The Shepherd Heart of Christ - By Grant Marshall
Philippians 2: 1Therefore if you have any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being united in spirit and purpose.3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests but also to the interests of others.
Early Sunday morning I ventured out as usual on my weekly ramble down the country lanes into the nearby village. The strong winds, which had prevailed for three days, still blew in gusts along the paths. My Sunday ramble is my hour with the Lord, where I like to think, we have man-to-man and father-to-son talks. I am always expectant in hearing something. I like to praise Him and so I began to sing the song ‘Agnus Dei’. When I reached the words ‘worthy is the lamb’, I realised that just over the hedge was a flock of sheep which had until then been hidden from my view as walked down the lane. They were huddled in the corner of the field. They all seemed pretty comfortable, despite the gusts that blew over them. The sheep are moved around from field to field, and sometimes, when there is an appropriate gate to lean on, I like to give my surrogate flock, as well as myself, a little sermon. Later in the morning, I was speaking to my farmer friend, who told me that it was a delight to see a field, which he had sold on, now being used for pasture land for a flock of sheep. Later that day, I knew that the Lord was bringing something to me.
The Ministry of Yeshua, reveals to us the Lamb of God and His beautiful caring and sacrificial heart. Sometimes it is hard to see this in some of the preachings which manifest in the streets today. Popular preaching seems to want to get involved in arguments and clever apologetics.
People argue because they don’t want to be confronted with their sinful ways. So the metaphorical point of the sword of the word, prods and shifts the discourse instead of dividing the truth. When our soulish behaviour suffers the injury of the cut, it must shout out for help for its wound to be healed. But alas, the approach toward evangelism is more of a friendly kind instead of a surgical one. The narrative in our culture is subjective. But an unbeliever, as much as a believer, must confront the one to whom they have sinned. Their object focus must be changed. All have sinned, we are told, but who is worse, the unbeliever or the believer? Both come under different judgements because each is subject to the revelatory light.
However, In my message today, I want to bring something that is also close to my heart and troubling
In John 3:1-16, we see Yeshua speaking to an experienced teacher of the Jews. Often knowledge can be preventive in seeing the truth. Teachers often focus on the object of the text which is subject to both personal or true interpretation. The believer’s object is of course God because the holy scriptures reveal to us that the text is the living word, from the beginning of creation and became incarnate in the Messiah. This is what the priests, teachers and lawmakers failed to see. But it is also what Israel will see, in time, when their eyes are opened.
Yeshua speaking to Nicodemus
John 3:10 “You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? 11Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. 12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things? ….
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. 21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God…
27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”
I want to highlight a problem we have among the sect of the Hebrews, those who see themselves enlightened by the Messianic way, or those who now see they have a better understanding of scripture which has tended to lift them higher in knowledge than other believers.
Romans 12:3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but think of yourself with sober judgment, according to the measure of faith God has given you. 4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and not all members have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many are one body, and each member belongs to one another. 6 We have different gifts according to the grace given us. If one’s gift is prophecy, let him use it in proportion to his faith; 7if it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is giving, let him give generously; if it is leading, let him lead with diligence; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Friends, I will declare that I once thought the same. But I truly pray that I did not become arrogant but open to change as I only sought wisdom. I did, however, see myself more enlightened by finding my Hebrew roots. But ultimately, YHVH led me to the path that revealed my true identity and family link. The religious path had hidden that from me. Religion gives us a false sense of identity — it very quickly draws us into a family, giving us a sense of belonging because that’s what we want. But it is like a child who is adopted; He is welcomed into a family, and treated as one of their own, but then begins to ask about his heritage. He realises that something is missing. His quest for his true parents may bring an unwelcome find or indeed an amazing one. I would say that finding our Hebraic root is the latter; the scales fall from our eyes, and it fills us with excitement and zeal, just like the day when we were born again. It is a faith move, and we can’t stop ourselves from speaking about it. This zealous compulsion can be detrimental too.
Some of us have this zealous nature. The evangelist is like this. He wants people to believe and share what he has found. But the message of evangelism is not about transferring knowledge or judging and condemning others. This type of zeal was a diabolical and calamitous time in the early years of the Christian faith. Forced conversion under the threat of death pervaded the Christian cause. Islam did the same, and again in the Middle Ages, the Catholic inquisitions; and in the 20th century, the plan to exterminate the Jews reached volcanic proportions. Yeshua sent His disciples out with two swords, one for defence and another to save. He did not send them out with a bludgeon. He gave them a secret — stay with those who will listen and leave those who won’t. He did not say anything about forcing conversion. He told them in no uncertain words that the very word will bring about change because they will go out in the power of the Holy Spirit. In contrast, the Jews, it would seem, would never embark on such crusades.
Yes, we must draw those in the faith who are in error out by the truth and those who are lost, in by the truth. We must not be constantly condemning. Yeshua showed us the way of love and kindness. The way of violence is not for us to administer and we have much to repent of, and in truth, the kingdom has been filled by not many truly converted souls at all. We rejoice when we see thousands of hands raised to receive the Lord at mass gatherings, but how much true birth has been seen?
You might argue that such a consideration is up to the Lord and not to us, but hey! Wait a minute, does a farmer not look to his flock or to his harvest to see what is bad and what will continue to bear fruit? Should we just ignore all of this and hope for the best? Is that being a wise tenant? Should we ignore Yeshua’s parable in Luke 13?
We bring correction to those who come against the knowledge of God and who defile the sacred space, and thus we help to maintain that which is holy and identify that which is profane. In this respect, our zeal must be like Yeshua’s when He turned over the tables in His Father’s house.
We must be offended too, by such offences. The Father’s House is not a marketplace where people can prosper in selling their merchandise or promoting ministries. How many believers make a stand against this when we see it at conferences and events? Another thing is this, when one man observes this moon or that moon we are quick to draw dividing lines. We forget that the cord that joins us is the blood of Yeshua that runs through the family veins, not some celestial event.
Walking ‘The Way of the Master’, must reveal to us who we really are and the family of YHVH connection. It is not about debating knowledge.
The Word of God is the power of God that brings salvation to every man who will receive it. God prepares the hearts of men for this gift but some still argue that it is better to walk in it this way or another. They perceive that their heightened knowledge is the only true prescribed way. However, there can be partial blindness that comes with great light. We cannot see that we are leaning toward the same attitude as the Pharisees.
Let us read this passage in Matthew 22
34 Now when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced (muzzled) the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 One of them, a lawyer [an expert in Mosaic Law], asked Jesus a question, to test Him: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 And Jesus replied to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others].’ 40 The whole Law and the [writings of the] Prophets depend on these two commandments.” AMP
Now let us read 1 Corinthians 13:1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love [for others growing out of God’s love for me], then I have become only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal [just an annoying distraction]. 2 And if I have the gift of prophecy [and speak a new message from God to the people], and understand all mysteries, and [possess] all knowledge; and if I have all [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love [reaching out to others], I am nothing. 3 If I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it does me no good at all.
These passages should help us to refocus on our attitudes toward others and to reflect the loving faithful heart of our Great Shepherd who was sacrificed as the Lamb of God for all sinners.
Friends, filling our heads with knowledge makes us laud ourselves over others and puffs up the spirit. We must boast in the love that we have and not in what we have gained intellectually. This love comes from our Messiah and not from ourselves. If the spirit of the man, who calls himself a disciple of Messiah Yeshua cannot transcend his cleverness, then he will not bear fruits of grace.
The ministry that YHVH has given us, has seen, unfortunately, a lack of grace amongst many so-called messianic believers. They have no time for those who are not like themselves. They do not ask about a person’s well-being when they meet but jump directly into discussing doctrine. We all need healing, and so we are called to address the need and then move on to weightier things, perhaps.
The problem we have today is the sprouting of a divisive doctrine that continues to keep the body fractured. Everyman, agreed, must walk in the knowledge he has attained. This has come from the Father, but we must also remind ourselves that this is a gift to the body, not to the one. YHVH’s grace does not work that way. The gifts are for the edifying and equipping of the holy people.
We must be able to bend if we are to remain a branch in the vine. Prideful thought and arrogance come at a price.
Romans 11:17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you [Gentiles], being like a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among them to share with them the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not boast over the [broken] branches and exalt yourself at their expense. If you do boast and feel superior, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root that supports you. 19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand by your faith [as believers understanding the truth of Christ’s deity]. Do not be conceited, but [rather stand in great awe of God and] fear [Him]; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches [because of unbelief], He will not spare you either.
This same attitude exists among believers today. If we believe in Messiah Yeshua and are in Him then we will all bear fruit. The first fruits of many plants are not as good in the early years. Subsequent harvests refine the fruit and make it palatable. This is the same as the early shoots of those who are growing in the faith — and the new wine, if it is of any worth, will mature.
Friends, a great shock will come to those who think they have attained much. They will find that when the vine keeper comes, he will be a lot harsher with his pruning shears. There comes a great responsibility among those who are called to teach.
John the Baptist preached with a zeal. His ministry was to turn the hearts of the people to repentance and help them to see the One who was to come. If a person wants to be as zealous as John, he must find out whether this grace of character has been given to him and not assumed. He must realise that humility comes with it. John saw that he was not worthy to tie even the shoelace of the Messiah.
In a hurting broken world, we must approach the wounds with love and sacrifice. We must be a gentle light in the darkness. The time to be a flame thrower has not yet come. We must not be people who judge, demonise or condemn others within the body. This is like taking a hammer to your own hand.
Reconciliation through love, and seeking peace among the body is the way. The heart of the lamb must be shown if we seek to please Him. This fulfils the royal commandment. When the age draws to a close and our warrior King returns we will see the Lion of Judah released upon all wickedness.
In this hour, however, we must realise that the people have a malady which they do not see.
Consider this: during the time of Noah, the world was a very wicked place indeed. The people must have seen Noah’s hard work of building the ark every day. Surely they must have asked him why he was doing such an endeavour. If they had believed his warning, then perhaps more would have been saved.
Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
2 Peter 2:5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly.
The light of Messiah sheds its beam upon the work of God. The love of Christ tells us why He has come and what He will do to the one who needs healing. His physician's hand applies the barm gently. He is not like some physicians who are aloof and see that their qualifications justify their methods and treatment. The sick need to see that the physician is caring and not dogmatic.
When it comes to dealing with people, we are not all good at reaching out with a tender hand or a sympathetic word. Such skills must be learned and honed. However, Yeshua, incarnate as man, became empathetic with us and transcended all our methods. The gifts He gives us can only be used effectively when we allow the Holy Spirit to put His hands upon them.
Our level of zeal reflects the place, the level of the depth and the response to our own sin - the place of our personal ditch when the Great Shepherd came to draw His lost sheep out. Such zeal is a great tool for those who were in similar ditches as ourselves, but like a sword, it must be used to cut through the brier carefully.