Valley Creek is a movement of Jesus-focused, Spirit-filled, life-giving people. We live a life of restful movement; we rest in Jesus and yet we never stop moving forward with Him. Where God is leading us is better than where we’ve been, and we follow His leading one next step at a time. We follow the cloud; we hear God’s voice and follow Him, by faith, into a life of freedom. The Old Testament cloud is a physical picture of a spiritual truth. Today, the cloud of God’s presence doesn’t just surround us but is within us.Dis
Alright, hey, everybody, welcome to Valley Creek Church. We are so glad that you are here with us and I am so glad that I am here with you today. We want to welcome you, whatever campus you might be at Denton, Flower Mound, Louisville, the venue and extension site, watching or listening the online somewhere in the world, can we just welcome each other together for a moment. It is so good to be back with you, I missed your smiley, happy faces. Thank you for allowing Colleen and me and my family to just have a few weeks off, to just kind of rest and refill. You hear us say this all the time, we want to do this a long time together. And so part of that is just staying sustainable, taking time to rest, doing it God’s way. And everyone always wants to ask me, like what did you do, where did you go? Okay, I was so tired I just rested. That was pretty much about it. I mean, we just needed some time to just rest and get refilled. I played with my kids, I spent time studying and praying, and preparing for what God has in store. And I’m so excited about the season ahead and where God is leading us. And it’s always so interesting to me how easy it is to take for granted what we have together. And then you’re out of it for a few weeks, and you remember what a gift it really is to be a part of Valley Creek Church. And so I’m coming back grateful, I’m coming back excited. And what an amazing summer it’s been. Like everything I’ve seen and heard around here has been absolutely incredible. Like we started the summer with the back-to-school shoe drive for the Next Step Center with all those kids. And you guys gave 3,400 pairs of shoes, 3,400 kids in need who now can take their next step in their life through our Next Step Center. And I love what’s happening there as we’re learning how to love a city to life. And then we had hub camp, it was our biggest, and our best hub camp ever. And so for every one of you leaders that went to raise up that next generation, you guys are killing it, thank you for loving and investing into them.
We had kids summer which was amazing, where our kids had to have a whole month of having fun and learning about God. My kids were on break with me, and yet they demanded that we bring them to church every single week during the month of July because they didn’t want to miss it. And if you’re one of our amazing kids serve team members or leaders, thank you for pouring into the lives of the future generation of world changers every single week. We then had all those relational elements all through the month of July where you had the opportunity to come early, stay late, and meet someone. And I just want to remind you that on your journey with Jesus, it’s both individual and communal. Like you get to build a personal relationship with Jesus but you follow him in community with others. You get into the kingdom of God by relationship, and you live in the kingdom through relationship. So spiritual maturity is only possible in the midst of community. And that’s why we’re always trying to create environments and opportunities for you to connect with other people. And if you haven’t been able to do that yet, don’t feel bad about it, I promise you, God has people already picked out for you. Don’t give up, keep trying. And then we had some amazing summer series, I thought our teaching team did an amazing job, face-to-face was the best series they’ve ever preached as they taught us how to be a friend, the way that Jesus is a friend to us. And then we have some outside guest speakers that came in and it’s so good for us to hear different voices, different perspectives, it gives us some different insight. And I was thinking about this verse, Matthew 10:41, Jesus says, whoever receives a prophet receives a Prophet’s reward. I’ve never known what to do with that verse. And then I was thinking about it this week, and I was thinking, okay, who is a prophet? A prophet is someone sent by God to hear from God and speak to people, that’s what a prophet is.
So what’s a Prophet’s reward, it’s revelation. It’s fresh insight or a new understanding, and so I thought about it, I thought every time you and I are willing to humble ourselves and honor someone that God sends into our life to speak the word of God over us, they’re a prophet. They’re hearing from God and they’re speaking to us if we will humble ourselves and honor them, we will receive a Prophet’s reward, fresh revelation, we will hear something we need to hear from God. May that always be true of our church. May we always receive the profits that God sends into our lives wherever we may be, whoever they may be that we may live in fresh revelation with a prophetic reward in our lives. So great job of making it an awesome summer and I really am excited to be back. Because here’s what I love about our church, we are a movement of Jesus focused spirit filled life giving people. It’s really who we are. We’re a family on mission, and what we’re doing is we’re in rest mode movement with Jesus. We rest in him and yet we never stop moving forward with him. And so the truth of that means the best is always yet to come. Wherever God is leading us is better than where we have been. Like let me break you in on a secret, this is not as good as it gets. Because wherever God is leading us, it’s better than where we have been. Like I really believe that for my life, for my family, I believe that for you, I believe that for our church, and I believe that for our city. Like whether this is the first time you’ve walked in or you’ve been walking with Jesus for 50 years. That maybe you’ve been in a season of discouragement and despair, maybe you’ve been in a season of celebration and victory. Maybe you’ve been in the valley, maybe you’ve been on the mountain, it really doesn’t matter, the best of your life is yet to come. And yet that’s hard to believe isn’t it. Sometimes we’re in the valley so long that we kind of like camp out and we make it our home and we think it’s never going to change.
And sometimes we’ve lived on the plateau for so long that we kind of look around and say, this as good as it gets, this is all right, no. 1 Corinthians 2:9 says, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has imagine what God has in store for those who love him. You haven’t seen it, you haven’t heard it, you haven’t even been able to imagine what God has in store for you. The best is yet to come. The question is, how do you get there, by taking one next step at a time. Or in other words, you just simply, follow the club. And if you’ve been around Valley Creek for any period of time, you’ve heard us say follow the cloud and it’s so important to the core of who we are that we want everyone to be familiar with what that means. Exodus 13:21 and 22 says, “By day the Lord went ahead of the Israelites 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 ever left its place in front of the people.” That verse has taught our church so much about what it looks like to follow God. But let me remind you of the context of the story, 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.” Because the heart of God has always drawn to the cries of man. So he raises up Moses to deliver and send Moses to confront Pharaoh and with the ten plagues in a matter of a few short days God totally destroys the nation of Egypt, sets his people free, and begins to lead them to the promised land. But how do you lead two million people from Egypt to the promised land? How do you help a bunch of former slaves step into their destiny? Like let’s be honest, it was hard enough to get your family to church on time today, right? It’s hard to lead a 4th grade boys basketball team or a small group of five people, how do you do that? You give them a cloud. Of all the ways that God could have chose to lead his people, he chose to do it through a personal and present cloud, because that’s who God is, intimately personal and ever-present.
And from within this mighty cloud he spoke with the gentleness of a whisper, follow me, one next step at a time. When I move, you’ll move, where I go, 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 are created to do. That is how I believe Jesus invites us to live our lives. You see the question you have to ask yourself is, like, how do you find the abundant life that Jesus offers you. In a world that’s incredibly crowded and yet amazingly lonely, in a world that’s disorienting and confusing, in a world that’s dark and overwhelming, like how do you navigate? How do you navigate your parenting, and your marriage? How do you navigate your finances and your business? How do you navigate school and family and friends? How do you navigate your heart and your life. Don’t overcomplicate it, just follow the cloud. You see the Old Testament cloud is simply a physical picture of a spiritual truth. Today the cloud is not above us, he’s within us, and his name is the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:25, “Since we are living by the spirit let us follow the spirits leading in every part of our lives.” Like the Old Testament cloud, he never leaves us nor forsakes us, and guides us from where we are to where God wants us to go. And even if it doesn’t make sense, you can be confident that God is leading you out of bondage and into his freedom one next step at a time. So, as the summer kind of winds down and fall starts kicking back up, I want to just remind your heart, some of you have never heard, some of you need to be reminded, what does it look like to follow God into the best that is yet to come for your life, for my life, and for our church in our city. Are you with me on that? Is that a cool recon and calibrate point for us.
Okay, so a couple quick thoughts for you, first thing is this, God leads us in small steps not giant leaps. We love to talk about in church the term leap of faith. Okay, I don’t like that term because I don’t think that’s how God leads us. It sounds churchy, it sounds spiritual, it sounds really cool, take a leap of faith man. Like, okay, but no. Really God leads us in small steps. And each step we take gives us the faith to take the next step because God’s faithfulness yesterday gives you the faith you need today. I mean, if you think about the Israelites they didn’t leap from Egypt’s to the promise land, they took a thousand small steps. Think about Abraham, he didn’t leap from where he was to offering Isaac on the altar, he just started following. Noah didn’t leap from where he was to loading the ark with a bunch of animals, he just started building. Peter didn’t leap from fishing to preaching, he just started moving on his journey with Jesus. They saw their next step, they took it, they kept moving behind every perceivable leap of faith, it’s a thousand small steps you didn’t see. You see, I’m convinced that life with God as a whole lot like connect the dots. Do you remember that game when you were a kid? There’s a piece of paper and a bunch of dots and random order, and all these numbers attached to them. And your job is to take a pen and start at one, and just start connecting them in the order that they’re given. And they’re in such a chaotic random order that as you’re doing it, you’re like, this is not going to work. And then as you get towards the end, all of a sudden you have this aha moment. You’re like, oh, it’s a dolphin, right? It’s a zebra, whatever it is. And those things were awesome for people like me that don’t have an artistic bone in their body. Makes me feel like I can be an artist too man. Okay, that’s how I think God invites you to live your life, to simply connect the dots in the order that he gives them to you. And the point isn’t to finish the picture, the point is to enjoy the journey and discover the mystery. You see, usually with God this is all he’ll pretty much give you, he usually gives you the direction you’re heading and your very next step, and that’s it. Psalm 119:105. “Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”
In other words he will show me the direction that I’m going and my very next step, and that’s about it. Why? Because he wants you to be desperately dependent upon him, the light of the world. Withholding all the details forces us to focus on him instead of trusting in ourselves. And in fact, I love what Jesus says, in John 16, he says, there is so much more I want to say to you, but you can’t handle it now. When the spirit of truth comes, he’ll guide you into all truth, and he won’t speak on his own but he’ll tell you what he has heard, he’ll tell you about the future. In other words, he looks at the disciples, he says, guys, you — I’ll blow your mind right now if I told you everything that’s going to happen in the rest of your life. I mean, can you imagine if God would have told you everything that’s happening today 10 years ago. Come on, you would have turned around and ran in the other direction, wouldn’t you? Why? Because it would have been so overwhelming at that time, you couldn’t have handled it. So what Jesus says is the Holy Spirit will tell you what you need to know exactly when you need to know it. You don’t need to worry about all the dots, you don’t need to have it all figure out, he’ll tell you what you need to know when you need to know it. In fact let me say it to you like this, and you’ve heard me say this before, for those of you that have been here. God speaks in sentences not paragraphs, because you can only obey one sentence at a time. He speaks to us in sentence, not paragraph form, because you can only obey a sentence at a time, so that’s what he gives you. Like do you remember the story of when Jesus first called Peter on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. But like Peters been out fishing all night, he hadn’t caught any fish, he’s got his boat on the shore, he’s got everything all cleaned up. But here comes Jesus, walking strolling, restful movement, walking down the shore, “Hey, Peter, can I borrow your boat?” That’s it, one sentence, one dot, one step. “Sure, Jesus.” Jesus gets in Peters boat, pushes it out, begins to preach, crowd listens. When Jesus has done preaching, looks at Peter and says, “Now, put it out into deep water.” One sentence. Rose it out there, okay Jesus. Jesus says, “Now, throw your net over the right side of the boat. But Jesus, we fished all night, we haven’t caught like what… “Throw your net over the boat Peter.” Throws it over, so many fish come into the net, the net begins to break, the boat begins to sink. And then Jesus looks at Peter says, “Now, you come follow me and I’ll make you a fisher of men.” One sentence at a time.
Now imagine that same story but imagine in paragraph form, which is how we would like it in our lives, right? Jesus comes walking down the shore, there’s Peter. Hey, Peter, can I borrow your boat. Here’s what’s going to happen, I’m going to get in it, we’ll push off, I’ll preach for a little while, when we’re done I’ll tell you to put out in deep water. And that net, you got all cleaned up, yeah, that one, I’m going to ask you to throw it over the side of the boat. And when you do, it’s going to be so full fish, it’s going to break, it’s going to bring you to the end of yourself. You going to hit your knees, you’re going to be all overwhelmed and crying and stuff. And I’m going to say, like, it’s okay, don’t be afraid, come follow me. And you’ll follow me, and we’ll go on this journey, you’ll see some cool things, we’ll raise some dead people, we’ll open some blind eyes, we’ll cast out some demons, we’ll do some miracles, some signs and wonders stuff. You know, you’ll get to walk on water, you almost drowned but I promise you, you won’t drown, we’ll get it before that happens. And then Peter you’re going to make some mistakes, you’re going to deny me, there’s going to be some stuff like the rest of human history will remember for you probably most for your failures in life. They will use you every Sunday for the rest of eternity talking about how not to follow Jesus. And then I’m going to die, and then I’m going to go away, and then the Pharisees are going to want to kill you too. But I’m going to raise from the dead fill you with the Holy Spirit, you’re going to stand up, preach the gospel, 3,000 people are going to get saved. And at the end of your life you’re going to die for me. So Peter, can I borrow your boat? No. Go get John’s boat. No way man, he couldn’t have handled it.
So what does Jesus say one dot, one sentence, one step. I think Jesus is saying to some of you here today, can I borrow your boat. Will you get in that small group, will you forgive that person, will you give up your addiction, will you get rooted with me, will you trust me with your finances, will you break off that relationship, one sentence. And however you steward the sentence determines how the rest of the paragraph will read. You see what you have to understand is that 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. We come and then we’ll see. But how many of you know if the steps are so hard to take when we don’t understand. Like God gives us the direction that we’re going, okay, that’s where we’re going. And then he gives us our next step, we’re like, okay, I can do this and we take it. Then he gives us the next step, and that’s the direction we’re going. Like, okay, I can do this, and we’re feeling pretty good about ourselves. Like just walking with Jesus, I got this man. Okay, take this one, okay. And then he says now step here, you’re like, that way? Yeah, I know, but just step here. But Jesus, it’s okay. Oh, okay, we’ll try. And then we step here, and we’re like ready for the next. And Jesus says, no, step here again. You’re like, yeah, but Jesus that way I… I know, but step here. But Jesus I don’t like that. Say I know but step here. But Jesus, all my friends on Facebook, they’re going that way, why is no one else taking this step? Because I have something for you. Okay. And then he says, step, here. What, you said that way, I know. Do you trust me? Okay Lord, God’s detours are always faster than our freeways. And what you have to remember, let me give you some encouragement, don’t trust in the step, trust in the shepherd. Don’t focus on the step, focus on the shepherd. Like we learn how to live this lifestyle of next steps thing. Like think of a little baby, they start out crawling, and that’s all they can do is crawl around. And like when we’re babies, and we’re learning how to walk with Jesus, like we kind of crawl into a next step. And everyone cheers us out, and we’re like, oh, guess I should do that again kind of thinking, you know?
And then what do a toddler do, they kind of stumble, they’re looking down. Like they’re looking at their foot, everything they’re doing. And then you kind of grow up and you start walking, and you can kind of move, and look like right about out here. And then what happens? You progress into running. And if you run, if you look down, you’re done baby, where do runners look, where they’re going. That’s why Hebrews 12 says, therefore let us throw off everything that hinders. And the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance. The race marked out for us fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. The more you look to the Shepherd the less you have to think about your step. Why? Because you’re running your race, it’s already marked out for you. And you got your eyes locked on him, and those steps just come, and you’re just moving in step with him. Every one of us has to decide how we’re going to live our lives. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, the Lord determines his steps.” Listen I learned a long time ago, God steps are so much better than my plans. The best way to build your life is take every step he gives you, and I promise you, you will never regret the steps you take in Jesus. Why? Because Jesus is the narrow gate that leads to a wide life. He’s not trying to constrict your life, he’s trying to expand your life, he doesn’t want to take anything away from you, he wants to give everything to you, one small step at a time. Are you with me on that? Okay, second thing is simply this. Each step, the whole point of the step is to help you discover who you are, who God is, and what you’re created to do. I mean, when we look of the story of the Israelites, it’s one of the most profound stories, when it’s the anchor pieces in the Old Testament. And we think the whole point was to get to the promise land. It wasn’t a point. If it was, God would have said, pass go, collect $200. Skip the Red Sea, the manna, the Giants, the fighting, all of this, you could just go, he could have teleported them. He could put him on Greyhound buses, flowing them on planes, or just taking them directly there, but he didn’t. Why? Because the point wasn’t to get them to a new land, the point was to teach them how to live free as beloved sons and daughters.
Yes, they had been set free, but there is a big difference between being set free and living free. So the journey is the process, but freedom of the heart was the outcome. Same is true with us. Listen to me, the journey of next steps is the process, freedom is the outcome. Next steps are not about where you go, what you do or what you accomplish, they’re about who you become. And because God never skips the process, we don’t get to skip the steps. Salvation sets you free, following empowers you to live free. And so like the Israelites, we’re on a journey of learning to be beloved sons and daughters. And if you’ve been around here, you’ve seen us talk about this, the three circles, this is really the anchor piece of our church. And as we get ready for an amazing fall, we’ve got to remember this. Every step that God wants you to take, he’s leading you through this. The first thing is he just wants you to receive his grace. Everything begins with a grace of Jesus, you have to understand this truth. The very fact that there is a step is grace. The very fact that he shows you your step is grace. The very fact that you’re empowered to take your step is grace. Romans 2:4, it’s God’s kindness. His grace that leads us to repentance changes our direction and helps us move forward. I said, what does grace mean? Well, it’s a big theological word that just means undeserved favor and supernatural empowerment. Like there’s three words that we often get confused, judgment, mercy, grace. Judgment, you get what you do deserve. Mercy, you didn’t get what you deserved. Grace, you got what you didn’t deserve. So Jesus was judged so you and I can have mercy and grace.
Jesus got what we deserved so we could get what? He deserved. That’s why Ephesians 2:8 and 9 says, You have been saved by grace.” Saved you’ve literally been made whole, he’s restored your identity by grace. Undeserved favor that now supernaturally empowers you to live a completely new lifestyle. And we’ve been included in Christ which means we are no longer sinners saved by grace, we now are beloved sons and daughters. And as you receive his Grace and your identity is restored, you’re naturally drawn to want to experience his presence or enjoy the reconciled relationship. Like he has been forgiven much, loves much. You were created to live in relationship with God. You were created not to serve a distant god but to walk with a loving father, to be fully known, fully loved with no fear of rejection. My son has no boundaries, no borders, he is never afraid of me because he knows he is my beloved son so he runs right to me. That’s what God offers all of us. Hebrews 4:16. “We would boldly approach the throne of grace in our time of need that we may find mercy, because Jesus has satisfied everything God demanded from us.” And then as we experience his presence and enjoy that relationship, relationship releases purpose and we are now empowered to release his kingdom. Listen, this is money for every follower of Jesus, that’s because you don’t have to spend your life wondering why on earth am I here. Half of the world’s questions is why do I exist, what’s my purpose? You get to avoid the confusing teenage years, the wandering 20s, the disillusioning 30s, the midlife crisis 40s and 50s, the regretful 60s, and the purposeless 70s and 80s I submit to you that’s good news. Why? Because you know what you were created to do, you’re empowered to bring heaven to earth, you have the keys of the kingdom, you are a kingdom leader in any area of society in every area of your life.
Sin management is not the goal of your life, the goal of your life is to walk with Jesus and release his love wherever you go. That’s your purpose. Doesn’t matter what you do, that’s your purpose. And where the three circles cross, we call this the Father’s heart. This is God’s heart for you. 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 we walk, but the father is the destination. Your promised land is not going somewhere, doing something, buying something, building something; your promised land is discovering who you are, who he is, what you were created to do living free in his heart. And I want you to see how these play together. If you’ll receive His grace — no take that off. If you’ll receive His grace you’ll experience his presence and you’ll release his kingdom. When you know who you are, you’ll know who he is, and you’ll know what you’re created to do. When you believe you’re forgiven, you will run to the Father and you’ll spend your life on purpose with him. If you know you’re a beloved son, you will never be afraid of your father and you’ll spend your life building his kingdom. But the opposite is true, if you resist his grace, you’ll avoid his presence, and you’ll spend your life building your own kingdom. If you don’t know who you are, you won’t know who he is, and you won’t know what you’re created to do. If you’re full of shame and guilt, you will be afraid of God and you will do a bunch of things that try to pay for your past. If you believe you’re an orphan, you will never run to God, and you will spend your life building your own Kingdom to become significant. What’s even worse is that a whole lot of us start down here in circle three. And we do a bunch of things in order to validate or secure our identity. We do in order to become trying to prove or validate ourselves by our performance, our behavior, our business the way we look, the way we perform, and that is an exhausting way to live.
Jesus says, “Come follow me and I will make you.” We follow, he makes. Religion says make yourself because you are unworthy to follow him. You see while we try to change how people behave, God tries to change what people believe. Because who you are determines what you do. Identity determines behavior. And if you’ve heard us before, say it with me fish, swim. Birds? Cows? Dogs? Sinners? Righteous people? Beloved sons and daughters live free in their father’s Kingdom. And if you’re sitting here, and you’re like, bro, did I come to church to hear that again? Yes, you did.
And if your spirit is, did I come to church to hear that again, I promise you, you’re not living it. Why? Because he who has been forgiven much, loves much. You can preach this to me every day of my life for the rest of my life. And I need to hear it, because guess what, you never graduate from the school of identity. And you say, well, how is this practical, this is the most practical thing in your life. Because think about it, this is pretty much your behavior, who you are determines what you do. Take any behavior, feeling, emotion in your life that you don’t like, and you can track it backwards. If you’re here tonight and you got anxiety in your life, well, guess what, beloved sons and daughters don’t live with anxiety, they live with peace. So if you have anxiety it’s probably because you feel like the father doesn’t care for you, and maybe you don’t really believe you’re loved. If you’re here and you struggle with performance, you’re always performing, well, beloved sons and daughters don’t perform, they just receive.
So if I’m performing, it probably means I think God’s demanding something from me, and I’m trying to become significant because I don’t really believe that I am. If I’m here and I struggle with rejection, well, guess what, beloved sons and daughters aren’t rejected, they’re accepted. So I probably feel like God doesn’t really want me, and so I really have lived this existence believing I’m unwanted or unloved. If I struggle with what was stress, well guess what, I mean, beloved sons and daughters they don’t live a stressful existence, they walk in rest. And so if you’re stressed you probably don’t think God cares for you, you probably feel like you’re a self-made man or woman, there’s no grace flowing in your life, you got to make it happen. One more if you don’t want to take next steps, it’s probably because you don’t really believe that God is good, and you probably don’t actually believe that you are free. You see you can track anything in your life all the way back to the finished work of Jesus. Romans 12:2 says, “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” If you will change the way you think, it’ll change the way you live. That’s why Jesus doesn’t come after our behaviors, he comes after our beliefs. What so many of you want to know is like what is a next step, like we say that all — what is a next step. A next step is any belief or behavior that moves you forward on your journey with Jesus. But here’s the crazy part, I would submit to you that almost all of your next steps are beliefs. Why? Because a belief determines behavior. So most next steps that God’s asking us to take is he’s asking us to change our belief structure about something, and follow him by faith that he might show us that thing is actually true. That’s why the next steps God asked you to take our almost always in the direction of your fears, your insecurities, your doubts and your giants.
You’re like, that’s not very nice guy. Why? Because he wants to set you free man. He wants to show you that giant has no authority in your life. He wants to show you that insecurity no longer has authority over you. He wants to show you that fear has been driven out by his love. So he’s saying, “Yeah, I know that feels like a valley to you, but come with me down there and let me show you who you are, who I am, and what you’re created to do.” See, hear me, this is the gospel, this is the entire point of why we’re even together as a Church. This is the gospel, and the gospel is not just for salvation, it’s for all of life. We think the gospel is for people who are lost, they come to church and raise their hand at the end of the service to sign a prayer card, that’s awesome. That’s how it starts, but it’s more than that. Like hear me, every time you take a next step, you’re experiencing the gospel. Think about this, we think the gospel is one and done, it’s an event in my life. It starts as an event, you get saved by Jesus, right? What happened, you experienced it, you received His grace, you just experienced His presence, He just moved into your heart, and the kingdom just got released in your life. He just turned on a light in the midst of darkness, okay? But so is every other step. God asked you to take a step and forgive someone, guess what, you just received His grace because you’re reminded, he’s forgiven you. And he’s giving you the empowerment to forgive them. You just experienced this presence because you did it with him, and you just released his kingdom into the atmosphere, you experienced the gospel. He asked you to serve someone, guess what, you just received His grace because you couldn’t do it on your own. And then he’s doing it with you, not leaving you alone, and then you just released this kingdom into that space as you served that person. If he asks you to do something that you feel like you can’t do, guess what, it’s his grace that is strong. When you are weak he promises that he will never leave you nor forsake you, so you look to him and experience his presence. And then, guess what, heaven comes to earth in the midst of your movement.
Every next step you take, you experience the gospel of Jesus. Does that make sense to you? Are you with me on that? That’s why you take next steps. I mean, if you think about the Israelites, they were set free but they saw themselves as slaves, they saw God as a taskmaster, they spent their life making bricks. If God would have taken them right to the promise land, they would have turned the promised land into a land of bondage. So he had to take them on a journey of this, okay. Some of you are here and you’re wondering why that thing is not happening, why that business isn’t clicking, why God’s not changing that thing, why it’s not moving, why it’s not happening, whatever; and you’re getting frustrated. Well, guess what, if God took you right there, you would probably turn that thing into a land of bondage. So what is he doing? He’s saying, don’t worry about changing it, I want to change you. You have nothing to achieve, earn, or prove; you have everything to receive, discover, and explore. We live from approval, not for it. You live from significance not for it. And here is the deal, we don’t take next steps to do something for God, we take next steps so God can show us everything he’s done for us. And if you don’t take your step, he’s not mad, it’s the best part. He’s not mad, he’s not going to get you, he’s not going to have like a little check mark over here. But, well, I’ll remember that one. You just won’t discover the fullness of the freedom that he offers you. You see some of you I know it, and it’s even funny because I can even feel it a little bit today. Some of you, you’re like, I’m so tired of the next-step stuff. Here’s my here’s my encouragement to you, I think you’re looking at it wrong.
If you’re tired of it, you’re looking at it wrong, why? Because here’s the deal, you’re probably looking at it from a religious perspective. Religion is basically a drill sergeant that says, you need to perform, it demands you to perform to become. So it never lets you breathe, it never lets you rest. Guess what Jesus is a Good Shepherd that draws us by grace. He says, come follow me and discover what I’ve already done for you, that’s why I will never apologize to you for encouraging, inspiring, or challenging you to take the next step. Some of you need to hear that. I will never not do that. I will never not push you, inspire you, draw you, challenge you. Why? Because I want you to discover the fullness of the freedom that God offers you. This is not an expectation to fulfill, it’s a discovery to be made. And the reality is, let’s go ahead, throw that other part up for me, we all start lost. We’re all lost in this world by ourselves, the grace of Jesus comes into our lives, draws us. We start going through this process, we learn to receive His grace, experiences His presence, release His kingdom, we start to believe that God is good, Jesus has forgiven me, I am loved, and everything is possible. And then we become motivated by love to become a kingdom leader in the world around us, God changes us so we can be a part of his change on this earth. So here’s what I would submit to you, this is the journey of discipleship, I think it’s time to rise up. Because guess what, in Jesus you’re already this. You don’t have to become this, you’re already this. The problem for most of us is we just don’t actually believe it, we haven’t taken the steps. God wants you to live this way in your parenting, in your family, in your marriage, in your business, in school, in your life, in your ministry. This is how he wants you to live. In Jesus you’ve been set free, are you living free? If you’re not living free, what is that thing, and track it backwards to where your belief system is wrong.
Because you’re a new creation in Christ Jesus, the old is gone, the new has come, and now we don’t have to do all these things for him, we become like him. And we live the life that he lived through the grace and empowerment. And we are drawn by grace to live free in the Father’s love. Which brings me to the last thing and it’s this, you have a next step, right here, right now, in this moment, you have a step. And so the question I would ask you is, when is the last time you actually intentionally took one. And if you think, I don’t know that, listen, everyone always has a next step because you’re on a journey with Jesus. And on this side, I haven’t, I hate to break it to you, you will never arrive, there’s always more freedom to discover. So the question is, well, how do you discover it, just ask, listen and respond. Ask God what your next step is, listen to his voice and respond by faith. And you say, well, I don’t know how to hear his voice. John 10:4, he promises his sheep, hear his voice. He wants you to know what your step is even more than you do. I don’t know what it is, it might be to come back to church next week, it might be to get in a group, it might be to get a give up your addiction, it might be to forgive somebody, it might be to change a belief structure, it might be to start something new, give up something old. All I know is that Psalm 32:8, he says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life, I will advise you and watch over you. Who doesn’t want that? I do. Because he’s good and he’s leading me to freedom. Let me close it and give you some encouragement with this. If Jesus is the way then you are never lost. If Jesus is the way you’re never lost. He is always the way forward and he is always the way out.
And my encouragement to you is, don’t focus on the step, focus on the shepherd. It’s not about the step, it’s never been about the step. The step in and off itself doesn’t even matter, it’s always been about the shepherd. In fact after the 40 year journey, God brings them from Egypt to the promise land. When they’re right about to cross in, and they’re all proud of themselves that they got there, Deuteronomy 1 says, there you saw how the Lord your God carried you as a father, carries his son all the way you went until you reach this place. Like we did it man, yeah, we’re awesome, that we stepped our way, yeah. God’s like, yeah, no. because I picked you up and carried you like a son. He’s been carrying you anyway. So stop worrying about the step, start looking at the shepherd. And when Peter, man, Peter was lost as a goose in a snowstorm. He didn’t know what he was doing but he didn’t get overwhelmed by paralyzed, by or focused on the steps. What did he do? He just started looking at Jesus. And before you know it, he started following, walking, he started running his race because his eyes were on Jesus and he became a kingdom leader. It is not about the step, it is about walking with Jesus. And if you just look at the Shepherd, you will always know what your step is. You don’t need a little step counter that you count and all that, nine, nine steps in the day. You know, like no. Sometimes you need the little buzzer that’s like, it’s time to, buzz, buzz, okay some of us need that. Okay, that’s okay. Listen, I don’t know where you are, but I promise you, wherever God is leading you is better than where you’ve been. This is the gospel, it is not just for the moment you cross over from death to life, this is how you live free. And every step you take, you’re receiving His grace, experiencing His presence, and releasing His kingdom in that very moment.
The decisions and the steps you make today determine the freedom you experience tomorrow. So maybe it’s time to move together, okay? So close your eyes with me. Here’s my quick question for you. What do you feel like the Holy Spirit is saying to you and what’s your next step? What’s the Holy Spirit whispering in your heart, in your mind, in your life? What do you feel like that step is? Holy Spirit, we invite you into this place, you promised to show us what we need to know exactly when we need to know it. Every person in this room has a step, maybe your step is to put your faith in Jesus, maybe your step is to forgive, maybe it’s to apologize, maybe it’s to trust God with your finances, maybe it’s to let go of an addiction I really don’t know what it is but he does. And taking that step you’re not doing something for him, you’re discovering what he has already done for you. And the beauty is you can’t even take it by yourself. It’s His grace that will draw you, show you, and empower you. How to move forward? So Jesus, we invite you into this place, we invite you into our lives, and we say may we live free. In the finished work of Jesus, as we take one next step after another, with our eyes fixed on you, the author and perfecter of our faith because wherever you are leading us is better than where we have been. We love you Jesus, in your name we pray, amen.