Help Wanted. (Devil Need Not Apply)

Making the enemy feel unwelcomed.

Two weeks ago, prior to sunday school I was here in the sanctuary praying. I didn’t know why, but an idea came into my mind. You see I was trying to think about rebuking the devil. You know how we sometimes will pray “Holy spirit you are welcome in this place..” I wanted to say the opposite to the enemy of my soul. I want to express how unwelcome he was. What I heard from God was the starting point of today’s message. “Help Wanted. Devil need not apply.”


“Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.

John 10:1-6 NIV

Thieves and Robbers

The imagery Jesus uses here seems very common to us. 

  • Someone who tries to access a place without going through the proper channels is not being very trustworthy, to say the least. 

The last couple of days our family went out to the Vernon County Fair to work at the Cornerstone Cafe’. The fair has a location for proper access. They have people there to check your tickets and sell you tickets if you don’t have any. I imagine they have other security they call if they spot people sneaking onto the premises. The fair isn’t a free event and everyone needs a ticket to come on the grounds during this event. 

John chapter 10 is rapidly becoming one of my favorite passages in the bible. Jesus is talking to the religious high-rollers of the day and speaking is wise words. If they understood him they might have gotten mad. “Hey you’re talking about us! That’s not nice!”

But instead scripture tells us, “the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.”

He explains this very simple idea: the shepherd is the one who comes through the gatekeeper. He has the right ticket. The sheep know his voice. They follow him and he knows them intimately. “That one’s Lamby, that one’s Bah-bah, and that one’s name is Karl.” Karl looks up from the tuft of grass he’s munching to acknowledge the shepherd. Jesus identifies that the sheep aren’t going to follow just anyone. And remember, those thieves and robbers? They jump the turnstile at the petting zoo. They try to wrangle up sheep they don’t even personally know. Robbers. Thieves. 

It’s this kind of spirit I was praying against just two weeks ago. As I finished my message that day I said “It’s time for us to make the Devil UnComfortable.” We do that by making him feel unwelcomed. 

How do we do this? Let’s continue reading what Jesus said to the Pharisees in John 10 and see how he might make the devil unwelcomed.

Racoons in the Campsite

7 Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.[a] They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

John 10:7-10 NIV

So Jesus is the Gate or the Way through which the sheep may be safe.

Yes.

But that’s kind of a weird analogy, isn’t it? Like Jesus is the doorknob in “Alice in Wonderland?”

No that doesn’t sound right. Let me illustrate. 

Check out this picture to the right. This is a sheep pen enclosure. You’ll note there is an opening right here at the front. Inside is where the sheep stay. They get into the sheep pen and leave it the same way: through this open space. Now there’s no fence. No pile of rocks to keep the sheep in or keep wolves out…there is only the space between the stone enclosure. So where is the gate?

Jesus says “I AM the Gate.” I am a person who stands here ready to protect the sheep. To keep them safe and if we read this passage just one verse further Jesus says: 

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:11 NIV

The Shepherd would literally become a gate. He would lay down to rest at the mouth of this sheep pen. He would allow sheep to come in and out and would even lay down his life to stop some unauthorized creature from coming in and taking a sheep.

This is extreme, edgy, intense and maybe…just maybe hard to relate to. I know some of you grew up on dairy farms. I also know that first century middle eastern shepherding is quite different from farming and ranching in the USA in the 1900’s. So we’ve got to begin to read between the lines that Jesus is laying down. 

There are thieves and robbers. They do whatever it takes to steal a sheep.

These are the Pharisees.

There is a good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep, that’s Jesus

How do we deal with thieves and robbers? We make our sheep pen unwelcoming to them.

“Go somewhere else!”

I’ve got a joke for you. Why did the preacher go on vacation? 
[I don’t know…why?] 




To get some new sermon illustrations!

Ok, the next story is not a joke. One night, while we were camping out at Peninsula State park, we were getting ready to head to bed. Jacki, Gianna and I had stayed up to play card games and it was time to clean up and get some shut eye. As Jacki and I were putting things away, we decided that we would leave a package of cherry tomatoes out on our picnic table. Out table was completely enclosed by our new canopy and we didn’t have any fear that it would spoil in the night. We were trying to conserve our cooler space. So we left those tomatoes out and went to bed.

About 3:30 in the morning, I had just returned from the bathroom and laid back down to get some sleep. On my way to the bathroom I thought I heard some noises, but I didn’t see anything in our campsite. I didn’t hear any additional noises until I laid back down. Jacki gets up and prepares to head to the bathroom. I hear a weird noise again…I am not sure where it is coming from. “ I bravely ask her to check around in the canopy. 

Yeah. That’s about the funniest part of the story. I’m super manly. 

Anyway, she has me get up and we both head over to the canopy. I see one creature lurking alongside our canopy, we unzip the door to discover racoons have gotten into our stuff! I tried scaring off the one racoon and we made a search of the canopy. The tomatoes were all over the ground, a brand-new package of beef smoked sausage was gotten into as was an opened package of turkey lunchmeat. It felt frustrating and gross. We even spotted one trying to pop his head under the vinyl paneled wall to see if he could still snag a snack. We shooed him off and finished cleaning up. We took all of our food that night and the next and locked it in the car. Better safe than sorry. 

At one point Jacki is scaring off a returning raccoon. As it slinks down the rows of campsites I hear her yell something like “Git! Go next door!” Of course we didn’t want our neighbors to be pestered by these pests. We just wanted them out of our space.

Here’s where the analogy gets heavy. We had taken a training called “sexual abuse awareness training” by Ministry Safe. In that training, the instructor uses the passage we looked at today, the imagery of the sheep pen and he then draws a very clear connection to protecting the vulnerable in our churches. You see, to gain access to work with children, or other vulnerable people groups, you had to jump through some hoops.

Appy with the ministry lead, submit to a background check, have a sit down interview. These act as layers of defense. If someone nefarious really wanted access they would have to work really hard to make the gatekeeper believe they were A-OK.

Just like shouting at racoons at 3:30 in the morning, or locking up all you food and valuables so they won’t get gotten into…This screening process described by Ministry Safe says to predators: “You’re not getting in this sheep pen. Move along. Go somewhere else.” Predators always look for the easiest way in. When it’s made difficult, they will look for some easier prey. Less protection. Less safety. Less guards.

Roaring Lion vs. Hired Hand

All this talk about predators reminded me of the instance where the enemy is likened to a symbol of power. In 1 Peter, Peter is instructing the leaders of the church to not fold under the pressure of persecution, and to protect the flock.

8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV

Back to John 10:12-15 – Jesus has just said the Good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…However there is a completely different group and Jesus draws yet another analogy that might have gone completely over the uber religious people’s heads.

12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.

John 10:12-15 NIV

If you or I came across a roaring lion in real life, we would carefully get away from it. Get to safety where we don’t think the lion can get us.  If others were near it we might try to get them to safety too. The hirehand in John 10:12-13 runs for his life at the sign of a wolf. He doesn’t get paid enough for this! He’s not the Shepherd

Christian. The Good Shepherd IS JESUS. But we are NOT the Hirehand. That is pointing to the religious folk who are just punching a clock. “I’ve got my ticket to glory!” they say. “I’ve got my fire insurance.” But they wouldn’t lay down their lives for the flock. The vulnerable.

If Jesus is the Good Shepherd, We are to be like him. That’s what being a Christian is all about. Being made like Christ. 

But today we focus on this lion or wolf and our response. What is it that we are to do? Live and die like the Shepherd. Gaurd the gate. Lay down our lives for the flock. And by being careful in doing so, we will… 

…Make our Homes 

  • Inhospitable to the Devil.

…Make our churches

  • Inhospitable to the devil.

…Make our hearts, souls, and minds

  • Inhospitable to the devil.

Around our hearts, our minds, our church doors, our conversations. 

It’s like a “Help Wanted sign.” We can’t do all this on our own. We need the Power of the Holy Spirit. On that Help Wanted sign, there is some print on the second line and it reads: “Devil need not apply.” Romans 12:2 says:

2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Romans 12:2 NIV

Need Not Apply

How do we apply this to our lives? Actively screen the devil out?

Here are four things we can do to make him feel unwelcomed.

Be Aware. Be Praying. Keep Trusting. Be on our Guard.

  1. We need to be aware of teaching the sounds biblical, but really aren’t. 
  2. We need to pray for discernment and the revealed will of God in all things.
  3. We need to trust the leading of the Holy Spirit and follow what He leads us to.
  4. We need to literally guard those who can’t guard for themselves. 

Who are those people? We talk about our church’s focus to Introduce people to their fresh start in Jesus Christ. Vulnerable people need a place and time to heal, to feel safe and protected. To feel loved and cared for. We can be a place of healing and growth. We can be a people aware of false teachings, always praying for discernment and trusting the Holy Spirit as he guides. 

And we can hang a big old sign around our necks saying “devil need not apply.”

This Sunday, Sept 25 we begin our small group study on Discipleship as a Journey of Grace. 9:45 AM Worship service 11 AM

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