Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Spirit of Grace Ministries
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Jesus, Our Good Shepherd

Jesus the Good Shepherd

by Dennis Pollock

One of the greatest treasures and discoveries of my life was when I came to see and embrace Jesus as my Good Shepherd. It was not that I was previously unfamiliar with John 10, where Jesus describes Himself as the Good Shepherd. I had read that passage many times before, and fully accepted it. But I found that when one embraces Jesus in a particular office and role in a personal way, powerful things happen. Thus, it is one thing to acknowledge Jesus as the Good Shepherd but it is something altogether different when you see Him as your Good Shepherd – and really believe it!

I suppose a major reason that this particular role of Jesus has been so meaningful to me is connected with the many, many changes that have taken place in my life throughout my adult years. I have lost count of all the jobs, ministries, towns, states, houses, and apartments I have experienced and lived in throughout my life. Once I tried to count the different schools my oldest daughter attended from kindergarten through high school, and it turned out it averaged nearly one per year. She has every right to be totally messed up, but in fact she is incredibly stable, mature, and passionate about Christ. That has to be the grace of God.

Favorite Psalm

When we think about shepherds, anyone who knows the Bible even a little will automatically be reminded of Psalm 23: “The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want…” It is a beautiful psalm and is surely one of the most popular chapters in the Bible. We love the idea of God being our Shepherd. It gives us such a wonderful and warm feeling of security and safety.

For me, the number one benefit and primary role of the shepherd has to do with direction and leading. Sheep are not smart enough to figure out what to do, where to go, where to find good pasture, and where to find suitable drinking water. Without a shepherd, they will wander around aimlessly and soon perish. But with a good shepherd they will not only survive; they will thrive.

The psalm tells us that God leads us beside the still waters. We cannot and are not expected to find them on our own. If we have enough sense to make God our shepherd, we will be led, we will be directed, we will be shown where those beautiful, sustaining, life giving waters may be found. The Bible tells us, “The way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). As much as we hate to admit it, we are not capable of successfully directing our lives, determining the course we will take, making all our own decisions, and planning our futures – apart from the active involvement and assistance of God. This is not just true for people who aren’t very smart and have a low IQ. The smartest men and women are as hopelessly inadequate to direct their lives as the simplest. Doctors, lawyers, and rocket scientists are as pathetic and pitiful in plotting out the course of their lives as those who struggle to speak a single sentence without butchering the grammar. Life is too big, too complex, and too fraught with snares and challenges for any of us to successfully navigate on our own. We need a good Shepherd.

Focus on Jesus

So far, so good. Nearly every Christian would acknowledge this, and even most Muslims. But it is not enough for us simply to look to God as our Shepherd, just as it would not be enough for us to look to God, in a generic sense, as our Savior. The Biblical revelation shows us that God has designated His Son Jesus as our Savior, and the same is true in respect to the role of Shepherd. Just as no one could be saved by embracing God as their Savior, without respect to Jesus, so none can be led to life’s “still waters,” apart from an active faith in Jesus as their Good Shepherd. Allow me to use a story from my life to illustrate this:

Many years ago, when our five children were small, I felt led to move our family to Albuquerque, New Mexico. I had been pastoring a church in Missouri, and it seemed that the Lord was saying that our time there was at an end, and we must move on. We made the move to New Mexico, but it was an absolute disaster. I was able to get a teaching job, but the sixth graders I taught were too much for me and I soon resigned. After that I could find no other job. We watched our savings quickly evaporate and my dream of living and ministering in beautiful Albuquerque, New Mexico turned into a nightmare. Finally, out of money, out of faith, and out of hope, we returned to Missouri with our tails between our legs to live with my parents while I tried to regroup and figure out what to do next.

Strangely, I could not shake the feeling that we were supposed to be in New Mexico. I got a job in Missouri and began to save money. Within about eight months I was ready to try again. But something happened to me during those eight months in Missouri; something which made the second attempt the exact opposite of the first. As I studied the word of God, and read the writings of an insightful Christian author, I began to see a truth about the roles of Jesus, which revolutionized my thinking and my life. It was an insight which has proved valuable from that time until this, and has made possible many successful further moves and changes.

Power of Believing

The truth I saw was this: Jesus is who He is whether you believe it or not. But when you do see Him in a particular role and office, and when you believe it, embrace it, and acknowledge it, tremendous power and blessings are released in your life. The simplest example of this is the role of Jesus as Savior. Jesus is the Savior of the world whether we believe it or not. Our belief in Jesus as Savior does not make Him Savior – but it does release His saving grace in our lives. Although before we believed, He was already Savior, when we believe and embrace Him as our Savior, He becomes a Savior to us! His saving grace is activated in our lives, and we are changed, and transformed from being a “vessel of wrath” to a “vessel of mercy.”

What I discovered in those eight months in Missouri was that this same principle holds true in a myriad of other roles which Jesus exercises toward His people – and this included Jesus as the Good Shepherd. My believing and acknowledging Jesus as my Good Shepherd didn’t make Him that – He already was the Good Shepherd. But it activated that grace in my life. The more I meditated on this, the more excited I became. And when I went back to New Mexico to once again seek out a job and secure a home for us there, this time I went there with a faith I did not possess on the previous attempt. Throughout my job seeking and in my prayers I was constantly acknowledging and declaring: “Lord Jesus, I trust You as my Good Shepherd. I trust You to lead me and place me in this land.”

I had hoped to teach school there, but when the school year began and I still had no job offer, things began to look pretty dismal. Still I declared and acknowledged that Jesus was my Good Shepherd, and let Him know I was looking to Him in this role. Two weeks after the school year had begun I received a call from a principal which resulted in me being given a teaching position. This time the job worked out beautifully and we were established in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Throughout that year, and in the many years since then, I have had all sorts of amazing breaks, beneficial “coincidences,” and unexpected opportunities which have come my way and enabled me to do things and enjoy blessings I really had no right to expect or enjoy. Some might call me lucky, but I know better. When those amazing “lucky breaks” come my way, I know that they are a result of my Good Shepherd leading me and clearing a path for me. I am not lucky, and I certainly am not all that clever, but I do have a very, very good Shepherd who watches out for me.

Activation

When you receive a new credit or debit card in the mail, it comes with a phone number on the back which you must call in order for it to be activated. If you try to use that card before activation, it will be useless. Nobody will accept it, and it will be as worthless as it appears – just a rectangular piece of cheap plastic you keep in your wallet. But when you make the call and activate the card, you find it is accepted and useful. Jesus operates in many different roles toward His people. To those who trust Him, He will be Savior, Keeper, Filler with the Holy Spirit, Shepherd, Defender, Provider, and Life-Giver. But we must activate His grace in our lives through deliberately embracing and acknowledging Him in those capacities. Otherwise the grace associated with those roles is inactive and does us no good.

To use another example, let us suppose that a novice cook buys a box of pancake mix for his first attempt at making pancakes. He takes the box home, turns on the stove, puts a pan on the stove, and pours the powder directly into the pan. The dry pancake mix soon turns into a blackened, crusty mess in the pan. The man is both disappointed and angry.

He returns to the store with his pancake mix and his pan, and complains to the manager: “I bought this pancake mix from your store, and look what happened! This doesn’t make pancakes at all! And it says plainly on the box that this mix is “complete.” Why don’t I see a luscious pancake in this pan instead of this black mess?” The store manager takes the box from the irate customer and points to some words which the man obviously missed: “Just add water.” He tells the man, “Without adding water, this is all you can ever expect. Now go home and try again, and be sure to add water to the mix.” Pancake mixes require added water, dynamite requires a spark, seeds planted in the ground require moisture, and the promises of God require faith.

Just Add Faith

The many Biblical promises relating to Jesus are indeed complete for all the human race. Jesus is the perfect Savior, Healer, Shepherd, Sustainer, Provider, and Filler with the Holy Spirit. But we must mix our faith with the promises of God. Our faith and the confession of our faith activate the blessings associated with these roles, and release incredible grace and power in our lives. We cannot ignore Jesus and expect this grace to be operative in us. We cannot simply say, “God is my Shepherd, God is my Savior, God is my Healer.” We must see that God has channeled His grace and blessings for His children into Jesus Christ. There must be a deliberate targeting of Jesus as the focus of our faith. And the major way we do this is through acknowledgement in prayer. Some of the most powerful words you can ever say in prayer will begin this way, “Lord Jesus, I trust You as… Then you fill in the rest with His office related to your particular need.

Perhaps you may be thinking: “So if I just say certain words about Jesus, all will be well?” It is not merely the repeating of certain words or mantras that bring the blessing. A parrot can be taught to say, “Jesus is Savior,” but that does not make him a born-again bird. Victory comes by truly believing what the Bible says about Jesus, and then using the words of your mouth to acknowledge what your heart has believed and embraced. “With the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).

Sheep are not particularly smart creatures. But like all animals (and people) some are no doubt smarter than others. However, when it comes to surviving and thriving, this is surely true: A smart sheep who strikes out on his own will be far more miserable and hopeless than a dumb sheep who sticks close to his shepherd. So it is with us “human sheep.” Let us choose to follow Jesus, our Good Shepherd, all our lives.

 

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