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GOOD SHEPHERD – ANOINTED PSALM 23:5 Pastor Ryan said he was glad to be able to get back to Psalm 23 after his vacation. He said it’s so popular because it paints a picture of what God is like. It draws out the nature and character of God. It puts its finger on the pulse of humanity….the declaration in our hearts and souls that this is what we long for God to be like. David, the psalmist, declares the deepest yearnings, the deepest longings of your soul about what God is like are actually true. Real.
I was thinking about this passage of Scripture this week. In light of the line of the psalm we’re going to talk about, I was reminded of a TV show I watched growing up in the ’80’s. The TV show was on Nickelodeon and the title of the show was “You Can’t Do That on Television!” I went back and did some research and it turns out (the show) was horrible. Terrible writing. Terrible acting. Terrible everything! In fact, I asked my wife if she watched that show growing up. She said, “No. My parents said if you can’t do that on television it shouldn’t be on television; so they didn’t let me watch it.” There was one thing about this show that made it stand out……GREEN SLIME! When you have a bad script, it turns out, the only thing you need to do to make a show watchable is at various, random moments throughout the show pour green slime on the actors! Works every time. Nickelodeon got so much press and notoriety out of this that they started to use this in game shows they were hosting. They started to use it in other TV shows. They were like hey, if the show stinks just pour slime on people. Now, I would submit to you that a lot of things have gotten worse since the 1980’s—-maybe not that kind of television. It was absolutely horrific!
But, I started to think….I wonder how many people’s view of God is reflected in “You Can’t Do That on Television.” I wonder how many people view God as the “slime” God. He asks you a question, maybe a theological question….where do you stand on…fill in the blank. And if you get it wrong…..green slime. This view is pushed forward by some people that have cable television shows. So when something like an earthquake in Haiti happens, they’ll tell you “green slime.” When a hurricane hits New Orleans and wipes a city out, they tell you “green slime.” It’s a wicked city, so God was exacting judgement on it…..green slime. When a tsunami hits a part of the globe, they’ll get out there and they’ll say, “Green slime.” Here’s the thing. You and I may not put it like that. We may not say, “I believe in the green-slime God,” but what we internally think is, “Am I being punished for this?” Did I do something wrong? Is God exacting judgement on me or punishment on me? Is life really, really hard because I did something wrong and God’s angry? Is he the green-slime God? Maybe we have to wrestle with that question a little bit. What is it that the God of the universe pours down on our head? Is it green slime? Is he up there going, “Got it wrong! Khhhh! Green slime!” Or is he better than that? Psalm 23. David—king, warrior, poet—David writes this: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. {David starts this poem, song, psalm by saying….in God, because He’s leading me, guiding me and shaping my life…He’s my shepherd. Because of Him I lack nothing. I have everything I need.} He makes me lie down in green pastures. {He makes me lie down not by force, not by pressing me down, but by favor. He’s so ridiculously good I just want to follow him, be with him and lie down and enjoy him wherever he’s at.} He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. {David says when I wander away, he brings me back. He’s that good.} He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. {When sheep are healthy, the shepherd gets the glory. We said in our message that nobody has ever looked at a sheep and thought “wow, they work out!” No. When sheep are healthy, they look back at the shepherd and go, “He’s an amazing shepherd!” David says that’s what God is like. Then he takes us to a place where we’ve all been or will be. We all know that life isn’t just green pastures, quiet streams and sitting in a field. Right? David goes on and if he didn’t go here we would say this poem has nothing to do with real life, but he does go there because he’s writing about real life.} Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. {Your correction and your protection over my life is a strength to my soul, that’s what David says. Last week we talked about this wonderful idea in verse 5 where David says..} You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. {We said last week that the truth of the Gospel is not that God destroys all of our enemies, but he does defeat them and he invites us to feast on the goodness of the Gospel as our enemies—-as our sin, as our shame, as our weakness, as our failure—look on. He goes on to say..} You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. So maybe He’s not the green-slime God. Maybe He’s not the you-got-the-answer-wrong-pblhhh God. Maybe, just maybe, He’s better than that.
You anoint my head with oil. It’s interesting because this idea, this concept, has its roots in the ancient shepherding community. Shepherds would anoint their sheep. They would take oil and they would pour it over their sheep’s head and work it into their sheep’s face and their ears and their neck area, because insects would get in there. And whether it’s a tick or lice or whatever would get into their skin and bite them. This oil, this anointing that shepherds would put over their sheep would protect them. It would keep them from getting sick. So this idea of anointing was taken and wasn’t used just in the shepherding community, but God used it. God’s people used it as a symbol. Anointing was a metaphor. A symbol of God’s blessing. Of God’s protection. Of God’s empowerment over a life.
Here’s two things you need to know about anointing. One, as you read through the Old Testament there are very few pictures, very few concepts, very few teachings that pack more richness and significance and punch than the idea of anointing. Starting in Genesis 28, Jacob is on a journey. He’s run away from his brother. He’s done some shady things. He’s walking through an area of the desert called Bethel and he comes to this place, and you may remember this…it’s sort of a famous line, he exclaims, “Surely God was in this place and I knew it not.” I didn’t notice it, but God was here and he takes oil and he anoints this rock and it’s this picture, this symbol, of God is present. An anointing carried with it that weight. God is present. God’s here….in a significant and real way. As you read through your Old Testament, places were anointed, but primarily three types of people were anointed. Prophets were anointed. Priests were anointed. Kings were anointed. It symbolized a special, unique sense of calling. It was a way of God saying through his people and TO his people, “I’m covering them.” Literally it’s what the word anointing means. I’m covering them. I’m surrounding them. I’m equipping them. I’m empowering them. Blessing them and releasing them for this task that I’ve called them to. A pretty narrow group of people received anointing in the Old Testament. It was a way for people to interact with God. When places were anointed they were claimed as holy places. They were places where God said, “Since that’s anointed, it’s holy and I will meet with you there.” It gave a picture of spiritual residue…significance…presence…blessing…protection…God is in this place. Prophets. Priests. Kings. The tabernacle in the Old Testament. That’s one thing. Anointing is unparalleled in its significance spiritually in the Old Testament.
Second thing you need to know about anointing. You ready? Look up at me. YOU ARE ANOINTED! If you’re a follower of Jesus this morning, the Scriptures say clearly YOU ARE ANOINTED. Paul’s going to write this to the church at Corinth and here’s what he says: It is God who establishes us with you in Christ. {We could camp out here for the rest of the month, probably the rest of the year, and never plumb this dry. He’s established you. He’s planted you as a body with us in Christ. That’s unbelievable.} …and has anointed us… {So he takes this concept from the Old Testament that was reserved for prophets, priests, kings, tabernacles and he moves it into……you all! He has anointed US!} …and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. (2 Cor. 1:21-22) Here’s what happens, friends. What’s reserved in the Old Testament for specific tasks, for specific calling, on specific people, in the new covenant is widened and isn’t just for specific people, this is for all people. Jesus, as he is in the garden of Gethsemane on the night he’s betrayed. Literally, he is standing in a place that is entitled Gethsemane, which means the “press of oils.” Where olive oil was made. Where anointing is birthed. He’s standing in the garden of the press of oils ready to go and step onto the cross to shed His blood and give His body that it might flow over his people, that you and I might, in Christ, be not just saved and redeemed, yes and amen, but anointed, according to the Scriptures. That flows over us. Have you ever heard somebody say, “Man, that worship leader is really anointed.” “That speaker. There’s just an anointing on their life.” I would say back to them, “Yes and amen!” But in saying that, I hope what we’re not saying is, “Wow! But nobody else is!” Really what we need to say is and so are you if you’re a follower of Jesus! You’re anointing might be in a different area. You’re gifting might be in a different area. You’re calling might be……but if you are a follower of Jesus you are anointed! Here’s the deal: A lot of us say well, I would be if I could get my act together; like, that’s a potential for me, but you don’t know my life. You’re right, I don’t, but I know David’s. Adultery, murder, no father-of-the-year award on his mantel. It turns out that in all of his failing, what David looks at and sees is not his achievement, but God’s faithfulness. And that’s where your anointing is found and that is where your anointing is birthed. I want to encourage you this morning, follower of Jesus, if that’s who you are, to embrace the anointing that’s on your life. It’s there right now. You may not know how to tap into it, you may not know how to walk in it, but I want to invite you at the onset, based on the Scriptures, to believe afresh that you are anointed. His spirit rests on you. I am convinced that if you’re able to embrace the anointing that’s on you, it will give you confidence for whatever God has in front of you!
It’s really interesting that this idea of anointing isn’t limited to Hebrew circles. It isn’t limited to just these people of God and the story of God. It was widespread. On King Tut’s tomb inside the catacomb, there was this painting that was found. It has this serving girl preparing a banquet for all of these higher-up women in the nation. If you look, on each of their heads there is this cone. That cone was oil in a solid form and as they went throughout this meal the oil would melt because of their body heat and this anointing……..they had this oil on there head that throughout the meal would just drip over their bodies, reminding them of the presence of the divine for the Egyptians. Here’s what I want you to do: Look at that picture then look around the room. You don’t see it on the heads of the people around you, but I can assure you that it’s there. I can assure you, based on the Scriptures, that those who follow the way of Jesus have been given the spirit of Jesus and the Scriptures clearly say, “YOU. ARE. ANOINTED.” There’s a covering over your life. There’s a blessing over your life. There’s a protection over your life. There’s an empowerment over your life. And I love it that David says: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies {I feast on the goodness of the Gospel as my sin looks on, as my shame looks on, as my failure looks on, as people who want to destroy me look on. Even then, in that moment, you don’t just get me by, but you anoint my head as my enemies look on.} You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. As if to paint this picture of God as the annoying waiter or waitress who, every time you take a drink from your cup and put it down they’re there to refill it! Been there? Annoying, yet awesome. David says that God is THAT good. He never runs dry. He never gives up on us.
In the presence of my enemies, you anoint my head. Kenneth Bailey, the great scholar, puts it this way: “No stone is left unturned in the host’s efforts to assure the guest (that’s you) that he or she is welcome, honored and beloved.” Whatever is going on in your life, you just need to know this! That you are anointed by the Spirit of God. It’s this anointing that reminds us who we are. It’s this anointing that reminds us whose we are in the presence of our enemies, in the presence of our friends. It reminds us that we are God’s and it launches us out into his beautiful world. Let me show you how. There’s three things this anointing does as it rests on us. You can flip back to 2 Corinthians 1:20-22, where Paul writing to the Corinthian church says this: For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. {That’s in Jesus. So here’s what Paul says: Every single promise God has given is fulfilled or will be fulfilled in the work of Christ. So if you’re hoping for something outside of Him, may I present to you that you’re hoping for something that the Scripture does not promise. I’d invite you to change what you hope in. Every promise that God’s given finds its yes in Him.} That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory. And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee. So here’s what Paul does. He ties together a number of different ideas and they all circle around this: You are anointed and by that God means His spirit dwells in and lives in you and what He says that means is {Look up at me!} you are SEALED. As in claimed. As in His. He is yours and you are His. This word sealed is a business term and refers to a guarantee of the fulfillment of a contract. What you sign up for will be delivered. What Paul says is that because you’re IN Him, He’s claimed you and it’s a guarantee. You’re sealed into Christ. So as an anointed follower of Jesus, you are CLAIMED. You may think that you’re not sure you like that. I’d say back to you, “Sorry.” BUT God is not an abusive owner. He’s an empowering, loving shepherd of your soul. “And when you find yourself in Him,” C.S. Lewis writes, “you find your true self.” Your self as you were always meant to be. It’s not an “Oh my gosh and now I’m owned and now I’m claimed,” it’s “Now I have a spirit inside of me that doesn’t look back at God in fear.” I have the spirit of adoption as the son of God. Knowing I’m claimed and owned by the King of King and the Lord of Lords. Peter would say to the churches, “You are sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption.” Romans 8 says, “We have a spirit inside of us that cries out “Abba!” Daddy! Father!” Look at the way Paul says this and because you’re claimed you have these promises. You stand under this banner, this canopy of God’s goodness, His grace, His mercy. What He promised in Christ He will deliver. His love won’t run out. His grace is sufficient. He won’t leave you. He won’t forsake you. He WILL be victorious! He HAS been victorious and in Him you will overcome. That’s the promise and you step into that as you recognize that you’re the anointed child of God. Your Spirit rests on me, lives in me, dwells in me. And he says this: And he’s also put his seal on us, stamped us as His and his Spirit in our hearts. It means that God speaks. You believe that? It means that he’s working. John writes it like this in 1 John 2:27: But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. {Which begs the question what the heck are we doing here? Here’s my prayer. There’s a lot of ways people answer that. My prayer is that I’m not the one teaching you. Because if I’m teaching you, we’re at a disadvantage. But if you’re anointed and the Holy Spirit lives inside of you and we read His Scriptures and he goes, “That’s for you! Move on that. Act on that. Live in that.” I’m not the one pointing that out to you. My words are feeble. Luckily, God is at work. God is on the move. So John says that this anointing means His Spirit lives inside of us, His presence dwells on us and He teaches us. He leads us. He is at work. Because you’re claimed, the Spirit of God is your teacher and he won’t leave you.} Second point. So one, you are claimed. For this we need to unpack a little bit from the Old Testament where we get this idea and some of the weight that’s behind anointing. As I said, it’s really second to none in the metaphors in the way that God’s presence is displayed, in the way that His voice is welcomed and heard. The nation of Israel is commanded by God. They live in slavery for 400 years. They’re led out to be the people of God. They follow Him in the wilderness. He gives them some instructions—you probably know 10 of them, at least. Part of the instruction God gives to his people is how to prepare a place for worship. How do we prepare a place for encounter? How do we prepare a place to meet with God? And the short answer to that is we build a tabernacle and we anoint it. Exodus 30:26-29, God tells them how to make this oil and then commands them: With it you shall anoint the tent of meeting and the ark of the testimony, and the table and all its utensils, {He’s going to talk about the tent of meeting and the things that are inside of it and the way that anointing these is necessary to meeting with God.} ….and the lampstand and its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils and the basin and its stand. You shall consecrate them, {setting them apart} that they may be most holy. Whatever touches them will become holy. This is huge! So what God says is the place we meet in cannot stand as a meeting place, a dwelling place of you and the divine on its own, it needs to be prepared. It needs to be anointed. It needs to be made something different, because it’s unacceptable on its own to be a place where God meets with people. So take it and anoint it. {Look up at me for a moment.} You know one of the ways you’re described in the New Testament? You are the temple of the Holy Spirit. And the anointing that’s on you in the same way that the anointing oil made this place holy, made this place acceptable, made it a place where God convened with and dwelt with men and women and made it a sacred place….in the same way that that anointing made the tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting, a sacred place, so too does the anointing from the Spirit on your life make YOU a sacred space!! Make YOU a place where God dwells, a place where God meets with people, where he meets with you. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:19: Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? Do you know that, follower of Jesus?! You have been claimed and you have been CONSECRATED. You are sacred space. WOW! There’s no more holy place you can go. As I was studying, I was struck by the thought of going to worship in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. It looks a little bit like South Fellowship Church. The inside, more so. Can you imagine singing “Amazing Grace” in that chapel with the room packed with believers? “How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.” Singing “10000 Reasons” — And on that day when my strength is fading, still my soul will sing your praise. Can you imagine how majestic, how beautiful, how powerful that would be??!! It took almost 110 years to build. The ceiling is 448 feet tall, from the floor to the top of the dome that Michelangelo designed. And it holds nothing on you! According to the Scriptures, YOU are the temple of the Holy Spirit. St. Peter’s Basilica….breathtaking. Amazing! But doesn’t hold a candle to you as far as creating a place where God meets with his people. {Look up at me for a moment.} YOU…CARRY…THE PRESENCE…OF GOD…IN…YOU! As anointed followers of Jesus that’s who you are. You carry His presence in you. You’ve been designed, uniquely wired, as the resting place for the Spirit of God and you, because He lives in you, have the ability to change every single environment you walk into because you carry His presence with you, follower of Jesus. You walk into your family you carry his presence. You walk into your job you carry his presence. When you walk down your street walking your dog, talking to your neighbors, you carry his presence. You carry it. And embracing the anointing allows you to carry it well. It allows you to carry it confidently to know that you are a consecrated, holy, called out beautiful space that God dwells in.
I want to give you three pieces of encouragement. One is to carry that presence, that spirit intentionally. The Holy Spirit is described as a dove. Flies away easy. Skittish. How do we cultivate this? How do we carry it intentionally? Second, cultivate it devotionally. Cultivate an awareness of His presence. Cultivate a conviction around: God you live in me and that has to mean something. That can’t be playing religion, can it? If the church is going to have any power, it cannot be words that we believe. It has to be a way that we live. Third, cherish it joyfully. Carry it intentionally. Cultivate it devotionally. Cherish it joyfully. Moses goes on writing to the people of Israel about how to set places apart. How to anoint not just places, but then he goes on to people, because people had special, unique anointings and listen to what he says after telling them how to anoint the Tent of Meeting: You shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may serve me as priests. And you shall say to the people of Israel, ‘This shall be my holy anointing oil throughout your generations. In the Old Testament we had some people chosen and anointed because of their lineage as priests. In the New Testament, in the new covenant we have a kingdom of priests. That’s really amazing news…because instead of calling one person to be this literally “bridge builder”, which is what the word priest means, between God and man, what he’s saying is my spirit dwells in every single one of them. They’re a mini St. Peter’s Basilica walking around. I dwell there. I find my home there. I am at home in them and therefore, they are called. They are priests, bridge builders, for the glory of God. Here’s the way that Peter writes it the churches: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood….(I Peter 2:9)
So the Reformers back in the mid-1500’s caught back onto this idea. The church wasn’t intended to be hierarchical, where some people could talk to God and some people couldn’t. In fact, the Scriptures would say the exact opposite…..that not only is the playing field at the foot of the cross level—none of us carry any sort of credentials there—but so too in our interaction with God. So too in our calling. No calling is better of worse than another. We are a kingdom of priests with direct access to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Here’s the deal: No prophet, no priest and no king ever received an anointing to sit on the sideline. It wasn’t as if you were anointed a priest and told to put up your feet and grab a lemonade. The anointing was a commissioning to be a person that lived in the presence of God, embraced the Spirit of God and walked into God’s beautiful world partnering with Him to build His kingdom. You’re consecrated. You’re claimed. And you are also CALLED. It goes to the very core of our identity, friends. As followers of the way of Jesus, as anointed ones, ones on whom His Spirit rests, He does not make it rest on us to leave us on the sidelines, but to invite us into his beautiful world where He is at work at the restoration, renewal and redemption of all things, according to his Scripture. Let me give you a few things on calling. Three things. One, calling always begins where you are with what you have. David was called to be a shepherd before he was ever called to be a king; his faithfulness as a shepherd led him into his destiny as a king. The question I think we need to wrestle with is not so much what’s the calling way out on the horizon of the someday calling of God, but what’s the calling TODAY. Sometimes calling requires sequential steps of faithfulness that you and I walk in. Second thing, calling is always grounded in real life. It begins with faithfulness with where you’re at and what you have. Sometimes a calling requires moving, but calling always requires movement! Sometimes it is God calling me over there, but calling is always God is calling me to follow Him. Sometimes requires moving, but ALWAYS requires movement. Here’s the thing. Sometimes it’s way easier to move, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s way easier to pick up shop and think that the grass is greener somewhere else, right? I mean, if I go there and join that thing that’s going on well, then I’ll be part of God’s calling on my life. Everybody wants to join something significant, but very few people want to invest in a way where they become and create something significant!!! God’s calling is far more on his anointed…be faithful in the now. Follow me now. You’re called today. If you’re waiting to step into a calling, my guess is you will very rarely ever get there. But if you LIVE in a calling, you might find yourself in places you never dreamed, doing things that go far above and beyond all that you could ever imagine. Three, the size of your calling is irrelevant; faithfulness to your calling is essential! Some of you are anointed to be excellent businessmen….excellent painters…excellent teachers…excellent doctors, nurses….you name it. You are anointed by God to live in the place and sphere of influence that he has called you to live. You are called not to go somewhere else, but to follow Jesus today and become all that His Spirit prompts you, invites you and works in you to become. Martin Luther once said, “The Christian shoemaker does not make Christian shoes by putting a cross on each shoe he creates. The Christian shoemaker makes Christian shoes by making really good shoes.” That’s awesome. Here’s what he’s saying: Our vocation and our calling is not distinctly Christian because we put a cross in it or even because we talk about Jesus all the time. It’s uniquely, distinctly Christian because we do it in a way that honors Jesus and we do it with excellence. If the Spirit lives in you, His anointing is upon you and you are called. I don’t know where, I just know you’re called. You figure out where. If it’s somewhere else and you’re faithful today, we’ll send you to that somewhere else. If you’re a church planter and you long to plant a church, here’s what we’re going to ask you, “Are you being faithful today? Are you living into what God’s invited you to right now?” If so, let us send you to the glory of God. When you embrace your anointing, the claim that’s on your life, the consecration that’s over your life and the call that’s inviting you….when you embrace that anointing, you implicitly live in this confidence that God’s present…God’s here…he’s powerful…he’s at work…his love hasn’t run out on me…we live into it. One of the things that this anointing oil was also used for was it was put in these tiny basins then lit on fire. The oil would light up rooms, it would light up space and I want to tell you that I’m firmly convinced that for the follower of Jesus, His calling on your life is to live as an anointed one. And those who live as anointed ones are lit on fire by the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords to be a light in the beautiful world that he calls us to live in. I pray, friend, will you embrace it? Will you live confidently under it? Will you learn what it looks like to cultivate and to carry and to cherish the presence of God that lives inside of you? {Look up at me one more time.} If you’re a follower of Christ, He lives in you. You’re anointed. David says, “You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”
Let’s pray. Jesus, for my friends out there who wrestle with this idea, even looking at their past and think there’s no way, God, you would make sacred space in me, would you remind them of the power of the cross… that as you stood in the Garden of Gethsemane….that press of wine…preparing to give your body, to shed your blood that it might flow over us and consecrate us, make us holy, adequate, sacred spaces for the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Would you remind us that we are yours…you have a claim on our life, Good Shepherd. Would you remind us that we’re holy. Would you remind us that we’re called. Would you stir something beautiful in your Body as you remind us of the anointing that’s over our lives. Thank you for not being the green-slime God, but the God of Holy Spirit anointing. Amen.