Christians are meant to live in fellowship with one another because God created us as social beings. But there is another great reason we need to stay close; for strength and protection. Sheep flock together because they are gregarious but they also do it for protection. In fact, their only means of survival is to flock together in large numbers or run away from predators. They cannot survive “out there” alone. They need each other. Left alone sheep are generally timid, nervous and easily frightened, and for the most part defenseless against predators like coyotes, wolves, and wild dogs.
Just like sheep, Christians tend to be timid, nervous, easily frightened, and defenseless when alone. Jesus sent His disciples out in groups of two or more. We are stronger and more confident together. Timidity seems to be a sign of the times with Christians, as we often hesitate to share our faith in Jesus because we do not want to “force” ourselves on anyone or infringe on their lives or belief systems. Perhaps we do not “feel comfortable” sharing our faith or do not believe it is our “calling”. But while Christians sit back letting people believe what they want, people of other faiths are bold and courageous, taking ground as though they are the ones with the greatest news on earth. Timidity is not a quality we want to perpetuate because it allows us to be easily moved from our place of confidence and protection in Jesus Christ. The quality we DO want to perpetuate is meekness!
1 Peter 3:15 “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;”
Meekness demonstrates mildness, gentleness in spirit, or quietness in our demeanor. Timid on the other hand means unassertive and demonstrating a lack of courage and self-assurance. Telling people about Jesus Christ does not mean we are obnoxious, forceful, and overbearing. We simply need to share the reason for our faith, Christ in us, the hope of glory. Being assertive and courageous can be done in gentleness and love. When we are completely confident in what Jesus has done and continues to do in and through us, we are compelled to share the dynamics of this relationship with others so they may experience it as well. Timidity is a negative quality that emerges when we “go it alone” in our faith walk. Meekness is the positive quality that escalates when we follow our Shepherd. The “fear” in this verse speaks of the fear of God, not man. When we are “ready” we will give a defense in meekness and fear of the Lord. When we have sanctified the Lord in our hearts, acknowledging Him as holy, sinless and hating sin, we will be ready, because reverential fear fills our entire beings.
Our strength, protection, and confidence comes from staying close to the Shepherd, hearing His voice, standing hand in hand in the body of Christ, and following our earthly shepherds. This intimacy gives us courage to give a defense to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that is in us. Notice: They will ask! Without this intimacy we see Christians locked in the grip of fear, doubt, and worry, struggling to move freely in the things of God. Christians “in trouble” tend to seclude themselves because they do not want people to know or see their dilemma. Some are embarrassed, feel guilty about their lack of faith, or may not even know we are not meant to live under the circumstances but over them. Most Christians do not welcome the conviction that must come as a result of unbelief, therefore they isolate themselves from the body of Christ and their shepherds, muddling through life on their own. Knowing, we are like sheep, defenseless on our own, we discover survival in seclusion is nearly impossible therefore we should flock to our churches.
In John 10:2-5 we see the role of earthly shepherds to help us not only survive but thrive. “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.” God is able to move us out of dangers way and He will use our earthly shepherds to guide and direct us. We are called to stay with our fold, hear and follow. Our shepherds go before us, scoping things out so to speak, and they lead as the good Shepherd leads them. Submission is key to strength, protection, and confidence.
In James 4:7 it says “Submit to God, Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” When we stay together, submitting to God, we are able to resist the devil. We will not run from predators because there is safety in the fold wherever our shepherd leads. Sheep will move around at the direction of their shepherds who lead them out of danger. As Christians, we do not always need to be engaged spiritually in hand to hand combat. We should submit and resist and he flees! But we must submit to our shepherds, trusting in their loving guidance rather than walking our own path. Sheep recognize their enemies; wild dogs, coyotes, fox, bear, wolves, etc. Shepherds use dogs to move their flock because sheep recognize them as predators.
Christians must start recognizing their enemies. We will submit and trust our shepherds more willingly if we are aware of who and what is out there to kill, steal, and destroy us, knowing our adversary is looking and will find us. 1 Peter 5:8 puts it this way “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” Thayer’s Lexicon describes the devil in this verse like this: “Satan, the prince of demons, the author of evil, persecuting good men, estranging mankind from God and enticing them to sin, and afflicting them with diseases by means of demons who take possession of their bodies at his bidding; the malignant enemy of God and the Messiah.” If that does not make us choose to obey, be sober, vigilant, assemble with Christians, and follow the shepherd God has appointed for us, I am not sure what will. When we fear, trust, and obey God, we will not fear the devil. But we must not miss the truth he is still looking for us, desiring to devour. If we drift away from our refuge, we put ourselves in dangers way.
Jesus likens us to sheep and emphasizes hearing, knowing, and following the shepherd because sheep are apt to wander and have a difficult time finding their way back home. Wandering is part of the make-up of sheep which is why shepherds spend most of their time trying to keep them together. Christians too are apt to wander and usually find it difficult to get back to Christ or the Church once they have wandered away which is why pastors spend most of their time trying to keep people together, keep their eyes and hearts focused on Jesus, surrendering their wills to His will. We are bent on backsliding from God and if left on our own we are completely unable to return to Him because we cannot find Him. When we leave the green pastures we have been led to, we open ourselves to the adversary and to fear, finding ourselves incapable of walking in faith. What we neglect to do is call it what it is: sin! It is our iniquity. We see this plainly explained in Isaiah 53:6-7 “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”
The whole race of mankind lies under the stain of original corruption, and every person stands guilty of actual sin today. God uses the word “all” because He means “all”. Again in Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God.” We have all gone astray from God our rightful owner, alienated ourselves from Him, His will, and His plan for our lives. We praise Him for dying and taking on all our iniquity. We are blessed people indeed. As a result of His great sacrifice we have a responsibility to hear the voice of our good shepherd and follow. We, like sheep, continue to go astray, turning to our own way. If this were not true we would not need the grace of God and we would not need to confess, repent, and receive forgiveness for our continued waywardness. When we as sheep do what we want when we want, we are sinning. Knowing this truth helps us embrace our need for a shepherd to lead us back to our Good Shepherd. When we understand it is likely we will go astray, we choose to stay close to the flock (our church) and close to our shepherd (our pastor) so we are less likely to wander.
We know our churches are not perfect, nor are our shepherds, nor are we! Many people have wandered away from their place of safety because of these imperfections. But we have been created to be in fellowship with one another, to be followers, to be disciples. The Lord, our Good Shepherd says to us today;
“Come back. Follow Me. Follow your shepherds. Stay in the protection of the body of Christ. Do not try to walk in faith by yourself. Pray for your leaders. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Only Believe. Stop wandering. Stop resisting Me. Submit to Me. Start resisting the devil and all he is doing to you. Be My sheep.”