Life and Freedom
At Gateway Church in Austin we looked at experiencing Life and Freedom at Gateway Church.
Jesus promised that if we obey His teachings we will experience life-giving freedom. The modern world also promises life and freedom, and yet so many people who chase after what the world promises are left empty and scarred. What does it look like to truly experience the life and freedom promised by Jesus? What part can we play in helping others experience the best Jesus has to offer?
Discussion questions for your life group or family dinner are here.
Audio of the Message I Shared at Gateway South:
Notes from the Message by John Burke:
In 1961 President Kennedy stood up and declared that American’s should make it our goal to put a Man on the Moon by the end of the decade. An audacious, ridiculous, impossible goal some would say, considering we didn’t even know how to put a man into orbit and get him safely home—so a Man on the Moon—preposterous. And yet, that shared vision—that Audacious goal called forth many of America’s smartest engineers, scientists, pilots, leaders to serve and sacrifice to see this Vision become reality. In 1969, Neil Armstrong took that “one small step for man, one giant Leap for mankind” as he became the first man to walk on the moon. Do you know that Neil later said he thought there was a 50-50 chance they’d be able to land on the moon—people willing to risk their lives for this Vision.
When people are united by a common Vision—it’s powerful. MLK said, “I have a Dream” and people caught that vision and it changed our country. And if you talk to people who have been a part of an impossible mission to see some Audacious Vision accomplished—it’s the most rewarding thing they’ve known. Whether a Navy Seal team risking lives together or a Dell Work team serving and sacrificing for some huge goal—a United Vision brings out humanity’s best.
But all those Human Visions, as great as they are, are temporal—they’re temporary. God has a Vision that’s Eternal—it will last. Those who give themselves to God’s Vision are working toward something that will be celebrated forever—not just in a ticker-tape-parade—but God promises to personally reward each person for the part they played. Have you ever thought about God’s Vision for you—for us—for Gateway Church and for all His people who chose to follow Him? It’s the greatest cause of Human History—and God’s inviting you to be a part of making History as you play your part in His Great Dream.
God has a Dream. Do you know what it is? God’s Dream is to bring Life and Freedom to every willing human. A life and a freedom that every person longs for, though they may not know where to find it.
Jesus said, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. John 10:10 A Life overflowing with love, joy, peace, kindness—a Life that gives Life to others.
And Freedom—Jesus said, if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36
And the Scriptures tell us that “It was for freedom that Christ set you free.” Galatians 5:1
There are lots of ways that promise freedom, yet lead to slavery—addiction, anxiety, adultery, hurt and pain—but Jesus came and died to lead us into a kind of Freedom where you’re free from guilt and shame, free to be yourself fully, free of addictive, controlling, codependent, manipulative behavior, free to love because you feel so loved.
That LIFE AND FREEDOM is what EVERY human longs for—and God’s Audacious Vision is to bring that Life and Freedom to you and through you to all people you touch.
Does that seem overwhelming? Impossible? I get that—but remember: You’re Not Alone! God will do this, and He will do it through all of us working together as His church.
John and Kathy Burke moved from Chicago to Austin to start a community for those who were disconnected or even unwelcome in most churches. John says: “I’d hear the cries of a generation lost, hurting, alone, broken by the evils of life—and I felt God’s heart for them—I felt how he longed for His church to go demonstrate His compassion to them just like Jesus did. God gave me His heart of compassion for people I didn’t even know yet”.
God has touched the lives of people from every background, religious upbringing – Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, New Age, and even Christians – from homeless people and people on the cover of Forbes magazine needing his Life and Freedom.
God saw all these people—and you and me—and had compassion. It says of Jesus: When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Matthew 9:36
God’s heart is for those who are struggling, hurting, isolated, broken, addicted and he has compassion on us. And He still sees those who are hurting all around us – our neighbors, coworkers, friends, family, friends and the people we encounter.
And the question is—Do you care like God cares? Because God wants to bring more Life and Freedom to you, and then through you to others. Will you join Him in this vision? To bring Life and Freedom to every group of people we touch? You’re not alone, we’re doing it together—trying to pattern what we do after Jesus’ ministry. That’s why we say, Come as You Are….
We say “come as you are” because that’s where God starts with all of us—as is. God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
That’s God’s grace—he doesn’t hold our wrongs against us, he pays for them, so we don’t have to—so we will follow Him and learn from him. The Inspire Service each Sunday is patterned after what Jesus did. Jesus knew the tax collectors and prostitutes and sinners of his day felt condemned by the Jewish Pharisees—they weren’t about to go to the synagogue to learn—so Jesus set up these open air, “come as you are” venues to teach everyone.
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them. Matthew 5:1-2.
Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. 2 This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them! Luke 15:1-2.
So Jesus teaches everyone together—the tax collectors and prostitutes, the Pharisees, and the disciples – those following Him. Jesus taught them all together.
How could he teach people across such a spiritual spectrum? Well, because we all have one thing in common—we don’t trust God. Not fully. So Jesus taught people about the heart and character of a Father who loved them, taught his will and ways, and challenged people to trust God—take a first step of trust or take a next step of trust. And that’s what we’re doing as well. We teach the Bible—these are not our brilliant ideas, we’re teaching you what the scriptures say. We welcome you to tell us if we’re getting off from what the Bible teaches.
So no matter where you are in your spiritual Journey—you can learn and be inspired to trust God more here on Sunday. We’re trying to help us all know God and his will, trust him more and more, and be Inspired to take next steps—where deeper life change and growth and impact happens.
But we’re also trying to teach in a way that your neighbor, coworker, or friend first exploring faith can relate to. Jesus taught in parables and stories mostly—notice he never once exposited Isaiah or taught through Daniel (that happened in his small group). He taught in the cultural forms of his day. This is what Paul did when he went to Athens with the message of Jesus—he started with their idol worship and built a bridge from their culture to the gospel, even quoting their poets and prophets. That’s what we’re doing using songs, movies, art, from culture—we’re starting with the places people live and the longings and struggles common to us all, and then building a bridge to help us see how life with Christ connects to real life. Gateway is not just for those exploring faith—we’re going deeper than most churches ever go, and that starts with Sunday, but it doesn’t stop there.
But to live in God’s Life and Freedom, you need to come every week you can – unless your sick or out of town. And Every Christmas and Easter is not regular by the way. We get bombarded by messages urging us to follow the path of lust, envy, drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, ethical fudging, anger and violence, anxiety and worry– you don’t have to try real hard to be encouraged along in this path do you? So attending a service once a week is a bare minimum to get spiritual input in another direction, and that’s not enough.
Imagine working in a dusty windy field every day, coming home covered in dirt and grime, but only taking a shower once a week. You won’t live clean that way. You have to regularly submerse yourself in water. In the same way, we need regular spiritual input and motivation, so commit to prioritizing coming every Sunday as a start. Plus if you’re a parent—our Next Gen ministry has leaders who want to partner with you and resource you to help your kid grow up spiritually strong—we have Lifegroup leaders in kids lives, but it only works if they’re consistent. So make a commitment to a service and time for your kids sake too.
Coming Sundays is just the beginning! Getting to know others and others getting to know you moves you from the crowd into community. It is when we Live Connected that we grow even more.
We say Live Connected—get involved Serving with us in a Serve Network—it’s the best way to meet people, but it’s also the way to follow Jesus.
Jesus said – The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45
When Christians think church is all about where they go to be fed, feel good, be served, but never serve—they’re stuck in spiritual childhood. They may know a lot of Bible trivia, but they aren’t following Jesus until they begin to serve others like Jesus did.
The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit. 2 These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields….” – Luke 10:1-2
He sent them out to serve and do the very work he was doing—healing, feeding, caring, showing compassion.
When you start serving with others who catch God’s Vision, it’s not just good for others and good for the church, it’s good for you. God forms us spiritually as we learn to serve Him by serving others. You’ve been given spiritual gifts and unique abilities and life lessons that God will use to help others—whether kids, teens, homeless, people struggling in all kinds of ways. So serving forms you spiritually.
But it’s also good for you because it’s the easiest way to meet people—to find Spiritual Running Partners—one or two people you trust who can start encouraging each other in this race of faith. And you meet friends to go through life with— Just recently, a couple who serve in Middle school, had twins—but had serious complications—Middle School volunteers visited her in the hospital, brought meals to the family, have been praying for her and the twins. Serving is where you start to Live Connected and the church feels personal.
Jodie, a Bartender and Waitress was invited to Gateway by a couple who ate at her restaurant. She eventually found faith and saw her daughter start growing as well! Jodie started volunteering in Next Gen, made friends and that’s how she met her husband! Half of you are single—get involved serving others—it will definitely help you become a more other-centered person, and you might even meet your spouse. No guarantees (it’s not Dateway, it’s Gateway). But you never know.
But here is a guarantee—you’ll be a part of God’s Vision to bring Life and Freedom together with us. See we’re all doing this together as God’s Team. Kay invited Jodie, she loved the service only because of many volunteers serving with sound and lights, parking and greeting, and her kid loved it too—if her kid had hated Next Gen, she wouldn’t have come back—we’re all working together for God’s Vision in and through us all.
What’s your next step? If you’ve been attending sporadically—get regular—then Live Connected. Take the Starting Gate Tour, start serving with us, and if you’re already serving with us join a Lifegroup.
Lifegroups are groups of 8-12 people meeting in homes throughout the week to get serious about spiritual growth—to put practices and disciplines in place that help you truly grow spiritually into a more Free, loving, life-giving person who looks and acts more and more like a spiritual adult. These groups start off open—you don’t have to know anything, you can still be exploring faith, and many of these groups become like loving family to each other. But Lifegroups also close after a season to really get serious about spiritual growth.
This is exactly what Jesus was doing with his followers. The first year, lots were hanging out, listening to him teach, even serving—and then He called 12 to a season of equipping—to be transformed.
To Peter and Andrew, two fishermen, he said Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19
If you’ll follow me, I’ll equip you and you’ll be people who do so much more than fish or build computers—you’ll bring Life and Freedom to people eternally. But first they had to experience the Life and Freedom of Christ for themselves—so Jesus formed a Lifegroup of 12, and this is where they went deeper spiritually.
That’s where you can grow Deeper at Gateway. Our Lifegroup Spiritual Formation Path will help you actually become a person who loves and trusts God more and more, who loves and relates to people in life giving ways, who is growing in character with joy, peace, self control—the fruit of God’s spirit.
If you go onto GatewayChurch.com – Next Steps – Spiritual Growth Path you’ll see 20 outcomes to help you become a spiritually growing person. Our staff has been going through them this year—it’s rich no matter how long you’ve followed Jesus. And if you start trying to grow, but feel stuck in some area—we have our Restore and Recovery groups to help you—maybe you realize the sexual abuse of childhood is not healed, or you’re grieving a major loss, or you have no boundaries, or there’s an addiction you’re battling, or your marriage is in crisis–take a detour and find community and healing then get in a Life group and be intentional.
To grow in anything takes commitment and intentionality—you won’t grow smarter, stronger, healthier by doing nothing. It’s like the gym—joining the gym won’t get you physically healthy unless you exercise multiple times a week. Same is true spiritually—you won’t grow happier, less anxious, more alive watching TV every night (especially if it’s the News—you’ll grow angrier for sure). What our world needs are not more angry, divisive, partisan people—we need more people full of the Life, love, and Freedom of Christ. If you will commit to a Life group and get serious to a season—12-18 months of intentional spiritual exercises—you will become a more loving, joyful, kind, less anxious, more productive, free, life-giving person. You will be glad—and so will the people you live with. But it doesn’t just happen with no effort. Jesus said “IF…you will commit and follow me, then I will help you become something you’re not.”
The season of Development in a Lifegroup transitions into a season of Deepening faith—marked with Commissioning. We say Change Your world—you can now bring the Life and Freedom you’re experiencing to others. Jesus commissioned His followers saying – now you go do exactly what I was doing with you.
Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples [followers] of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 – it’s called the Great Co-mission. Jesus commissions us to participate with Him in God’s Great Dream for humanity–every Christ follower can help others find faith, baptize them, and help them experience Life and Freedom—and God changes the world life by life by life.
After 12-18 months in a Life Group, people are ready to get Commissioned. They understand more about their Mission—that God has them where they are at work, neighborhood, coaching soccer—to be a Blessing to those people—as you Bless them you can invite them to explore faith with us. They understand their unique gifts and the Ministry they want to serve in so we all work together as One Body, and Spiritual Multiplication—they realize they can reach back and help others grow using these Outcomes they’ve been through, and Money—they understand how God doesn’t force us but invites us to give generously to His Vision because it changes us and changes the world.
Our Life Groups don’t break up when you start leading others, it becomes more like a group of Commissioned Leaders—the curriculum is the Bible, the focus is on building each other up so you can build up others too.
Kay, who invited the Bartender Jodie, was invited to Gateway by a friend who had compassion. Kay was so broken and distraught…her husband David was in an affair and filed for divorce. After 18 years of walls built up in their marriage, David gave up. But God saw David and Kay while I was still in Chicago, God saw Jodie, and He cared—He started Gateway church for them. I met Kay in the movie theater—she started experiencing God’s Grace and healing and community—so much so, that David saw such a change, he became so curious that he came to Gateway. He too experienced Grace and healing and Growth and they got in counseling, God healed their marriage—for years God has used them to heal and save 100s of marriages in Crisis. He went from Lawyer to a Mediator and Reconciler. They became Leaders. And they would have weekly Date Nights at Bartlett’s, where they met Jodie the Bartender—single mom, struggling, sad, alone. And as Commissioned Leaders, they Bless those around them—invited Jodie whose story I told you earlier. She got baptized, started serving, growing, and met her husband. David who is now a licensed Minister through Gateway. Now Jodie and her husband lead others to bring Life and Freedom.
And That’s God’s Vision—Life by Life by Life he changes the world. And He wants you to join in something greater than putting a Man on the Moon—changing the eternal lives of people. Will you join Him in that? What’s your next step? If you’re still exploring Faith—go to Gatewaychurch.com/new-here/exploring-faith, sign up for Alpha and listen to past messages about skeptics most asked questions.
If you’ve never Gotten Connected—take the Starting Gate 15 minute serve tour and start serving.
If you’re serving and your next step is to get serious about spiritual growth—make a commitment to get in a Life Group this year—they start all the time.
And if you’re in a Lifegroup but haven’t been commissioned—talk to your leader.
If you’re commissioned, join us in Leadership Community—and let’s bring Life and Freedom to those we touch, because God cares and so do we.