- Who is one person in your life that you feel you could come alongside as their “someone?”
- Are you being purposeful in finding connection? If not, why?
- What are you FOR? How can you start living life in a way that highlights the things you are passionate about and doesn’t focus so much on the things you are against?
HAPPY BIRTHDAY HOPE CITY! Wow… it’s not every weekend that I get to say that. I love being able to wish our church a Happy Birthday! Here we are 2 years in to Hope City and I can tell you that I am more excited TODAY for what God is doing in our midst than I was when we first got started. It is crazy to look back and see all of the things that God has done through our church.
We have seen our dream team grow from just 42 people to over 100 + people serving here at our church. We have dedicated over 2 dozen children to the Lord, we’ve Baptized people, seen lives rededicated to the Lord and seen people drop their Hurts, Hang ups and Habits for the Life that God offers through His son Jesus. We have served our community through serve days, and we even drilled a well bringing clean water to a community for the first time this past year. I’m so proud of you all, and the way that you care for one another and our community! Keep it up!
One of my favorite things though is seeing people COME to Hope City, get CONNECTED to people here, they find their group their team, or their tribe… I see you… you even sit in the same seats week in and week out… And what I love even more is when people COME, CONNECT, and then CONTRIBUTE to Hope City, when they use the gifts that God has given them to serve other people. We love it when people Find Hope in Jesus and Experience Home here at Hope City! In fact, if you’re new here, that’s our goal for you! We want you to find Hope in Jesus, and to Experience the feeling of being at Home here at Hope City Church.
Everyone loves the feeling of being home, the sense of belonging. This is one of our baseline needs as Human Beings. God wired you to be a relational person. You thrive with people. You might not need a million of them, but you need one or two people to really know you. To care about you.
There were 4 moments in my life I can think back on that were critical times in my life when I felt this need deeply.
As an emotional 11 year old listening to a Michael W. Smith Cassette tape singing along to his song Place in this world… The lyrics were: “I’m Looking for a reason Roaming through the night to find My place in this world, Not a lot to lean on I need Your light to help me find My place in this world.” That’s pretty emo… like it was basically an early version of Green Day’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams… or almost any Avril Lavigne song. Even as an 11 year old, I was wondering, where is my place?
As an 8th grader I’ll never forget the day that my entire lunch table turned their back on me and I was kicked out so Jessie could sit in my seat. Where would I go? Who would I sit with?
When I opened the door to our office at Liquid Church, I was a brand-new pastor on staff, and I knew no one… I remember trying to figure out, where do I fit in here?
Isn’t it crazy that we live in a world where you can have 500 friends, and still feel isolated? You have your digital community, and your Instagram fans and followers… we are more connected than ever and yet more discontent than ever.
We do things for others to notice us… We buy certain clothes, cut our hair, work out at the gym… whatever it takes for others to notice us so we stand out. And then we do what everyone else is doing so we fit in. Well, what is it? Do you want to stand out, or fit in?
What we find in this situation is ageless… it is as true of you and I today as it was of the first man God ever made. We know that, EVERYBODY NEEDS SOMEBODY. God saw, the first man, Adam was alone and He said this is not good. And He put Adam in community with Eve.
The human condition is that we want to be known, and loved… And there are things that we do in order to chase after those feelings of being known and loved that leave us looking for more.
Jesus continues His discussion with the Pharisees in John 10:11-18, which can be found on page 733 in the Bibles around you. Flip there or click over in your YouVersion App… We’re picking up on a conversation from last week where Jesus says, I AM the door of the sheep. I am the one who protects the sheep, and provides for the sheep. But today we are going to see that Jesus makes it way more personal… He reaches out to our deepest needs and reveals something about Himself that should change the way that you and I live our lives by comparing us to sheep. Did you know:
Sheep are mentioned around 200 times, more than any other animal.
Dogs are mentioned 44 times.
Cats —are never mentioned once. I’m just saying… Do with that what you will. 😉
Check this out…
11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns 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. 13 The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
What makes this shepherd so good? Why does Jesus identify himself as the GOOD shepherd? Because there are two types of shepherds… There is the shepherd who sees the sheep as a job… a paycheck. And so when a wolf comes to attack the flock, he’s like… I’m outta here… I don’t get paid enough for this! I mean let’s think about it. What do we know about sheep? Why is it hard to shepherd sheep? Building Slide
- Sheep get lost easily. They wander off.
- Sheep are defenseless creatures. They have no fangs, no claws, no horns. They just bleat at you… BAAAAA ck up…
- Sheep are Stubborn. It’s like sheep only know how to move forward. It doesn’t matter if it’s into a thorn bush, they’re going to go forward head long into whatever trouble and danger they’ve got in front of them.
- Sheep are filthy. They naturally produce a lanolin that prevents their wool from getting wet and so they can never really get clean…
You can kind of see why Jesus is using sheep as an analogy for us, right? I mean that sounds like my life in a nutshell. But what does Jesus say about Himself? He says, “I AM THE GOOD SHEPHERD. And the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep”. Think about the difference here… One guy is watching the sheep and says, WOLF! I’m out of here…. And Jesus says, WOLF? I will lay down my life for MY SHEEP! Jesus was talking about what was going to come… listen to me, Jesus willingly laid down His life for us, His sheep. Jesus is the final sacrifice for our sins…. When Jesus laid down His life it ensured that we would never have to sacrifice an animal again.
See to the Jewish listener in Jesus day they knew all about the sacrificial system. They knew that in order to pay for their sins they would have to sacrifice an animal, usually a sheep(Your Icon Sheep) and that they would be forgiven by God. These were the regulations that were set in place by God in Exodus and Leviticus and had become a normal part of their religious rhythms and routines. When Jesus says that He was going to lay down His life for His people, it would mean that the sacrificial system was no longer needed! In the sacrificial system, it was the sheep laying down it’s life for the shepherd, and yet, here we see Jesus turn it around and say The Good Shepherd becomes the Lamb of God and takes on the sin of His sheep. He would trade places with us. God shows us how enormous His love is for us is. We learn this truth from Jesus I AM statement. (Pt. 1)GIVE EVERYTHING UP FOR WHAT YOU COULD NEVER GIVE UP.
A few months ago, my wife, Tiffany lost her wedding ring, and engagement ring. It was awful. For the first few days, it was sure to turn up somewhere. I thought she must have misplaced it. I kept asking her, “Where did you last see it.” DUH! DUMB QUESTION… Well we turned our house upside down. We went through the trash, piece by piece. We moved couches, flipped them over, shook out everything. And still nothing. We started telling the kids, 40 bucks to whoever finds Mommy’s ring. Still nothing. SO I upped it. 50 Bucks… 75 bucks… WHATEVEVER YOU WANT. Just find this ring. I was willing to give everything up for what I knew that I could never give up. I know it’s just a ring. It could be replaced—Sure. But not that exact one. I scrimped and saved, I worked two jobs in order to buy that ring, so that I could ask her to marry me.
When there is something of value in your life, you must be willing to give everything else up for what you could never give up. Your marriage… Your relationship with your kids… What is that worth to you? EVERYTHING! What would you do to have a healthy marriage or healthy relationships with your kids? ANYTHING!
Jesus says, I am the Good Shepherd… There is nothing that I won’t do in order to save you! He repeats himself again…
14 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. 17 The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” 
There is a relationship between the sheep and the shepherd. It goes far beyond just recognition. Just like in the English language, we can use the word KNOW for simply being aware of something- a head knowledge. I know what my friends face looks like. I know what my kid looks like. But the word that is used here for KNOW has a second meaning… It means to know from experience, which is a heart knowledge.
This is why mom’s you can pick out your child’s cry in a room of crying babies. You know that little play place in the center of the mall… where every child goes to cry? Go there and watch the moms… watch them. They don’t even need to look up when they hear a child crying… because they know it’s not their kid. She KNOWS her kid.
This is how you know how to finish your spouse’s sentences. You KNOW what they are going to say next, because you have a heart knowledge of this person.
Jesus says, I am the good shepherd, and I know my sheep, and my sheep know me. And let me tell you that when Jesus says that He will lay down His life for His sheep, he says that because He KNOWS our deepest need. He knows that we can’t do this on our own. He knows that there is no amount of sheep that could ever pay for the sins of the world, and so He steps out of Heaven, and lays down His life in order to be in relationship with you. Why? Because it isn’t enough to just save you, Jesus also wants to help clean you up. Yeah, Jess loves you just the way you are, but He LOVES YOU SO MUCH that He isn’t going to leave you the way that you are. Listen to me, (pt 2)Relationship Leads to Life Change.
My wife Tiffany knows me better than any other person here. She can tell you simply by looking at me if I’m having a good day, a bad day, or I’m just pretending. My wife knows me almost better than I know myself sometimes. When my stress level gets too high, she tells me you seem a bit tense, a little stressed. Is everything okay? I’M NOT STRESSED. I’m FINE! J And because of the relationship I have with her, and the trust I have in her, I have learned to listen to her when she says things like this. And it’s not just about stress management, but she’ll say things like, You need to get out of your head, and get over yourself. You need to trust God more, are you trusting God enough? My relationship with my wife has led me to Life Change. That’s what Meaningful relationships do… They lead you to life change, and there is no more meaningful relationship than our relationship with Jesus.
Jesus has both the head knowledge and heart knowledge of you. He knows the number of hairs on your head. But He doesn’t only know facts about you; He also knows your heart.
In the book of Luke, Jesus tells a story about a shepherd, who has 100 sheep and one of the sheep gets lost.
15 Now the tax collectors and “sinners” were all gathering around to hear him. 2 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.  Luke 15:1-7
What does this shepherd do? He does the unthinkable… He does the opposite of what makes sense. He abandons the 99 sheep to go search for the 1 that’s missing. He has set his focus on the 1 that is in crisis, the 1 that is missing, the 1 that is frightened and alone. And Jesus tells this story to help illustrate exactly what He was doing here on Earth. Why is he hanging out with Sinners, eating meals with them, welcoming them to be with him… because He knew that what He was for was more important than what He was against. Jesus was For the One, over the 99. In fact, Jesus shows us that we should (pt 3)Be For The One.
Jesus was so focused on the one sheep that He did everything He could to reach and rescue that sheep. To often we approach life with a very different mentality. We will say, well, What’s in it for me? What do I get out of this deal? And a shepherd could easily say, what’s in it for me to go find the one lost sheep. I have the potential to lose 99 more than gain the one.
When you ask What’s in it for me, you miss out on the opportunities around you. We get narrow minded and singularly focused on my kingdom, and my world.
When you ask What’s in it for me, nothing will ever be good enough. No Church will be good enough for you. No Connect Group will be good enough for you, and God will only seem as good as He’s been to you lately. Everything is self centered, and I promise you that you will be let down. Every. Time.
I went to a Bible College studying to be a Youth Pastor that was fairly close to home. And it allowed me to be involved as a youth leader, and intern, and then I was hired as the Junior High Youth Pastor at my Dad’s church. Our Youth Night was on Wednesday night, and so I would make the trek home from school to Church every Wednesday, and I knew that Wednesday’s were also the day that my dad would be studying and writing his message for the weekend, a pressure that I understand all too well now. And here I would roll into the office, knock on the door excited to see my dad. I’d sit in the chairs that sat across from his desk, and I’d put my feet up on his desk and talk. I’d talk with him about life, about school. I talked with him about this girl I started dating, and then I remember walking in one day saying dad I think I’m going to marry her! But let me tell you what I never remember… He never rushed me, He never told me he was too busy. He never said, What’s in it for me? He set aside whatever He was doing and focused on me. He had the responsibility of leading a church and staff and yet focused on me. I’ve never forgotten my Wednesday afternoon visits with my dad. Instead He was Be For the One.
When Jesus says that I am the Good Shepherd He is saying, I am For the One. Every one of my sheep, even the sheep that have wandered off and gotten stuck. And Jesus is inviting us to be For the One.
As we look at this new year here at Hope City Church, we’ve been dreaming and planning for what God may do through our church and in our community. For too long the Church has been known for what it is against rather than what it is for. At Hope City we want to Be Known By What You’re For. We have put a magnet on the chair back in front of you to remind you… Take this home and put it where you’re going to see it. Let it help guide you throughout your day…
Jesus identifies himself as the Good Shepherd because He was FOR the sheep. There was no wondering about that. You knew what He was saying. And in 2019, our aim is to be known by what we’re for. We have said that we are #FORsarasota from the beginning. We exist as an anchor of Hope here in our community. We want to connect people to the Hope that they have in Jesus. And this has directed our approach for the past two years, we aren’t stepping back, or down from that. However, in 2019, we are being challenged to Be For the One. We want to see every person that walks through these doors feel like they matter, that it is For Them. Why do we get here early to set up church? FOR THE ONE. Why do we do Youth Nights and dodgeball tournaments? Because it’s FOR THE ONE. Why do we do connect groups? FOR THE ONE. We will do everything for the one! We want to help every one, take ther next steps in their journey of faith!
And so in 2019 in order to be For the One, we need to increase our care and concern for the one. Here at Hope City we are going to be introducing some very exciting initiatives:
- Monthly Prayer Night- This will take place on the First Wednesday of the month. We know that there is something powerful that happens when we gather together and pray.
- We are going to be launching a Women’s Sisterhood and Men’s Fraternity. These are going to be Bi-Monthly, and they are opportunities for every woman, and every man to be encouraged, and inspired to follow Jesus in your life. We are excited about this because we know that this is an opportunity to help care for you, to help you meaningfully connect with one another and with God.
- We know that there are over 100 people that serve on our Dream Team here at Hope City, and so in 2019, we are moving to 2 services so that we can reach more people, and care for our dream team. Too many people are missing out on a church service every week.
- Lastly, our church has a heart that beats for our community. We will continue to seek out opportunities to serve our community and serve the One That makes up that community. One of those things is Boxes of Hope. We are going to send 200 boxes of Hope to foster families here in our community this year. You’ll hear more about this through out the next few months.
We know that Everybody needs somebody. Who may God be calling you to shepherd? I know that you can’t be somebody to everybody, but we can be someone to somebody. This is what happens when we dream a bigger dream, when we look beyond what is in it for me. This is what happens when we see that God is FOR THE ONE, and we decide that we will BE KNOWN BY WHAT WE’RE FOR. What if in 2019 we were FOR THE ONE. As a church we met people where they were, and loved them for who they were and pointed them to Jesus? The answer to every one of our aching souls is found in the Good Shepherd.
Maybe you hear this and say I want to know Jesus the way that He talks about, I want to know the good shepherd and have him know me. The amazing thing is that is exactly how Jesus feels about you! He wants to know you and be known by you too! In verse 10 of John 10 Jesus says,
“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly”
This abundant life, is found in the Shepherd. Today, if you’ve never placed your faith in Jesus Christ, I would encourage you to make that decision today. To follow Jesus with your life, to spend the remainder of your days learning more about Him, and His plan for your life.
There is nothing magical about these words, but if you are ready to find complete acceptance, live a life of meaning, and trust Jesus, I want to encourage you to pray these words with me right now.
God, I have sinned. I’ve lived life on my own for my own. And I know that I can’t do that anymore. I need you. God thank you for Jesus, Thank you for making it possible for me to be forgiven through Jesus sacrifice. Lord I commit my life to you. In Jesus name, AMEN.
If you have placed your faith in Christ today, I want to celebrate with you! I want to help you take your next steps in your journey of faith. Would you do me a favor and take our New Here Card and write on the back NEXT STEPS. And I will reach out to you this week and help you figure out what those next steps are. I think this is the greatest decision you could make in your life.
Another decision that EVERYONE in this room can make today, and I hope you will is to get connected with one another. Today is connect group Sunday, and what better way to see God do something new in your life than to grow in relationship with God and one another than in a Connect Group. Remember, Relationship leads to Life Change. There is a group for you. Outside in the lobby today you will find all of our groups that you can sign up for. Connect Groups will be launching in 2 weeks, and I can’t encourage you enough to find your group.
Hope City is turning 2 today. I’m proud of our church, and I think that God has some GREAT things in store for our future. Here’s what I know… God will be faithful to His church as we focus on His heart. And I can tell you that His heart is FOR THE ONE.