Our Lord Jesus distinguished between two types of people: goats and sheep. The sheep company are those who hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, they know His voice and follow Him wherever He goes. These are the elect, the called out, those whose commitment and adherence is to the Lord.
The goats are the majority, for the Lord Jesus refers to the sheep as “little flock” (Luke 12:32). The numerous unbelievers in the world also make up part of this goat company. However, I’d like to talk to a different category among this group. Not everyone who is a member of the church system and who shouts “Lord, Lord” is a sheep. There are many goats in that house. There is a key distinction between sheep and goats.
The old African proverb holds true; “the goat grazes near where it is tied”. Many today are tied, content with grazing in their denominational fields. They are tied to some pastor, some movement, some name, some building, some fellowship, some teaching, some program. They neither recognize His voice nor follow Him who speaks. They have become stagnant, bound to man’s institution and to the order of the church system and its doctrines. Adamant, they refuse the voice that speaks because it does not come from their familiar grazing field.
These are goats that feed near where they are tied. Their trust is in the house and not God’s continual in-working by the Spirit. They refuse any move or working of God outside of their church system. The Babylonish system has become magnified and exalted in their heart to the extent that they cannot fathom spiritual progression without it.
Among many, I’ve witnessed the passion and fervor when defending their church system. Hearing them you would think they were defending the Lord Himself. Engage with them regarding the deep truths of the kingdom of God and they’ll quickly loose interest. They’re captivated with the euphoria of their worship programs, their hyped concerts and conferences and the entertainment of the soul. Delving deep into the revelations of God’s plan is relegated as a task for their teachers. Their love for their pastor is evident but their love for the Pastor is less so.
I am reminded of a conversation with a friend who once mentioned that the church was his foundation. I am convinced that the institutional church system has usurped Christ from the hearts of many saints by making itself a cornerstone of their faith. The house that is called by His name has become the foundation for many, while Paul, the wise master builder asserts that “no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). On whom is the trust of the saints founded upon today? Who do they run to for counsel and prayer in the face of trouble? Who do they draw on as the source of their truth?
This is not a new phenomenon. The Lord told Jeremiah to stand at the gate of the Lord’s house and to proclaim to those who worship there saying: “I will do to this house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to the place I gave to you and your fathers, as I have done to Shiloh” (Jer. 7:14). For this same reason, the Pharisees opposed Jesus. They defended the old order of the temple which God had previously established and in which they trusted. They refused to follow the Lord into the new order of the Kingdom. It’s no different today among those who have camped in the realm of Pentecost, thinking that’s all God has appointed for this hour.
It’s no surprise then that many who get offended or hurt in that house leave, but not just the church system, they turn away from God altogether. Cut the goat loose and it will wonder off. Its nature is to do so. Such folks had union, not with the Lord, but with the order of religion. The foundation established in their heart was not Christ but outward activities of program attendance and soulish efforts. Once the cord to their church system was cut, they run off to follow their own way and the desires of their flesh.
One can surely run away from the institution of the church system. But one who has been born from above cannot run away from Christ. They are members of the body whether they attend a church service or not.
Leveraging on such occurrences, the appointed leaders of the house insist that the saint should not leave the church system. They appeal to commitment and use fear tactics to tie down the saints to the institution citing spirtual nourishment among other things. They associate allegiance to the house with spiritual growth, protection, and blessing. To them it is impossible for one to grow and thrive spiritually without sitting in their pews. They celebrate busy bodies that have little spiritual substance. Thus one’s attendance and participation in Sunday services becomes the primary gauge for one’s spiritual condition. But if you need to go to a program to get nourished something is already wrong. Your sustenance is not draw from the living waters of the indwelling Christ but from the well of your pastor’s study.
This was one of the issues in Pergamos. They held to the doctrine of the Nicolaitans. The word ‘Nicolaitians’ in the Greek means to rule the people. It was man ruling over man instead of bringing them into absolute dependence in the Lord. Which pastor is working themselves out of a job today? Which church is working itself out of a congregation? If such was the case, our so called churches wouldn’t be striving to get bigger. The tragedy is that the house that is called by His name has become a den of thieves. But, not merely of money but of souls.
Sheep are not supposed to be tied. They submissively follow. But the true sheep are obedient only to One. The voice of another they do not follow. A key characteristic of the sheep is that they know the voice of their Shepherd. It’s in their nature as sheep to follow. Following indicates movement, a progression a pressing forward. The Greek word for sheep is ‘probaton’ the root of which means “to walk forward, advance”. Sheep go wherever the Shepherd goes. The Good Shepherd knows His sheep and they hear His voice and He leads them to greener pastures, to heavenly manna, to fresh revelations and divine increase.
For this company of saints, this is a spiritual calling out. It is a moving out from our Adamic consciousness and its various manifestations, including the religious institutions of man. This is the very characteristic of the church, the ekklesia – ‘a calling out’. It is indicative of a continual calling out, from glory to glory and from revelation to revelation. God is not confined to one manifestation of understanding but He is continuously revealing Himself. His sheep follow Him towards greater manifestations of Himself.
The sheep typify the Mount Zion company. Their calling is ‘away from’ and ‘out of’ until they reach Mount Zion. Mount Zion is the tallest mountain in Jerusalem. Spiritually, it signifies the highest realm in God. It is a spiritual dimension where the light of the morning sun first shines. Where the Day (Christ) is experienced in a greater measure. The scriptures encourage us to forget those things that are behind to press forward. They summon us to leave the elementary principles to go on to perfection.
Settling is synonymous with religion. It is indicative of building edifices to what God once revealed and camping there refusing to move on. In settling, what God once revealed becomes stale and polluted by man and his means. Eventually, the saints become confined and bound to a doctrine, an institution, a program or an order that keeps them from hearing His voice and pressing into Him.
To those who will hear His voice, there is a walk and progression in the Kingdom beyond what we have seen and experienced so far. God is moving and His sheep must follow. They must cut the cords of religion. Our Lord Jesus taught saying: “If your hand offend you, cut it off” (Mark 9:45). One’s hand, foot, and eye don’t refer to one’s literal body parts. If so, we should expect to see many maimed believers. But the Lord was referring to our fellow brothers; members of the body of Christ. If a brother offends you, cut him off. Have no fellowship and communion with him.
The meaning of the word ‘offend’ in the Greek is ‘skandalizo’. Strong’s concordance defines it as: “to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, to cause a person to begin to distrust and desert one who he ought to trust and obey”. When Peter insisted that Jesus should not go to the cross, Jesus’ response was: “get behind me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matt. 16:23). Peter was being a stumbling block. He stood in the way of Jesus walking in the plan of the Father. This is an offense. Had Peter not repented from this way, surely He would have been severed by Jesus from communion and fellowship with Him just as the Pharisees were. They were a continual offense to our Lord.
So if your foot offends you today cut it off. If it is a stumbling block that hinders you from pressing on to your high calling of God in Christ Jesus, cut it off. If your eye offends you by keeping you from gaining understanding and from coming into to the knowledge of the Son of God, cut if off. If your hand offends you from laying hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of you, cut it off.