Keith Hunt - A Shepherd looks at the GOOD SHEPHERD - Page Five   Restitution of All Things

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A Shepherd looks at the GOOD SHEPHERD #5

The sheep KNOW his Voice!

                 A Shepherd looks at the GOOD SHEPHERD  #5


... and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice (John
10:4b)




     IN CHAPTER 3 we learned how the sheep come to recognize
their shepherd's voice and respond by running when called. Over a
prolonged period of time they become acutely aware that it is
always in their best interests to do this. They have learned to
trust it, to rely on it, but even more significant, to actually
enjoy hearing it.
     This is simply because the voice and the shepherd are as
one. His voice denotes his presence. His voice indicates he is
there in person. His voice represents his power, authority, and
ability to protect them in danger while also providing for their
every need.
     In essence the sheep become so acquainted with that voice
that they know it intimately. They come to expect it. That voice
of that owner speaks peace and plenty to them. To hear and know
that voice is to be constantly reassured of the shepherd's care
for them. It is evidence of his affection and faithfulness to
them.

     Precisely the same can apply to the Christian under Christ's
control. His voice is not something we shrink from. It does not
disturb or dismay us. We do not find it troubles us when He
speaks.
     We also learn to delight in hearing Him. We look forward to
having Him speak to us. We enjoy the increasing awareness of His
presence; we relish the individual interest He shows in us; we
revel in the close intimacy of communion with Him. We delight in
knowing assuredly that He has come to be with us and we can be
with Him, ready and eager to follow Him.
     Nowhere is there stress or strain in this relationship with
the Shepherd of my soul. Its keeping has been deliberately
entrusted to Him. A calm, strong, quiet assurance pervades me
that in His care all is well. Absent from this commitment of
myself to Him is any fear or foreboding. I know Him. I know His
voice. I know all is well.
     And this knowing applies to all of my life. It embraces not
only the past and the present but applies equally to the unknown
tomorrows. My days need not be charged with anxiety. There is no
need to inject unnecessary stress into my sojourn of this day. He
is here. His voice speaks strength, serenity, and stability to my
soul.
     So where He leads me I will follow!

     Etched indelibly upon the walls of my memory is one tropical
night when all alone, with no one near but God Himself, I went
out to walk softly beneath the rustling palms beside the Pacific
Ocean. My life, it seemed, had reached an absolute impasse. There
seemed no point to pushing on. Everything had ground to a deadly
standstill. The future looked forbidding; in fact, it appeared
positively hopeless.
     From the depth of my being I cried out to Christ. Like a
lost sheep bleating in desperation from the thicket in which it
was stuck fast, I longed to hear my Shepherd's voice. He did not
disappoint me!
     He heard. He came. He called. He spoke. And in His voice
that night, speaking to me clearly, distinctly through His Word,
by His Spirit, my soul was reassured. I could hear Him say,
"Entrust the keeping of your soul and life to Me. Let Me lead you
gently in the paths of righteousness and peace. My part is to
show the way. Your part is to walk in it. All will be well!"
     It was so. And it has been to this day.

     The question in all of this is, "Do I really want to follow
Him? Do I really want to do His will? Do I want to be led?"
     Some of us say we do without really meaning it. More than
anything else it is like a sentimental wish. It is a half-hearted
hope. It is a pleasant idea we indulge in during our better
moments. Yet, too often deep down in our wills we still determine
to do our own thing and go our own wayward ways. It is precisely
at this point where we come to grief in our walk with God. It is
presumption of the worst sort to claim His commitments to us,
made so freely and in such generosity, while at the same time
refusing to comply with His commands or wishes because of our own
inherent selfish desires.
     Whatever else happens there remains this one, basic
fundamental fact that only the person who wants to follow Christ
will ever do so. All the rest will become strays.
     This word "follow" as used by our Lord implies much more
than just the thought of sheep tagging along blindly behind their
owner. It has within it the connotation of one who deliberately
decides to comply with specific instructions.
     For example, if one purchases a complicated clock or other
piece of equipment that is to be assembled, along with it will
come a sheet of instructions. At the top will be printed in large
bold letters, "THESE DIRECTIONS MUST BE FOLLOWED." In other
words, there can be no guarantee that it will work unless the
directions are complied with and carried out to the minutest
detail.
     It is the same in carrying out God's commands. His clear
instructions for our conduct and character have been laid out for
us in His Word and in the life of our Lord, the Word enfleshed.
There rests with us then the obligation to comply. As we
cooperate and follow through we will find ourselves progressing.
New areas of life, exciting experiences of adventure with Him
will emerge as we move onto fresh ground. I quote here from "A
Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23": "As mentioned earlier it is no mere
whim on God's part to call us sheep. Our behavior patterns and
life habits are so much like that of sheep it is well nigh
embarrassing."

     First of all, Scripture points out the fact that most of us
are a haughty and stubborn lot. We prefer to follow our own
fancies and turn to our own ways. "All we like sheep have gone
astray; we have turned every one to his own way" (Isa.53:6). And
this we do deliberately, repeatedly, even to our own
disadvantage. There is something almost terrifying about the
destructive self- personal pride and self-assertion. We insist we
know what is best for us even though the disastrous results may
be self-evident.
     Just as sheep will blindly, habitually, stupidly follow one
another along the same little trails until they become ruts that
erode into gigantic gullies, so we humans cling to the same
habits that we have seen ruin other lives. Turning to "my own
way" simply means doing what I want. It implies that I feel free
to assert my own wishes and carry out my own ideas. And this I do
in spite of every warning.
     We read in Proverbs 14:12 and 16:25, "There is a way which
seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of
death."
     In contrast to this, Christ the Good Shepherd comes gently
and says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh
unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). "I am come that they
might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly"
(John 10:10).
     The difficult point is that most of us don't want to come.
We don't want to follow. We don't want to be led in the paths of
righteousness. Somehow it goes against our grain. We actually
prefer to turn to our own way even though it may take us into
trouble.
     The stubborn, proud, self-sufficient sheep that persists in
pursuing its old paths and grazing on its old polluted ground
will end up a bag of bones on ruined land. The world we live in
is full of such people.
     Broken homes, broken hearts, derelict lives, and twisted
personalities remind us everywhere of men and women who have gone
their own way. We have a sick society struggling to survive on
beleaguered land. The greed and selfishness of mankind leaves
behind a legacy of ruin and remorse.
     Amid all this chaos and confusion Christ the Good Shepherd
comes and says, "If any man will follow me, let him deny himself,
and take up his cross, and follow me" (Matt.16:24). But most of
us, even as Christians, simply don't want to do this. We don't
want to deny ourselves, give up our right to make our own
decisions. We don't want to follow; we don't want to be led.
Of course, most of us, if confronted with this charge, would deny
it. We would assert vehemently that we are "led of the Lord." We
would insist that we follow wherever He leads. We sing hymns to
this effect and give mental assent to the idea. But as far as
actually being led in paths of righteousness is concerned,
precious few of us follow that path.

     Actually this is the pivot point on which a Christian either
"goes on" with God or at which point he "goes back" from
following on. There are many willful, wayward, indifferent
Christians who cannot really be classified as followers of
Christ. There are relatively few diligent disciples who forsake
all to follow the Master. Jesus never made light of the cost
involved in following Him. In fact, He made it painfully clear
that it was a rugged life of rigid self-denial. It entailed a
whole new set of attitudes. It was not the natural, normal way a
person would ordinarily live, and this is what made the price so
prohibitive to most people.
     In brief, seven fresh attitudes have to be acquired. They
are the equivalent of progressive forward movements onto new
ground with God. If one follows them he will discover fresh
pasturage, new, abundant life, and increased health,
wholesomeness, and holiness, in his walk with God. Nothing will
please Him more, and certainly no other activity on our part can
or will result in as great benefit to lives around us. 


1) Instead of loving myself most I am willing to love Christ best
and others more than myself.

     Now love in a scriptural sense is not a soft, sentimental
emotion. It is a deliberate act of my will. It means that I am
willing to lay down my life, put myself out on behalf of another.
This is precisely what God did for us in Christ. "Hereby perceive
(understand) we the love of God, because he laid down his life
for us" (1 John 3:16).
     The moment I deliberately do something definite either for
God or others that costs me something, I am expressing love. Love
is "selflessness" or "self-sacrifice" in contradistinction to
"selfishness." Most of us know little of living like this, or
being "led" in this right way. But once a person discovers the
delight of doing something for others, he has started through the
gate which leads into one of God's green pastures.

2) Instead of being one of the crowd I am willing to be singled
out, set apart from the gang.

     Most of us, like sheep, are pretty gregarious. We want to
belong. We don't want to be different in a big way, though we may
wish to be different in minor details that appeal to our selfish
egos. But Christ pointed out that only a few would find His way
acceptable, and to be marked as one of His would mean a certain
amount of criticism and sarcasm from a cynical society. Many of
us don't want this. Just as He was a man of sorrows and
acquainted with grief, so we may be. Instead of adding to the
sorrows and sadness of society we may be called on to help bear
some of the burdens of others, to enter into the suffering of
others. Are we ready to do this?

3) Instead of insisting on my rights I am willing to forego them
in favor of others.

     Basically this is what the Master meant by denying one's
self. It is not easy nor natural to do this. Even in the loving
atmosphere of the home, self-assertion is evident and the
powerful exercise of individual rights is always apparent.
But the person who is willing to pocket his pride, to take a back
seat, to play second fiddle without a feeling of being abused or
put upon, has gone a long way onto new ground with God. There is
a tremendous emancipation from "self" in this attitude. One is
set free from the shackles of personal pride. It's pretty hard to
hurt such a person. He who has no sense of self-importance cannot
be offended or deflated. Somehow such people enjoy a wholesome
outlook of carefree abandon that makes their Christian lives
contagious with contentment and gaiety.

4) Instead of being "boss" I am willing to be at the bottom of
the heap. Or to use sheep terminology, instead of being "Top Ram"
I'm willing to be a "tailender."

     When the desire for self-assertion and self-aggrandizement
gives way to the desire for simply pleasing God and others, much
of the fret and strain is drained away from daily living.
A hallmark of the serene soul is the absence of "drive," at least
drive for self-determination. The person who is prepared to put
his personal life and affairs in the Master's hands for His
management and direction has found the place of rest in fresh
fields each day. These are the ones who find time and energy to
please others. 

5) Instead of finding fault with life and always asking: Why? I
am willing to accept every circumstance of life in an attitude of
gratitude.

     Humans, being what they are, somehow feel entitled to
question the reasons for everything that happens to them. In many
instances life itself becomes a continuous criticism and
dissection of one's circumstances and acquaintances. We look for
someone or something on which to pin the blame for our
misfortunes. We are often quick to forget our blessings, slow to
forget our misfortunes. But if one really believes his affairs
are in God's hands, every event, no matter whether joyous or
tragic, will be taken as part of God's plan. To know beyond doubt
that He does all for our welfare is to be led into a wide area of
peace and quietness and strength for every situation.

6) Instead of exercising and asserting my will, I learn to
cooperate with His wishes and comply with His will.

     It must be noted that all the steps outlined here involve
the will. The saints from earliest times have repeatedly pointed
out that nine-tenths of being a Christian, of becoming a true
follower, a dedicated disciple, lies in the will. When a man
allows his will to be crossed out, canceling the great "I" in his
decision, then indeed the Cross has been applied to that life.
This is the meaning of taking up one's cross daily - to go to
one's death--no longer my will in the matter but His will be
done.


7) Instead of choosing my own way I am willing to choose to
follow in Christ's way, simply to do what He asks me to do. 

     This basically is simple, straight-forward obedience. It
means I do what He asks me to do. I go where He invites me to go.
I say what He instructs me to say. I act and react in the manner
He maintains is in my best interest as well as for His
reputation.
     Most of us possess a formidable amount of factual
information on what the Master expects of us. Precious few have
either the will, intention, or determination to act on it and
comply with His instructions. But the person who decides to do
what God asks him has moved onto fresh ground which will do both
him and others a world of good. Besides, it will please the Good
Shepherd.
     God wants us all to move on with Him. He wants us to walk
with Him. He wants it not only for our welfare but for the
benefit of others as well as His own reputation.

     Perhaps there are those who think He expects too much of us.
Maybe they feel the demands are too drastic. Some may consider
His call impossible to carry out.
     It would be if we had to depend on self-determination or
self-discipline to succeed. But if we are in earnest about
wanting to do His will, and to be led, He makes this possible by
His own gracious Spirit who is given to those who obey (Acts
5:32). For it is He who works in us "both to will and to do of
his good pleasure" (Phil.2:13).    

                             .................


To be continued

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