Feed My Sheep 5: For the Love of Christ

 “Lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” (John 21:16).

Christ’s own people need to be fed by men he has called to pastor his flock. It still amazes me at how Jesus told them simply to feed his sheep.  I thought, “Is that all?” With the whole “Christians are getting spiritually fat and need to work it off” messages I have heard that just does not seem right.

But we have learned that Christ is the spiritual food and drink of His flock (John 6:35). Sheep need guidance into fertile and nutritious pastures (Psa. 23:5; Ezek 34:14). God’s people must be constantly directed and escorted to Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd by his teaching in the scriptures and Holy Spirit working in and through his shepherds (John 15:26).

Later in his writings, Peter echos the command of Christ to the “under-shepherds” of his day, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly, not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being examples to the flock.” (1 Pet. 5:2-3). This is one of the most direct biblical commentary’s we have on Christ’s command.  Peter tells these elders that it is a blessing not a burden to feed God’s people. There was a reason he needed to say that. To “feed the sheep” is the shepherds loving response to Christ. They should not feel sluggish but ready and eager to serve. The ministry of the shepherd is to lead by example and not by dictatorship. They are to excel at serving. They are not busy telling people what to do, but showing them how to do it.

“I know” you think, “it sounds good on paper but in reality pastoring people is difficult.” There is no doubt about it, but we must do it for love of Christ despite what people do.

As pastors we are not to do things from constraint. The word for constraint here in Greek describes a person who feels burdened by sickness or looking for relief from trouble. Understandably, pastors become drained and even “sick of” people and ministry with all its daily challenges.  It is easy to forget whom we serve when we feel unappreciated. We are reminded, “And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men, knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ.” (Col. 3:23-24). So if we take the Apostle Paul’s words and use them in light of what Peter is teaching he is telling us to feed the flock heartily, literally out of your very soul with the certainty you serve the Lord Jesus Christ not human beings.

Gill says, feeding the flock, “should be done with all a man’s heart and soul, and should spring from pure love to Christ; for no man is fit to feed Christ’s lambs and sheep but those who sincerely love him.”

When pastors become weary they can make the mistake of looking for their reward elsewhere. They look for recognition, power and even wealth. This was the great fault of the Pharisees (Matt. 6:1-6; Matt. 23; Luke 16:14). Christ calls its hypocrisy. It is amazing instead of feeding the sheep they will begin to feed off the sheep which is forbidden by scripture (Ezek 34:10). There is a fair warning here from Christ and he does not coddle us when he says, “they have their reward”  over and over again. (Mt 6: 2, 5. 16). That’s what they want, that’s all they will get and yelling, “Lord, Lord” in eternity will not save them from God’s payback for their sin.I

I realize we have all been in a job we hated at one time and we begin to feel unappreciated and underpaid. The ministry needless to say is the toughest job in the world. Yet Peter exposes the pitfalls of doing ministry for money or recognition. The minister of the gospel and those who labor for the church show Christ they love him by feeding and tending to, “his people and the sheep of his pasture.” (Ps. 110:3).

A.W. Pink comments, “It is only those who truly love Christ that are fitted to minister to His flock! The work is so laborious, the appreciation is often so small, the response so discouraging, the criticisms so harsh, the attacks of Satan so fierce, that only the “love of Christ”—His for us and ours for Him—can “constrain” to such work.” Is this not a reminder why and for Whom we do what we do. We serve others for Christ. We do it because we love him.

That clears it up.

You have no business in ministry if you do not love Christ. Some presume they love Christ because they are in ministry, but that means nothing. If a pastor stays in this lethargic, lazy condition the quality of ministry, or spiritual nurture he administers will be not only be soured but it will be as though the people are served a low grade, stale, spiritual food. They will be made to eat something other than the bread of life! Christ will contend with you on this. Christ cries out, “Give them to me!” or even better “Come unto me!” (Mt. 11:28).

The energy with which the shepherd works is directly connected to their love for Christ and the awareness that Christ is among the flock that is among us (Col. 1:27-29). I realize the most sincere pastor becomes weary, and they may make the mistake of looking to other things for their reward or other ways of making things happen in the place where they pastor, so they feel successful in their endeavors. This is a terrible mistake.  Christ never promised pastors they would have great success or large congregations. Some do, most don’t. Christ desires their faithfulness not their fame (1 Cor. 4:1-2).

They forget that their positions may be that of a shepherd but they are only sheep themselves and as such need to look as much and even more to Christ.

After the miracle of the great catch in John 21 Jesus calls to them, “Come and dine.” (Jn. 21:12). From this we draw the analogy that the fisherman catch the fish and Jesus feeds the fisherman with his own stash of fish.  Christ made them fish for breakfast that had nothing to do with the fish they caught. It is like Jesus is saying, “I still have meat that you know nothing about.” (John 4:32). I gave you the fish out there and I cook the fish here. I don’t need your fish I have my own. I will feed you, you will not need to feed me. This reminds me when God says, “If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for all the world is mine and everything in it.” (Psa. 50:2).  It seems Christ is demonstrating that our ministry is not about performing and appeasing men but it is all about how much you love Jesus. Jesus insists that there is nothing that you accomplish that I have not given your the power to produce. Thus shepherds feed the sheep and Christ feeds the shepherds.

Christ had no problem showing his first shepherds affection (John 13;1). Christ will give you dear pastor, all the love, attention and joy you need if you will come and dine with him. There is coming a time where every good and faithful servant will receive praise from God. (1 Cor. 4:5). Faithful shepherds see the opportunity to help others as though they were helping, feeding, clothing and visiting Christ himself (Mt. 25:31-46). We ought to see his face in the faces of our congregations. It should be our prayer that we ask God for the strength we need to serve for the sake of Christ and our love for him.

© 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care. Updated 2017

All material may be reproduced and distributed for edification, just leave a note that it was our article, please.

Advertisements

Upset at God’s Generosity

The Bible is very clear that God’s election, his choice, his predeterimination is based on his grace alone, not works or anything we do.  “In accordance with this decision he graciously softens the hearts, however hard, of his chosen ones and inclines them to believe, but by his just judgment he leaves in their wickedness and hardness of heart those who have not been chosen.” (Canons of Dordt, Art. 6) 

Are we angry because God saves whom he wants to save? Do we think him unjust? Or have we embraced the modern version of a “knock off” deity that is fair and universally inclusive?

“What shall we …say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” (Rom 9:14-18).

Christ asks, “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ ” (Mt 20:15). God does not owe and is not indebted to show anyone mercy, love and grace. They are his gift.

On the other hand, God is obligated to act in justice against sin. He is holy and he hates sin (Rom 1:18). People love darkness rather than light, they hate the light, neither come to the light because their actions would be exposed (John 3:18-21).

People act in accordance with what they love most, do they not? If they love sin, they are the slave to sin. They cannot serve two masters- they will love the one or hate the other.

 Therefore, the sad case of men and women is not that they are unable to come but also that they are unwilling to come. God can only remedy this by coming to them in his Sovereign Grace.

 

© 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care

 

All material may be reproduced and distributed for edification, just leave a note that it was our article, please.

 

Feed My Sheep 4: Feed Them With Jesus

“Jesus saith unto him, ‘Feed my sheep.’ “ (John 21:17)

God’s people are a hungry people.

Jesus knew this and tells Peter to feed that hunger.  They have a spiritual appetite. What was the food of which Jesus Christ spoke?  It is obvious from John chapter six that Jesus Christ calls himself  that food, spiritual bread, soul food that satisfies that hunger. (John 6:35).

Feed them with Jesus you ask?

Now I am not promulgating the clap-trap of cheap, second-rate theology that says, “We don’t need doctrine, we need Jesus.”  and you end up not having either.  Pure doctrine is directly related to wholesome, nourishing teaching (1 Tim. 6:3).

When Jesus spoke in John chapter six he just miraculously fed multitudes of people.  He also spoke of his heavenly Father giving Moses and the people of Israel manna.  By this he pointed out that food that spoils cannot give eternal life.  By this he demonstrates that He  is spiritual food. 

This food has fallen from heaven like manna. he is the Word of God made flesh (John 1;1, 14). Christ has come down from heaven to be our life (Col. 4:4).  This life is generated and sustained through his words. “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.” (John 6:63). He makes it clear: it is the Word that he speaks that gives us eternal life.

This is not limited making correct scriptural statements, for as irreplaceable as the verities of Christian doctrine are they must be received and then delivered as, “words which the Holy Ghost teacheth.” (1 Cor 2:13)  yet, we can be informed and unfed. Yes, we need to be catechized or trained in the truths of scripture, but are people being fed with Christ the living manna or religiously programmed. We must ask this question always for their soul can only delight itself in marrow and fatness and praise God with joyful lips as they are fed with Christ (see Psa. 63:5). 

Paul says he received from the word of the Lord and then he delivers the Word (1 Cor. 11:23; 15:3).  The Bread of Life,  Jesus Christ feeds us is as we pray and believe the promises of scripture (John 6:28-29).  If all you want is information you have your reward but if you want your soul to be fed ask the Son of God for his help! This bread of life will come from fresh and hot from the oven of prayer and study. If you receive this Bread you will be able to deliver it, for a genuinely mature Christians not only eats but feeds others. Thus Christ through his words is the living bread prepared by God himself  to give to those who are spiritually hungry and through those who have been fed with the Bread.

There are groups who have the right doctrine so it would seem and yet they are like a mother in a supermarket who reads aloud to her child sitting in the basket, the nutrition labels on the packages of food. It is as if she thinks that by reading this facts about the food she is feeding her child. In reality she is so concerned about what is in the food she never feeds their children.  

There is certain teaching that causes spiritual malnutrition.  It is has no life, no joy and no satisfaction. I listen to some people talk and they seem bent on eroding faith and worship and teach the Bible more like it is a science or history lesson than a nutritious home cooked meal. It is the preparation and serving of the wholesome spiritual food that makes the difference and provides the nutrition.

Be careful of those who read the Bible like it is words on a menu in one of their favorite restaurants.  They know how to read religious labels, familiar with catechism and confessions. They tell you it tastes good, in many languages and it sounds so wonderful when they read  but they have never ordered from the menu. They have never by faith believed God for his promises and eaten the fruit of the land. They do not know the wonderful taste of the bread of life or drank the thirst quenching water of life! The Bible describes them as, “clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots.” (Jude 1:12).

Now what we mean is hunger for the things of God after salvation. Hunger is an evidence of spiritual life and the sheep will never  thirst (John 4:14) never hunger (John 6:35) and never perish (John 10:28).  That has been satisfied and fulfilled by Christ the bread and water of life.  The food that satisfies the souls of those who have been saved by Christ is the that which fuels their walk with him in holiness.

We should note that when one is newly born again he “drinks milk” spiritually. A teacher of the Word may discern that the people to whom he ministers are immature so he will give them milk or basic biblical teaching on purpose because that is all they can digest (1 Cor 3:1-3).  Peter says that it is the pure colostrum or “breast milk” of the Word like a mother gives her new-born (1 Peter 2:1-2). God’s people are given this food and they must steadily become  more acquainted with pure teaching, not be sustained by means of a religious feeding tube.  But when people are first saved, the teacher of the scriptures must feed them with the milk of basic biblical truth and be gentle, “like a mother caring for her little children.” (1 Thess. 2:7).

“But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Heb. 5:14). Solid food or “meat” comes for the mature saint of God.  They must taste what they eat in order to be, “nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine.” (1 Tim. 4:6).  Barnes says that this verse speaks of  “the delicate taste of an experienced Christian.” (Barnes). I like that. Christians are particular about their spiritual diet and have a refined and sensitive taste.

The phrase “good and evil” in this verse are not good and evil in general but good and evil teaching.  Good doctrine nourishes the soul.  Bad doctrine  is poisonous to the soul. The mature believer in Jesus weighs what they hear by what they have already tasted by the Scriptures. Those who are mature are careful to only eat what is good doctrinally and spiritually. They only eat what is scriptural and they grow in Christ. “For the ear trieth words, as the mouth tasteth meat.” (Job 34:3).

God’s people take pleasure in the Word as a good meal.  “They shall hear my words; for they are sweet.” (Ps 141: 6).  How sweet is the Word to a son or daughter of God who eats at their masters table a feast of fat things or, “a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” (Isa. 25:6ESV). They hunger and thirst for the sweetness of the living God, for his power and glory and his loving kindness is better than life itself (Ps. 63:1-3)! God promises them of that they will eat to their heart’s content (Mt. 5:6). There is spiritual food for God’s people, and his nourishing words feed their hearts as a sign of his blessing! We ought to pray for this fresh provision of bread or food from the Lord daily (Matt. 6: 11).

© 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care

All material may be reproduced and distributed for edification, just leave a note that it was our article, please.

Walk with Me in the Dark!

“Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.  Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.”  (James 5:10-11).  God is calling us to endure, to be patient, to believe him when there are no explanations and no resources to save ourselves from our trials.  To trust him in the times of affliction, loneliness and pain.  When our bodies are in weakness, our reputation is attacked and we suffer personal losses-this is when we learn to walk with Him in the dark.  Isaiah asks, “Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.” (Isa. 50: 10). Who will be faithful to God, lean upon God alone for support and walk with him in the dark?

Where are those who will acclimate their “eyes of faith” while in the dark? Remember God’s friend Abraham? He walked with God in the dark.  He had no light at all for many years in his life. He was as good as dead (Heb. 11:12) and his wife was childless (Rom 4:19). In himself  he could produce nothing, only failure at best and futility at worst.  In the midnight of his life,  it was THEN that God spoke, “Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, ‘So shall thy seed be.’ ”  (Gen 15:5).  These are the stars of God’s promises to him. He could not see them unless he was in the dark.  The more he was in the dark, the more he stared at heaven, the more stars he could see!  It was when a horror of darkness (Gen. 15:12) gripped him he saw God’s faithfulness, pledge and oath and covenant in Christ!  Do not despise the eye-opening chastening of the Lord!  The eyes of your hearts will see and understand the promises of the scriptures like,  “a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.” (see Eph 1:17-18; 1 Pet 1:19-20).

Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and learned what it was to, “sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; darkness of the pit.” (Psa. 107: 10). The Bible says, “whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron. Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him.” (Psa. 105: 18-19).  Ah how so many hear God’s promises and acknowledge they are true but do not want the word of the Lord to test and refine them. But when we bottom out in some crater of betrayal or we feel shackled and unable to move in our circumstances-it is then, like Joseph, our eyes become more accustomed, more sensitive to light as we are in the dark. The longer the period of darkness, the more stars one can see. The promises of God that seemed dim and distant now take on a brighter magnitude and become “exceeding great and precious!” (2 Peter 1:4). Do not worry night will not last forever. Richard Sibbes asks, “Is it not an unreasonable speech for a man at midnight to say, “It will never be day?” So it is an unreasonable thing for a man that is in trouble to say, “O Lord, I shall never get free of this; it will always be thus with me.”

In the dark our desire steadily becomes focused on Christ rather than deliverance.  What was blurred becomes plain as day as we embrace Christ our light and our salvation (Psa. 27:1-2).   This is where we must be like Moses for “he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.” (Heb 11: 27).  Moses for so many years was unseen by men, and known only to God. Is this such a grievous thing to you dear child of God, to be unknown, or even despised by men?   The Bible says, “He made darkness his secret place.” (Psa. 18:11). Do you understand this? The dark can be better, and to him that ears to hear, we learn much in the darkness of obscurity as God hides us in the thick cloud of his presence.  God is in the darkness and he obscures the godly whom he has set apart for himself (Psa. 4:3).  What is the temporary pleasures of the sinful world and its short lived fame to the child of God who would rather, “suffer affliction with the people of God…esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches?” (Heb. 11:25-26).   Even if a thick darkness rests upon the entire earth, God’s glorious light will be seen upon us (Isa 60:2). We walk in the light of God’s fellowship always, despite our dark trials (1 John 1:5-7). Scripture testifies, “For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” (Ps 84:11).

Job described his trials in terms like, “he hath set darkness in my paths.” (19:8).  Paraphrasing Job 17 he was just resolved to die. That is real pain my friends, where death is preferable to life even in the heart of an elect child of God.  Everything went wrong, “When I looked for good, then evil came unto me: and when I waited for light, there came darkness.” (30:26).  Darkness! He had lost all hope, his plans were smashed and his heart was broken. His only comfort was a well-built coffin so at least when he dies he could have a family reunion with the children he has lost. The picture of his friendship with God was like the old negatives of photos that when developed in the darkroom the result is the beautiful color pictures. It seemed like all was darkness around him, so many trials, it seemed so negative and yet we see in the end the picture developed into  bright colors of God’s mercy and tenderness the whole time.  Job’s help was only coming from God. He must learn what God had to teach him in the darkroom of the soul. He walked with God in the dark. Now there are times, when for some unexplained reasons we will look for Christ and find he has withdrawn himself and the sense of his presence is not there. You call to him in prayer and he does not seem like he is there (Song 5:6). We begin to seek him in the dark times, not relying on feelings, circumstance, opinion or any resource of the flesh and will we will not rest and until we have found him and restrain him (Song 3:1-5). We must apprehend him who has apprehended us! (Phil. 3:12).

The darkness makes us concentrate on where we are going. Your focus is not on peripheral things, it is paying attention on making progress and maturing spiritually and not tripping in weakness. God has ordained both light and darkness (Gen 1:4). The darkness and light are alike to him (Ps 139:12).  He employs both in his plans. In the dark we must rely on God’s Word which is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps 119:1-5) and not be blinded by the good times when we are tempted to rely less on God.  Seeking Jesus Christ must be our priority. He is the author and editor of our faith, including the affliction of trial and relief of the trial where patience has her perfect work in our hearts so that we are growing spiritually (James 1:4).  In the dark we read God’s promises by the light of the Holy Spirit’s teaching and to ponder his words, set our attention upon it, let his words supply our life, health and resource! The Bible promises, “When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” (Prov 6:22-23). This sorrow you are experiencing carries a special blessing! The gift of tears comes with the promises of the God of every comfort.  Our hearts become strengthened as we wait upon God alone (Ps 27:14).  He who works in darkness and mystery has a given you his heart in a friendship sweeter than anyone can describe. The half has not yet been told! This is when God will bless you. In the dark times, when it does not matter if you see help or hinderance, friend nor foe, angel nor devil! All that matters is when you can see God and his promises and then walk with Him in the dark.

© 2011 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney

All material may be reproduced and distributed for edification, just leave a note that it was our article, please.