Freedom from Following

2017 Messages

Who or what are you following? We all follow something. In this message, JP unpacks John 10:1-15. We may feel like we are free, but JP asks, what about freedom from anxiety, love of money, worry, approval of man, significance in children, debt, illusion of control, whatever your vice is. The enemy uses these traps to lure and ensnare us. JP helps us understand it is only in following Jesus that we can experience true freedom. Christ is our true shepherd and in Him, full life and forgiveness is found.

Jonathan PokludaJan 29, 2017John 10:1-15; John 10; John 10:10; 1 Timothy 6:9; Galatians 1:10; John 10:11-13

In This Series (36)
Join The Journey: A Tour of Romans
Blake HolmesDec 31, 2017
Christmas Eve 2017
Todd WagnerDec 24, 2017
Contentment, Longing and Christmas
Todd WagnerDec 17, 2017
An Update on the Mission in Fort Worth
Tyler BriggsNov 19, 2017Fort Worth
Evening with the Elders
Beau Fournet, Dean Macfarlan, Todd WagnerNov 12, 2017
An Evening with Eric Metaxas
Todd Wagner, Eric MetaxasOct 18, 2017
What a Compassionate God Wants You to Consider as Your Next Yes
Todd WagnerOct 1, 2017
Worship Together: You Are the Church
Harrison RossSep 3, 2017
Worship Together: The Future of the Church in the Hands of Parents
Wes ButlerSep 3, 2017
Worship Together: Remember. Consider. Imitate
David PenuelSep 3, 2017
Worship Together: Influencing the Next Generation by Preparing Ourselves and Investing in Our Children
Jason Bradshaw, Patrick BlockerSep 3, 2017
Do Good People Go To Heaven?
David MarvinAug 6, 2017
Step Up in Faithfulness, Discover and Invest Your Talents for Christ
Jeff WardJul 30, 2017
Regretful Hearts v. Repentant Hearts
Jeff ParkerJul 30, 2017
Leadership Matters…and Other Seminal Truths
Todd WagnerJul 23, 2017
The Future and Hope of Your Life and Our City
Todd WagnerJul 9, 2017
Keeping Short Accounts
Adam TarnowJul 2, 2017
Soldiers, Athletes & Farmers: A Biblical Look at the Spiritual Life
Blake HolmesJun 25, 2017
Why Your First Impression of Your Father Matters
Todd WagnerJun 18, 2017
Extraordinary Parenting
Jonathan PokludaMay 28, 2017
Baptism Sunday
Todd WagnerMay 21, 2017
Why Every Week is a Pastors' Conference
Todd Wagner, Blake Holmes, John McGeeMay 7, 2017
The End of the Search
Tyler BriggsApr 30, 2017Fort Worth
The Christian in Culture
Derek MathewsApr 30, 2017Plano
4 Dead-Ends to Spiritual Growth
Blake HolmesApr 30, 2017
A Spectacle of Glory: An Interview with Joni Eareckson Tada
Todd Wagner, Joni Eareckson TadaApr 23, 2017
Easter: “It is True”
Todd WagnerApr 16, 2017
Good Friday 2017
John Elmore, Wes ButlerApr 14, 2017
Fort Worth Raise The Mark
Gary Stroope, Beau Fournet, Tyler BriggsFeb 26, 2017Fort Worth
Seeing God as a Perfect Father
Adam TarnowFeb 19, 2017
Who You Are, Eternally
Jonathan PokludaFeb 5, 2017
Freedom from Following
Jonathan PokludaJan 29, 2017
Four Traits Christ’s Disciples Share
Jeff ParkerJan 29, 2017
Inquiring of The Lord
Jonathan PokludaJan 22, 2017
Fort Worth's Opportunity... A Day We Can't Wait to See
Todd WagnerJan 22, 2017Fort Worth
Psalms 1
Blake HolmesJan 1, 2017

In This Series (39)

Good morning. I want to tell you how excited I am to be here this morning. I've been looking forward to this. I woke up earlier than I needed to, no alarm clock. I couldn't wait to get here. I'm so grateful for Kyle's leadership. He is truly one of the best leaders I know and has been an incredible influence on my life over the years.

To watch what God is doing up here in Plano through him and his team and Rob and all of the incredible volunteers who make this happen… It's a gift to me to watch. I also want to thank you guys for sharing Jeff Parker with us today in Dallas. I know they're going to be ministered to. I love the enthusiasm of this crew. Come on, let's go. Let me pray for us. We're going to dive in.

Father, we love you so much. It's just awesome to watch your hand move and work through people, to watch you change lives, to watch you build your church, this body, this movement that started thousands of years ago under the reign of your Son Jesus Christ through the apostles, that we would gather this morning and just be a part of it. Would you speak to us?

Life is a little crazy, and there are so many things fighting for our attention, our hearts, and minds this morning. Would you take over that real estate, and would you allow us to leave here more in love with you and a greater awareness of you, and as I prayed with the team earlier, a greater understanding of your desire for our lives, specifically. Please speak to us this morning, God. In Jesus' name, amen.

Let me start with a question. Any dog people here in Plano? Great. Okay, any cat people? We're going to have a prayer service for the cat people. That's what this is going to be. We're going to pray for you guys. Our family is a bird family. Any bird families? I didn't think so. My 9-year-old daughter Presley has a parakeet named Turquoise. He has been our pet.

Every morning, Presley gets up, goes and gets Turquoise the parakeet out of his cage, and has breakfast with Turquoise. This is a daily routine. Sometimes I wake up with a parakeet on my chest. It's a lot of fun. She lets Turquoise out, but what's interesting about that is Turquoise will, without fail, quickly and effectively get back to his cage as quickly as he can. No matter where she takes him around the house, at some point, inevitably, that bird is going to fly back to his cage.

It's a difficult flight path. It's like around the refrigerator, down a hallway, and then a quick right through a pocket door into the utility room, and then a quick right again at the cage. He has mastered that flight path. He loves his cage. I can't even explain it to you. The bird just wants to quickly get back in his cage. I think I understand why. He has a master who loves him, cares for him, provides for him, and puts everything he needs in there. The safety of that cage. It's home. That is where he wants to be.

One day, Presley was holding Turquoise and took him outside. Big mistake. When Monica, my wife, saw what was happening, she went out and said, "Presley, you can't take him outside." As soon as she got the words out of her mouth, Turquoise was gone. I'm talking into the sunset, flying into the horizon, over the houses, past another neighborhood, until this little turquoise blur in the sky is gone.

Presley is sitting there. She is beside herself. I mean, super sad. Tears start welling up, and she's like, "Mama!" Monica is like, "I don't know what to do. Uh, get in the car, get in the car!" They jump in the car and just start driving around North Dallas looking for a parakeet. I think it was more like a coping strategy than an actual strategy of ever finding the bird, but they drive around.

Presley is praying. She's like, "Dear God, if you don't bring Turquoise back to us, would you please send a friend to him to protect him, because he's not a survivor." I'm like, "She's right. He's not a survivor. We have babied that bird." They look for him for a long time, eventually give up, and come back home. They pull up. Presley is like, "Mama, I think I saw Turquoise."

Monica is like, "Baby girl, it's going to be okay. Sometimes this happens when we really miss somebody." She's like, "No! He's in the front yard." Turquoise came back. That bird came back to our house and was just waiting for someone to let him in. I'm not surprised, because Turquoise doesn't want the freedom everybody thinks he does, that he deserves, or whatever that looks like.

Turquoise wants to be in the care of a loving master who provides for him, who cares for his every need. To stretch the metaphor, other birds might be like, "No, that's not where life is," and he says, "No, it is. It's where life is. Life is in the care and full submission to a loving master." This is the great paradox of the Christian faith: that victory comes through surrender, that freedom comes through submission.

In our pursuit of freedom, what we're really looking to do is make Jesus not just our Savior but the Lord of our life. In any given decision, in our parenting quandaries, when we're asking the big questions of life, that we would go to God who loves us and desires a relationship with us and say, "What would you have me do? What do you want me to do? I'm going to do whatever you want me to do, because you're a loving master. You provide for me. There's no life apart from you."

Like the disciples said, "Where else would we go? For you alone have the words of eternal life." That's what Christ wants from us today: a life of full devotion, a life understanding that he loves us and desires this relationship with us. I will tell you that when I've pursued freedom in anything else (and I've pursued freedom in a lot of things), it has brought slavery into my life. I mean, owned by addictions. "I want the freedom to look at whatever I want to look at on the Internet." It brought me to a place of complete slavery that I have only found freedom from through Jesus Christ.

I wanted to work and be successful and find significance in that. I began to find significance in that, and before I realized it, I was a slave to it. Wake up thinking about it, can't do it enough, mind constantly turning, not restful in bed, but thinking about it all the time. We want the freedom to date whoever we want to date, and then we get into this relationship we can't get out of. We wanted the freedom to marry whomever we wanted to marry, which for some of us has brought us to a place where our spouse may not be a believer, not walking with the Lord.

These things we pursued freedom in we found slavery in. We've been in a different kind of cage. Not the cage of the protection of the Master but a cage to an abusive master. We want the freedom to love things, and we find ourselves enslaved to materialism where we love things and use people. We want the freedom to be liked and to perform, and we find ourselves in the slavery of the approval of others. Our brain is constantly spinning around that.

What I see in the Scriptures is a desire of a God who loves us to set us free, to give us freedom. When we look backward we can see what has enslaved us, but it's very difficult to look forward and see what is going to enslave us, the things our community and others might warn us against, that we want to lash out against. "Let me just be my own person. I can do what I want." No, you can't. You shouldn't. You should seek what God wants.

No one here is really free. We're all following someone or something. All of us. We're either following culture or Christ, money or the Messiah, a relationship or the Righteous One, the crowd or the cross. We're all following something. In the message today, the metaphor of the cage… There's a good cage and a bad cage. Not to confuse you, but the good cage is the one that is owned by a loving master. The bad cage is the one that's owned by the world, the Enemy, culture, the abusive master. It's a trap.

One cage is a cage that offers freedom, and one is a trap. I want to talk with you for a few minutes this morning about this idea of freedom that comes from following. Freedom is not extremely compelling to us. If I said, "Hey, I came up from Dallas Campus to tell you guys how to be free," you'd probably be like, "Well, JP, I kind of feel free. I drove here on my own. I walked in here carrying a Bible. I feel like I'm free."

But if I make that more specific and I say, "Freedom from anxiety, freedom from the love of money, freedom from worry, freedom from the need for approval of others, freedom from something more specific as it relates to you, your specific device, freedom from addiction, freedom from marital strife, freedom from prodigal children…" If I begin to present that kind of freedom, you might lean forward and say, "Well, that's interesting."

Christ offers that freedom. The specific freedom you need this morning is a freedom that Christ offers all of us. As we dive into John, chapter 10, we're going to look at where freedom cannot be found, where full life is found, and where forgiveness is found. Jesus is talking to the Pharisees, and he says…

"Very truly I tell you Pharisees, anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name…" Listen to this intimacy here.

"'He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice.'

Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them. Therefore Jesus said again, 'Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…'"

It's a different metaphor Jesus uses, but the same illustration as Turquoise the parakeet. This idea that there is a pen, that his sheep are in the protection of the pen under the care of the shepherd and there are people after the sheep. Sheep are the most defenseless animals in the animal kingdom. They have no defense mechanism. When they're scared they fall over. They are wolf bait without a shepherd.

A sheep is in desperation of the care of the shepherd. This is the metaphor Jesus gave us. It came alive for me when my wife and I had the opportunity to travel to Israel last year, and we saw these sheep pens. We sat there at the traditional site of the nativity, and there in the shepherd's field, where the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherd, there was a sheep pen. It just looks like this. It's just stones.

Some of them were much bigger than this. They began to explain to us that multiple herds would be in there. In this Eastern tradition, the shepherd could go out and call the sheep by name. He had loved and cared for them, spent so much time with them… It's not a job; it's a lifestyle. These sheep were like his family. He could go in and call his sheep out by name, and of the hundreds that might be in there, 15 would walk out.

They said how amazing it is to see, and how in the hills nearby, the animals, the enemies, the cougars and the wolves would watch the sheep, wanting to devour them, but they would not come near them if the shepherd was present. At night there was no gate to this pen. The shepherd would actually lie there as the gate to protect them, to care for them, to watch over them. Anybody who wanted to come in this pen had to go through the shepherd.

Then there was this. This was really interesting to me. In Western cultures, shepherds drive the sheep. They go behind them. They hit them with rods and throw rocks at them. In Eastern cultures, shepherds spend so much time, they're so familiar with their sheep they're able to lead them. They walk in front, and the sheep follow. This is the relationship Christ wants, that his sheep, his herd, are familiar with his voice. We hear him. We follow his commands. We do as he asks. We're following him. Who do you follow?

1.Following anything else steals freedom. It doesn't offer freedom. Freedom is the lure, but it actually takes freedom from us. We become its slave. John 10:10 says, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…" There are these people who desire to sneak into your life and lead you away to death. What that death looks like is out of a right relationship with Jesus. There's no cruise control in Christianity. There's not this time that we get to a place with Jesus that we're stuck there and nothing can steal us away.

At any given moment, we could wake up, and something could be presented to us that looks appealing that we'd follow out of a right relationship with Jesus. That can happen today or tomorrow. The Enemy who's crafty and knows your brain and knows what you love and knows what you idolize… He's not tempting you with things you don't want. He's not dangling Brussels sprouts in front of you. He's tempting you with success or successful children.

He's tempting you with significance, with status. He uses lures. Are you guys familiar with this term lures? I'm not a big fisherman myself, but one of my heroes is. My man Kyle Kaigler is a big fisherman. We've been fishing together, and we even talked about this this week. I asked him, "Do you have a tackle box?" He's like, "Do I have a tackle box." "Do you have different kinds of lures?" There are all kinds of lures in there.

He begins to talk about what the different ones do. These lures look like what the fish want to eat. They look like the real thing, if you will. Some of them make noises, and some of them are shiny. Some have bright colors, some of them have scents, and all of these things. He even tells me there are some that are dipped in salt, but others have the salt impregnated, was the word I think he used.

It was a Gary Yamamoto. Does that mean anything to anybody? Gary Yamamoto. That's the lure you want, according to my friend Kyle. This is the one that has the salt baked into the worm, if you will. Here's the deal. The best lures look like the real thing. The lures the Enemy uses look like the abundant life Christ offers, and as soon as you bite onto that, you're pulled away to your death.

Jesus loves us. He says, "Don't fall for the temptation of the stranger who uses the world as a lure." If you follow culture, culture will lead you out of a right relationship with Jesus. What does this look like for us? There are several things the Scriptures call a trap. Lust is a trap. The adulterous woman is a trap. Debt is a trap. Proverbs says alcohol is a trap, a snare. Money… We spent a couple of weeks talking about generosity. I'll use that just as a metaphor. We're not talking about money this morning, but it's a trap.

The Scripture says in 1 Timothy 6:9, "Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction." God loves us so much he's like, "Hey, because you're my sheep, let me tell you what are traps." The appeal for money is the desire for the abundant life Christ offers. I know none of you love money. I know none of you want to be rich. You're all the loopholes.

I'm here to tell you there are no loopholes. There are zero loopholes. No loopholes. None. You cannot love money. It's a trap. It will lead you out of a right relationship with Jesus. It's a trap. You're going to be the one who pursues the American dream and Christ. No, you're not. None of you set your resolutions for 2017 and thought, "You know what? Here's what I want to finish the year. I would love to be an incredibly mediocre Christian. I'd like to be, if I could, lukewarm at best." None of you.

You're probably like, "I want to be on fire for the Lord. Man, I just want to read the Word more and get more out of it. I want longer prayer times. This community thing… I'm going to start to like it in 2017. It's going to be great." None of you said, "I want to be lukewarm." No one does. What you do is you want Jesus. You want to be on fire for the Lord, and you just love some other things. You put them together, and it turns into lukewarm Christianity.

That's what happens. That's how we get there. Our heart is divided. We cannot love both God and money. Money, again, is just a metaphor in this message of something that dilutes our love for Christ and lures us away. Materialism is a lure. Approval of man is a lure. The comparison game is a lure. The adulterous woman is a lure. Porn is a lure. Significance in your children is a lure. Debt is a lure. Idolatry of work is a lure. The illusion of control which leads to crazy anxiety is a lure. There's a long list.

We're so lost in the Enemy's plan we don't even realize he's sneaking us out of the sheep pen, dangling dollar bills and trophies and love of people, and we find ourselves in a lukewarm relationship with the Shepherd. Something I think about a lot… What's the testimony of my children? They're going to tell a story one day, I hope. They're going to be in a church, and the church is going to ask them, "Hey, tell us your story. Do you love Jesus?"

"Oh, I love Jesus." I hope they say that. "I love Jesus. I love his Word. I love walking in relationship with him."

"So what's your story? Did you grow up in church?"

"Yeah, we went to church."

"Did your dad love Jesus? Did your mom love Jesus?"

"Yeah. I mean, he loved the Cowboys. He loved his work. He loved his iPhone. Yeah, he loved Jesus, I think."

"Did your mom trust Jesus?"

"Did she trust him? I mean, she knew him. Did she trust him? I mean, she had a lot of anxiety, a lot of worry. Did she trust him? What do you mean by trust him?"

What's the story they're going to tell? What's their testimony? They're all going to have a testimony. All of our children will have a testimony. What's the story they share as they talk about our greatest, deepest affections, our strongest loves? Jesus is after a relationship with us, and what this looks like… He describes here in John 10 that he speaks and we listen. He says and we hear. His voice is familiar to us.

If you're in a place where you're like, "Man, JP, I go into the Word. It just doesn't make a lot of sense to me," will you make sure you're not following anything other than Christ? "JP, I pray. It's just weird. It's awkward. It's hard. I don't really hear God." Make sure your heart is not following other things, because your sin will choke out the voice of the Creator. Your sin will crowd the sound of the Savior.

What he's saying here is that his sheep are not easily duped by the temptation of others, because they know him and his abundant blessing. John 10:10 goes on to say, "Christ has come so that we might have life, and have it to the full." Freedom is life to the fullest. It's a full, abundant life, your Scripture might say.

2.Life to the fullest is found in following Jesus. If I said, "Okay, here's what I want to do. Here's an assignment. Everybody write down what abundant life means," my hunch is if there are a thousand of you here, I'd have a thousand different essay answers. You would think about it for a minute. "Abundant life? I don't know. What does it mean?" What does abundant life look like? First, it looks like not needing or falling for the temptation of the Enemy, not desiring the things he dangles in front of us, but being fully content under the care of a loving master.

I've given a lot of thought to what this abundant life looks like. I have a friend who has walked with Christ faithfully as long as she can remember. She grew up in a Christian home and never strayed for a day. I'm not saying she never strayed momentarily, but never for an entire day. It's a pretty incredible testimony. I've heard a lot of testimonies. Hers is a rare one and a beautiful one.

That's not my testimony, unfortunately, and I said, "Convince me that your childhood was better than mine. I partied. I had all kinds of fun by the worldly standards, made some money, pursued the career, and so forth. Convince me that your childhood was better than mine." She didn't pause for a second. She just started rattling off things. Two of the things she said that I probably took the most note of…

She said, "I laughed more than you and harder than you, and I have less scars." I was like, "Ouch. Like, you could have thought about it for a minute and tried to be a little kinder with your answer." She just said, "I laughed harder than you, I laughed more than you, and I have less scars than you have." I know her, and she's right. That's the truth. She has experienced the abundant life. Christ offers us this abundant life.

I always thought that was something Christians had to say, but nobody really knew what it meant, and we lived under the guise of this confusion of, "What is the abundant life? Maybe it's just eternal life. Maybe he's just talking about heaven, and we'll just slave it out down here. Who knows what it means?" Until I actually experienced it myself. I came into Watermark 15 years ago. This story that life is found in full submission to the Master changed my life, because I wanted to be free. The metaphor was different that morning, but it was really the same lesson.

I came in, I wanted to be free, and this line in the message was, "You are not fully free until you're fully submissive to your Master." I realized I always said I believed in God. I never really did what he said. I never consulted him. As I came into that church, some people came around me and began to care for me, love me. I began to experience community, and one day these guys invited me to a lake house for the weekend.

Now I had partied at the lake before, and I was kind of intrigued. "I wonder how these Christians party at the lake. What is this even going to look like?" So I drove there mostly out of curiosity. I get there, and there were no girls there, no women there. There were married men there. We hung out. I can't really explain it to you. Every time I try to tell someone, my description falls short. It's almost something you had to experience.

We laughed until we cried, we ate, we played games, and we talked about things of meaning. It wasn't like the tailgate drunk conversation. "I love you, man." "I love you too. We're going to change the world one day." They were like, "Hey, we're going to change the world," and I was like, "I kind of think you can. How are we going to do that? I'm listening. What does that look like?" I got the sense like, "You guys are serious about this whole 'change the world' thing. What are we going to do?"

We just talked about things of meaning. Nothing was off the table, and there was no shame. It was just this open conversation. There were no secrets, and everyone was known. I can't make it sound as attractive as it was, but I can tell you this. I went to bed that night, and I couldn't sleep. My heart was racing. I did not sleep one single second that night. That had never happened to me before.

I'd never laid in bed an entire night without sleeping, and this night I did not sleep a wink. It wasn't a bad thing. It was because I was so excited for whatever I had just experienced. I got in the car. I called my closest friend at the time. He was in bed still. He woke up with a hangover and said, "What are you doing? What's up?" I said, "Dude, I just had the most amazing night of my life." He said, "Yeah?"

I go, "Dude, these Christians know how to party." He said, "Oh yeah? Were there kegs? What was there?" I was like, "No, no. None of that. There's no fear this morning. There's no regret. There's no shame this morning. It was just an amazing time. It was just abundant living. It was just full life. I want more of it, and you need it."

A lot of things seek to pull us out of this abundant life. I'll go to another metaphor. We said love of money earlier. Approval of man is another one. Galatians 1:10 says, "Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ."

Your Scripture may say a bondservant of Jesus. I read a commentary on this word bondservant. What does that mean? I love the description. It's so applicable to today. It is a slave who has been set free but chooses not to leave because his master has so well cared for them. Slavery then was different. It was not a racial slavery in biblical times. It was an employee/employer working. Not always good, though. Sometimes abusive.

This word here… One commentary says it's the type of servant whose term has come up. "Hey, you can be free," and they say, "There's nowhere else I want to go. I'll just keep working here. I'll keep serving you. You've cared well for me." That's us. God through Paul says, "I want you to be a bondservant of Jesus. Not of man but of Jesus."

Can you imagine a life free from worry, free from needing approval of others, free from the love of money, free from discontentment, free from shame of any kind? If you don't have that life this morning, examine closely what you are following. You may have to come to the honest conclusion, "I'm following Jesus and something else. The truth is I'm following Christ and something else or a lot of other things." He says in verse 11:

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep."

True freedom starts with a right understanding of forgiveness, that forgiveness costs something, but it wasn't you; it was Christ who paid the cost.

3.Forgiveness is found in following Jesus. When we follow the Shepherd, we receive a forgiveness that goes far and beyond what we think that word actually means. What it shows is that Jesus is committed to forgiving you. It's a commitment he signed in blood. It's a commitment he purchased with his own life. He put his life on the line for his commitment, his obligation, even, to forgive you.

He uses this metaphor. He says there are these minimum-wage shepherds. They're like shepherd helpers, and they don't care for the sheep. Shepherding is a tough gig. People die. Sometimes the wolf wins. Sometimes the cougar wins. It's not a job; it's a lifestyle caring for these sheep. There are these shepherd hands, and they're getting paid some small amount of money, and when the cougar comes, they're out, because they're like, "Dang, these aren't my sheep." But not for the one who paid for the sheep with his life. He's not going anywhere.

You have to remember this when you begin to question God's love for you. Romans 8 tells us nothing is going to separate us from the love of God. You say, "Well, yeah, but what if I separate myself from the love of God, JP? What if I wander out of right relationship with him? What if I chase this lure you talked about, and I know I've kind of wandered into a pit?" Oh yeah, a pit, huh? Remember Luke 15? Do you remember what he does when a sheep wanders off? He leaves the 99 and goes and finds him.

He lowers himself down in that pit, puts that sheep over his shoulders, climbs out of that pit, and carries the sheep back. You're not going to outrun the Savior. Do you think you're going to outrun his grace? Like, he died for you, and then he said, "No, he looked at porn again. I'm done. I know I died for him, but I'm done now." He died for you, and you think he's going to be like, "Oh, she's anxious again. It's too far. I'm done. I'm just going to let her stay over there." No. He's like, "She's anxious again. I'm moving toward her."

Over the Christmas break we had the opportunity to go to California. I was there with the kids and spent a day in Disneyland. I had never been. I got to take them. As we're walking through Disneyland waiting in a line, I turn around. I'm kind of giving account for my sheep, if you will, and one of them is missing. It's my middle child, my 7-year-old. She's the little bit more dramatic one, so I'm thinking, "Oh no. This is not going to be good for anybody. Not for me, not for her, and not for anyone around her." So we set out looking for her.

Now here's what we didn't do. I didn't say, "All right, Finley is missing. Let's go ahead and ride this ride, and then we'll find her." I didn't say, "Hey, Finley is missing. Let's go ahead and get another hot dog. I'm kind of hungry. Before we leave we'll find her. There are fences and stuff. We'll find her." No. I said, "Finley is missing. Let's go." I began to look for her, and when I found her, I didn't say, "Hey, come here. You need a spanking." I didn't scold her.

I just said, "Hey, baby girl, listen. When we get separated, you stay right where you are, because I will find you. Don't go deeper into the crowd. Just stay put. Stop. Raise your hand. Say, 'I need help.' I'm coming to you, and I'm going to get you. If someone has taken you, I'm going to go Liam Neeson on them. I'm going to find you. No one is going to get you away from me. Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you."

Christ has said this in a way that I haven't as a corrupt dad, as a fallen, sinful dad. He said, "Let me prove it to you with my life. I lay down my life for the sheep." Are you questioning God's love for you this morning? What does he have to do to prove it to you? What else do you want from him to prove to you that he's crazy about you?

Jesus is the only one who can handle your sin, and he does it for the joy set before him. It's his job description. He's a savior. On his business card it says, "I die for the sins of others so they don't have to. That's what I do. I die for their sins. Die it all. You can live forever." In summary, following anything other than Jesus steals freedom, life to the fullest is only found in Jesus, and forgiveness is only found in Jesus.

We're now at a fork in the road. What are we going to do? Is it just another message, just another sermon, just another "Oorah! Let's go all in with Jesus"? Or are you going to leave this room and make some significant changes? Change the objects of your affection. Change the things you're following.

First identify what they are. Others can help you with that. You need one honest person. They'll help you with that. "What do I love?" Your children might help you with that. "What does Daddy love? What does Mommy love? What does Mommy trust? What does Daddy trust?" Christ came to set us free.

There's a story told about a well-known preacher. His name is Charles Spurgeon. He was walking the streets of London one afternoon before Easter, and he saw a boy carrying a bird cage, just kind of swinging a bird cage. Inside the cage were three field birds, three field sparrows. Mr. Spurgeon approached him and said, "Son, what are you going to do with those birds?" and the boy kind of smiled with this sinister grin and responded to him almost in a plea to entertain him.

He said, "I'm going to have some fun with these birds, sir. I'm going to take them home and tie them up and see if they can fly, and then I'm going to pull out their feathers. Have you ever seen a bird without feathers? I haven't either. I'm curious. I'm going to see how long they can go without food, these birds. I'm going to have some fun with them." He said, "What then?"

"Then, sir, I have a cat, and I thought I'd feed these birds to my cat and be entertained by that." He said, "How much for the birds?" This confused the boy. "How much for the birds? Sir, these are field birds. I got them right there in that tree. I can get as many as you want. These are mine. I'll catch you some."

"No, no, no. How much for those birds?"

"These birds are worthless, sir. They have no value."

"How much for the birds?"

Almost thinking it was a joke, he responded, "Ten pounds." Today that would be about $500. He said, "Done. I'll take them."

You can imagine how the Enemy must think about us. "These humans… I'm going to have some fun with these humans. I'm the Prince of this world, man. I'm going to take them and bring them under my power. I'm going to make them chase money, these little pieces of paper. I'm going to make them give their lives for it, thinking that they're providing for their family at the very neglect of their family. I'm going to have some fun with these humans.

I'm going to have them chase temporary pleasure, thinking that there's life there, that they would experience an erotic joy for a moment, leaving them completely empty and shameful. I'm going to have some fun with these humans. Manic highs and then manic lows. Watch them soar and then watch them crash. I'm going to have some fun with these humans.

I'm going to allow them to see their children as a burden or get so wrapped up in their lives that they worship them, that they vicariously live through them, that their own emotions will be tied to the success and the failures of their offspring. I'm going to have some fun with these humans."

"How much for them?"

"You don't want these humans. They're prideful, materialistic, self-loathing, vain, conceited. They stare at themselves in the mirror. They worship themselves. You don't want these humans. They're perverted. Have you seen what they've done by themselves? They're sick. You don't want these humans. They'll turn on you. They won't worship you; they'll worship their job. They won't worship you; they'll worship their children. You don't want these humans."

"How much for them?"

"Your life."

"Done. Finished. I'll take them. They're mine. I'll be their shepherd."

Christ says his sheep come and go and find pasture. He calls you out of the cage and into an abundant life, and if you haven't found that life this morning, check your cage. Let me pray for us.

Lord, some of us are under the yoke of slavery of busyness. We have filled our lives with chaos, and we are completely distracted from you, a loving shepherd. So, God, would you help us, as we worship and sing this song to you, to identify that in our lives which is distracting us from you? Each of us individually, a lot of souls in the room, a lot of hearts and minds in the room, all of us with different distractions.

Some may have overlap. Some we might have in common with others, but unique lives represented this morning, God. So as we sing, would your Holy Spirit bring to heart and mind that which is our distraction so that we might come fully under your power, submitting fully to your will, surrendering completely and finding victory in you and you alone. In the name of Jesus, amen.