I Just Want to Be a Sheep
It was such a strange little song, but Will immediately loved it because he could sing some of the lyrics. If you don’t know the song ask a toddler’s Bible class teacher. At first it seemed one of those songs that would get stuck in your head, but was so light on actual content that it was unlikely to withstand the test of time. After all it was such a simple message. “I just want to be a sheep,” is not hard to grasp. Over the last several weeks several things have transpired to make me rethink this. We desperately need to be reminded that our desire should be to become like sheep.
We bristle at this thought. It offends our sense of self worth and individuality. No one wants to be thought of as a sheep let alone think of themselves that way. We don’t like to be led, and we certainly don’t like having our decisions made for us.
“Seeing the people, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, ‘ The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest’” (Matthew 9:36-38 NASB). The NKJV renders verse 36 “weary and scattered.” It’s interesting that the invitation of Jesus just two chapters later (11:28-30) is “come to Me all who are weary and heavy-laden.” He offers them rest. His only price is to learn of Him and take His yoke, in essence to follow His lead.
In this, we see the great truth about sin that we so often ignore. Our sin is an unrelenting burden that we cannot put down and we cannot overcome. Our sin is the yoke of death. The underlying truth is that the burden of sin is the burden of those who are stubbornly self-willed. Humility is the first lesson in discipleship. That’s why the first words of the mountain sermon were “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
No one enters the kingdom with his own will intact, and there is no place for the arrogant or the self-willed in the fold.
The blessing of being His sheep
It’s not within man to direct his own footsteps…There’s a way that seems right unto a man but it’s end is destruction…Thy words are a lamp unto my feet…Imitate God as dear children and walk in love…Follow me.
Direction is one of the great blessings of discipleship. If our aim is something better than we can achieve on our own then the limitations He sets ought to be followed in loving obedience. The restrictions placed upon us are not arbitrary barriers meant to keep us from enjoying life, but instead they are safety rails meant to keep us away from the dangers of the wilds.
The peril in plotting our own course is that we are responsible for where it ends. That’s one of the great things about the narrow way that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 7; its end is certain, eternal life.
Direction not only gives us certainty of where we are headed it helps us see where we are today in relationship to where we should be. We have a measure by which we will not only be judged but by which we are able, if we are willing, to judge ourselves. Paul touches on this in 1 Corinthians 3. James does as well in James 1:21. Jesus begins the passage in Matthew 7:1 with a call for self-reflection and righteous judgment.
The hard work of discipleship is in training ourselves to love the restrictions of the narrow way. When we spend our time longing for the pastures that are forbidden by our Shepherd we forget that it is for our benefit that He has made them off-limits to us. Too often, we allow ourselves to feel slighted by this. Our desire becomes for those things that we know are forbidden and before long we forget why.
The cure for this longing is to focus on following. You love what you serve. I know that contradicts modern wisdom in a big way, but the simple logic of the gospel is that in serving we learn to love. Perhaps that’s why Jesus said in John 14:15 that if we love Him we’ll keep His commandments. Love grows over time, and it grows best and most fully when we invest ourselves in the object of our affection. Perhaps that’s why Jesus illustrates His goodness and love for His sheep in John 10 by saying “I lay down My life for My sheep.” In this we see the path our Shepherd walked. He laid down His life for us, and so we give up our own will to accept His leadership. In this we see the truth of the matter our shepherd does not choose His sheep arbitrarily, rather he accepts and chooses those who choose Him by hearing and following.
He is a faithful shepherd
It’s interesting that when Peter has his conversation with the Lord in John 21 and is asked, “do you love Me” the instruction each time was to feed or tend His lambs and sheep. That was what He expected of Peter. This wasn’t so Peter could earn his way back in, but because Peter had learned something about departing and coming back to the narrow way. He was suited for the task.
Jesus did not leave us without instruction on how to follow Him. In John 14 He told them that He was the way, the truth, and the life. He wanted them to understand that He had left a faithful pattern for us to follow, and it is clearly marked if we will tune out our desires for others things. In that is the real lesson.
I just want to be His sheep.