– Pastor Brandon’s article from the November 2018 Newsletter
In the gospel of John, Jesus describes himself as the good shepherd. He exclaims that he has come so that those who trust in him may be saved–that they may have life, and have it to the full. As the good shepherd, he offers eternal life. Jesus is not like a hired hand who runs away when danger comes. Rather, he lays down his life for his sheep. He says that he knows his sheep and his sheep know him. When he was rejected by some of the Jews, Jesus explained that their unbelief meant that they were not his sheep. To them he says, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
In John 10, Jesus is describing the intimate relationship that he has with those who follow him. There is real love and communion that flows between the good shepherd and his sheep. As I read the passage, the word listen stands out in my mind. It says that a follower of Jesus, listens to Jesus. So, we must ask ourselves, “how well do we listen?” In my experience, listening is a skill that can be developed, and if we want to learn to listen well, there are several keys that we must keep in mind.
The first key to listening well involves stillness and quiet. If I am going to truly listen to someone I have to get to a place where I can actually hear. At our house, Hannah and I often attempt to have conversations while the kids laugh and play around us. It is not uncommon for there to be music playing in the background or a kid crying or asking for something. Obviously, those kinds of things make it hard for me to hear what my wife is trying to communicate. In the same way, the things of this life are loud. There are many “noises” that can drown out the voice of God, and we have to be intentional about finding a quiet place where we can be still, and open our ears to hear the words of Jesus. When it comes to listening to Christ, silencing the internal noise is just as important as finding a quiet place away from the external noise.
Listening also involves understanding. If I’m not at least attempting to the grasp the meaning of what someone is trying to communicate, then I’m not really listening. I may hear their words, but if I don’t understand their intent, then I’m missing the real message.
Achieving understanding requires attentiveness and focus. I have to silence my mind and set aside my agenda. I can’t assume that I know what the person is going say and then let my mind wander off. Instead, I need to pay attention not only to the expressions the speaker uses but also the heart behind the them. I need to carefully consider all of this before forming and expressing my own opinions. It takes a good deal of self-discipline to do this well, but it can be done. In the same way, when we hear God speak, we need to take time to carefully consider what he has spoken. We must seek understanding and think through the implications that message has for our lives.
Finally, listening implies obedience. When children are disobedient, we often describe them as “not listening.” It’s not that they didn’t hear. Their ears work perfectly fine. We may even be certain that they paid attention and understood what the instructions were. However, they simply choose not to obey. Yet, we are not to be like this with Christ. Jesus commands obedience. It is not enough that we hear his words and admire him. We must choose to do what he says. A sheep that does not follow the shepherd will soon find himself in eternal danger.
Jesus says that his sheep listen to his voice. So, where do you find yourself on your own walk with Jesus? Take time on a regular basis to get away with the good shepherd and allow him to care for your soul. Quiet yourself so that you can commune with the one who made you and loves you. Consider his words carefully. Listen closely and follow his calling.