In Part 5 of our Biography of Jesus series, Pastor April Wedel brings a word of encouragement as she teaches on Jesus as the Good Shepherd. She begins with a powerful metaphor that helps us understand our absolute need for a guide–a shepherd–in our lives.
Pastor April reflects on a trip she and her mom, along with other VFC members, took to Israel where they walked where Jesus walked and prayed where Jesus prayed. One of the things she appreciated most was that the trip was a fully guided tour.
She didn’t experience any anxiety or stress or fear. She wasn’t at all concerned because she knew every destination had a guide and the guide had a plan. The guide cared enough about the safety and needs of the group to ensure their wellbeing. The guide took the group to places that they never would have seen on their own and the group was able to experience more than would have been possible otherwise.
In our lives, Jesus is our guide! In Jesus the Good Shepherd, Pastor April walks us through this aspect of Jesus’ character and reminds us that Jesus has an awesome plan for our lives. He cares for us and He wants to give us a life beyond what we can ask, hope, or dream of if we follow Him. Amen!
We’re starting Jesus the Good Shepherd with a foundational passage of scripture where Jesus is getting to teach. He shares a powerful metaphor surrounding shepherding where He reveals key insights about His character to us so that we may come to know Him more closely, more fully.
John 10:1-18 (MSG) 1-5“Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good—a sheep rustler! The shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it.”
6-10Jesus told this simple story, but they had no idea what he was talking about. So he tried again. “I’ll be explicit, then. I am the Gate for the sheep. All those others are up to no good—sheep rustlers, every one of them. But the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.
11-13“I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary. A hired man is not a real shepherd. The sheep mean nothing to him. He sees a wolf come and runs for it, leaving the sheep to be ravaged and scattered by the wolf. He’s only in it for the money. The sheep don’t matter to him.
14-18“I am the Good Shepherd. I know my own sheep and my own sheep know me. In the same way, the Father knows me and I know the Father. I put the sheep before myself, sacrificing myself if necessary. You need to know that I have other sheep in addition to those in this pen. I need to gather and bring them, too. They’ll also recognize my voice. Then it will be one flock, one Shepherd. This is why the Father loves me: because I freely lay down my life. And so I am free to take it up again. No one takes it from me. I lay it down of my own free will. I have the right to lay it down; I also have the right to take it up again. I received this authority personally from my Father.”
Throughout the Biography of Jesus series, we’ve been seeking to understand who Jesus is. In John 10, Jesus clearly tells us that He is the Good Shepherd. As sheep, we need a shepherd. The Good Shepherd’s main responsibility in our lives is to lead us and to guide us.
Have you ever heard someone say, “I’m a self-made man,” or “I can lead my own life,” or “I can do this by myself”? These are the people that think they have the ability to lead and guide their own lives. When this happens, we see people striving and straining and struggling to build their lives without Jesus at the center.
Here’s the deal: We will mess up if we try to lead our own lives.
Jeremiah 10:23 (AMP) 23O Lord, I know that the path of [life of] a man is not in himself;
It is not within [the limited ability of] man [even one at his best] to choose and direct his steps [in life].
In Jesus the Good Shepherd, at timestamp 8:10, Pastor April reflects on a time when she tried to lead her own life. It’s a situation we can all relate to! We see the fallout of trying to do life on our own in Proverbs:
Proverbs 13:15 (KJV) 15Good understanding giveth favour: But the way of transgressors is hard.
The good news is that Jesus came to give us a good life, better than what we could imagine. He is here to provide us with a better life than if we were to try to strive and strain and produce one for ourselves.
Ephesians 2:10 (AMPC) 10 For we are God's [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].
Our Good Shepherd prepared a good life for us before our lives even began! Keep in mind, He doesn’t just drop us into a good life; He gets ahead of us and leads and guides us to the good life. We have to do our part by choosing to follow Him!
Consider Ephesians 2:10 and reflect on which paths in your life you’ve realized in hindsight were paths prepared ahead of time by the Good Shepherd.
In the rest of Jesus the Good Shepherd, we’re discovering 4 ways to follow the Good Shepherd and cooperate with Him.
If you think that Jesus is out to hurt you and make your life miserable, if you think He doesn’t care about you, your family, your job, or your future…think again. Here’s the truth about who Jesus is:
Psalm 119:68 (NLT) 68You are good and do only good; teach me your decrees.
Jesus cares more for us than we do for ourselves. He loves us, He loves our family, He loves everything about us! Jesus has our best interests at heart. He knows our future, from the end to the beginning; he knows the big picture. Which means, Jesus knows how to get us to where we’re supposed to go.
Deuteronomy 6:24 (ESV) 24And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day.
Have you ever wondered why God gave us His Word, full of guidelines to follow? He did it for our good. He wants to preserve our lives. If Jesus our Good Shepherd is leading us, it will always be for our good. Amen!
If we’re going to follow Jesus, we have to believe in our ability to hear and know His voice. In John 10:1-18, our foundation for Jesus the Good Shepherd, Jesus says “My sheep know my voice. They recognize my voice and it is familiar to them.”
As born again Christians, we are Jesus’ sheep, and we should know His voice. All too often we think that we need to be ultra-spiritual–a pastor, a priest, a prophet, a theologian–to know His voice. That’s simply not true! All His sheep know His voice.
Not only do we need to believe this verse wholeheartedly, but we also need to confess it with our mouths. We need to be saying, “I know His voice!” instead of speaking in doubt, “I never hear from Him. I don’t know what He wants me to do.”
Believing that we hear and know the voice of Jesus is critical to us following the Good Shepherd because if we don’t recognize His voice, then we will never follow His lead. In Jesus the Good Shepherd, Pastor April shares 2 primary ways for us to know and recognize the voice of Jesus.
The best way for us to hear Jesus’ voice is by getting in the Word of God. Jesus’ voice is as close to us as the Bible! At timestamp 16:23 in Jesus the Good Shepherd, Pastor April explains why the Word of God is so key to us in becoming familiar with Jesus’ voice by detailing historical truths surrounding shepherding practices.
Sheep follow their shepherd because they know the shepherd’s voice. When we put the word of God into our hearts, reading the Bible every day, we have a reference point for becoming familiar with the voice of Jesus, our Good Shepherd. The Word of God is our plumb line! Jesus’ leading and guiding will never be contradictory to the Word; that’s why the Bible is our safeguard.
We’ve all heard people say things like, “The Lord spoke to me,” or “The Lord told me to do this.” Sometimes, we begin to think that people are audibly hearing from God. Truthfully, it’s rare for God to communicate with anyone that way!
The main way that God communicates with us through the inward witness. In addition to the Bible, Jesus leads us by the inner witness. We know that the Lord leads us by our spirit, our heart.
Proverbs 20:27 (NASB) 27The spirit of a person is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the innermost parts of his being.
The Lord prompts something inside our spirit that sparks revelation. Heart knowledge is then translated into head knowledge. Inward witness is a prompting, a strong impression, on the inside of you to do something. Pastor April provides clarity on the inward witness in Jesus the Good Shepherd at timestamp 20:18 to help us better understand how to recognize Jesus’ voice.
Remember: The enemy does not have access to our spirit and therefore cannot reproduce the inward witness. Praise the Lord!
Consider a time when you’ve felt a prompting from the Lord. How did you know it was your inward witness and not the enemy?
To follow the Good Shepherd, we must submit ourselves fully to the Lord.
Job 22:21 (AMPC) 21 Acquaint now yourself with Him [agree with God and show yourself to be conformed to His will] and be at peace; by that [you shall prosper and great] good shall come to you.
God wants us to prosper spirit, soul, and body! Great good will come to us when we yield ourselves and submit to His will. It’s important to know that there will be times the Lord leads us, but we won’t want to follow. There will be times in our life where following the Good Shepherd is hard on our flesh.
There will be times when Jesus’ leading won’t make sense to our minds because He doesn’t show us the end of the journey when He’s prompting us to take a step. In Jesus the Good Shepherd at timestamp 23:39, Pastor April shares a powerful personal story about a time when God was leading, and she and her husband did not want to follow because God’s leading just didn’t seem to make sense.
Even when things don’t always make sense to us logically, as followers of the Good Shepherd we need to be willing and obedient, trusting that God has our best interest at heart. We find out what it means to be both willing and obedient in Philippians:
Philippians 2:13 (NLT) 13For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.
Be encouraged today: Let’s conform our will to His and step out and obey. Amen!
The quickest way to develop a sensitivity to the leading voice of Jesus is to respond to His voice in obedience. In Jesus the Good Shepherd, at timestamp 27:22, Pastor April highlights the Old Testament story of Abraham and Eliazar, which portrays faithful and timely obedience.
Genesis 24:27 (AMPC) 27 And said, Blessed be the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, Who has not left my master bereft and destitute of His loving-kindness and steadfastness. As for me, going on the way [of obedience and faith] the Lord led me to the house of my master's kinsmen.
The Lord can prompt us in our hearts to do something, but if we never step out in faith and obey, we’re not able to do what God intends for us to do! Stepping out and acting in faith won’t always be easy, but it will always be worth it.
So often we want to see the big picture, but God shows us one step at a time. He always gives us the information we need, He doesn’t always give us all the information we want. This is where faith comes into play! If we take the first step and obey, He will make the next step clear.
Keep in mind, you’re going to make a mistake; we all do! We can’t avoid stepping out because of the fear of failure. Just like sheep tend to wander, we will make mistakes. Jesus the Good Shepherd gets us back on track! He’s the only shepherd to ever live who will leave the 99 to come after the 1. Don’t be afraid to be the 1; Jesus will come for you!
Like we read in Ephesians 2:10, Jesus makes a way for us to get back on His path, the path to the good life. And when we make the decision to obey God, we need to do it quickly. Here’s why: Delayed obedience is disobedience.
Psalms 32:9 (NLT) 9Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.
We have to move, we have to act, we have to step out! God cannot direct a parked car. We have to be willing to say, “Lord, I am going to step out and i’m going to obey you quickly. I’m going to move.”
Psalm 37:23 (NLT) 23The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.
There has to be movement! When we’re moving, heading in the direction He’s leading, God delights in the details of our lives. God gives us wisdom to move forward; we cannot be the type of Christians who spend our lives waiting on God. Check out timestamp 33:02 in Jesus the Good Shepherd for guidance on how to operate with a green light mentality like Paul, he sets a great example for us!
Which of these 4 ways to follow our Good Shepherd comes easiest for you? Which one is challenging for you? Why?
We are not alone in this world, we have a Good Shepherd! He wants to guide us. If we will just follow Him, He will lead us into a good life. When we put the 4 practices of following Jesus into action, God will do amazing things in our lives, beyond what we can hope or dream! Trust in Jesus the Good Shepherd and passionately pursue Him, He will never lead us astray.
Isaiah 53:6-7 (NLT) 6All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. 7He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.
This passage is a beautiful picture of Jesus the Good Shepherd. God knew we would stray away from Him, just like sheep. Knowing this, He sent His son, the Good Shepherd on a search and rescue mission for us. The New Testament truth that we get to experience today as believers is that our shepherd came to die for His sheep. He took all of our sins and, in exchange, gave us His righteousness; the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. Praise the Lord that we are part of His flock!
Heavenly Father, we are so grateful to be able to come around your Word today. Thank you for Jesus and thank you for Him being our Good Shepherd. Lord, we thank you for never leaving us alone and promising to never leave or forsake us. You know our hearts; please keep us expectant to hear from heaven when we spend time with you. Father, you know the situations we’re facing and the answers we need. We love you Lord and we trust you to guide us as our Good Shepherd. In Jesus’ name, Amen!