THE GOOD SHEPHERD

Part 2

By Bill Click

Just How Narrow can Narrow Be?

There is much to be said about narrow mindedness. It is so evident by the way people argue over issues, values, politics, religion, and even relationships. A prominent feature of being narrow minded expressed is exaggeration of a viewpoint beyond truthful accuracy in order to not only prove that point, but to render any further argument moot. I always intend to be on guard against becoming a narrow minded person, sticking my head in the sand concerning what other people relate to. I believe that as Christians we have a responsibility to listen to people and respond accordingly. How can we reach a dying world if we are unable to understand others? How can we reach people that cannot even understand us when we speak?

Jesus was known for being outside the box when it came to issues, people and societal issues in His day. He did not side with any faction of Judaism, but He related to each as they were, and one could say that He could have been called eclectically ecumenical, meaning that wherever truth was found He not only sided with it, He was (& is) the source of it (Jn.14:6).

But if we so desire to be narrow minded, it is easily attained. We can arise to the alarm set on our favorite Christian radio station, prepare and eat breakfast in the kitchen watching our favorite Christian teacher from a little television on the counter. Then, we can put on our favorite CD while we prepare to go about the day, get in our car and immediately return to our favorite CD (or to the Christian radio station). As we travel to where we're going ("the uttermost parts of the earth," no doubt), we can pray that God will deliver us from the very place He has sent us– the world. Why? So we can go "full-time into the ministry" (that has been prophesied) and not have to deal with all these pagans anymore.

Upon arrival to our assignment, we may strongly feel the need for intercession because no one talks like us, looks like us, or even smells like us. Therefore, we may either want to text-message, Email, dial-a-prayer or go hide in the company restroom and rebuke the devil for making us feel so threatened. Later during the day, when the boss is not looking, we will likely go online and check out all the Believer's conferences, Christian special events and shop for all the latest, popular spiritual resources. Making our plans, we can then fill even more of our time with not relating to the very place Jesus sent us by praying that Christian grocery stores, pizza parlors and specialty shops of all types "take over" so that we do not have to deal with all these non-Christians all the time. In fact, we will go to the 'Christians in the Marketplace Seminar' so we can learn how to become one of the leaders of change in this arena. Not to mention that we must stay abreast of all the 'anointed' Christian politician/preachers who will "bring America back to God" to make our dream of living such an antiseptic life a reality.

And while we're at it, let's spend every minute, day and moment of our leisure time as above. Let's go on cruises, make cruise trips to Israel, and go on "retreats" (a very revealing term), etc. Let's make our life about expanding our Christian 'knowledge,' reminding ourselves of the truths we are not living by making sure we constantly remain in "Christian company." How can be better do this? Let's wrap ourselves in the cocoon of a "good church" (translated: one that everyone in our family likes which never confronts us to face our disobedience and challenge us to change our attitude toward the world).

While the above changes in pattern may very well be necessary for a new believer to take, we have too often made the mistake of teaching babes in Christ that they have a new culture waiting on them which makes it not only unacceptable but unnecessary from their ever having to be "in the world" again. Granted, someone escaping certain-death lifestyles or dangerous associations needs the womb of all that Christian culture has to offer at first, but the transition from sinner to saint does not preclude participation with the world God made. Instead, it prepares each to specifically (at the right time & adequately equipped, of course) to reenter that very world as agents of change through the witness of Christ.

For Those Wanting To Relate

Some time ago I watched an episode of "The West Wing." Although aware of the ideological slant of the program, I culled it for truth. Sometimes it will surprise you where order can be found (Psa.8:2/Mt.21:16). During the episode, the President asked a new congressman what his priorities were. The young minority congressman said, "first to my district, then to my country, and then to the congress of the United States." The President– recognizing his strong, appropriate sense of commitment, order and priority– praised him and then pledged an open door to him in the future.

No matter who we are in the Body of Christ, we have a divine order of priority which must inform our decision making at all times. That first call on all Christians is to God Himself. Jesus' first priority for his disciples was and is that they be "with Him" (Mk.3:13-15). Living as above we will dwell at the level of "who do men say that I am?" but not be able to answer the question "who do you say that I am?" (Mt.16:13,15). Now, you will no doubt argue, "I know who Jesus is; He is the Son of God. Last Sunday was Easter, for goodness sake."

You may be keeping your finger on the pulse of the people for the appropriate Christian posturing cue, seeing how many who lead or serve in the church operate this way also. But as Christ's people, you have a responsibility to Him– first, foremost and always. He is always first; He is always the reason for everything. If not, then what results from life does not bear the fruit of authenticity, but instead manifests the heart of the hireling.

"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits." (Mt.7:15-20).

Jesus here reveals the heart as the issue, not the quantity of output. The shift in our understanding must be made. Jesus reversed the emphasis. In the New Covenant, it is not first and foremost a matter of productivity. Above all else, the issue is the heart. Soulish motivation infects the anointing which, not rescinded, lacks purity (Ro.11:29). The inner qualities of those overseeing the reproductive process takes up residence in the result. Therefore, the outcome not stand.

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.' Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell– and great was its fall." (Mt.7:21-27).

The reason so much "falls" in the church today has just been revealed. It is not being built upon the rock of Christ's actual "now" workmanship. The sifting sand of personality, program, prophetic promises and apostolic power have so overshadowed intimacy with Christ and authenticity of heart that most believe the result is what makes one authentic. Therefore to many, only the result is what matters. For these, the result determines self-esteem. That is the religion of style over substance, principle over power, form over function.

For Those Who Want to Relate God's Way

For any and every member of the church to "stand" today, they must not only hear Christ's words, but "put them into practice" (Mt.7:24 NIV). In other words, we must be those who live out what Christ taught, demonstrating we truly believe by what we actually do.

"But someone may well say, 'You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.' You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, 'and Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,' and he was called the friend of God" (Jas.2:18-23).

Real faith results in action. Real faith will move you by the Holy Spirit. "Then He said to me, 'Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you!' As He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me" (Eze.2:1-2). Inside the command of God resides the power to respond to God. The DNA of destiny abides not in the works which produce a belief of being self-justified, but instead within the call to move at His impulse. This is why so much of what is done in the church today is "sand" and does not "stand." It is not being done at His impulse, by His energy, but instead out of a Biblically-justified, soulish conviction (or fear) that says, "we have to do something." This is usually followed up by, "let's dream a big enough dream that honors God." Then, set out to do a "big thing for God."

"He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you? And if you have not been faithful in the use of that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth" (Lk.16:10-13).

We've become so religious-ized into "biggie-size" that we cannot envision being faithful in either a little or in the absolute necessity of being proven in what belongs to another. This too, is the religion of style over substance, principle over power, form over function.

Such is a symptom of a schizophrenia which has juxtaposed daily Christian priorities. It has caused believers to take Heavenly matters into their own hands, while simultaneously refusing to be responsible for what is clearly their own individual responsibility. What prevails is the 180 degree opposite of what God intended. If we insist that we must do that which only God can, we throw off onto God that which we must do. For example, God will not break up the fallow ground of the heart, each believer must do it on their own (Ho.10:12). "O God, change me" we may say, but we must put ourselves in position to be changed by opening His Word and allowing His Spirit to convict us and call us upward past our hardened dryness of spirit.

We read books and go to seminars about how to have better relationships. But while there, often the thought is how that the one "who really needs to hear this" isn't there. So, after buying all the resources, we either scheme and flatter them to listen or read with us, or try to shove them down the throat of those we want to change. But we cannot change those around us, only God can.

Instead of "we have to do something," the call is to His Heart through His Voice.

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter by the door into the fold of the sheep, but climbs up some other way, he 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. When he puts forth all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers" (Jn.10:3-5).

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand" My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand" (Jn.10:27-29).

The call challenges us by requiring we place our lives in His hands. The call also challenges us by requiring that we become shepherded by the Good Shepherd. Furthermore, the call challenges us by requiring that we first face our own insufficiency, then fully embrace His all sufficiency. Not only does the Lord say, "my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2Cor.12:9).

Moreover, the promise is that:

. . . "His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust" (2Pe.1:3-4).

Heaven's energy for obedience has already been provided to every believer. Everything having to do with our lives has already been provided. Every aspect of what it takes to be changed into His likeness has already been released to us. But these must be received "through the true knowledge of Him who called us." The "call" is based on His nature and ability, "His own glory and excellence." The gateway for entering that path of destiny is intimacy and authenticity ("the true knowledge of Him").

Since the New Testament, Christ has been calling the Church to live this way. If we will but daily purpose to do so, revelations which release faith will require us to rise into His ability by taking on His very own nature (Col.3:1-5; Ro.8:29). And as a result of living from His gift, we will be able to not only leave sin behind, but refuse to return to it. This, by becoming "partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption" (see also Ro.8:13-14).

But the religion of the hireling has reversed the process. Religionist teaching has emphasized purity as a basis for grace, rather than grace as the power for purity. But God has made His gift to stand both above and separate from our ability. What changed Abraham from one who had been given a promise into one who saw it established in his life? Growing in the trust that not only would God do as He said apart from his own ability to make it happen, but that life with God was infinitely superior than a life striving to live for God. Through living with the Lord that way– year after year– he learned to get out of God's way. So much so, that by the time Isaac was required of Him, he could even lay down that initial fulfillment of all he had believed for– not just because of trusting God to fulfill His word, but simply because He preferred to honor God than see the outcome of his faith. That is intimacy and authenticity ("nevertheless, not my will, but thy will be done").

By continuing with the passage from 2 Peter we see that God's gift provides the impetus for the changes which insure we will be His forever.

"Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you" (2Pe.1:5-11).