“A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. . . . I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep” (John 10:12, 14-15, NLT).
Let’s face it, even the most dedicated pastor is a hired hand. He is someone the Good Shepherd trusts, an approved workman hired to care for the sheep. But sometimes even a trustworthy servant is no match for a desperate, hungry wolf (unless that servant is supernaturally emboldened as David was).
The point here is that even the best pastor will fail you at times. He’s human, after all. And he doesn’t know you the way the Good Shepherd does. Don’t misunderstand me, most of us need the godly counsel of a faithful pastor. At times we may even need the wisdom of a professional counselor. Scripture tells us that there is wisdom in a multitude of counselors, including our devoted Christian friends. The difference with Jesus is that He is always there for us: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep” (10:11). He never fails you, never leaves you, and always has your best in mind.
We all know the famous scene in the Gospels where Jesus turned over the money changers’ tables in the temple. It was a literal act but also symbolic. Jesus was overturning an inferior religious system, declaring in effect, “You leaders are supposed to be shepherds over the people but you sell sacrifices to them rather than making true sacrifices to the Father. I’m overturning your system. I am the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep. I faithfully guide them into the good pastures that will bless and keep their lives.”
If you want true guidance in life, get to know your Shepherd’s voice. It may or may not come to you audibly, but it always comes through His written Word. Do you need direction in your life? He has but two words for you: “Follow Me.” Keep your eyes on Jesus. Focus on what His Word says and obey it. You can trust Him to lead you into His promise of a rich and satisfying life!
When my father left this world, he went out singing the praises of Jesus. Late in his life he renounced witchcraft, renounced Satan, and accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. My mother brought him to the Lord before his death, and now the two of them are together in heaven, dancing along the golden streets, basking in God’s glory, relishing their new eternal home with God. When I close my eyes, I can almost hear them shouting out in worship to their new King. Their Savior. Their glorious Redeemer!
How I wish my father could have enjoyed such a life on earth. I would give anything to have seen him worship God on earth as passionately as he served Satan. He would have been such an effective witness, such a powerful evangelist, such a great and mighty preacher of God’s Word.
Everything he did, he did with passion. His faith would have been so real and strong and unquenchable. He would have commanded such great miracles. He would have trusted God completely, drunk of His Word, followed Him wherever He might lead! His heart would have burned with a soul obsession! Because that’s the kind of man he was.
Instead of cowering before the devil, he could have spent his life hurting him, defeating him, bruising him. He could have had such an impact on the world. If only my father could have found Jesus at an early age.
Don’t let Satan steal your life and heart the way he stole my father’s. Don’t be seduced by his lies. Don’t be taken in by his charm or led astray by his empty promises. Put your faith in Jesus. Give your life to the one who wants to lift you up, not tear you down. The one who loves and cares for you. The one who brings true power and strength, not puny parlor tricks.
Don’t let Satan rob you the way he robbed my father. Don’t let him blind you to the truth of God’s goodness. Put your trust in an extraordinary God!
“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life” (John 10:10).
Nicky Cruz, internationally known evangelist and prolific author, turned to Jesus Christ from a life of violence and crime after meeting David Wilkerson in New York City in 1958. The story of his dramatic conversion was told first in The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson and then later in his own best-selling book Run, Baby, Run.
In the third chapter of Revelation, Christ sums up His message to all seven pastors and the churches of Revelation. And His words are telling: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (3:20). Too often, Christians don’t open up the doors of their hearts to Jesus. When He knocks, they’re not even home. Instead, there’s a sign on the door, saying, “Dear, Lord, I’m off to minister at the hospital, then later at the jail. See You in church.”
Many churches today are doing so many good, charitable things in Christ’s name. They have programs for almost every human need and the congregants live clean, upright lives, careful to avoid sin. But something has changed about them. At one time, these believers were devoted to their communion with Jesus. They wouldn’t go a single day without spending time alone with Him. But now things are different. All they give Him is a quick greeting on their way to some work. How serious is this to Jesus?
Jesus is warning us, “Something has been lost in My Church. It’s My awesome presence. You have to get back to the secret closet, back to supping with Me. Otherwise, I’ll remove My presence from you. All your good works—your preaching, evangelism and giving—must flow out of our time together. It has to come from My table.”
The church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:1-11) had lost something they once possessed—the manifest presence of Christ in their midst. They had begun to take Jesus’ presence for granted, and it was affecting their ministry. At one time, they loved and cared for one another, but now they took each other for granted as well. And that had a disastrous effect on their labors to do good works. They were so busy serving people that their deeds became the focus, not the love of Christ. His powerful presence was missing.
Now Jesus warned them: “If you don’t make changes—if you don’t return to your hunger for Me—I’m going to take away your testimony. You’ll no longer have any authority when you do your good works. It will all be for naught.”
Christ saw things needing attention in His Church. He instructed John to write down His words and send them to the seven “angels” of the churches. This refers to His ministers, calling them the stars in His hand (see Revelation 1:16). He is telling John, “I love these servants. I’ve called and anointed them and now you’re to deliver My words to them.”
As a pastor myself, I have to wonder: What must it have been like to open such a letter from John? “Unto the pastor of the church in New York: Thus saith the Lord, concerning your congregation.” Now imagine what those seven ministers felt.
Take, for example, the pastor at Ephesus (see Revelation 2:1-11). As he reads John’s letter, he sees Christ rejoicing over His Church. The Lord commends the Ephesians for being hardworking, patient and discerning. They hate evil, and they stand up for the cause of Christ. And through the years, they’ve never stopped doing good deeds. This pastor marvels at what he reads and thinks, “Wow, the Lord is pleased with us. This is a letter of commendation.”
But as he reads on, he comes upon piercing words: “Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love” (Revelation 2:4). Jesus warns the pastor, “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick” (Revelation 2:5).
The Ephesian pastor must have been aghast at this. He thinks, “Repent? Or He’ll remove our witness? How could this be? We’re covenant believers. We’re justified by faith. We’ve been charitable, caring. Now we’re supposed to go back and be as we were at the beginning? What does that mean? How can this be Jesus speaking? How could I ever read this letter to my congregation?”
Keep in mind, these words are directed to a godly congregation. So this had to be a deeply serious matter in the Lord’s eyes. Otherwise, why would He speak so searchingly to such a shining example of a church? He’s telling the pastor, “Your love for Me isn’t what it once was. You’ve neglected communion with me. Now, repent!”
Jesus makes it clear that it all has to do with His presence. Yes, the Ephesians had labored diligently in doing good works but they were no longer intimate with the Lord.
Christ loves His Church. He gave His life for it, and told us that the gates of hell won’t prevail against it (see Matthew 16:18). Jesus Himself is the foundation stone of this Church and Scripture tells us His glory and wisdom dwell in it. At Pentecost, He sent His Holy Spirit to establish the Church and He has gifted it with anointed servants—pastors, teachers, apostles, prophets and evangelists—for the purpose of building it up (see Ephesians 4:11-12).
It is clear that the Lord desires to bless His Church so why does Revelation present such a fearsome picture of Christ when He appears to His people? John writes that Jesus comes to the Church with flaming eyes and a thundering voice:
“[I saw] in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man . . . His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow: and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword” (Revelation 1:13-16).
Now, Revelation is the summation of God’s Word. It describes the end of all things and here is the first image of Christ we see in this book. Why does Jesus appear so foreboding here? And why does He speak so piercingly to His Church? John writes that Christ’s words are as sharp as swords, cutting down to the marrow. Remember, this was the apostle who leaned his head on Jesus’ bosom. But now he finds himself on his face: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead” (Revelation 1:17).
The Lord Himself explains His awesome appearance: “All the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto every one of you according to your works” (Revelation 2:23). The fact is, Christ loves His Church. And that’s the very reason He comes to search it. He comes to correct His people in love, to purify them.