Of Sheep and Disciples

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“…but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.”  John 10:26

I’ve heard it said that sheep are dumb.  I’ve even heard that if a sheep falls on it’s back, it won’t be able to get back up, and will die within a few hours.  And I wondered about that, so I did some research, and the majority of research I’ve done, says that sheep have the ability to right themselves unless they are actually injured.  But, Lord, since You are only concerned with the truth, You never mentioned anything about overturned sheep.  And You didn’t think them dumb.  You actually thought they had some redeeming qualities.  Or maybe You saw something worth redeeming in them.  Or, actually, maybe You saw a little bit of yourself in them, I mean, You are the Lamb of God.

Biblically, sheep represent meekness, patience, and submission, and You are the prime example.   Isaiah 53:7 says of You, “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”  Well, how is that for meekness, patience, and submission before the Father and before man?

In Your Word, sheep are spoken of over 500 times.  Maybe there is something You want us to understand about the character of sheep, especially since You refer to Your children, to believers as sheep.  There is this account I found of this man who was looking into this Biblical behavior of sheep.  I believe his name is Hartley.  And in his “Researches in Greece and the Levant” he shares this account with a shepherd.  Keep in mind John 10:1-16.  “Having had my attention directed last night to the words in ( John 10:3 ) I asked my man if it was usual in Greece to give names to the sheep. He informed me that it was, and that the sheep obeyed the shepherd when he called them by their names. This morning I had an opportunity of verifying the truth of this remark. Passing by a flock of sheep I asked the shepherd the same question which I had put to the servant, and he gave me the same answer. I then had him call one of his sheep. He did so, and it instantly left its pasturage and its companions and ran up to the hands of the shepherd with signs of pleasure and with a prompt obedience which I had never before observed in any other animal. It is also true in this country that a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him. The shepherd told me that many of his sheep were still wild, that they had not yet learned their names, but that by teaching them they would all learn them.”

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  John 10:27  These are Your words, Lord.  You designed sheep like that.  You created them for this example.  You created them to respond like this.  Before time began as we know it, You were the Lamb of God, because You are the I AM, You never change.  So what if these things we call simple sheep aren’t so simple after all?  What if they were created as illustrations to draw us to You in a right spirit and through right character?  What if the world’s perception of a sheep doesn’t matter?  What if all that matters is Your perception of the sheep and the sheep’s perception of You?

And what if it’s not really about sheep at all?  What if it’s really about me, about each of us, and Your perception of us and our perception of You?  What if it has everything to do with my meekness before You, with my patience before You, and with my submission before You?  What if it has to do with my trusting You and recognizing Your voice and Your care of me?  What if it has to do with the way I run to You when You call my name?  What if it has to do with whether I even acknowledge You calling my name?

I mean, when You show me something in Your word or in my heart fromYour word, do I instantly run to You and obey with a heart of pleasure?  Or am I one of those sheep that needs to be trained to respond to You?  And I wonder if there are sheep that are untrainable, that never understand the joy and pleasure of the shepherd?

Well, I really don’t know that much about sheep, yet I’m learning what it is like to be one.  But I’m not really the one who has to know sheep, my Shepherd knows.  And as long as I know the Shepherd, as long as I know You, Lord, I’m going to be fine, because You are going to see to that.  Because the proof of being a sheep and not a goat is that I can discern Your voice.  And as I hear Your voice, I respond to it.  And as I respond to Your voice I follow You.  And You keep me right where I need to be- in You.

“They follow me.”  That’s important stuff.  Because being a disciple, being a believer is more than agreeing; it’s not just informational.  “Akaloutheo” means “to follow after, to go behind.”  “Halak’ahar” is the Hebrew equivalent.  Both words mean “to go after.”  Your disciples aren’t people who are just learning facts.  We are actively and behaviorally being transformed.  Sheep don’t just sit around discussing and learning and talking about it.  They learn to follow You for their sustenance and safety and pleasure.  They don’t just write books or blogs about it.  They don’t just have family devotions.  They live it out.

Akoloutheo is about “following behind” You, Lord.  When You invite someone to “follow Me,” You “mean that Your followers adopt the same life purpose and behavior that You demonstrate.  We are to be followers, not pupils, and those who are followers are truly disciples.  No man who is only a pupil is a real disciple.”  (Skip Moen)  Or a real sheep for that matter.   

So what does this mean for my life?  Well, if I’m really His disciple, I’ll follow “His life in actions, thoughts, and attitudes.”  I’ll let You personally transform me.  I’ll go from being a sheep who doesn’t recognize Your voice to being a sheep who loves to hear You call my name and comes running immediately when You do, and not only immediately, but joyfully!  My life ought to look more and more like Yours every day, not just in talk but in it’s actual actions.  Whatever You looked like, I ought to look like- compassionate, reaching out to the poor and hurt and sick, desirous of my time with God, patient, meek, submissive, ready to act upon the will of God in His power.  All my “behavior, attitude, and thinking” must be transformed until it resembles the Lamb of God I follow.  Skip Moen put it this way, “Until what we learn is absorbed into how we live, there is no discipleship (and in the Hebrew view, there is no learning either).  All following includes active obedience.”

There is One who leads.  I am to follow the One who leads.  To hear is to obey.  There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.  To hear is not to determine, or to rationalize, or to examine, or analyze, or document, or just retain.  When Scripture says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God,” it’s not just talking about words coming in our ears.  It’s talking about words coming to life in our whole beings.  This is the Word coming to fruition in us.  This is when I live it out.  Faith is hearing and living it and doing it as I follow all of Jesus’s ways.  Remember, a follower walks where?  A follower walks behind.  I’m not dragged or pulled sitting and listening on a cart where I make no effort of my own.   I willingly get on my feet, leave the world behind, and follow You, Jesus.  My steps become the steps of the One who leads me.

Why did You say these people weren’t Your sheep?  Because they didn’t know Your voice, they didn’t acknowledge Your voice, and they didn’t follow You or even really come to You in joy.  What about me? Am I a sheep?  Am I following after You like I’ve never followed anything else in my life?  Am I following after You as though my life depended on it?  Am I following after You as the joy of my life?

Lord, more than anything, I want to be a chip off the old block that is You.  I want to be a replica of the Lamb of God that I follow.  May I have an attitude of meekness, patience, and submission that resembles You and is straight from You as You transform me.  May I always be attentive to Your voice and may I joyfully run to You in obedience no matter the task, no matter the call.  There is absolutely no one who can understand me the way You do.  And there is no one who loves me in the way that You do.  How can I ever return to You what You have given me?  The least I can do is to faithfully and actively follow You in adoration.  Thank You for making me a sheep and for training me to be more like You every day.

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