KEY TEXT: John 10:11-14
Jesus said "I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, one who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the Good Shepherd and I know My sheep and am known by My own."
Jesus expresses His heart right here. He is faithful and true, willing to do anything and everything necessary to protect, to defend and to save the flock.
It's important, as we consider God's word, to be able to make APPLICATION of the word to our own lives. Fruitfulness in our lives comes from being able to apply God's word. The Apostle James put it like this; "Faith without works is dead, being alone."
In profiling the shepherd we need to see ourselves in the picture of scripture. We need to be able to ask ourselves: What is the scripture trying to teach us? How does this word apply to me? How do I implement the principles from scripture in my life?
The Heart of the Shepherd carries many characteristics that demonstrate personal responsibility for the sheep in his charge.
TO UNDERSTAND THE TRUE HEART OF THE SHEPHERD WE NEED TO EXAMINE THE HEART OF GOD.
The Heart of God is His Character - His disposition, His nature, His personality and we can find a list of some of those characteristics in Exodus 34:6-7
" The Lord passed before Moses and proclaimed, "The Lord God is merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgressions and sin. . . . . . . . ."
Merciful - Kind-hearted, sympathetic, compassionate, lenient, generous
Gracious - Kind, Polite, Tactful, Courteous, Civil, Amiable, Diplomatic, Stable
Longsuffering (Patient) - Selfless, Tolerant, Accommodating, Forgiving
Abounding in Goodness - Henesty, Integrity, Decency, virtuous, Righteous
Abounding in Truth - Certainty, Veracity, Uprightness, Accuracy, Genuineness, Trustworthy
Forgiving Iniquity Transgression and Sin
Just - Impartial, Unbiased, Objective, Fair
If we were to examine the fundamentals of these values, we get a glimpse of God's heart and as such we get a look at the HEART OF THE SHEPHERD. (Remembering that He is the Absolute, the Essence, the Building Blocks of these values)
This is the heart our God has for His creation, and Jesus is the manifestation of this to the world. One of the reasons society is breaking down today is because the Shepherd heart that guided our culture for so long is now being disregarded.
We can only know the heart of the shepherd, by spending time with Him. It is vital we train ourselves to apply God's word to every aspect of our lives by faith. The Bible tells us 'the entrance of God's word brings light' (Revelation and understanding). Psalms 119:105 tells us: 'God's word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path' .
WHO ARE THE SHEPHERDS TODAY?
Our first response to this as a believer is to designate the Pastor or Minister of a local Church as a Shepherd and whilst this is true it does not end there. Ministers are obviously responsible before God for those who attend the local Church, who willingly submit to his authority.
But metaphorically a shepherd is a person who has the responsibility of care for others. So we have many who can be considered shepherds:
Men who are married are shepherds to their wives.
Parents are shepherds to their children
Older children may be shepherds to their younger siblings
Coaches are shepherds to the members of their sports team
Even in the workplace we are shepherds for those in our sphere of influence
As a Shepherd I have responsibility before God for the local Church I pastor. I have responsibility to ensure a safe environment where people can grow spiritually, where we all can develop in the grace and knowledge of God. A place where there is encouragement, support, teaching (training in righteous living), discipline and where necessary correction. A Shepherd has God given authority, but he must also emphathise with people, understanding where they are at and be able to gently lead down a Godly path.
WE ARE ALL SHEEP IN GOD'S PASTURE
I was recently told of a meeting of a 'Ministers Fraternity' in a regional town when the change to the 'definition of marriage' became law in Australia. This meeting of 'Religious Leaders' had come together to discuss the ramifications of the changes.
By th conclusion of the meeting over 80% of the ministers present had compromised the authority and efficacy (worth, value) of the Bible. Concluding that it was more important to stay up to dat with the changing 'worldview' of our modern society rather than uphold what the bible says concerning marriage.
It grieves my heart immensely to realise that many see the Bible only as a moral guide, a collection of suggestions rather than the truth and heart of God's desire for His creation.
It is my privilege to know many Pastors and lay leaders who exhibit the true heart of the Great Shepherd, but sadly there are also thos who do not. In a world that is becoming increasingly hostile toward the things of God, we need to know His heart more than ever before, we need to develop that intimate relationship with the shepherd of our souls, and we need to allow the heart of the Great Shepherd to invade our lives so that we overflow with the grace and love of God.
King David's prayer in Psalm 51:10-12 is as vital as it is challenging for us all.
"Create in me a clean heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me; Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit."
I pray that you will make it your purpose to know the heart of the Great Shepherd of our Souls and allow His grace to flow from you to those around you.