The Shepherd’s Call

Matthew 4.18-22, John 10.3-5

Jesus said he is the Good Shepherd; he walks ahead, calling us by name, we know his voice, and we follow. His words were spiritual, he was a carpenter, not a shepherd, and the sheep he spoke of are people like you and me. But he was not ignorant of shepherding; he was familiar with the behaviour of shepherds and their sheep on the green hills of Galilee.
We modern city people are more familiar with dogs and cats than sheep, but there are some similarities; our dogs know our voices and they also respond when we call them by name.
The first time Jesus called his sheep they responded well; his disciples dropped what they were doing and followed immediately. Something beyond the natural was happening; I imagine their hearts were prepared long in advance for this moment, and that Jesus’ call struck a deep cord in the core of their beings. It was so deep; they left their careers, belongings, and families to follow the call of the Good Shepherd.
Christians often complain that they don’t hear the voice of God, but the truth is they do, they just need to learn the distinction between God´s voice and theirs. Prophecy helps us do this. Very often we only realize God is talking to us when someone prophecies over us saying the very same thing we heard in our bedroom at home. The prophecy only witnesses with our heart because it was already spoken to our heart.
Hearing the Good Shepherd´s voice gives us the right to speak on his behalf, pastors can only shepherd as they hear the Good Shepherd. To preach without hearing from him is to preach without his authority, just as to drive without a license is to drive without authority. If you lose your license you are not supposed to move till you find it again.
Sometimes we make life impacting decisions without hearing the Shepherd. We claim we are called to a specific church, leave it the moment a job offer comes up in another city, and then complain that we can´t find a place to fellowship. Surely our place of fellowship is a divine priority? We need to be more diligent about hearing him.
There are two kinds of animal that hang around sheep: the sheep dog and the goat. The dog is good for the sheep, he is a creature that knows the shepherds voice better than they do and helps the shepherd keep the sheep in the right place. He is like a Christian leader who receives the Good Shepherds instructions and uses them to benefit the followers. The goat, on the other hand, is a problem. Sheep sometimes follow goats as if they were sheep, but this can be dangerous because goats can survive where sheep can´t. Jesus expressed the need to separate sheep from goats in another famous sermon. I guess he saw the sheep as a more valuable but also more vulnerable, and the goats as less valuable and more independent. It´s biblical to follow those who are dependent on Jesus; Paul encouraged believers to follow him as he followed Christ. Be careful who you follow.
I am surprised how many Christians follow star-signs. Star-signs are a kind of goat; they lead us where the Good Shepherd is not going. Astrology developed in ancient Egypt and Babylonia based on the belief that stars represented the activities of the gods; gods the Bible rejects. Do we still believe these gods control who we are and what will happen? Doesn´t the following of false gods open the door to evil? Paul said ´the sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons’ (1 Co 10.20). Do we want demons to dictate who we are and how our day will be? People say they´re ‘just having fun’; but no, they´re inquisitive, they´re wondering if the star-sign is revealing the truth. Spiritual curiosity opens spiritual doors, and spiritual things enter. I say drop the goat, follow the Good Shepherd.
Lost sheep need two things: to know the shepherd, and belong to the flock. When I do outreach in bars I find these two things surfacing all the time: they want to know the meaning of life and belong to a community of genuine people. Jesus noted this; he looked at the people around him and thought they are ‘like sheep without a shepherd’ (Mt 9.36). What a sad state; his heart went out to them. One of the most important things every church can do is be a place for the lost to belong; and that means allowing them to belong even before they believe.
Sheep are quick to follow; they are follow-holics. But they only follow those who seem to know where they are going. If Christians are listening to the Good Shepherd they will be people with direction and purpose, and they will always have others following along behind. The followers may not know why they are following, but follow they will.
Are you hearing the call of the Good Shepherd? You do know it; you heard it the day you got saved. And like with the disciples, Jesus´ voice suddenly made sense and you followed. But he´s still calling; and he calls you to what he is doing, and to do it where he is doing it. You belong to him and the call is within.

Word for Vineyard Mombasa: “The shepherd’s key – the key to calling is hearing”.

Illustrations: A Cat called ‘’Kitty’’, Ministry Time – Scotland ‘’I know this’’, The Shepherds Key, The Lost License.

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