In the Gospel of John, there are several chapters devoted to stories that Jesus told. In each encounter, Jesus declared something different about Himself. For instance, He said, I am the bread of life. And He also said, I am the true vine.
Well, today on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll continues a study that started on the previous program. In John Chapter 10, Jesus used another farming metaphor. This time, it was a reference to His role as the Good Shepherd.
Let's pick up right where we left off in a message that Chuck titled, The Shepherd of the Sheep. Three times in the New Testament, we have a special focus on the Shepherd. And our Lord Jesus calls Himself that. In John Chapter 10, to begin with, He calls Himself here, the Good Shepherd. Truly, truly, I say to you, says Jesus, He who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep but climbs up some other way is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep. To him, the doorkeeper opens and the sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. The first thing I notice about the Good Shepherd is that he knows his sheep. Notice it says in this verse that he calls the sheep by name. Verse four tells us that when he puts forth all his own, he goes before them and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.
Isn't that an interesting relationship? First Peter Chapter 5, you see that he is also the great shepherd who will reward us or the chief shepherd who will reward us. Let me read these first four verses of Chapter 5. Therefore I exhort the elders among you as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed. Shepherd the flock of God among you, not under compulsion but voluntarily according to the will of God and not for sordid gain.
Here I prefer the old King James not for filthy lucre but with eagerness. Nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the chief shepherd, note that, when the chief shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. I know the pastoral epistles have been written to guide ministers of the gospel into specific areas of service but I don't know of a more meaningful section of scripture for the minister, the Bible teacher, the shepherd for today than this one.
I commend it to you for your memory that you log it in your mind especially if you are working with a group of people or if you have a small Bible study that you meet with and you are often the one in leadership or you are pastoring a flock. This is a wonderful counsel for shepherds. While focusing on the shepherd of the sheep, let's take a look at the under shepherds who work with God's flocks all around the world.
You may be a minister, you may be an elder addressed in verse 1, you may be a discipler of a small group, a Christian leader who oversees some flock, whatever and whoever, listen to this fine counsel. First of all, the flock is to be shepherded, it is not to be driven. You don't drive sheep, you drive cattle. To get a race horse to do his best, you strike him with a switch but you don't strike a sheep, you shepherd sheep.
In our hurried and impatient age, this is a good word for young ministers of the gospel. We want so much for the flock to get in line, to do well, to reach full potential, to be all that they can be and our great tendency is to rely on a strong voice of exhortation or even a caustic word that strikes the sheep but it's better to shepherd. And if I read this correctly, the sheep who are to be shepherded are to be led. You don't follow the sheep. Many an intimidated leader or pastor becomes a follower of the flock.
That's not wise either. You shepherd them. I believe so firmly in shepherding that I think it is a gift of pastor teacher. I think we could take you to Ephesians 4 and show you that gift is at work in those who lead the flock of God. It is so important that if you haven't the gift, you ought not minister the gospel in the sense of pastoring the flock.
There are some splendid teachers, excellent minds, bright minds. There are some strong minded leaders who know how to lead the path and to set a new course but not necessarily should they be shepherds of sheep. Every once in a while you will find those gifts wrapped inside the body of a shepherd. But sometime it's easy to think that because someone is adept in the handling of the scriptures they are qualified to lead the flock.
No, not necessarily. What must be is the gift of shepherding. Now let me tell you before we read any further, there are several perils that shepherds must live with. The peril of sloth, the peril of silver, and the peril of self.
Just to help you remember them, we'll give them all the same first letter. I could toss in, though it isn't in the context, the peril of sex. The four great perils that shepherds must learn how to handle would be sloth and silver and self and sex. When a man falls in ministry, falls in one of those four areas, you can trace them back ultimately to one of the four. He becomes lazy.
He's caught up in greed. Pride is a third one himself and fourth would be lust. It seems as though the enemy's sharpest darts for the minister, for the shepherd, would be in those four areas. We're told to shepherd the flock correctly. In fact he spells out three warnings, if you remember in my reading.
Each event is introduced with the word not. Verse two, not under compulsion but voluntarily. True shepherds don't have to be forced into service. True shepherds forget what time it is. True shepherds don't work by the clock. If you're a clock watcher, you're not a good shepherd. True shepherds always, it seems, work overtime.
They are always on call in the real sense of the word. People have a way of not dying at the right time. They don't die between eight and five. People have a way of not wanting to get married during the day on Tuesday or Wednesday.
It seems like they always want the weekends and almost always they want it at night. The true shepherd doesn't notice the time of day. He works voluntarily, not under compulsion. If you haven't that ability, don't go in the ministry.
Stay far away from it because you will be irked and irritated, called on in off hours. Notice it says, but voluntarily according to the will of God. Second, not for sordid gain, but with eagerness. The NIV says not greedy for money. That puts it rather straight, doesn't it? G.K. Chesterton is the one who once said, to be clever enough to get a great deal of money, one must be stupid enough to want it.
Chesterton always had a way with words. If you want the money, you don't want the ministry. Oh, there's money to be had, a great deal of it if you know how to maneuver your way through it.
You have at your disposal a large number of people who will even let you get away with it. But this writer says, no, not motivated because of the honorarium. Not in it because you get a certain salary. Now the flip side of that is the church that is wise enough to know how to care for the shepherd ought not have to be told what is fair. I have said for years that churches cannot be too generous with their pastors. Some churches feel it's their calling to keep their minister humble.
This is not one of those places. That's why we stick around a long time because we feel there is dignity and love and generosity in this office. But it works both ways. We must guard against being selfish with money. Third is the battle with self, nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge.
I call it abusing one's authority. Shepherds don't do that. On the contrary, they prove to be examples to the flock. I like the way J.B. Phillips paraphrases this, aim not at being little tin gods. This has special meaning to those in ministry. If you love to play politics, if you like to maneuver your way around, you can get to the top of most any denomination. You can pastor if you've got enough skills in the larger churches and if that means a lot to you so that you get there, you can have it. When you get there, you realize it isn't all that great just because it's larger.
But the great tendency in the larger places is to feel like you are something on a stick or as I often say, to start believing your own stuff and to get to the place where no one can tell you honestly the truth about your life. The shepherd I read here is one who doesn't lording it over those allotted to his charge. Never once is the flock called the shepherd's flock. It's the Lord's flock. You are not my people.
You are God's people. I am his sheep along with you. Our staff has to answer to him as under shepherds working with his flock but we are middlemen as it were. He is the chief shepherd.
No pastor is the chief. It's his flock. Therefore, you must answer to him for your life. And it says in verse 4, when the chief shepherd appears and you fulfill those assignments of verses 2 and 3, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. The shepherds who are listening right now, be encouraged.
The rewards will come when you see your Lord. Aren't you glad you got a shepherd? Aren't you glad that he will never forget you?
He will never forget your name. He will always seek you even when you stray. Now let me suggest a couple or three things on trusting the shepherd's leadership. The good shepherd does not lead down wrong paths. So if he is leading you, risk.
Risk following. He knows where he's taking you. Because you're a sheep, you will think you can outguess him or you will think you know a better way. Any way other than his way is wandering and it's going to backfire. There are consequences connected with going our own way. If he is truly leading you as the good shepherd, risk following him. I think I say those words today with some of you right on the verge of some very critical decisions. Invariably when I talk on this subject people will say to me, you know what you didn't realize is that we are right at a crossroads and for us to move in this area is a real risk but we sense God's leading.
Well my answer to you is go. Do exactly as he leads. I love the statement made of Abraham. He went out not knowing where he was going. I don't think it made a bit of sense to Abraham's neighbors when they pulled up stakes and moved toward a land that had foundations whose builder and maker was God.
No sense at all. But you see the shepherd who is good leads us into paths that are right. Risk following. Here's a second thought. The great shepherd cannot ignore a wandering sheep if he's calling return. I don't know where you are as you listen to these thoughts right now but you may be on the run. I was speaking on the book of Philemon a number of years ago really and while speaking from the book which is a little one chapter book in the New Testament I talked about the slave Onesimus who ran from his master Philemon and while running away from Philemon he happens upon the apostle Paul in Rome happens upon him.
Who are we kidding? The Lord put the links together and brought the two and the Lord led the apostle Paul to introduce Onesimus to faith in Christ. And now Onesimus must face the reality of his wrong in running from his master and perhaps even taking some things from him and Paul writes in the little letter whatever he has done put that on my account charge that to me and I send him back to you with hopes that you will forgive him.
But the man has run. You know it is amazing but we got a letter from a fellow I think this is the way the story went he had stolen a car and in the cassette deck of that radio was my sermon on Philemon and the person who had been listening to it had stopped it at a certain place and in the meantime the guy ripped off the car and sailing down the road he punches in the cassette and it begins this strange voice from California you may be running from wrong. You may have recently done something that if you would be found out you would be found in a case of law you're committing a criminal act and on and on and on and it led to the man's salvation in fact he turned himself in he returned the car and and dealt with it. You know the Lord never runs out of ways of getting a hold of us.
You could add to my story dozens of other stories and you know in your life the Lord finds you in just the right place at just the right time and you called it a coincidence but believe me a sovereign shepherd never just happens upon the scene. Isaiah says our ways are continually before him he asks can a mother forget her sucking child that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb yes they may forget but I will never forget you. I have graven you upon the palms of my hands your ways are continually before me. Isn't that great?
Ever seen a little ant crawling across the palm of your hand? Just before you did this you could see every move he was making walking right down your lifeline walking right up the index finger the Lord has engraved us on the palms of his hands we are continually before him if he's calling you back return. Third the chief shepherd will not overlook one deed deserving of reward if he is being glorified relax enjoy his comfort someday your deeds though they will not be rewarded during this earth someday your deeds will be rewarded. It may not be a compliment to be called a sheep but it is a wonderful comfort to say that we have a shepherd isn't it? It seems especially meaningful to those going through tough tough times. Haddon Robinson in a little book on the 23rd psalm which he has called the good shepherd writes several years ago our daughter suddenly became very ill after examining her the doctor rushed her to the hospital he told me that he was not sure whether she would live through the night I remember standing in the dimly lit hospital room and watching helplessly as our little girl struggled for her life. In those moments some great truths of scripture came to my mind first of all I knew that God loved us and that he loved our little child after all he loved us enough to die for us I knew therefore that God desired only our highest good but I love my little girl too and I was helpless to do what my love desired by the way have you ever been in that situation details different but that kind of situation you were helpless to change things and you were forced to trust him listen he continues then I realized that the God who loved us was also the God of power I knew that he had the strength to do what love dictated if God chose that our daughter stay with us he had the power to keep her alive I knew therefore that if God chose to take our daughter from us that this too was a loving choice he had the power to do anything that his heart knew best if she went to be with him in heaven it would be the very best thing for her and us my love was limited but God's love was not in that midnight hour I knew something of the comfort of a shepherd I suppose this message is dedicated to those midnight hours you may have had a few and I as well but there will be many more there will be times when the tears that run down your face will burn your eyes and you simply do not know what the Lord has in mind and you cannot you cannot figure it out may I suggest that at that confusing moment you just call to mind that you have a shepherd who is too good to do what is wrong who is too great to have lost his power and is too much in charge to forget what you're going through he's marking it down psalmist says he even keeps our tears in a bottle that is such a beautiful picture of God's love and compassion you're listening to insight for living our teacher Chuck swindoll titled today's message the shepherd of the sheep it's the eighth message in a 12-part teaching series called his name is wonderful to learn more about this ministry we invite you to visit us online at inside world.org well many months ago chuck planned to share this teaching series with you because it's a beautiful way to prepare for the Christmas celebration who knew that the baby Jesus born in Bethlehem would be given regal names like the alpha and the omega the lamb of God king of kings and lord of lords well in the coming messages chuck will guide us on a biblical tour that celebrates these names that were ascribed to God each one provides another reason to lift him up in praise and worship and now for a quick ministry update here's chuck as the senior pastor of a growing congregation you'll never hear me refer to Stonebriar as my church and likewise as the bible teacher on insight for living for more than 37 years again you'll never hear me call it my ministry insight for living is your ministry oh sure the program carries the sound of my voice and the ministry originates here in the city where I live where we have our international headquarters but truly without loyal friends like you we could not possibly accomplish our mission it's your investment that God uses to reach people with the message of insight for living ministries so when you give your special end of the year donation remember this you're not giving to me you're really not giving to insight for living in a very real sense you're giving a gift to someone you may never meet who needs to hear the liberating truth of the gospel I can assure you that your donation will make a difference large or small your investment is multiplied many times over as the seed of God's word is planted in fertile soil you see we hear from grateful listeners every day who tell amazing stories of life changes when they applied biblical principles to their lives the income we receive in December will determine how many lives we can reach so let me urge you here let's pull together as a family one member at a time indeed insight for living is your ministry thanks so much for doing your part during this strategic month of December here's how you can respond to Chuck Swindoll right now the quickest and most efficient way to give is by going to insight.org slash donate but we're always grateful for those who prefer to give us a call and speak to one of our friendly ministry representatives if you're listening in the United States you can call 800-772-8888 that's 800-772-8888 or once again give a donation online by going to insight.org slash donate I'm Bill Meyer inviting you to join us again tomorrow when Chuck Swindoll continues his study on the names of Jesus right here on insight for living the preceding message the shepherd of the sheep was copyrighted in 1988, 1992, 1998, and 2022 and the sound recording was copyrighted in 2022 by Charles R. 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