Back To School – “Know Jesus”

Back To School – “Know Jesus”

Today we’re continuing our Back to School series, where each week we will be covering exactly
what the kids team covers with our children, and each week will represent what we call The 5
Key Concepts of Gateway Kids

We, as teenagers, college students and adults, will journey together to walk as Jesus intended
us to, to return to a child-like innocence and dependance as we endeavor to grow to be like
Jesus, or for some of us who are exploring faith, to better understand the teachings of Jesus.
So, here’s today’s key concept as we read it from the Kids Team here at Gateway:
Know Jesus: We need to learn about who Jesus is and why He came to earth. When we talk
about Jesus and His place in our story (or more accurately, our place in His story) it helps us
believe, helps us understand, helps us take ownership of our own faith, and helps us to live for
One important caveat… knowing Jesus is not a concept to be grasped, but a person to be
experienced. Jesus knows you and wants to be known by you!


This summer. God provided me with a gift that I will treasure for the rest of life. I got to spend 2
weeks on an adventure with my oldest son, Levi (who’s 14 and starting his freshman year)
About half our time was spent road-trippin ’with my friend Mark and his son, Noah. Noah and
Levi have been friends for years. We drove from Austin – Vegas – L.A. & then all the way up the
state of CA, about as high as you can go before you hit the Oregon border.

Our destination was a place called JH Ranch, a remote and isolated place where Levi and I
went on a spiritual adventure with God and with each other… away from the familiar and free
from distraction.

We were led by some incredible guides and coaches that facilitated a journey that stretched and
tested us as men… grew our faith… and grew our relationship with each other.
It was transformational.
One of the exercises we were put through was Levi & I had to complete a little hike through the
woods together. I know that doesn’t sound too challenging but lemme give you a few details…
There were 16 of us led out to the woods… 6 dads and our sons. Our sons were taken from us,
blindfolded, separated from each other, and given instructions not to talk and just to wait for
further instructions.
Meanwhile the dads were given our instructions. “Go find your son (he’ll be blindfolded and
awaiting further instruction) and when you get to him, say only these four things;
➢ I will not leave you
➢ You can always trust me
➢ You can ask me questions
➢ Listen only to my voice
Then you will journey with your son on a “trust walk” through various terrains of hills, rock, trees
and other obstacles. That journey will have 3 stages.

  1. Hands on your son’s shoulders while verbally communicating instructions
  2. You will take your hands off and guide them using only words
  3. You can no longer use words unless your son asks you a question

    The journey with Levi through the 3 stages was something I’ll never forget.
    Stage 1 was so easy because the path ahead was clear to me as I led him with my hands on his
    shoulders and instructed him with my words. He was safe and we both knew it.
    Stage 2 was a little more challenging, as I now had to take my hands off of him and still
    blindfolded, he was dependent on just my words to keep him safe. I realized, in that stage, just
    how important it was that my words led him well and that they made sense to him.
    Then we hit stage 3… and without any heads-up for Levi I had to stop talking to him.
    It was at that moment that someone walked up to Levi, a really sweet girl who was on staff at
    the Ranch, and she said to him, “Here Levi, grab this stick I’m holding in front of you and I’m
    going to show you a shortcut, you can trust me”.
    Fortunately, Levi didn’t respond to her because, one-by-one, she’d been leading some of the
    other boys astray. Although Levi couldn’t see what was going on around him… I could see 3 of
    Levi’s buddies all holding big sticks up over their heads… having no idea why they were doing
    it… they’d been deceived and taken off course while their dads were just standing with them
    having to watch them be completely stuck.
    Levi continued pushing forward… and although I was still with him, every step of the way, I had
    to watch my son struggle through the hardest stage of our journey. I couldn’t touch him or
    redirect him from going off course. All I could do was stay with him, watching him become
    agitated, wondering where I was and why I wasn’t talking to him while he was struggling.
    It tore me up when Levi tripped over a tree stump and said to me, “I can’t believe you let me do
    that!”. Meanwhile I hoped he would eventually remember that he could “ask me anything”,
    because once he started asking me questions, I was able to lead him all the way to the finish
    My favorite moment was after we had waited for all the other dads and sons to arrive at the
    finish… we were debriefing all that happened and the girl who had deceived so many of the
    boys asked Levi, “why didn’t you grab the stick and follow me?”
    Levi said, “because my dad said trust him and only listen to his voice”.

As you can probably guess… that’s a moment I will not soon forget.
But a moment like that doesn’t just happen.
I don’t think Levi resisted her invitation simply because of the words I said at the beginning of
the “trust walk” … no more than I think it would have mattered if someone else had said to him, “
your dad won’t leave you, you can trust him, you should listen to him”
…see, I think I had his trust already… and those words meant something to him because of a
relationship we’ve built over time.
My words matter to him because he knows me.
That experience was so profound for us in our relationship… but the most impactful thing was
how it pointed us back to Jesus and got us thinking about how knowing Him means that we
trust Him when we can’t see what’s ahead of us… trusting that He’s always with us… and
always for us.
It makes me think of how Jesus describes Himself, using imagery of a shepherd and his sheep.
John 10:3-5, 14-15
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. 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
“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.
I know this imagery can be tough for some of us, because maybe you’ve never felt seen or
cared-for by someone who was supposed to protect you or lead you well… maybe you’ve never
experienced leadership that felt safe or trustworthy. Instead, you’ve experienced bosses in the
workplace, political leaders, and religious leaders who’ve abused power and taken advantage of
Jesus is saying… That’s not what I’m like
● I’m the good shepherd
● I want you to know me so you know you can trust me
● You can trust me because I gave my life for you.

So, here’s the question… Do you know Jesus?
Or if you’re here exploring faith… are you open to knowing Him?
Sometimes we settle for knowing about Jesus (mere head knowledge) … but the invitation has
always been to know him personally.
Have you experienced the life and freedom… the peace, security and confidence that comes
from knowing Him?
Today, we’re going to discuss getting to know Jesus through Scripture and through Prayer


  1. Knowing Jesus Through Scripture

I’m so passionate about this because I didn’t spend the early years of my adult life going to church or listening to sermons online. In fact, I had never read the Bible on my own until I was in my 30’s. My 20’s & early 30’s were spent spiraling deeper and deeper into my addictions… until incarceration brought everything to a sudden halt. I’d been a meth addict so long that I’d never dreamed I’d make it out alive. All of a sudden, I’m locked-up, involuntarily sober, hopeless about my present circumstances, and terrified of the future.

I remember being a middle schooler at church and the scariest question was,
What happens if you die tomorrow… d’ya know where you’re going?

Turns out there’s another question that felt even scarier now in my 30’s…
What happens if you live… d’ya know where you’re going?

It was at that point… my rock-bottom… where Ed, a chaplain in the jail, gave me a bible.

“Just start reading the Gospel of John… and ask God to help you understand.”
…that’s what Ed told me… and that’s what I did, every day… and my life was transformed.

But friends, my life wasn’t transformed by the Scriptures.
My life was transformed by Jesus… the One I came to know through the Scriptures.
I needed a power greater than myself to save me and to restore my life…
Jesus was that power… in fact, Jesus was always God’s plan to save ALL humanity from sin
and all of Scripture points to Jesus.

John 1:1-4,14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was
with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made
that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind…
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of
the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
As God created by speaking the heavens and the earth into being, Jesus is God’s living word…
His very presence in the world that is bringing a new creation through Himself.

Jesus was fully God AND fully man.
Why does that matter?
● His divinity was necessary, otherwise His death and resurrection would not have been
sufficient to rescue us from sin and death. We could not save ourselves, only God could.
● If Jesus wasn’t fully human, He could not have died on our behalf.
Friends, we fight for so many human rights as Christians and as a church… equality, equity,
voting, clean drinking water, protection and healing from abuse, etc…
but the basic human right is for every man, woman, and child to KNOW JESUS
John 1:12-13
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become
children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s
will, but born of God.
Jesus is the ONLY way to the Father.
Following Jesus at its core is the most inclusive faith there is. It says “ALL can come” regardless
of background, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic status, etc.
Anyone can come, but EXCLUSIVELY through Jesus
Acts 4:12
There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we
must be saved.”
Jesus made our way back to the Father through His death.
All are in need of a substitute since all are guilty of sinning against Holy God.
Sin deserves punishment because all sin is personal rebellion against God himself.
When we say “sin” this is so much more than the “bad things we do”. Some of you may even be
thinking, “I’m really not that bad of a person.” “Or, at least I’m not as bad as that person on the
news. Did Jesus really have to die for me?”
Sin is a heart condition. It is an attitude that says, “I know what is best.”
We’ve all had times where we’ve known what the right thing to do was, and chose not to.
That is the sickness of a rebellious heart.
Y’all, Jesus even died for our self-righteousness, the belief that we can better ourselves on our
own. So, no matter if you came from drug addictions, or if you were a goody two shoes growing
up… we all need what Jesus did.
The reality is, our rebellion against God deserves death. And for some reason, God loves us
messed up people enough to do something about it Himself.
While animal sacrifices temporarily took on the guilt of God’s people in the OT, these sacrifices
could never fully pay for and remove the sins of man. For that, Jesus Christ came and died in
our place (substitution), taking upon himself the full punishment that we deserved.
Jesus said,
John 15:13
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

The Good Shepherd laid down His life for you and me… and His death has the final word on
our sin… Not Guilty
In his letter to the church in Colossae, Paul describes it like this…
Colossians 1:21-22
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil
behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present
you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation
The great unfair trade: Jesus was treated as if He was guilty so that we might be treated
as if we never sinned at all. “Holy, without blemish, FREE from accusation!”
Paul writes this letter to a local church… a group of people who were probably not much
different from us… and to those who are feeling discouraged… or confused… or brokenhearted
in their own lives… he says, “first things first” …let’s just remember what is true and what is
most important…

● Who Jesus is…
● and what He has done…
● and who we are now because of Him!

That although we’ve all experienced the negative effects of our separation from God and… even
a hostility toward Him because of our brokenness… because of Jesus’ blood shed on the cross
for us… for those who trust in Him, our lives have been made new… and we now stand
before God as a people set apart for Him… not from Him.


  1. Knowing Jesus Through Prayer

    One of the most important practices for a follower of Jesus is knowing Him through prayer.
    Prayer is where you truly learn to “come as you are” and bring your most authentic self to Him.
    “Prayer is not a place to be good, it is a place to be honest. Prayer is not a place to perform, it is
    a place to be present. Prayer is not a place to be right, it is a place to be known. Prayer is not a
    place to prove your worth, it is a place to receive worth and offer yourself in truth.”
    ― Kyle Strobel, Where Prayer Becomes Real
    It’s where you practice telling God the things He already knows to be true about you… so that
    once you’ve been honest with Him, and told Him about all the ways you’ve messed up and all
    the things you’re most ashamed of, and you’ve told Him how mad you’ve been at Him, and
    you’ve asked Him all the questions that you ‘re pretty sure you should already know the
    answers to… and you start to brace yourself for His disappointment or disgust… knowing that
    this is probably where He casts you away from His presence like a parent who says, “get away
    from me… I can’t even look at you”… that’s when Jesus starts to teach you… or, in some
    cases, just reminds you over-and-over again that…

He will never leave you.
You can always trust Him.
You can ask Him questions.
Listen only to His voice.

Prayer is where we become familiar with the voice of our Good Shepherd!

John 10:27
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they
shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.


“Here’s one collective next step that we’re asking everyone across Gateway to do with us- as
you pursue to know Jesus there’s no better way than to engage in a practice of prayer.
Starting today for the next two weeks we are going to be in our second Pray First initiative.
Listen, as the kids go back to school and the fiscal year closes, and the sports pick back up,
let’s ALL Re center and keep the main thing the main thing- Jesus. So we will all be led in video
devotionals and our grow team created an amazing prayer guide everyday for the next two
weeks. And you’ll get more info in a few minutes on how to do that.
But there’s nothing more powerful than when we begin to pray collectively together.
Family let’s do that right now!

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About John and Kathy Burke

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