The Good Shepherd

 

To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.  And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.  And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.  This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.  (John 10:3-6)

For my whole Christian life, I’ve always heard this passage taught as a comforting picture of Jesus leading His church through the challenges of this life.  The Christian puts his/her faith in Jesus and Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, then leads us daily (as portrayed in Psalm 23).  I agree with this, but recently a portion of this scripture caught my attention in a new way, and I began to dig into the whole thing a bit more deeply.

There are several words or phrases in this passage that take on a whole new meaning when we look at the original language.

CALLETH (as in “he calls his own sheep) means “to call aloud, utter in a loud voice.”

LEADETH (he “leads them out”) means “lead out, bring out, bring forth, fetch out.”

PUTTETH FORTH  (he “putteth forth his own sheep”) means “to command or cause one to depart in haste, to draw out with force, to bring out of, to draw or bring forth, to lead one forth or away somewhere with a force which he cannot resist.”

GOETH  (he “goeth before them”) means “to lead over, carry over, transfer” as in
transferring us from one place to another.

When we put these meanings back into the original scripture passage, it starts to look completely different!

To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calls aloud, utters in a loud voice to his own sheep by name, and leads them out, brings them out, brings them forth, fetches them out.  And when he commands or causes one to depart in haste, draws out with force, brings out of, draws or brings forth, leads one forth or away somewhere with a force which he cannot resist his own sheep, he leads over, carries over, transfers as in transferring from one place to another, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.  And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.  This parable spake Jesus unto them: but they understood not what things they were which he spake unto them.  (John 10:3-6)

Now let’s look at a different passage:

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:  Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (I Thes. 4:16-17)

When these two passages are looked at together, they dovetail almost completely.  Both have Jesus shouting or calling in a loud voice.  Both have believers being taken, brought out  or fetched with an irresistible force.  Both have us then being led, carried, or transferred to a new place.

For me, the similarities are too much to ignore.  (I know that you might see it differently. 🙂 )  The clincher (again, for me) is that John 10:6 says that they didn’t understand what Jesus was talking about.  Take a look at I Corinthians 15:51-52:

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

Along with the passage in I Thessalonians, this is the classic passage detailing the coming Rapture of the church.  Did you notice how it starts?  “Behold I show you a mystery.”

A “mystery” in the Bible was a Godly truth that hadn’t been shared or explained yet.  It would be no wonder, then, that no one understood what Jesus was talking about!

Be encouraged!

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Unity…At What Cost?

Lately, there seems to be a big focus on the subject of unity in the church.  Pastors and teachers are encouraging on one hand, and rebuking on the other, all with the goal of moving the body of Christ, or at least their own congregation, into unity.  I’ve heard teaching about this based on Acts 2:1 where it says that on the day of Pentecost, the disciples were gathered together in one accord.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  Unity is a good, and necessary, thing in the church.  Jesus said:

I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (John 15:5)

That last phrase should say it all.  Without Jesus, there’s nothing useful or lasting that we can do.  Every single believer needs to be united in Jesus.  BUT…

There’s a difference between unity and the “unity of faith” talked about in Ephesians 4:13.  Simple unity consists of a group of people all agreeing and acting on the same thing.  Let me ask you a question.  Is it possible for a united group of people to believe and act in the completely wrong way?  Obviously, yes.  Can this happen in a church?  Sadly, yes.  All it takes is for a strong leader (whether inside or outside the church) to assert their beliefs strongly enough, and to gather enough “yes men” around them.  Once these conditions are in place, unity is accomplished.

There are several examples in the Bible of the wrong kind of unity.  A great example is seen in Numbers 13. This is where Moses sent the 12 spies into the Promised Land to scout out the territory and its inhabitants.  It should have been a simple fact-finding mission where the facts were presented and the Israelites moved forward.  Instead, the wrong kind of unity happened.

Now they departed and came back to Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel in the Wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; they brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land. Then they told him, and said: “We went to the land where you sent us. It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless the people who dwell in the land are strong; the cities are fortified and very large; moreover we saw the descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites dwell in the land of the South; the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites dwell in the mountains; and the Canaanites dwell by the sea and along the banks of the Jordan.”

Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, “Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it.”

But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we.”  And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature.  There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” (verses 26-33)

Ten of the spies reported that it would be impossible to enter the land.  Even though Caleb (and Joshua) believed God, the majority refused to listen, and even convinced the rest of Israel that it was impossible (see Numbers 14).  So what happened?  Unity of faith (Caleb and Joshua) was confronted by simple unity (the ten spies and the rest of Israel).  Simple unity won and Israel wandered in the wilderness for decades.

Another example is in I Kings 22.  Israel and Judah are planning to go to war against Syria and the king gathers 400 “prophets” together to find out what God is “telling” them about the upcoming battle.  To a man, they all told the king“Go up, for the Lord will deliver it into the hand of the king” (verse 6).  One “prophet” even went so far as to make a pair of iron horns to use as a symbol of the king’s victory, saying Thus says the Lord: ‘With these you shall gore the Syrians until they are destroyed’” (verse 11).  The problem?  That’s not what God said at all!

One lone prophet stayed true to God and gave this message:

Then he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd. And the Lord said, ‘These have no master. Let each return to his house in peace.’” (verse 17)

Again, there was unity, but no truth.  The result?  Simple unity won, the battle was fought, and the king was killed.

One last example.  It’s widely agreed upon by Bible scholars that in the last days, there will be a one-world religion.  It will be a false religion and an abomination before God.  How can there be such a religion?  Simple unity.

The Bible commends a group of people called the Bereans who heard the Word of God preached to them, and then “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” (Acts 17:11)  These are the people we should be emulating.  A lot of Christians have been complacent, simply accepting everything told to them as truth.  Sadly, from the birth of the church to the present, there have been “wolves in sheep’s clothing” who have been leading the followers of Jesus astray.  

This is why we’re told in Jude 3 to “contend for the faith.”  (This is a great, and short, book to read outlining exactly what I’m writing about.  You can see it here.)  Now, more than ever, we need to know the Word and act on it, not just on what someone else is telling us.  When the call for unity goes out, be sure it’s the unity of faith you’re standing for, even if you seem to be standing alone.

God is Not Mocked…

I’m writing this with a heavy heart.  I’m not even sure I want to do it.

I’ve been a Christian for a long time.  I’ve known Jesus since I was little.  Church has always been special for me, even in some of the tougher times.  But something’s changed.

Until recently, I’ve always felt that God was held in awe and respect by the other church-goers around me.  His holiness, His omnipotence, His righteousness were front and centre.  But something’s changed.

I believe that the Bible is literally God’s inspired Word.  I believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  I believe that, as Jesus said, the Holy Spirit was sent to us from heaven to lead us into all truth (John 16:13), and through the Holy Spirit, God’s Word has been opened to us and led us into greater faith in Jesus.  But something’s changed.

I recently sat through a church service that pushed me to my limits and forced me to look at some things.  I could only come to one conclusion…not everything that happens in church is directed by the Holy Spirit.  Before you wonder how I could be so naive, I’ve always known that this was the case, but now I wonder how much the Holy Spirit is even being allowed to be a part of ANY aspect of church.

Where do I begin?

I know the topic of “speaking in tongues” is a landmine area in church circles.  All I’m going to say is that I do think it’s still a valid gift of the Holy Spirit, but that, like so much else now, that gift is being abused to the point of being unidentifiable.  Does the Holy Spirit give the gift of speaking in tongues?  I think so.  What is it then?  Well, the word “tongues” means “languages,” not “gibberish.”  Do I speak every language in the world?  Obviously not.  But I can’t help but think that what’s passing for “tongues” in church now is anything but what God originally gave.

For example, the service started with prayer led by a “prayer warrior” who prayed along these lines:

“Shoto ba ba ba ba ba…..Soto na na na na na na na…Shoto ma ma ma ma ma ma ma…etc., etc.”  At this point, all I could think was that maybe the Holy Spirit stutters!  (All attempts at humour aside, I’m not sure that this is any language at all.)  Coupled with that, was another woman praying “Jesus…ch ch ch ch ch ch ch ch ch ……Jesus…ch ch ch ch ch ch ch ch …” over and over again.  Praying in “tongues?”  Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.

Then the “worship” music began.  Most of this music seemed to focus on the words “me” or “I.”  Rather than singing TO God in worship, the songs were directed at each other and only mentioned God in passing.  After numerous repetitions of certain lines, the worship band began “free worship” with the leader singing “prophetic messages from God” while a trance-like screen saver played on the screen overhead.  I’ve never been to one, but I couldn’t help but think that this must be what a rave is like.

The music continued and got louder and more intense, as the congregation (some of them) started to shout and scream.  Holy Spirit?  Maybe, I don’t know.

Then came the message which was all about how many idols Christians have in their lives.  As the message progressed, the pastor’s voice got louder and louder, until finally they were literally shrieking at the congregation!  And not shrieking the Word.  Instead, as they were slamming the table beside them, they were saying things like “I’m sick and tired of…” and “I’m not satisfied…”  I guess the best way to describe what it sounded like is to give it a comparison.

Did you ever have to listen to even a portion of a speech (say in a history class at school) given by Hitler during the second World War?  He always started out reserved (although arrogant) and continued until he was in a frenzy, screaming at the people in front of him.  That’s what this was like…almost exactly!  To make it worse, people in the congregation were shouting “Amen!” like there was no tomorrow!  I honestly felt like I was so far out in left field that I wasn’t even in the same game as everyone else.

All I could think of were the prophets of Baal who Elijah challenged in I Kings 18:19-40.  When Elijah challenged them to call on their god, they started out at one level, but when no answer came, they worked themselves up into a frenzy.

Finally, after the “message,” the pastor began “decreeing” and “prophesying.”  I firmly believe that, if someone is going to enter that realm, they had better be absolutely sure that what they’re saying is straight from God.  Best way to make sure?  Decree His Word!  When I start to hear things like “I decree breakthrough in your life!” or “I decree an open heaven over you and that the portals of heaven are opening up!” I’m ready to be halfway out the door before the sentence is finished.

Funny thing.  God made it absolutely clear in His Word.  Beware the false prophets!  And what is a false prophet?  Someone who says something in God’s name that doesn’t happen.  As a matter of fact, the false prophets (in the Old Testament) were to be stoned to death!  If it was so wrong then, why is it so accepted now?  False prophets?  Sadly, the church is full of them.

So, back to the Holy Spirit.  I can’t help but think that the Holy Spirit is being grieved in so many ways.  Every action, the wilder the better, is attributed to the Holy Spirit.  Every “word” spoken is a “word from God.”  We say we’ve embraced the Spirit.  Maybe so, but which spirit?

God is God, and He can do absolutely anything that He wants.  He is infinite.  I’m not.  If I’m wrong in all of this, then Lord, I ask for your mercy and forgiveness right now!

Again, maybe I’m wrong, but I see 2 Timothy 4:1-4 happening in front of my own eyes:

I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:  Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;  and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

And 1 Timothy 4:1-2:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons,  speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.

Something’s changed.

Thanks for listening.