Not so long ago I decided to hit the brakes pretty hard on my use of social media.
Twitter in particular seems to be a place to find so, so many truly encouraging believers. Apparently the algorithm works pretty well in helping us find very like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ.
But as you may have already guessed, this was not the thing that prompted me to slow down my virtual engagement but rather it was the lack of virtual discernment. Christians have a role in correcting aberrant theology, first in ourselves, but then certainly in others, there is no doubt. However it seems that to be a faithful Christ-follower we must be able to righty ascertain who I have the responsibility to lovingly correct and who I should simply ignore. Another great skill is the ability to distinguish between what can actually be accomplished online and what cannot.
From our sermon series through chapter ten of the Gospel of John there is one concept that I am convinced will be of vital assistance in this area of internet accountability and correction. Jesus is continuing His speech to the Pharisees and says; “ John 10:14 “I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, 15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd (NASB95). While this is certainly good news for those who are not Jewish and for those who were born with absolutely zero sensitivity to truth (that's you bud & me), the idea I would like for us to focus on is contained in the phrase “one flock one shepherd” (ESV).
To fully comprehend the depth of this reality, and it is most definitely present here in time and space with us and in us and for us, we must look at the preceding verses. What an amazing truth it is that there is absolutely zero difference between how the Father and the Son know one another and how Jesus, the Good Shepherd, knows his own sheep and don't miss this part; His own sheep know Him. Look at the phrase at the beginning of verse 15. “Even as” is a comparative. It really means that our relationship with Jesus is as real as Jesus' relationship with the Father. Can you imagine that? What a tremendous statement. As sinners, redeemed and yet unglorified, that may be a very difficult truth to swallow. Are we really to believe this? Yes! But do we?
Believing this state of being as Jesus presents it is the foundation for the accurate understanding of the phrase “one flock one shepherd”. And let's not restrict this idea to our use of social media. How are things here in Wabash with that one flock? Or, if you're reading this from somewhere else, how are things in your town? Part of good discernment is certainly recognizing when people that are claiming to be true sheep of the one Good Shepherd actually have no idea about the realities of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There are a multitude of ways that people become very familiar with the narrative of the gospel but have not applied the reality of the gospel. I won't go into them but they are legion. But what about the folks that you know that live each day truly by faith in the Son of God and everything that He accomplished for them and in them? Do we really behave like we follow the same Good Shepherd? Do we really act in ways that demonstrate we’ve all entered the same “door” (verse 7)?
Just last night Tonia and I were in a conversation with some dear loved ones concerning the idea of theological and doctrinal labels. I think we all agreed that they are not nearly as useful as one might think. I do believe it is human nature to think in terms of Protestant, Free Will Baptist, Presbyterian, evangelical, reformed, and Lutheran etc. And again, there are certain contexts in which those labels might be helpful. But I'm thinking of specific individuals, friends that would lay claim to each and every one of those labels and we would all agree, no exceptions, that there is only one flock and only one Shepherd. Through the gospel of Jesus Christ we are all united to God for all of eternity. That unity, that union with Him is a much bigger reality than we know. Or so it seems. So why do we make sure our name tag is clear and visible and shiny?
Now, I am convinced that the particular label I use does in fact describe much about who the Lord has made me become and the path he used to get me here. I fI thought differently, I'd change my label (in appropriate settings) But when that particular label gets in the way of Kingdom work or prevents me from rubbing elbows with some true sheep that might be a little dirty and stinky and cranky, or just a shade away from where I am, then I'm not really living in light of the oneness of that flock or of its Shepherd. My prayer for Light City and for your local assembly is that the one flock will stop squabbling over terms and labels and specific theological bents and return, perhaps repent and focus once again on our relationship with God the father through Jesus the ultimate sacrifice and the benefits of that reality; one flock One Shepherd. Don't abandon all discernment. That's not what I've said. Just use it for Unity. As Alistair Begg said “we are better together than we could ever be on our own”. If only we rest in him, together. Oh, the riches of the depths of the glory of that unimaginable relationship that the Good Shepherd says is ours.