Summary: No matter where we think we need to go in evangelism, Jesus has already been there ahead of us!
I am the good shepherd
We are here as Christians who want to be of some use to God. We are here as individuals who understand that we have responsibility in the work of God- the family business- of helping people into personal relationships with God. We know that part of being evangelical, which our church is, is that we accept our scriptural responsibility for helping people to hear the gospel. Beyond that, we have responsibility to help people who respond to understand how to begin to live as Christians. We are to be supporters and cheerleaders of those who are living for Christ, as we have been seeking to live for some years, in most cases.
Throughout the Bible, there’s a picture of Jesus that speaks loudly to us as we think about being involved in the family business- the work of helping people into relationships with God, from whom they’ve been estranged. In fact, it’s important for us to remember that the whole Bible is concerned with the fact that humanity has been exiled from God (Gen. 3) and that is concerned with bringing humanity back to Himself (Rev. 21, 22).
John 10.11- Jesus declares Himself to be the good shepherd. We find this idea throughout scripture and this is one of the most encouraging images we could be given. This image can give us a lot of confidence and hope when it comes to being able to ‘do evangelism’ and to have confidence that we’ll be the right place at the right time.
Let’s explore this image today and draw from it what can be of inestimable help to us in the task ahead.
This is one of the two places where the image of the shepherd is most discussed. Let’s turn to the OT and see what God says about being a shepherd.
Ezek. 34. 1ff- God begins by condemning the shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves, rather than their sheep, and moves on to his own compassionate assuming of the role of shepherd over Israel. In this, we learn, as in so many cases, what to really expect of a shepherd. God sets the example.
v. 11-12- he searches for His sheep, and seeks them out! He tells us, clearly, that this is a shepherd’s job! This is what should be done.
v. 13-16- he declares that he will feed them and give them water in abundance. In Moses’ life, this was one of the benefits of his shepherd years; he had learned the skill of finding- and expecting to find- food and water in unusual location. A good shepherd is uncanny in this ability. God will continue to seek them, and bring back those who have wandered. He will perform healing to those who have the need. He will watch over the sheep.
All that we might be concerned with reaching through evangelism are meant to be God’s sheep even as you and I are. He knows them and wants them. We understand this, and that He is passionate about wanting to bring them back to Himself. This is part of the picture of reality before we even begin! This is important to understand! God wants ALL brought into relationship with Himself; He does not want any to perish.
When we think of those out there that we know we have desire to reach, and feel responsible to reach, we have to remember that before we even began to think about this, God has been involved. You and I want to be successful in doing whatever God wants done in reaching people for him and helping them into relationships with Him. Well, long before you had any desire for that success, God’s desire was already in the picture! We have a picture of God who is active in seeking people. You want to be successful as a channel of His grace to people? God wants you to be successful, too! Before you wanted success, God wanted the success.
One of our greatest desires is to know where we’re supposed to be. Do you think God knows where you and I are supposed to be? Do you think He has already thought through what should be done? What are the best methods? What are the right people? What is the right area to work in? Based on what we read in Ezekiel 34, I believe we can go forward with confidence, knowing that IF we’re near God’s heart, He will be leading us forward.
Let’s look at a second OT passage that speaks to us of God as the shepherd, and which leads us to confidence in being able to enter the work of God’s family.
We’re all familiar with the Shepherd’s Psalm- Psalm 23.
Read it first.
This psalm is incredibly beautiful and there are so many reasons why it is the most familiar of the psalms. All the major aspects of human life are covered here. We see outdoors and indoors, peace and peril, the possibility of evil and the prospect of good, times of invigoration and times of gloom, the experience of following and the life of being stable. All focuses on the Lord whose tender care, vigilance and presence impart all the colour and satisfaction to life. We see God- the shepherd- in perfect activity. This is represented by seven activities of the Lord described in verses 2-5- He makes, he leads, He restores, he guides, You are with me, You prepare a table, You anoint my head. All this is framed within the name of the Lord, who is the first and last reference of the psalm.