God leads us in small steps, not giant leaps. Each step is designed to help you discover who you are, who he is and what you were created to do. We are drawn by grace, not driven by expectations. The grace of God is more than the forgiveness of sin, it is the complete transformation of identity. Understanding your identity is the foundation of a life of freedom.
Alright. Hey, everybody. Welcome to Valley Creek Church. Whatever campus you’re at today, whether you’re in Denton, Flower Mound, Lewisville, The Venue, watching somewhere online in the world, can we just welcome each together? We are so glad that you are here wherever you are and I just want to take a quick moment to say last week we deviated from what we were doing and we talked about being the church of Jesus and responding to the brokenness of the hurricane and the disaster and all that stuff. And we said we want to use our Next Steps Center to be a distribution point and I really challenge everybody in the church to be a part of it. And so what I want to tell you in a matter of just a handful of days, you guys have responded so incredibly well that we have already set more than five semi-trucks full of stuff to hurting people — which, if you think about that, when you’re donating shampoo and soap and socks, five semi-trucks is a lot of shampoo and soap and socks. And so apparently last week, I said, “Let’s make sure we do more than nine pairs of socks.”
I don’t remember saying that. I was told that’s what I said. We did more than nine pairs of socks, Valley Creek Church. So well done on that and great job being the church. There is still another week worth of opportunity. If you haven’t had a chance to do it, go over there and serve with your family. Go drop something off. Colleen and I took our kids and we went there and it’s just so good to walk in with your kids and remind them, “We’re buying this for someone else who is hurting. Let’s go serve someone else and watch what God will do.” And in a season at time when it feels like the world is winding down and chaos and disaster and storms and brokenness are happening all around us, remember, the kingdom of God is winding up and we are the people that release the kingdom. So let’s keep being the church, okay? All right, we’re in a series called “Follow the Cloud” and we’ve been talking about hearing God’s voice one next step at a time and we said the Cloud is a physical picture of a spiritual truth. When God set the Israelites free after 400 years of Egyptian slavery, He led them to the Promised Land with a Cloud.
Today, the Cloud is not above us. It’s within us. His name is the Holy Spirit and wherever God is leading us, it’s better than where we have been. And we’ve talked about how each step God invites us to take is designed to help us discover who we are, who He is and what we were created to do. And we’ve talked through our three circles. We said that if you receive His grace, you’ll be drawn to experience His presence and then release His kingdom. When you know who you are, you know who He is and you know what you were created to do. When I believe I am fully forgiven, I will run to the Father and I will spend my life with courage and boldness but the opposite is also true. If I resist His grace, I will avoid His presence and I’ll spend my life building 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. When I don’t believe I am forgiven, I’ll be afraid of God and I’ll spend my life trying to pay for the brokenness of my past. Or how religion functions and how most of us live is we start in Circle Three. We try to do a bunch of things to earn our way into God’s presence to pay for the shame of our past or we do a bunch of things trying to become a significant person, not realizing that in Jesus we already are significant.
We become and then we do. We don’t do in order to become. We are drawn by grace, not driven by expectations. And where these three circles cross is the Father’s heart and this is God’s desire for you and you say, “Did we really have to do that one more time?” And the answer that we all know by now is Yes, because we want you to be able to teach it. We want you to know it. We want you to share it because this is the gospel and this is the fullness of freedom. And what we did a few weeks ago is we took Circle One and we pulled it out and we talked about that and we said everything starts with identity. We have to receive His grace. It’s the foundation of freedom. And when I receive His grace, I will naturally be drawn to want to have a relationship with God and to live in His presence. And so what we want to do today is we’re going to take Circle Two and we’re going to blow out Circle Two and we’re going to spend some time talking about that.
You see, because the truth is that at the end of the day, you are as close to God as you want to be. I want you to think about that for a second. You are as close to God as you want to be. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Therefore, let us boldly approach the throne of grace in our time of need that we find mercy.” You know what that means? That means Jesus has already removed all distance and all separation between us and God. We are worthy to be in the presence of God, not because of what we have done but because of what Jesus has done. And so now it’s up to us on whether or not we want to move into His presence. In fact, Exodus 19, I love this, “God says, you have seen what I did to the Egyptians and how I bore you on you eagle’s wings and brought you to myself.” Listen, salvation is God carrying you onto Himself. He was pointing back to their salvation moment when He set them free from Egypt and God is always pointing us back to the cross and He’s saying, “Hey, you see that? I did that to bring you to myself.”
Because God didn’t want to wait to be with you someday. He wanted to be with you today. And even when you feel lonely, you’re never alone. You see, you and I can choose to leave Him but He will never leave us. When Jesus hung on the cross, He said, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” In that moment, Jesus was forsaken so that you and I will never have to be. He forsook Jesus so He cannot now forsake you. And so the beautiful thing about this is Jesus’ obedience determined our identity, our obedience now determines our intimacy. Jesus’ next step determines who we are. Our next step determines what kind of relationship we have with God. And every next step we take, we go deeper into His heart. And so what I want to do for the next few moments is what we’ve been doing in this series. I want to throw a bunch of stuff out there and I want to let you grab a hold what God has for you because we were made to be people who experienced His presence and live in relationship, okay? So are with me on that?
Okay, so a couple thoughts. First thing is this. Let’s just see where we get together. Life is all about relationship with God. When God first set the Israelites free, He gave them the Cloud. And the moment He gave them a Cloud, what He was declaring over their lives was I want to be with you and I want you to be with me. Remember, it wasn’t just a Cloud in the sky that brought rain. The Cloud was the presence of God. So when the Cloud showed up, it was literally the ultimate invitation for a relationship. It was God saying, “Hey, I’m right here and I’m not going anywhere. I want to be with you and I want you to be with me.” Right from the beginning of the journey was this understanding that God wanted to be in a relationship with you. You have to understand that when He was setting them free, He was bringing them on this journey of freedom. And when we think about freedom, we think freedom is the ability to always do what I want. That’s not freedom. Freedom is always being with my God and that’s what He offered them from the first step they took out of Egypt.
I mean, just think about these versus, Exodus 6:7, “I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the yolk — from under the yolk of the Egyptians.” He says, “I want to be your God. I want to be in relationship with you. And, oh by the way, relationship is the validation of salvation.” He says, “We’re going to be in relationship and that’s how you’ll know you’ve actually been set free.” It’s a relationship with God that reminds us our identity has been transformed, that we have been set free and that we have been saved. 2 Corinthians 6:18, “I will be a father to you and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” Right from the beginning, God desired that His presence would be the center of their life. That’s why the Israelites were never meant to get ahead of nor lag behind the Cloud because the Cloud was His presence and it was their life. That’s why whenever they got ahead or went behind, whenever they pulled away from the relationship, you understand that’s what they were doing?
When they weren’t following the Cloud, it wasn’t just disobedience, it was pulling away from the relationship. And in those moments, that’s when they found themselves in trouble. That’s why every night, when they camp, the Cloud would be in the center and they would all camp around it because God’s presence was meant to be the centerpiece of their life. Listen to me, following the Cloud was never about getting somewhere. It was about enjoying someone. Each step had less to do with getting to their destination and more to do with enjoying their God. It didn’t matter if they had to wait or if they had to hurry. What mattered was that they were experiencing their God and with each step they took, God was revealing more of Himself to them and they discovered that God was with them not because they were good but because He was good. And do you understand the same is true for you? Then moment that you put your faith in Jesus, you receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The Cloud comes into your life. And the moment the Cloud comes into your life, the Holy Spirit comes in you, you know what God is saying to you?
“Hey, I want to be with you and I want you to be with me. And I want you to know that I’m here no matter what. And with each step we take together, I’m going to show you more of myself.” This sure sounds like friendship, doesn’t it? I mean have you ever had anybody say that to you, “Hey, I’m not going anywhere. And as we keep walking together, I’m going to show you more of me and I want to get to know more of you.” That’s what God was saying to them and that’s what He’s saying to you. That’s why I love what Moses say in Exodus 33, he says, “Hey, I got — like do not send us up from here if your presence doesn’t go with us.” In other words, Moses didn’t want to go anywhere without God. Moses preferred the desert with God to the Promised Land without God. He didn’t care where he was, he didn’t care where he was going, he just cared who he was with. Why? Because Psalm 16:11 says, “In His presence is fullness of joy.” Acts 17 says that, “In Him, we live and move and have our being. Our very life is contained in the presence of God.” Or how about this, Mark 3, “Jesus went on a mountain side and called to Him those He wanted and they came to Him. He appointed 12 designating them apostles that they might be with Him and then He might send them out to preach and have authority to drive out demons. Does that sound familiar to anybody? He says, “Hey, I’m calling you not because you are good but because I am good, because God is good, Father’s heart. And you know what? You are now apostles. I’m changing your identity that you might be with Me and then I’ll send you out to go and live out your purpose. It sure sounds different than church, doesn’t it?
Religion says, “Hey, I want you to go and do a bunch of stuff. And if you do it right, then maybe you can hang out with me. And then if we’re hanging out, then maybe you can become someone.” No. Jesus says, “Hey, come here. Let me tell you who you are. And I just brought you to Myself.” So don’t be so worried about getting out of here and going do some. Just sit down and hang out with Me for a while and then we’ll figure out what it is that you’re supposed to go and do.” Listen to me, life is more about who you are with than what you are doing. That’s what we learn from this whole journey. And what’s so interesting about following the cloud is — the problem with us is that God’s timing is very different than our timing. With God, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day, so the temptation is to go when it’s time to wait and to wait when it’s time to go. We often get this thing backwards. Like thing of the Israelites. Numbers 11 says, “Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out. Whenever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamp. Whether the clouds stayed over the tabernacle for two days, a month, a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out. But when it lifted, they would set out, at the Lord’s command, they encamp and at the Lord’s command, they set out. Don’t you know there was a whole lot of days when they just wanted that cloud to get on moving? Okay. But here’s my question for you. If God is with you, where are you in a hurry to go?
Think of this. I want to say this to you right now. What are you in a hurry for? What are you trying to rush off to? Where are you trying to get that’s making your life so chaotic and so busy? What are you in hurry for? Do you understand? This is why Jesus was never in a hurry. Why? Because when God is with you, you got nowhere you need to go. In fact, everywhere you go is a place you don’t want to be. He’s here right now. So some of you are like, “Is this message over? I got to go.” No, He’s here right now. Listen, obedience is simply choosing to stay and say, “I would rather stay here with you than go there by myself or I would rather go there with You than stay here by myself.”
It’s the willingness to stay in step with the cloud because we prefer the relationship over the destination. The problem is when we get out of alignment with the cloud it’s because we’re too focused on getting somewhere that we have stopped enjoying someone. And if we’re all in this, that’s what happens to a lot of us, right? Like we’re just — like gets on with it, man. I want to get to get to that new job. I want that new relationship. I want that new circumstance or I just want to get out of this season so bad that I got to get moving and without even realizing that we can start expecting or wanting God for what He can do more than we want Him for who He is. And when we feel like God isn’t doing it for us, we’re going to do it for ourselves. But the truth is you don’t want more than God’s will for your life. I mean, we watch this all the time. You see this just like I do. You watch people move on their own. The guy who uproots his entire family to go chase a few more bucks in another state for another job. The woman who leaves relationships just when they’re about to get good because she’s afraid of vulnerability. The family that bails on church because of a preference or an offense.
The stay-at-home mom that has to go to work the moment kids go back to school because she doesn’t know what to do with herself at home. Or the person who wants to do a good thing at the wrong time but just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. I am amazed on how many of us make major decisions without ever even asking God. Maybe you’ve been there because I know I have. We get saved and we want to blast through circle 2 to get to circle 3. It’s like I get saved and I want to get on with life and get to my purpose, so I blow through the relationship not realizing that the relationship is actually our life. We have to ask ourselves, is God inviting me to go or am I just deciding to do it on my own? Because everything you’re looking for is only found where He is. That’s why Psalms 84:10 says, “Better is one day in Your courts than a thousand else where I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” In other words, I would rather be a servant in the presence of God than be a king alone in this world.
The heart of a cloud follower is, “I won’t go without you.” I mean, I remember years ago when Colleen and I first moved here to be on the staff, to be really honest with you, we thought we would be here to like two years and then we were going to go plan a church, like that was our whole mindset. Hey, we’re going to come here, will get a little bit of experience, we’ll serve at this church for a while and whatever role that we were in and then we’re going to go back up north and we’re going to plan the church. And we had it all figured out, man, or at least I did. We had the name of the church, what it was going to be, I knew the ministry, philosophy, the strategy. We — like we had it all dreamed out, I knew exactly what we’re going to do. And then I’ll never forget the day that someone came up to me out of nowhere and said, “Hey, if you want to plan a church, I want to fund it. So you let me know when you’re ready to plan the church and I’ll fund it for you.” Can I tell you something? If Satan can’t slow you down, sometimes he’ll try to speed you up.
If Satan can’t stop you, he’s going to get behind and push you. And what you have to understand in life is not every open door is from God. And so I was sitting there wrestling through all these in the season of time when the founding pastor that was before me, Pastor Kevin, called me into his office one day and he said, “Hey, John, I want you to move into this new role. I want you to be the associate pastor but I want you to make a long-term commitment.” And I looked right back at him and said, “Well, I can’t because I’m going to plan a church.” I didn’t say that. I thought of it. I said, “Let me pray about it. Thank you for the invitation.” you know, kind of thing. But I went home and was totally convinced that God was going to say like, “No, we’re going to plan a church, man, like we got the name picked out and we even got somebody to fund it. We are ready to go.” And I prayed about and it was one of the clearest things I ever heard God say to me. He said, “Johnny, I can do more in two days than you can do in two years. So will you serve me by serving this man?” I can do more in two days than you can do in two years, direct reference to go and planning the church. And I remember saying, “You got to be kidding me. I thought we’re going to plan a church.”
No, I want you to serve me by serving this man. And so we stayed. I didn’t stay because I wanted to. I stayed because God asked me to. And for two years the Cloud didn’t move, parked. Nothing. Nothing. It just hung there. And that was the best thing that could have happened to me. Because for two years, I had to learn to discover that God wasn’t just for me but that He was actually with me. And then one day, as fast it stopped, it started to move. Pastor Kevin went to China, I transitioned into this role. And I told you a few weeks ago, I was 29-years-old. In the first weekend I stood up, we had Saturday and Sunday services at that time. There was about a thousand people in the church. And as I got up on that first weekend almost two years to the day, God said, “Hey, I just did more in two days than you would have been able to do in two years on your own.” Does that make sense to you? Or half excited about that but not really. That’s okay.
Here’s what I figured out, is that life is not about what I do, it’s about who I’m with. And the truth is sometimes it’s harder to trust God when He say, “Wait.” than it is to actually trust Him when He says, “Go.” And you have to remember in those moments, life isn’t about getting somewhere, it’s about enjoying someone. And if you do not enjoy God where you are, you will not enjoy Him where you’re going. So everything is designed to keep us desperately dependent upon Him. Cloud followers want to be friends with God because God wants to be friends with them. Does that make sense to you? So life is all about relationship with Him. The second thing is this, secondhand Jesus will never give you firsthand faith. When God set them free and began to lead them out of Egypt, what He wanted to do is He wanted them to hear His voice. The loving Father wanted to have a relationship with His kids and He wanted them to all listen to Him. We can all agree, it’s really hard to be in a relationship with someone you never talk to. But they were afraid of God. I mean listen to this, Exodus 20 says, “When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain and smoke, they trembled with fear.
They stayed in a distance and said that Moses, speak to us yourself and we will listen but do not have God speak to us or we will die.” Catch this, as the cloud drew near, they pulled away. They were still afraid of a God who just put His love on display by setting them free. They were willing to be the people of God, they just didn’t want to listen to God. They were willing to follow God, they just didn’t want to talk to God. So they said, “Hey, Moses, you go and talk to God. You go figure it out, you listen to everything He wants to say. You are the spiritual one in the group. You go figure it out, come back and tell us what He said. And we’ll listen to whatever you say.” Listen, they thought that if they heard His voice, they would die, not understanding that we actually die without His voice. John 6:63, Jesus says, “The words I speak to you are spirit and they are life.” We don’t die from the sound of His voice, we die without His voice, the same voice that spoke the universe into existence that raised the dead, that calmed the wind and the waves wants to speak to you today. You don’t die from it, you die without it.
But the Israelites they prefer to having a mediator. They wanted Moses set as a mediator instead of a personal relationship with God. They wanted a real estate agent to broker a deal for them instead of going out on a date with someone who is already in love with them. And so the Israelites didn’t hear God’s voice so they never got to know His heart. The Israelites knew what God could do but only Moses knew who God was. I want you to think about it like this for a second. Think of my kids for a moment and let’s say, I do everything for my kids. I give them a place to live. I give them food. I take care of all of their needs. I drive them to school and to practice and all of these and say I do all of that stuff for my kids but they never wanted to listen to my voice. So you’re like, “It sounds like my teenager.” Okay. We would be related, but we wouldn’t be in a relationship. They would enjoy the work of my hands without ever getting to know the love of my heart. I wonder how many of us are related to God. But not actually in a relationship with Him.
I wonder how many of us enjoy what God does for us without ever getting to know God Himself. Well, how does that work? Well, in Matthew 12:34, Jesus says, “The mouth speaks of the overflow of the heart.” In other words, whatever is in here is what’s coming out of here. So if I want to know what’s in someone’s heart I just have to listen to their words. So if I never listened to your words, I’ll never get to know what’s in your heart. But the opposite is true, the more I listen to God’s voice, the more I’ll get to know His heart and the more I know His heart, the more I’ll start to trust His voice. To ignore God’s voice is to ignore God Himself. I mean you can’t be in a relationship with someone you don’t talk to. And do you remember the telephone game in school? That the teacher would get everybody and you would all line up and the teacher would start over here and like whisper something in the first kid’s ear, and then turn to the next kid, you know, and it will go all the way down and when it get to the last kid over here, and when it gets to this kid, he is supposed to shout it out loud. And when he shouts it out loud, it is so different than what everybody else has heard all the way down, everybody’s like, “Hahaha. It’s so funny.” You know what I’m talking about?
You’re all looking at me like, we never played that game in Texas where we grew up. I don’t know what you do in buffalo in school. Okay. Well, we played the telephone game. The further away you got from the source, the more distorted the phrase became. The further away you get from the source, the more distorted truth becomes, and the more significant the consequences are. See too often, we’re like the Israelites and we drift into this danger zone. We want someone else to hear God for us, “Hey. Hey, you, you go hear God for me, a pastor or a radio preacher, a friend or a grandma who’s super religious, you know, like my grandma, she loves God. She can – “ okay. Great. But God wants to speak to you. Come on, man, Jesus died so you can live in circle two. He died so you could hear God’s voice anytime, anywhere through the Spirit of the living God that’s inside of you. And if you don’t hear God’s voice, you’ll always be full of doubt. I mean imagine Peter, imagine the story when Peter walks on water. Imagine if Peter never heard God’s voice for Himself. He’s a follower of Jesus. He’s in the disciples. He goes to church, you know, does his little thing, and he’s always hanging out, but He never hears Jesus for Himself for whatever reason, doesn’t think he’s worthy, doesn’t know how, doesn’t want to, whatever, he just doesn’t hear Jesus. So imagine the story of when the disciples, they’re out in the boat and they’re out there in the wind and the waves coming.
Here goes Jesus walking on the water. And Jesus gets up to the boat and He’s talking to the 11 disciples for a while and Peter sitting in the back just hanging out. Eventually taps John on the shoulder, “Hey, John, what’s He saying, man?” John looks at Jesus and looks back at Peter. He wants you to walk on the water out there to him. What? Come on, man. I know you’re trying to get me back from my last mistake. But he didn’t say that, like what is He saying, man? John looks back at Jesus. “Yeah, He wants you and only you to walk on the water. So we’ll cheer you on. Go for it, buddy. I think you can do it.” There is no way, Peter is getting out of the boat. And there is now way you’ll get out of your boat if you do not hear God’s voice for yourself. To follow God, to follow the cloud, is to hear God’s voice. If faith comes by hearing, then it’s our willingness to listen that gives us the faith to follow. Our problem is we don’t hear God’s voice, we want someone else to tell us what He said. So that’s why we don’t have the faith to follow because secondhand Jesus will never give you firsthand faith. You cannot follow the cloud through the voice of a man but one word from God can change everything. When we think about this, you not only can, you actually do hear the voice of God in your life. Yeah, like, no. Yeah. John 10:4, Jesus says, “I’m the good Shepherd and my sheep hear my voice.” Is Jesus your Shepherd?
Are you a sheep? Then He says you hear His voice. And you say, well, I don’t know that I’ve ever heard it. If you’re saved, if you put your faith in Jesus then you heard the Holy Spirit drawing you to Jesus telling you how awesome He was and how much you needed Him. You already heard God’s voice. Matthew 4:4, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes,” present tense, from the mouth of God. Acts 2 says, “They all heard what God wanted to say to them in their own language. God speaks to you in a language you can understand.” So the question is not, is God speaking? It’s are we listening? And the good news is, God wants us to hear His voice even more than we actually want to listen. In fact, maybe the way I can build your faith is this analogy that we’ve used around here like when you were born on this earth, you were born with ears, right. You didn’t have to grow ears. You didn’t have to figure out how to use your ears, you were born with ears and you had the ability to hear in the physical realm, you just had to learn to tune out the distractions, the noise, the screams, the bangs, the yells and tune in to the voice of the one who is holding you.
Jesus says when we put our faith in Him, we are spiritually born again. So when you are born again, you are born in the spiritual realm with spiritual ears. You don’t have to grow them, you don’t have to figure out how to use them, you don’t have to figure out how to use them, you don’t have to learn how to hear. You just have to learn to tune out the distractions of shame, doubt, fear, condemnation and tune in to the voice of the one who is holding you. You see, you can’t demand people to speak, but you can position yourself to listen. For every person that’s married, that’s demanded their spouse to have a conversation with them, how well has that gone for you? But if you’ll go out of your way and stop what you’re doing, and sit down and look them in the eyes, they’ll open up their heart to you. And so you say, well, how do we position ourselves to listen? Let me just give you a couple of these scratch points for you. This is all in Follow the Cloud, but I just want you to catch this. Here’s how we position ourselves, listen, you got to slow down.
Let’s all be honest, our lives are insanely busy. They’re so busy and we’re so active and we have so much noise in our ears that if I just stopped for 30 seconds and let it be quiet. You would go crazy in here. There was only five. Quiet makes us uncomfortable because we’re uncomfortable with ourselves. We say God turn your voice up, He says, “No, you turn your life down.” If you really want to listen, turn off your phone, turn off your phone. Everybody say it with me, “turn off your phone.” Not to bother me in the message, that’s okay. Turn off your phone at home so you can hear God. And literally don’t just silence it, so it buzzes when it happens, turn it off. You know what, I don’t have time for this. But when you turn that – yeah, I know you’re like, ”Oh.” If you will turn off your phone it’s a sign of faith to say God I value you more than the voices of this world. That’s what it is.
We’ll just leave it in that, slow down. The second thing is engage the scriptures. God writes like He speaks. So if you want to know what God’s voice sounds like, read His word because His word is His voice. In fact if you want to hear God’s voice right now, read the scriptures because the word of God once spoken continues to be spoken. And Jesus tells us whatever value we give to the written word is he value we’ve already ascribed to the spoken one. So you got — listen, you can’t say, “I want to hear God’s voice,” and never touch your bible. I don’t know how to say it in any nicer to you than that. Some of you are like, “That was too mean — make it happy,” no. If you want to hear God’s voice you got to read your bible. You say I don’t know how, the Holy Spirit will help you and if you come to church we will help you. But if you really want to be a cloud follower and you really want to live a life of freedom, you cannot follow God without listening to His voice, you cannot hear God’s voice without the scriptures. Okay. Alright. Again, I’m getting a little feisty here on this. So feisty I can’t remember the third one.
The third one is seek Him. You got to go out of your way to do some things different. We can leave that [indecipherable] [0:29:00.6], right. Moses went to the burning bush, Jesus went to lonely places. The fourth thing is, pursue Godly relationships. Faith is contagious, doubt is infectious, get around people that hear the voice of God and you’ll hear the voice of God. I love my friends that hear God’s voice because when I hear what He said to them, it builds my faith for what He wants to say to me. That’s why you should a Follow the Cloud Challenge group for no other reason than to be around other people who hear God’s voice. And then the fifth thing is seek confirmation. There are so many voices in this world that – here’s the best way – we hear so much stuff and we’re like, “Is it God? I don’t know. What should I do? Ahh.” Okay. Here’s what you do, have you ever seen the show Gold Rush? No. So this analogy is not going to work then.
Okay. Here’s what happens, when you go gold mining, you scoop a big thing of dirt out of the ground and it’s got junk and it’s got some gold in there. You drop it in a big wash plan and as it goes through the wash plant, it goes through all these different layers and phases and by the end, it kicks out all of the junk and you’re left with pure gold. When you think you have heard God’s voice, you got to run it through these filters to get rid of the junk and to find the pure gold. You say what are the filters? Really fast, number one, does it align with scripture? If it does not align with scripture, it is not God. Period. End of story. Do not pass, go, do not collect $200. Do not tell us how awesome it was that you heard God’s voice. Do not go and do something dumb and then blame it on God. If it does not align with scripture, it was not God’s voice. Period. Period. Period. The only danger I have in teaching you to hear God’s voice is for those of us that want to say, “I heard God but it didn’t align with scripture and I’m going to do it anyways and then blame it on God and then blame it on you.” That’s just — there is something bad about that, so that’s what we’re telling you. Does it align with scripture? The second thing is, is this Godly counsel confirming? And not like you’re three girlfriends that are like, “Oh, yeah, you should do it,” or your three buddies that are like, “Yeah, man, buy that new truck.” You know, like, “No.” “That was totally God. You know, you’d be in debt for the rest of your life but that was God. You know, like do it.” “No, that probably wasn’t.” I’m talking about like people that will seek God on your behalf.
And you say I don’t friends like that. Then again, do you want to follow the cloud challenge group and get in a relationship with people like that because you need people like that to make major decisions in your life. The third thing is, is this a sacred act or are you hearing it in more than one place. Fourth thing is does it require faith and fifth thing is it leading you closer to Jesus. If it passes through all of those, it’s God. Go. If it doesn’t, stop. Listen, do you know why I love our church? Because our vision is to help people take a next step on their journey with Jesus. Which means you have to know how to hear God’s voice to go on your journey with Jesus. So what we do is what we’re trying to do is if I can teach you or we can teach you or you can learn what these three circles are all about and how to hear God’s voice for yourself, you are equipped for life. This is such a transient area. People come and go like all the time. This is where we live. So you know what’s so cool about our vision? Is that people come and there are here for one month and they learn about this and learn how to hear God’s voice. We just send them out equipped, how to walk with God for the rest of their life.
You say, well, how do I know what my next step is? Ask, listen, respond. You hear it around here all the time. Ask God, listen to His voice and respond with faith. I don’t know what your next step is. It might be to come back to church next week. It might be to say this is my church. It might be to start serving, to become a leader, to start tithing, to start something new, give up something old, I have no idea but He does. And if you’re not sure, go back and do the last thing you felt like He asked you to do and don’t be worried about all your missteps and the things you should or shouldn’t have done, God is always more concerned with your next step than your misstep. You have a father who loves you, who wants to speak to you. If you don’t believe God wants to speak to you, you’re really questioning the goodness of God. And you’re really questioning whether or not you can actually be in a relationship with someone. Listen, I’m telling you, Jesus did not die so you could have a relationship with God in heaven, he died so you could have a relationship with Him now. So let’s do it, okay? And then the last thing is this — I know that was fast, so anyways, I needed to take a breath.
That’s maybe what I said. The next step is free us from the greatest bondages of all, ourselves. Do you remember when God comes and He asks Moses, He kicks this whole cloud following thing off and He comes to Moses and says, “Moses, I want you to go and confront pharaoh and set my people free.” And Moses responds in Exodus three, he says, “Who am I?” I think it’s a fair response, don’t you think? Like Moses responds to his next step the way we respond to ours. Like who am I to do that? The more he focused on himself, the more insecure he became. Moses was a washed up murderer hanging out as a shepherd on the backside of a desert. He didn’t know anything about leading people or confronting pharaoh or miracles. And the more he looked at himself, the more insecure he became and in the next two chapters, he gives God all these excuses, “God I don’t have the ability. I don’t have the credibility. I don’t have the experience.”
Do you ever feel like that? Like God, I don’t have the ability to do this. I don’t have the credibility for this. God, I don’t have what it takes. Well, you’re in good company. What I love is just that God will put us in positions that are perfectly designed to expose our insecurities so He can make us secure in Him. I want you to think about this. God will give you a job, an assignment, a season, an opportunity, a next step that is perfectly designed to expose your insecurities so He can make you secure in Him. That’s why all of our steps are different. That’s why I can never tell everyone in the church, this is our next step, everyone, ready, one, two, three. No. Because your next steps are designed to set you free and my next steps are designed to set me free from the greatest bondage of all, ourselves. I mean had anyone ever told you, hey, God won’t give you more than you can handle. Okay. I hate to be the one to break this to you, that’s a lie. It sounds really good when people are hurting and the church will be like, “God won’t give you more than you could handle. You can do it.” No, you can’t actually.
And it is more than you can handle. Moses couldn’t handle confronting pharaoh, the Israelites couldn’t handle confronting nations of giants, Paul couldn’t handle writing most of the New Testament. God gives us assignments that are bigger than ourselves to expose our insecurities, so we take our eyes off of ourselves and look to the cloud, and look to Him. You see, I love this, when Moses, “Who am I?” The very next thing that God — the very next verse, God says, “I will be with you.” Fascinating reply, isn’t it? If I’m Moses, I’m saying, “That wasn’t a question I asked you.” But maybe God did answer the question. Maybe His answer is the foundation of our security. Moses was saying, “God, who am I to do that?” And God was saying, “Do you want to know who you are? You’re the one I’m with.”
Moses was standing in front of the burning bush, he was looking at the cloud. It was the Holy Spirit, right? I mean, it’s like right there and the presence of God. And in that moment, he is still so focused on his problems that he misses God’s presence. And so God says, “Moses, do you want to know who you are? You are the one I am with and I am the great I am.” which means I will be for you whatever you need me to be. What qualifies you to go is not you, it’s me. So God was setting Moses free from himself. We look at Moses and we say, “Bro, that guy, man, what he did –” Do you understand? Moses’ entire journey was about Moses getting free of Moses. And, oh, by the way, God is just going to use the assignment that he’s given him to do some other cool things in the world. You think whatever you’re doing is really like helping all these people? Yes. God will use it that way but it’s really about you getting free of you. Read the bible. God asked people to do stuff and they all respond the same, “Who am I to do that?” And they panic, “Not me, send someone else, I can’t do it and you’ve got to stop.”
He almost always says to them, “I’ll be with you.” I’ll be with you. We say, “Who am I to do that?” And God didn’t respond with how awesome we are, he responds with how awesome he is. We want to talk about what’s wrong with us, God wants to talk about what’s right with Him, and we want to tell God who we’re not, he wants to tell us who he is qualifies you to go. It’s not you, it’s Him. So He’ll give you a step you don’t like so you get free of this. Listen, let me be like brutally honest, and this will encourage some of you and defeat some of you. Preaching is, hands down, the hardest thing in my life. They aren’t even a close [sec] [00:37:43.2]. I look at my friends that are lead pastors in other churches and they get up, and man, it’s like — it takes them like no effort. They walk up with this little — like a sticky note of notes. My friend just sent me one today. He just sent me. Here’s my notes for today. It’s like a sticky and it’s got like one word that I can’t even read on.
Like I’m going to preach for 40 minutes on this? He’s like, “Yeah, it’s going to be awesome.” I’m like, “Oh my goodness.” Moses got 40 days on the side of the mountain to come back with one sermon. With our Thursday night services, I get four days, four days to come up with something that’s funny, relevant, engaging and profound, every week. It is so much harder than you think it is. And let me tell you how hard it is. When I was a kid growing up, my biggest fear in school was reading out loud in public. I would be in panic to go to school terrified. The teacher would call on me to read something out loud because I had a stuttering problem, and I would mispronounce like every word and all the kids will laugh at me. It was like the worst thing. And if that’s not bad enough, the worst grade I ever got in any schooling that I ever had was preaching class in seminary. And that’s comforting, isn’t it? Some of you are like, “We can talk.” You know, like, “I know.”
And if that’s not bad enough, I’m an introvert. Large groups of people exhaust me. I prefer the woods in solitude to platforms in crowds. So every week, it’s the same thing. God, I can’t do this. Ask anybody that’s really in my life. I say to everybody, “I can’t do this. I don’t have anything to say. God, please pick someone else. Let someone else do this preaching. It’s so much more than I can handle.” Okay. But we already said God will give us assignments that are perfectly designed to expose our insecurities. So every week, it’s the same deal. I have to take my eyes off of myself and look to Him. I have to stop focusing on my inabilities and start focusing on God’s ability. I have to stop complaining about what I am not and my weaknesses and I have to look to God’s strengths. I have to literally sit there and say, “Okay. God, because you are here and you are with me, I can get free of myself and go with you into this moment, and so one of the hardest things in my life is actually one of the greatest gifts in my life because it forces me to be daily desperately dependent upon Jesus.
This is why, as long as I’m here, we will always be a worshipping church. You say, “I thought we just want to be a worshipping church because it’s cool, and that’s what you do.” First of all, it isn’t cool. Just so you know, people don’t think it’s cool. Some of you don’t know how to respond to that comment. That’s okay. It’s wise. It’s not necessarily cool in the world, you know, kind of cool. I don’t have time for this so I don’t why I’m doing it. But every single week, I have to be on the front row and I literally have to worship to get up here and do this, just so you know. I have to. Like we have to be a worshipping church because otherwise, I couldn’t do it because I have to get out of me and focus on Him. So every service, I’m like desperate to meet with God, and find Him, before I get up here. So here’s my question for you. Are you desperate to worship? Because if you’re not, you’re probably not following God into the unknown, because if you are not, you’re probably not actually walking on water. Like God’s plan for your life is so big, you can’t actually do it on your own.
So if you can skirt in, and skirt out, and you can skip the worship because you think the sermon is the main event, I just blew up your mind, and you’re like, well, we just figured out the sermon isn’t the main event with you. It’s not the main event, God is the main event. And if you’re — listen, you don’t have to amen this, just listen, because this is very — I want you to really receive this, if you are not desperate to meet with God in this place, you actually have to ask yourself, am I really following the cloud? Cloud followers have to be worshipers, because they understand they can’t get where they’re going without being desperate for Him. And so if I can live my whole life, and just try to become a better person, but I don’t really need God, not really desperate to find Him, you have to ask yourself then, are you really living the destiny, the fullness of the life of freedom, all of these, that God has for you, but listen to me, God may not ask you to go and confront Pharaoh, and he may not ask you to preach, but he will ask you to do something that makes you say, who am I to do that?
And what you have to understand is, God didn’t need Moses to confront Pharaoh, and he doesn’t need me to preach the gospel, and he doesn’t need you to take whatever step He’s asking you to take, but He invites us to take those steps because He knows they’re perfectly designed for you, in your life, with your brokenness, and your pain, and your gift mix, and your calling, so that you can be set free, from you. Next steps don’t need us, we need them. And it’s only in the steps you think you cannot take, that you finally take your eyes off of yourself, and look to Him, and realize that He is with you. Not just for you. The question is not, is God with me? It’s am I aware of his presence? And if that is the most important thing in life, then God will always be leading you into places that make you take your eyes off of yourself, and look to him, so you can be free, so you can be free. Because freedom is not having enough money, the right house, the right car, the perfect relationships, freedom is realizing that God is with you. Freedom is realizing that God is saying, hey, I want to be with you, I want you to be with me. I’m not going anywhere.
And this can take as long as you want it to take, but I’m not leaving. So why don’t we start walking together now. Instead of waiting for a few more cycles around the mountain? Maybe it’s time to come home and live in the fullness of the love of the Father. So you close your eyes with me. Can you just for a moment in time, just be aware that God is with you? He is right here. And so maybe today is your day to say, Jesus, today I receive you into my life. I accept the forgiveness of my sins, I receive your grace. I allow you to change my identity that I might be with you forever and for always. And even though we’ve been hurt by so many people in life, God will never leave us, nor forsake us, and He will never hurt you the way all those other people have.
And so today is the day to say, I’m taking the next step. Today is the day to say I’m moving forward with my God, today is the day to say, Jesus died so I could live a life with the breadth and the spirit and the presence of my God with me every step of the way. Jesus, thank you, that you are here. May we take our eyes off of ourselves, and may we put them on you, may we be people who experience your presence. In your Name we pray. Amen.