A Shepherd looks at the GOOD SHEPHERD #14
Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believe not: that works
that I do in mt Father's name, they bear witness of me. But ye
believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me (Jhon
THIS IS AN appropriate point at which to reflect on the
polarization produced by Christ. This aspect of His life has ever
proven to be an enigma to human beings. The unchangeable,
irrefutable truth manifest in this One inevitably polarizes
people. There is no middle ground. There can be no straddling the
fence of neutrality. Either we believe in Him or we don't.
Perhaps polarization should be explained briefly. Whenever truth,
that is to say absolutes, or eternal verities are presented to a
person they produce one of two reactions. The first reaction is
that the soul and spirit in search of God responds positively and
promptly. There is an immediate move toward the truth. The spirit
lays hold of, and takes to itself, the verities presented. They
become a veritable part of one's life. They are the vitalizing,
energizing, invigorating life of God moving into human character,
human conduct, human conversation. They change, color, and
condition a person until he is conformed to Christ.
The alternative is the opposite; it is a negative reaction.
The end result is a rejection of truth, which of course implies
ultimately the rejection of Christ.
This was eminently true in His days upon earth, and it is
the same today. And on this occasion his attackers went so far as
to declare Him either a raving maniac or one possessed of a
devil. Eventually their animosity and reaction to Him became so
violent they schemed to destroy Him. Several times He slipped
through their clutching fingers, but eventually, like
bloodhounds, they brought Him to bay. Nor were they satisfied
that He was stilled until they saw Him suspended on a cruel Roman
gibbet. There, hanging midway between earth and sky, writhing in
agony, they were sure His disquieting and disturbing declarations
would terminate in His death.
But truth simply does not die that way. Truth does not
disappear in the face of evil. Truth is indestructible just as
God is indestructible. Truth endures forever. Truth remains
So down the long avenues of time men have turned angrily
amid the darkness and despair of their dreadful deeds to attack
truth. They have derided it, despised it, and tried to demolish
it. Or better, we should say that in their blindness and
ignorance they have so desired. Why?
The clearest and most concise answer to that enormous,
unending question is given by Christ Himself:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,
that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have
everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to
condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth
not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the
name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the
condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved
darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For
every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the
light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth
cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that
they are wrought in God" (John 3: 16-21).
On this particular occasion our Lord's adversaries ranted
and raged at Him. "How long are You going to keep us in doubt?"
"If you really are the Christ tell us plainly!"
The pathetic aspect of the whole scene really was their own
positive refusal to accept what He had said as truth.
Repeatedly He had declared His identity. They knew from
their familiarity with the Old Testament Scriptures that this One
who now stood before them was none other than the promised
Messiah. He was God's Anointed. He was the Great, Good Shepherd
foretold by the prophets and seers of their people. David,
Isaiah, Ezekiel and others had predicted that the true Shepherd
would come to gather up and restore the lost sheep of Israel.
Over and over Christ had asserted that He was in fact that One.
He was here. The Good Shepherd was among them. He was calling to
His own. He was gathering them up ... those who would come.
But they adamantly refused to believe Him. They simply would not
They rejected and repudiated all He said.
Yet, over and beyond all of this He endeavored to convince
them of His credentials by repeated demonstrations of His deity.
He performed all sorts of remarkable miracles that were positive
proof and incontestable confirmation of His divinity. They had
heard Him preach good tidings to the meek and poor. They had
watched Him bind up the broken-hearted. They had seen Him
liberate those who were captive to evil spirits, disease, or
their own deranged minds and emotions. They had been there when
He spoke comfort to those who mourned. They had seen sorrow
turned to gladness.
They had been witnesses to the full and total fulfillment of
all that Isaiah predicted in 61:1-3
"The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath
anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me
to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the
captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of
vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto
them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the
oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of
heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the
planting of the LORD, that he might be glorified."
And still they would not believe. Still they would not
receive Him. Accordingly it is absolutely essential for us, as it
was for them, to grasp fully what it really means "to believe,"
"to receive," for by Christ's own simple statement He insisted
that only those who do believe belong to Him.
"To believe" implies much more than merely giving my mental
assent to truth. It is much more than merely agreeing to what God
has to say.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of people who
profess to be believers who do this much. They agree in a formal
manner to the truth as it is revealed in the Scriptures. They
subscribe in a rather ambiguous way to the teachings of Christ.
They believe that in some rather obscure way He was a historical
character who came to earth to reveal truth to us. He was really
no more than another of the great prophets or teachers who
claimed divine attributes and abilities.
But this simply is not enough!
Even the evil spirits believe this much and tremble.
Without a doubt the greatest single weakness in Christendom
the world around is so called "believism." It is an anachronism
that millions who claim to believe are in reality a repudiation
of the living Christ. Their characters, conduct, and conversation
are a living travesty of the truth they claim to exemplify.
This is why Christianity and the church is eternally being
charged with hypocrisy. It is why so many who are outside claim
that those inside the church are charlatans. It is why to be a
true believer is difficult, simply because so often the behavior
of our so-called brethren betrays them and us. We are all lumped
together and labeled as imposters. And our dilemma only deepens
when all around us, amid the confusion and criticism, men and
women insist they are all believers, when in truth their behavior
may well be a reproach to Christ.
In our Lord's discourses He equated believing with drinking.
To believe truth, to believe Him, was in fact to imbibe truth, to
"... He that believeth on me shall never thirst" (John 6:35).
"If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that
believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly
(innermost being) shall flow rivers of living water" (John
To believe in Christ is not just to give endorsement in an
objective manner to what He has done and said on my behalf.
To believe in Christ is to fully accept both Him and His
truth so that I actually take Him into my life in deliberate,
volitional action, that goes on continuously.
Put another way it means this: He, the living Christ, is
actually allowed to so enter the whole of my life that He shares
it with me, lives it with me, becomes an integral, vitalizing
part of it. In other words, He is in me and I am in Him.
The closest parallel to this is marriage.
It is possible to read about marriage, talk about it,
discuss it, and debate it. But until you find another whom you
implicitly trust and love enough to invite into your life to
share it with you, you know virtually nothing about the truth of
all that marriage implies. It must be experienced to be known. It
must be tried to be understood. It must be undertaken to be
enjoyed. It must be engaged in to be believed.
It is the same with Christ. He is referred to in Scripture
as the Bridegroom and we His bride.
The second closest parallel to this is the intimate
interrelationship between a shepherd and his sheep.
We can discuss shepherding, read about it, study it, observe
it, and even enjoy watching it. Yet until we actually
participate, we really know nothing about it except in a very
remote, detached, and impersonal way.
And this is precisely the point Jesus made when He said:
"You don't believe, simply because you don't actually belong to
Me. You aren't My sheep."
All through this book and also in "A Shepherd Looks at Psalm
23," I have endeavored to point out in unmistakable language what
it really means to "belong" to Christ. I have tried to show what
is involved in "coming under Christ's control." I have indicated
the great joys and benefits and advantages of allowing our lives
to actually be managed by Him who made us, who bought us, and who
is legitimately entitled to own us.
Yet, the point must be made again here that the decision as
to whether or not this will happen rests with us. Christ comes to
us. He calls to us. He invites us to turn to Him. He offers to
take us under His care. He longs to lead us in His ways. He
desires to share life with us. He wants us to enter fully into
the joys of His ownership. He delights to give us all the
advantages and benefits of His life.
In short, He wants to be in our lives and for us to be in
His. Are we or are we not prepared to have this happen? It is an
intimate association from which most of us shy away. We really
are afraid of this involvement. To speak of "believing" in this
way makes most of us uneasy. We are not at all sure we wish to be
so completely committed. There is so much at stake! Yes! all of
this life; all of eternity; all of myself is at stake. It is only
the person prepared to become open and available to God, who
positively responds to truth as it is revealed in Christ, the
Great, Good Shepherd, who will "hear" His voice.
To hear Him is to "recognize" that this One is in truth none
other than God, very God.
This being so, what He says and what He does will be taken
seriously. We will respond to Him in powerful ways of acceptance
and total personal commitment.
Evidence of this will be apparent in a deliberate and eager
willingness to do whatever He requires. This "running" to do His
bidding demonstrates faith and confidence in Christ of a potent
sort. This is to believe in Christ-to know God!
It is this intimate interchange and private
interrelationship between Christ and me that becomes such a
unique relationship. It is in truth the "knowing," of which
Christ as the Good Shepherd speaks with such affection. He is in
my life; I am in His. He knows me; I know Him. He is mine; I am
This is a precious relationship. The acute awareness that He
knows me and I know God in Christ is the most profound and potent
influence I am privileged to know as a man. In its awareness lies
There is about this knowing an element of elevation that
induces me to attain lofty living and noble conduct far beyond
anything I might otherwise have thought possible. This knowing is
the powerful, potent presence of the very person of Christ made
real in my everyday experience by His gracious Spirit.
Finally, there is the inescapable reality that this knowing
has a profound purifying effect upon my life in all its
activities. I live and move and have my being in company with Him
who is altogether noble. He is royalty. He is my Lord, my Owner,
my Master, and in His close company I scorn that which is
Only those who know Him in this manner, who believe on Him
to this extent, who receive Him without reservation in this way
find it appropriate to follow Him.
I have used the word appropriate deliberately here. It
implies that to follow Christ, as following Him has been
explained previously in this book, is not something absurd or
unrealistic or unreasonable. Rather, to follow Him becomes the
proper, reasonable, and appropriate thing to do.
To follow Christ means I become intimately identified with
His plans and purposes for the planet and for me as a person. His
wishes become my wishes. His work becomes my work. His words
become my words. His standards, values, and priorities become
mine. His interests become my interests. His life becomes my
In a word: He is in me; I am in Him. There is the place of
peace. Here lies serenity, strength, and stability amid earth's
To be continued