Our Good Shepherd
Sheep are dumb animals. They get lost easily. They cannot take care of themselves. They are easily frightened and easy prey for predators. It's really not much of a compliment for Jesus to say to us, "I am the Good Shepherd." Because that implies that we are like sheep. And yet it's comforting to know we are not just thrust into life on our own. We have a Good Shepherd who watches over our lives like the one who tends the flock.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. 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. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep." (John 10:11-13 NIV)
Jesus is invested in our lives because we are His. He is more than just some minimum-wage hired hand putting in time for a paycheck. We are precious to Him. He laid down His life for His sheep. What Jesus did on the hill called Golgotha outside Jerusalem when He died on a Roman cross defies logic. The Shepherd dies for the sheep. The Creator gives His perfect life for the sinful lives of His creatures. The price is paid so our sins can be forgiven, free and clear. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8 NIV)
"The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 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. When He has brought out all His own, He goes on ahead of them, and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” (John 10:2-5 NIV)
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me." (John 10:14 NIV)
The Good Shepherd knows His sheep, and His sheep know His voice. Jesus knows all about us. He knows our inner struggles and our secret sins. He knows our desire to be lord of our own life, and He knows our competing desire to know and love the One who first loved us. And nothing we have ever said or done is so terrible that it causes Him to reject us. Jesus doesn't just love us if we are good people. Jesus doesn't just love us because we make Him proud of us. Jesus loves us in spite of every failure and rebellion. He knows us, and He loves us because He made us for Himself.
As our faith grows and as we spend time in fellowship with Him by reading God's Word and sharing our heart with Him in prayer, we get to know the voice of our Good Shepherd. When the Shepherd who feeds and protects the flock calls, the sheep come. When a stranger calls, the sheep ignore them. Does it really work this way? Check out this video experiment to see this dynamic in action: click here for video
All of this has proven true in my walk with Jesus since I gave my life to Him when I was 15 years old.
Jesus has fed me through my personal devotional life, through the Walk to Emmaus (Walk # 11, Table of John - April, 1989), through Promise Keepers rallies in football stadiums, through the New Room conferences sponsored by Seedbed (an arm of Asbury Theological Seminary), and through mentors in my life like our home church pastor, Harold Frederick, and my spiritual father in the faith, David Schramm.
Jesus has protected me from the attacks of the enemy of our soul on my doubts and fears when our son developed cancer in his 20's (PTL he's fully healed from it!), from attacks on my own health during my mild heart attack in 2006 and three bouts with kidney stones (how do you spell ouch?), and from attacks from the flock itself. Like most all pastors, we have had a few times in the past 48 years of pastoring churches when we have suffered sheep bites - criticisms and even personal betrayal from people we have loved and trusted. But the Good Shepherd was there to tend the wounds and bring His healing to the hurts.
Through it all, I know He knows me better than I know myself. He knows my weaknesses, and His grace is sufficient. He knows my failures and His victory is complete. He knows my sins and already paid the price for them. And through it all, I have learned to know His voice calling me to love, even when I am hurt or empty. I have discerned His voice calling me to serve Him as Pastor of churches, as director of church camps, as short-term missionary on mission trips to Haiti, Kentucky, Ghana, India and Guatemala. I have heard the whisper of His voice, saying "Peace, be still," when I am worried or anxious. As surely as I recognize the voice of my wife or son or daughter on the telephone in only one or two words, I know the Voice of the Good Shepherd when He speaks to my soul.
I long for every person God brings into my life to know the Good Shepherd in this intimate, personal way. We don't have to settle for attending church and doing our best to practice some religious do's and don'ts. God wants us to know the Good Shepherd and to be known by Him. Keep walking with Jesus. (If you haven't been walking with Jesus, start walking with Him! You'll never regret it, I promise!) Keep listening to His voice. Keep trusting His loving care.
It's like Anne Wilson says in her song, Let Me Tell You 'Bout My Jesus:
He makes a way where there ain't no way
Rises up from an empty grave
Ain't no sinner that He can't save
Let me tell you 'bout my Jesus
His love is strong and His grace is free
And the good news is I know that He
Will do for you what He's done for me
Let me tell you 'bout my Jesus
And let my Jesus change your life! Hallelujah!