Christ has called shepherds not only to feed sheep, but to protect the sheep from the foul works and agents of the Enemy of their souls. It is difficult being a shepherd. Not only do sheep have a propensity for wandering, they are vulnerable to predators. This is why the pastor must both feed and protect the sheep. Paul tearfully predicts that after he leaves, “shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” (Acts 20:29-30).
John Calvin states: “Therefore we must have two voices, one sweet voice, to exhort them that shew themselves easy to be taught…another to cry out against wolves and thieves…” How every preacher needs to pray that God would give him have these two voices! Many people confuse this with negative preaching and being critical. They think we should only focus on the real and genuine and not waste time in exposing the fake and counterfeit. This is unacceptable to Christ and the apostles (John 15:22; Eph 5:11).
It is not enough for a pastor to just preach about Christ and not against the anti-Christ. He cannot preach about grace unless he also condemns legalism. When it comes to truth and lies, “he must love one and hate the other.” Jesus warned, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” (Matt. 7:15). There is no side stepping these things, wolves come in sheeps clothing, left alone they will kill the sheep, a good faithful shepherd has to expose them.
According to Paul the danger will not only be external, “grievous wolves enter in among you” but internal, “of your own selves shall men arise.” It is hard enough to see the wolves, and even more difficult to see disease. Sadly, sheep are most victimized by people who carry the title, “Pastor.” Jeremiah laments, “Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD.” (Jer. 23:1). Christ spoke of the men of his day who only sought self interest and not the welfare of the sheep (Jn. 10:8). These are false guides which “have caused them to go astray” to the point that “they have forgotten their resting place.” (Jer. 50:6). The sheep are devoured and broken (Jer. 50:17) and what was worse was that, “none did search or seek after them.” (Ezekiel 34:6).
The possibility of sheep being ripped off spiritually is always present. In John chapter ten Jesus mentions three enemies of the sheep, thieves, robbers, and hirelings. Christ teaches that religionists are “thieves and robbers” because they have not entered the door of salvation, Jesus Christ , but climb up “some other way.” (Jn. 10:1). They are not only strangers to the sheep but the saving grace of God (John 10:5). The possibility of unregenerate men posing as shepherds is plausible especially in our day and age. This is no conspiracy theory. Christ in his day saw those in leadership that would eventually “die in their sins” despite the fact that they begin their name with a title of Reverend, pastor, bishop, deacon or elder (John 8:21, 24).
The often quoted words of Christ say, “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10). These scriptures do not refer so much to the devil as they do false religion and leaders who destroy the souls of men and women by employing worldly religion and legalism. Christ sees deep in the heart of men in ministry who seek through stealth manipulation or various forms of intimidation and angry domination to embezzle what belongs to the sheep (Mt. 21:13).
Later on in John chapter ten Jesus spoke of “hirelings” or hired men who are “absentee pastors” who abandon the sheep when danger approaches on the pasture. Churches today, like Paul predicted, hire them or “heap to themselves teachers” piling them up, accumulating and surrounding themselves with false teachers who will scratch the itch of their love for lies and entertainment (2 Tim 4:3). They have become the clientele of the devil and deception.
The hirelings or religious salesman are again hard at work and even God’s people are not immune to their marketing. What is sad is that they are selling them what is already theirs. These religious salesman are deceived and being deceived (2 Tim. 3:13). “They pile lie upon lie and utterly refuse to acknowledge me,” says the LORD.” (Jer 9:6NLT). They have bought into what they sell. They are convinced, that they have an interest in the welfare of the sheep: wealth, health and success. They preach this and tell others that as a hireling they should be good example of their doctrine.
In this day where men are captivated by religious salesmanship and management-who will listen to the true Shepherd?! Where are the shepherds who will build on the only sure foundation of Christ (1 Cor. 3:11). He will come on, “the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12) the day of his “episcopacy” which according to Thayer is, “that act by which God looks into and searches out the ways, deeds character of men.” Christ as building inspector will investigate the treatment of the flock, he will examine carefully all the building materials: teaching, preaching and worship practices (1 Cor 14:26). Christ, the purifier and refiner will test and clean all their construction by fire (Mal. 3:3). If it does not meet the grade of scripture and godliness it will be incinerated. The only things that can withstand that fire are the precious metals and jewels of gospel truth (1 Cor 3:12-15).
God calls the pastor, “to maintain the pure doctrine of God, which is the food of life, to the end it be not taken from them, for whom God hath appointed it.” (Calvin). The bread may fall to the little dogs in crumbs, but we should never allow it to be stolen from the mouths of the children for whom it was prepared (Mt. 15:27)! Shepherds should watch over the flock with a godly jealousy (2 Cor 11:3) and if they will guide them to good pasture, Christ will feed them there and give them rest. God promises, “And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD.” (Jer. 23:4).
© 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care
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