Shepherding by God’s Grace and for God’s Glory

Ezekiel 34:1–4 1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? 3 You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. 4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.’”

Self-centeredness that produces a “peace at all costs” approach to life is pervasive. People are easily preoccupied with their personal lives. Activities and busyness keep them consistently inattentive to the needs and concerns of others. Speaking the truth and caring for others can be costly financially, emotionally, and relationally, so caring for others becomes less than a priority. True selflessness is such a rarity in our society that when demonstrations of honesty and help happen, most people are surprised.

We hope that in the church it is evident that things are markedly different. There is no question that because of God’s saving and sanctifying grace, the Spirit of God inspires and empowers the followers of Jesus to be selfless and concerned about others. But the weakness of our flesh is still a foe and believers are engaged in a battle to die to selfishness and live for Christ and others.

The consuming power of personal preoccupation is fought by the leaders of local churches as well. Gospel grace has changed the course of our godless and sinful lives, yet busyness can lead to indifference and preoccupation with tasks providing justification for not allowing the Lord to pour us out into the lives of others. I know I can use daily “ministry” duties to justify not taking the time to show care and concern for others. When this is the case, I’m not a good shepherd, and I’m not setting a good example for others to follow.

God’s condemnation of shepherds (religious leaders) of Israel in Ezekiel 34 hits home with penetrating practicality. Am I preoccupied with my life and ministry to the neglect of sheep for whom God has called me to love and care? Who are the weak among us and how am I strengthening them? Do I show care for the sick and attempt to provide restoration for the hurting? Am I seeking to restore those who stray? What effort am I making to bring the guiding light of truth to those who have lost their way? Am I being overbearing and demanding of the sheep God has entrusted to my care?

As one of the shepherds of the church, I am responsible for being Christ-centered and others-oriented. The Lord calls and equips me to function in this capacity and to do so well to the glory of His name. Jesus desires for me to trust His enabling grace to set an example for others to follow as one who loves deeply and serves the needs of the Lord’s sheep faithfully.

God’s gospel grace has prepared the way for us to be Christ-centered and others-oriented. Pray for me to fight the sin of selfishness and distraction. Pray that I will love deeply and serve faithfully. Pray this for all the shepherds in your church. Pray this for one another!