothe themselves in humility to make it work.
Welcome back Mike! Give us some wisdom from the scriptures: God is known in the OT as the shepherd of His people (Psalm 23, 80, 100; Isaiah 40:10, 11), and the gospels go into details in the two parables of the shepherd to explain how God, as the loving shepherd, goes out of His way for even one lost sheep. Imagery of the â€œShepherdâ€ is huge in both OT literature and extra-biblical literature. Jesus is both the gate (way in) as well as the shepherd (the protector once in).