More Than a Sign
If we really want to hear Jesus' voice, we need to spend more time with the shepherd.
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
I think…even from the beginnings of our childhood….we look for signs…from heaven.
Trying to figure out what to do…or if we’re right.
I didn’t become a Christian until 12 years ago, when I was 18 years old.
But even well before then, I still craved a sign from God once in a while.
For instance, I had a Magic 8 ball growing up…
Anyone remember those??
You shake the thing and it gives you an answer like, “It is decidedly so.” Or “My sources say no.”
And sure, it was mostly for fun.
But I think most people, every now and again, would ask it something serious.
“Now God, I’m going to shake this…and tell me if I’m going to be the starting point guard next year!”
“Don’t count on it!??!”
Let’s try this again!
I remember when I was 16, and got my first job as a dishwasher.
Every day when I went on break, I would always read the newspaper.
Usually the comics. (sophisticated…I know J) And next to the comics, were the horoscopes.
Now, usually I just laughed at them, because it’s probably just some 40-year-old guy in his mom’s basement going, “I bet this will get those Gemini’s going!”
But I still remember they always had a really long one if it was your birthday, and one day, it happened to be my birthday, and there I was going, “Well, maybe I’ll just see what it says.”
We crave so desperately for God to speak to us, to give us a sign, that sometimes, we even do silly things to seek out His will.
At the beginning, when we first start out trying to hear from God in our lives…it starts pretty simple.
We just say, “C’Mon God, give me a sign!” I need some help here. I need a sign!
It reminds me of this classic Bruce Almighty Clip…
Play BRUCE ALMIGHTY CLIP
And that’s okay. Often that is just how it starts.
Maybe you’re even here this morning because you saw a sign
And God speaks through signs sometimes in the Bible.
This is the same God who speaks through dreams, a burning bush, and even a donkey!
But as we grow in God…and want to continue to hear from Him, He tells us that it’s not really about just getting a sign
(Mark 8:11-12) – NIV
11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.”
See, the Pharisees, the legalistic religious leaders at the time, were trying to test Jesus.
Even though Jesus had already been doing a bunch of miracles, they demanded he do “another sign” to prove to them, on their terms, that He was God.
But Jesus says, no sign will be given.
Because what we learn in the Bible is that God doesn’t want us to just pop in here and there, and say, “Um, sign please?!? Send one down! A clear yes or no, would be great!”
Because He doesn’t want to be just a “cosmic vending machine” for you.
He wants a RELATIONSHIP with you
He wants to be your SHEPHERD
Check this out…
JESUS IS THE SHEPHERD
I want to show you a great passage in the Bible today.
If you want to follow along, there is a Bible under every chair, page ____
Of you can follow along on your SmartPhone, YouVersion, Live, 55449.
(John 10:1-2) – NIV
“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. 2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.
Jesus starts by telling his audience, that the real shepherd doesn’t sneak into the sheep pen, but walks right in through the Gate.
We’ll see in a moment that he has to be let in by God, the gatekeeper.
So, with these verses, Jesus begins a teaching where He is the shepherd, and we are the sheep.
A metaphor that would have been really familiar to his original audience in Israel…where many where shepherds.
But right away…it’s important to note that in this metaphor Jesus IS the shepherd. Which is a powerful image because:
The shepherd is the one, as Psalm 23 famously says, helps us to green pastures, leads us beside quiet waters, guides on the right path, even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we fear no evil, because He is with us.
And this is important…because often when people thinking of hearing from God…getting a sign…this is not the imagery they’re thinking of.
So, say for instance, you just need some direction in your life:
Should you take this new job? Where should you even find a job? Should you go back to school? Have another kid?
Often, it’s like we treat God, like this enormous but distant being in the sky.
As if He hears a prayer request and responds: (monotone) “Oh, Angel Gabriel, it looks like Jimmy wants to know if he should pursue a relationship with Susie. Please fax him down a sign”
But the Bible paints a different picture. Of this shepherd, who is close with his sheep…
Let’s read on
THE SHEEP HEAR HIS VOICE
(John 10:3) – NIV
The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.
And here we get this amazing picture, that Jesus knows his sheep. He calls them by name. And they hear AND listen to his voice.
It appears that since they’ve been around the shepherd a lot, that they can now actually distinguish his voice!
But that’s not always the avenue that we approach hearing from God.
We tend to just kind of pop in and here and there and ask for a sign. A yes or not. But that’s not the best path.
For instance, let me put it this way: Let’s say you never learned how to swim.
You just never got around to it. Your parents never took you to swimming lessons when you were a kid, or whatever.
And as you got older, into your teens, twenties and onwards, you start thinking to yourself, I should really learn how to swim.
Then you have kids…and you think…I should learn how to swim, I could get in the pool with them…I should learn how to swim
But you just never get around to it.
I mean, it feels too embarrassing at your age to go get “swimming lessons,” so you don’t.
But then, one summer, on vacation, you’re out on a lake, on a boat, by yourself (fishing, or tanning, depending on whether you’re a man or a woman), and you don’t have a life jacket on because, well, you’re an adult and you’re too cool for that anyway.
When all of a sudden, you thought you heard something under the boat, you lean over, but you lean over to far, and you fall off, into the middle of the lake, all by yourself.
And the first thing that crosses your mind is what? I guarantee you it’s, I should have taken swimming lessons.
And the reality is…we’re going to have “falling in the lake” moments in our life.
Where we just really need help. We need DIRECTION. We NEED God.
And if you’re not in the habit of hearing from Him, if you haven’t been hanging around the shepherd very much, if you’re just popping in out of nowhere and asking for a sign……..
It’s like needing to learn how to SWIM after you’ve fallen out of the boat, except you never took swimming lessons.
See what God wants from you is to draw near to Him, so you can learn how to listen. How to hear.
(James 4:8) – NIV
Come near to God and he will come near to you.
So, we want to grow in our daily relationship with God…we want to get closer to Him….so in those moments in life when we absolutely need to hear from God, we’ll know HOW.
Like a good sheep, we’ll have spent enough time with the shepherd that we could distinguish his voice amongst all the others!
But we don’t just get close to God because we might need to hear from Him in an emergency sometime.
Just like, when I was a kid, I didn’t learn how to swim just because I might need it in an emergency sometime.
When I was a kid, I took 4 different levels of Swimming Lessons, and I did it for 2 reasons.
ONE: Because I thought swimming would be fun!
And TWO: I had to take 4 because my sister took 3 J
And God wants you to draw near to Him, because He wants you to live in the enjoyment of hearing from Him….every day.
Of being able to be close to Him, that you could follow His voice at ANY TIME!
And that’s what his sheep can do.
SHEEP CAN FOLLOW HIM
(John 10:4-6) – NIV
4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.” 6 Jesus used this figure of speech, but the Pharisees did not understand what he was telling them.
So we see now that not only can the sheep hear the shepherds voice and recognize it, they can follow Him.
In fact, they know His voice SO well, that if some imposter comes in and saying, “Here sheepy sheepy!”
There’ll just go, “Psh…you’re not the shepherd!”
Again, this imagery is such a contrast to popping in and saying, “God…I need a sign, if you want us to move and take that new job in New Mexico, have the next commercial I see be about be about beer!”
Which during an NFL game, that’s a pretty safe prayer.
But no, Jesus is giving us this picture of sheep that know their shepherd so well, that their relationship is so much MORE than asking for a sign
“God is giving them a “sign,” but only in so much as He is speaking to them, and they know His voice so well, they can follow
This is what God wants for you.
Not to keep seeking signs!
But to seek HIM! To grow in Him. To start talking to Him more. Maybe start reading the Bible even. Start in the book of Matthew. See what it’s about.
Maybe you even commit to praying for 3-5 minutes before you leave for work each day this wee.
Because the more you grow in Him, I guarantee you, the easier it will be to hear his voice.
If you really want to hear from God in your life, the BEST THING you can do is spend more time with Him.
Jesus gives this powerful illustration about sheep knowing the shepherd’s voice, which is slightly lost in translation here in suburban Minnesota…
But it’s something that still happens today all the time.
In fact, about 25 years ago, a great modern day example of this happened
In the late 1980’s, the Israeli army decided to punish the city of Bethlehem for not paying its taxes (maybe they thought since they gave the world the Baby Jesus they were tax exempt for life), so the officer in command rounded up all of the village animals and placed them in a barbed-wire pen.
Later in the week he was approached by a woman who begged him to release her flock, arguing that since her husband was dead, the animals were her only source of livelihood.
He pointed to the pen containing hundreds of animals and told her nice try, but that’s impossible, she’ll just steal somebody else’s sheep.
She asked him, “If I had an easy way to separate out my own sheep, could I take them?” And he said yes.
Then her son, who had been standing next to her, produced a small reed flute. He played a simple tune again and again – and soon enough sheep heads began popping up across the pen.
The young boy continued his music and walked home, followed by his flock of twenty-five sheep.
And if we are continually close with Jesus…you will be able to hear His voice amongst the other voices of this world….just like those sheep!
Amidst the noise of the crowd, your own voice, your own busy life….You won’t have to, from the chaos of the flock, demand a sign.
He will already be speaking to you, and you will recognize His voice.
It all seems kind of crazy though, doesn’t it?
(sarcastic) “Oh yeah, David, just keep pressing into God, and all of a sudden I’ll hear Him speaking more… sure…ok”
But let me pitch this to you a different way…because I think this makes sense in our normal relationships…
For instance, I’ve known my wife Lindsey now for 14 years.
We started dating back in high school, so it’s been a while. J
And at the beginning, like any relationship, communication was difficult.
I would say something, it comes out wrong, she doesn’t get my sarcasm yet, she misunderstood me on AOL instant messenger (trying to date this), I’m constantly saying things like, “No…when I meant your outfit didn’t look good, I meant…” J
Communication is ALWAYS HARDER at first.
But now…as the years have passed…it’s easier.
I can say, “What do you want for a snack?”
And she can just smile, and I know…it’s popcorn.
It’s easier to tell even difficult nuances of communication now…like tone.
I could say to her, as I often jokingly do, “Who’s your best friend?”
And she’ll sarcastically say, “My mom!”
And now…I know she’s joking. It’s me!
But at first…I might have said, “Wait, what? You like your mom more than me!?!”
And communication, if stewarded well, can really improve over time.
I sometimes think…the people who’ve been married for over 50 years don’t even need to speak in words anymore.
The husband can just sit in his chair and nod, and his wife of 50 years knows that that particular nod means, “Thanks for doing the dishes again and that hotdish was spectacular.”
And it’s not THAT different with God.
The more you get to KNOW him. The more you draw near to Him. The more time you spend with Him…The easier it will be to recognize His voice and know what He wants.
And yes, maybe it starts with just saying, “I need a sign!” But God can take you to a place where, like a faithful sheep, you can pick out his voice from amongst the crowd and follow Him to amazing places.
And God, because He loves you so much, wants to speak to you.
And He can speak to you in a myriad of different ways.
In fact, over the next three weeks, we’re going to break down 3 of the most common ways that God speaks to people.
And then, each week, we’re going to give you really practical advice, things you can try, to better hear from God in your life…in each of those areas.
So keep coming back. Even if this is a brand new thing for you.
And if you do, I believe a month from now, you’ll be hearing from God significantly more than you were even yesterday.
But maybe you’re sitting here today thinking, “That all sounds cool, but I don’t know if I’ve ever heard God in my life.”
Maybe you’re thinking, “I maybe believe He exists, but it’s not like I have any sort of relationship with Him.”
Well the thing is…He wants…more than anything to have a relationship with you
In fact the chapter we read today speaks of just how much
Look at verse 11
(John 10:11) – NIV
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
In fact, two more times in the same chapter, Jesus says that he will lay down his life for his sheep.
And that is what he did.
He died…for you.
And I think most people know that about Christianity. It’s Jesus…the cross…and He died on it.
But did you know that He died for YOU?
And why? Why did he have to die?
Well, for one, because we fall way short.
None of us are perfect. We sin against God. We screw up. We mess up.
There isn’t a person in this room, based on our lives, that has earned the right to just sit in the presence of an almighty God for eternity.
Not even close.
In actuality, what we deserve is justice. Punishment.
Because we’ve sinned against and mostly ignored this God who created us and gave us life.
And God is a just God…he has to be. It would be crazy if He wasn’t!
But…here’s where it gets interesting.
Yes, He must be just…But he loves YOU…yes YOU…so much…that He was just and merciful at the same time!
HE sent His son Jesus…to take your punishment…and die in your place.
How amazing is that?!?
And the Bible tells us that whoever believes in Him, whoever believes that Jesus died for them, will be completely forgiven, and given eternal life in heaven.
In fact, Jesus even says this in our passage in John 10 today
(John 10:9-10) – NIV
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
It’s amazing! Jesus tells us that if we put our trust in Him. As our Savior (the one who died for us), we will be saved (completely forgiven)
And not only that, but that is how we will experience true Life. Finally live. Have life to the full!
And maybe you’ve been waiting your whole life for this moment.
You know He’s out there. You want to hear Him. But maybe you just never knew He loved you this much.
That he says. He wants to be your shepherd. To guide you to life. To protect you, to watch out for you, to lead you.
And to lay down his life for you.
All you need to do is believe and follow.
The Bible says that today if you hear his voice…don’t harden your heart.
He’s knocking at the door…of your heart…right now.
Let Him in.
It’s literally this simple:
(Romans 10:9) – NIV
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
If you’re ready to do that this morning.To believe in Jesus & give your life to Him
You hear Him calling in your heart…then let’s do this.
Let’s all bow our heads and close our eyes…as I want this to be a special moment between you and God.
If you want to follow Jesus today, and believe that He died on the cross for you…I want to give you the opportunity to tell Him that you believe.
And for some of you in this room. Now is the TIME. Right now. Let’s make it official TODAY.
If you want to believe in what Jesus did for you and commit your life to him (to make Him your leader & forgiver) to be completely forgiven! If that’s you…and you’ve never done this before…I want you to raise your hand right where you are. Right now.
As a way for you to make it official. No one’s looking
I’ll give you a moment.
If you raised your hand, would you pray this prayer with me…
It’s not a magic prayer…but just a prayer to tell God where you’re at…and the Bible says, we 1) believe in our hearts and 2) confess with our mouths.
So I want you to say it out loud with me. Repeat after me
IN fact, there are a lot of other believers already in the room, and this is what we believe.
So, let’s all say it together with these new believers.
EVERYONE repeat after me with these new believers.
I confess to you, that I have sinned against you.
But God, I believe, that you sent your Son Jesus, to take my place
And God, I thank you, for forgiving my sins.
And now I commit, to following you, with my life.
AMEN!! Let’s just clap and praise God.
Let me thank Him and PRAY.
If you gave your life to Christ today, I need you to do just 1 thing for me
At the end of the service, I need you to head to the back of the room, and we’re going to give you a gift to help you get started in your relationship with Christ. So awesome! Let me just pray & thank God!
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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