19 June 2009

A Shepherd's Heart

The book “A Tale of Two Sons” by John MacArthur is a wonderful exposition of the Scriptures, and I highly recommend it! You will not be disappointed. But as I was going though the book, something that John said really stood out to me. John explained that these parables that Jesus told the Pharisees were about salvation and genuine repentance, but he also spoke of the importance of a shepherd, especially in the first parable about the “lost sheep”. What does it mean to be a shepherd? Better yet, what does it mean to be a good shepherd?
The duty of the shepherd is to care for and protect the flock. If one gets away, we are to go and find that lost soul and carry him or her back to safety. We must always be on guard and watch the sheep because this post-modern world wants to devour them with everything other than Jesus. Jesus clearly explains this in His parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son. For example, in the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus says the shepherd makes sure the other sheep are safe and he goes out to find the lost one. But I think what’s more amazing is that the shepherd doesn’t belittle the sheep, or punish the sheep; he carries the sheep on his shoulders. “And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing”. Luke 15:5. Do you see that? He (the shepherd) rejoices and invites others to celebrate with him. Why? Because the sheep is in the safe hands of the Great Shepherd away from harm or danger “And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'” Luke 15:6. Our duty as pastors is to make sure the sheep are safe in the arms of the Great Shepherd - not our arms - because He is the only reason we have been called to be shepherds. We are to carry them to Jesus because He is the One who forgives and saves souls.
Jesus also said in the parable of the lost coin, "Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it?” Luke 15:8. A shepherd’s job is to be dedicated to the people of whom God has made him an overseer. Look what this woman does in the parable: she turns on a light because it’s next to impossible to see anything in the dark, especially a small coin; she sweeps every square inch of the area with great care and concern. This is a prime example of what a shepherd is to do in his local church. Can I ask you a question? Pastor, are you doing this in your church? If not, why not? We have been given the privilege to care for God’s children. This requires dedication and care for others as Paul said in the second chapter of Philippians, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” A shepherd is selfless not to the point where it causes conflict at home, but is selfless in putting others first by carefully searching until you find what you have lost. There are many souls lost and without the hope of a Savior; it’s our duty to care for the church and the surrounding community. The people need and must see a shepherd who cares for their souls.
We see in the last parable that Jesus gave, ‘the prodigal son’, a lost sinner separated from home comes to the realization that he needs the Father’s forgiveness. "But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, Luke 15:17-18. But that’s not the only thing we see in this story, it’s the next part that defines a true shepherd’s heart. "And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. Luke 15:20. How much are we rejoicing when a person comes to the Savior? Are we too manly to hug someone when they have seen their sin and need your help? The shepherd doesn’t wait for a person to come to them; the shepherd runs to meet the lost sinner with Christ. The Bible tells us that the Heavens rejoice over one sinner who comes to repentance. The shepherd is to embrace the new believer with open arms, with compassion and love for a sinner who has come home.
Even though these parables were directed to the ignorance of the Pharisees and the importance of repentance, we see a glimpse of the shepherd’s heart on the pages of Scripture. Pastors, we must have this heart which Jesus described in these passages. A true shepherd is someone who has a passion for Christ; a love for souls be saved; a person who is dedicated to hard work; and most of all, a fervent desire to see no one perish. Is this me? Is this you? I hope and pray that others will be able to say that about us one day. That he (add your name here) was a man who cared, searched, embraced every lost sinner with a Christ-like love and directed the community to Christ because Jesus is the Great Shepherd. There is no other name under Heaven by which a person may be saved. As the apostle Peter said, “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”1 Peter 2:24-25.This what a shepherd’s heart truly looks like. Though we can never completely fulfill this requirement, we must imitate Him who paid such a great price for you and me; He’s the Great Shepherd.

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