Feed My Sheep 6: Beware of False Guides

Finally, we state once again the scripture, “Jesus saith unto him, ‘Feed my sheep.’ ” (John 21:17).

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

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

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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.

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.

Feed My Sheep 3: Meeting the Real Need

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

The service or ministry Jesus tells Peter to perform was to feed his people.  Notice the analogy, sheep, pastures and shepherd. Christ cares for our needs. Jesus Christ came to serve and give (Mk. 10:45). He went about doing good and met the needs of people, especially those of the household of faith (Acts 10:38; Gal 6:10).

Being a shepherd is a ancient and noble calling. The Bible speaks of the first shepherd Abel who guarded the sheep (Gen. 4:2). He was listed with the prophets (Mt 23: 29-39; Luke 11: 47-51) and receives honorable mention in the “hall of faith” (Heb. 11:4). Moses appointed Joshua so, “that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.” (see Num. 27:16-18). The second king of Israel David (2 Sam 7:8) was a shepherd. He protected his sheep from predators (1 Sam 17:34-37) and he saw the people of God as the flock of the Lord (2 Sam 24:17).

Notice how Christ was concerned about the sheep being fed. 

He did not say, “lead my sheep.”  Peter and others like him were to follow Christ’s leadership as only sheep themselves (1 Peter 2:21) and the sheep should follow them as they follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). The Apostle Peter reiterates, “Neither as being lords over [God’s] heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” (1 Pet. 5:3). The did not need to boss the sheep around, just lead by example. Christ is the only Lord.

He did not say, “breed my sheep.”  He was not concerned about the “flock” growth, how many “purpose driven sheep” as the measure of success. Christ will build his church (Matt 16:18). The Lord knows those that belong to him (2 Tim. 2:19) and Christ will add to the church, “daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:47). Being overwrought with the size of a church is not a concern for souls! Imbibing too much of this church growth, “Red Bull” will only end up creating a “Golden calf.”

He did not say, “weed my sheep.”  Some people want to weed everyone out. I have developed a new phrase as of recent and it is, “theological neurotics.”  For them there is always “sin in the camp” and “Achan’s” to throw rocks at and bean them off the top of the head.  They are so busy trying to be pure and to mould people into their religious template that they become sterile.  If you don’t speak their certain Shibboleth you will be weeded out (Judges 12:6). This is spiritual snobbery and arrogance of the worst kind!

Jesus says, “Feed my sheep. I am the Good Shepherd.”  I will take care of my flock.  You just feed them. You serve them and by this show you love me. This is not to oversimplify matters but we are limited to help people physically and we cannot help anyone spiritually. We cannot comprehensively meet their real needs. We can help them in the morning and later that day they are a mess. I know people act crazy. I know they do not listen. I know they get in trouble despite the warnings. That is between them and God. There is no need to have an apoplexy or have a breakdown. Just feed the sheep and pray, Christ will take care of the rest.

The passage we are looking at  must be a reference to both spiritual and physical needs. People need food for the body and the soul.  Sheep get sick, afflicted in mind, persecuted, lonely and in financial distress. True ministry means to serve, to care for someone’s needs.  We serve God by serving his people. But it is not real ministry unless it leads them to Christ as their sole resource. The need above all other needs is Christ. A true Christian and a true undershepherd leads people to Christ in whom all their needs are met.

By all means and with all your power seek to feed the hungry but especially feed the spiritually hungry. You may feed people stomachs, but that is never enough.  Jesus quotes from the book of Deuteronomy and reprimands Satan saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’ ” (Mt. 4:4).   We realize spiritual food is more vital because as Moses told Israel, “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you…” (Deut 8:3). God humbles us so we see our real need and then feeds us his food that brings genuine satisfaction for that need and teaches us that He supports us.

Everytime the Israelites bellies gurgled they wanted to go back to Egypt.  God knew that they had too much Egypt in them. It is amazing that Egypt could be painted in many different ways such as “the evil world system” but here it was simply a place where they could get their needs met without trusting God. It was the place of trusting man and the power of the flesh!  But to remedy this God ordained that they be empty for a time. He blocked and frustrated their path. He showed them that the stinking fleshpots of Egypt could never satisfy (Ex 16:3)!  They must get out of a “needs orientation” into a “God orientation.”  He brings a humility of soul, as we endure trials so that over and over again when the trial ends we will see him as our sole resource and provider.  Every time we have a a physical, emotional or financial need and it extends over a period of time, we become miserable!  Let the emptiness become an opportunity to see God fill that emptiness. Life is a constant series of  becoming empty of self and being filled with God.

I do not have time to go into the dynamics of Satan’s temptations and Christ’s resistance to them. It is obvious that Christ was not about to eat anything Satan told him to eat, especially rocks. Satan is a salesman who sells shortcuts, even religious ones. He promises a time-saving direct route that does not require faith, patience and character.  It is as if Satan says, “The need of the world is so great someone who can turn stones into bread can surely help the world.  Meet their needs and they will flock to you.” Christ knows this is not true (John 6:26-27) and he realizes there is no satisfaction in earthly things! He says, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” (John 4:34). Christ’s sheep will be fed with his bread, it is the only bread that can sustain them. He is that bread, Christ is our meat and drink (John 6:35, 55).

I pray with David, “Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up for ever.” (Ps 28:9).  Lord let our emptiness be filled with you and only you. Take the whole world but give us Jesus because only He satisifes!

© 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 2: Christ our Guardian and Guide

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

Christ’s command to Peter is pastoral.  It is given as a true shepherd. The word “pastor” and shepherd” are words that are used interchangeably and rightfully so.  It describes the role of a man who is responsible for the care and feeding of sheep.  God declares that He takes sole responsibility for his sheep and despite the errors of men and churches- He tends them well. “The Prince of Pastors” (1 Peter 5:4DR) gives orders to Peter and all under-shepherds to care for his flock. We will speak of this in the next article.  But for now we must see that Christ  is concerned for the sheep. We fail to appreciate the pastoral role of Christ as the great Pastor of the sheep (Heb. 13:20). 

Christ is the shepherd that cares (1 Pet. 5:7) for us and  He says, “I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign LORD.” (Isa. 34:15NIV).  You are his, always and he will always care for you. Rev. Barnes says, “Friends on earth, the great, the frivilous, the noble, the rich, may forget you; God never will. Remember that you will never be entirely neglected. Father, mother, neighbor, friend, those whom you have loved, and those to whom you have done good, may neglect you, but God never will. You may become poor, and they may pass by you; you may lose your office, and flatterers may no longer throng your path; your beauty may fade, and your admirers may leave you; you may grow old, and be infirm, and appear to be useless in the world, and no one may seem to care for you; but it is not thus with the God whom you serve. When he loves, he always loves.” There is none like our shepherd Jesus.

Christ is the Good Pastor-Shepherd (John 10:11).   The literal rendering is,  “I am the shepherd, the good one.”  I like that. In the Latin Vulgate it reads, “Ego sum pastor bonus bonus pastor…”  Bonus is Latin for good and the Latin Vulgate emphasizes that he is good twice.  He is the very Good Shepherd, his actions are good, he went about doing good and laying down his life for his sheep was good. There are many shepherds but he is the GOOD one!  The word for good here is kalos, which in ancient writings refered to outward beauty. Thus Christ’s beauty is his character and nature as our Shepherd.  Of Christ,  the Holy Spirit says, “thou art fairer than the children of men.” (Psalm 45:2). Who is like this Good Shepherd?   His beauty is seen in his generosity, as he gives a gift that words cannot describe (1 Cor 9:15) and he gives his life.  He is the apex of all that is loveable and admirable and his sheep find they are irresistibly drawn to him (John 10: 26-27).

Jesus Christ takes up his rightful role in our lives and our Guide and Guardian. God claims sole ownership and care for his flock, his church.  All others who are called pastors are inferior to him. Yes, men who are pastors are gifts from the Son of God to his church (Eph 4:8) but Christ is the Chief Shepherd and the Guardian of the souls of his people (1 Pet. 2:25; 5:4). When expecting a Lion John saw a bleeding Lamb (Rev. 5:6) and when expecting a shepherd we see a leading Lamb. Even in eternity Jesus Christ is, “the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd.” (Rev. 7:17ESV). He is a Strong yet gentle Savior!  But here is another proof that we are not only rescued in his grace but kept by his grace. Grace, love, mercy are not just some force, or element or virtue separate from God. It is Christ himself who in his grace, mercy and love  guards and protects the souls of his flock.

Christ  is always concerned with the welfare of his own people and desires to nourish their souls.   That is the distinguishing mark of the Lord our Shepherd. The Bible says that, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” (Isa 40:11).  Notice from that passage that Christ feeds, carries and leads his people as his vulnerable flock, his young lambs. He alone is the source of their nourishment and guidance. It says that he guides them with the wisdom of a shepherd, bearing them with his strong protective arm and gently bringing them close to his chest. Paul says, that  “our life is hid with Christ in God.” (Col. 4:3).

He is the Lord is our Shepherd (Psa. 23:1). How often have we read Psalm 23 and failed to see Christ in whom all our needs are met.  Christ is all  (Col. 3:11), therefore all we need.  God has ordained this so that as he says, “thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:14).   There is none, we should not want because of him, we should want no other because of him.  He makes us to rest and guides us into peace.  He is the one who changes the direction of our lives into a paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even if the path leads through the valley of death’s shadow-not only the possibility but the eventuality of death, we do not need to fear because Christ bears us in his powerful hands all the way to the path of glory and heaven! Those that hate us even our enemies shall see the wonderful provision of the Lord for us, the oil of his presence in us. There will be such joy that our lives will overflow with goodness and mercy and we prepare in this life to spend eternity with our Shepherd.

© 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care Ministries

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Feed My Sheep 1: The Love of God For His People

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

You cannot appreciate this passage until you see it in the light of the dereliction and wreckage of the eleven remaining members of the apostolic “flock” before, during and after the passion of Christ.

They were prayer-less and clueless.

By the time Christ the Great Shepherd is hanging on the cross, the sheep, his disciples were spiritually bankrupt, afraid and lost. Christ the good shepherd laid down his life for his scattered sheep and would gather them in his awesome redemption.

They were as sheep going astray (1 Pet. 2:25). Isaiah prophesied not only of his original apostles but, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6a). The idea of sheep going astray sounds so innocuous and cute, but the brutal truth is that because of our wandering far from God, “the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isa. 53:6b). While sheep can represent the people of God, sheep also represent the repulsion we have for God and his ways and that the desire to sin can be so strong that even after one is a child of God we can wander in the wrong direction and must be brought home time and again.

Yet the Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep (Heb. 13:20), says to his people, “I have loved you, saith the LORD.” (Mal. 1:2).  Why? Why does he love the sheep? He explains, “God wasn’t attracted to you and didn’t choose you because you were big and important—the fact is, there was almost nothing to you. He did it out of sheer love…” (Deut. 7:7-8Message).

Christ loves his people. It is an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3). It is a love from eternity and a love that lasts for an eternity.  This is because God’s love is a Trinitarian love, a love that preexisted veiled in such mystery in the Godhead- that theologian’s pen runs out of ink, the best worshippers run out of words, and angels run out of tears when you attempt to describe it. Jesus says, “For thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24).  Jesus said, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.” (John 15:9). We share in a love that is as eternal as God himself, a quality of love that is the same love the Eternal Father has for the Eternal Son and there is no end to it. “He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love! Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” (Eph 1:4-5). Ceaseless praise for eternity could not fathom such love!

It is an undying love, yet a love that died for us. The Bible says he loved them to the end (John 13:1) and he proved that love by his death on the cross (Rom 5:8).  It is a complete love and his relationship with his disciples was one characterized as love, “love one another; as I have loved you.” (John 13:34).  Imagine a life described as Divine Love. Imagine being around Christ in whom is God’s love expressed! Jesus says again, “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” (John 16:27). His people are defenseless to his love. They melt and are wooed by it!

It is an otherworldly love. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” (1 John 3:1). The phrase “manner of love” (potapēn agapēn) refers to country or race. So it can be asked, “What foreign kind of love is this” (Wuest).  It cannot be found in any nation, tongue, kindred, or tribe. It is heavens love! It is a foreign kind of love, as foreign as heaven shores are to earth’s oceans. Fpor us to understand this love it had to be translated for us to understand and there only language or anaology that could capture it was in the cross of Jesus. It was God’s love interpreted to us!  If you would understand God’s foreign love, you must understand the alien truth of justification by faith in Jesus Christ and his saving work on the cross.

“Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see, the very dying form of One who suffered there for me! And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess: the wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.”

God calls his true shepherds to focus on the real covenant love of God found in their Shepherd Christ that has predestined a people, His sheep to come home.  It is that wonderful, yet terrible cross that keeps our hearts warmed with gratitude and affection! How the rod and staff of the cross should comfort and lead God’s people!  Jude says to, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (Jude 1:21).  How wonderful is his love, may it have over our being absolute sway! May we be encouraged to constantly look for his mercy and saty in the sphere of  his love by those who claim to feed the sheep of God!  The people of God in their hearts and their pastors from their pulpits should, “set it always before them, to keep it constantly in view, to exercise faith on it, firmly believing their interest in it; as also to meditate on it, give themselves up wholly to the contemplation of it, and employ their thoughts constantly about it, which is the foundation of all grace here, and glory hereafter…” (Gill).

(c) 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care Ministries

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