Preached in Manhattan, NY on September 10, 1989
14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.
19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. – Ephesians 2:14–22
We’re looking, for three weeks, at this passage about the church. Last week, we talked about the fact that the Spirit of God, the life of God, coming into our lives as believers creates a tie stronger than any other tie that can exist between human beings. It’s a tie that transcends the deepest differences that can exist between human beings, differences of family, differences of race, differences of culture, differences of class; therefore, we say the church has a unity and a fellowship, a solidarity the world has been seeking between human beings, for years, in vain.
Tonight, we’re going to look how the same principle relates to our worship. Last week, fellowship and unity; this week, worship. There are volumes in one verse here, verse 18. In fact, all we’re going to look at is verse 18. “For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” Every word in there is loaded. It reminds me, a hymn writer once talked about a verse like that.
A box where sweets compacted lie.
That’s what it is. Every word is sweet. Look at the first one: for. It’s a sweet word. Why? Look at what comes before it, all of Paul’s discussion of how Jesus Christ died on the cross to reconcile people to God and to reconcile people to one another, but what is the point of it? What is it for? It all boils down to verse 18. “For through him we both have access …” Access is the bottom line of the Christian life. Access.
You may be religious. You may have experienced forgiveness. You may have experienced changes in your life. You may have overcome habits. You may have experienced a certain amount of peace, but listen. All those things are great, but that’s not the bottom line of the Christian life. Those things are symptoms. Those things are sparks, in a sense. They’re results. The bottom line of the Christian life is access. It’s all for this: Through him, we have access, getting in. Getting in.
The bottom line of the Christian life is … Are you in, near God? Are you out on the periphery, or are you in close? Do you experience access to him? Do you enjoy him? Do you know him? Or flip it around. Is he in the center of your life, or is he out on the periphery? Does he enjoy access to you? Do you enjoy access to him, and does he have absolute access to you? Are you in his center, or is he in your center? Access, that’s what the Christian life is about. That’s why we have to look at it. Notice all three members of the Trinity, the triune God, are involved in bringing us this great gift.
For what? “For through him …” Who’s that? Christ. “.… we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” Three prepositions: through Christ, to the Father, by the Spirit. Three little words. Prepositions of all things, not a noun, not a verb, not even an adverb. Three prepositions on which you can build your whole life. Not only that (and it has been done), on which you can build a whole civilization. Three prepositions. Let’s look at each one of them. This gift of access is to the Father through the Son by the Spirit. Let’s look at what this gift of access is. It’s:
1. To the Father
This word access, it’s one of those few times in which it’s helpful to know Greek. Usually, the Greek word means exactly what the translation says it means. In this case, it’s helpful to look at it, because the word access here, in Greek literature, means to have an introduction to a VIP, to have an introduction to a very important person. Therefore, Paul is, in a very specific way, drawing a picture.
Imagine this. Modernize it a little bit. There’s some great man coming to town, a man of the greatest importance, the greatest significance, the greatest fame, and in this case (which isn’t often the case), you admire this man mightily, so much that you’re willing to go out into the crowd just hoping you’ll catch a glimpse of him. Maybe you’ve even pushed to the front of the police line. You’re waiting there, and along comes the entourage. You haven’t even seen the man yet.
All of a sudden, to your surprise, in the entourage, you recognize somebody. Somebody in his entourage comes over and says, “Oh, I can’t believe you’re here. This is marvelous. Would you like to meet him?” You say, “I can’t believe it. Why, yes.” You’re on the outside. You’re behind the police line. You’re outside just hoping for a glimpse through the door, through the window. Maybe when the limousine comes by, for some strange reason, (you know, if there’s a light on the other side, even those dark glass places you can sometimes see through), maybe just a silhouette.
Suddenly, the friend takes you and leads you in, not just inside the police line but inside the house, not just inside the house but inside the room, not just inside the room but right up to his chair. You sit down, and the man gets the introduction from your friend. He turns to you, and he says, “Why, this is marvelous. I’d love to get to know you better. Could you come back for dinner? Just you and me and my wife.” You’re in. You’re in. You’ve experienced access.
Is that far-fetched? Let me tell you something, friends. If you think that’s far-fetched, the reality Paul is pointing to is as far greater than that story as an ocean is greater than a dewdrop. The reality is far greater than that story, which many of you say, “That’s never happened to me. That sort of thing never will happen to me.” The reality is greater, and that is every person who has received Jesus Christ as Savior has an introduction, not to a VIP, not to somebody in a limo. In New York, they’re a dime a dozen.
There are a lot of others places … a limo … anybody in a limo, anybody in an entourage, anybody behind a police line, that might happen once a year, twice a year, but here, it’s every day. It’s every block. But you say, “Even so, it’s fantastic. That would never happen.” The reality is so far greater because you have an introduction, an irrevocable, permanent introduction, into the courts of the King of the cosmos, the Lord of all life and love and power. He takes you into his heart, into his secrets, into his counsel, into his confidence. You, you’re in.
This is important because whether we recognize it or not, many of us, to one degree or another, are really dominated and influenced by a deep need to be on the inside, and our lives are actually run as much by that as they are by a fear of being left out. There is no worse fear than being left out. See, human society is full of little, what we call inner circles. There are all sorts of inner circles, and the worst thing in the world is to be outside of one if you get near one.
The most famous inner circle, of course, is high society, and a lot of us want to be in high-society circles. Well, we don’t admit that to ourselves until we get near enough to one to get an introduction, and then we go wild over it if it happens to us. Of course, we consider them snobs. Who is we? Anyone outside of that circle. But listen, those of us who are the most disdainful of people who are social climbers trying to get into the inner circle, many of us are just as consumed by a need to be in some other inner circle.
Oh, no, we don’t want tall ceilings and chandeliers. We want the cozy little studio or attic, and just four or five friends and the delicious knowledge we, even we, just we four or five, are the ones who know. Know what? It depends. It depends on if you’re Republican or a Democrat. It depends. But there are all these inner circles, and we want to be in there. Now before any of you say, “Oh, I’m not dominated by that kind of thing. I’m not influenced by that kind of thing,” realize, think about it. We are. It’s one of the great mainsprings of human behavior.
Why … I’m going to say kids, but you know, lots of us were, those of us who weren’t hatched … why is it that most kids have sex the first time? Why is it that most kids use drugs the first time? Why do they have sex the first time? Is it their hormones? Ridiculous. Those of you who remember realize you’re too scared to have your hormones involved at all. It’s the desire to be in. It’s the fear of being out. It’s one of the mainsprings of our professional lives. Let’s face it. It’s one of the reasons we get galled if we’re not brought in, and it’s any profession. It’s my profession too.
Kathy and I know that there’s a particular friend of ours, a pastor friend, who has gotten up and up in the world. Over the years, he’s really developed an inner circle. I’ve never been invited in, and there have been many times in which I was rankled by that. It’s the same cancer. When you start a new church, one of the things that very often happens is in the early stages there is tension between the people who perceive they have not gotten into the pastor’s inner circle and the people who are in. On and on it goes.
I read a very interesting biography not too long ago. It was a testimony of a man who had been gloriously converted to Jesus Christ after a long career as a very highly successful female impersonator. You know, I was just reading through the thing rather quickly. It was rather light reading and interesting and helpful and very glorious in many ways. At one point, he’s telling how, after all his life being a sissy, marginalized, always on the outside, always mocked, the first time he got onto the stage and went into his act … This is what he wrote: “I went into my act. They demanded encore after encore. I was in for once in my life, all those normal people out there clapping.”
The power that lifestyle had for him was that need to be in. You can go into psychoanalyzing him. You can go into checking out his hormones, but the whole idea was … He was out, and now he was in. It does affect us. How can we keep from this sort of thing ruining our lives? There’s only one way. You can sniff and say, “I won’t let that happen,” but then you look around for other people like you who are just as sensible about these inner circles. The next thing you know, you have one.
You have to acknowledge the fact that this is a need for access, and the only way it will not run your life and ruin your life is if you fill that need with the only thing that can truly satisfy it, and that is access into the only circle that counts, the circle of God, the Trinity. He takes you all the way in. It says in the Psalms, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him …” The secret. That’s a big part of being in an inner circle, when people tell you secrets, you know, and the Lord tells you secrets.
It says in Revelation 2, to those who overcome, he gives you a white stone, and on it is your name written, the name that is known only to you. If you think I’m so wise, as a teacher of the Bible, that I know what in the world he’s talking about, I don’t know. But all I know is it probably has to do with the fact that God, the longer you work with him, the more he shows you who you are, the more he shows you what gifts he has given you, what your purpose is. He brings you in. He brings you all the way in; therefore, the only thing that is going to satisfy the need for access is access to God.
What is that access? It’s knowing God. See, the word for access and the word for knowing God is the same. Knowing God is the essence. John 17:3, Jesus says an amazing thing. He says, “This is eternal life …” What’s eternal life? Is that kind of esoteric to you? “This is eternal life that they know you, the only true and living God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” Knowing God is eternal life. What knowing God means is very critical to understand, and the best way I can explain it is to tell you the word knowledge in the Bible always has two layers to it. Two layers.
You can know something at the informational level, but you also can know something at the personal level, and those two things are intertwined. In John 14:9, Jesus says to Philip, “Philip, have you been with me so long and still you do not know me?” What does he mean? He says, “Philip, you have a lot of information about me. You’ve been living with me. You know all about me. You’ve heard all of my words. You’ve memorized all of my teachings, but you still don’t get it.”
What is he talking about? Philip had an informational knowledge, but no more. He was missing something else. Or in Matthew 7 (this is a sermon in itself, but I’ll do it some other time), where Jesus says on the last day people will come to him and they will say, “Lord, Lord, didn’t we do great deeds in your name? Didn’t we cast out demons in your name? Didn’t we prophesy in your name?” And Jesus will look at them and say, “I never knew you …” I never knew you.
Don’t ask me to go into that now, but what he’s saying is this is the all-knowing Creator who is talking. Jesus cannot mean, “I don’t know about you.” It doesn’t mean, “I don’t have all the information on you.” He knows everything about you. He knows the number of hairs on your head, but “I never knew you …” He is talking about personal knowledge. Put it this way: You can know something at an informational level and not personal.
My brother-in-law, I remember, some years ago, hated to wear seatbelts. I used to joke about it. He would say, “I hate seatbelts!” One time I visited him (he lives far away) and he had his seatbelt on. I said, “Ooh, wow.” I joked around in a macho way. You know, guys do. I said, “Hey, what are you doing with the seatbelt on?” He was very serious. He said, “I went to visit a friend of mine in the hospital who was in a fairly minor accident and went through the windshield. He did not have his seatbelt on and had 30 stitches in his face.” He said, “Ever since then, I put on my seatbelt.”
Think about something. Did my brother-in-law, whose name is Jim … Did Jim get any new information about seatbelts? Did he get any new information? He already knew all the stuff about seatbelts. He knew the statistics. Did he get any new information? No. Then what made the difference? The difference was, though he did not get any new information … listen … the information became new. He got no new information; the information became new.
It moved down from the informational level to the personal level. In other words, it got down to the place where it affected him as a whole person. His mind, his will, and his emotions were engaged. He saw how he related to seatbelts as a person (personally), and now it changed him. In the same way, it’s possible to have a whole lot of principles, knowledge about the Lord, knowledge about scriptural teaching, knowledge about God, but the questions is … Has that knowledge ever come down and become personal? Have you ever actually met him?
The Bible talks about this in Ephesians 1:18, where Paul says, “I pray …” He says this to the Ephesians. “… that the eyes of your heart would be enlightened so you might know the hope of your calling.” To me, that’s a locus classicus. That’s a classic text. He tells these people he’s praying they would know the hope of their calling. These are Christians. They know about their calling. They’ve heard it all, and he’s saying, “But you don’t really know it, do you? At the deep level, at the personal level, you haven’t really encountered it, and I’m praying the eyes of your heart would be enlightened.”
Right there, you have it. I can read something in the Scripture, but when the truth begins to shine because of what God’s doing to me, truth that has always been there, truth that has been a letter on the page … it begins to shine … the eyes of my heart are enlightened. I begin to know that truth. There are places where the Bible says, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!” Now there it is.
A lot of you in this room (I would hope most of you, probably) believe in the goodness of God. You believe God is good. You know he is good, but is that truth shining at you? Are you experiencing access to the goodness of God? Is it thrilling you? Is it comforting you? Is it changing you? Is it personal knowledge the way it became to my brother-in-law, Jim? Is it affecting you?
When I was a pastor, people would come on in, and I would see they were eaten up with worry, eaten up with it. This was back in the days when I was fairly naïve about this. I would open the Bible, and I would read places where it talked about God being good. “Oh, there are so many places about God being good, and worry is a complete mistrust, a throwing out the window, of the whole idea of the goodness of God. You can’t worry without denying it,” and I would say, “You know God is good.” The people would look at me, and they would say, “I know that, but it doesn’t help.”
I began to realize, as I began to read what the Bible said about knowledge, what it meant to know God, what it meant to have access, I realized you can’t say that. If you say, “I know about the goodness of God, but it doesn’t help,” you’re contradicting yourself. If you know about the goodness of God, you wouldn’t be worried. If you really knew it … I’m not saying that Christians don’t worry, but it’s because of a lack of access.
If the truth begins to shine, if the eyes of your heart are enlightened, if you know it, if you experience access to the goodness of God, it wipes out that kind of anxiety. Nobody has perfect access, but to the degree you have access, to that degree, there’s peace. The truth shines. That’s what this great gift is. It’s a remarkable gift. It’s unbelievable. Do you see it? Just before I go on, real quickly, there are two opposite errors churches fall into about this idea of knowledge.
There’s informational knowledge, and there’s personal, experiential knowledge. There are some churches that put all the emphasis on informational, and the emphasis is all on learning the doctrine and understanding it and knowing it inside out and mastering it and being accurate but without a commensurate emphasis on working that truth into the life before God in repentance and prayer so the truth shines and changes you. If you don’t have that commensurate access, if you put too much emphasis on the informational knowledge, what happens is you develop a legalistic church, an authoritarian church, a heresy-hunting church.
On the other hand, if a church puts much more emphasis on experience, and actually even eschews dogma, always saying, “We don’t believe in doctrine and dogma. We just want to bring you to Jesus,” the danger with that, first of all, that’s silly because as soon as you say, “I don’t believe in doctrine, just Jesus,” I say, “Who is Jesus?” “Oh, Son of God, fully God, fully Man, Savior, Mediator. But I don’t believe in doctrine.” You can’t. You can’t have personal knowledge without informational knowledge. Real knowledge, real access is based on informational knowledge. It’s more than informational knowledge, but it’s never less.
I mean, that’s not the way it works. If you sit down with somebody and you’re trying to get to know them personally, you ask for information. You want to know where they are, where they live, what job they have, and so on, don’t you? Then of course, you use the informational knowledge to build personal knowledge, and that’s the way it goes. But it’s more dangerous than that.
You have to realize that Christian mysticism (if I can use the word), Christian experience, is utterly different than Eastern experience. Eastern mysticism puts all the emphasis on destroying, frustrating the one side of your brain, the analysis side, the rational side, the logical side, and says, “Let’s frustrate it.” You know, all the things you’re supposed to meditate on, like, What is the sound of one hand clapping? And so forth. You’re supposed to meditate on that because it frustrates the logic. It frustrates the one side of your brain until the intuitive side is brought out.
That’s absolutely unbiblical, because Jesus said to the woman at the well of Samaria, “You must worship in spirit and truth, with your left and your right brain, with your analysis and your intuition.” I can’t go into more detail on that now, but do you see why there are these opposite errors? Knowledge is always more than information but never less. This is the gift. We have access, but how do we get it? How do we get it? There are the last two prepositions, which we actually have to look at together.
Why is it that most of us do not experience that access very much? And why is that some of you have never experienced? You know it as I’m describing it. Okay. There is the gift to the Father. That’s the gift, but the gift comes through the Son and by the Spirit. In other words, the gift is bought by the Son and delivered by the Spirit.
2. Bought by the Son
It says what? It says, “For through him we both have access to the Father …” Go back to the illustration about the entourage. Remember the key? Why is it that you got in to see the man? It was the friend, and that friend just can’t be any friend. You don’t think just anybody in their entourage could have gotten you in. It had to be a friend with tremendous standing with the VIP, with the very important person, right? It had to be a person with great standing. Why? Because a great person who doesn’t know you has to trust the introducer, so then he knows he can trust you.
If you try to introduce yourself, that’s tremendously arrogant, because what you’re doing if you try to introduce yourself, is you’re actually granting this person an audience. It’s tremendously arrogant. You say, “I’ll tell you who I am, and I don’t need an introduction,” which, of course, is just setting yourself up over top that person. The only way to get in is to have an introduction by somebody whom the great person trusts. It’s the only way.
Who is Jesus Christ? We’re told, “He is the One who stands before the Father.” Right here in this same passage, up in verse 13, we’re told we’re brought nigh. “We’re brought nigh by his blood.” He died in our place. He took our punishment for our sins. “Now,” the Bible says, “he stands before the Father.” Hebrews 7:25: “He stands. He lives to intercede for us.” We read a little earlier in the service he stands as one making our defense. In other words, we have a permanent, irrevocable introduction.
Anyone who approaches God through Jesus has access, and only through Jesus. Because if you go any other way, you try any other religion, you’ll have to be introducing yourself. You are your own reference. Do you realize how arrogant that is? To come to someone who you’re trying to get a job from, or you’re trying to get in with, you’re trying to get an audience from, and you refuse to even come up with a reference. No one else introduces you … I introduce myself.
Do you realize how incredibly insulting that is to the other person? Do you realize why you’ll never get a job that way? Just try to go see the president of the United States without an introduction. You’ll come down with bullets in you. It’s the same thing with the Father. You have two choices. There are only two approaches. You can introduce yourself, or you can go through Jesus. When you go through Jesus, you don’t have to introduce yourself ever again. Ever again. Then we’re told …
3. By the Spirit
What that means is though the Son has bought it, the Spirit has actually brought it. The Son has bought it, and the Spirit has brought it. It says, for example, in John 16, Jesus says, “The Spirit will come and take of mine and show me to you. He will glorify me.” The Spirit’s job is to melt you under the truth.
Back in the old days, before we had wonderful glued envelopes, do you know how you sealed an envelope if you wrote it? What you had to have is you had to have a little piece of wax, right? You had to have a seal (usually a signet ring), and you had to have a flame. So you softened the wax with the flame, and what the flame did to the wax was it made the wax susceptible to the seal.
If you tried to put the seal on the wax without the flame, there are only two things that could happen. What? It could break the wax, or it could just leave only a superficial outline on the surface. But if the wax is changed, it’s softened by the flame, then the wax is susceptible, and it’s changed in the image of the seal. Now that illustration, transform it. The wax is your heart. The seal is the Truth, the Word of God, and the flame is the Spirit.
When I go to the Truth of God, and the Spirit is giving me access, do you see what happens? You can read about the power of God. If you just read about the power of God, without the influence of Spirit, you say, “Oh, God is powerful.” Without the influence of the Spirit, all that can do is make a superficial impression on the top of you, but when the Spirit of God is there, you read about the power, and there’s access. The truth begins to shine. It begins to change you, and what happens is your heart develops courage.
When you read about his goodness, it develops peace in you. When you read about his forgiveness, it develops relief in you. You shake off your guilty fears. When you read about his forgiveness, it develops generosity and mercy in you. When you read about his holiness, it develops conviction of sin and humility in you. Don’t you see? Only when the Spirit of God is doing that do you see real access happening. Only then.
I told you, by looking at these two things, these two prepositions, through Christ and by the Spirit, we can understand why some of us in this room are not experiencing access. Do you know why? A lot of us are saying, “I’ve been trying to do a good job. I’ve been working at being religious. I’ve been coming to church for a number of years. I’ve never had anything like what you’re talking about. Never!”
The answer is there’s no influence of the Spirit. There’s no softening. In fact, I’d have to say you have to be careful because the more and the more you try so hard to be religious and to be moral without the influence of Spirit on you, you push that seal in the wax, and you push that seal in the wax; all you get is a superficial outline. Eventually what happens is you crack it. That’s why we have people running around forming Fundamentalists Anonymous groups, people who have been cracked under the legalism, cracked under the Word without the Spirit.
Oh, you say, “Well, okay, why isn’t the influence of the Spirit in my life?” The only answer could be you’re not coming through the Son. It’s the only possible answer. You might say, “Well, I believe in Jesus,” but are you trying to introduce yourself? Are you coming to God, making yourself your own reference? Are you coming to him and saying, “Father, I’ve had a hard life, so I deserve …” I mean maybe you don’t use the words, but, “I’ve had it tough. I’ve tried. I’ve worked. I’ve worked.”
Or are you saying instead, “Oh, Lord God. Oh, Lord God. The audacity of someone like me to come to you, you have the right just to throw me out, but the gospel is Jesus has paid it all, and now he stands before the throne for me. He is my introduction. He is my reference. No other. All the other things I’ve ever done are worthless in your sight. Save me for Jesus’ sake?” If you’ve never done that, you’ve never come through him.
Do you understand that? For as hard as you’ve tried to be a Christian, if you’ve never done that, if you’ve never stopped your introductions, you never come through him; therefore, you’ve never really had access to the Father by the Spirit. Where does this leave us? Let me just finish by applying what we’ve learned, access to the Father through the Son by the Spirit, to three kinds of people here. Ready? If the shoe fits …
1. There are those of you who know about this access because you’ve experienced it, but you don’t experience it that much
You know, some tests of the experience … quick … just to make sure you know you’re alive. When you have access, when the Spirit is working on you, when the truth is shining, number one, when you go to God in prayer, you feel the burdens come off. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” You feel the burdens come off. You can feel the needs and the troubles come off when you’re praying.
Another mark of access is there’s a confidence and boldness. Instead of saying, “Oh, gosh, why would God even listen to me?” there’s a boldness. There’s an eloquence. Besides the confidence and besides the sense of burdens coming off, number three, the real mark of access is surprise. There’s that hymn writer who wrote …
Sometimes a light surprises
The Christian while he sings;
It is the Lord who rises
With healing in His wings.
When you’re looking at the Word of God and it begins to sparkle out truth, your mind gets eloquent. That’s access. You start to see new beauties you hadn’t seen before, things that surprise you. They sparkle out like sun on the water. Your mind gets eloquent. You’re surprised by new beauties.
Another mark of access, and the most important one, is you find it really changes the way in which you live. Do you know that access? Do you know what I’m talking about? Every real Christian knows about it, but I also know every real Christian in this room also says, “I wish I had more of it. In fact, I’m really missing it lately. What can you do?” Here’s what I tell you to do: Even you need to make sure you’re going through the Son by the Spirit.
Through the Son means … Do you rejoice in the access you have through the Son? Do you rejoice in it, or do you run right into God’s presence with your “gimme” prayer list, and you say, “Oh, Lord, I have a lot for you to work on today?” Or do you walk in recollecting, thinking about the fact the only reason you’re not struck dead as you walk into prayer is because you’re coming through the Son and to say, “Oh, Lord, look at the standing I have. Even you can’t bring a charge against me because of the great salvation you brought for me in Jesus Christ?”
To the degree you rejoice in that access, to the degree you’ll experience that access, do you see? Do you just run into God’s presence, or do you enjoy? Do you reflect on what you have? The Bible says, again and again, you must pray in Jesus’ name. Do you know what that means? Do you think it’s just a little thing you say at the end in perfunctory way? To come in the name of Jesus means you know the only reason God will hear you is because of the irrevocable, permanent introduction you have before the throne of God. You relish that, and you revel in that. Are you doing that?
The other thing, of course, is you have to be by the Spirit, and one of the reasons many of us are not experiencing access is not only are we asking the Spirit for that access and yearning for it, a lot of us are grieving the Spirit in our lives. If access to God is by the Spirit and yet in our lives, by sins of omission or commission, by a lack of Christian duties or by actually breaking God’s commandments, you grieve the Spirit, and then you wonder why there’s no access. You can’t do that.
My friends, don’t be too discouraged here. You have to realize sometimes God doesn’t give you high access, and it’s a way for him to test you, because God values obedience given when there’s very little feeling in the heart. When you don’t feel close to him, but you obey, he knows how hard that is, and he knows how valuable that is, and he likes it. But on the other hand, I must point out to you God wants us to have access, and the reason many of us don’t is simply because of our disobedience and our laziness. You have to recollect coming through Jesus. You have to go by the Spirit.
2. The people who are trying to start a new church here
Not all of you are. An alive church experiences access to the Father. That means an alive church is just as big on defending the faith and truth as spreading it. An alive church is not afraid of surprise, because access means surprise. An alive church isn’t afraid of surprise. I mean, it’s creative. It’s not rigid. An alive church is a church that is ready to expect great possibilities because they have access to God, but I can’t go into that right now.
3. There are those of you who are here who have never experienced access, and you know it
In New York City it’s possible to be in some mighty elite circles. I don’t care what kind of circle you’re in, if you’re just getting in or if you think you’re about to get in, it’s awfully exciting, isn’t it? You’re sure this is going to satisfy that need for access. Nuh-uh. No matter what circle you’re in (and if you’ve been in it long enough, you know this), you’re nowhere unless you’re in God’s circle. The only way to do that is to come to the Father through Son by the Spirit.
Psalm 84 says, “How lovely is your dwelling place … My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” Everybody in this room, whether you admit it or not, that is the language of your deepest self, and the door is open. Let’s go in. Let’s take time to pray silently, time to say, “Lord, here’s what I have to do to put into practice what I’ve learned tonight.” Let’s pray.
If you’re a believer who is really dry, come through the Son. Remind yourself of who is there for you. Stop trying to introduce yourself. Don’t worry about that. At the same time, be willing to quit with those things you know grieve the Spirit and have blocked off your access. If there’s anybody here who knows you have no access; you really need to receive Christ as Savior, pray this prayer with me:
Lord, I’ve tried, off and on, to reach you, but I see how it has all been my own efforts, really, to introduce myself to you. I thought many things I did could get me in, but only Jesus Christ and his work can get me in. Now I receive him as Savior. Master, accept me for his sake. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
ABOUT THE PREACHER
In 1989 Dr. Timothy J. Keller, his wife and three young sons moved to New York City to begin Redeemer Presbyterian Church. In 20 years it has grown to meeting for five services at three sites with a weekly attendance of over 5,000. Redeemer is notable not only for winning skeptical New Yorkers to faith, but also for partnering with other churches to do both mercy ministry and church planting. Redeemer City to City is working to help establish hundreds of new multi-ethnic congregations throughout the city and other global cities in the next decades.
Dr. Tim Keller is the author of several phenomenal Christo-centric books including:
Joy for the World: How Christianity Lost Its Cultural Influence and Can Begin Rebuilding It (co-authored with Greg Forster and Collin Hanson (February or March, 2014).
Encounters with Jesus:Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions. New York, Dutton (November 2013).
Walking with God through Pain and Suffering. New York, Dutton (October 2013).
Judges For You (God’s Word For You Series). The Good Book Company (August 6, 2013).
Galatians For You (God’s Word For You Series). The Good Book Company (February 11, 2013).
Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Plan for the World. New York, Penguin Publishing, November, 2012.
Center Church: Doing Balanced, Gospel-Centered Ministry in Your City. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, September, 2012.
The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness. New York: 10 Publishing, April 2012.
Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just. New York: Riverhead Trade, August, 2012.
The Gospel As Center: Renewing Our Faith and Reforming Our Ministry Practices (editor and contributor). Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.
The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God. New York, Dutton, 2011.
King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus (Retitled: Jesus the KIng: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God). New York, Dutton, 2011.
Gospel in Life Study Guide: Grace Changes Everything. Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2010.
The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York, Dutton, 2009.
Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Priorities of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope That Matters. New York, Riverhead Trade, 2009.
Heralds of the King: Christ Centered Sermons in the Tradition of Edmund P. Clowney (contributor). Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2009.
The Prodigal God. New York, Dutton, 2008.
Worship By The Book (contributor). Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.
Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road. Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1997.