The Good Shepherd
"I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me."
Jesus makes seven "I am" statements in the Book of John. He uses metaphors such as doors and bread to help us understand the redemption He came to bring to sinful humanity. Among the statements in John, Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd. This is not the first time God uses such a title when referring to Himself. The Old Testament writers commonly used the title of Shepherd and often allude to Him being their Shepherd--most famously by David in Psalm 23.
Shepherding was a common profession when the Bible was being written--many of its' writers were shepherds themselves. This is no longer the case. Our culture and the time period we live in does not provide us with many examples of shepherds. We don't have an intimate understanding of their work and role (like early believers would have). As a result, we may miss some of the impact this title of Jesus is meant to have. The concept of God as Shepherd is a very significant metaphor in the Bible--one that is repeated often. What can we glean from the title today?
The most basic understanding of a shepherd's role reveals it is one of leading. Jesus as Shepherd leads us. How we talk, treat others, handle money, enjoy sex, spend our time, raise our families, approach God, and a myriad of other activities, are to be led by our Shepherd. We should allow our Shepherd to lead us concerning what we value, pursue, let into our hearts, and let affect us. It's not just us making decisions based on our feelings and opinions--we have a Shepherd leading us.
Our Shepherd created everything. This means He alone can lead us to navigate life and all it consists of in a way that brings God glory, benefits our souls, and blesses others. He knows where to give each one of His sheep liberty and where to give restrictions.
A shepherd would have been tasked with keeping his flock safe. Jesus as Shepherd protects us and provides safety. But please don't confuse that with comfort. Jesus provides great blessings but also makes us aware of and prepares us for the reality of suffering. Our Shepherd gives great rewards but also calls us to be unafraid of taking great risks. Our comfort does not come from a comfortable and easy life. It comes from a Shepherd who never abandons His flock--no matter what they are going through.
Are You Being Led?
How do you know you are being led by the Shepherd? Sometimes it feels as if we are a lone sheep in a den of hungry wolves. But there are attitudes and actions that you can work into your life that assure you that you are being led--even in the seasons of life that are confusing.
Prayer. A sheep that is devoted to prayer will be a sheep that is led by the Good Shepherd. A major part of Jesus leading you is asking Him to--about all things, in all things, and at all times. We are called to do this day after day until we leave this earth.
Bible. God's revealed will is found in His Word. If a sheep is desiring to be led by Jesus, they must know what the Word of God declares, teaches, and warns against. You must approach the Word of God with eagerness and humble submission--not picking and choosing what you will believe and obey. A sheep who does such a thing will find themselves empty and vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy.
Generosity. Yes, sheep are called to be wise. There are times and situations where it is best to say "no." But we should not use that as an excuse to live a life that avoids generosity. Our Shepherd modeled generosity when He gave up His life in our place. He gives us His righteousness--even though we don't deserve it. When we are generous with our lives--which includes our time, talent, money, possessions, and much more--we move in a direction where the Shepherd is leading us. Being generous opens us up to a life that is led by Jesus.
Community of faith. Our Shepherd calls His sheep to be together--to be with other sheep and submitted to under-shepherds. This enables a sheep to be led towards truth and protected from harmful lies. It is impossible for a sheep to follow and be led by Jesus by themselves--they must be with other sheep.
Evangelism. So often sheep get caught up wondering what their Shepherd wants them to do that they neglect what He has already revealed as His will--what we are to be devoted to. Our Shepherd is in the rescuing business. He finds lost, wondering, and straying sheep and makes them a part of His flock. He does this through other sheep sharing the gospel. When we realize that introducing others to our Shepherd is the greatest purpose we can have in life, and one of its deepest joys, we are heading in a direction led by our Shepherd. He desires that all would come to know Him as their Shepherd and that truth should guide the lives of His sheep.
Humility. Sheep never outgrow their need of the Shepherd. We always have areas to grow in and we will daily need to be covered by the gospel. The moment a sheep thinks they have "arrived" and no longer need to pursue holiness and faithfulness like they used to, is the moment when they begin to refuse the Shepherd's leading.
Our Shepherd calls out to His sheep (John 10:27-28). Sometimes His voice is encouraging and affirming. Other times it's convicting and contains a rebuke. His voice can be loud, quiet, serious, or gentle. But it will always be loving.
Remember, our Shepherd calls out to us, leads us, and protects us with a smile on His face. Jesus' flock brings Him great joy. I've never felt better about being called a sheep!
"For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls (1 Peter 2:25)."