Keith Hunt - A shepherd looks at the GOOD SHEPHERD - Page Eight   Restitution of All Things

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A Shepherd looks at the GOOD SHEPHERD #8

Entering into a New Life

                 A Shepherd looks at the GOOD SHEPHERD #8



ENTERING INTO A NEW LIFE

I am the door, by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and
shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh not, but
to steal, and to kill, and to destroy (John 10:9010a).



     OUR LORD MAKES it clear that He is the door, the way, the
entrance into a new life. This life in which He controls both my
interior and exterior life is totally different from any
lifestyle I may have known before.
     It implies a new two-way interpersonal relationship. He has
come into the little fold of my life there to exercise His
management of my affairs. He leads me out in due course to wider
fields of contact and adventure with others in new dimensions of
spiritual growth.
     Yet, at the same time I find myself entering into an
exciting and stimulating lifestyle within the enfolding control
of His presence. He has become the paramount and preeminent
person in my daily experience. He occupies a place of greater
priority in my thoughts, emotions, and decisions than any earthly
companion. This applies to my family, friends, or other intimate
associates.
     This process of gradually allowing God to govern my life,
permitting Christ to control my conduct, coming gently under the
absolute sovereignty of His gracious Spirit is to enter into the
remarkable and restful salvation He provides for His people.
It is a case where I am no longer enslaved to my own small,
self-centered wishes. I am set free from the tyranny of my own
destructive emotions. I am liberated from the bondage of my own
bungling decisions. It is a case of being set free from the
terrible tyranny of my own selfish self-centeredness. He, the
Good Shepherd of my soul, takes over the welfare of my affairs.
He delivers me from the dilemma of my own self-destructive
drives. I am free at last to enter into the joyous delight of
just doing His will.

     Sad as it may seem, many Christians do not enter into the
rest and repose of this life in Christ. They may have heard about
it. They may have read about it. They may even have seen it in
the experience of one or two of their contemporaries, but for
themselves it is as elusive as a passing daydream.

     Perhaps if a parallel is drawn from the relationships
between a shepherd and his sheep we can understand how one enters
into this wondrous life.

     Any sheep, if treated with kindness and affection, soon
attaches itself to its new owner. Sheep are remarkably
responsive, for the most part, to the attention and care given to
them by a good shepherd. This is especially true in small flocks
where the owner has opportunity to bestow his personal affection
on individual animals. They quickly become his friends. A select
few are actually pets. They follow him as faithfully as his own
shadow. Wherever he goes they are there. It is in his company,
and because of his presence, that they are ever secure and at
rest.
     The same truth applies in our relationship to Christ. We can
in truth enter into a new life with Him whereby we enjoy the
safety, surety, and security of His presence. This is not some
superspiritual, once-for-all, ecstatic experience. Rather it is
the quiet, gentle hour-to-hour awareness of "O Lord, You are
here!" It is the keen knowledge, "O God, You are guiding me!" It
is the calm, serene assurance, "O gracious Spirit, in Your
presence there is peace!"
     There is nothing mystical or magical about this. It is the
winsome, wondrous knowledge of realizing the person, presence,
and power of Christ in every detail of my day. This is the
meaning of salvation in its full-orbed splendor.
     The entering into this life in Christ lifts me above the low
level of trying to struggle with the down-drag of sin that leads
so many into the deep ditch of despair. It frees me from the fret
of fighting with the old selfish impulses that generally govern
my life. It delivers me from the dominion of the enemy of my soul
who wishes to ensnare me.
     The focus of my attention has been shifted away from myself
to my Shepherd. The movement of my soul has been brought to Him
for direction rather than left in the dilemma of my own decision
making. The responsibility for my activities has been placed
squarely in His care and taken out of my hands. This means
subjecting my will to His wishes, but therein lies my rest and
relief from my own stressful way of life.

     Such people, our Lord said, would go in and out freely and
find pasture.

     Many people assume that to become a Christian and follow
Christ calls only for self-denial, privation, poverty, and
hardships. It is a distorted picture, for in fact, though we may
relinquish our old selfish lifestyle, we discover to our delight
an entrance into a much greater and broader dimension of living.
Who is the person rich in friends, loved ones, and affection? The
one willing to give himself away to others. Who is the individual
who finds life full, rewarding, and deeply satisfying? The person
who loses himself in a cause much greater than himself, who gives
himself away for the greater good of all.
     And it is to this caliber of life that Christ invites us. He
calls us to enter into great commitments and noble causes. He
leads us into a broken world there to expend ourselves on behalf
of suffering, struggling, lost humanity.
     Life is too magnificent, our capacities too noble, our days
too few and precious to be squandered on just our own selfish
little selves. God has made us in His own great image for great
purposes. Only in coming into harmony with His will and wishes
can we ever begin to realize or attain the tremendous aspirations
He has for us. It is in complete and implicit cooperation with
His ongoing purposes for the planet that any of us ever attain
even a fraction of our potential for eternal service and
salvation.
     Too many of us are too provincial, too petty in our outlook.
We see only our own little problems. We are obsessed with only
our own little objectives. We go through life cramped and
constricted by our own small circle of contacts.
     Christ the Good Shepherd calls us to go in and out and find
wide, broad pastures of practical and abundant service; not only
for our own sakes but also for the sake of others who are as lost
as we once were.

     He gave us this broad view in graphic terms Himself when He
sent out His twelve disciples as missionaries to the lost sheep
of Israel.

     A careful and intelligent reading of Matthew 9:35-10:16
discloses a delightful scene of an eastern shepherd gathering up
stray sheep. Jesus had been moving from village to village, town
to town, teaching, preaching, healing, and ministering to men's
needs in every area of life. Seeing the innumerable multitudes of
struggling souls He was moved with enormous concern and
compassion for them. They were as sheep without a shepherd. They
were weary, apprehensive, distraught, and scattered afield in
every direction. Turning to His twelve companions He made the
comment, so(often misunderstood and misinterpreted by
missionaries). "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers
are few." He was not speaking of a harvest of wheat or corn or
other grain, but rather a crop of lambs, a crop of lost sheep
scattered by the millions, milling aimlessly across the surface
of the earth.
     Who and where were the workers, the laborers who could
gather, in the lost? There were so few able to do this difficult
and delicate task.
     How do does He bring home the wanderers and stragglers?
     He does not use dogs the way western sheepmen do. He does
not resort to horses or donkeys to herd them home or round them
up. Nor does he employ helicopters or Hondas as some western
ranchers do.
     No, the eastern shepherd uses his own pet lambs and
bellwethers to gather in lost sheep. Because these pets are so
fond of being near him and with him, he has to literally go out
into the hills and rough country himself taking them along,
scattering them abroad. There they graze and feed alongside the
wild and wayward sheep.
     As evening approaches the shepherd gently winds his way
home. His favorite pet lambs and bellwethers quietly follow him.
As they move along in his footsteps, they bring with them the
lost and scattered sheep. It is a winsome picture full of pathos.
In-Matthew 10 Christ actually took His twelve men and scattered
them out among the lost sheep of Israel (v.6). He warned them
that He was sending them out as sheep in the midst of predators
who might try to prevent them from bringing home the lost (v.
16). But they were to go anyway, because the presence of His
Spirit would be with them to preserve them in every danger.
This is a precise picture drawn for us in bold colors of what our
Good Shepherd requires of us. He does not demand that we embark
on some grandiose schemes of our own design to do His work in the
world. He does not suggest that we become embroiled in some
complex organization of human ingenuity to achieve His goal of
gathering in lost souls.
     He simply asks me to be one who will be so attached to Him,
so fond of Him, so true to Him, that in truth I shall be like His
pet lamb or bellwether. No matter where He takes me; no matter
where He places me; no matter whom I am alongside of in my daily
living, that person will be induced to eventually follow the
Shepherd because I follow Him.
     Put in another way it may be said that any Christian's
effectiveness in winning others is directly proportional to his
own devotion to the Master. Show me a person to whom Christ, is
absolutely paramount and I will show you one who gently but
surely is gathering in others from the pastures of the world. 
     This is the individual who has entered into an exciting,
adventuresome, fresh mode of life in God. Day after day, under
the guidance of the Good Shepherd, he goes in and out to find
fresh pastures of new experience. His life touches other lives,
and all the time here and there he sees others gently gathered
in, because he was willing to be sent forth wherever the Shepherd
best saw fit to place him.

     It all sounds fairly simple. It is, if we faithfully follow
Christ. It is He who assures us of effective success in helping
to save the lost and scattered sheep in a shattered world. We are
His co-workers, co-laborers in His great ongoing plans for
rescuing the lost.
     Nor is such labor without its rewards. Our God is the God of
all consolation and compensation. He is no man's debtor. Those
who honor Him, He will honor. If we put Him and His interests
first, there will ever be ample provision for all of our needs.
This is not theory. This is the truth testified to by uncounted
millions of men and women who, having entered into this new life
with God, have found Him to be ever faithful to them.

     Any life He enters is always enriched, never impoverished.
Any of our days He touches are transformed with the light and joy
of His presence. To sense and know Him is to have tasted life at
its sublime best.

     Yet amid such living our Lord warns us that there can still
be thieves and robbers present. There are always predators
prowling around the periphery of our lives, waiting and watching
for opportunity to plunder and impoverish us.
     In previous chapters these have been dealt with in some
detail. Emphasis has been placed especially upon those aspects of
our Christian lives where we can be seriously endangered by false
teaching, philosophies, or ideologies.
     Here, very briefly, I would like to mention just two of the
more practical aspects of our times which literally come into our
lives and impoverish us. Not only are we poorer because of them,
but God's work is hindered from being carried out as well as it
might be.

The first is idleness. 

     We live in a culture given to greater leisure. The shorter
work week means more leisure time. Indolence is an outgrowth of
this. The discipline of diligent duty is disappearing.
     Consequently the character of our people becomes
increasingly casual, careless, and irresponsible.
     For young people especially, excess ease is debilitating.
The sense of challenge and achievement is lacking. They are
impoverished because there is so little attained to satisfy them
with a sense of worthwhile accomplishment. Too often the young
toss away their days while the older loaf away their lives. As
God's people we should give ourselves completely, gladly, and
wholeheartedly to His enterprises upon the earth. There is much
to achieve!

Then there is affluence and luxury. 

     The world is so much with us. We have been conditioned by
our culture to believe that an individual's worth is measured by
his material assets. Yet Christ declared, "A man's life does not
consist of the abundance of things he owns" (Luke 12:15).
     Still, there is a tendency for us to allow our attention to
be centered on the acquisition of material wealth, or even
academic attainments, or personal power and prestige in one form
or another.
     This is not to say that as Christians we are not entitled to
pursue excellence in any of the fields into which God may guide
us. We should strive to excel for His sake, not our personal
pride. But at no time should these become a prior claim upon our
thought or time or strength. If we allow this to happen we will
soon discover that in truth we are being robbed of the best. We
are being deprived of His presence, power, and peace in our
lives. We will have settled for second best. We will be poorer
than we know. This will constrict our effectiveness for Christ
and will cramp our personal relationship to Him.
     The Spirit of God speaking to the church of Laodicea in
Revelation 3:16-20 put it this way:

"So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I
will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich,
and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest
not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind,
and naked: I counsel thee to, buy of me gold tried in the fire,
that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment, that thou mayest be
clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and
anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see. As many
as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and
repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear
my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup
with him, and he with me."

     What the Good Shepherd desires above all else is that He
might have the wondrous delight of entering fully into my life,
there to share it with me. And I in turn can enter wholeheartedly
into His great life, there to experience the remarkable
fulfillment which He intended for me as His person. All of this
is the purpose of His love for me.

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


To be continued


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