"I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. ‘But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep”
I might as well ride this horse while I am on it. My commentary from last week, Christian Pimps, blew the door of my email server off. I figured it would, but not in the way that it did.
The overwhelming response was heart-wrenching as I read story after story of the horror some folks have been put through by “local” churches. The refrain usually took one of two paths as writer’s spelled out for me their stories. Some were tales of separation from life-long churches because they had the courage to question the status-quo by addressing the leadership with many of the issues mentioned in Christian Pimps. Others were heart-sick over the un-Biblical practice of debt accumulation as the leadership ignored their cries and continued on with their “church growth” schemes as the integrity of the Word was diminished in the slide toward “relationship” evangelism.
To put it in medical terms, I hit a nerve. It is disheartening to hear from so many disaffected, disillusioned, wounded, no-longer church goers. Why have so many Christians dropped out of church? Rebellious sheep I suppose…..
But at the same time I was encouraged. There are millions of believers who are no longer part of the “church scene” who are passionately following hard after Jesus. Christianity operates best when we realize it is a relationship, not a religion. Many others share my hatred of “religion” and the box that it puts adherents in to. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is Liberty! And many have found the freedom of worship outside the stained-glassed fortresses.
Having said all of that, last week I promised to take on another issue, that of “the hirelings” in the pulpits.
Let me remind you that I am not a theologian; I have never attended seminary, and do not consider myself an expert on any Biblical issue. But I can read, and I can think. As I have taken time to do as the Bereans who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” I have found that many things I previously had been taught just simply did not line-up with Scripture. It was through my own study that I ran across something that up to now no one has been able to refute to me.
Perhaps you can….I am not afraid of the Truth.
Early in my walk I heard a pastor use a Scripture that is oft repeated. In fact, I used it on a number of occasions. It was only by happenstance as I was reading the Bible one day that something jumped out at me that flew in the face of everything I had believed. I don’t want to shake your faith, or take away one of the church’s catch phrases, but ever since I saw this truth I stopped misusing the verse. Buckle up…let’s go for a short ride.
As I said, I am not a Bible teacher, but I can read. Here is the Scripture that I see so often misapplied. John 10:10 “The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy:” Now for years I believed that the “the thief” mentioned here was the Devil. It is a pet verse of those who are “under attack” by the enemy. I do believe that the Devil is a thief, but allow me to propose to you that the Devil is not “the thief” that Jesus is warning about in this regularly quoted verse.
No my friends, the thief is not the Devil, but the “false shepherd”, the same thief that I referred to last week as “pimps.” Please take a moment and read John 10:1:16
In the very first verse Jesus identifies the thief for us. “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.” (Please keep your browser open to John 10. This will allow me to not use space writing the Scriptures.) Jesus tells us that the one who enters by the door is the shepherd (v.2) and that He (Jesus) is the door. (v.9). The one who enters any other way is a “thief and robber” (v.1) as clearly identified by Jesus.
He tells us that the sheep “hear his (true shepherd’s) voice; he calls them by name, and he LEADS THEM OUT.” (v. 3) (Funny isn’t it, most pastors today lead folks in.) The true shepherd “goes before the sheep” (v. 4) as he “leads them out.”
But Jesus tells us in verse six that the folks to whom He was speaking “understood not,” and He took more time to further explain. Beginning in verse seven He tells us that He was “the door” and that “all that came before him were thieves and robbers.” (There it is again…He tells us who the thieves and robbers are...and it ain’t the devil.) The thieves are the false shepherds who will not lead the sheep to Jesus, “the door” (v. 9) through whom the sheep could be saved. (v.9). (Get ready…here it comes)
In verse ten Jesus warns us that the previously identified thief (v.1 and v 7) has come to steal, kill, and destroy. The thief is not the Devil, but the false shepherd. (Still not convinced?)
Look who shows up in verse twelve…the wolf! Doesn’t it make sense that the wolf is the Devil? We have two different characters here…the thief and the wolf….the Devil can’t be both. In fact, Jesus goes a step further to identify the thief for us by calling him a “hireling” and not the shepherd (v. 12).
It is the “hireling” (false shepherd) who “seeth the wolf coming” (v. 12) and deserts his post. The hireling flees because he “careth not for the sheep.” (v. 13), but is only in it for his own personal gain.
The thief (hireling) sees the wolf (Devil) coming and flees. It is the hireling who has come to “kill, steal and destroy.”
Some things never change. Those “hirelings” were the one’s Jesus saved his greatest criticism for when He ran into them earlier, (only then He called them Pharisees) when He rebuked them because they “shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” (Remember, He also accused the hirelings of not being able to lead the sheep through the door). The Pharisees were the original hirelings. Read what Jesus said about them and ask yourself if they were any different from what stands in many of our pulpits today.
John 10 is clear if read with an open mind. Hirelings are Pharisees and the Pharisees were hirelings….professional “ministers.” Jesus warned us about both.
How can we possibly restore righteousness to this nation when we can’t even get those who stand in the pulpit to honor the Word of God? How can we expect our elected officials to stand publicly against evil when the “men of the cloth” are too cowardly to do so?
Jesus’ anger was not directed towards the secular government but towards those who changed his house of prayer into a “den of thieves.”(There are those thieves again) He cleaned the house and today we need to do the same.
Christians have lost all credibility with the world. For the most part the public image of Christian leaders is money grubbing, hypocritical, and Republican, a far cry from the Christ we claim to serve.
America is in dire need of a revival. It will never happen with the hirelings currently occupying our pulpits. It is at their feet that we must lay the killing, stealing, and destroying of the Christian heritage from this nation. It is time for a reformation.
Instead of all of this talk about “reclaiming America” perhaps we should refocus on reclaiming our faith. Has there ever been an institution with more pathetic leadership than we see today in American Christianity? Nothing is more debilitating to an army than cowardly leadership.
There has always been a true elite of God’s leaders. They are the meek who inherit the earth (Mat. 5:5). They weep and pray in secret, and defy earth and hell in public. They tremble when faced with danger, but die in their tracks sooner than turn back. They are like a shepherd defending his sheep or a mother protecting her young. They sacrifice without grumbling, give without calculation, suffer without groaning. Their price is above riches. They are the salt of the earth. For the cause of the kingdom, we need more of them." (Author unknown.) Do you know many shepherds like that?
Don’t be discouraged. The Lord’s Church is thriving and on the advance, but you will never recognize it if you are focusing on the group of people gathered in the building down the street. Most of those sheep belong to a hireling, a false shepherd, and not to the Lord.
It is the hireling, the false shepherd that has come to steal, and kill, and destroy.
Allow The Lord to be your Shepherd. He leads us out, we hear His voice, and He lays down His life for us.
As my friend Flip Benham says, “Everyone wants to follow Jesus until they find out where He is going. He is going to a cross and he asks you to take up yours and follow Him.”