“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
When I toured Ireland in 2013 our tour guide arranged for us to observe three sheepdogs demonstrating their skills with a shepherd-trainer. The dogs were remarkable. As we watched them work, we noticed how the sheep quickly submitted to the dogs’ redirection, sometimes with a one hundred eighty degree turn. Thinking about it now, the picture of the shepherd who signaled the dogs, who then herded the sheep reminds me of how Christ, our Good Shepherd works with his under-shepherds to move his sheep in the right direction.
We are, by nature, lovers of sin and mischief. When Christ captures our hearts, making us his sheep, we submit to his redirection, turning one hundred eighty degrees, by his irresistible grace and the Holy Spirit’s working in us. It is then and only then that we can begin to acquire godly wisdom. This wisdom includes the intellectual knowledge that we belong to Christ, having been adopted into God’s family. Fortunately for us, we do not need to know or believe this in order to be saved, since salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. (See Ephesians 2:1-10.) The indwelling Holy Spirit helps us to understand Scripture and recognize and deal with the conflict between the old “man” (our sin nature) and the new “man” (our identity in Christ). Wisdom increases as our knowledge and understanding begin to work. We make connections as we apply our studies with the prophets in the Old Testament and the apostles in the New Testament, who are God’s under-shepherds. We gain wisdom as we pray, acknowledging God’s character and works, confessing our sins, giving thanks and requesting his help. Wisdom continues to grow whenever we worship God corporately, fellowship with other Christians, participate in communion and learn from our pastors, who are also God’s under-shepherds, having been called by our Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:1-5).
What shall we do with the wisdom we are acquiring? Whatever we do, in all our different circumstances, we should do wisely, for the sake of Christ. We are not to collect biblical knowledge, understanding, and wisdom as a trophy. As I move through my day, I first apply wisdom to myself, and then put it to use in my relationships. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:22-25).