by Rayola Kelley
Q: “What does it mean that ‘my sheep hear my voice’ in John 10?”
A: There are two problems in regard to people properly understanding or receiving the fact that our Shepherd is speaking to us today as a truth. The first has to do with the fact that many do not believe Jesus is speaking today, and if He is, how is He speaking? However, the Bible is clear that God has always spoken to His people. Hebrews 1:1, 2 tells us He first spoke through the prophets, but in these last days He is speaking through His Son.
The second problem has to do with properly discerning the Lord’s voice. However, the key to hearing His voice implies one knows the Shepherd well enough that he or she is able to recognize His voice among the barrage of voices that are clamoring for our attention.
This brings us to the relationship aspect of the Christian life. Jesus tells us that His sheep will hear His voice. The relationship between the shepherd and sheep has to do with ownership and dependency. A good shepherd is devoted to the welfare of his sheep. He is acquainted with every sheep and makes the necessary investment to encourage a healthy dependency on him. It is such a personal investment between the shepherd and sheep that it develops within the sheep the ability to hear and recognize the shepherd’s voice when He calls out to them.
We know that Jesus made such an investment in each of us on the cross. He is well acquainted with us, but to clearly hear His voice we must know Him. It is for this reason we are told to deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him into the life He is calling us to.
This brings us to what serves as His voice today. There are two sources that serve as our Lord’s mouthpiece: His Word and the Holy Spirit. In order for us to hear the active voice of our Shepherd in His Word, we must have the Holy Spirit. In order to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying according to His Word, we must be born again and our new hearts must be open by faith to what the Spirit is saying. It is the Spirit that quickens the Word of God. In other words, He makes it living, personal, and applicable for today. Without the spiritual element of the Spirit, the Word remains dead-letter and ineffective.
The final aspect we must always remember is that the Lord speaks truth. Truth is unchangeable and immovable. Therefore, everything that is being said in relationship to God and His truth must be in line with the complete counsel of God (His Word) and properly discerned as to the spirit and intent behind it. In other words, by knowing the character, ministry, and ways of the Holy Spirit, a person will be able to properly test and discern the spirit behind what is being said. It is for this reason that Jesus admonished those who have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying.
I do hope this answers your question.