John 10: Receiving and Responding to the Shepherd’s Voice

To be a chosen race–a royal priesthood–is to be both recipients and responders to the mercy and grace lavished upon us by Him who calls. In John 10, Christ explains that His sheep, none of whom He has lost nor failed to gather, recognize His voice. It is this recognition, this reception that leads to their responding obedience in following His call, as Jesus says, “4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

This reception–belief, as it is also referred–is brought about within us all differently; for myself, it was a constant series of growing pains–both slow and aching, yet comforting in that I knew by them I was meant for greater heights. No matter how this belief grew within you, the supernatural nature of its development is clear, the belief having manifested itself within us while going against the grain of our flesh. Indeed, it is our identity as His sheep rather than any will of our flesh that allows our recognition of His voice. For many hear His voice, as the Great Commission guarantees, yet few recognize it; Christ says to the Jews around Him beginning in verse 25, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name bear witness about Me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among My sheep.”

Therefore, our reception of His call is prerequisite to our responding to it, as Christ says, “27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.” Simply stated, one must receive something before he can respond to it. With this, true belief—once and if truly held—will naturally spur out of believers an overflow of what they have experienced, which manifests itself in love and devotion to Christ and His commands. This is how we understand the congruency between “by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8) and “faith without works is dead” (James 2:17). If no works appear, it is because there is no faith present to cause them. Therefore, it can be gathered that what distinguishes works displaying justification from works chasing justification is whether said works are done by a heart responding to the gospel or a heart trying to obtain the gospel. With this I reveal to you the burden laid upon me by the Spirit—that we have begun to replace natural response with self-begotten obligation, and in doing so have devastatingly belittled our Christian walk to one of reaching for Christ as if He is far off rather than one of following Christ within the unity He has already gathered us into.

All believers stumble into this cage of fear periodically; we recognize that we are falling into sin or apathy, and we hear from others and ourselves that we must find love and devotion for Christ again, as such is the only cure. This is surely the Spirit within us, showing His faithfulness to persist His calling throughout our walk. However, we often take this jostle of conviction to mean that we must out of our own will fix our heart—something so clearly unbiblical on paper that we must simply not realize our thinking of it.

We must return to the Word: true love and devotion are brought about as a response to the gospel; therefore, if our love and devotion are slipping, it must be because we have forgotten the gospel. I have broken up John 10 in this discussion in order to emphasize its parts; however, there are verses I’ve yet to mention. In verse 15, Jesus states, “I lay down My life for the sheep.” He is the Good Shepherd for this very reason; “17 For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down on My own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from My Father.” And later, beginning in verse 28, He refers to His sheep, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

Remembering these truths that we have believed is what will stir our affection for God again; we do not have the power to will ourselves into loving Christ. Rather, it is His Spirit within us that makes us able to do so. Remind yourself of the gospel constantly; surround yourself with a community that will encourage you; pray fervently, especially when you don’t have the desire to. These are not works or deeds done in an attempt to “find God again”; rather, they are the responses of your soul to the voice of the Good Shepherd, the One who never ceases to call you to follow Him into His everlasting companionship.

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