Listening To The Good Shepherd
Salvation, Shepherd, Sheep
Jesus was a Master teacher. He drew attention to what the people understood and then moved them from there to spiritual insights. He saw a man sowing seeds and told the people that the different soils the seed landed on was like different hearts that receive the Word of God. He said looking for the Kingdom of God was like looking for a lost coin. He told us that God’s love for us was like that of a Father who’s son had left home.
Counselors tell us that the best way to communicate with a spouse, child, or employer is to use “word pictures”. That’s good advice but it’s nothing new . . . Jesus has been doing it for year.
In the passage before us Jesus uses a word picture. We don’t know why he chose this picture but we know He wanted to teach us about the Kingdom of God.
The sheep pen was an enclosure…. sometimes a rough stone or mud-brick structure, only partially roofed, if covered at all. Sometimes it was around the house, sometimes out in the countryside. Sometimes they used a cave in the hills. The Shepherd would often sleep across the entryway to protect the sheep from wild animals and thieves.
Obviously, the Shepherd would enter the sheep pen by the gate. However, someone who wanted to harm or steal the sheep would not come through the gate, they would sneak in some other way.
If you were driving down the street and you saw someone trying to get into a home or a work shed through a broken window your first inclination would be that they were entering a place they did not belong. (Although there have been times when I have entered the house through a window because the door was locked and I forgot my keys.)
We understand the illustration, but what is the point?
Jesus is the One True Shepherd . . . . the only way of salvation (v.9)
The Pharisees believed themselves to be the guardians of the people. In leading up to this discussion the Pharisees ask Jesus if He thinks they are “blind guides”. This text is how He answers their question. It is clear that he implies that they are “thieves and robbers”. Jesus makes it clear that He alone can lead the people to a restored relationship with God. He alone is the Redeemer.
You might guess that the leaders would not be happy with these words. In verse 19 of the chapter we see that they accused Jesus of being of the Devil. It’s odd that many in our day believe the same thing.
Jesus’ claim to be the sole way to salvation (v.9) is considered “fighting words” today. In our society, as Josh McDowell points out, the pre-eminent virtue is “tolerance”. Anyone who seems to be intolerant is condemned. [We are to be tolerant of everyone except those who do not share our view of the importance of tolerance]. Anyone who claims to have a hold of absolute truth is deemed a bigot. Jesus’ words do not play well in today’s cultural atmosphere. Imagine someone claiming that the only way to eternal life was through them. Why . . . that would imply that everyone else was in error. That doesn’t sound very “open”. But, Jesus doesn’t have to be “open” if He is telling us the truth. You may not like the words, but they are still His Words.
As many have pointed out, we are certainly to protect the equal rights of all people. Everyone should have an equal right to live and feel protected. However equal rights is not the same thing as equal validity. Just because we believe every person should have a right to the basic freedoms of our land doesn’t mean we approve of all that is taught and practiced.
Notice that Jesus talks about the Good Shepherd. It’s a much different picture than our world gives. Today’s culture sees Jesus (the Jesus of the Bible, that is) as bad for people. That is not the picture Jesus Himself paints.
- The sheep delight to hear His voice. Why? Because through experience they have learned that this voice leads them to food, protects them, helps them when they are in trouble. This voice was concerned about them. This voice belonged to a friend. In the same way we delight in our Shepherd.
- He knows the sheep by name. I have a terrible time telling the difference between identical twins. But I haven’t found a parent yet who could not tell them apart. Why? Because they are intimately acquainted with them. And the Shepherd is able to tell which sheep is which because He knows them. The Good Shepherd knows our name.
- He leads them . . . doesn’t tell them to do what He won’t do with them. So with Jesus, “he was in all ways tempted like we were . . . yet without sin.” Our Lord does not direct us to a path He has not already traveled.
- He is the gate. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary had this heartwarming picture:
“When the sheep returned to the fold at night after a day of grazing, the shepherd stood in the doorway of the pen and inspected each one as it entered. If a sheep were scratched or wounded by thorns, the shepherd anointed it with oil to facilitate healing; if the sheep were thirsty, he gave them water. After all the sheep had been counted and brought into the pen, the shepherd lay down across the doorway so that no intruder -man or beats- could enter without his knowledge. The Shepherd became the door” (Expos).
- He is the giver of abundant life . . Jesus is not concerned to give thrills, stuff and an absence of worries. He came to breathe life into us. But he is not content to breath life into a still corpse. He wishes to renew, enrich and deepen our lives. He is the one who gives meaning, direction and purpose to all we do. There is no life like that of a disciple of Jesus!
I must be honest, this sounds like a good person to me. It sounds like Jesus is extending love to all those around Him. He does that and points us in the direction of eternity. In fact He says He wants to lead us there . . . and He is the only one that knows the way.
A Sober Warning for the Savior’s “Flock”
We must beware, there are thieves and robbers among us. In a conference I recently attended the speaker said, “Many Pastors Must Spend the Majority of Time Evangelizing their own congregations” The point was simple . . . there are many people in churches across America who do not know the true Shepherd. Most of those folks are well-meaning but they have been deceived. The Bible Warns us in several places about deception in the church. (Check these references: 2 Peter 2:1-2; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 2 Timothy 4:3-5; and Matthew 13:24 ff)
How do these deceivers get into God’s “flock”? They get in through false teachers like: Joseph Smith (Mormons), Mary Baker Eddy (Christian Science), David Koresh (Branch Davidian), Jim Jones, L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology); Marianne Williamson; and popular books such as “Embraced by the Light”.
However, most of the false teachers are not as recognizable. Here are two things most false teachers have in common:
1. They diminish or ignore the person of Christ
- They make Jesus a mere man, someone like us. He is not God He is just us at our best.
- They make the focus of our faith something(one) other than Christ
- What you know
- rules, systems
- experience . . . . Even a focus on the Holy Spirit can indicate error. The role of the Holy Spirit is to point people to Christ, not Himself (John 16)
- church order
- utility . . . what works
- even unity . . . one of the latest movements is the one that tells us theology shouldn’t matter. We are all “climbing the same mountain” even if we call God by different names. The rule of thumb here is to conclude that it doesn’t matter what a person believes, as long as they are sincere. (Even sincerely wrong?)
The center of our faith is Christ. He alone is the door. If the focus has moved from Him you are drifting from the flock. Is someone is leading you they are a deceiver and are setting out to kill, steal and destroy.
They undermine Biblical Authority
- They quote the Bible to authenticate their teaching but do so out of context
- Give lip service to the Bible but don’t practice it in their lives. They claim the Bible is authoritative but give it no authority in their life.
- They follow present fads rather than timeless truth
James Montgomery Boice writes,
In this entertainment age, people don’t come to church to find God. They come in order to feel good. That’s why entertaining churches appear to be the most successful, but there is an appallingly low level of spirituality in most Sunday morning worship services. Music no longer promotes good theology, and even the sermons have been cut short and watered down. What the church needs is to know God and fellowship with Him. The only way that can happen is through expository Bible preaching and teaching. People are so tuned in to “feeling good” that difference in the way our minds work. God still speaks through His Word. We need to bridge the gap between human experiences and the Bible. “We have to insist” says Boice, “that our experience be validated by the Word of God.” [“What the World Needs Now” LEADERSHIP Spring 1993 p.20-28]
How to Defend Against Those who would lead us astray
First, we must beware of Strange Voices. When something doesn’t sound right we must check it out thoroughly. Be careful of things that sound “too good to be true”. Beware of those who present a Christianity that is absent of difficulties, trials, and sacrifice. When there is a teacher who is contradicting the Bible we must take a lesson from the sheep . . . .run!
Second, and most important: We must learn to recognize the Master’s Voice there is only one way to train your ear to the voice of God and that is to become a student of the Word of God. We must not be content with a few verses a week read from the pulpit. If we want to get to know God we must listen and listen carefully. There are many impostors out there and many of them know all the “lingo”. The only way to withstand these people is to be better acquainted with the truth than they are.
Finally, We must trust the True Shepherd for Salvation You see, it’s not enough to merely recognize the gate, you must enter at the gate. You can know that Jesus is the true Shepherd, the only way of salvation and still not be part of the flock. To become a part of the flock you have to commit yourself to the Shepherd. Have you done that? Have you trusted Christ to cleanse you from yours sin?
I’m sure there are many who would say I am very narrow minded in my view of how people get to Heaven. That’s too bad. For in their unwillingness to accept the truth they are turning their backs on the one who can save them from the dangers of life and eternity. It may be what people call “politically correct”, and it may be the way they would have us show “tolerance” for all other beliefs. But it’s not very smart . . . and in the end it will be seen that all the other doors lead nowhere. Only one will lead to everlasting life. That door is Jesus. You can ignore Him . . . but not forever.