“Which way should you go from here? That depends a good deal on where you want to go.” That was the question that started our journey last Sabbath as we continued our journey through the 23rd Psalm. Most have no idea where they’re going or why. The solution? They need a Shepherd!
Rewind to Psalm 23:1-3. God makes us lie down in green pastures, refreshes us beside still waters, and restores our souls (turns us right-side-up); but to what end? For the journey. God rests us to guide us. Rest is not an end in itself. Rest is a means to an end. The restored soul is expected to renew the pilgrimage. Therefore, there is rest for the stressed as we walk with God. Life with God is a movement, not a stagnation.
The Shepherd must move the sheep to new pastureland because they will gnaw the grass to the ground until the roots are damaged. He must keep them on the move and not allow them to stay on the same ground too long. To be lead in paths of righteousness means continually growing in my understanding and experience in the ways of God. (See Prov. 4:18.)
Too many Christians are stuck in a spiritual rut. They got baptized and then just stopped growing. They figured they were saved and that was it and they’ve gnawed on the same thoughts, regurgitated the same attitudes, and nurtured the same hurts that they had in the beginning. They haven’t moved on with God.
The Shepherd knows where we will thrive and be blessed, but as the Bible says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). And this is what life looks like today–everybody doing it their own way and ending up in some crazy places.
But there are no shortcuts to righteousness. Rewind to Matt. 7:13, 14. If you want what normal people have, do what normal people do. What do normal people do? Wander through life like rats on a wheel not knowing where they’re going or why. You’ll be in the majority, but keep in mind that “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Prov. 14:12).
If you want what few people have, do what few people do. Dave Ramsey says it this way: “Live like no one else so you can live like no one else.” Choose to Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him,�And He shall direct your paths” (Prov. 3:5-6). Few people are making that choice today—the choice to leave one’s own way and to follow Jesus on His way. But those who do are living like no one else.
Reflect on some of the righteous paths our Shepherd leads us to—roads less traveled:
The Path of righteousness—by faith. God is righteous. He not only does right, He is right. He points to Himself and says, “This is what I mean by righteousness.” (See Rom. 1:32; 2:5; 8:4; Dan. 9:14, 16.) The problem is, we are not righteous (Rom. 3:10). That’s bad news because only the righteous inherit the kingdom of God. Jesus doesn’t make it any easier by saying, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven,” Matt. 5:20.
How can this be? What is the solution to this problem? Oswald Chambers writes: “Jesus Christ came to put into any man who would let Him a new heredity which would exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.”
The great marvel of Jesus Christ’s salvation is that He alters heredity. When we place our faith in Christ, He exchanges His DNA for ours and becomes my ancestor. Jesus joins me to His family tree. Through faith, I am a 100% match with Him. And it is because of His tree—the tree on which He died, that in Him I have His righteousness. (See Titus 3:5 and Rom. 1:17.)
There is rest for the stressed when we accept Christ’s righteousness by faith. Don’t try to work it out on your own. That’s a wrong path, only leading to guilt and frustration. Let the Shepherd lead you in paths of righteousness. To walk in righteousness is to enjoy the presence, protection, prosperity and provision of the Shepherd on the way to heaven, free from the burden of guilt.
The path of His Reputation. The Psalmist says He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake—to uphold and honor His reputation as a Good Shepherd. Rewind to Ezekiel 36:22-32 to understand the meaning of “For His name’s sake.” Read and circle each “I will” statement. God’s glory is how He makes us righteous. To uphold His name, God will make new people of us, whose ways will be His own. There is rest for the stressed when we trust the reputation of the Shepherd.
The path of thankfulness. Aren’t you thankful for the shepherd? If you can’t be thankful for anything else, you can be thankful for the Lamb who was slain—the righteous for the unrighteous—to bring you to God. Thanksgiving is the path of rest for the stressed. It’s the language of the journey and the secret to the peace that passes understanding. (See Phil. 4:6-7.)
The Path of devotion. Those who follow Jesus in paths of righteousness, will follow the Lamb wherever He goes. They are not part-time disciples, but fully-devoted Disciples of Christ. When you surrender all, there is nothing to be stressed about. Therefore, there is rest for the stressed when we give our all to God.
You’re not here by accident. God is leading you in righteous paths. Which way will you go? Are you your own shepherd or is the Lord your shepherd? If you want life, go with Jesus.–Pastor Randy