My Sheep Know My Voice: The Lesson of an Irish Shepherd
I write this from Ireland’s gorgeous yet bustling capitol and port city, Dublin. I’ve had a myriad of amazing experiences here in Ireland. But there is one in particular that I believe I’m to share with you, and it is centered upon hearing, knowing, and obeying the voice of the Shepherd.
As a Christian author and teacher who sees and hears many different things being taught in the Body of Christ today, I am grieved at how many “believers” (meaning those who claim to be Christian) are seeking, heeding, and following strange voices. I read articles, see posts on Facebook, and listen to sermons which are nothing more than witchcraft under a Christian label when examined by scripture and weighed against the Word of God. These teachings promise prosperity, wealth, and even go so far as to say, “God will give you everything you desire.” Messages like this grieve my spirit deeply. They appeal to those who are carnal instead of spiritual. They seduce those who love this world and everything in it. And the greedy hearts of those who abide by the lust of the flesh are tickled by these self-serving teachings. These are not believers who are ready to suffer persecution for their LORD. Nor are they willing to sacrifice for Him. On the contrary, their Christian lives are all about them. They are entirely self-serving. The Gospel has become their means to an end. This perverted gospel is one that is sadly deceiving many — hundreds of thousands, in fact. And it’s being propagated by pastors and teachers all over this country and all across the world.
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed, (Galatians 1: 6-9, KJV).
At the time Paul wrote this, Gentile believers (to whom he was called) were being told they had to circumcise themselves to be saved. They were being told they had to follow the Law of Moses. As we find in Galatians, the promise of Christ given to Abraham was by grace, long before the Law of Moses was established. Paul makes it very clear that the Law was given to reveal the righteousness of God and our need for Christ. It was our ‘tutor’ until Christ came and revealed the mystery of the Gospel.
Paul opens his letter straight away with (1) a bold appeal, and (2) a very clear curse for those who do not heed his warning. The Gospel of Christ is established upon the foundation of the Apostles (there are only 12), and the Prophets (of the Old Testament). This accounts for the Word of God which we know today as the sixty-six canonized books written under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit through chosen men of God. Paul makes it clear that any other gospel preached than that which they have preached, is absolute heresy. And those who preach it are accursed.
The teachings I’ve related to you in this post easily fall into that category. In fact, blatantly so. For one who is well seasoned in the Word of God, they are very easy to recognize.
My question is this: Why aren’t believers recognizing these heretical and perverse teachings?
There is an answer, and it’s a very simple one. They do not know the Shepherd’s voice and so they listen, heed, and follow (obey) the voice of strangers.
You’ll only listen to a stranger under one condition:
When Christ is not your Shepherd.
In other words, Christ who is to be your Shepherd, ironically becomes the stranger. And therefore, strange voices of deception easily lead astray. Regardless of why a believer is listening to strange voices (and there can be many reasons) — Christ is no longer their Shepherd at that point. This common phenomenon reveals just how many professing “Christians” don’t actually know Christ at all. And because they don’t know Christ, they cannot discern His voice from those of strangers. They are spiritually troubled, confused, deceived, and ultimately led astray into diverse types of bondage.
The Church no longer makes disciples of Christ as Jesus instructed.
Instead, it makes disciples of men.
Here is what Christ says: (listen carefully)
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief cometh, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.
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 any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one, (John 10:1-5, 7-15, and 27-30, KJV, emphasis mine).
The Good Shepherd
Again, there are many who profess belief in Christ, yet don’t know Him at all. This is becoming more and more commonplace — and more and more accepted. Sadly, they have no relationship with Him spiritually, either through His Word, or through His Spirit. And when both are missing, salvation is to be questioned according to the scriptures. In such cases deception is inevitable. These “believers” are those who profess Christ, yet their lives fail to demonstrate the faith they profess, which is why James argues that such faith is “dead”. In other words, it’s not genuine. True faith in Christ demonstrates the Gospel of Christ. It’s alive. It’s active. It’s bearing good fruit.
Faith will always bear fruit.
Christ makes it very clear that His sheep know His voice. Period. When someone professes Christ, yet does not know His voice, that is a very serious problem. Because it’s not the sheep who are responsible for training their ear. It is the Shepherd who does this. The sheep must listen, heed, and obey His voice. Christ will faithfully speak and lead those who belong to Him. He does this by the indwelling Holy Spirit, and through His living word.
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his, (Romans 8:5-9, KJV).
Those who heed and follow the voice of strangers are those who are carnally minded, who are living in the flesh. It is very questionable if they are truly Christ’s. This may very well be a pertinent factor in why they find this heretical Gospel so appealing — it speaks directly to their flesh.
The Word of God is very clear: Christ leads and guides those who are His by His Spirit. Even those who don’t know His Word, who have never been privy to owning a Bible or reading one, can be led by Christ through the indwelling Holy Spirit. The underground Chinese Church is a prime example of what it looks like to know Christ intimately, hearing His voice, and following Him. They are some of the most genuine and powerful believers the world has ever known. They are powerhouses for Christ. Why? They know His voice, and they follow Him. He is their Shepherd.
So, regardless of whether or not we have a physical Bible; whether or not we are literate; whether or not we come from a culture that has a written language — Christ is the Word of God. He is able to speak to His own, leading and guiding them into safe pasture.
Those who do not know His voice, who heed the voice of strangers — it remains questionable as to whether or not they truly belong to Him. This spiritual malady requires immediate and serious attention.
The Shepherd I witnessed was one who owned approximately seventeen breeds. Each one looked different, and was reared for a specific purpose. Each produced a different type of wool that was used for different things (ie carpet, sweaters, blankets, tweed, etc.). Others produced dairy products, and still others produced meat. All of these sheep where distinct in their colors, markings, size, shape, and their facial features — including their horns. For example, one particular breed was of Middle Eastern descent, and grew four horns.
As the shepherd began to speak about their particular breed, that specific sheep stood up, came to him, and allowed him to examine it and present it to the audience. It was amazing! How did he do that? He taught the sheep his voice, and he knew them by name.
Those who know Christ, whether scripturally versed or not, will know His voice clearly.
The shepherd is the one responsible for teaching the sheep his voice.
Sheep, are by nature, very docile yet vulnerable creatures. They require the most tender and diligent of care. And when they are neglected, they can easily suffer and even die. That death is often because of their own waywardness. They get into perils very easily from which they cannot rescue themselves. They have virtually no defenses. Therefore, sheep must have a shepherd who cares for them and nurtures them. This is something they are unable to do for themselves. Because of their lack of intelligence, sheep are easily led by what appeals to their immediate need. They are easily seduced. And because they are so led, they often find themselves in trouble and in need of prompt rescue. A negligent shepherd, or the hireling Christ talks about leads his sheep astray by default through these acts of omission. Under such circumstances, the sheep become a prey — and to much less than wolves.
Christ talks about being the good shepherd. The good shepherd is the one who lays down his life for the sheep. He leads and guides them into safe pasture where they are safe, fed, and watered under His watchful eye. He brings the abundant life. The abundant life Christ promises His sheep have nothing to do with greed or lusts of the flesh. True life in Christ is demonstrated by the fruit it produces. When a sheep has the abundant life, it will produce. Sheep who wander are brought back. And the lambs are carried in his arms until his voice is clear.
Fruitfulness is the evidence of abundant life. Not greedy gain.
As you can see from the picture I’ve shared, this little one is only a few days old. It suckled on my hair and nestled into my shoulder. Another even suckled on my finger, desperately trying to nurse. These natural antics warmed my heart, and they clearly demonstrate the innate needs of these vulnerable animals. They require affection, attention, and constant care. As you can see with the shepherd beside me, he is teaching the lamb his voice as he carries it in his arms. All of them take turns with the shepherd as he holds them close and speaks to them personally.
When such care is given and received, the shepherd becomes their intimate provider and protector, establishing a relationship of trust with each one individually. These docile and vulnerable animals are not the smartest of creatures, and are therefore given to habit. What is repeated is remembered and learned. The more the shepherd speaks to them, the greater their likelihood of knowing his voice — even from a distance when he calls.
The shepherd’s voice must be established through intimate relationship — which he initiates.
It is therefore, no surprise, that we as sheep required the Lamb of God to lay down His life for us. What a beautiful and intimate picture of the redemption Christ offers! He has very literally become one of His own!
The Voice of Strangers
For sheep who know their shepherd’s voice, they will not listen to the voice of strangers. One of two things happen: they either ignore that voice, or they startle and flee from it. The voice of stranger will immediately strike fear and apprehension into the heart of a well-bred sheep. When such circumstances present themselves, the voice of the stranger arouses the sheep to seek and find their shepherd at once. They will go bleating about, calling out for him and running across the fields until they find shelter in his presence.
A strange voice is one they will not follow. In fact, a strange voice is one they will flee from.
Has Christ’s voice become strange to believers today?
I don’t think so. Only because Christ is faithful to teach His sheep His voice. Rather, I believe there are many who have failed to listen, heed and follow Him. There are many who are deceiving and are being deceived, even as the bible predicts and teaches. Such times are prominent within the Church worldwide. Now, more than ever, we must know Christ, hear His voice, follow and obey Him. Only then will we find safety and sustenance.
Many will be led astray in the last days by strange voices, seducing spirits, and heresies that deceive those who have itching ears. These are the ones who will no longer endure sound doctrine, of which Paul clearly warns. As a result, there will be a great falling away. It is happening right now through the smooth deception being propagated by ‘hirelings’ who care nothing for the sheep. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing who are perverting the Gospel of Christ for greedy gain. Those led astray by them are no longer listening to the Shepherd, although He is faithful to speak to them and lead them out of bondage into safe pasture.
Do you know Christ’s voice? What is your response when you hear a stranger’s voice? Are you able to discern Christ’s voice from the voice of a stranger? What has your response been to some of these teachings within the Church? Remember, the hireling cares nothing for the sheep. The many pastors and teachers today who present a false gospel are strange voices that any true believer should immediately recognize and from which they will immediately flee. Such blatant heretical messages and teachings, which are worthy of a curse, should prompt us to seek Christ at His Word, by His Spirit, finding the Good Shepherd ready to lead and guide us into safe pasture.
For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God, (Romans 8:14-16, KJV).
If you don’t know Christ’s voice, or are unable to discern His Spirit, it is time to ask yourself if you truly know Him.
Cheers & Shalom,