Following the Good Shepherd

Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10).  In this context, Jesus described Himself as a shepherd and His followers as sheep.  As the Good Shepherd, Jesus has the best interest of His sheep, and He laid down His life so that they may have abundant life (John 10:11).  Others are robbers and thieves, and they come only to take advantage of the sheep and do them harm.  They are the deceivers and self-seeking exploiters of this world.

The Good Shepherd's appeal for abundant life is attractive to the sheep, but the thieves also have an appeal.  They attempt to lure the sheep away from Jesus via clever deception, worldly wisdom, and empty promises.  Consider 2Peter 2:18-19:

18For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.

Their tactics are often effective, for they captivate many souls with the promise of freedom to indulge every lust.  Their promise is empty, for indulging lusts gives birth to sin, death, and slavery (Jas. 1:14-15).  In this way, the thieves steal, kill, and destroy many of the sheep whom the Good Shepherd came to save so that "the last state has become worse for them than the first" (2Pet. 2:20).

We who are the sheep of Jesus must constantly weigh the offer of abundant life through Him against the appeal of the thieves who seek to entice us.  Do not think that we are immune to the thieves' tactics just because we are in the Lord's flock.  Jesus said that His sheep follow Him (John 10:27) and that no one shall snatch them out of His hand (John 10:28), but that does not mean we cannot wander astray by our own desire to follow the thieves and receive their promises.  Indeed, we can stop following the Good Shepherd, which will cause us to lose the blessings of being in His flock, including abundant life.

Can the thieves offer us something better than the blessings of abundant life in Christ?  Of course, they cannot, but many sheep are deceived into following the thieves anyway.  Therefore, it is necessary to renew our minds in Christ against the attacks of the thieves of this world.  Let us be reminded of who Jesus is, what He has done for us, how He has blessed us, and what we must do to remain secure in His flock.  To this end, consider Colossians 2:6-15.  As you read, remember what Jesus said about being the Good Shepherd, and watch out for the thieves in verse 8:

6Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.  8See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.  9For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; 11and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.  13When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.  15When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.

If you are a Christian, then you entered the flock of the Good Shepherd by hearing the message of the gospel, obtaining faith in Christ through that message, being baptized into Christ, and rising up to walk in newness of a life that is no longer mastered by sin (Rom. 6:1-14).  This is how you received Christ, and it is how you must walk in Him now.  To remain in the Lord's flock, you must continue to follow the Good Shepherd by obeying His will.  Do not be taken captive by the thieves of this world with their philosophy and empty deception, but follow the one in whom dwells the fullness of Deity. He is your Good Shepherd, and He will lead you to abundant life for eternity.

Stacey E. Durham


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