Following the cloud is about hearing God’s voice and following Him, by faith, into a life of freedom. Our example of Following the Cloud comes from the Israelites freedom from Egyptian slavery and their journey to the Promised Land. God’s heart is always drawn to the cries of man. God gave the Israelites a cloud to follow; a personal and ever present cloud to show the Israelites that God is intimately personal and ever present. The Old Testament cloud is a physical picture of a spiritual truth. Today, the cloud of God’s presence isn’t above us but rather within us. We may not always understand where the cloud is leading us but we can be confident that with each step God is leading us out of our bondage and into a life of freedom.
Alright. Hey, everybody. Welcome to Valley Creek Church. I am so glad that you are here with us today. We want to welcome all of our campuses whether you are at Denton, Flower Mound, Lewisville, The Venue, watching online. Let’s just welcome each other together for a moment. We are so glad that you are here with us. And whether this is your first time with us, maybe you haven’t been here in a while, maybe you’ve left and just recently come back, maybe you’re here with us every single week, it really doesn’t matter. I am so glad that you are here with us today. And you picked a great week to be here because today we’re starting a new series called Follow the Cloud. And for the next few weeks, what we’re going to do is we’re going to talk about listening to God’s voice and following by faith. We’re living a lifestyle of next steps on this journey into freedom. And what we’re going to do is we’re going to talk a lot about our beliefs, we’re going to talk about our values, we’re going to talk about who we are here at Valley Creek Church. Like our stated vision statement is to help people take a — next step — on their journey with Jesus.
Okay. But how do you take a next step? And why do you take a next step? And how do you know what that next step is? Those are great questions and I’m glad you’re asking them because over the next few weeks, we’re going to talk about that together. We’re going to try to take all of the stuff that we’re always talking about that we really believe the thread that unites us all together at this Church, and we’re going to try to pull it altogether. So my encouragement for you is you’re here today, let’s be here for the next four weeks together. Make a commitment to say, “I’m going to be here. I’m going to lean in. I’m going to listen.” Because I have been praying and believing that God has something great in store for you. And my hope is that by the end of the series, we’ll all be able to move forward together and discover a little bit more about who we are, who God is, what we were created to do and move on this journey towards the fullness of the freedom that Jesus offers us. Okay. So I hope you have a high faith. I hope you’re expecting God to do something because this is really who we are and this is how God has moved in this place.
And I want to ask you this question, like did you ever wonder like how did all of this happen? Like how did we get here? How did all of this become a reality? Like how did get here both as individuals and corporate? I would submit to you that we got here by simply following the cloud. We just listened to God’s voice and we followed by faith. And you might say, “Well, what does that mean?” Or maybe a better question is even, “Where did all this follow the cloud business come from here at Valley Creek Church?” Well, however, many years ago, it was like when I transitioned into this world, I was 29 years old. Okay? I had no idea what I was doing. I mean, seriously, like what does — a 29 year old has no business leading the Church. I’m like, I have no idea what you’re doing. And so like you kind of — I have been saying like, “I don’t know. I have never led a church before. So here’s a novel idea, let’s just ask God what He wants us to do and let’s just do it.” Do you think it would matter what everybody does? No. Not so much. But that’s what we decided to do. And so we just started asking God like, “God, what do you want us to do?” And then we would hear His voice and we would move forward with faith. And God started doing these amazing things among us.
And it often felt crazy, it didn’t always make sense. Sometimes it was confusing but we just listen to God and we move forward by faith. In fact, the first time that we ever used the term, follow the cloud, together as a Church was the weekend right after the 2012 election cycle. Okay. We thought people were upset then. I’m just saying, you know, like we were in a series, I think on relationships, and I had the message all planned out. And by the end of the week, there was like, you know, 12 hours before the first service, weekend service, I felt like God said, “Hey, I want you to scrap that message and I want you to talk to everybody about being a kingdom person in the midst of chaos around you.” And I remember thinking, “Lord, I can’t write a message in 12 hours, like I’m not that good, you know, it’s not going to happen.” And God said, “No. I want you to do this and I want you to do what I’m asking you to do, not what you have to plan or prepared to do.”
And I remember when I got up, I was super nervous because I have never done that before. It takes me a long time to plan and prepare, like this is not easy for me. And I got up and I told you, and I kind of still took the follow the cloud thing, and I said, we want to be people to follow the cloud, and I explained to you what that was. And from that point on, it really became vocabulary that stuck with us. That’s who we are, that’s what we do, we are cloud followers. That’s how we lead this church and that’s how we live our lives. In fact, every seed at every campus right now didn’t even exist just a handful of years ago. Every seat in every campus that every one of you are sitting in right now, did not exist a few years ago. How did they come to exist? Because we just followed the cloud. We did what God asked us to do and we moved by faith even though it didn’t make sense. In fact, Exodus 13, truly the verse that has captured us. It says, “By day, the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light. So that they could travel by day or night, neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.” I think that’s a great picture of how God leads us. Now, let me set the context for you, okay?
After 400 years of Egyptian slavery, God looks down upon His people, the Israelites, and He says, “I have seen their misery. I have heard their cry. I am concerned of their suffering so I have come.” I have seen their misery. I have heard their cry. And I am concerned of their suffering so I have come. Why? Because the heart of God is always drawn to the cries of men. And He raises up this deliverer named Moses, goes and challenges Pharaoh, the most powerful man on the face of the earth, brings the ten plagues, and in a matter of just a few short days, defeats the entire Egyptian nations, sets His people free begins to lead them from Egypt to the promised land. But did you ever stop and ask yourself like how do you lead more than a million people from Egypt to the Promised Land? How do you lead more than a million slaves into their destiny? Like let’s be honest, it’s hard enough to get your family to church on time. So how do you do it? You give them a cloud. Of all the ways that God could have chosen to let his people, He chose to do it through a personal and present cloud because that is who God is, intimately personal and ever present.
And from within this mighty He spoke with a gentleness of a whisper, “Follow me. One next step at a time. When I move, you move. Where I got, you go. When I stop, you stop. Keep your eyes on me and I will lead you to discover who you are, who I am, and what you were created to do.” And that’s how I believe God invites us to live our lives today, a simple life of next steps. You see the Old Testament Cloud is just a physical picture of the spiritual truth. Today, the cloud is not above us, it’s within us and His name is the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:25 says, “Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us just live a lifestyle of next step following Him wherever He goes. And even though we don’t always get it, and it doesn’t always make sense, we can be confident that wherever God is leading us, is better than where we have been. And He is always taking us out of bondage and into freedom.” And so I want to give you a handful of thoughts of what does it look like to live a lifestyle of next steps, what does it look like to journey into the fullness of the freedom that God has for us?
The first thing is this, God leads us in small steps, not giant leaps, okay? How many of you have heard the term, a leap of faith before? Come on. Have you ever heard that term, a leap of faith? Okay. I’m not so sure about that. I know it sounds really good. It sounds super spiritual and super churchy, but I actually don’t think that’s how God leads us. I think God leads us in small steps. And every step we take, gives us the faith to take the next stop. His faithfulness yesterday, gives us the faith we need for today. Like think of the Israelites, they didn’t leap from Egypt to the Promised Land. They took a thousand small steps. Think of Abraham. Abraham didn’t leap from where he was, to putting Isaac on the altar. He just started following. Noah didn’t leap from where he was to loading the arc with animals. He just started building. Peter didn’t leap from fishing to preaching. He just started moving. They followed the cloud one next step at a time. You see, I really believe that life with God is a whole lot like connect the dots. Okay. Do you remember that game when you were a kid? You get this piece of paper and it has all those random dots scattered all over, and every dot has a number attached next to it.
My 8-year old, she loves these things. And you start — and it looks like absolute chaos like there’s no rhyme or reason to what’s happening but you just start at number 1, and you connect it to 2, 3 and 4, you just keep going in the order and eventually as you get close to the end, all of a sudden you have this aha moment. You’re like, “Oh, it’s a zebra.” You know, or “It’s a unicorn like this is amazing.” Okay. That’s how I think God invites us to live our lives. Unsure of the final picture but with the faith to simply connect each dot in the order that He gives them to us, and the goal isn’t to finish the picture, it’s to enjoy the journey and discover the mystery. You see, usually, all God will do is, He will tell you the direction that you’re headed, and your exact next step. This is about all He gives. So on 119: 105, “Your word is a lamp into my feet, and a light unto my path.” He is a lamp into our feet to show us our next step, and a light into our path to show us the direction that we’re headed, but that’s about all He’ll give you. Why? Because He wants you to be desperately dependent upon Him. Withholding all the details forces you to look to God instead of trusting in yourself. In fact, I love this, John 16, Jesus says, “There is so much more I want to tell you but you can’t handle it.” He says, “When the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own but he will tell you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future.”
Jesus says, “Hey, if I told you everything about your life, if I told you about dot 447, it would blow your mind right now. So I won’t do that.” I mean imagine if God would have told you everything that’s happening in your life ten years ago, how about five years ago, how about just even like a year ago, for most of us, if we’re honest, we couldn’t actually handle what’s happening in our life today. So Jesus says, “Don’t worry. I’ll give you the Holy Spirit, the cloud in your life, and he will tell you what you need to know, exactly when you need to know it. Your job is to just live to the full extent of the revelation that you have.” In fact, maybe let me say it to you like this. God speaks in sentences, not paragraphs because you can only obey one sentence at a time. Think about this. He speaks in sentences not paragraphs because you can only obey one sentence at a time. Like do you remember in Luke Chapter 5 when Jesus comes and calls Peter? I love this story.
Peter has been out. He’s got another night of failed fishing. The Bible certainly paints Peter as a failed fisherman, which is really bad news if you’re in the fishing industry. And so he’s on the side of the shore, he’s cleaning up his net and his boat and he’s there, and Jesus comes walking along and looks at Peter and He says, “Hey, Peter, can I borrow your boat?” That’s it. One sentence, one dot, one step. “Can I borrow your boat?” “Okay.” Jesus gets in the boat and then Jesus says to Peter, “Can you push it out from shore?” “Okay.” He pushes it out from shore. Jesus stands up, a big crowd develops, He preaches this amazing sermon. And when He is done, He looks at Peter and says, “Now, Peter, put it out in the deep water.” “Really Jesus?” “Yeah, Peter, put it out in the deep water.” He rows it out there. “So now, take your net and throw it over the right side of the boat.” And here’s where Peter looks back at Jesus. “Jesus, like really, man? We’ve been fishing all night.”
“We’re fishermen. We know how to do this. You’re a carpenter. You don’t know nothing about fishing. Like really? Do you know how long it took to put that net back?” “Peter, throw your net over the boat.” He throws his net over the boat, brings it in, it’s so full of fish, the net begins to break. He calls another boat over, they start loading it in both boats. The boats begin to sink because he has so much fish. And then Jesus looks right to Peter. He says, “Peter, from now on, you’re going not to fish for fish, you’re going to fish for men. Come and follow me.” Okay, one sentence at a time. Now, imagine that story, if Jesus showed up in paragraph form. Peter is there, getting his boat, all cleaned up. He’s on the side after a long night and Jesus shows up. He says, “Hey, Peter, my name is Jesus. Here’s the thing, I would like to borrow your boat and then I want to get in it, I want to you push it away from shore and then I’ll preach a little bit. And when the message is done, I’m going to tell you to put it out in deep water. When we get out there, I’m going to tell you to throw that net that you worked hard to clean up over the side of the boat. And when it goes in the water, it’s going to be so full of fish that the net is going to begin to break and your boat will begin to sink. And on that day, Peter, in that moment, on the best moment of fishing in your entire life, at the pinnacle of your business career success, I’m going to ask you to leave it all behind and come and follow me.”
“And oh, by the way, Peter, it’s not going all that good for you along the way. You’re going to make a whole bunch of mistakes. In fact, most of the world will always remember you for your failures. Every Sunday morning, you will be the butt of every preacher’s joke. You’re going to deny me to a servant girl. I’m going to die and then you’re going to have to get up and preach the gospel to a bunch of people that want to kill you. Are you in?” “No, you cannot borrow my boat.” Right? Come on. You have to remember in the kingdom of God, we don’t understand and then obey. We obey and then we understand. You have to release your need to logically understand what can only be discovered by faith.
That’s why Jesus says, “Come and see.” The aha moment only happens to those who follow by faith. But how many of you know the steps God asked you to take aren’t always easy. Usually, He will give you the direction, “Okay, here is where we are headed.” And then He’ll give you the next step. And you’re like, “Okay. That one? Okay, I could take that one.” And then He says, “Okay, now step here.” And you say, “Okay, I can take that one.“ And then He says, “Now, step here.” “But I thought we were going that way, Jesus.” “Yeah, I know, but I want to you step here.” “But I thought we were headed there.” “I know. Will you just step here?” “But, Jesus.” “Just step here.” “Okay, I’ll step here.” And then He says, “Now, step here.” “But Jesus, really, man, you told me. That was — you gave me a promise and a vision that we were going towards.” “I know but I want you to step here.” “But Jesus, I don’t like that step. I don’t want to take that step.” “I know but I need you step here.” “Okay.” And then He does this, “Now, step here.” “But Jesus, this is the wrong way.” And then He says, “But do you trust me?”
You see God’s detours are always faster than your freeways. And every one of us has to make a decision on how we’re going to live our lives. Proverbs 16:25 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it only leads to death.” Paraphrase, what looks good to you is probably the worst option. I have learned that oftentimes the very thing I want to do is the last thing God is asking me to do. Listen, if God’s ways are higher than our ways, then what that means is heavenly wisdom won’t always align with worldly realities. The steps He asks you to take aren’t going to make sense to you or anyone else. He’ll ask you to give when you want to take and forgive when you want an apology. He’ll ask you to serve when you want to be served. Stay when you want to go. Go when you want to stay. Heavenly wisdom doesn’t always make sense in earthly circumstances but it always leads you to life. Okay? Now, let me tell you about the first time in my life that I felt like — I like started to understand the cloud moving. My dream all growing up was to be a police officer.
That’s what I wanted to do. So throughout college, I trained and I studied and I worked really hard. And so when I got a call from the department offering me a job, I was so excited. I just graduated college and for about six months before that, I was like my whole world had fallen apart. I experienced an incredibly painful break up that I wasn’t expecting. And then I was out on the Niagara River with my best friend and my dad’s two brand-new jet skis. And he zigged when I thought he was going to zag and I zagged when he thought I was going to zig, and I t-boned him at 30 miles an hour and put him in the hospital and sunk my dad’s new jet skis. And then a little while after that, I watched a lady crashed her car and I run over and held her as she took her last breath in my arm. And then I was working on a construction site and got shut with a nail gun in my leg. I probably need to admit that I was the one that pulled the trigger accidentally. But that’s like what was happening in my life. And so when I got this call from the police department, I was like, oh, finally, a little bit of hope. I can get out of this brokenness and this pain. And as I hung up the phone, I had this experience that I’ve never had before up until that time.
I just heard this little voice inside me say, “You know this isn’t what I have for you.” I was thinking, man, I must have eaten some seriously bad pizza last night.” That was just — again, “You know this isn’t what I have for you.” What is going on? The third time, “You know this isn’t what I have for you. The door is open, you can take it if you want, but I have so much more for you.” And I remember sitting there, thinking, you have got to be kidding me. For the first time in my life, I’m hearing God speaking. He’s taking away my dream. He doesn’t even know what I’ve been going through. He doesn’t even know how much I want this. He doesn’t even know what’s happening in my heart. And so I kind of said out loud, “Then what is it that you do have for me?” And you know what I heard? Nothing. Why? Because He wasn’t speaking in paragraphs, He gave me a sentence. And so all week, I had to wrestle through it. And man, oh, it was tough. And I remember calling the department back and saying I can’t take the job. I hung up the phone and said out loud, “Okay, God, now what?” And all throughout the rest of that week, I didn’t hear anything from God, and you can’t demand God to speak.
It’s like any relationship. You can’t demand the people you love to speak to you. You just have to position yourself to listen. And so I journaled and prayed and studied. And then about a week later, God said, “I want you to be a pastor.” And I was like, “Dear Lord, that is the worst idea I have ever heard in my life. Are you kidding me? I just — I don’t want to be a pastor. I just heard your voice for the first time last week. Like I don’t even like church. I don’t even go to church. Pastors are miserable. They wear suits and they yell at people. None of those do I want to define my life. I’m calling the police department back.” But it was my next step and I knew it. And so by God’s grace, I had the courage to deny the police job and say yes and take a step and move to Colorado and met Colleen. Then we got hired to Valley Creek Church twelve years ago and moved here. We got to Texas. Some of you think that’s the best dot in my entire lifeline. Whatever. You know, I had my kids. Became the pastor, the lead pastor here. And here we are today. And if He would have told me 15 years ago that this would have been the reality, I would have taken the police job. Just so you know. You’re like you don’t want to hang out with us? No, I do. No, that’s not the point.
At least some of you. I couldn’t have handled it. But one step changed the entire direction of my entire life. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart, a man plans his course but the Lord determines his steps.” I have learned that God’s plans are always better or God’s steps are always better than my plans. Jesus is the narrow gate that leads to a wide life. Following Him doesn’t constrict your life, it expands your life. He’s not trying to take anything from you, He’s trying to give everything to you. But you have to let go of what’s in your hand if you want to figure out what’s in his heart. Jesus says, “Come follow me.” We say, “Where are we going?” He says, “You’ll see.” We say, “How long will it take to get there?” He says, “A while.” We say, “Will it be easy?” He says, “No, but I’ll be with you.” We say, “What will it be like when get there?” “Better than you can even imagine.” Small steps, not giant leaps, okay? Second thing that I want you get is that each step is designed to help you discover who you are, who He is and what you are created to do. Think about this for a second. Whenever we talk about the Israelites, we always think the whole point was getting to the promised land. But that actually wasn’t the point. If it was, God would have just picked them up and taken them right there. He would have said, pass-go, collect $200. They could have skipped the Red Sea, the Manna, the wilderness, the giants, all of it, but he didn’t do that. Why? Because the goal wasn’t getting them to a new land. It was helping them learn to live free as beloved sons and daughters. Every physical step was an invitation for emotional, spiritual and relational freedom. The journey was the process, freedom of the heart was the outcome.
And the same is true with us. Next steps are the process, freedom of our heart is the outcome. A journey of next steps is not about where you go, what you do or what you accomplish. It’s about who you become. And so like the Israelites, God is leading us one step at a time to help us learn to live in the freedom of being beloved sons and daughters. And every step is leading us through these three things. And if you’ve been around here with us, these are called the three circles. This is where I really believe that God leads us. Let me show you the first thing. The first thing that God leads us on is always to receive His grace or change identity. Everything begins and ends with the grace of Jesus. Ephesians 2:8 and 9, “You have been saved by grace through faith, this is not of yourselves. It’s from God.” Everything is about the grace of Jesus we don’t always understand what that means. I mean, there’s three big church words that we use oftentimes, judgment, mercy and grace. Judgment is when you get what you do deserve, mercy is when you don’t get what you do deserve, grace is when you get what you didn’t deserve.
So when we receive the grace of Jesus, it’s not just the forgiveness of our sins, it’s a complete transformation of our identity. We become a new creation. He not only cancels our debt, He credits your account. In fact, 1 John 4:17 says, “As he is, so we are.” As Jesus is, so we are because we’ve been included in Christ, which means Jesus is not a picture of who I can become, He’s a mirror of who I now am. He’s not a picture of who I can become if I tried really hard, behave just right and do all these things, no. He’s mirror of who I now am. And so the more I look to Jesus, the more I discover who I am. So we don’t change by trying harder, we change by looking to Jesus. As he is, so we are, which means because He is loved, so am I. Because He is righteous, so am I. Because He is a beloved son, so am I. Everything that’s true of Him is now true of me. In fact, Romans 5:19 is probably one of my favorite verses.
It says, “Through the disobedience of one, Adam, the many were made sinners.” and identity statement. But through the obedience of one man, Jesus, the man we were made righteous, identity statement, so catch it. When you were born, because of Adam’s failure, Adam totally wrecked our identity. So everyone of us is born into this world in a prison of sin. We’re sinners, that’s who we are. You are not a sinner because you sinned, you sinned because you’re a sinner. You’re not a sinner because you sinned, you sinned because you’re a sinner, because identity determines behavior, who you are determines what you do. That’s how you were born and that’s all you could do. But then Jesus showed up and he rescued us out of the prison of sin and brought us in this posture of righteousness. And now, just like there was nothing good we could do to get out of that, there’s nothing bad we can do to get out of the posture of righteousness in Jesus Christ. He has completely transformed us, completely repositioned us, and now, we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, not because we’ve lived righteously, we live righteously because we are now righteous.
It’s not because we behave, it’s because we believed. So we are more than sinners saved by grace, we are beloved sons and daughters, okay? So that’s the first step, that’s the first place. He’s always leading us. And as you receive His grace, you’ll move into circle 2 or you start to experience His presence or relationship. You were made to be in a relationship with God. Psalms 16 says, “And His presence is fullness of joy.” Acts 17, “In Him, you live and move and have your being. You were made to be fully known, fully loved with no fear of rejection. To walk with a loving Father, not serve a distant god, and boldly approach the throne of grace. And He promises He will never leave nor forsake you.” And as you start to get that, you move into circle 3, which is releasing His Kingdom or a life purpose. You are made to live for a great purpose. Genesis 1:28, it’s the first word God ever says to mankind. He says, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it using its vast resources in the service of God and man, okay.
We read that verse and we think that means have a bunch of kids. Some of you have used that verse at home. Okay. This is true but it means more than that. Break it down, be fruitful, what does that mean? To live a life of productive beauty, to bring things to their fullness of potential. Be fruitful and multiply. Reproduce the life of God in you and to the world around you. Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth or your area of influence, your job, your school, your neighborhood, your family. With the knowledge and the glory and the goodness of God, subdue things. Bring order to the chaos. Bring alignment to the things that have drifted. Rule and reign with God and then — so you use the — His resources and the purpose of God. I mean, use the resources God has given you to accomplish God’s purposes and the lives of men and women around you. The Kingdom within you is supposed to become the Kingdom around you. You have been empowered like Jesus, you have the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, you have the authority to bring heaven. So if sin management is the goal of your life, you are in danger of living a drastically inferior life than what Jesus came to give you so much more
And where those three circles cross, we call this the Father’s heart. In other words, this is God’s heart for you. This hear is that you would know who you are, who He is and what you are created to do. John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” So Jesus is the way, but the Father is the destination, which means the promise land is not destination, it’s a revelation of who you are, who He is and what you are created to do. And I want you to think how these all worked together. If I receive His grace, I want to experience His presence and I’ll spend my life releasing His Kingdom when I know who I am, I know who He is and I know what I’m created to do. When I believe I’m a beloved son, I’ll run to my Father and I’ll spend my life building His Kingdom. When I know I’m forgiven, I have nothing to be afraid of and I live a life of courage and purpose.
Reverse is. If I resist His grace, I will avoid His presence and I’ll build my own kingdom. If I don’t know who I am, I don’t know who He is and I have no idea what I’m created to do. If I think I’m an orphan, I will be afraid of the Father and I will spend my life doing my own thing to become significant. If I don’t believe I am forgiven, I will always be afraid and I will try to find my value and worth through the things that I do in this world. Most religion lives in circle 3 and goes backwards. It says, I need to behave or do all these things to earn my way into God’s presence so that I can pay for the forgiveness of my own sins. I got to do all these things in my life so I can become significant some day, so I build my own kingdom on sinking sand. Do you see how that works? This is called life in the Father’s heart, this is called the cycle of performance, and that is an exhausting way to live. And every bible example you can find, it goes in this order, it’s fascinating.
Prodigal son, right? We know that story. Son takes everything off the father’s, runs off, does horrible stuff, but he comes home and he says, “My son has come home” declares identify. Father runs, gives him a hug, relationship, and then gives him robe, a ring and sandals. It gives him purpose, it gives him authority in the Kingdom. Or when Jesus calls the disciples. It says, He designates the Apostles identity that they might be with Him, relationship, Mark Chapter 3, and then go out and preach the Kingdom, heal the sick, raise the dead. Or how about Ezekiel 36? It says, I will remove your heart of stone, give you a heart of flesh, grace, upon my spirit within you, relationship, and I will move you to keep my commands, decrees and laws, like I will empower you to live the life that I’ve created for you because you now have a new heart. Or how about 2 Corinthians 5? You’re a new creation, he is reconciled you to Himself and He has now given you the ministry of reconciliation. Identity, relationship, purpose, this is the gospel, and it’s not for salvation, it is not to raise your hand in the church service and come up to an altar, and then go back to your life. It’s meant to completely transform your life.
So here’s my question, why hasn’t anyone told you that? Why hasn’t anyone told me that? What has it taken so long to journey to this place to discover it? If we spend more time talking about what we have to do, than what Jesus has done, something is seriously wrong because He said, “It’s finished,” not, “I’m working on it.” Think about this. Think about this, we try to change how people behave, God tries to change what people believe, because he knows who you are, determines what you do. Identity determines behavior. I love this. Ready — you got it with me — if you’ve heard me say it before, fish? Swim. Birds? Fly. Cows? Moo. Dogs? Bark. Cats? Meow. Sinners? Sin. Righteous people? Live righteously, I was going to help you on that one. Beloved sons and daughters, live free in their Father’s Kingdom. So if you’re not free today, it’s not a behavior issue, it’s an identity issue, because who you are determines what you do.
We think of the Israelites, God brought them out of slavery, but they still — read it — read the journey, but they still thought of themselves as slaves, they saw God as a test master, and they had spent their lives building bricks for Pharaoh, the king of darkness. So if he would have taken them right from Egypt into the Promised Land, they would have turned the land of promises, into a land of bondage. He couldn’t take them there yet, where did he have to take them? On a journey of next steps. Together, man fight giants, and cross rivers, and go through wildernesses and deserts, why? Because every step was designed to heal and free their heart. There is a massive difference between being set free and living free. And in Jesus, we are all set free. That doesn’t mean you’re living free. And so we invite you to follow one step at a time, so you discover it. Listen, we have nothing to achieve, prove or earn, we have everything to receive, discover, and explore. We are drawn by grace, not driven by expectation. And I don’t have to do anything to become significant, to become – to find my approval, to become worthy in any way, I already am, in Jesus. True freedom is when you know who you are, who God is, and what you’re created to do.
We don’t take next steps to do something for God, we take next steps, so God can show us how much he has done for us. If you get nothing else out of this message, I hope you get that, because when we talk about next steps around here, we’re not saying, perform, try harder, move forward, we’re saying, no, no, Jesus already did it for you, He’s saying, “Come follow, so you can see the fullness of what I’ve done.” And if you’re sitting here, and you’re saying, bro, we’ve been in Valley Creek for a while, we heard the circle thing before, tell us something new. Are you ready? Do you live it? Can you teach it? And have you shared it with anyone else? And if the answer is no, you haven’t heard it enough. I haven’t heard it enough, because any area of bondage in your life, goes back to a circle one problem. What I love about our church is, we don’t have a vision to do something, we have a vision to become someone, because if you’ll become the right person, you will always do the right things. This is why we spend so much time talking about this stuff, this is what Jesus talked about and this is what Jesus came to do.
And so here’s what I want to invite you to, when you came in, you got one of these Follow the Cloud challenge cards, here’s my challenge to you, my challenge to you is that, every person in this church, this fall, would take the Follow the Cloud challenge, you say, what is that? It’s simple, grab a copy of the Follow the Cloud book, get two or three people, get together, read it, use the end of chapter discussion questions to talk about it. At the end of every section, there’s four sections, on the website, we’ve got unique group experiences for you to do together, that are going to be deep and profound that I would encourage you to do, and then take a next step on your journey with Jesus. And we prayed and thought and how do we do this, and what’s the best way, and how do we help you and all these stuff, okay, it just kind of came down to simply this, like, wouldn’t your life be better if you actually lived in those three circles?
Like how different would it be if you actually believe that stuff. And there’s these moments in time where God gives us these invitations to say like hey, maybe take a break from what you’ve been doing, and do something that I want you to do, because I want to set you free, and I want to show you some new things, like, you have no idea when I run into you, out in the city and at a restaurant or to school, or something, like it’s almost — it makes me sad sometimes, because what happens to a lot of you is, the first thing you do is you’ll drop your head, you won’t want to look me in the eyes, because when I’ll ask you the question, I’ll say something like, how long have you been in Valley Creek? And you will be like, like kind of mumble like how long you’ve been there, and I’ll say like, oh, I know, we should really get more involved, and we’ve been thinking about it, and I know — okay, bro, you don’t have to explain those to me. I’m not mad at you.
Okay. But maybe this is that time. Maybe this is that time in your own heart, why are you feeling that, because the grace of God is trying to draw you out of where you’ve been stuck, into a new level of freedom. And a lot of us, we come here, and we say, I don’t really know anybody else in this church. Okay, this is the time. Two or three people, get together, you could do it, there’s 12 chapters, you could do 12 meetings, you could do — you could read the whole book, and I’m going to sit down and talk about it. I don’t care how you do it, we want to empower you to own your journey, because no one can take next steps for you, and no one can make you want to hear God’s voice. You have to decide it. But what if you did that? What if we all did that? Here’s what I was thinking about today, if every person in this church, would do the Follow the Cloud challenge by the end of this year, at the end of this year, we would be a completely different church, we wouldn’t even be able to recognize ourselves, we wouldn’t be able to recognize what we do, and how we function, and you’re like, really? Think about it, if every one of the thousands of us took one step, and got those circles deeper in our hearts, oh my goodness, who would we be? Psalm 32 says, I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. I don’t know about you, but I want that for my life. If God is love, then everything he asks you do to is loving, especially the steps that make no sense.
I have no idea where you are. But I really believe that wherever God is leading you, is better than where you’ve been, and like the Israelites, He has seen your misery, He hears the deep cries of your heart, and He is really concerned of your suffering. And so He’s come, not just to lead you out of your bondage, do lead you into His freedom. And with every step he asks us to take, the question we ask is, can God be trusted? To which I think He smiles and says, “Come and see.” Come and see, and you’ll discover more than you ever thought existed. So you close your eyes with me. Every time when I do this, I tend to ask you like, what’s the Holy Spirit’s saying to you, and you say, “Well, why?” Because the cloud is on the move. The Holy Spirit is the presence of God in this room, in our hearts, and our lives right now, and He’s drawing us forward by grace so He speaks to us with this gentle whisper. And so what is God saying to you today, what’s He putting in your heart? What’s He tugging on? Maybe it’s just to come back next week, and be engaged in the series, maybe it’s to forgive that person, maybe it’s to let something go, maybe it’s to break off something you know you’re supposed to break off, or start up something you know you’re support to start.
I don’t know. I think for a lot of us sitting here today, the thing God’s putting in our hearts, is, do the challenge, do the challenge. And watch what He will do. And so Jesus, today, I thank you for the gospel and what it has done in our lives, I thank you that the cloud of your presence is on the move, that you never leave us, nor forsake us. May we have the courage and the faith to take small steps. Thank you that it’s not giant leaps. And God, we declare today, that when we take next steps, we are not doing anything for you, you are showing everything to us. And so give us the faith to follow, because you are good, and your love endures forever. Lord, I pray a blessing of freedom over every person here today, that you would lead all of us, a little bit closer, towards the fullness of our destiny, of knowing who we are, who you are, and what were created to do. Jesus, we love you. We say we will follow the cloud. In your name, we pray. Amen.