August 16, 2016

Hearing the Shepherd

This blog is my daily devotions. This year, I am reading Oswald Chambers’ “My Utmost for His Highest” but some days pay little attention to what he says. His book is a compilation of lectures given, edited by others, often insightful, but sometimes a bit disjointed.

Today he seems to be addressing those in his audience who might be playing at Christianity. They exist. They may even be taking theology and do not know the God that they are studying. His comments do not speak to my situation, although his warnings are fair. When this happens, I consider what he says, but ask God to speak to me using the daily Scripture reading and its context.

“’Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.’ This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.” (John 10:1–6)

In context, Jesus was telling the disciples that He was their shepherd and they knew His voice, but they didn’t know the voice of an imposter that He calls a stranger. He says they will not follow him because they do not know the stranger’s voice, likely a reference to a false teacher or even Satan.

This is interesting because the disciples knew Jesus, heard His voice, but they didn’t get it. They didn’t understand Him, at least not at that time.

I’m reading another book that describes hearing and understanding Jesus in terms that are easily understood. The author says that a mature Christian is one who knows the Bible well and when he hears God speak through the mysterious whispers of the Holy Spirit, he is able to evaluate what He says because it lines up with what the Bible says.

I agree with that, yet the disciples, even all the early Christians, did not have the New Testament yet. Paul wrote much of it. How did they know the voice of the Lord and how did Paul know that it was God who gave him the words to write? How did the others know that Paul’s letters were God’s instructions to them?

In my own experience, Jesus is correct; I know when I’m hearing from the Lord. His thoughts and impressions are not sensed by the ear but by the heart. Sometimes I do not understand Him, but have to admit this is likely due to a “I don’t want that” streak in me.

On the other hand, I don’t recognize Satan all the time. In fact, his suggestions and ideas seem more like self-talk. Perhaps that is why I can be duped by his lies. However, if my concentration is on Christ and the Word of God, I’m not even interested in whatever that ‘stranger’ says to me. I usually evaluate it quickly and let it fly overhead like an unwanted buzzing wasp. I might even take a swat at it as it passes.

Jesus does not put the onus on His disciples to listen, even though listening is a good idea. He says that His sheep know and hear His voice and follow Him. It happens because we are in a personal relationship and like any friendship, we know the voice of our friend.

Jesus also says we don’t know the voice of the ‘stranger’ — which is true, but also that we will not follow that voice. It seems to me a contradiction to my experience for at times the devil has lured me, yet Jesus is not making a mistake. I might be distracted, but my error is not permanent. As soon as I realize where that unknown voice is coming from, I flee from that voice and return to follow my Shepherd, the One who I know — because He has made Himself known to His sheep.

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