Our Shepherd Leads

January 16th 2024

Our Shepherd Leads

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

    for his name's sake (Ps 23:2–3).

His Sacrificial Leadership

Jesus lived an exemplary life. There had never been, nor will ever be, a life more exemplary that his. He is altogether beautiful, altogether lovely, and we are not. His choice to engage us, to take on flesh, is sacrificial enough. For holiness to dwell with unholiness, this should astound us to the core, causing a humility that says… thank you, Lord!

As we continue to look at Christ as our Good Shepherd from my last article, it is right to see the greater sacrifice—the sacrifice of God’s love in sending his son to be a perfect propitiation, and a completely satisfying payment, for our sins on the cross (1 John 4:10). But Psalm 23 also shows a Shepherd who is expending himself, practically, in caring for the sheep. Our Lord did not simply do the work of death and resurrection; he did the work of living in love. And he leads us toward that goal.

His Loving, Serving, and Equipping

The Good Shepherd of Psalm 23 is given to the care of the sheep through love. We just contemplated that in his sacrifice to shepherd. And consider—in the culture of the time, shepherds were among the lowest of the low in society, culture, status. The mere fact that the Psalmist begins by saying YHWH (the Lord) is a shepherd, this should highlight the radical imbalance readers then and now should see. His very title here points to a sacrificial love, something articulated by Christ in John 10:11 saying, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

Our Good Shepherd loves with the attributes of love found in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7. Consider Jesus as he was given to patience, kindness, humility, selflessness, forgiveness, righteousness, hope, and endurance throughout his earthly ministry.

Our Good Shepherd is a servant leader as well. In fact, we know that he came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45), and he served in life and in death. Jesus is the perfect example of servant leadership, the manifestation of all wisdom and humility. This leadership is encouraging and strengthening, providing relational clarity of just how much he loves and cares for us. He serves by leading and leads by serving. What a Shepherd he is!

Highlight this…Christlike leaders build up, not tear down, their people. Our Good Shepherd shows this, as he equips and builds us, his church. In Psalm 23, we get to see this in several ways:

  • Provision—Nourishment, rest, shelter.
  • Protection—Closeness with authority, guarding, defending.
  • Restoration—Restoring the soul itself; another example of building up and not tearing down.
  • Sanctification—Being led toward righteousness.
  • Goodness—Applying the goodness of God himself for the benefit of the sheep.
  • Lovingkindness (or Mercy)—Gifting the sheep with an intentional love that follows and seeks out.

These are personal benefits for individual sheep, and benefits to the entire flock. Dwell on this list for a moment and consider, how can I be thankful and prayerful for each? How can I ask for my trust to increase in this Good Shepherd? Do I see this in the eternal sense, but struggle to believe it in the present sense? And as we will explore next, how am I emulating this as I lead others in my own life?

He Leads, We Lead

Christians are all called to lead and guide in some capacity. We are careful to rightly understand leadership roles when it comes to marriage, family, and the church. But we sometimes forget that we are all called to lead as light (Matt 5:14–16), a light that illumines, guides, and directs. We are living testimonies and evidences of Christ! It is, as one author notes, the most important leadership function that we be “examples to the flock” (1 Pet 1:3).[1]

The call to lead comes with both joy and burden. The Apostle Paul often experienced this, as he expresses in Philippians 4:1, to those he had ministered to and led that they were his beloved brethren, his “joy and crown.” But in 2 Corinthians 11:28, after a lengthy exposition of his hardships in ministry, Paul says that “there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety [or concern] for all the churches.” When we lead, we are called to persevere toward Christ in all things, including hardship.

In persevering toward Christ, remember his exemplary life we explored earlier. In our being disciples, are we truly following in his very footsteps, the very dust of his path? Or are we just watching his steps from afar? Again, we must remember, that to be a Christian is a call to reflect Christ. Are we emulating and imitating him? This call should rightly overwhelm us! And yet, Paul tells us in both Romans 13:14 and Galatians 3:27 to “put on Christ.” And we see an even clearer picture of action by John, in 1 John 2:5–6 ,when he writes, “By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

A Course Toward Christ

Consider the opportunities in your life for leading, and for pointing, to Christ. Are you a father, mother, or friend? A sibling, employer, or student? Is your platform at home, school, work, or on social media? Is it in caring for a neighbor, a grandchild, or a parent? What about church? What about the one anothers? Maintaining our course toward Christ carries a heavier burden when we lead and guide. Don’t miss this…people see our course and direction toward Christ, so we better be pointed in the right direction!

In Hebrews 12:1–3, we are given an imperative to “run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.” We are reminded that he is “the author and perfecter of faith,” and that we should consider him “so that (we) will not grow weary and lose heart.” This is a twofold grace for us in leading. First, we are given a clear direction, to fix our focus on Christ. His ways are not hidden to us, but rather revealed in Scripture. Maintain that focus. Maintain that course.

But second, we see that he carries the ultimate weight of authority. He alone is the author and perfecter of, not just our faith, but the faith of those we lead. This is praiseworthy for any humble leader, that Christ alone does this work, not us. Frankly, I could not exist as a pastor if this wasn’t true! Knowing he alone is sovereign and good in all things, this refreshes us for the work of leading, no matter the circumstances or role. Remembering that he is the Greater Shepherd, the very One we are to point towards, this will bring you peace in your leading. Leading others to a Shepherd who sets the greatest example of sacrificial leadership mankind will ever know. [1] Timothy Witmer, The Shepherd Leader (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2010), 160.

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Author: David Mataya

David serves as the Pastor of Discipleship at Redeemer Bible Church in Gilbert, Arizona. He is a trained biblical counselor (CCEF @ Westminster Theological Seminary) and oversees counseling and small group ministries at Redeemer. David has served in a variety of ministries in previous churches, as well as having an earlier career in technology. He and his wife, Colleen are now empty nesters with two adult children, Morgan, Riley, daughter-in-law Bailey and grandson Owen.