Donald Miller, in his excellent book Searching for God Knows What, tells about going to a Bible college where he taught one of the classes. Speaking to this group of Bible students, he told them he was going to present the plan of salvation, but he was going to leave out one key element, and they were to listen carefully so that at the end they could tell him what it was. He began by saying that mankind is sinful and separated from God, and he pointed out many of the sins of the culture — euthanasia, abortion, homosexuality, drug use, etc. He talked about the need to repent and backed it up with several scriptures. He used a real life example of a bridge being out, and how a man shot flares just over the top of cars to get them to stop and not drive over the bridge to their death. He again quoted Scripture that talked about the wages of sin being death, and how we were to avoid spiritual death at any cost. He talked about the beauty of morality, and told the story of a man who avoided being unfaithful to his wife when faced with the opportunity, and how his marriage blossomed after that and became better than ever. He talked about heaven and how wonderful it would be — streets of gold and gates of pearl with a beautiful river running through it. He said all this could be theirs if they only believed, repented and honored God. Not only would heaven be theirs, but real meaning and fulfillment would be realized in their lives right here and now.
He then asked the students what was left out of the story. There was absolute silence in the room. Now these were students who had grown up in evangelical churches. They attended a Bible college where they had studied theology. They had read the Bible and taken classes in both Old and New Testament. And only weeks before had taken an evangelism class and knocked on hundreds of doors in an attempt to lead people to Christ. Miller said that the students sat there for several uncomfortable minutes. Finally he wrote, “None of the forty-five students in the class realized I had presented a gospel without once mentioning the name of Jesus.”
If there is anything the story of the Shepherd and the sheep tells us, it is that the Christian life is not about going through a few steps so we can avoid hell and get to heaven; it is about a relationship that takes place between the Shepherd and his sheep. It is not about getting into the fold, for that is never mentioned, it is about following the Shepherd.
Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).