Death is the inevitable end for every one of us. We’re all going to die. We’re all going to reach a day when the life we know ceases—every organ is stopped, every hobby stilled, every relationship severed, every ambition subdued. There are no more second chances, no do-overs, no make-ups, no apologies. The casket might be open, but the door to our earthly existence will be shut.
But we’re not dead yet. We’re alive. As long as we’re on earth, we shouldn’t waste our time. We should be attentive and aware. Are we listening? Can we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd? He calls His sheep by name. He goes before them. He lays down His life for them. He promises them abundant life. And He warns them against the thief and robber (John 10:1-11).
Dangers in Life
Indeed, the Lord warns His sheep against that which can “steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10). Sin and Satan want to lure us into comfort and complacency that rob us of the abundant life Christ provides. And by giving them airtime, we silence the speech of the Shepherd.
Before we realize it, our devotion is diverted from Creator to creation. We become consumed by the next game, the next promotion, the next happy hour hangout or the next tech trend. We jump to the next fantasy, whether it’s a relationship, a work achievement or sleeping in on Sunday. Lesser things become greater in our minds when we allow transitory travails to curtail the abundant life of following the Shepherd. This devotion to creation rather than the Creator is death to our souls.
Security in Christ
Though our time is finite, we’re not dead yet. When we are tricked by the Enemy, the voice of the Good Shepherd calls us back to true life in Him. This is life: That we may know the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent (John 17:3). This is life: That we would deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him (Matt. 16:24-25). This is life: That we might no longer live for ourselves but for Him who died and was raised (2 Cor. 5:15).
The voice of the Good Shepherd says, “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). “The gate is narrow…that leads to life” (Matt. 7:14), and He is that gate: “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). The green pasture the Good Shepherd leads us to is beside still waters, restores our souls and leads to everlasting life (Ps. 23).
The life that wakes up to the voice of the Good Shepherd experiences the joy that Christ promises (John 15:11). Abiding in God’s love and obeying His commands are the battle plans that put to death the schemes of sin and Satan (John 15:9-10).
Abiding in God’s Love
Abiding in God’s love deals with the posture of our hearts. Three examples of turning our hearts to Jesus are through prayer, pursuit and priorities.
- Prayer: We respond to the Lord in prayer. We praise Him for His character, confess our sin, thank Him for what He has done and ask Him to act. In prayer, we both draw near to the Lord (Jas. 4:8) and bear much fruit (John 15:7-8). We commune with Him and call upon Him for kingdom work (Matt. 6:9-10).
- Pursuit: We pursue Christ as our greatest gain (Phil. 3:8-9). We approach His Word with delight and diligence (Ps. 1:2). We flee youthful passions for the righteousness and kindness that leads to life (2 Tim. 2:22; Pr. 21:21).
- Priorities: We prioritize our days with the heart of wisdom given by God (Ps. 90:12), knowing that we are like the flowers and grass that wither and fade (Isa. 40:7). Instead of surrendering to what is most urgent or most enticing, we submit our ways to the God who establishes our steps (Prov. 16:9) as stewards of all He has given us (Matt. 25:14-27).
Obeying God’s Commands
If abiding in God’s love is the inner piece of the battle plan, then obedience is the outer labor of this plan. Obedience is displayed in many ways, including our practices, proclamations and perseverance.
- Practices: We practice the calling we have received by walking with humility, gentleness, patience, love and unity (Eph. 4:1-3). We are ready for every good work and for days of faithful and respectful labor (Titus 3:1; 1 Thess. 4:11-12). We bless others with the blessing we have received that all nations might know the Lord (Gen 12:2-3).
- Proclamations: We proclaim that Jesus is Lord through our own confession, declaration and deeds (Rom. 10:9; Col. 4:3-4; 1 John 3:16-18). We preach the Word in every season (2 Tim. 4:2). We use our words to build up and spur on our fellow believers (Eph. 4:29; Heb. 10:24-25). We use our words to proclaim the hope that is in us to those who don’t yet believe (1 Pet. 3:15).
- Perseverance: We persevere through trials that prove our faith genuine and result in praise for Christ (1 Pet. 1:6-7). We persist in faithful living and teaching for the good of our own souls and the souls of others (1 Tim. 4:15-16). We run with endurance the race marked out for us (Heb. 12:1).
We’re not dead yet. But there is a day coming when we’ll meet our mortality. And on that day, when we realize our nakedness before “him to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13), may we be ready to say, like our Shepherd to the Father, “I have glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4). Living lives of abiding and obeying leaves behind no regrets when we take our last breath.