How to be one of Jesus Sheep….

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He knows his sheep and they know Him. This is one of the ways that Jesus describes our relation as believers with Him. It is not the only way he describes our relationship. A couple of others that come to mind include bridegroom (Jesus) and bride (believers) or even to be yoked to Him as in a pair of Oxen.  But, let me get back to the sheep and shepherd analogy. If Jesus is the Shepherd I certainly want to be one of the sheep.

John 10:3 states that the Shepherd calls his sheep by name. Again in John 10:14 Jesus states “I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”  The parable ends at verse 21 without any clarification about how to become one of the sheep.

The next passage though, brings it up again. Some people ask Jesus to tell them plainly if He is the Messiah. He replied that He had told them but that they did not believe. He goes on to say that they do not believe because they are not His sheep. If they were His sheep they would listen to His (the Shepherd’s) voice. Jesus adds that the sheep were given to Him by the Father.

So, at this point you could look at it two ways:

1) God has selected certain people to be sheep. He has caused or will cause them to believe. Once they do they will be one of Jesus sheep.

2) Certain people believe, and others don’t.  God chooses to give those who believe to Jesus and they are His sheep.

Now, verse 26 states that they did not believe because they were not His sheep. So it may seem that selection has to come before belief. You cannot, however, come to that conclusion based on this one phrase alone. This phrase would be like President Obama saying that I do not believe (agree with) him because I am not an Obama supporting democrat (his sheep, if you will.) That statement makes perfect sense but does not explain my reason for being or not being a supporter of Obama.

To select from the two options we will need to look further. But, before we do let me clarify the consequence of the first option. If God selected those who were to be His sheep before they believed, and caused them to believe. Then one’s eternal position as sheep or goat is entirely up to God. If He eternally condemns those who are not His sheep, He is condemning those not based on their choice, but His. This would not, in my opinion, fit with the entirety of scripture where God seeks to save ALL. God Loves ALL.

Here is a supporting thought. As Jesus was dying on the cross He asked God to forgive those who were crucifying Him. The people crucifying Him would have included those Pharisees who were already told that they were not His sheep. Why would He do that? If these Pharisees (and most of the Roman soldiers for that matter) were not His sheep and they were never going to be believers than what would be the point of forgiving them? There would be no point! They are not His sheep and they do not hear His voice and they have no possible chance of ever becoming one.  No, the point of forgiving them would be in case they chose to believe – like the one Roman Centurion. Jesus forgave all and because of this one believed and that one was saved.

A better clarification of all of this come in John chapter 6.  The people ask what they must do and Jesus replies that they need to believe in Him. (John 6: 28 and 29)  The unbelieving people ask for a sign. They suggest something like the manna from heaven as in the time of Moses. Jesus replaces the bread with Himself. He states that “I am the Bread of Life.”  He goes on to flatly tell them that though He is right in front of them – they don’t believe. Now verse 37 is going to sound a lot like verse 10:26 we have discussed above. Jesus states: ” All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”   Here again it could look like God is selecting some and giving them to Jesus. Furthermore, in verse 44 Jesus  says that no one can come to Him unless they are drawn by the Father. But in this passage Jesus also states that it is the will of the Father that all who look to the Son and believe, they will be saved!  So which is it? Is it my belief or is it selection by the Father?  The people Jesus were speaking to continued to grumble so He explained it to them. In verse 45 Jesus quotes from Isiah 54:13 to show how God’s selection and our belief come together: It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me.”

So when the people grumbled in confusion regarding Jesus accusations of disbelief, when the people did not understand Jesus teaching about His followers being given to Him by the Father, Jesus taught clearly that ALL are taught by God. Everyone who has heard the Father AND LEARNED from Him will go to Jesus.   Do you see it?  All are taught, Period. But everyone meeting the qualification of having heard and having learned something, they are the sheep. I am a teacher. I make sure that all of my students are taught. I cannot however force them to learn. To learn or not to learn is the choice of  each student. I hold them responsible for their choice to learn from me and to believe that which I am teaching them.

One more time, Jesus said that it is God’s will that all believe yet some do not. It is God’s action that all are taught. He has done His part and has left the choice to learn or not to learn, and believe or not to believe, up to us.

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