A good and true shepherd for the sheep
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A good and true shepherd for the sheep
Let’s read the gospel of John 10:14-15:
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.
I met pastor Joseph in April, and I got a very good impression of my brother Joseph, and I know he is a pastor and henceforth also a shepherd of this church, so today I will speak about what a true shepherd is like. I hope that my brother Joseph and many of you will recognize yourself in at least some of it, and maybe the Lord will open your hearts to some features that belong to a good shepherd that you today might not fully embrace.
As always when we talk about what we should be like as disciples, we start by looking at Christ. A true and good shepherd should be Christ like, or at least moving in that direction.
We are all made new and day by day made more and more into the image of Christ, and that should be the case also for a shepherd. If we are following Christ and read the Word of God and walk with Jesus, we will, by the work in us of the Holy Spirit be made more and more like Christ. And Jesus Christ was, is and always will be a true and good shepherd. So we look at Christ and what He is like.
We read Luke 15:3-7.
3Then Jesus told them this parable:
4“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
Even if this parable is about the lost, I believe that it also tells us about the heart of Jesus for His sheep. We must admit that we all have a sin nature. It means that we have a tendency to choose the wrong way once in a while. And if Jesus wasn’t a good shepherd, He would just let us walk away. Yes, we have a free will and a choice, but Jesus is so full of love for us that He goes after us and tries to bring us back. That is the heart of Jesus, that is the love of Jesus. That is also the heart of a true shepherd.
We read the gospel of John 10:11-13.
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
A good and true shepherd loves the sheep, loves the flock. He will do almost anything for the sheep, even lay down his own life for the sake of the sheep. A true and good shepherd is willing to sacrifice and pay a price for the sheep if it is necessary. He cares for the flock.
A hired man who is not a true shepherd will not take care of the flock. He will run away. But Jesus not only loves His sheep and go after them, He also defends them when the wolf comes. I don’t know if you have wolves in Africa, but I believe that Jesus speaks about the false prophets.
I today see a lot of wolves coming in to hurt the sheep. Jesus Himself and the apostles said so about these days we are living in. There are wolves coming, driven by ambition, a personal agenda for their own reputation, their own name, their own glory, but they have no true love for the sheep, neither for the Lord Jesus. Yes, they speak His Name, but not out of love, but they use the Name of Jesus for their own purposes.
Guard your flock. Minister to your sheep. Love them with your heart. If you love the Lord, you will love the sheep that He has entrusted you. Yes, sometimes we are tired and weary and need to take care of ourselves and get some rest, I am not talking about that, but you need a heart for the sheep, and if you realize that today you don´t have it, then pray for it. It is written: ask, and it shall be given.
We read in Mathew 7:15:
15“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.
I must say my personal opinion. I believe that there have been wolves in the church already since the early church. Man, without Christ living inside of him, is a wolf. The old sin-nature has the heart of a wolf. But today the church of Jesus Christ is flooded by wolves, and the origin is mostly from the USA. They come as sheep, and they use the Name of Christ, but for their own personal gain, and they are mostly looking for your money. Not all preachers from the USA are such, but many are.
Today these preachers are found not only in the Western World, but I believe also here in Africa. It is a great grief and sorrow to my heart, and I can only imagine what a grief it is to the heart of Christ. Jesus is looking for your heart, not your money, and a true preacher of Christ has the same focus.
These wolves are sometimes not so easy to pick out, but in the following verses Jesus gives us some leading. It says in Matthew 7:16-20.
16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
When I was a new believer in Christ I thought that the fruit was good deeds, but I think that is not the fruit that Jesus speaks of. In part yes, their deeds and words will reveal what is in their hearts, because what is in the heart, their mouth will speak. If a preacher speaks a lot about money and big offerings, I start to think: what is in your heart? Yes, money is necessary, but we need Christ more than we need money. Paul had no money, bu the accomplished great things with the Lord at his side and in him.
But I believe that Jesus speaks about the fruit of the Spirit. If a preacher comes to you and you don’t feel the “pleasing aroma of Christ” as the apostle Paul writes in 2 Cor. 2:15, you should be watchful. If you don’t see true love, compassion, humility, peace and inner joy, that is the fruit of the Spirit, you should be watchful.
But Jesus is a true shepherd. He cares about the flock. He lays down His own life for the sheep. That is an amazing love. We as Christians should lay our lives down for Christ, but also for each other. And the shepherd should be a servant of the flock and guard them with his life and serve them and love them with all his heart. That is what Jesus did and also today does.
In John 10:14-15 it reads:
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.
Jesus as a shepherd knows His sheep. In the Scriptures the Word “know” is a synonym for “love”. But to know also means that you must have a true interest in getting to know your sheep. And then you must also be willing and able to listen to them.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a great man of God in Germany during the Second World War, said: the love for my brother starts with me listening to him. The love for God starts with me listening to His Word. If we love God we will listen to His Word, and with delight, love and patience. If we love our brother, we will listen to him and give him our attention.
Jesus also says that He will bring, lead and gather His sheep and they will listen to His voice. As Christians we should listen to the voice of Christ, and especially if you are a shepherd.
A true shepherd cares for the flock, and will do what is necessarty for the good of the flock. He will tell the sheep what they NEED to hear, which is not always the same thing as what they WANT or LIKE to hear. Sometimes we need to tell them also the truths which are a little bit hard to tell.
Jesus was like that as a shepherd. He was not only telling positive words, but also words of correction, caution and warning. If you love the sheep and you see a wolf or some other kind of spiritual danger approaching the flock, and you just stand there, quiet, and watch the wolf tear the flock into pieces, you are not a good and true shepherd. Then you have no or little true love for the flock.
In The Old Testament it is said that if a watchman sees a danger approaching and does not warn the people, the responsibility for their blood will be placed upon the watchman. But if he is faithful and gives warning, and they don´t listen, he is free from guilt.
Sometimes we must speak the truths which are not so easy to speak, but a good and true shepherd will, out of love for the sheep and the Lord, tell them what they need to hear. Carter Conlon, a great man of God, today living in New York but born and raised in Canada, left his job and career as a police officer a few years after his conversion, and ministered a small church in Canada where there quite soon was a revival.
At the farm that he and his wife had, they had about 60 sheep. Coming home after work Carter would often take some time and just sit down with the sheep. He would sort of listen: how is the flock doing? He would see, sense and hear what was going on in the flock. That is a sign of great love for the flock and a sense of duty and responsibility. That is a sign of a true shepherd, because he sets apart time to get to hear and sense what is how they are really doing, and that can´t be done without time being set apart and without true love and care for the flock.
One night he was sitting in the barn with a big knife, holding a sheep in his lap. His wife showed up and asked him what he was doing? He said: I am a shepherd. This sheep has a parasite in its nose, and it will penetrate through to the brain, and it will then give the sheep such a pain in the brain that it will go almost crazy. It will start to throw its head into the fence to try to get rid of it, and it will finally kill itself because the pain is so strong.
But I am a true shepherd, and not a hired one, so I will take this knife, cut the sheep in its nose and cut out the parasite. It will hurt a bit, and the sheep will not like it, but it will save its life, so I will do it.
That´s the thinking of a true shepherd. Jesus was full of grace and truth, and as humans we have a tendency to love grace, but to listen to the truth and even loving it is harder, because truth often corrects us, and few of us love correction. If you love the truth, you will not only receive correction, you will actually love it, because you understand that it is good and necessary for your growth and to win salvation and eternal life.
But the one who speaks the truth is often not so very popular. Carter Conlon also once said: it is wonderful to be in a place where truth is welcome and truth is loved. Those words are true. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth, and the truth shall set us free. Where Jesus Christ, the truth in Him and also the truth about ourselves is loved and welcome, there will be an atmosphere of liberty and joy. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.
Carter used this little story about the parasite as introduction to a sermon on the so-called ”hyper-grace-preaching”. He said that some of you might not like what I am about to tell you and might even want to leave this church, but let us part as gentlemen and I hope to see you one day in Heaven. But what I am about to tell you today on hyper-grace is to remove the parasite that one day might kill you.
That is the attitude and heart of a true shepherd. We tell the sheep what they need to hear.
In psalms 145:8-9 it says:
8The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and rich in love.
9The Lord is good to all;
He has compassion on all he has made.
As followers of Christ we should be slow to anger, and rich in love. We should be patient with one another. Yes, sometimes we need to correct each other, but we should do it with love and patience, just as Jesus does.
A shepherd should also be in this book. He should know the Word of God, love it and read it often. He should be steady in his walk with Christ. He should not be like a hen, running back and forth all the time, but steady in his course. He should have his eyes fixed on Jesus. He should be tender and gentle with the sheep. He should be a wise leader. He should be willing to give confidence to others in performing their service for the Lord, and not always wanting to stand in the center of attention.
He should be free from personal ambition and greed for money. He should have the heart of a servant for the Lord and the sheep. He should be feeding the lambs with the Word of God. He should lead his brothers in Christ and to Christ, and feed them with Christ. He should strive and work to see people grow in Christ and to see the glory and presence of Christ grow in the church and in the hearts of the people. He should work to make the presence of Christ increase in the church and the brothers. He should want to feel “the aroma of Christ” grow in his sheep. To be a shepherd is a responsibility but also a great grace shown by the Lord for that person. It is a privilege, an honor and a duty.
As a conclusion we read John 21:15-17:
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?”He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.”19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
The most important qualification for a true shepherd is that he loves the Lord. That he has a love for Christ and for the Word of God. That he is willing to follow Jesus no matter what. That he has decided to love Jesus no matter what comes. That is not always easy, but a true disciple and shepherd will do so. And Jesus is worthy to be loved. He is worthy to be praised and glorified, for He is God, and He is good and His mercy endures forever.
The second most important thing is that he has a love and a strong care for the sheep. That he truly wants to lead them in Christ and wants to see them grow in grace and truth. That he doesn’t just rug his shoulders if a sheep is leaving the flock, but that he goes after it and tries to bring it back.
Remember Abraham and Lot. Lot was in trouble, when the kings had taken him and his family capture. Abraham could have said: it´s your problem! It was your choice to live there and go there. But that was not the heart of Abraham, and is not the heart of a true shepherd. He does like Abraham: my brother is in trouble, I go after him.
I will tell you a small story. I had a sister in the Lord as a close and beloved friend on Facebook. I have still to this day never met her, but I had a close relationship, friendship, with her. At this time there was a self-proclaimed prophet very active on Facebook in Sweden. He had a word from the Lord almost every day, and in the beginning I listened to him.
But after some time I started to sense that something was wrong, and one day I had a message on Messenger on Facebook from him. He said that he had received a word from the Lord to me, and it wa sjudgement, judgement and more judgement. Just the previous weeks I had received several prophetic words from the Lord from other brothers and sisters in the Lord, and the common theme was encouragement: you are on the right path!
I felt really bad from his words but I want to be a lover and seeker of the truth so I contacted some brothers and sent them his words and asked: is this really from the Lord? They all said: no! Just disregard it!
I watched how many people listened to him beacuse of his words: so sayeth The Lord, and I felt obliged to write a warning for this prophet to this sister in the Lord, because she really admired him and listened to him. She was upset, almost angry, warned me not to speak against a man anointed by God, and she said it was almost to blaspheme the Holy Spirit. She said good-bye to me and blocked me on her Facebook. I was sad, but in my heart and somewhat shaken, but I felt: I am not speaking against the Holy Spirit, I am out of love warning for something very dangerous!
Six months later she contacted me. She was hit to the ground. She had lost all her money and her life was in ruins. She had been deceived deeper and deeper and started to hear all kinds of spiritual voices until she one day realized that she was lead astray, and the Lord had spoken to her and said: he is not listening to the voice of the Lord. Don´t ever again listen to those voices, becuase it is NOT the Lord speaking.
She was devastated, brokenhearted, and in tears she said: forgive me, Konrad. I understand that you were right and that you tried to warn me out of love and care for me, but I didn´t listen. Can you forgive me? And of course I could and did. I was so happy to have her back with the Lord.
Yes, sometimes people walk away from Christ back into the world or into deception that leads away from Christ and there is nothing we can do about it, but a true shepherd tries to reach them, both in prayers and in words. And if they after some time turn back to Christ and the church, he opens up his arms and says “welcome back”. That is the mark of a true shepherd. That is the mark of a spiritual leader. That’s the mark of a person whose heart has been transformed into the likeness of Christ.
A true shepherd loves the sheep. Cares for them. Shares both their sufferings and their joy. Gives them spiritual food and protect them from wolves. And a true shepherd has a deep, inner love for Jesus and the Word of God. Amen.