A Shepherd looks at the GOOD SHEPHERD #15
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And
I give them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither
shall any man pluck them out of my hand (John 10:27-28).
AT THE HEAD of this chapter, John 10:27,28 have been
deliberately set down together. They cannot be separated. These
verses constitute one continuous concept.
The incredibly beautiful relationship between the Shepherd
and His sheep can be and only is possible provided the sheep hear
His voice, are known of Him in intimate oneness, and so follow
Him in quiet, implicit confidence.
The eternal life inherent in Him, whereby they shall never
perish, within which they can enjoy endless security under His
hand, are benefits made possible only in constant communion with
If for a moment we turn our attention to a human shepherd
and his sheep we will see this to be self-evident.
Those sheep which remain in the shepherd's personal care are
the ones which derive and draw their very life from his provision
and possession of them. They have at their disposal all the
resources of his ranch. They thrive under the expertise of his
skilled management. They enjoy the eternal vigilance and loving
protection of his care. Under his hand they flourish because they
are "handled" with affection by one who is tremendously fond of
them. In fact, they are his very life. In turn he becomes to them
their very life.
Looking back in gentle reminiscence across the distant years
of my own life as a sheepman this remains its most memorable
aspect. There was a profound and deeply moving sense in which all
my life, all my strength, all my energy, all my vitality was
poured into my flock. It simply had to be so if they were to
enjoy an optimum life under my management.
The "life" which they had in such rich measure and
overflowing abundance was but an expression of my own life
continuously given to them day after day. The lush green
pastures, the lovely wooded parkland where they could shelter
from summer sun and winter winds, the clear cool water to slake
their thirst, the freedom from predators or rustlers, the
protection against disease and parasites of all sorts, the loving
attention and intimate care of one who delighted in their
on-going well-being all reflected my own life lived out through
They came to be known and recognized uniquely as being
"Keller's sheep." They had upon them the indelible, unmistakable
mark of belonging to me. Their health, quality, and excellence
were a declaration of whose they were.
Yet, it must be emphasized that this life, this special
care, this exquisite sense of security and well-being was theirs
only as long as they remained on my ranch and under my hand.
In my book on Psalm 23 I told in detail of certain sheep
which were never really satisfied to stay in my care. They were
always looking for a chance to slip out through a hole in the
fence. Or they would creep around the end of the enclosure that
ran down to the seashore at extreme low tide. Once they had
gotten out, they were exposed to enormous perils. Some wandered
far off to become lost up the road or into the woods. And there
they fell prey to all sorts of disasters.
With all of this in mind our Lord made it clear that our own
relationship to Him is the same. The remarkable eternal life
which He gives to us is His own life transmitted to us
continuously as we remain in close contact with Him. His
vitality, His vigor, His view of things are mine as long as the
communion between us is constant.
It is a mistake to imagine that eternal life, the very life
of the risen Christ, is some gift package dropped into the pocket
of my life at some specific point in time; that once it has been
bestowed I automatically have it forever.
Life, any kind of life, physical, moral, or spiritual,
simply is not of that sort.
Life is correspondence between an organism and its environ-
ment. Life goes on only so long as the organism is deriving its
sustenance from its surroundings. The instant it no longer draws
its support from its environment, life ceases. At that point the
organism is declared to be dead.
This principle applies in the realm of my body - physical.
It holds true in the region of my soul - moral. It is so in my
spirit - spiritual.
All of life originates with God irrespective of whether it
be physical, moral, or spiritual. To assume that He bestows only
spiritual life to human beings is a distortion of truth. The
whole of the biota, the total physical, chemical, and biological
environment which supports my physical body comes from Him. He
designed it. He programmed it. He set it in motion. He sustains
it. He maintains its meticulous functions. He enables me thus to
derive my physical life and well-being from His wondrous world
around me. The moment I can no longer do this I am said to be
Precisely the same principle operates in my soul. My mind,
emotions, and will are stimulated and sustained by correspondence
with the moral environment that surrounds me. This is the realm
of human relationships and ideologies. It is the world of ideas,
concepts, and culture expressed in literature, science, the arts,
music, and accumulated experience of the human race.
A person can be acutely, vividly alive to all of this. Or he
can be likewise virtually dead to it. For some it is well nigh
life itself. Yet even here every capacity anyone has to
correspond or communicate with this total soulish environment
comes from God. It is He who has arranged, ordered, and
programmed all that is excellent, beautiful, and noble in the
arts, sciences, and humanities. Man has only just gradually
uncovered all that formerly lay hidden from his restricted
So in truth, all moral, all soul life is derived from our
Lord, for without the capacities of mind, emotion, and will
bestowed upon us by Him, we would have no way of enjoying even
Again, it may be legitimately stated that the moment I can
no longer derive moral stimulation and uplift from this realm I
am said to be dead to it. What is more, it is perfectly possible
to be physically alive yet morally dead to one or more or all of
God's life in this region. I am said to be morally alive only so
long as I draw life from those generous and godly gifts bestowed
upon me by a benevolent and loving Master. He so designed me as
to live on this noble lofty plane as His person.
What has been said of physical and moral life also applies
in the region of my spirit. There, deep within my inner life,
lies my conscience, my intuition, and my capacity to commune with
God by His Spirit.
I am said to have spiritual life only so long as there is
being derived directly from God a measure of His life. It is He
who in the realm of my conscience alerts me to absolute verities,
ultimate truth. It is in this way I know what I ought to do, what
I ought not to do. I am alive to what is appropriate and proper
behavior before Him and what is not.
It is in the realm of my intuition that I enjoy that
ultimate dimension of living, in knowing God. It is in the unique
awareness of being alive to Him that I enjoy life at its loftiest
level. There steals over my stilled spirit the sure knowledge
that it is in Christ I live and move and have my being. This is
to know also that I am known of Him, intimately, personally, and
with profound affection.
So there flows between His gracious Spirit and my spirit an
interchange of life - His life. I am in Him; He is in me. There
is an ongoing, continuing interrelationship whereby He imparts
His life to me and takes up my little life into His.
To know, experience, and enjoy this communion with Christ is
to have eternal life. This is what Christ meant when He said
unashamedly, "I give unto them eternal life."
He went on to add emphatically, "They shall never perish."
As long as my communion with Him continues, His life is imparted
as a clear flowing stream from the fountain source of His own
magnificent, inexhaustible self. He comes to me continuously in
neverending life to energize and invigorate me. I am His, to be
the recipient of an ever-renewed life. He is mine to be the
bestower of every good and perfect gift needed to sustain me
through all eternity.
He has no other intention than that this relationship should
be one of eternal endurance.
My part is to remain ever open, responsive, and receptive to
the inflow of His life to mine. It is His life that surrounds and
enfolds me on every side. In any situation, at any time, in any
place I can breathe quietly, "O Christ, You are here. You are the
ever-present one - the great 'I Am.' Live Your life in me,
through me, in this moment, for I, too, am in Your presence ready
to receive You in all Your splendor."
The person who so lives in Christ's presence shall never
perish. He it is out of whose innermost being cascades clear
streams of life-giving refreshment to those around him. This is
the individual who is an inspiration and blessing to his
generation, and to his God.
Those who live this joyous and serene communion with Christ
are the men and women who know they are in God's hand. Nor will
they ever make a move or entertain a thought that would take them
out of His hand.
To know that God's hand is upon me for good is perhaps the
most precious awareness a human being can savor in his earthly
sojourn. To be acutely aware - "O my Shepherd, You are enfolding
me in Your great strong hand!" - is to sense a sweet serenity
that nothing can disturb. To realize the intimacy of the Master's
touch upon every minutiae of my affairs, to experience His hand
guiding, leading, directing in every detail of each day, is to
enter a delight words cannot describe.
My part is to be sensitive to His gentle Spirit. My part is
to obey instantly His smallest wish. My part is to wait quietly
for the unfolding of His best purposes and plans. In harmony,
unity, and mutual pleasure we commune together along the trails
of life. He becomes my fondest friend and most intimate
companion. More than that, He becomes my life.
This is the life of serene security. This is the
relationship of quiet relaxation. This is the life of rest and
repose; for the person willing to be led of the Lord there is
endless enjoyment in His company.
The ancient prophet Isaiah portrays this for us in an
exquisite word picture of the Great Shepherd of our souls.
"O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high
mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy
voice with strength; Lift it up, be not afraid; Say unto the
cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the Lord GOD will come
with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his
reward is with him, and his work before him. He shall feed his
flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm,
and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are
with young" (Isa.40:9-11).
It has always been our Lord's intention to hold His people
in His own strong hand. It is the most profound longing of His
Spirit to lead us gently in the paths of right living. He is
eager and happy to gather us up into His powerful arms where no
harm can molest us.
The intentions of God toward His own are always good. He
ever has their own best interests at heart. His desires are only
for their well-being. He is a Shepherd of enormous good will and
deep compassion for the people of His pasture.
It is ever He who holds us in His hand, if we will allow
ourselves to be so owned and loved. We do not have to "hold on to
Him" as so many wrongly imagine. How much better to rest in the
quiet assurance of knowing His hand is upon me rather than
doubting my feeble efforts to hold onto Him.
This is one of the great secrets to a serene life in Christ.
It does not come instantly, overnight so to speak. It is the
gradual outgrowth of a life lived quietly in gentle communion
Imperceptibly there steals over my spirit the assurance that
with Him, all is well. He makes no mistakes. He is ever here. And
so long as I remain acutely aware of His presence, nothing can
separate me from His love and care.
"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall
tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or
nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we
are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the
slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors
through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither
death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor
things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor
any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of
God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom.8:35-39).
To be continued