A Shepherd Looks at the GOOD SHEPHERD #2
THE SHEPHERD'S ENTRY
"But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the
sheep. To him the porter openeth" (John 10:2-3a).
BECAUSE THE SHEEPFOLD belongs to the shepherd who
constructed it, he has the right to use and enter it as he
wishes. The sheep who occupy it belong to him. The sheepfold is
an integral part of his complete sheep operation. The flock moves
in and out through the entrance either to find security by night
or fresh fields for grazing by day.
Whenever the shepherd comes to the fold it is for the
benefit of the sheep. Unlike the rustlers or predators who come
to raid or rob the livestock within, he always comes with
beneficial intentions. The sheep do not fear him. They do not
flee in panic or rush about in bewildered confusion, trampling
and maiming each other in blind excitement.
In fact, some of my most winsome recollections of handling
livestock during my long life are wrapped around those poignant
moments of watching an owner come to his stock. Some come with
gentle calls. They alert the sheep that they are approaching.
Others whistle gaily as they near the gate so as to set the sheep
at ease. Some sheepmen and sheepherders in Africa love to sing
soft plaintive tunes as they come to the corral or sheepfold.
All of these approaches are diametrically opposite to the sly,
subtle tactics of the predators or prowlers who attempt to pounce
on their prey by surprise. They want to catch the sheep off-guard
and capture them amid their confusion. It is a crafty, cunning
part of their plan of attack.
And when the shepherd reaches the entrance it is customary
to tap on the gate, or rattle the latch, or knock on the door
loud enough so that all within the enclosure are alerted to the
fact that he is outside, ready to enter. More than this, he
expects to enter. When we apply this concept to our own lives we
see the striking parallels. So often in our past we have seen our
lives exploited by those who had only their own selfish interests
at heart. They were not in the least concerned what happened to
us as long as their own insidious, greedy ends were gained. They
used and abused their prey to promote their own designs, no
matter how much destruction they wrought.
By contrast there is none of this in Christ, the great Good
Shepherd. Because of His care and concern for us, because of His
selfgiving love and conduct He comes to us always with peaceable
intentions. All through the long and painful history of the human
race we see God coming to willful, wayward men in peace.
Always His words of introduction to us are: "Peace be with
you"; "Peace be unto you!"; "Be not afraid, it is I"; "Peace,
good will toward men!"; "Peace I leave with you ... not as the
world giveth, give I unto you!"
He does not come to men to plunder or prey upon them. God
has never exploited any person. Not once has He extracted
anything from anyone for His own ends. There is not even a hint
of grasping greed regarding the Good Shepherd who approaches us
only with our best interests in mind. He does not use people for
some selfish pleasure of His own.
And because He comes to us in generous good will He comes
gently and graciously. He is Jesus the Christ; "The perfect
Gentleman!" He refuses to force His way into our lives. In His
magnanimity He created us in His own image with free wills, able
to act independently in determining our own decisions.
He stands outside our lives, entreating us gently to grant
Him admission. The generosity of such an approach overwhelms us
when we pause to reflect that in truth He really has every right
The enormous pathos of this appeal by Christ to our human
hearts is portrayed vividly by the aged and beloved John writing
in the third chapter of Revelation. There God's Spirit speaks to
us, "See, I am now standing at the door and knocking. If any one
listens to My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and
feast (share life) with him, and he shall feast with Me. (Rev.
This One who so entreats us to open our lives to His
entrance is none other than God very God, the Christ, who in the
second parable of John 10 declares emphatically "I am the good
shepherd.... I am come that they might have life, and that they
might have it more abundantly!"
He comes to us anticipating an entrance. He is entitled to
enter and has that privilege because He is our rightful owner.
This will be explained later in this chapter.
There is a gross misunderstanding among many as to what
God's intentions may be in expecting entry into our lives. They
assume He will make enormous demands upon them which cannot be
fulfilled. They imagine they will be deprived of pleasures or
practices which will leave them poorer people. Beleagured by such
misconceptions they are reluctant to grant admission.
Yet, the opposite is true of the Good Shepherd. He seeks
entry to enrich us. He desires to put at our disposal all of His
wondrous resources. He wants to inject an exciting new dimension
of dynamic living into our days. He intends to share His very
life with us. Out of that life imparted to me as an individual
can come all the noble qualities of a fine and wholesome life
which are uniquely His. These are made real in me, by His
presence. They are further transmitted through me to touch other
lives bringing blessing and benefit to those around me.
Why then are we still so loathe to let Him in?
There are various reasons, of which two far transcend all
The first of these is fear. Almost all of us have at some
time or other allowed people into our lives who took unfair
advantage of us. They have hurt and wounded us. Sometimes they
have abused us callously and with great cruelty. We started out
trusting them to a degree, and ended up torn and mutilated by the
The end result is that we begin to build high walls of
self-defense and self-preservation around ourselves. We want to
protect ourselves from the onslaught of outsiders. If perchance
we have been injured repeatedly we become even more wary,
cautious, and unwilling to open ourselves to anyone whom we
regard as an intruder.
We bluntly warn people, "I don't want you in my life!";
"Please stay away, I don't want you interfering in my affairs";
"Just keep out of my business and mind your own"; "Live your life
and let me live mine."
And though we may not say so in actual words, we entertain
the same attitude toward Christ when He comes to call at the
doorway of our hearts (i.e., our wills). We subconsciously
attribute to Him the same selfish motives and ulterior designs
which characterize selfish human beings.
This is, of course, unfair to God. But it also demonstrates
that we really do not know or understand Him, for His thoughts
toward us are always good.
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD,
thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end."
And the ultimate end He has in mind for me is that my will
should be aligned with His; my life moving in harmony with His;
together sharing in the magnificent plans and purposes He has for
His people. To so live is to enter a powerful, positive adventure
of selfless giving of ourselves for the good of all. This is the
great dynamic of the love of God at work throughout the whole
cosmos. It is the divine energy that drives the universe! Yet
most of us will not respond to His overtures. We prefer to draw
back, to close ourselves off from Christ, to withdraw within the
closely confining circle of our selfish little lives. There we
feel more secure and self-assured. It is comfortable and we
prefer this confinement - even if we are cramped within the
constricting walls of our own making and choice.
The second reason why people will not open up their lives to
the Good Shepherd is much more subtle and insidious. It is an
integral part of our lifelong conditioning and culture to assume
that I, Me, My, are entitled to absolute priority in our
thinking, planning, and conduct.
From earliest childhood we insist on having our own way,
indulging our own desires, doing our own thing, going our own way
with our wishes always paramount. We become veritable little
"kings in our own castles," or even worse, "little gods in the
temples of our own lives." We resent anyone who dares to enter
our domain. We even naively assume at times we can be "the
shepherd in our own fold."
There is no doubt in our minds that we are entitled to make
all our own decisions, no matter how disastrous the consequences.
We are sure we can solve all our dilemmas even though they lead
us deeper and deeper into despair. We are determined to run our
own lives even if we run them into the ground, ending up in
In all of this we are positive no one else can manage our
affairs nor control our conduct any better than we can. In pride
and selfwill we view outsiders, God included, as intruders,
imposters who dare to try and usurp control. And we adamantly
refuse them entrance.
As I sometimes say to people who take up this fortified
position, "You have not only erected high walls around your life;
you have dug a deep moat outside and drawn up the drawbridge lest
anyone ever come in."
In spite of our indifference, our fear, our pride, our
determined refusal to let Him in, Christ is very patient and
compassionate with us. He keeps coming. He keeps speaking. He
keeps standing at the door. He keeps knocking. He keeps rattling
In the case of a few lives the door is finally opened. Our
Lord made the unusual comment that it was really the "porter,"
the doorkeeper who opens the door. And it may well be asked, "Who
is the porter? Who is this One who for the sake and welfare of
the sheep opens up the sheepfold to the Good Shepherd?"
He is none other than the gracious Spirit of God Himself. It
is He who, unbeknown to us, and long before we are conscious of
the presence of Christ, comes to us quietly to begin His gentle
work within. It is He who gradually prevails upon our spirits to
respond. It is He who, even in our willful waywardness, is at
work within us turning us toward the One who stands outside the
fold of our lives. It is He who gradually overcomes our fears,
our deep subconscious inhibitions toward Christ. He is able in
His own wondrous way to pulverize our pride, to lead us gently to
see the enormous folly of our self-centeredness. He generates
within our wills the active faith needed to comply with and
respond to the voice of the Good Shepherd.
It is then and only then that the door is opened to Christ.
It is then that the guard, so to speak, is let down. Then the One
outside is granted entry. For some this is an act of great
apprehension. It involves a definite movement within the will.
Yet it is God who works within us to will and to do of His good
pleasure. (See Phil.2:13.)
In his autobiography C.S.Lewis tells how he had long
resisted the gentle overtures of Christ to enter his life. One
day, while riding atop a double-decker bus to the zoo in London,
he sensed he could no longer keep the Lord out of his life. By a
definite, deliberate act of his will he literally unfastened the
defenses within which he had enclosed himself for so long. Then
the presence and the person of Christ moved quietly, but
wondrously, into his soul. He was instantly "surprised by joy."
And this phrase is the title of his book.
When Christ enters He brings not only joy, peace, and
reassurance to the opened heart; He brings also the divine
resources of love, life, light, and fullness of character which
are uniquely His. These are essential to the new lifestyle He
initiates. It is He who assumes control. It is He who begins to
manage the sheep. It is He who begins to give direction and
purpose to all that happens to them.
Of course it can be asked, "Is He really entitled to do
this?" "Is He my rightful owner?" "Does He have the credentials
to determine what shall be done with my life?" To each of these
the emphatic reply is yes!
First of all, we must be reminded that it is He who made us.
The amazing intricacy of our bodies; the incredible potential of
our minds and memories; the enormous capacities of our emotions;
the unmeasurable impact of our wills; the unplumbed depths of our
spirits ... each and all are glorious gifts bestowed upon us in
generosity by God. We did not fashion or form them. They belong
rightfully to Him. They are simply entrusted to us for wise use
under His direction for the brief duration of our days on earth.
Secondly, though all of us in willful, self-centered
waywardness have gone our way to do as we want, we are invited to
return to Him and to come under His care. To make this possible,
He has brought us back with His own life, given in sacrifice for
us. So in reality He has redeemed us, brought us back, made it
possible to be accepted again as His own.
Thirdly, He continues ever to intercede on our behalf. He
suffers in our stead. He entreats us to become wholly His in glad
So it is that on this basis it is both reasonable and proper
that, as His own people, the sheep of His pasture, we have every
obligation to throw open wide the door of our lives, allowing Him
to enter gladly as our Lord, our Shepherd.
To be continued