As we discover Jesus and the difference He has made in our lives, we begin to want to make a difference in the lives of other people. God is reaching the lost, building the Church, and making disciples. He does not need us, but He wants us to come be part of His work.
Alright, everybody. Welcome to Valley Creek Church. Come on, whatever campus you’re at, Denton, Flower Mound, Lewisville, The Venue, watching online, come on, let’s celebrate each other. We want to welcome you. Whoever you are, wherever you come from, whatever’s going on in your life, whether this is your first time here, maybe you haven’t been here in a while, maybe you’re here with us all the time, we are so glad that you are here with us at Valley Creek and we’re starting a new series today called the Ascent. Going to new places with God.
And over the next 4 weeks, I want to invite you to come on a journey with me to go to a new place with God. Wherever you’ve been, wherever you are, whether you’re young or whether you’re old, whether you’ve walked with God for years or you’re still not even sure about all of this Jesus stuff, there’s more for you. This is not as good as it gets. The best is yet to come and it’s time to go to a new place in Jesus’ name. You see, I don’t know about you, but I want to go to a new place in my life. I want to experience more. I want to discover more. I want to encounter more. Like I want to go to new places in my journey with Jesus. And whether you realize it or not, so do you.
In fact, you may not even think that you do, but Psalm 27 tells us, “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face’.” In other words, whether you even acknowledge it or not, your heart longs for the presence of God. Your heart craves to rest in Him, to go to new places with Him. You see, you were made for the ascending life. You were made to go from glory to glory, and victory to victory, to go to new heights and new places. But how many of you know that doesn’t just happen, that if you’ve ever ascended anything or climbed anything or ever seen anybody summit anything, they don’t just jump from where they are to the summit.
No, it’s a series of simple next steps that takes them along the way and the same is true with us in our relationship with God. We don’t just jump to the summit. We go on this journey of next steps. And whichever feet — direction your feet are pointed in is where you’re going to end up going because it’s direction not intention that determines where you end up. This is why Jesus tells us, he says, “Come follow me,” Jesus says. He says, “Hey, come and follow me one next step at a time and if you follow me with small simple steps, I will take you to a place that you can’t even believe that you will get to.” See, next steps aren’t expectations to fulfill. They’re discoveries to be made and that’s the journey we’re going to go on together over these next few weeks.
And I get it. Some of you are here and you’re like, “I don’t really know that I want to go to a new place with God. I kind of want to go to a new place in my business, in my marriage, in school, in my finances.” That’s good. I totally get all that and all of that is good stuff. And what I would say to you is if you will go to a new place with God, you will go to a new place with everything else because when you go to a new place with God, you can’t help but go to a new place with everything else in your life.
But what happens, if we’re honest, from time to time, we get lost, we get stuck, we get confused and that’s what this series is kind of about. And so, the theme verse of this series is Psalm 25 that says, “Show me your ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths. Show me your ways. Teach me your paths.” In other words, God, would you give us the wisdom to go to a new place with you? And I am convinced that if you’ll hang out with us for these next 4 weeks and take some of the really simple next steps that we’re going to lay out over this journey together that by the end of it, you will go to a new place with God because it is time for us to take some new ground in Jesus’ name.
You see, what I love about this concept of mountains is if you’ll read the Bible — all throughout the Bible, mountains are really a prophetic picture of people going to a new place with God. When God invites somebody on a mountain and they have an encounter with Him, He’s inviting them up a physical mountain to represent that they’re going to a new place in their relationship with Him. Like if you remember the story of Abraham and Isaac, he goes up the mountain to surrender his son, Isaac, and he goes to a new place of surrender with God. Or Moses, the washed out, burned out shepherd has this encounter with a burning bush, the presence of God on the side of a mountain and he experiences restoration and finds his calling. Or how about Elijah, the suicidal prophet who’s had enough of everything and God invites him up on a side of a mountain and whispers to him and inspires Elijah to go back and live his life. Or how about the disciples who are called by Jesus up on the side of the mountain to become His 12 disciples to go and change the world.
Mountains are a prophetic picture of going to a new place in our relationship with God. And whether you realize this or not, you are already a mountain climber. Like you may not be gearing up for Kaitu to Denali or Everest, but you are a mountain climber. You’ve been climbing mountains your whole life. You’ve been climbing the mountain of business, the mountain of athletics, the mountain of finances, significance, influence, social media, relationships your whole life. You’ve been climbing mountains.
The only problem is, most of those mountains are full of false summits and they don’t really deliver on what they promised, do they? And the only thing worse than not climbing is climbing the wrong mountain and getting to the top because who cares if you get to a top of a mountain that don’t really matter. You know what I mean? A great example of this is the story of the rich young ruler. And there’s a guy in the Bible, the Bible refers to him as a rich young ruler.
And one day, he comes to Jesus and says, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit internal life?” And Jesus looks at the man and he says, “You know the commandments. Don’t lie, don’t steal, don’t commit adultery, honor your father and mother.” And the man looks back to Jesus and he says, “Jesus, all these I’ve kept since I was a boy.” And in that moment, we discover not only is he a rich young ruler, we discover he is a religious rich young ruler because he just said he kept all of the commandments, but broke one right there by saying he actually kept them. He just lied to Jesus’ face because there is no way he kept all of them. And what we realize is this man spent his life climbing the wrong mountains.
He’s a religious rich ruler. He’s climbed the mountain of religion. He’s climbed the mountain of riches. He’s climbed the mountain of power. He’s climbed the mountain of work and he comes to Jesus and he says, “Jesus, I’ve climbed all of these mountains, but there’s still something missing.” He says, “I’m empty and hollow inside and I got flags on all the mountains of the world. I’ve climbed them all. I’ve reached the summit of every one of them and I still don’t feel like I have life. Help.” And I love how it says, Jesus responds to him. Jesus looked at him, loved him.
Jesus sees us in our striving, in our anguish, in the burden, in the pain of trying to climb the mountains of this world and he has compassion in us. He loves us, and he sees the struggle and the difficulty and the striving that we’re trying to do to get to these places. He looks at us, he sees it and he loves us with compassion. And he says to the man, “One thing you lack, go sell everything you have and give it to the poor, you’ll have treasure in heaven, then come follow me.” In other words Jesus looks at the man he says, “Hey, you spent your life climbing the wrong mountains.”
He says, “It’s time to come down from those mountains and come climb the only mountain that matters and that is the mountain that starts with me. He says, if you want the ascending life, if you want eternal life, if you want abundant life, it starts by discovering me. The only thing that you’re missing is me. And if you will come discover me, you will go to a new place with God and you will go to a new place in your life. And what I love about what Jesus does in this moment is that he teaches us, that the ascending life starts by discovering Jesus. The ascending life, going to a new place with God, going to a new place in your life, it starts by discovering Jesus. He says, “The only thing that you’re missing, is me.” And what I love in this moment is that Jesus teaches us that the foundation of the mountain of life starts with grace. The foundation of life starts with the grace of God.
He says it’s all about discovering me. This is not a journey of what you have to do and what you have to earn and what you have to achieve and what you have to prove. He says, “No, no.” He says, the ascending life of going to a new place with God is not about what you have to do, it’s about what I have done. You don’t have to achieve you just have to receive. And what I love about what Jesus tells us, he says that we don’t have to make our way to God because God came down and made his way to us. And he invites us in on the beginning of the journey by saying, “Discover me and you will go to a new place with God.”
In fact this is why John 14, Jesus says, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Jesus says he is the way to truth, the way to life and the way to the Father. In other words he says, he is the way to go into a new place with God. He is the way to a new place in life. He is the way to getting to new heights. And if you’ll discover that Jesus is the friend of sinners, the gateway of heaven, the Lord of all creation, the prince of peace, the alpha and the omega, grace and truth, you want to discover more of him and that will lead you to new places with him.
In fact this is why Jesus says in the next verse, he says, “Enter through the narrow gate for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction.” And many enter through it, but small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it. In other words, Jesus says he is the narrow gate that leads to an ever widening life. That if we walk through him, there’s only one way and is through the grace of Jesus, he is the foundation of the mountain of life. And when we walk through him, it opens up and becomes an ever increasing, ever widening, ever ascending life.
He says, “But the world is a wide gate that leads to an ever narrowing life.” And if you go climbing all the mountains of the world, the higher you get, the darker and the narrower it becomes. And so here’s the question that I want to ask you right out of the gate in this series, is, what mountains are you climbing? Like in your life right now, like what are you trying to summit and why? See Jesus isn’t trying to take away all those other mountains of your life, he’s just trying to help you understand that they’re a part of your life, not the point of your life. And he’s inviting you to come down from them so you can go up with him.
I mean just think of Peter for a second. Do you remember Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples? You see Peter was just like the rich, young ruler, he’s just like us. He was trying to climb the mountain of business. He wanted to be the best fisherman on the Sea of Galilee and apparently, he wasn’t a very good mountain climber because when we read about Peter he never catches any fish. And one day Jesus comes walking along and totally interrupts Peter’s life. He gets in Peter’s boat, asked Peter to go out in the sea and then tells Peter to throw the net over the side of the boat. Peter’s fished all night, hasn’t caught anything. And because Jesus asked him to do and Peter says okay, throws it in the water, pulls it up and it’s so full of fish the net begins to break, the boat begins to sink and in that moment when Peter sees the grace of God, he hits his knees and he looks at Jesus and he says, “Away from me Lord for I am a sinful man.” Pause.
Who told me he was a sinner? Who in that moment said anything about sin or a sinful life? You see, sin just simply means to miss the mark. And what Peter realizes in that moment from the grace of God is that he spent his life climbing the wrong mountains. And all of the sudden it’s exposed in the soul and he realizes it and he knows it and what’s amazing is when you’re in the presence of God and the grace of God, no one has to tell you you’re missing the mark.
No one has to tell you you’re climbing the wrong mountain because our soul is like bare and we realize our need for Jesus. It’s kindness that leads us to repentance. And yet Jesus looks right at him and he says, “Peter, don’t be afraid.” He helps him up. He says, “Come follow me. Come discover me.” And you’ll go to places with God. And you’ll go to new places with life. And so with every next step that Peter took he discovered more of Jesus. And every time he discovered more of Jesus he went to a new place with God. He started following one step at a time and watched Jesus open the eyes of the blind and raised the dead and cast out demons and healed the sick. And with everything that Peter saw, every discovery he made about Jesus he went to a new place in his relationship with God.
And what I think is so cool about the Peter story is it shows us that discovering Jesus doesn’t mean he’s hiding somewhere, and you got to go find him. It means he has come in your life to reveal himself to you. You see for many of us sitting here today, Peter’s story is our story. Like you’re climbing all kinds of mountains, you got all kinds of things going, and right now in this very moment, whatever campus you’re at, Jesus has just showed up to interrupt your life.
The very fact that you’re even here is the grace of God overwhelming your life. He’s — keeping kindness in your life. And as you start to realize, “Maybe I’ve been spending my life climbing the wrong things” he says, “Don’t be afraid — because in me there’s no condemnation.” And there’s no shame and there’s no guilt and I’m not here to punish you, I’m here to free you and take you to new places in your relationship with God and help you go to a new place in your life.” In Jesus’ name.
You see the reason I like those stories is because like many of you that are here, those stories remind me a lot about my own life. Like I grew up in a really good home, my parents loved God, we went to church every Sunday, but it was never real to me. Every Sunday, I was sitting near just like you were in the church that I grew up in in Buffalo, New York. And I would hear about all these stuff and we would go and it just — but it just wasn’t for me. It never connected, it didn’t make much sense and so I spend my life climbing mountains. I thought that’s where you find significance. That’s where you’ll find life, the more mountains you climb, the more significant you become, the better your life is. And so, I started climbing mountains from a young age while all of my friends were playing video games, I was working and making money. I’m climbing mountains. I climbed the mountain of academics and got really good grades and scholarships and honor societies and awards.
I climb the mountain of athletics, became an international lacrosse player, won a national championship an all-American. I was a head college coach in my early 20s. I climbed the mountain of relationships. I was part of the cool popular crowd at the Homecoming Queen girlfriend. Oh, I climbed all of these mountains and yet with every mountain I climbed, I felt even more empty than the one before it. I actually got to a place in my life where the thing I hated the most was the summit moment because it echoed the loneliness and the brokenness in my own soul. Every summit was worse than the one before it and the problem is, is you know what’s on the backside of a mountain? A valley and the higher you climb, the further you have to fall. And the more you climb mountains of the world, you’re going to come down on that valley and I came down in that valley pretty hard. In a season of my life, everything fell apart.
Don’t have enough time to get into all the details. Basically, there was a giant avalanche of whatever mountain I was on at that time and it took me down into the valley. And I hit so hard, I was lost and lonely and broken. And I remembered just crying out to God and I basically said this, I said, “God, you’re either real or you’re not. And if you’re real, you can have the rest of my life if you show yourself to me. And if you’re not, I am done. I am done going to church for Christmas. I’m done closing my eyes when my mom wants to pray over the meal. I’m done with like all of it.” Okay. Pause. I do not recommend making ultimatums with God.
It’s not great theology but it’s where I was. And God looked and He loved. Just like with the rich young ruler. And for about six months, I did everything I could to seek after God. I would go to church. I would go to small groups. I would talk to people. I would read everything I can get my hands on. I would listen to every sermon I could hear and at that time, it was cassette tapes.
You know those two little wheels that go like this and you got to rewind. [Makes noise] You know, it’s like 30 minutes. It’s like longer to rewind it than to listen to it. And I’m trying to take it all in and I don’t know how to explain it to any other way than this. At some point in that journey, Jesus revealed himself to me and he became real. And the grace of God touched my life. And all of a sudden, when the grace of God touches your life, repentance sets in. And repentance means to change your mind and change your direction. And all of a sudden, I don’t want to climb the mountains of the world anymore. I want to climb this mountain that starts with discovering Jesus. And I started to go on a journey of discovering Jesus. And what I need you to understand is I didn’t discover Jesus, I started discovering Jesus. The question is not “Have you discovered Jesus?” The question is, “Are you discovering Jesus?” Not past tense, present tense.
You see, in that moment, I discovered salvation that God gave me a new life, a new birth. But as I kept journeying, I discovered God speaks and he wants to talk to me. And then I started to discover that in Jesus, I’m the Father’s beloved son in whom he is well pleased with nothing to prove and nothing to earn and nothing to achieve. And then I started to discover that Jesus had restored my identity, that everything that’s true about Jesus isn’t — through me and as I kept journeying, I discovered not only has He forgiven my sins, but He’s credited my account with favor and righteousness. And then I started to discover that no matter how dark it is, he is with me in the valley of the shadow of death.
And then I discovered that he wants to give me the keys to the kingdom of Heaven and in this season, I’m discovering that he’s given me his hope to be a hope carrier in this world. See, it wasn’t I discovered Jesus, it’s I started a journey of ascent, a journey of discovering Jesus.
And the more — hang on, and the more I discovered Jesus, the more I realized how much more there was to discover. You see, the more you discover Jesus, the more you desire Jesus. The more you discover grace, the more you desire grace. It’s not have you discovered Jesus back there, it’s are you discovering Jesus like right here and right now where he leaves you satisfied but with this longing and this desire to press forward. To say I want to keep going to a new place with you because the more I discover, the more I desire.
The problem is for a lot of us, if we’re honest, we think we have discovered Jesus and we think we know everything there is to know about Him. So instead of discovering Jesus, we think we’ve got it figured out and we kind of have this like mindset like, this is one of those mindsets that just takes place the longer that you’re in church is you start to think, been there, done that, got the t-shirt. Know the stories, know how it goes, know how that one ends, yup, read it. Maybe I even taught in Sunday school. Like been there, done that, I got it figured out. And what I think for a lot of us, is we are familiar with the name of Jesus but we are unfamiliar with the person of Jesus. This is why one day as Jesus and his disciples were traveling along after about 12 chapters of their journey together. Jesus looks into the disciples he says, “Hey, um, guys, who did the people say that I am?” He says, “What did the people think about me? What’s their opinion of me?”
And they look at Jesus and they say, “Well, some say you’re like John the Baptist. Others say you’re like Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” In the other words, they say, “The people think you’re a religious guy. Some people think you’re a good teacher. Some people think you’re a nice man. In other words, Jesus, the people think they’ve got you all figured out. They think they know everything there is to know about you. They’ve heard the messages. They’ve seen the miracles. They kind of get it and they’re content. They’ve made their judgement and put you in this small little box.” And he says, “Okay, but what about you?” Mathew 16, “What about you?” he asked, “Who do you say I am?” And in that moment, the disciples stepped forward and they say, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God. In other words, they say, “Jesus, you are everything. You are life, you are light, you are love, you are the most relevant thing in all of our lives.”
You see, they had an expanding view of discovering Jesus. And what I love about this question is this, it’s the most important question you will ever answer in your entire life, who do you say Jesus is? And every one of us in this room, here’s what’s crazy, we all have an answer, whether you realize it or not, like you have an answer of who you say Jesus is, and it’s been formed by all kinds of things. It might be shaped by what your grandma thinks, or it might be shaped by the church you grew up in. It might be by the experiences you’ve had, the things you’ve seen, the places you’ve gone, the bad messages in theology that you’ve heard, I mean, it’s shaped in a lot of different ways. And what is fascinating to me is I think a lot of us, we want to conform Jesus into our image instead of us being conformed into his image. Instead of expanding our lives into the greatness of Jesus, we want to shrink Jesus down to the smallness of what we have seen and experienced ourselves.
I think we often look at the mountain of Jesus and we think, “You know what, been there, done that. Climbed that one, it’s just — it’s not really a mountain, it’s just kind of like a hill. Been around it, got to the top of it, put a flag on it, awesome. I got eternity figured out, I’m not back over here climbing these mountains.” And because we have a low view of Jesus, we don’t think there’s much else to explore. We know a lot about God, but we don’t always necessarily know God.
We know a lot about the cross. We’re not sure we really know much though about resurrection living. We know a lot about religion, we don’t necessarily know all that much about grace. We’re familiar with the name of Jesus but if we’re honest, we’re, kind of, unfamiliar with the person of Jesus. And we’ve got this small theology that we brought Jesus down to and I hate break this to you today, but Jesus has no problem disproving your theology.
He is not confined by what you believe is true about him. He will take your upside down theology and turn it right side up in Jesus’ name. Like, think of the disciples, they thought they knew everything there was to know about Jesus. They’re like, been there, done that, got the t-shirt, we know everything about Jesus, and he constantly kept disproving their own theology. Like, they’re in the boat and the storm comes, they think they’re going to die, and Jesus calms the wind and the waves, and their response is, “Who is this that even the wind and the waves obey to him?” He turned their theology upside down. Or how about the guy Lazarus who died, he’s been dead for days. Jesus shows up four days late. And they say, “Jesus, if you would have been here, he wouldn’t have died.” In other words, they think Jesus can heal the sick, but not raise the dead. And he calls the dead man who’s been dead for four days out of the grave and all of a sudden, theo — what? You can’t do that.
Come on, how about the resurrection? When Jesus was crucified and buried, they thought it was done even though he told them he was going to resurrect for three years. And then he shows up, and they still don’t believe, and they’re like, “Wait a second. I got to touch you to see if this is actually real.” Small theology. Bad theology. Because we think we’ve discovered the greatness of Jesus. You have not discovered the greatness of Jesus.
See, the problem is, is we’ve bought into so much of the religious garbillego. This is why Mark 10, Jesus — Jesus says, “For the son of man did not come to be served, but to serve and give his life.” Our theology of Jesus is we have to serve him. That’s our theology of Jesus, isn’t it? That’s what grandma told you, that’s what all the messages you’ve heard in your life, that’s what you’ve been shamed-by by your friends and all these — like, that’s what we believe.
And yet all of a sudden, Jesus wants to disprove our own theology by saying, “Wait a second, I didn’t come so you could serve me. I came to serve you. I came to serve you with my grace, and my goodness, and my forgiveness, and my power, and I came to give you my life. I came to give you faith, hope, and love.” And all of a sudden our theology starts getting disproved. Because if you think life is all about serving Jesus, you’re not going to be so interested in the ascent. You’re going to go climb this over here to get someone else to serve you and Jesus is saying, “Hey, why don’t you just come at this mountain because I’m already in here to serve you.”
And some of you are like stressing it out big time like, “Hey, we’re supposed to serve Jesus.” When you start discovering that he has served you, you want to serve him, and you want to serve others because you realize that’s the life of freedom on the mountain of life. But it doesn’t start there. See, I think a lot of us, we’re hiding — we’re hiding out on the mountain of religion, man. We’re hiding out on the mountain of religion, hiding out behind our good works, serving God. And he’s inviting us to come up on the mountain of life and discover good grace, in Jesus’ name.
This is why in John 4, Jesus talking at the woman at the well. He says, “If you only knew who I am and the gift that God wants to give you, you would ask me for a drink and I would give you living water.” He says, “If you knew who I was and I what I offer, you would ask me.” The problem is we think we know who is, we think we know what he offers, so we don’t ask him. And we spend our lives thinking we’re here to give him a drink and he’s saying, “Hey, I came to you to give you springs of living water.” If we would believe he is the bread of life, we would allow him to nourish our soul.
If we believe he was springs of living water, we would allow him to satisfy our soul. If we believed he was the door, we would walk through it into the abundant life. If we believe he was the good shepherd, we would follow him into green pastures. If we believe he was the resurrection and the life, we would allow him to bring our dead things back to life.
So here’s the question that I want to ask you is when was the last time you had a fresh discovery of Jesus? When was the last time you were like, “Oh my goodness, look at that grace. Look at that love. Look at that kindness.” Come on, and if you’re sitting here and you’re thinking, “Hey, this is boring. I already know all this.” Then not only are you not discovering Jesus, present tense, I would question have you ever discovered Jesus, past tense?
Because when you discover Jesus, you desire Jesus. Come on, you haven’t got it all figured out yet. You will never know how wide, how long, how deep, how high is the love of God, of the increase of his government there is no end. If it’s still increasing, it means you haven’t got to the end of it yet. And if it is immeasurably be more than you can ask or imagine, then you haven’t figured out the fullness of the grace of Jesus, nor have I.
This is why in John 16, Jesus says, “I have much more to say to you, more than you cannot bear.” He says, “I got more for you. I am more right now than you can even handle, but I’m going to give you the Holy Spirit and he will guide into all truth.” Truth is not a concept, he’s a person and his name is Jesus. He says, “There is more of me than you currently have and my spirit has come to lead you into that truth and when you discover me, you will go to new places with God and new places in your life.” Are you with me on that? Come on, time is going fast here today, but here’s what I want to say to you, this is why we are a Jesus-focused church.
If you ever sit and wonder like, “Why do we always talk about Jesus and nothing else? This is why. I don’t want to talk about the darkness of the world. I don’t want to talk about the brokenness of us. I want to talk about the grace of Jesus because we are drawn by grace and changed by grace. This is why Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Word of God is Jesus. The more I hear about Jesus, the more faith I have, and when I have faith, I start living the ascending life and following him to new places. Come on, you don’t need to hear more about your sin, you don’t need to more about your brokenness, you don’t need to hear more about how broke and darkened the world is. You need to hear more. I need to hear more about the grace of Jesus and discovering it because it naturally draws us up the mountain to move forward in our journey with God. Come on.
This is why next verse — this is why if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old is gone, new has come. The more you hear about Jesus, the more the old goes. The old shame, sin, brokenness, and patterns, and the more the new comes, the faith, hope, and love in Jesus’ name. Are you with me on that? And so some of you are like, “Great, discover Jesus. That sounds awesome. How do I do it?” It starts with humility. It starts with not only saying I want Jesus but admitting you need Jesus. And so real quick, at the end of every one of these messages, I’m going to give you three next steps that at some point I hope everyone in our church will take. I hope that one of these you will grab ahold of and do that. If you really want to go to a new place with God, first thing is simply this, receive salvation and be baptized. It all starts with just saying, “Jesus, I need you.” Acts Chapter 4, “Salvation is found in no one else for there is no other name under heaven which we might be saved.”
Listen, salvation. It’s admitting that you are a sinner in need of a savior. That Jesus has come to help you because you’ve missed the mark and gone to the wrong places and gone up the wrong mountains. But he’s come to save you from the sin, and the shame, and the guilt, and the brokenness, and the pain. And in the Bible, the word salvation is the word sozo. It means to save, to heal, and to make whole. He’s not trying to just get you to heaven someday, he’s trying to heal you, and make you whole today, and invite you to ascend to new heights in your life. But it starts by the humility of saying, “Jesus, I need you.” And then be baptized. Baptism is simply going under the waters of baptism. It is representing the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It’s saying not only do I believe in Jesus, I identify that I have been crucified, dead, buried, my sin, my shame, my brokenness stays in the water and I’m rising to a new life in him, in Jesus’ name. That’s where you start. That’s how you start ascending with God, salvation and baptism, which is coming up.
The second is this, go to First Step. If you want to discover Jesus, go to First Step. You’re like, “Wait a second. Isn’t it the three-week class thing for the church?” Yeah. First Step is where we get started with Jesus in Valley Creek. And if you say, “Well wait, how is that going to help me?” Well, in Matthew 16, Jesus says, “I will build my church.” If Jesus is building his church and you want to discover Jesus, then you probably should go and be a part of the thing that Jesus is doing if you want to discover him. Does that make sense? Like it’s really interesting. Like we say we want to discover Jesus, but then we actually don’t want to be a part of where Jesus says he is. Crickets, right?
And this is just — listen, you need to be a part of church because that’s what Jesus is saying he’s doing. We’re the body of Christ. If we’re the body of Christ, you need to united, committed, roots planted, growing, and if you don’t like this church, then go to another church that’s lifting up the name of Jesus and say, “All right, I’m in it to win it. I am here because I want to discover Jesus.” At some point, you just got to say, “I need this to go on my journey with Jesus to be a part of one family, one community for an extended period of time.” And if you’re sitting here and you’re like, “Yeah, I did that,” if you’re like part of our people, you’ve been here long time, you’re like, “Yeah, 10 years ago I went to one of those classes,” okay, you need to go again.
Everybody in Valley Creek, every three to five years, you should go to whatever the new entry point is. Why? Because it’s the fresh vision, it’s the fresh values, it’s the fresh revelation that we have and it will remind you and inspire you about what it is that we’re actually doing. So don’t be like, “I did that.” That’s a little bit of that conforming Jesus to our image and saying, “Jesus, I just want to be reignited about what it is that you’re doing here in this place.”
And then the last thing is simply this, attend the Freedom Gathering. A couple of times a year, we have a Freedom Gathering. John Chapter 8, Jesus says, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Truth is not a concept, truth is a person. When you know Jesus, he sets you free. And there is a big difference between being set free and living free. And a lot of us have this salvation moment somewhere in our life where we were set free but if we’re honest, we’re not really living free. We’re caught up in the wrong mountains, we’re kind of lost, we’re kind of confused, we’re kind of just stuck. Freedom Gathering is about you getting free from the sin, and the shame, and the brokenness, and the things that just kind of holds you back, so you can be free to ascend to a new place with God.
Three really simple steps that if you want to start the ascending journey with Jesus, I would encourage every person in our church at some point to go through all of these. And if you’re here and you’re like, “I’ve done them all,” awesome. Here’s what I would say to you, when was the last time you helped someone else go through any of them? Because that’s how you’ll discover more in Jesus for you. Are you with me on all of this?
All right, let me close it with this. After three years of walking with Jesus, Peter thinks he’s got it all figured out. Three years of walking with Jesus, Peter thinks, “Been there, done that, got the t-shirt. I got it figured out, man.” He’s like, “I’ve heard all the sermons. I was at every one.” He’s like, “I’ve seen all the miracles, was that every one? I went to the secret places with Jesus that not all the other disciples got to go, every one.” He was like, “I’ve done it all. I’ve taught the Sunday school class, I’ve gone out and healed people on behalf of Jesus, I’ve done the children’s church, I’ve done the student ministry, I’ve done all of them. I mean, I have done the worship, I have played the guitar,” whatever guitar they had there.
He’s like, “I did it. I know it. I got it all figured out.” And then right before Jesus is about to go to the cross, he says, “Hey, guys, I’m going to go to the cross and you’re going to deny me.” And Peter steps up. He’s like, “No, no.” He’s like, “You’re not going to go to cross. We’re not going to let you. I’ll never deny you, Jesus. I got you figure — I got it. I discovered you. We’re good.” “Okay, Peter. Pride comes before the fall, didn’t it?” At the moment, we think we have discovered Jesus. We’re already sliding back down that mountain. And what happens? Peter denies Jesus three times to a servant girl. He crushes heart. Jesus has crucified, died, buried, gone. Peter thinks it’s over, he’s devastated. And where does he go? He goes back to the mountain of fishing.
Whenever you lose site of the grace of Jesus, you will always go back to the mountain of the world you feel the most comfortable on. And so he goes back fishing and because he’s a terrible fisherman, he doesn’t catch any fish. And he’s sitting there just lost and broken, and here comes the resurrected Jesus this time. It’s not the Jesus that happened in Matthew 4 and Luke 5. This is the resurrected Jesus walking down the shore. And he calls out, “Hey, Peter, have you caught any fish?” He doesn’t know it’s Jesus. He thinks he has discovered everything about Jesus, and when the resurrected Jesus shows up and talks to him, he doesn’t even recognize that it’s Jesus. That’s how little he had actually fully discovered about Jesus. That’s how big Jesus is. And he says, “No.” Jesus calls up, “Throw your net over the side of the boat.” He does. And when he pulls it in, it’s so full of fish. The net begins to break, boat begins to sink. Peter looks up, “Ah,” and the grace of God at Jesus’ life, he realizes it’s Jesus.
Jumps in the water, squirms to Jesus. Jesus feeds him a little meal, takes him for a little walk and says, “Hey, Peter, do you still love me? Because I still love you.” Why won’t you come follow me because I wanted to take you to a new place with God. I wanted to take you to a new place in life. And in that moment, Peter discovered more of Jesus. You see in that moment, Peter re-discovered Jesus. And he discovered things he didn’t know about Jesus, like Jesus is the God of second chances. Like Jesus was resurrected and alive. Like Jesus still loved him no matter how bad he messed up. Like Jesus still wanted him even though no one else did. All of the sudden, Peter discovered a whole bunch of things he didn’t even know about Jesus. And he started to ascend and go to a new place with God and a new place in his life, and everything started to change.
I think if we’re honest, maybe some of us sitting here today were like Peter in that story. Somewhere back there, we discovered past tense Jesus. We got saved. We met God. We were in student camp, at church, service, revival, our grandma, something. We had a moment where was like we found Jesus and we believed in Him and we were excited and there was life and there was grace that was pumping through our veins. We’re like, “Yes, this is amazing.” And then just life happened. Life happened because we didn’t keep discovering Jesus. We kind of lost sight of Jesus. We kind of conformed him to our image instead of expanding it to the greatness of Him. We kind of shrunk him down to what we were seeing and experiencing in our life. It became a small mountain or hill, really, that we have applied again it. And we kind of like God, or like tied to it, like I got the flag there, but I’m over here living. But I’m climbing these mountains that really aren’t satisfying or fulfilling anything inside of me.
And I think today Jesus wants to walk down the shore of your life, the resurrected Jesus and say, “Hey, do you still love me? Because I still love you regardless of where you’ve been or what you have done, or what kind of mountain you’ve climbed, I’m inviting you to come down and come back over here. Let’s climb this mountain together. Come follow me and I’ll take you to a new place with God and a new place in your life. It’s time to leave the old behind. It’s time to go up the mountain of life that matters.” That’s not a mountain of striving, earning or achieving. It’s the one of discovering, receiving and exploring in Jesus’ name. Maybe you’ve never heard, maybe you forgot. Either way, the ascending life starts by discovering present tense, the grace of Jesus.
And when you discover Jesus, you desire Jesus, and when you desire Jesus, you have the faith to move forward with Jesus. It’s time to ascend in Jesus’ name. So you close your eyes with me. Here’s the question. What do you think the Holy Spirit wants to say to you today? Like wherever you are, whatever is going on, whatever mountain you are on, what is he saying to you? See the grace of God is relentless and it chasing you down. And whether you’ve never believed or used to believe in the past, or feel like you’re currently believe in the moment, listen, Jesus is here. And he is saying this whole things starts with just discovering me. He’s looking, he’s loving, he’s inviting. And he’s pouring out his grace.
See today is the day of salvation. And not salvation one and done, salvation, not just saved, being saved in Jesus’ name. So maybe today you just need to say, “Jesus, I invite into my life. I’m tired of climbing my own mountains doing the things in the world. I receive your grace. Will you set me free in Jesus’ name?” The journey has begun. And maybe you’re here and you kind of jump off the mountain of Jesus and you kind of going up some other mountains of this world. He’s not asking you to ditch all that stuff. He’s just saying, “Hey, that’s not supposed to be the point of your life. That’s just the part of your life. Why you come back over here with me?” And for some of us, we’ve been climbing the mountain of discovering Jesus. And what he says to you today is, “I have so much more for you to discover.”
Next steps are not expectations to feel their discoveries to be made and as a heart of every next step, you will discover more of Jesus. And when you discover Jesus, you will go to a new place with God. So Jesus, thank you for grace. Thank you that you don’t give up on us. Thank you that today, at all of our campuses, you have come to find us. May we allow you to find us. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.