There is a children’s song about being sheep that truly should be declared by every person in the Body of Christ no matter the age. It is called “I Just Want to be a Sheep!” The words include phrases like these: I just want to be a sheep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, I just want to be a sheep. I don’t want to be a Hypocrite, because they’re not hip with it. I don’t want to be a Pharisee because they’re not fair you see. I don’t want to be a goat, nope, because they haven’t got any hope, nope. I don’t want to be a Sadducee, because they’re so sad, you see. I just want to be a child of God, walking the same path He trod.
Is that the cry of your heart? It would not be a bad desire. In fact, if Christians would embrace the beauty of being sheep in the loving arms of our great Shepherd, perhaps we would look more like the Church Jesus is coming back for. Why would we want to be sheep? Because Jesus uses this metaphor to describe the relationship we are to have with Him. Unfortunately, most people today pass through this revelation rather quickly since we believe Jesus was speaking to the people of “that” time and culture in a language they would understand and relate to. Though it might be true if Jesus walked the earth today He might use metaphors including technology and computer lingo, this does not negate the eternal significance of His use of the Shepherd/Sheep analogy for the Church today. Holy Spirit inspired the writing of Scripture therefore the understanding of sheep is as relevant today as it was then, as much for us today as it was for the people of that time. Understanding why Jesus compares us to sheep is crucial to us desiring to be and act like the sheep of His pasture.
You may have heard the saying going to church does not make us a Christian anymore than eating at McDonalds makes us a hamburger. Or going to church does not make us a Christian anymore than standing in our garage makes us a car. Standing in a sheepfold does not make us sheep. Being a Christian means we have chosen to follow Christ. Holy Spirit enables us to make this choice but nonetheless, we cooperate with Him. Following Christ is not a decision we make one day and then never address it again. We choose to follow Christ daily, crucify and deny ourselves daily, and obey Him daily.
Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”
Mark 1:17 “Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
1 Corinthians 15:31 “I affirm, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.”
Galatians 5:24 “And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”
Obviously we have a part in following. Being sheep means we choose to follow our shepherd and listen to His voice daily. When we choose to be anything but His followers, His sheep, we endanger ourselves, risk the relationship He laid down His life for, and open ourselves to deception, attack, and in most cases begin to act like something other than sheep.
Understanding what sheep do and the benefits of being sheep encourages us to choose living as sheep and staying in the fold with Jesus as our Shepherd, listening to His voice, and trusting the shepherds He has placed in our lives to protect us from those who would come in and deter us. Our choosing and staying is through the grace of God – not cheap grace – but a grace paid for through the death and resurrection of our beloved Savior. It is by the grace of God we are “able” to choose and stay. It all comes back to relationship with the Lover of our souls and our devotion to Him. It is out of this love relationship and involvement with Him on a daily basis we long to hear, follow, and stay with Him.
One of the first things we learn about sheep is they hear the voice of their shepherd. John 10:3 “To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” It is difficult in this context to determine exactly what Jesus means by “hear” unless you join it with “voice”. In the Greek language, hearing can mean to attend to, to consider what is being said, to understand, to perceive the sense of what is said, to get by hearing, to learn, to comprehend, or to give ear to a teaching. But by looking at what is being heard it can be determined what context this is meant to be taken. The Greek word for “voice” in John 10:3 is “phone” most frequently used to describe a “voice”. The point Jesus is making is sheep hear the sound of the voice of their shepherd. He is not speaking of comprehending or understanding something being taught, but rather simply the physical act of “hearing” a voice.
We have prophets, teachers, and the like in the Church today who will “teach” us how to hear the voice of God. But what does Jesus say? Jesus says “the sheep hear His voice”. He does not say sheep need to be taught how to hear the voice of the Shepherd. Can you imagine having to teach children “how” to hear the voice of their parents? Hearing is a gift. As sheep, as people of God, we simply need to let what is natural happen. Following a pattern, method, technique will only lead to more religion. We most certainly need pastors, teachers, apostles, evangelists, and prophets to help us understand the things of God. God designed His body and appointed these ministers to equip the saints. In the same manner, children at some point certainly need to be taught how to comprehend what their parents are saying and obey. But this is another level or context of hearing, not what Jesus is speaking here about sheep hearing His voice.
Here in John 10:3 Jesus is reminding us it is all about relationship with our Good Shepherd. If we are His sheep, we hear His voice. It is a done deal! Only Believe! However, even understanding Jesus is speaking about the physical act of hearing can cause issues for people because the next question becomes, how does God speak? Some people feel hearing God only occurs through an “inner voice” or a “knowing”. But the truth is God spoke audibly to people elsewhere in Scripture. Why could He not do the same today? Just because it is not the usual way He communicates with us, does that put it out of the realm of reality? Should we discourage people from hearing the audible voice of God simply because it is not normative? Why would God limit us to only hearing Him inwardly? Moses and Paul heard from God, and they were men just like us.
We cannot nor should limit how we hear. God can and does speak inwardly to our spirits through His Spirit but He can also speak audibly if He chooses. We tend to make up theologies to fit our experience so as not to feel bad or feel like we are “missing” anything with God. Most of us have never heard the audible voice of God therefore determine it does not happen because what is wrong with us if He speaks audibly to others and not to us? We feel bad, undeserving, cheated, or self-condemned. Either that or we simply accuse others of being fanatics, crazy, or just plain wrong. Let us not limit God in how we interpret this Scripture. Let God be God and let Him speak however He chooses: Be it in a still small voice, in the midst of a storm, audible, inward, through His Word, through His Spirit, through a circumstance, a person, child, or story. Let sheep be sheep and let us hear how He chooses to speak to us. Let us not get stuck or caught in a debate about how we hear, but just take Jesus at His Word and hear! Let us be encouraged as His sheep that we hear His voice, know it is His, and follow Him out as He leads.
Thank You Father God that you made it possible for us to “hear”! Thank You Jesus for making it plain that we, the sheep of Your pasture, hear Your voice. Thank You for Your loving shepherding every day of our lives. We commit today to hear Your voice and follow You, dying to ourselves and our sinful flesh, living for You today! Thank You Good Shepherd – It is in Your Name we pray Jesus, Amen!