Feed My Sheep 3: Meeting the Real Need

“Jesus saith unto him, ‘Feed my sheep.’ ” (John 21:17)

The service or ministry Jesus tells Peter to perform was to feed his people.  Notice the analogy, sheep, pastures and shepherd. Christ cares for our needs. Jesus Christ came to serve and give (Mk. 10:45). He went about doing good and met the needs of people, especially those of the household of faith (Acts 10:38; Gal 6:10).

Being a shepherd is a ancient and noble calling. The Bible speaks of the first shepherd Abel who guarded the sheep (Gen. 4:2). He was listed with the prophets (Mt 23: 29-39; Luke 11: 47-51) and receives honorable mention in the “hall of faith” (Heb. 11:4). Moses appointed Joshua so, “that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.” (see Num. 27:16-18). The second king of Israel David (2 Sam 7:8) was a shepherd. He protected his sheep from predators (1 Sam 17:34-37) and he saw the people of God as the flock of the Lord (2 Sam 24:17).

Notice how Christ was concerned about the sheep being fed. 

He did not say, “lead my sheep.”  Peter and others like him were to follow Christ’s leadership as only sheep themselves (1 Peter 2:21) and the sheep should follow them as they follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). The Apostle Peter reiterates, “Neither as being lords over [God’s] heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.” (1 Pet. 5:3). The did not need to boss the sheep around, just lead by example. Christ is the only Lord.

He did not say, “breed my sheep.”  He was not concerned about the “flock” growth, how many “purpose driven sheep” as the measure of success. Christ will build his church (Matt 16:18). The Lord knows those that belong to him (2 Tim. 2:19) and Christ will add to the church, “daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:47). Being overwrought with the size of a church is not a concern for souls! Imbibing too much of this church growth, “Red Bull” will only end up creating a “Golden calf.”

He did not say, “weed my sheep.”  Some people want to weed everyone out. I have developed a new phrase as of recent and it is, “theological neurotics.”  For them there is always “sin in the camp” and “Achan’s” to throw rocks at and bean them off the top of the head.  They are so busy trying to be pure and to mould people into their religious template that they become sterile.  If you don’t speak their certain Shibboleth you will be weeded out (Judges 12:6). This is spiritual snobbery and arrogance of the worst kind!

Jesus says, “Feed my sheep. I am the Good Shepherd.”  I will take care of my flock.  You just feed them. You serve them and by this show you love me. This is not to oversimplify matters but we are limited to help people physically and we cannot help anyone spiritually. We cannot comprehensively meet their real needs. We can help them in the morning and later that day they are a mess. I know people act crazy. I know they do not listen. I know they get in trouble despite the warnings. That is between them and God. There is no need to have an apoplexy or have a breakdown. Just feed the sheep and pray, Christ will take care of the rest.

The passage we are looking at  must be a reference to both spiritual and physical needs. People need food for the body and the soul.  Sheep get sick, afflicted in mind, persecuted, lonely and in financial distress. True ministry means to serve, to care for someone’s needs.  We serve God by serving his people. But it is not real ministry unless it leads them to Christ as their sole resource. The need above all other needs is Christ. A true Christian and a true undershepherd leads people to Christ in whom all their needs are met.

By all means and with all your power seek to feed the hungry but especially feed the spiritually hungry. You may feed people stomachs, but that is never enough.  Jesus quotes from the book of Deuteronomy and reprimands Satan saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’ ” (Mt. 4:4).   We realize spiritual food is more vital because as Moses told Israel, “He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you…” (Deut 8:3). God humbles us so we see our real need and then feeds us his food that brings genuine satisfaction for that need and teaches us that He supports us.

Everytime the Israelites bellies gurgled they wanted to go back to Egypt.  God knew that they had too much Egypt in them. It is amazing that Egypt could be painted in many different ways such as “the evil world system” but here it was simply a place where they could get their needs met without trusting God. It was the place of trusting man and the power of the flesh!  But to remedy this God ordained that they be empty for a time. He blocked and frustrated their path. He showed them that the stinking fleshpots of Egypt could never satisfy (Ex 16:3)!  They must get out of a “needs orientation” into a “God orientation.”  He brings a humility of soul, as we endure trials so that over and over again when the trial ends we will see him as our sole resource and provider.  Every time we have a a physical, emotional or financial need and it extends over a period of time, we become miserable!  Let the emptiness become an opportunity to see God fill that emptiness. Life is a constant series of  becoming empty of self and being filled with God.

I do not have time to go into the dynamics of Satan’s temptations and Christ’s resistance to them. It is obvious that Christ was not about to eat anything Satan told him to eat, especially rocks. Satan is a salesman who sells shortcuts, even religious ones. He promises a time-saving direct route that does not require faith, patience and character.  It is as if Satan says, “The need of the world is so great someone who can turn stones into bread can surely help the world.  Meet their needs and they will flock to you.” Christ knows this is not true (John 6:26-27) and he realizes there is no satisfaction in earthly things! He says, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” (John 4:34). Christ’s sheep will be fed with his bread, it is the only bread that can sustain them. He is that bread, Christ is our meat and drink (John 6:35, 55).

I pray with David, “Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up for ever.” (Ps 28:9).  Lord let our emptiness be filled with you and only you. Take the whole world but give us Jesus because only He satisifes!

© 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care

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Feed My Sheep 2: Christ our Guardian and Guide

“Jesus saith unto him, ‘Feed my sheep.’  ” (John 21:17).

Christ’s command to Peter is pastoral.  It is given as a true shepherd. The word “pastor” and shepherd” are words that are used interchangeably and rightfully so.  It describes the role of a man who is responsible for the care and feeding of sheep.  God declares that He takes sole responsibility for his sheep and despite the errors of men and churches- He tends them well. “The Prince of Pastors” (1 Peter 5:4DR) gives orders to Peter and all under-shepherds to care for his flock. We will speak of this in the next article.  But for now we must see that Christ  is concerned for the sheep. We fail to appreciate the pastoral role of Christ as the great Pastor of the sheep (Heb. 13:20). 

Christ is the shepherd that cares (1 Pet. 5:7) for us and  He says, “I myself will tend my sheep and give them a place to lie down in peace, says the Sovereign LORD.” (Isa. 34:15NIV).  You are his, always and he will always care for you. Rev. Barnes says, “Friends on earth, the great, the frivilous, the noble, the rich, may forget you; God never will. Remember that you will never be entirely neglected. Father, mother, neighbor, friend, those whom you have loved, and those to whom you have done good, may neglect you, but God never will. You may become poor, and they may pass by you; you may lose your office, and flatterers may no longer throng your path; your beauty may fade, and your admirers may leave you; you may grow old, and be infirm, and appear to be useless in the world, and no one may seem to care for you; but it is not thus with the God whom you serve. When he loves, he always loves.” There is none like our shepherd Jesus.

Christ is the Good Pastor-Shepherd (John 10:11).   The literal rendering is,  “I am the shepherd, the good one.”  I like that. In the Latin Vulgate it reads, “Ego sum pastor bonus bonus pastor…”  Bonus is Latin for good and the Latin Vulgate emphasizes that he is good twice.  He is the very Good Shepherd, his actions are good, he went about doing good and laying down his life for his sheep was good. There are many shepherds but he is the GOOD one!  The word for good here is kalos, which in ancient writings refered to outward beauty. Thus Christ’s beauty is his character and nature as our Shepherd.  Of Christ,  the Holy Spirit says, “thou art fairer than the children of men.” (Psalm 45:2). Who is like this Good Shepherd?   His beauty is seen in his generosity, as he gives a gift that words cannot describe (1 Cor 9:15) and he gives his life.  He is the apex of all that is loveable and admirable and his sheep find they are irresistibly drawn to him (John 10: 26-27).

Jesus Christ takes up his rightful role in our lives and our Guide and Guardian. God claims sole ownership and care for his flock, his church.  All others who are called pastors are inferior to him. Yes, men who are pastors are gifts from the Son of God to his church (Eph 4:8) but Christ is the Chief Shepherd and the Guardian of the souls of his people (1 Pet. 2:25; 5:4). When expecting a Lion John saw a bleeding Lamb (Rev. 5:6) and when expecting a shepherd we see a leading Lamb. Even in eternity Jesus Christ is, “the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd.” (Rev. 7:17ESV). He is a Strong yet gentle Savior!  But here is another proof that we are not only rescued in his grace but kept by his grace. Grace, love, mercy are not just some force, or element or virtue separate from God. It is Christ himself who in his grace, mercy and love  guards and protects the souls of his flock.

Christ  is always concerned with the welfare of his own people and desires to nourish their souls.   That is the distinguishing mark of the Lord our Shepherd. The Bible says that, “He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young.” (Isa 40:11).  Notice from that passage that Christ feeds, carries and leads his people as his vulnerable flock, his young lambs. He alone is the source of their nourishment and guidance. It says that he guides them with the wisdom of a shepherd, bearing them with his strong protective arm and gently bringing them close to his chest. Paul says, that  “our life is hid with Christ in God.” (Col. 4:3).

He is the Lord is our Shepherd (Psa. 23:1). How often have we read Psalm 23 and failed to see Christ in whom all our needs are met.  Christ is all  (Col. 3:11), therefore all we need.  God has ordained this so that as he says, “thou mayest know that there is none like me in all the earth.” (Exodus 9:14).   There is none, we should not want because of him, we should want no other because of him.  He makes us to rest and guides us into peace.  He is the one who changes the direction of our lives into a paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even if the path leads through the valley of death’s shadow-not only the possibility but the eventuality of death, we do not need to fear because Christ bears us in his powerful hands all the way to the path of glory and heaven! Those that hate us even our enemies shall see the wonderful provision of the Lord for us, the oil of his presence in us. There will be such joy that our lives will overflow with goodness and mercy and we prepare in this life to spend eternity with our Shepherd.

© 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care Ministries

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Feed My Sheep 1: The Love of God For His People

“Jesus saith unto him, ‘Feed my sheep.’ “(John 21:17).

You cannot appreciate this passage until you see it in the light of the dereliction and wreckage of the eleven remaining members of the apostolic “flock” before, during and after the passion of Christ.

They were prayer-less and clueless.

By the time Christ the Great Shepherd is hanging on the cross, the sheep, his disciples were spiritually bankrupt, afraid and lost. Christ the good shepherd laid down his life for his scattered sheep and would gather them in his awesome redemption.

They were as sheep going astray (1 Pet. 2:25). Isaiah prophesied not only of his original apostles but, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6a). The idea of sheep going astray sounds so innocuous and cute, but the brutal truth is that because of our wandering far from God, “the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isa. 53:6b). While sheep can represent the people of God, sheep also represent the repulsion we have for God and his ways and that the desire to sin can be so strong that even after one is a child of God we can wander in the wrong direction and must be brought home time and again.

Yet the Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep (Heb. 13:20), says to his people, “I have loved you, saith the LORD.” (Mal. 1:2).  Why? Why does he love the sheep? He explains, “God wasn’t attracted to you and didn’t choose you because you were big and important—the fact is, there was almost nothing to you. He did it out of sheer love…” (Deut. 7:7-8Message).

Christ loves his people. It is an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3). It is a love from eternity and a love that lasts for an eternity.  This is because God’s love is a Trinitarian love, a love that preexisted veiled in such mystery in the Godhead- that theologian’s pen runs out of ink, the best worshippers run out of words, and angels run out of tears when you attempt to describe it. Jesus says, “For thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24).  Jesus said, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.” (John 15:9). We share in a love that is as eternal as God himself, a quality of love that is the same love the Eternal Father has for the Eternal Son and there is no end to it. “He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love! Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” (Eph 1:4-5). Ceaseless praise for eternity could not fathom such love!

It is an undying love, yet a love that died for us. The Bible says he loved them to the end (John 13:1) and he proved that love by his death on the cross (Rom 5:8).  It is a complete love and his relationship with his disciples was one characterized as love, “love one another; as I have loved you.” (John 13:34).  Imagine a life described as Divine Love. Imagine being around Christ in whom is God’s love expressed! Jesus says again, “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” (John 16:27). His people are defenseless to his love. They melt and are wooed by it!

It is an otherworldly love. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.” (1 John 3:1). The phrase “manner of love” (potapēn agapēn) refers to country or race. So it can be asked, “What foreign kind of love is this” (Wuest).  It cannot be found in any nation, tongue, kindred, or tribe. It is heavens love! It is a foreign kind of love, as foreign as heaven shores are to earth’s oceans. Fpor us to understand this love it had to be translated for us to understand and there only language or anaology that could capture it was in the cross of Jesus. It was God’s love interpreted to us!  If you would understand God’s foreign love, you must understand the alien truth of justification by faith in Jesus Christ and his saving work on the cross.

“Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see, the very dying form of One who suffered there for me! And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess: the wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.”

God calls his true shepherds to focus on the real covenant love of God found in their Shepherd Christ that has predestined a people, His sheep to come home.  It is that wonderful, yet terrible cross that keeps our hearts warmed with gratitude and affection! How the rod and staff of the cross should comfort and lead God’s people!  Jude says to, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” (Jude 1:21).  How wonderful is his love, may it have over our being absolute sway! May we be encouraged to constantly look for his mercy and saty in the sphere of  his love by those who claim to feed the sheep of God!  The people of God in their hearts and their pastors from their pulpits should, “set it always before them, to keep it constantly in view, to exercise faith on it, firmly believing their interest in it; as also to meditate on it, give themselves up wholly to the contemplation of it, and employ their thoughts constantly about it, which is the foundation of all grace here, and glory hereafter…” (Gill).

(c) 2011 Stephen S. Gibney Soul Health Care Ministries

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Osama Bin Laden: An Example For Us All

Osama Bin Laden is killed.  All day long that was the news.

There has been has been all kinds of reactions to the death of this arch-terrorist: celebrations in the street, media frenzy and a plethora of conspiracy theories. People saw this as a major event in U.S. history when the mastermind of 9-11 finally was put out of the picture.

What caught my attention was one New York news paper that headlined his picture and the words “Rot in Hell.”  The newspaper obviously was not making a theological statement, but it reflects the mindset of many Americans that believe a place called hell is the exclusive punishment reserved for really bad or evil people and that there are other not so bad people or those that are good enough to escape hell.

I think that the headline should have read “Osama Bin Laden: An Example for us All.”  He is an example that not only genocidal maniacs, mass murderers and terrorists, but all those who commit treason against the Kingdom of God and all who break his laws will face God’s sentencing for eternity in a place called the lake of fire (Rev. 21:8).  I do not say that in an unfeeling and careless manner.  One has to wince in pain thinking about this because of the danger in which many people live who do not know Christ as Lord and Savior.

The first thing I thought of amid all the rejoicing  were the words of Jesus Christ, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3,5 ESV). Yes, in this way Osama Bin Laden is an example for us all.  I was taken back for a moment, but long enough to think that the Lord Jesus was emphasizing that when we see others demise we should be warned ourselves that God’s justice has no favoritism (Rom 2:11) and we should use this time to turn away from soul damning sins (Isa. 55:6-7).

No matter how many tragedies we have experienced, no matter how many terrible things others have done compared to us, that does not exempt any human being  from facing God for their sins against him. 

Jesus emphasized this. If I could slightly paraphrase what he was saying,  “Do you think that these people who were killed by Pilate or the others who had the tower of Siloam fall on them were perhaps worse sinners, meriting more of God’s anger and scorn that they would die in such a manner?”  

Jesus says, “No way!” You will all face the bar of God. You will  be destroyed unless you change your ways. Wow. How could he say such a thing, even to his own disciples?

He says this because he knows that everything human beings do will exposed. Every thought they think will be revealed. Nothing will be hid.  God will judge the secrets of all people (Rom. 2:16) So you had better do a one hundred and eighty degree turn on the road of your life immediately away from your sin or you will perish in the same or should I say an even worse manner.

Osama Bin Laden was an example to us all because although he was religious he was deluded. He thought he was doing the work of Allah. How very sad.  He thought he was earning his salvation by killing those considered infidels and all those that oppose Islam. Now all he leaves is a legacy of death. He is killed by bullets to the head and chest using his wife as a human shield. His lifeless body is carried away, ritually washed and thrown into the sea. What is worse he waits in a place of torture for the final judgment of God for his sins, where he will be hurled into a worse place.   How many still believe like him? How many think he died a martyrs death and that they want to follow his example. How can we who are Christians not weep for the salvation of those like him and those who are his devotees.

I pray they will learn from his example. An example that eventually not only will the United States of America catch up with its enemies but God will punish those who are his.  I pray we will see that God is serious when it comes to his laws and that “the mills of God grind slowly but they grind sure.”

Christ can save you from the wrath of God and his punishment catching up to you. He died to purchase your pardon, to save you from the self deception that you can save yourself by being good, or at least thinking you are not as bad as others.

God says all have sinned against him (Rom 3:10, 23). He will only accept one payment for sin and that is the death of Christ for sin. Christ gives us an ultimatum, “repent or be destroyed” it is not a pretty invitation but it is a solid one.  He calls you to turn from sin to God’s son now before it is too late.