Following the cloud is about hearing God’s voice and following Him, by faith, into a life of freedom. Following the cloud is a lifestyle of taking next steps with God. When we receive revelation, the temptation is to ask “what’s next?”, however, God is asking us to take time to reflect and take a spiritual assessment. Doing so allows the revelation to “soak” and settle in our hearts.
Alright. Hey, everybody. Welcome to Valley Creek Church. We are really glad that you’re here with us today. And whatever campus you may be at right now, whether you’re in Denton, Flower Mound, Lewisville, The Venue, maybe you’re watching somewhere online, somewhere in the world, can we just welcome each other together. We are so glad that you are here with us at the end of summer, the beginning of fall. And then it is a great time to be here because we’re in a sermon series called Follow the Cloud. Now we’re talking about hearing God’s voice and taking next steps and we’re talking about a lot of the things that we value and believe here at Valley Creek Church and we kicked it off last week. And we said that the Cloud is simply a physical picture of a spiritual truth. That if you look at the story of the Israelites that after 400 years of Egyptian slavery, God sees their misery. He hears their cry. He is concerned of their suffering, so He comes to set them free. And out of all the ways He could choose to lead them from Egypt to the Promise Land, He chooses to do it through a Cloud, through a personal and present Cloud because that is who God is, intimately a personal and ever present with us.
And from within this mighty Cloud, He spoke to them with a gentleness of a whisper, “Follow me one next step at a time. When I move, you move. When I stop, you stop. Where I go, you go. Keep your eyes on me and I will lead you to discover who you are, who I am and what you are created to do.” And I really believe that that’s how God invites us to live our lives today, to follow Him one next step at a time. The Cloud is an Old Testament picture of a New Testament truth. Today, the Cloud is not above us, it’s within us and His name is the Holy Spirit. And He leads us one step at a time. And so we talked about what the Cloud was and then we kind of defined like what is the lifestyle of next steps actually look alike. And we said that God leads us in small steps not giant leaps. So you don’t have to have a life of leaps of faith. You just follow God’s small steps and He’ll get you to the best possible outcome of your life. And then we’ve said that every step that God invites you to take does three things.
It helps you discover who you are, who God is and what you are created to do. And we talked about our three circles. And we said that everything that God is inviting us to do is a journey through these three circles that as we receive His grace, we’ll desire to experience His presence and then we’ll want or release His kingdom. When I discovered who I am, I’ll know who God is and I’ll know what I’m created to do. If I believe I’m a beloved son, I will run to the Father and I will spend my life building His kingdom. But we said the opposite is true. If I resist His grace, I’ll avoid His presence and I’ll spend my life building my own kingdom. If I don’t know who I am, I have no idea who God is and I have no idea what I’m created to do. If I do not believe I am forgiven, I will be afraid of God and I will avoid Him and I will spend my life doing a bunch of things to pay for my sin or my own shame. And then we said that most of us start here in circle three and work backwards. We try to do all of kinds of things for God to earn our way into His presence, to pay for the shame and the brokenness of our past or we do a bunch of stuff in order to become significant.
And we said in this life with Jesus, we don’t do in order to become. We become and then we do. Who you are determines what you do. We are drawn by grace not driven by expectation. Identity leads to relationship and relationship releases purpose. Order is everything. You could not go backwards. This is called the cycle of performance. This is called life in the freedom of the Father’s heart. And so some of you are saying, “Did we really need to do that?” Again, and the answer to that question again is yes, we needed to do that again because my hope for you is just that you will live this, that you will teach it and you will share it with other people. My hope is that, when you sit down a restaurant with someone, when your glass gets real sweaty, you’ll take it and you’ll do three little circles on the table, and you’ll say, Hey, let me tell you about my God and what He has done in my life.” And you point to the three of them. And you tell people about how Jesus has come to set you free and give you a life of freedom. I hope you scratch it on a napkin for people, wherever you might be, or on a notepad when you’re having a conversation with somebody.
This is the Gospel, this changes our lives and it empowers us to help other people find the freedom that Jesus offers, okay? And what you have to understand is that everything starts with circle 1. You have to understand who you are and your identity if you want to find the fullness of the freedom of the life that God offers you. So what I want to do today is we’re going to camp out in circle 1. I’m just going to put one circle up there. We’re going to camp out there for a little bit. And here’s what I want to do — I mean I got a lot today, okay? So I’m going to throw it all out on a table and you got to grab what’s for you. We’ll see where we can get. I’m not even sure we’re going to get through it all. We’re going to do a little bit of heart surgery together, which will be good — because I think God has a freedom for you. So here is my encouragement to you. Set your mind, set your hearts, say, “Holy Spirit, what is it that you want to say to me? I want us to understand circle 1 because it is the beginning of everything.” Okay. A couple of thoughts for you in circle 1 living. The first thing is this, is that God’s grace restores our identity.
The Israelites — because this is whole thing of follow the cloud was — about the Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 400 years. This was who they were and this is what they did. They were born into slavery and they lived their lives as slaves, no hope, no future, no life, they spent every single day with Pharaoh as their master, making bricks for him. Let’s be honest, that sounds a whole lot like the American life, is it not? We strive, we struggle, we perform and we often feel like a slave in our own life. And then when they least expected it, God showed up to come and set them free. And it’s a reminder that we don’t have to go and find the Cloud because the Cloud comes to find us. Luke 19:10, “For the son of man came to seek and save that which was lost.” He comes to seek, passionately pursue you and save you, completely transform or restore your life and were reminded you that God didn’t set them free because they were good but because He was good. And the moment that He set them free, their identity changed. They went from being slaves to being sons.
Exodus 6, listen to this, God is saying, “Therefore, say to the Israelites, I am the Lord your God and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people and I will be your God. You’ll be sons, I’ll be your Father then you will know that I’m the Lord your God who brought you out of the yoke from under the yoke of the Egyptians and I will bring you into the Land. I swear with uplifted hand to give Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, I will give it is as a possession to you. I am the Lord.” In other words it’s going to happen. And some of you might say, “Well, where does these three circles come from? With the Israelites?” Right there. Boom. He says, “I’m going to change your identity. You’ll no longer be a slave. You’ll be a son. I will make you my people and I will be your Father. I will be your God and then I will lead you into the promised land and you will live a life of purpose. Three circles right there for them. You see, what you have to remember is this that saving ones slaves, God wants sons. And whichever kingdom you live in defines the reality of your identity.
And what I think is so cool is that when God set them free, He didn’t just cancel their debt, He credited their account. There are some really cool passages in there. God not only set them free from being slaves, but it literally says the Israelites plunder the Egyptians and they step into the dessert with all the gold of the Egypt. They go from being poor slaves, to rich sons. So why? Because a new identity leads to a new lifestyle. God always gives us the blessings we desire and the tools we need to live according to the new reality that He declares is now true in our lives. And I think it’s an amazing physical picture of the spiritual reality we have in Jesus. You see you have to go all the way back to the Garden and you have to remind yourself that man, Adam kind of messed some things up. Anyone want to agree with that?
Like he kind of messed some things up, like when Adam sinned, he not only got us kicked out of the Garden. He wrecked our identity. He made us guilty and he also made us ashamed. We lost who we were and now we spend our lives trying to discover, define, and cover up who we are. But what Adam lost, Jesus came to restore. Listen to these verses. Romans 5; For if by the trespass of one man, Adam, death reigns through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and the gift of righteousness reign and life, through the one man Jesus Christ? Consequently just as the result of the one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men, for justice through the disobedience of Adam that many were made sinners in identity statement. So also through the obedience of Jesus that many will be made righteous. Catch it. When you were born on this earth, you were born as a sinner and you were born in the prison of sin. You’re just like the Israelites. They were born into slavery, that’s who they were, and it didn’t matter what they did. The extent of their lives was to make bricks because they were slaves trapped in the prison of slavery.
But when we’re born, we’re sinners trapped in a prison of sin. So all we can do is make bricks. Like we shouldn’t be surprised when people are living a life of sin and be like why they’re acting like that, because that’s who they are. You don’t – you’re not a sinner because you sin. You sin because you are a sinner. Identity determines behavior. Who you are determines what you do. They were slaves, so they make bricks. We were sinners so we sin. But then Jesus showed up, and He rescued us out of the prison of sin and He put us into a position of righteousness. And just like there was nothing good you could do to get out of that prison, there’s nothing bad you can do to get out of this position we are now the righteousness of God and Christ Jesus not because we behaved, but because we believed. I am not righteous because I live righteously. I live righteously because I am now righteous. Who you are determines what you do. Everything changes. And what is so amazing, what we have to understand is that when we gets saved, when our identity changes, we don’t come out at neutral. He cancels our debt but he credits our account. Like if this is what we had in Adam, and Adam lost all of that, this is what we now have gotten back in Jesus.
So it says if death reigned in Adam, this is what you had in Adam, how much more will those who now reign in the grace of Jesus Christ, how much more do we have? This is what we had in the Garden with Adam, he lost it. This is what we got back in Jesus. He gives us more. Like think about it like this, and Adam before he fell, you were made in the image of Jesus, but now you’re included in Jesus. You walked with God in the Garden but now God lives in the Garden of your heart. We weren’t with God but now we rest in Christ. What you got in Jesus is more than what you ever lost in Adam. In fact Ephesians 2:8 says, “For you have been saved by grace through faith.” The word saved, we think it means ticket to heaven. It actually is the Greek word sozo, it means to save, to heal, to make whole. The grace of God completely restores us and brings us back to where we were.
2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old is gone. The new has come.” And so what I’m trying to tell you is that you can’t be a sinner and righteous at the same time. There is no such thing as a righteous sinner because no one can have two identities. You’re one or the other. You’re either a sinner or you’re righteous. You’re either under the curse of Adam or you’re under the redemption of Jesus. You’re either a new creation or you’re not. There is no in between. And so we’ve got to learn to change our thinking around this because if God tells you you’re righteous, don’t tell him you’re a sinner because whoever you believe you are will determine what you do. If I believe I’m a sinner, then by faith, I will live a life of sin. But if believe I’m now righteous, by faith, I will live a life of righteousness. You do who you are. We don’t have behavior problems. We have identity issues. And identity issues lead to behavior problems because we are living outside of our purpose. Listen to me, we have to hear this over and over and over again. Romans 10:17 says, “Faith comes by –” “Hearing.” Which means whatever you are hearing, your faith in that thing is growing. And so for all the years you and I sat in Church and heard how worthless sinners we were, you know what was growing? Our faith in the power of sin. Listen, you don’t need your faith to grow in the power of sin, you need your faith to grow in the victory of Jesus.
So you need to hear more about what Jesus has done than what Adam messed up. And that’s why we spend so much time around here saying we’re Jesus-focused people. Like listen to me, let’s break off the spirit of Eeyore, right? “Oh, well, I guess I’ll always be a sinner.” No, come on, man. Yes, we were sinners and yes, we may still sin but we were saved by grace, which means we now are in the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. Think about this. Don’t you think it honors God? Don’t you think God loves it when we call ourselves beloved sons instead of worthless sinners? Don’t you think it honors God when we believe we are fully forgiven even when we are aware of our current failures? Doesn’t it take more faith to believe we are defined by what Jesus did instead of what we do? Humility is not putting yourself down, it’s agreeing with who God says you actually are. And so yes, we may still sin but out behavior no longer defines us. Jesus’ behavior has transformed my identity. Like think of the Israelites, they get set free, they become sons, they go out into the desert with God. And you know what they live like? A bunch of slaves. But just because they lived like slaves, does that mean they were slaves? Come on. No. So why then do you think your behavior can make you a sinner again? If there was nothing good you could do to get out of the prison of sin, why do think there is something bad you can do to get out of the position of righteousness? Do not let Adam’s failure have more authority in your life than Jesus’ victory. That’s what I’m trying to tell you.
If you really believe that there was nothing good you could do to get saved, then why do you believe there is something bad you can do to get out of who God now says you are. Jesus is far superior to Adam. I mean listen to this. Romans 6:14 says, “Sin is no longer your master for you no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, you are under the freedom of God’s grace.” If sin is no longer my master, it no longer gets to define me. And when we understand who we are, it changes what we do. We are more than sinners saved by grace. We now are beloved sons and daughters. Are you with me on that? You see what I think is so cool is that God not only restores our identity once and for all, He is continually restoring our own perspective of our identity. Like do you remember the story when Jesus or when Peter denies Jesus three times to the servant girl. You know, Jesus is about to go to the cross and He tells the disciples, “Hey, guys, you’re all going to blow it. Like you’re all going to deny me.” And Peter, in the only way that he could, steps forward, “It’s not me Jesus. I will never — I will die with you, Jesus.”
You know, and Jesus just smiled, like “Oh, Peter, I know you’re trying hard, bro, but it ain’t going to happen. You’re going to deny me and the rooster is going to crow and we’ll get around to it. I’ll come find you. Don’t worry.” So what He says? He says, “I’ll come find you.” That’s actually really cool. And so what happens? Jesus goes to the cross, Peter denies Jesus three times to a servant girl, a rooster crows, and in that moment, Peter is like devastated. Like he can’t believe it. He’s crushed. Jesus dies. Peter thinks it’s all over. And so Peter hangs his head and he goes back to the one place he knew how to control. He goes back to his fishing boat. He goes and he hides in his fishing boat. Can I ask you a question? Where do you go and hide when you mess up? Maybe you go to Netflix, Facebook, a relationship, work, a substance, I don’t know. But we all go somewhere and hide when we mess up. And so Peter was sitting in his fishing boat, he’s a mess, and I don’t think he’s really fishing that night. I think he’s sitting there and the reel of shame is playing over and over again in his mind. And his mind is just letting that cock a doodle doo from that rooster just play over and over, like he cannot believe it. And I think we’ve all been there, haven’t we?
You are sitting there and you wrestle through it. You know what you’ve done. I’m a loser, man. I’m a mess. I can’t believe I did it. I’m so embarrassed. What was I thinking? How could that possibly happen? Like the reality is that that the crow of condemnation reminds you of what you have done but the whisper of the Holy Spirit wants to remind you of what Jesus has done. And so while Peter is sitting there with a whole bunch of condemnation, thinking what a mess he is, what happens? The resurrected Jesus comes walking down the shore to see Galilee because you don’t have to go find Him. He’ll come find you. And He calls out to Peter in the boat and He says, “Hey, friend, have you caught any fish?” It’s fascinating. He calls him a friend. He doesn’t say, hey, sinner or loser. He doesn’t say failure or fraud. He says, hey, friend. What is He doing? He’s restoring Peter’s perspective of who his identity is because the layer of shame is now covering him and Peter has forgotten who he is.
He thinks he’s defined by his failures instead of Jesus’ victory. Hey, friend, have you caught any fish? He says no. He’s throwing net over the side of the boat. He throws it over. It so full of fish and when they pull it in, it’s this amazing moment. Now, let’s all be honest, Peter did not deserve a net full of fish. Anyone want to agree with that? I don’t care who you are, we all have a religious root somewhere inside of our mind that tells us we get what we deserve. You do good, you get good. You do bad, you get bad. That’s what we believe because that is what we have experienced, right? I like to call it if-then theology. If I do this, then God will do that. If I come to church this week, God will help my kid have a good week at school. If I give a little bit of money, then maybe God will answer my prayer. If I serve someone, then maybe He’ll heal my marriage. You know, what I’m talking about? If-then theology. Like today, something happened to me and it really bothered me and I wanted to respond really bad. And when I was about to respond really bad, you know the thought went through my mind is? Your sermon is going to be really bad if you respond to him poorly right now.
If you do that, then God won’t do this. Okay. And some of you are sitting here and saying, “Really, bro, we got to do this again?” Yes. I teach it to you every week and that was the default thought that went through my mind today. Why? Because we have been so conditioned to believe that. But that’s really hopeless if we were defined by what we — if we get what we deserve. I don’t want what I deserve. I mean, let’s be honest. Like the story could have been very different. Peter didn’t deserve a net full of fish. He deserved a hole in his boat. We could have read the gospel and the gospel very easily could have read, “Jesus shows up on the shore and says, ‘Hey, losers, have you caught any fish?’” And they say no. And He says, “And you’re not going to.” He snaps his fingers, a hole appears on the boat and it sinks to the bottom of the sea. And we would read that, you know, in like John 22, which isn’t in the Bible. But, you know, like John 22 would be like, yeah, Peter, the servant girl, you deserve it man, you know.
But that’s not what happened. Why? Because just a few days earlier on the cross, Jesus got what Peter deserved so Peter could get what Jesus deserved. Jesus took the hole in the boat so Peter could have the net of fish. Can you just receive that today? He got what you deserved so you could get what he deserved. He cancelled your debt and he credited your account. He didn’t bring you back to neutral, he brought you back to what you did not deserve, above and beyond immeasurably more, poor slaves become rich sons when they choose to let the grace of God transform their lives in every way, shape and form. You get the net full of fish, not because you behaved because you believed. Okay? Now, he gets the net full of fish in there and then at that moment, he realizes its Jesus kindness leads us to repentance, he jumps in the water, swims to Jesus. Jesus is there with a little fire. He sits down, feeds him a meal. And in that moment, Jesus is like totally blowing all of our theology out of the water because He is proving there is no more separation between God and man.
He is proving there is no more sin to separate us. There is no more striving. There is no more struggling. He’s proving Hebrews 8:12 that says, “I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.” The sins you can’t seem to remember are the ones God declares he can’t seem or the ones you can’t seem to forget are the ones God can’t seem to remember. That thing that you did, that thing from childhood, that failed marriage, that abortion, that crime, that thing that you just cannot believe that you did, yeah, that thing that you define yourself by, he says in Jesus, he can’t even remember it. So maybe we need to stop paying for what’s already been paid in full and remember to forgive just like God has. And then Jesus takes Peter for a little walk. They have this little conversation. And He restores him. And what I love is just that in nowhere in the story is there shame, there is no judgment, there is no condemnation. Jesus doesn’t stand up on a pulpit and starts yelling at Peter. He didn’t do all the things we think in church. He restores his identity not because he lost it but because his perspective of it had fallen and Jesus brought it back up and said, “You are defined by me, not by you.” Okay? So His grace restores our identity. Are you with me on that?
The second thing is this. Is that we are not defined by what we do or by what they did but by what Jesus has done. When the Israelites leave Egypt, they are not defined by the shame of their past, the accomplishments of their hands. They are defined by the goodness of their God. They’re not defined by what they did or what has been done to them. They are defined by what God has done for them. And the same is true with you. You are not defined by the shame of your past. You are not defined by the accomplishments of your hands. You are defined by the goodness of your God. The problem is, there’re so many other things come in our life and try to define us, and we let them. Like I remember a few years ago driving my little girl to school one day, and she had her little doll, and the doll’s name is [Isabelle] [00:22:01.1].
And — I don’t know. I was just kind of in a mood that day. And so while she was getting in the truck, I said, “Hey, baby. Is Samantha ready for school today?” She looked at me in a little sassy 5-year-old, you know, like, “Daddy, her name is not Samantha. It’s Isabelle.” “Oh, okay. Get in the truck.” She gets in the truck, you know, we’re driving a little bit and I look in the rearview mirror, “Hey, baby, does Samantha have her backpack today? Did she got all her stuff?” “Daddy, her name is not Samantha. It’s Isabelle. I’ve already told you that once, daddy.” We pulled into the parking lot at school, one more time, I didn’t know why I did it at this day, but I just did. And I said, “Hey, baby, does Samantha got her lunch? Is she excited for what she’s going to learn today?” And from the backseat of my truck, this little girl shouted, she said, “Daddy, her name is not Samantha. It’s Isabelle. She’s my doll, she belongs to me and only I get to say what her name is, and her name is Isabelle.” Okay. I have never called Isabelle Samantha again from that point on.
And I remember driving home thinking about those words. Your mind, you belong to me and only I get to say who you are. Can I ask you question? Where does your identity come from? Like who gets to define who you are? Does it come from, you know, the things that your parents said about you when you were a kid? Does it come from what your ex did to you or said about you? Does it come from your possessions, your achievements, your awards, your finances, your brokenness, the addiction, the past history that seems to follow you, I mean, does it come from all those things. I mean, while those things may have shaped you in some way, they certainly don’t define you because there is a voice from heaven declaring with a roar, your mind, you belong to me and only I get to say who you are. I mean, I love what God says to Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1. He says, “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I set you apart, I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. ‘Alas, Sovereign Lord.’ I said, ‘I don’t know how to speak. I’m only a child.’
But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, I’m only a child. You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them for I am with you and will rescue you,’ declares the Lord.” God says, “Hey, Jeremiah, you’re a prophet.” And Jeremiah says, “I’m not a prophet, I’m just a kid.” And God very strongly steps back in and He says, “Jeremiah, only I get to say who you are. I made you, I created you, I formed you, I redeemed you. So you know what, bud, you don’t get to decide who you are. I get to decide who you are.” You are not who they say you are, you are not even who you say who you are. You are only who God says you are. So when God tells you who you are, stop telling Him who you’re not. If God calls you a prophet, don’t tell Him you’re a child. If God says you are righteous, don’t say, “I’m just a sinner.” If God says you’re loved, Don’t say, “I’m unlovable.” If God says you’re victorious, stop telling Him you’re defeated. Only He gets to tell you who you are. You are not defined by that abortion and that crime and failure in the past or that car and that money and that job title and those trophies. You’re not.
The problem though is that we have these ungodly beliefs that creep into our life and they define our identity. You say, an ungodly belief, what’s that? It’s any belief you have that’s contrary to the truth God has declared over your life. I mean, some of you have heard me say this before. My ungodly belief for years is that I believe no one wanted me for me, they wanted me for what I can do. It’s like it’s always odd to like even admit that. But from my — like my whole life, that’s what believed. No one wants me for me, they want me for what I can do. And if you don’t want me for me, you want me for what I can do, then I’ve got to perform so you’ll keep me around. And so I spent my performing. And I’m just telling you, I nailed it. I won awards in lacrosse championship and all American, and did all these stuff in great grades. I told you last week, I was 29 when I stepped into this role. What 29-year-old wants to do this, one who feels like he has to perform so that you’ll keep him around? And so for my whole life, that’s I believed. The only problem with performing is that the more you perform, the more you have to keep performing, and that is an exhausting way to live. And I don’t know about, but that sure sounds like a religion to me.
That sure sounds like starting down here trying to do a bunch of things in order to become. And really, if we’re honest, man, that just gets really tiring. And religion says, run faster, try harder, strive more, behave better. And the more we try, the less it seems to do for us, the more we accomplish, the less it seems to fill up our heart. It is so easy to find your worth in your beauty, your care-giving, your finances, your achievements, all that stuff, but it never really brings what we’re really looking for, does it? In fact, do you know that Israelites, I think, the reason they always wanted to go back to Egypt, like at every turn, all they want to do is go back to Egypt, do you know why I think they want to do that? Because it’s easier to perform for approval than it is to trust God for acceptance. Think about that. It’s easier to perform for approval than it is to trust God for acceptance. It’s easier to make bricks for a Pharaoh than it is to trust God for manna. It’s easier to let Pharaoh call you a slave than it is to believe God actually wants you as a son.
Performance is easier than trust. The only problem is that if you want your identity to be defined by performance, you’re choosing an inferior identity because it’s certainly inferior to Jesus’ performance, and, oh, by the way, it’s even inferior to Adam’s performance in the garden. So you’re to like the bottom of the barrel here. I mean, can you imagine the Israelites sitting around while they’re in slavery like in Egypt after a long day of work, and sitting up then. You know, they got their fire, their food, whatever they’re doing, like, man, I made like 20 bricks today, you know. And then Bill over here is like, “Man, that’s nothing. I made 30 bricks today, you know.” And then a guy over is like, “Hey, that’s fine. I oversee all of you all making bricks over here.” And then someone else chimes in, “Well I painted my bricks and I know how to make square bricks. And I made round bricks and was able to stack them.” And all of a sudden, can you just imagine them like finding their identity from their brick-making? We don’t even laugh at that because we’re like, “That’s ridiculous.” Do you understand? That’s exactly what most of us do.
Every day when you go out and go to your job and look at a certain way and do these certain things, you’re making bricks. That’s all you’re doing. You’re using your hands to define your value and find your worth. In fact, every time you do in order to become, you’re making bricks for the kingdom of darkness. This is deep if you can get this for a second. I’ve got to touch it and move on. But every time you do in order to become, you’re making bricks for the kingdom of darkness. You say, no, but I’m doing good things. I understand. But going this way is not an alignment with the Kingdom of God, it’s an alignment with the kingdom of darkness. So all those good things that you think you’re doing, they’re actually like bricks that Pharaoh is using to accomplish his purposes in the world. Jesus is going this way. The kingdom of darkness is going that way. Activity outside of your identity is slavery. Think about it.
I mean, Jesus says — in John 15, He says, “I am the vine and you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he can bear much fruit. But apart from me, you can do nothing.” Jesus, flat out, says, if you don’t do it my way, you’re actually doing nothing. You’re making bricks. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul says, “Hey, pretty much everything you do that’s not on the foundation of Jesus, it’s wood, hay, straw and stubble.” Do you know what bricks are made of? Straw and stubble. Paul is telling us that when you do it from Jesus and you’re doing it for this identity thing, you’re making bricks. Do you know the first time the word, brick, is used in the bible? It’s when they build the tower of Babel in Genesis 11 and they say, “Let us make bricks and build a tower for ourselves that we may make a name for ourselves.” So bricks in the bible are a symbolism of us performing for ourselves to earn something that God wants to freely give us. Slaves make bricks, man. Sons bear fruit. The problem is that you can’t perform enough and you can’t make enough bricks. And what we forget is that life is not found by how much we achieve, it’s found in how well we receive.
That’s why John 1:12 says, “To all who received Him, to all who — to all who received Him and to all who believed, he gave the right to become children of God.” Receive, believe, become. No. Not, achieved, accomplished, become. Are you with me? Man, time is going so fast. Listen, Matthew 3:17 is probably one of the most significant verses in the bible, it’s when Jesus gets baptized. He gets baptized, goes under, comes up, Father speaks from heaven, “This is my beloved son and whom I’m well pleased.” Fascinating. Jesus is 30-years-old, He hasn’t done anything yet. And healed any sick people, raised any dead, casted out any demons, given sight to any blind people, and yet the Father speaks from heaven and says, “You are my beloved son and whom I’m well pleased.” before he does anything. If I am now included in Christ, 1 John 4:17, “As He is, so I am.” If I am now included in Christ, then that means I am the Father’s beloved son or daughter and whom He is well pleased before I do anything right and even after I do everything wrong.
This is why Jesus was so free. He lived from approval instead of for it. I mean, you realized, Jesus didn’t need from people what He already had in the Father. He didn’t want the praise of men so He wasn’t defeated by the rejection of men so He could follow the cloud into situation. You can receive Him, you can reject Him, He doesn’t really care. He lives because He doesn’t need from you what He already has in the Father. I mean, look at Jesus. You say, “How does the son of God, the God of the universe, how does He live as a carpenter for 30 years as an unknown guy in a woodshed?” Because when the Father tells you, you’re a beloved son, no one can tell you you’re not. You can live in worldly obscurity when you have heavenly approval. The problem for us though is that we’re too busy chasing the crowd to follow the cloud. We don’t live by the initiation of the Father, we live by the response of people, and so we’re like desperate for their approval and their affirmation.
And will they — are they going to like my Facebook post today? Are they going to — you know, oh, I’ve only got three likes in an hour, like what’s happening? What has happened, God? You know, like come on. And you know it’s true. Some of you look at me sometimes like I’m crazy when I say that stuff. And the more you think I’m crazy, the more it’s probably true for you. But listen to me. If you need the approval of men, you’ll be destroyed by the rejection of men. If you need people to celebrate, you’ll be destroyed when they criticize you. You do not need from people what you are already have in God. It’s the freedom of being a beloved son, this is freedom of circle one living. John 5, Jesus says, if I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know his testimony is valid. Catch this. Jesus doesn’t even testify about himself. He won’t even sit there and declare His own identity, He says, I don’t even have the authority to do that, only the Father does. And notice is says, testifies, he didn’t say it one time, the Father says it over, and over, and over, and over again. So here’s my question for you. What are you trying to prove and who are you trying to prove it to?
Who needs to testify about you? Your industry, your friends, your family, your co-workers? Who? Don’t waste your life trying to get the world to say what the Father already has. You are loved. Everything that ever has been, or ever will be required from you has been paid in full. Jesus has already performed it all for you. So what do we need to do? We need to identify those ungodly beliefs, remove them and replace them with truth. Romans 12; to be transformed by the renewing of your minds, repent, re, go back, pent, think pent house view, looking down from above. We need to go back and get God’s perspective on what he says about who we are, regardless of how we feel. And you say, what’s an ungodly belief? Well, I told you like mine, no one wants me for me, they want me for what I can do. Yours might be, I don’t have a place, my value is only found in my looks, I’m only as good as my last success, no one wants me around, I’ll never be enough. I don’t know. Ask the Holy Spirit, and He’ll start pulling that out because he wants to remove it, and replace it a core identity of who you now are a beloved son or daughter in whom the father is well pleased. In fact, here’s my encouragement for you, we made this for you this week. I want to encourage you, put this on your phone, one of these screenshots, it says, I am a beloved son or a beloved daughter, I think we got it for you, anyways, if I go to ifollowthecloud.com, put it on your phone, and every day, for the rest of the series, just look at it to remind yourself, that’s who you are. Okay? Are you with me on that?
There we go, those look cool. Okay, you got it in you for the last point? Let me just kind of sneak through it, okay? Last thing is just this, next steps aren’t expectations to fulfill, they’re discoveries to be made. When the Israelites left, their identity was declared, and defined beloved sons, which means they didn’t have to do anything for God, because God already did everything for them. All they had to do was follow the cloud, and with every step, they were going to discover the fullness of what now is true about them. Leviticus 26; you’re like, we don’t want to keep going if it’s in Leviticus, but this is a good verse. It says, I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, so you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians, I broke the bars of your yoke, and enabled you to walk with heads held high. God was always pointing back to Egypt, to the salvation moment, to say, that’s who you are, I already defined your identity, now walk with your head high, slaves hang their heads in shame, sons walk with their heads high in hope. Listen to me. Stop, shh. I don’t have time for that right now. Lift your head in hope. Who you are determines what you do. Slaves, hang it in shame, sons, hold it up with hope. He said, follow me and you’ll discover it all. And you find it all throughout the bible. He goes to Abraham. Abraham has no kids and he’s an old man. And He says, Abraham, you’re a father of many nations. What? No way. Yeah. Now get up and go and follow me, and discover it.
And what happened? With every step, Abraham figured out, he was always the father of many nations. How about Gideon? Gideon saw himself as a loser, the weakest, the least of these, and God shows up and says, hey mighty warrior — you got the wrong guy, God. Hey, mighty warrior, now go lead my people to go to free that nation, and figure out you have always been a mighty warrior, you’ve never been a loser. Do you realize Peter’s name was Simon. Jesus says, hey Simon, your name is now Peter. Peter means rock. I bet you when Jesus called Peter the Rock, all the disciples started laughing. Jesus, you picked the wrong guy to say that thing to. But with every step Peter took, his shaky legs got a little more solid, and by — we get to book of Acts, he’s living as the Rock of the first century Church. The same God who calls childless Abraham a father, fearful Gideon, the mighty warrior, shaky Peter, a rock, tells you who you are, and then gives you a next step to discover it for yourself. In Jesus, your identity is already established. There is nothing you can do to add to it, or take away from it, all you can do is discover it. That’s why we take next steps. The Holy Spirit is always pointing us back to the cross and saying, oh yeah, remember that? What’s who you are, now come follow me and let’s discover it together.
You’re not becoming someone as you follow God, you’re discovering who you already are. We don’t take next to these steps to become someone, we take next steps because we are someone. We don’t follow the cloud to find significance, we follow the cloud because we are significant, we don’t obey to get God’s favor, we obey because we have God’s favor. And if you don’t follow, God’s not mad at you, he’s not going to get you, he’s not going to hold out on you, you just won’t discover the fullness of who he says you already are. Here me. You never graduate from the school of identity. Never. One of the biggest challenges for me in doing the series, writing this book, and talking about this stuff, is the amount of comments of like, oh yeah, like we’ve heard you say that before. You never graduate from the school of identity, do you know why? You will never discover the fullness of yourself because you will never be able to discover the fullness of Jesus. And if I’m no longer defined by who I am, but by who he is, Ephesians 3:8, the endless treasures in Christ. I never will graduate from the school of identity, because I will never be able to fully discover all of Him.
And so with each step I take, he invites me to find a little bit more, of who he is, and who I am. The reason we struggle with this, is because we’re adapted in the spiritual realm, and we’ve been so used to living as orphans, that we don’t know how to live as sons, and we’re so used to the task master that makes us build bricks, that we’re not used to a good and loving father. And so God invites us to follow the cloud to discover the fullness of the truth, He says, it already exists. Receiving grace is not just the forgiveness of your sins, it’s the complete transformation of your identity. So here’s how I want to end, who are you? Like who are you? If someone on the street asks you that today, how are you going to answer that question? I think a lot of us, what we would do instantly is, we would step forward, and we would talk about our performance. We’ll say, well, I had this job and this title, and I have this money, and drive this car, and live in this neighborhood and have done these things, and have these awards. That’s awesome. He’s my question for you. What happens when all that goes away? What happens when the money runs out, and those friends leave you and someone else gets the corner office, and someone else gets the title you held, and someone else gets the new award that everyone is excited about, and yours is now dusty, then you who are you?
And then there’s a whole bunch of us that were sitting here, and we would say, well, I’m defined by the shame of my past. All the things that I’ve done and all the horrible things that have been done to me, and the question I would ask you is this, then why did Jesus die? If you’re still defined by that stuff, then why did he have to die? I don’t think Jesus died just so you could go to heaven. I think he died so you could be repositioned and have more in Him, than you ever lost in Adam. And so here’s the question then, we say this, like, okay, so now, what should we do? Are you ready? Nothing. It’s like — you’re like, this is like the best message than ever, like you’re not going to — yeah. When you talk about identity, there is nothing you do, but believe and receive. The most significant next steps you will ever take, are not behaviors, they’re beliefs. Jesus says in John 6, the work of God is to believe. That’s it. Believe. Believe that you are who He says you are, that He did what He said He did, that you now are significant, and you don’t have to do anything to become significant, but because you are significant, you will start now doing significant things. Believe and receive and be free.
So Jesus, thank you for who you are in this place, thank you for the grace of God that completely repositions our identity. Today, Jesus, we receive and believe that we are, beloved sons and daughters. Maybe you’re here today, and you’ve never put your faith in Jesus, you’ve been to church, you’ve heard all these stuff, and you think ticket to heaven, that’s fine, I got that thing, okay, maybe today’s your day though for the fullness of salvation, the repositioning and restoration of your identity. All you have to do is cry out and say, Jesus, I receive that what you offer, and I believe I am now included in your, and that I am the righteousness of God and Christ Jesus.For a whole bunch of us in this room, I’m declaring that today is the day that those shackles of shame fall off. You are not defined by what you have done, and you are not defined by what they have done to you. In Jesus’ name, we break that. We say you are defined by the comfort and the compassion and the kindness of Christ. And for a bunch of us in this room who make bricks every single day of our lives, today is the day we lay the straw, and the hay and stubble, down, we wash our hands clean of that — in that myrrh, and we say, I have nothing to achieve, nothing to prove, and nothing to earn. I have everything to receive, discover and explore, as I follow my God into the fullness of who I am, one step at a time. Thank you, Jesus, thank you, Father, we are your beloved children. In your name, we pray. Amen.