Being a follower of Jesus requires us to recognize His voice. Do you hear His still, small voice telling you how loved, seen, known, and individually precious you are?
All right, what a blessing to be able to share this time together with all of you, my friends near and far, wherever you are. Brothers and sisters, my Cornerstone Church, online community. And if you are joining us for the first time, so good to have you with us. I’m Pastor Terry, I’m the lead pastor here at Cornerstone church in San Francisco.
You know, our series, it’s called. I Am: Finding Your Story in The Story of Jesus, has everything to do with learning, how to see ourselves through the lens of who He is. And who He says we are in Him. So in a very real way, this series is about both God-discovery, as we think about who Jesus is and what He said He had come to do for us in this world.
But also we come to look at it as self-discovery for, we want to understand who we truly were meant to be. And how in Christ, we are invited to find our truest identity in Him. So before we push even further into that, I want to pray. I want to ask God’s blessing and goodness, just to be with us. And Lord, even now we do this, we just open up our heart to You.
We just say, Lord, we want to be receptive. We want to be open to Your good words and the life that You wanted to deposit inside of us as we share this time together. So we look at Your words together. Let there be a flow of grace. That’s my prayer. Yeah. And that we’d be strengthened in the way of the Lord and encouraged, in Jesus name.
Amen. You know, I want to start off by having us, reflect back on something I shared a while ago, um. That CS Lewis wrote in his amazing book called The Four Loves. And it had a lot to do with what the Lord desires to do in our lives. And Lewis wrote this. He says, “our whole being by its very nature is one vast need;” what we need.
We need so much. “Incomplete, preparatory empty yet cluttered, crying out for Him who can untie all things that are now knotted together and tie up the things that are still dangling loose.” So he really does hit upon two key things that Jesus can do in us if we will let him. And one of those is He wants to untie the knots, right?
I mean, and we all have them inside of us. Areas that are just, I don’t know how to describe it. They’re just all tangled up. And part of what the Lord does when He comes into our lives is He, He starts to untangle that. I mean, some of you, maybe you’ve seen a box full of chords and, uh, probably know exactly what I’m talking about. And you get enough of them in the box and they’re not, and you’re not really careful.
They just start to turn into this giant mass, this knotted mass of things that are just tangled all together. And it takes a little bit of effort to untangle them. Well you know what? A lot of times, those things are like, what’s going on inside of you and me. They’re the things that bind us. And the Lord, He just wants to untangle those knots that was steal away our joy and our peace. But our, you know, our settled-ness of soul. Because inside, things aren’t aren’t well. And He’s the healer and He wants to help us.
I believe that. He wants to untie those knots that are inside of us. That knotted up thing in us. Those things in us that hinder our ability to love well. You know, God wants to help us, by His Holy Spirit, to get freed up. And, and that, that really reminds me of that other thing that Lewis said, he said, the Lord also wants to tie up those dangling strands that are loose.
And so those things that are just kind of out there and they’re dangling. And it reminds me of sometimes how the Lord wants to make us into a more whole person. He wants to tie us up, not in a knot, but into something that is complete and tight and whole and well, right. There are areas inside all of us that need to be healed.
I know that’s true for me still. I don’t think it will ever stop being true. And the Lord wants to do that miracle work in all of us. He wants to heal us and work with us and grow us and make us better and free us from the entanglements of our past or sins of our youth or addictive behaviors or ways of being that have not been helpful to us and have actually been damaging both to ourselves and other people.
People sometimes even we love. The Lord wants to help us grow through that. He wants to help untie those knots and bring together those dangling strands that aren’t meant to be just flying around out there, but brought into a place of wholeness and alignment. You know what I’m saying? And that goes back to something that Jesus said He had come to do.
It was something He referred to. If you read about it, the opening of His public ministry, Jesus has said, went to the synagogue. He went to church. That’s how we would say it. And He read from the book of Isaiah. It was part of their service. But the passage was a very meaningful one. It was not just a coincidence.
We can read it, read about what happened here in Luke 4. It says that He, Jesus, came to Nazareth. “This place where He had been brought up and as was His custom, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day.” Jesus had a custom and a habit of going to synagogue; to church. If that was important for Jesus, I just need to say it.
It’s huge for us. Habits matter. Consistency matters. Good rituals matter. There’s life there. There’s wisdom there. Jesus modeled it. Says that He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day; on the day they set apart as a special day to honor the Lord with, in obedience to the law that had been given to them through Moses.
And it says, “He stood up to read and the scroll of the prophet, Isaiah was given to Him and He unrolled the scroll.” He opened the Bible. “And He found the place where it was written.” And He said these words – and they were kind of a mission statement of sorts. He said, “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me.
He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty, to set them free, those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” You know, do we see how the great I Am, who has come to us, has come to set us free? To unravel our knots and to bind up our wounds?
It’s what He does. I, I often think of us because the Bible refers to us as being fragile more than we ever would know. The Bible actually describes us as jars of clay. I was thinking about a jar of clay because – the jar clay, you know, like the one behind me? Think about it. If it’s cracked or has a break point in it where something is open, you can, it can pour something into it, but it just comes right out.
It leaks out. And I really do think that sometimes is a description of where sometimes people are; sometimes us. We may find that there’s been such damage that we have cracks. And sometimes that opening is so huge or it reopens and it’s broken. And so whatever is poured in, just pours right out.
It’s almost like we can’t receive the love that we were meant to hold. You know what I’m talking about? Some of us know that we’re loved, we believe it. By the Lord. But yet there’s been such damage and such areas of brokenness that we have a hard time holding it. And remember, we don’t hold, we can’t give away.
And we were born to give away His love. And so, He wants to fill the cracks and those broken places with His grace. A big part of what the Lord wants to do is make us better so that we can be a blesser of others. It’s both for us and others. I mean He loves us. And He wants this for us. And that brings us to the third – you know, because I’m talking about healing and how God wants to do something special in our lives. And how much we mean to Him.
And that brings us to the third of the seven I Am statements of Jesus that are recorded in John’s gospel. And it’s found in John 10 when Jesus declares Himself, that He is the gate. He is the door. I Am the door. I’m going to talk about that in a little bit, but remember, in the previous, uh, two weeks, we’ve talked about how in John 6, Jesus said, I Am the bread of life.
And then last week in John 8, when Jesus was dealing with the religious leaders and they were having this intense moment with the woman who had been caught in adultery. And the beautiful words that Jesus gave her. And then how Jesus described Himself and said, I Am the light of the world. So now we come to John 10. And John 10,
it really – the statements He makes in John 10, this third I Am statement, really can’t be appreciated without understanding what proceeded it in, in John 9. In the ninth chapter of John. Because when you watch how John 9 ends, it ends with this pretty intense exchange with the Pharisees and the temple authorities concerning His comments.
Comments that He made relating to spiritual blindness, specifically their spiritual blindness. And those comments had flowed out of the controversy that had arisen that was connected to the healing of, of a man who had been blind. A man born blind who had been healed. And it was a man who, the leaders had thrown out of the temple because of his, if I may say it this way, because of his marvelous, stubborn, non-compliance; specifically his refusal to minimize what Jesus had done and distance himself from Him.
I mean, you, if you want to get blessed, go back and read John chapter 9. It’s one of my favorite chapters in the Bible because it not only describes something that occurs that Jesus did. And there’s just a lot of drama in the way in which Jesus is dealing with the temple authorities, but even more, it has to do with the evolution and the emergence of a man into his faith.
We watch him grow before our eyes. We watch him become increasingly courageous. We watch him start, barely able to stand up. And by the time that chapter closes, he’s unafraid to be known as someone who confesses Jesus and it’s just special and beautiful. And the Lord, the Lord loved him because what happened was, when he wouldn’t renounce Jesus, because he said, look, how can I renounce someone who’s done this for me?
And it didn’t matter how intellectual and how smart they all were and how much more they knew about the Bible and religious things. He just basically said, look, I don’t know all about that. All I know is that I was blind and now I can see. All I know, and it was Him who healed me. He’s changed my life. No, I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna, just, no. I’m not going to renounce Him.
I will not do it. And the more they pushed, the more stubborn he became in his refusal to distance himself from Jesus. The more he confessed Him. And eventually it got to the point where they were so upset with him that they threw him out. And that’s when Jesus went back and found him and He comforted him.
And as He was comforting him, the Pharisees and the authorities were listening to what Jesus was saying. And they said, are you, are you talking about us? Right. And, and because. Basically what had happened was, Jesus said you’re blind. You’re blind. You mean this man was born blind, and now he sees, but you are still blind. Because you do not recognize what God is doing through it and it’s right in your midst. Through me. You don’t see any – and then he went even further in, He implied even worse than that.
You are abusive shepherds of the people. It was a stunning indictment. But it really does set the table for the 10th chapter of John because it naturally moves in that direction. Look, what happens as you come to verse one of chapter 10. It says this, “truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber.”
There’s just one way, one way in. “But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep, they hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name,” that’s important. “And he leads them out. And when he has brought out all his own, he goes before them and the sheep, they follow him.”
You know why? “Because they know his voice. A stranger, they will not follow, they’re going to flee from him.” They naturally know, I can’t trust it. “For they do not know the voice of strangers.” Now, before I explain a little bit more of what Jesus is getting at here, and He will tell us actually what He’s really trying to say in a moment.
But I think this actually does summarize, in a certain sense, what the Christian way is all about. In some ways, finding who I am in Christ is about voice recognition. Think about it. My sheep know My voice. It’s about voice recognition. We, well, it would not be unfair to suggest – it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to suggest – that the essence of the Christian life is about learning how to recognize and respond to the voice of the Great Shepherd. That the, the more His voice becomes familiar to us,
and I mean, in a good way. That we can hear His voice through His words. In our lives. In our hearts and in our minds. The promptings of the Holy Spirit, always with us. The more we begin to recognize the voice of Christ, the more we can move with ease and it will affect things. I think it was Steven Furtick who wrote these words, “the voice you believe will determine the future
you experience.” The voice you believe will determine the future you experience. That’s huge. The voice you believe. There are so many voices out there. We’ve got voices in our culture, oh wow. Social media curated a fake reality of most cases. Commercialism, people trying to sell us things. Everybody’s trying to present an image.
Everybody’s trying to tell us who we’re supposed to be. Everybody’s yelling at us, in a way. Voices everywhere in every direction, coming at us saying, this is who you are. This is the group you belong to. This is your identity. And, and we’re going to, we’re going to have to deal with that. Is that the voice that’s going to determine who we are? It’s who you feel you are.
It’s who you want to be identified. Look, is that how we are going, is that – because here’s the thing is sometimes it has to do with voices on the outside. Sometimes it has to do with voices of past things that have shaped us. and formed us. And sometimes even voices of people who should have loved us better.
And those voices sit with us. Those things that we are still wrestling with. Are those the voices that we’re supposed to recognize as the greatest voice in our life? No. What about those voices inside of us? We can’t, can we trust that? Not always. Sometimes we can deceive ourselves. Sometimes our sense of what is the best way is not the best way.
See, the key is this: whose voice are we going to recognize as the greatest voice? And this is what Jesus would say to you. It’s My voice. The, I Am is calling and He is saying, follow Me. He wants us all to remember that our truest identity is in Him. And the most important voice we are to recognize in our lives is His.
If we do this, it will be a way of blessing and a way of life. That’s what Jesus taught us. So let’s be careful about all the other voices. There might be some validity to them. There might be some good in them. I’m not saying they’re all wrong or destructive, but the voice that matters most is the voice of Jesus.
That’s huge. Sometimes His voice is really clear and so easy to hear. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the Lord’s house and I’ve just heard the voice of the Lord. I hear it best there. I do. At least when it’s loudly spoken. Because what I mean by that is just, it’s all about, when we come to the Lord’s house, like Jesus modeled for us, we’re all about listening for His voice.
We’re all about trying to engage Him in worship and we’re listening to His words and we’re listening for the word within the word, and that is good. And we’re doing this with others and the Lord’s presence there is in a very uniquely different way than if we were just by ourselves. And yet we are by ourselves most of the time. And in those places, the word of the Lord usually comes not loud.
Um, but softly into the everyday-ness of our life. It’s like what is described in 1 Kings “that still small voice,” you know. Not in the fire, not in the wind, not in the earthquake, but in the still small voice; that gentle whisper of God. I remember reading something that Dallas Willard wrote. He said this and he’s uh, he’s.
He was a great Christian thinker. His writing, was just beautiful and insightful. Deep waters. He said this about the still small voice of the Lord and how the Lord wants us to recognize that voice. And how He speaks to us. He said, “the still small voice – or the interior or inner voice, as it is also called – is the preferred and most valuable form of individualized communication for God’s purposes.
God usually addresses individually those who walk with Him in a mature, personal relationship using this inner voice, proclaiming and showing forth the reality of the kingdom of God as they go.” What he’s saying is, that’s the primary way in which the Lord works in our lives and speaks to us. It’s in a very gentle, soft, uh, normal way.
It’s just, it’s the voice of the Lord along the way. Think of that shepherd leading the sheep. It’s not a hurried pace. It’s a, it’s a subtle thing. There’s a comfort in it. And a security in it. And it’s not moving fast. It’s a, I’m not saying it can’t do that ever. Just like, it’s not always quiet. But most of the time, that’s the way the Lord works with us in our lives.
And He speaks to us that way. Willard went on to actually refer to another man who I absolutely greatly admire. He’s one of my heroes of faith. Uh he’s he was a great missionary in the 20th century, a missionary, both to China and to India. In fact, I said India, he was a close friend of Gandhi. And, they had a lot of discussions about Jesus. And E Stanley Jones, was not only a world recognized missionary representative of Jesus, that’s the man I’m talking about. But he was also a prolific writer and he wrote a lot of devotionals and his devotionals always were centered on, well, they had a lot to do with how we think.
And how we hear the voice of the Lord in our lives. And Willard was referring to E Stanley Jones, when he said this, “I have found much help in the words of E. Stanley Jones, who so firmly believed in and practiced interaction with God’s voice throughout his life.” So Willard says this, jones wrote “God cannot guide you in any way
that is not Christ-like. Jesus was supreme sanity.” I like that. “There was nothing psychopathic about Him. He went off into no visions, no dreams. He got His guidance through prayer as you and I do.” Think about this, right? I mean, Jesus spent time with the Father. And He listened for the voice of the Father. He goes on to say, “that is, He got His guidance when in control of His faculties, and not went out of control as in dreams.
I do not say that God may not guide through a vision or a dream; cause He does. But if He does, it will be very seldom, and it will be because He cannot get ahold of our normal processes to guide them. For God has found most clearly and beneficially in the normal rather than the abnormal,” that’s a huge thing.
That’s the voice of the Shepherd. “And Jesus is the Normal, for He is the Norm.” The voice that speaks to us is there speaking. Oh, but there’s one more thing. In the normal way that He speaks to us, in the everyday-ness of our life. It, it doesn’t have to be this, you know, dream or, uh, you know, vision or something that shakes us.
Those are rare exceptions. But, and there are sometimes, there are actually big deals. But, but most of the time, the way the Lord speaks is just in gentle ways; leading us along the way as we walk with Him, our Shepherd. And if that is true, that the Lord comes to us in softness and in gentle whispers. You know, CS Lewis would say sometimes when we’re suffering, we hear it loud and clear.
We hear it the loudest. But I do think that that means that we’re going to need to – if we’re going to have voice recognition, then we’re going to have to have – stay with me on this – noise reduction. If we want good voice recognition we’re going to need noise reduction. We live in a very noisy world. As I mentioned, everybody’s yelling all kinds of voices.
Everybody’s saying this and that. And we can fill our lives up with so many things. We are constantly getting this and that maybe now more than ever. Always taking in information, always seeing things. I know that my life has been changed as well and affected by this reality of, you know, technology. And yet I think it puts a priority,
it makes it even more important that we have times where we are quieting our soul; where we are allowing for the Lord to speak to us in that interior voice, that inner voice that is often the Lord trying to remind us to go this way or to go that way or to follow Me in this. Listen.
In this way. Right? So you, what I’m saying is we sometimes have to make some clearing space to hear Him better. Noise reduction makes better voice recognition. And there’s one more thing that Jesus was saying there, that I think is important to remember. Because He says He knows His sheep. He knows each one individually.
He knows them by name. So we recognize Him. But He knows us uniquely as we are. He knows us. Our identity is secure in Him. We are known individually. You are. And loved individually. Precious individually. Unique. Noticed. Noticed, valued and missed when you wander away. I, me too. Stop. I mean, really stop and reflect on this for a moment.
Reflect on this. How uniquely loved and treasured you are. He knows you by name. I think it was, yeah, it was Saint Augustine who said, “God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” He loves each of us as if there were only one of us. And then we go back to what Jesus was saying there. Because we’re told in verse six that this figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.
It was, there was a lot of these words and metaphors just didn’t make sense. And nobody was really grasping His illustration nor His indictment. So, and He could tell, so He said this, let me put it another way. So verse seven, “so Jesus, again said to them ‘truly, truly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.”
There it is the third I Am. I am the door. I am the door of the sheep. I am the gate. I’m the access point, the entrance to God’s reality. Verse eight, “all who have come before me are thieves and robbers.” Whoa. “But the sheep did not listen to them.” Which is Him saying there’ve been many false messiahs whose purpose in coming were to take advantage of the sheep. But that’s not Me.
In fact Israel as a nation, had an unfortunate history of having been peppered with false profits and deliverers and false gods. And, but true Israel had never heated or responded to them. They had continued to pray for the One who would come. And He had come, Jesus Messiah. So Jesus says again, verse nine, even more explicitly, “I Am the door.
I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” Behold, the winnowing. Behold, the line in the sand. If you want to save your soul, truly know God and find yourself in The Way, then you must come through the gate, the door, you must come through me. I am the door.
Jesus says there is no other entrance. Then Jesus finishes by saying truly, “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. But I come that they may have life and have it abunantly.” Life in His fullness. Boy, what a promise. What a gift. Do we understand that? How deeply loved we are? How, how we have been invited in
to the place of safety. That’s what, I think of the gate. I think of, I think of a place of safety and protection. I think of a place of love. I think of a place of grace. I think of a place of unique mercy, tender mercy. I love that. All these things He has for us. Now, when we come back around in a minute, I’m going to, I have one more thought on this idea of the abundant life.
And what it means for us. But I do, uh, and then before that we even will have a song that we share, which is connected to this. But I do wanna remind everybody, I get to do this. Don’t forget, you know, I’m talking about our time of giving and so many of us have been blessed. And so many of you are a blessing.
You really are, and you’ve been very faithful in your tithes and your offerings. And my prayer is that you would continue to do so. Remember, if you want to send in your gift, you can do that by sending it to our offices, but you can go directly online or just use the app. That’s what I do. And just be faithful to the Lord and give Him your heart.
Follow the Good Shepherd. All right, with that in mind here we go.