THE GOOD SHEPHERD

Part 3

by Bill Click

Jesus said, "I am the good Shepherd, the good Shepherd giveth His life for the Sheep" (Jn.10:11). To this point, we have emphasized that Jesus came to elevate God's people, that the neediness within those of His time is still experienced often by those of today's church. Religion substitutes forms for functions- even among "Spirit-filled," "Charismatic," "Faith," "Prophetic," "Apostolic," and/or "Apostolic/Prophetic" churches. Many tend to be rampant with religious striving, works which fail to produce fruit. But more importantly, these works are also counterproductive to the Kingdom of God and destructive to those participating in them as well. The religious machines which grind and spits out are evident in every place; human resource matrixes which fill slots to keep the assembly line in motion for producing results and marketing success through vain increase. On the other hand, Jesus came to bring life, and His Shepherding function resulted from the gift of His life to the people (Jn.10:10).

Bringing God the Glory

Some time ago, a dear lady of God came to speak with me briefly after one of our training-activation sessions and made it a point to offer much "high praise" of what God was doing in our midst. Although it was encouraging to hear, as she continued I fought off a bit of embarrassment and began to sense that Glory needed to go to God. After de-emphasizing our role in what God had done, I issued this strong exhortation (which shocked her a bit, I believe): "if what we fails to bring life to you, then run from us!" I don't believe she was expecting that, and I wasn't trying to chasing her away (& that didn't). The pertinent point was this: experiencing one another as the church should always result in the infusion of Christ's life, and when it doesn't: all the praise we could receive, or hype we could ever make about anything connected with it is not only meaningless, but utterly just the flesh.

Now some will want to take issue with me on this (& I could almost take issue with myself at times). Sometimes, being in the court of the Kingdom as He rules through the Word and the Spirit is not altogether pleasant, carnally speaking. Sometimes the administration of His presence- in whatever format- takes the form of surgery. An incisive removal of the old in order to restore the new takes place. It begins by seeming to be the opposite of life (conviction). Nancy and I's former leadership in California, Dr. Gary Greenwald, used to say this: "When you do surgery, you must give a lot of anesthetic." Referring to humor, Dr. Greenwald was prone to pepper his messages with humor in order to help us swallow the truths of the Word which would sometimes afflict our comfort-oriented sensibilities.

Regardless, the point I'm trying to make is that notwithstanding the process, you must endure to deliver or receive God's message. And the result of such warfare must culminate in the opportunity to receive life through that two-edged sword (Heb.4:11-16). After all, it is the Word which was spoken that brought all life into being ("let there be light"). And now it is that "ever proceeding word" which continues to both create and refashion in His image and likeness (Dt.8:3; Mt.4:4). That is a precedent of God which will never be broken.

Restoration in His Image

Christ was and is that creating, restoring Word (Jn.1:1). Jesus IS THE Word of God. And His Holy Scripture (which is inspired, inerrant and infallible in all it teaches and promises us) testifies that "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn.1:14). When Christ comes to live in you by His Spirit, then His Word also begins to live in you. As a result, you begin to be restored into His original intention for your life "chosen in Him before the foundation of the world" (Eph.1:4).

Suffice it to say that you must have life if you have Christ. But that also means that when your "religion" is not relationship with Christ, you are not experiencing life (Ro.8:9). Life is not meant to be lived without challenge, because Jesus Himself assured us that we would have difficulty (Jn.16:33). Even in the "Holy Exchange" of giving up all to follow Christ we will receive the 100 fold "with persecutions" (Mk.10:29-31). And that is where we often stumble. We do not differentiate between ordinary trouble, attack of the enemy, and persecution for righteousness. We tend to either blame the devil for everything that our decisions caused to take place, or blame God for self ("I know you're punishing me for not praying enough"). But how often do we say this: "I don't know 'why,' but God does and that's good enough for me- if I need to know 'why,' He'll show me, because I asked Him.' Why do I state that? Because regardless of our circumstance and when we are in the most severe trouble or anguish, we still have life when we have Christ- even if our trouble is the result of having Christ! (Jn.16:33; 2Tim.3:12).

Overflowing life

Jesus wants you to have life. Overflowing life. He said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly" (Jn.10:10). Regardless of what you are experiencing, He wants you to have life in Him. Regardless of how much or how little you can do to change what you are experiencing, He wants you to have life in Him. No matter what some religious person will say or do to transfer to you that same condemnation they are under, He wants you to have life. Life, life, life, Jesus came to bring life.

His way of life is relationship with Him. We have also emphasized that first and foremost what takes precedence is God in our personal relationship through Jesus Christ. One of the primary ways that leaders can end-up on the cutting edge, scrap-heap of religion instead of bearing fruit through relationship is to be so consumed with "church" that they become preoccupied with and even obsessed with "the ministry." Rather, we were designed to simply be in love with Jesus, ever-desirous for the "righteousness, peace and joy" of the Kingdom of God through the Holy Spirit (Ro.14:17-18). This is the difference between burnout and longevity for many. That is the difference between consistent, increasing fruit and periods of famine for most. And we must keep in mind that the experience of leadership trickles down to those serving under them as well. And this dynamic eventually reaches, contacts and influences everyone and everything in the Church.

In the same way you will never go farther than those you submit to, you will always be prone to view and live life in the exact same way as those over you. Many never consider this in choosing their church commitment, aligning themselves for fellowship in ministry, or for having sufficient covering for themselves and their ministries. But if you will think about this you will begin to see the significance of being properly positioned for being 'good shepherd-ed.' In the same way that the oil flows down (creating unity), whatever is active inside leaders which is not of God must flow down to others under them as well (Psa.133:1-3). And through the "soul tie" of mind, will & emotion to those whom you submit to fellowship, your limitations for maturity and advancement in fruit bearing become set.

God's Grace

This is also why churches seem to be (almost exclusively) known for one aspect of the grace of God or for one way of being effective in their locales. These churches have taken on the Spiritual strengths of the "set" leadership. This is not the bad, but is rather the good transference. And this "soul tie" is received by yoking with those over and among you. But we believe Christ wants to build churches which manifest more than one aspect of God's grace. And we are certain that "the way" to that dimension is by allowing the Good Shepherd to lead into various streams which operate in order with the Good Shepherd.

But you will not be different than those you are truly spiritually yoked with. It is a supernatural impossibility. (This should be enough in itself to help many understand why they feel continually pressured to conform to that which they are not comfortable with or why no matter how they pray, nothing in their church seems to change). You will always feel pressure to be like those you are in regular proximity to, even if not fully yoked with them, because the corporate tie is stronger than you are. And your prayer "of insight" will not be effective because change will never come through you- unless you are the under-shepherd directly under the Good Shepherd. Change only comes from the top down. This means that if those who lead you do not want change, seeking it for themselves, you will eventually operate in witchcraft against them by strongly desiring by exerting your will in prayer.

But if you submit first to the Good Shepherd and then yoke and fellowship with others in His Body through the lens of His Lordship (& by way of His Watchful Eye), you will be protected by His Staff and prompted by His Voice. There are many who desire to hear from God today, but they often tend to look horizontally rather than vertically. God intends for everyone to hear from Him personally, regardless of "call" or any "giftedness" in the Body (Jn.10:3,8,27). We have taught people to "submit to leadership." That is not wrong, in fact it is much needed.

But we will soon discover that when we find ourselves in an outpost of the Kingdom where what we "hear" from God conflicts with those who have the authority from God to decide and implement direction of the ministry, that we are not where we ultimately belong. Realizing that some of this is a matter of our authentically hearing God (not just misapplying our understanding of Scripture), we have been given leadership which will help us to discern these issues and we must be willing to submit to that input. If not, we have not yet come to the place where we have had our heart truly changed and our minds fully opened to the order of the house of God which Scripture makes clear.

Because so many are out of position, and also because we do not emphasize enough from the pulpit that all must be placed in the body as it suits Him (1Cor.12:18), many leaders have tried to cover the fallacy of wanting to gather everyone (including those who shouldn't be with them) by an extreme doctrine of submission which resorts in false control. As a result, we have failed to emphasize that above all else, our status as offspring of God is not determined through submitting to corporate leadership, it is instead defined through being "led by the Spirit of God" (Ro.8:14). But this will not license the lawlessness of rebellion and hyper-individuality. Instead, it will bring all into the leadership they truly are designed to be yoked with and grow up under. Some may read this and cry "heresy," "extreme," "dangerous" or even "out-of-order." Most likely, however, they would do so due to fear. After all, what might happen to the church and the engagement calender should everyone be loosed to hear from God? And I have to admit, in some cases their fears may well be justified. Those whose hearts are not right with God will hear the exhortation to "follow the leading of the Spirit" and then need a word from God to tithe, pay their bills, or obey those over them in the church and on the job (when they already have numerous words from God for all these throughout Scripture).

Christ the Word leads through the Spirit in fellowship with the Body of Christ manifested by authentic leadership which examples His heart and ministers His presence. This is the word, will and way of the Good Shepherd.