Friday, April 6, 2012

Barnyard Basics 5 - Under-shepherds

John 10:14-16 “ I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Jesus is the Shepherd of the church. When we follow Him and submit to His voice, then Psalm 23 applies to us. If we want our life to be centered in His will (with all the benefits that come with His will), we must learn to hear and follow His voice.

Here’s where so many miss out: Jesus, according to 1 Peter 5:4, is the Chief Shepherd. There are other shepherds under His supervision. He has delegated the care and the direction of the flock to “under-shepherds.” These are men that are called to lead the flock as they follow Jesus. Paul said it this way in 1 Corinthians 11:1, “Be a follower of me as I am a follower of Christ.

There are many believers in the church who claim to follow the Chief Shepherd but have no relationship with the shepherds that He delegates. How can you follow Him and refuse to follow the one He put in front of you? How we submit to the under-shepherd who God set in front of us displays how we submit to the Chief Shepherd. Do you realize this? Do you understand that God has made another person accountable for you?

Hebrews 13:7 says exactly that: “ Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.” Evidently, while we follow the Good Shepherd - He’s going to give us an under-shepherd to follow.

In Peter’s first letter, he wrote to the people who were called to this position. His instruction can be found in 1 Peter 5:2-3, “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” God gave some people the responsibility to oversee His flock. Their responsibility is to set an example for the sheep to follow. Going back to Hebrews 13:7, we recognize that their example should be in faith.

Now we have a complication. These leaders are given the responsibility and accountability of leading the flock -  but they are never told to dominate their sheep. In other words, they’re called to set the example and preach right and wrong, but it’s up to the sheep to submit themselves to their leadership. That’s why, after writing to the shepherds, Peter immediately says “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders.” The responsibility to lead rests on the shepherds - the responsibility to follow rests on the sheep. God will hold both of them accountable for what He’s called them to do.

That’s why Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” This isn’t about someone forcing their way on your life, it’s about submitting yourself to their doctrine and their example. In fact, the Greek word for “obey” (peitho) literally means to be convinced and to trust. So God’s command is for His sheep to actually trust their shepherds!

We can also see the reward of following an under-shepherd in Hebrews 13:17. It will be profitable on the day of accounting. I absolutely believe that God will bring to account how we treat the men and women He set in authority. The flipside is that it won’t be profitable for you to wander off or rebel. Can you see the encouragement together with the warning in this verse?

This isn’t a light matter. The people that are called to shepherd God’s flock have an enormous responsibility on their shoulder. Listen to this admonishment to them out of Acts 20:28-30: “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.

These are sheep that Jesus died for! He loves every one of those precious people. And it’s important to realise that He’s entrusted them to the care of these can you see how important their job is? Do you see that it’s the shepherd’s responsibility to drive away wolfish people? Can you imagine that these under-shepherds would ever have problems with goats and pigs mingling with and upsetting the sheep? These people have an incredibly tough assignment and have to rely completely on the grace of God...why would any sheep want to make their job harder?

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