John 10:1-21

I tell you the truth: I am the gate for the sheep.” (John 10:7)

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for His sheep.” (John 10:11)

I am the good shepherd; I know My own sheep and they know Me.” (John 10:14)

Half-way through this amazing gospel and into the last six months of Jesus’ life, we find Jesus again teaching people in a way to which they could relate. Using the familiar example of sheep and a shepherd, He explained who He was and what was involved in being His follower. He taught that now they could have a personal relationship with God the Father and walk in the supernatural power of God for themselves. Jesus was saying that He is the only way to the kingdom of God (God’s reign). If we try to force our way in by any other means, we have been deceived and will be destroyed. The Bible is clear about this and we cannot afford to compromise. It is perfectly loving to tell people the truth about their future, even if they don’t like us for it! Indeed, what price is that to pay, compared to Jesus dying on the cross?

The best news

Jesus replied: “With all the earnestness I possess, I tell you this: unless you are born again, you can never get into the Kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)

We can see why Peter could say: “And there is salvation in and through no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by and in which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 Amplified version)

Yet to all who have received Him, to those who believe in His name, He gave the right to become children of God - children born not of natural decent, not of human decision, or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (John 1:11-13)

A free gift

This is given to us as a free gift. We receive this free gift when we fulfil the following conditions:

  • We see sin as the hindrance to being in an intimate relationship with God.
  • We recognise the futility of our own efforts to win God’s favour.
  • We determine, with God’s help, to forsake our sin (that is, to "repent").
  • We realise that Jesus is the only way of salvation.
  • We recognise that trusting Him means submitting our life totally to Him as Lord.
  • We receive Him personally, by faith, as our rescuer and Lord.

Once we have taken these steps,

  • We have eternal life!
  • We can know God! (John 3:16; 17:3)
  • We are saved from the clutches of the enemy! (1 Peter 1:18-19)
  • We are born again as a new spiritual being! (John 1:11-13)
  • We are members of God's family! (1 John 1:3)
  • All the promises God made to His people, are now ours! (2 Peter 1:3-4)
  • We are a new creation! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Spiritual protection

At night, sheep were frequently gathered into a sheepfold to protect them from thieves, weather or wild animals. These sheepfolds could be caves, sheds or even open areas surrounded by walls made of stone or branches. The shepherd often slept in the fold to protect the sheep. So Jesus, the "good shepherd", cares in an amazing way for all who follow Him. We are His sheep. (Ezekiel 34:23-25) Just as a shepherd then protected his sheep, so Jesus now protects His people from eternal harm. While believers can expect to suffer physically on earth, we ourselves, cannot be harmed by the enemy. (See the previous study: “Where is the Power and the Glory?”) Our spirits are "vacuum-packed" (sealed) by the Holy Spirit! (Ephesians 4:30)

Our eternal life with God cannot be taken away. (John 10:28,29) There are many occasions here on earth when we may be afraid, because this is Satan’s domain but, if we choose to follow Jesus, we can walk free from fear. God’s perfect love casts out fear. “The one who was begotten of God carefully watches over and protects him [Christ’s divine presence within him preserves him against evil] and the wicked one does not lay hold [get a grip] on him or touch him.” (1 John 5:18 Amplified version) Why not insert your name instead of "him" in this scripture? He will give you everlasting safety. (Psalm 91:1-16) Meditate on this until it becomes a reality in your spirit, not just your emotions.

The rôle of a shepherd

A hired hand tends the sheep for money, but the shepherd has a much stronger bond, verging on love. The shepherd is committed to his sheep. Jesus is not merely doing a job. He is committed to loving us and to even laying down His life for us. (John 10:11) He will rise again under the power of God (John 10:17-18), so that we can have abundant life for ever. (John 10:10) Jesus is a tender shepherd, searching out the wanderers and gently lifting up those weighed down by problems. (Matthew 18:12) “He tends His flock like a shepherd. He gathers the lambs in His arms and carries them close to His heart; He gently leads those that have young.” (Isaiah 40:11) False teachers and false prophets do not have this commitment. (Ezekiel 34:1-31)

Jesus has appointed some to be shepherds to His flock. These people are appointed, just as Jesus describes in John’s gospel, for various reaons:

  • To nurture the flock; (Jeremiah 3:15; Jeremiah 23:4; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2)
  • To preach Christ and Him crucified; (1 Corinthians 1:23)
  • To be spiritual watchmen; (Hebrews 13:17) and
  • To teach God's word. (Matthew 28:20)

This carries with it very heavy responsibilities. “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1) It also demands a holy lifestyle. God's word is very clear about the work of pastors and teachers who, along with evangelists, prophets and apostles, are to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the Body of Christ today is built up. (Ephesians 4:11-12) Our responsibility is to do everything in our power to love, support, and pray for those whom God has placed over us as our pastors and ministers. “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as those who give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” (Hebrews 13:17)

Encourage ministers and leaders

You can encourage your pastor, minister or church leader in various ways:

  • Build them up. Point out to them a quality you appreciate.
  • Give honour to them. Look for ways to co-operate.
  • Think highly of leaders. Withhold your next critical comment about anyone in a position of responsibility. (Psalm 105:15)
  • Give whole-hearted love. Say “thank you” to your leaders for their efforts.
  • Avoid quarrelling. Search for ways to get along with others so you are not a burden.
  • Warn the lazy. Challenge someone to join you in your department as a worker.
  • Be joyful. Remember that, even in the midst of turmoil, God is in control.
  • Be thankful. Give thanks to God for each minister and leader who is over you.
  • Pray continuously. God is always with you, so talk to Him about them, and trust His leading.

Praying for ministers and leaders

You can also pray for your pastor, minister or church leader in various ways:

Health is one of the most effective areas in which Satan can cripple ministers' work, limiting their usefulness.

  • Recognise that it is the will of God for His children to have sufficient health and strength to carry out His work. (3 John 1:2)
  • Claim the Lord’s protection for ministers so that God can carry out all His purposes through them. “As your days, so shall your strength be.” (Deuteronomy 33:25; Psalm 91:1-16)
  • Exercise your God-given authority to bind the enemy and free children of God from his power. (Matthew 18:18; Luke 9:1; Mark 16:17-18)
  • Pray that God will remind ministers themselves of all these promises.

The souls of ministers - mind, will and emotions - have to constantly be surrendered to the Holy Spirit.

  • Claim the Lord’s protection over ministers' minds. (2 Timothy 1:7)
  • Pray that they may be kept in Christ’s rest and peace. (John 14:27; 2 Corinthians 10:5)
  • Pray that ministers may refuse to hear any accusation from Satan against fellow-believers. (Zechariah 7:10b)
  • Satan can bring about the defeat of workers by injecting suspicions and disunity in working relationships. He is the accuser of the brethren. (Revelation 12:10)
  • Pray for ministers' family relationships: being able to manage time for partners, children and home commitments and realising their priority over ministry.
  • Pray for Christ’s continual strength and encouragement. Intense powers of darkness can make work difficult and discouraging at times. (Psalm 31:24, Deuteronomy 31:6)
  • Pray that ministers will grow in knowledge of God’s love for them. (Ephesians 3:16-19)
  • Pray that ministers may learn to resist the enemy, taking a place of authority over him and refusing everything that comes from him. (1 Peter 5:8-9; Luke 10:19)
  • The accuser of the brethren is always quick to suggest that we are failures or outside the will of the Lord. (Revelation 12:10-11)

Practical help

  • Check all family birthdays and send cards.
  • Send cards of appreciation at any time.
  • Send anonymous gifts of things such as flowers or meals.
  • Offer to baby-sit occasionally.
  • Keep your ears open for any needs (such as vehicles or transport, electrical goods, holidays, shoes and so on).
  • Give money for personal needs or treats.
  • Offer to do things such as cleaning, ironing, gardening, car-washing and so on.

Persistence and commitment

This must be a consistent commitment on our part, otherwise it is not the encouragement that God wants us to give. Our shepherds, who give their lives to making sure that we follow the word of God in our lives and work hard to keep us on the safe path, deserve much encouragement and love from all the people in the body of Christ.

When Jesus saw the crowds He had compassion on them because their problems were so great and they didn’t know what to do or where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

Pray that you are led by the Holy Spirit to a true shepherd and not to a hireling. Then overflow with the love of God towards this person and you will watch as their ministry blossoms.

Blossom always produces fruit!

Click on the button below to load the QUESTIONS for this study in a new browser tab. You can opt to print the question sheet or simply follow the questions and write down your answers in a notebook or a separate file on a computing device, such as a laptop or mobile 'phone.