We’ve been looking at what we can learn from sheep about being led by the Spirit. If you haven’t read part one, I suggest you do so before continuing here.
As I said in part one, Jesus considered being able to hear His voice and follow Him “normal” Christian living, as He rather matter-of-factly states in John 10:4-5:
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.” (NKJV)
The question we’re trying to answer is how to do this. How do we know we’re following Jesus and not the voice of another? We started looking at five practical ways that sheep can help us, the first being that sheep know their shepherd’s voice because they live out every day with him (“Daily living in personal relationship”). I listed several practical ways we can stay connected with Jesus this way throughout our busy day.
Now, we’re ready to look at the other four…
2. Belonging and trust. Sheep know who they belong to (remember the story). “Belonging” is the hallmark of sonship.
Spiritual orphans don’t see God as their Father and His body as their family. They don’t trust relationships because of fear, but His perfect love will cast out any orphan fear! (1 John 4:18)
Trust is a heart attitude–one of humility and honesty, but also boldness and confidence in who God says you are in Christ.
It’s knowing that everything that belongs to Jesus belongs to you (Luke 12:32; 15:31; John 16:14-15), but also knowing that He’s the Shepherd and you’re not. He doesn’t orbit around your world, you orbit around His!
We’re not going to hear God’s voice if we have competing loyalties vying for our heart. Clarity comes when we know who we belong to and we’re not still hanging on to other stuff.
Trust leads to intimacy (in-to-me-you-see), which leads to transformation.
3. Being in community (sheepfold). Sheep aren’t alone. In fact, those who separate themselves from the fold are in great danger. Likewise, the local church is meant to be a “safe place” to help us grow in faith.
We should see 1 Cor.14:26 as the goal of our gatherings.
Being in community with other believers helps us know if what we’re hearing is from God. We submit what we think we’re hearing to those who are mature and we trust (which gets back to point #2).
But we should also be able to “get it wrong” and it’s okay. We learn by practice. Mature believers have their spiritual senses trained by reason of use (Heb.5:14).
4. Knowing the NATURE of His voice. Sheep know that their shepherd cares for them and loves them, so they don’t hesitate to follow Him.
Jesus is the GOOD shepherd; He leads us, He doesn’t drive us!
Any voice that brings shame or condemnation is NOT the voice of Jesus! Those are thoughts we must take captive (Rom.8:1; 2 Cor.10:3-5).
The heart and nature of Jesus toward people defines God’s heart and nature toward people. Whatever isn’t like Jesus isn’t like God. His finished work on the cross is the interpretive lens by which we understand ALL Scripture, revealing God’s heart for all mankind.
5. Responding to His voice. This should probably go without saying, but sheep follow their shepherd when He calls! It’s not enough to be able to hear his voice, we need to actually follow Him. This requires walking by faith which, contrary to the popular song, is always when you cannot see (2 Cor.5:7).
John Wimber said “faith is spelled R-I-S-K.” There are a lot of things you won’t know until you act on what God has already told you. (Nothing happens in your comfort zone!)
Like Joshua and the children of Israel, the Jordan didn’t part for them until they stepped into the water (Josh.3:15-17). We need to step out of our boat of comfortable unbelief and onto the wavy sea of endless wonder with Jesus. He won’t let us drown!
Sometimes where God wants to take you is not from point A to point B, but from point A to point Q! There may be several steps of faith you must take in between.
I hope these practical pointers are helpful to you. Remember that learning how to hear God’s voice and following Him also means that we’re learning from our mistakes—sometimes it’s God, sometimes it’s not. We should never take “missing it” as rejection but as an opportunity to sharpen our discernment.
Beloved, it’s time to step out in faith; I think our Great Shepherd is calling!