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Christian Biblical Studies
THE SHEPHERD’S CALL
All citations are to the NIV-UK (1984)
– John 10: 1-5, 10, 11 –
I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognise a stranger’s voice. . . . The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
THE SOUND OF our Master’s voice has nothing to do with creed, for there are many who disagree on theological details but who agree on Christ as Saviour. His spirit permeates what He taught. Although the Gospels implicitly teach deep truths, Jesus kept His language simple enough so that the common people could follow what He had to say. He emphasised the Father’s love and forgiveness and the Kingdom of God. We can see how the Sermon on the Mount would have been well received by many in His audience. Attending to it now in written form and having the leisure to devote to a study of it, we can find truths buried in it which probably would have escaped those who were there, or who were too far away to hear. Such is the value of Scripture, in that it transcends time and place and, as a sacred conduit, carries the living words of the Master to us here at the end of the ages.
We recognise the Master’s call because it synchronises with our need. If we are conscious of our sin we will know the antidote when we see it. Christ fits the requirements of the contrite heart. ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest’ (Matt. 11: 28).
Jesus warned those who wished to ‘follow’ Him that to do so they must carry their cross (Matt. 16: 24, 25). An action as serious as this ought not to be underestimated by any who might consider embarking upon it. Of course, it is easier for us today than it would have been in our Lord’s day or centuries ago, when physical torture faced those who would not conform to the prevailing orthodoxy. In modern Britain we will not be thrown to the lions or stretched on the rack. We are, however, increasingly likely to be mocked or marginalised for our stand on Christian belief and doctrine, ethics and behaviour, and on our general reluctance to conform to the dictates of this carnival of a world.
Can we still track the Master’s voice through the din? We can, if we pay attention. Once we have made Christ the Master of our life we learn to regulate our spiritual hearing to catch His voice, to pick it out from the competing sounds. It does not mean that we will have infallible wisdom or judgement. It does mean that we will more closely adjust our thinking and our conduct to mirror His example, to discern what He might do were He in our situation. We need to begin at the Scriptures, buttress this message by daily immersion in the spirit of Christ, and daily consort with Him in prayer.
We must not gauge the Lord’s love for us solely by the good or ill of our experiences. He does not blow hot and cold, though we may go through troubling and difficult times. He engages with us at the most intimate level of mind and heart and undertakes in His promise to build us in grace and character.
Mar. 2018. no copyright