April 1, 2008

C. R. Oliver

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April 1, 2008


The sheep follow Him, for they know His voice
John 10:4

Rulers in Israel, at the time of Jesus, got the shock of their lives when Jesus taught about the Shepherd and the sheep. Aiming directly at them, he called them thieves and robbers, while He was standing in Solomon's Porch, a place of judgment.

Jesus had just caused a blind man to see. This was not a healing; it was a miracle, and the religious traditionalists felt it their duty to interrogate the non-blind recipient. Since the miracle took place on a Sabbath day and since they were in charge of keeping order and judging activity, it was their responsibility to check into the circumstances surrounding this event. Their findings led to a division among themselves. Some faulted Jesus for Sabbath healings, while others credited Him for doing miracles that only God could have fostered. Jesus took the occasion to teach a serious lesson about His role in the earth.
And Jesus said, 'For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.
John 9:39
Saints have the same assignment and on more occasions than they wish to acknowledge. Saint-sheep are intricately connected to their Shepherd. A saint's presence in any forum brings a certain judgment inherently. He or she often becomes the enemy to some of those charged with the highest offices of the church and its system. At the same time, he or she become the advocate for those who have received His miracles. Saints often stand in the position of a spiritual lightening rod as frustration and anger target them.

Saints are a judgment within themselves. They carry judgment and justice as part of their being. They elicit strong currents of spiritual energy. They draw fellow sheep to themselves and repel those who are not. To these sheep is charged the role of loosing and binding, all the while speaking the same things they have heard from their Shepherd.

Saints are a defining force. They bring higher order to bear on all of life. They confront the "re-definers," and establish truth as a deterrent to error. When Jesus entered the arena of religious demagoguery, He cleared for all time the issue of spiritual authority. His compassion on the man He healed, when the man faced castigation and social ostracization, defined the issue of delegated authority versus true authority. It's simply a matter of voice. Sheep-saints hear only the voice of the Shepherd and all other voices mean nothing to them. Sheep-saints follow one Shepherd and all other shepherds they will not follow. They recognize the light* in His voice, which is absent in all others. *(Phonos, the Greek word for voice, is connected to phos, which means light.)

Jesus was and still is a Lamb-Shepherd. Like David, He knew both sides of the equation and identified with those who followed Him. Sometimes He was like David and had to face spiritual lions and bears and settle the score on power. Sometimes He, too, was alone, seeking one lost sheep. Sometimes He, too, was the caretaker of Psalms 23 and was the lover of the Shulamite.

Every sheep He fostered was a gift from His Father. Every one has a name that He knows. The intimacy of the relationship with His flock creates a bond that cannot be addressed by hirelings or thieves, thus the relevancy of John 10.
Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
John 10:1-3
Two foci are in Jesus' teaching about this subject: shepherds and sheep. The problem is that false shepherds and false sheep are mixed in with the true sheep. The false sheep are misled by their false shepherds. The spiritually blind sheep will not envision the false and the true as being two entities, but those with spiritual sight will. Jesus gave the guidelines for making these spiritual determinations. Determinate number one is, "Did they enter the door?"
Then Jesus said to them again, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.'
John 10:7-11
True saint-sheep enter the sheepfold through the door of Jesus, Messiah. True shepherds, those whose bond is with the Lord Jesus and who are dedicated to His work, have entered the same door as the saint-sheep. (Author's note: One huge difficulty facing modern congregations is seeing that!) Jesus taught that saint-sheep will encounter thieves and robbers.

The second determinate Jesus gave involved identification of the enemy. Thieves and robbers have one goal, and it is to kill and destroy their target group, which are the saint-sheep. Thieves and robbers want to effectively eliminate the saint-sheep from their flocks. Saint-sheep culling is taking place this very hour, and the pressure to conform to a standard less than that outlined by Jesus is the primary tool of choice. The next most used method is bowing to a set of rules opposite to Scripture! Conformity is the key word.

The Good Shepherd's goal is not conformity, but liberty. The Good Shepherd's desire is for His sheep to be well nurtured, well cared for, well attended and full of abundance of life (nothing lacking and none having sickness, death or the curse upon them). Jesus had confidence in their veracity and gave His permission for them to go in and out and find pasture.

Jesus did not leave His sheep in a thief's sheepfold. Saint-sheep are not to mix and mingle with other sheep. They are not allowed to remain in their presence. Saint-sheep follow their Shepherd OUT. Many have asked, "Can one be a Saint-sheep and remain in this or that congregation or denomination or fellowship?" The instant that question arises, an alarm should sound. The moment a person is born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit, the plausibility of remaining in some groups is cancelled by the Lord Jesus. Saint- sheep follow Him!
'To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. Yet they will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.'
John 10:3-5
Thank God, Thank God for this passage! Saint-sheep are not required to remain in the sheepfolds of the thieves and robbers. Those who say, "The Lord wants me here for a witness," had best check the scene and hear only from heaven. Saint-sheep all too often have to FLEE the voice of strangers, and there are many strangers in these modern times. Airwaves are full of their conflicting voices; media are brimming with their books and recorded materials crying, "Christ is over here." Confused sheep have not known the "control of their hearing" like saint-sheep.

Twice, Jesus referred to Himself as "The Good Shepherd" recorded in John 10. The third determinate Jesus gave was identifying the "Good Shepherd." For centuries, through Old Testament writings and prophecy, Jesus' role as the Good Shepherd was forecast.
He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.
Isaiah 40:11

'I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them-- My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd.'
Ezekiel 34:23
Subsequently, in the New Testament, the theme is reiterated.
Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the Dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the Everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work…
Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by constraint but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lord over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away.
I Peter 5: 2-4
For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
I Peter 2:25
These passages are not just superlatives to gloss up a dainty picture; these are strong statements about saints and their leadership. When Jesus used the Shepherd and sheep illustration, he was drawing off Ezekiel's larger version of judgment. Scribes and Pharisees knew these Scriptures and were cut to the heart with the implications.
'Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pastures!' says the Lord. Therefore thus says the Lord God of Israel against the shepherds who feed My people: 'You have scattered My flock, driven them away, and not attended to them, Behold, I will attend to you for the evil of your doings,' says the Lord.

'But I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I have driven them, and bring them back to their folds, and they shall be fruitful and increase. I will set up shepherds over them, who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking,' says the Lord.
Jeremiah 23:1-4
Great is this promise to the saint-sheep. Great is the news that God has set up His shepherds who, like Jesus, will feed the flock. Let saint-sheep be assured that the promised under-shepherds are now being put in place!
"For thus says the Lord God; 'Indeed I Myself will search for My Sheep and seek them out…'"
Ezekiel 34:11
When Jesus asserted a second reference to Himself being The Shepherd, promised of the Father, He assailed the inquisitors.
I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
John 10:14-17

'You do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. I and My Father are one.'
John 10:26-30
As Jesus cited the Jeremiah passage "one shepherd," He made the "cut." He followed the Ezekielian pattern and referred to Ezekiel 34:17 "'And as for you, O My flock,' thus says the Lord God: 'Behold I shall judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and goats.'"

Judgment and separation are literally on the doorstep of Christianity. The saint-sheep are listening for and are hearing His voice; they are more sensitive to the Spirit than ever before in recent history. Those "other voices" are fading, and the volume is being turned up by the True Shepherd above the clatter of "tinkling cymbals."

When Jesus slashed through the subterfuge of Pharisees and Scribes, He was asserting His sonship. They asked Him to make things plain for them and He did. Saint-sheep's sonship is their real issue. Their ability to voice the oracles of God with authority is the crux.

Jesus said the Old Testament referred to the people of God-as gods. Their voices counted, what they said stood, where they stood mattered. Jesus' declaration of His Sonship was not "off the page;" it was on the page. Saint-sheep are not peripherals; they are main stage; they are not the slough-off of religion; they are the focus of the Father AND the Son. These sheep are the flock of God, and their sonship is being challenged both in modern society and in the modern church. These sheep are important players in the end time ravelings.

Saint-sheep are so important to Jesus that John's gospel practically ended with directives regarding them. They are found in the love-sparring of Jesus and Peter. With every retort of Simon, there came a Shepherd response: "Feed My lambs," "Tend My Sheep," "Feed My sheep." This mandate has never been rescinded!

Until Next month,

Dr. Cosby R. Oliver, PhD.


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In Spanish:

Called to be Saints El Secreto de Salomon Los Hijos Sadoc

In German:

Die Sohn Zadoks

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