Access Through Christ

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‘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.

- Tim Keller

 Words found in Tim Keller’s 1989 Sermon, “Christ Our House”

Love Only God Can Give

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You will crush your marriage with those expectations. Nobody can bear the weight of the expectations and the hopes of ultimate joy. The criticism of your spouse will crush you. The problems of your spouse will crush you. They will devastate you much more than they should, because you’re looking to your spouse and to marriage to save you, to make everything right in your life. Now there are a whole lot of ways this plays out. Let me just give you a couple.

When you’re married, the way it plays out is you just feel that your spouse isn’t perfect. ‘My marriage isn’t perfect, and I don’t like it.’ You cannot live with imperfection. You can’t ever settle for anything other than this incredible picture you have in your mind of absolute blissful love. You have to have it, because you’re looking to it to give you what only God can give you. So when you’re not able to actually handle mediocrity in marriage, and you get all bent out of shape about the imperfections of your spouse and your marriage and refuse to be content with the good things you have, it’s idolatry.

How do unmarried people do it? There are a lot of ways. One of the ways unmarried people make an idol out of marriage and think it’s going to save them and fix them is by being incredibly picky as they evaluate spousal prospects. You say, ‘Oh, I want a marriage, and it’s going to be like this, and it’s going to be like this. This person has to be so this and this.’ You’re looking for virtually perfect spousal prospects, but there aren’t any out there. And you’re not perfect spousal prospects. Hypocrite! You want something you’re not, and that’s idolatry.

Or maybe the most frequent form of idolatry I know is a single person who wants to be married and who so pines after being married that they cannot enjoy their present condition. What are we going to do? This is just plain common sense. There’s a tendency for us to say, ‘So are you trying to say I shouldn’t love my spouse too much, or hope to love my spouse too much?’

C.S. Lewis says it is probably impossible to love any human being too much. You may love him too much in proportion to your love for God, but it is the smallness of your love for God, not the greatness of your love for the person, that constitutes the inordinacy. Do you know what that means? Marriage will strangle us unless we have a really great, true, existential love relationship with God.

You must not try to demote your love for your spouse or the person you think you’re going to marry. You can’t at all. You have to promote your love for God. Otherwise, it’ll strangle you. Don’t you see that? So married people, you have to do that, or you are not going to be able to settle for the imperfections of your marriage and of your spouse, and single people, you have to remember Christianity is the only major religion that was started by a single person.

- Tim Keller

 Words found in Tim Keller’s 2009 Sermon, “The First Wedding Day”

What is the Gospel?

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What is this ‘gospel’ for which Paul is willing to glory in being a slave? What gospel would make Paul happy to lose everything in order to share it? First, it is worth reflecting on the word itself. ‘Gospel’ – euangeloi – is literally ‘good herald.’ In the first century, if on a far-flung battlefield an emperor won a great victory which secured his peace and established his authority, he would send heralds – angeloi – to declare his victory, peace and authority. Put most simply, the gospel is an announcement – a declaration. The gospel is not advice to be followed; it is news, good (eu) news about what has been done.

The apostle Paul is the herald of this announcement. It is a good reminder that the gospel is not Paul’s; it did not originate with him and he did not claim the authority to craft it. Rather, it is ‘of God’ (v 1). We, like Paul, are not at liberty to reshape it to sound more appealing in our day, nor to domesticate it to be more comfortable for our lives.

- Tim Keller

Boldness and Humility

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When Jesus invites Peter to follow him, he’s not just saying, ‘Would you like to sign up for a few courses with me?’ He wants him to live with him. He wants him to be his family. Therefore, when the salvation of Jesus Christ comes into your life, you see yourself as more wicked and sinful than you ever dared believe, and yet you sense you’re more valued and loved and affirmed than you ever dared hope at the same time.

That is a mark, infinitely greater self-worth, infinitely greater realism about your flaws at once, which is the selfquake, which is the unique self-image, which is the transformation of identity that happens to anyone into whose life this salvation comes. I say it every so often, but it has been a while so I’ll say it again. If you were saved by works, if you go to heaven through your performance, then you might be bold but not humble when you’re living up or you’ll be humble but not bold and confident when you’re failing, but you can never be bold and humble at once.

If you are more wicked than you ever dared believe and you’re more loved and affirmed than you ever dared hope at the same time because your relationship with God through Jesus Christ is based completely and sheerly on his grace, on his call, then it means you can’t be into either superiority or inferiority at all, because at the same moment you have infinite self-worth from his affirmation and you have infinite realism about your sin.

You can’t get an inferiority or superiority. There is a boldness and a humility about you at once. It is absolutely different.

- Tim Keller 

Words found in Tim Keller’s 2003 Sermon, “The Message of Jesus”

The Best Things in Life

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We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.

- Tim Keller


Do Justice and Love Mercy

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Micah 6:8 is a summary of how God wants us to live. To walk humbly with God is to know him intimately and to be attentive to what he desires and loves. And what does that consist of? The text says to ‘do justice and love mercy,’ which seem at first glance to be two different things, but they are not. The term for ‘mercy’ is the Hebrew word chesedh, God’s unconditional grace and compassion. The word for ‘justice’ is the Hebrew term mishpat. In Micah 6:8, ‘mishpat puts the emphasis on the action, chesedh puts it on the attitude [or motive] behind the action.’ To walk with God, then, we must do justice, out of merciful love.

- Tim Keller

Suffering Like Christ

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We must rest in the sufficiency of Christ’s sufferings for us before we can even begin to suffer like him. If we know he loves us unconditionally, despite our flaws, then we know he is present with us and working in our lives in times of pain and sorrow. And we can know that he is not merely close to us, but he is indwelling, and that since we are members of his body, he senses our sufferings as his own (cf. Acts 9: 4; Col 1: 24.)

- Tim Keller

Facing Adversity

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For Christians, suffering was not to be dealt with primarily through the control and suppression of negative emotions with the use of reason or willpower. Ultimate reality was known not primarily through reason and contemplation but through relationship. Salvation was through humility, faith, and love rather than reason and control of emotions. And therefore, Christians don’t face adversity by stoically decreasing our love for the people and things of this world so much as by increasing our love and joy in God. Ferry says, ‘Augustine, having conducted a radical critique of love-as-attachment in general, does not banish it when its object is divine.’ What he means is that, while Christianity was able to agree with pagan writers that inordinate attachment to earthly goods can lead to unnecessary pain and grief, it also taught that the answer to this was not to love things less but to love God more than anything else. Only when our greatest love is God, a love that we cannot lose even in death, can we face all things with peace. Grief was not to be eliminated but seasoned and buoyed up with love and hope.

- Tim Keller


When You Screw Up

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Some of you know what I mean. When you’re successful, you have a lot of people around you. When you feel like you’re doing very well, you’re busy. You don’t sit around and think about the meaning of life. You don’t sit around and say, ‘I wonder if there is a God. I wonder if Jesus is there. I wonder what I’m really living for.’ You don’t ask the big questions. You’re busy. You’re happy.

But when you screw up, it gets you alone with him, makes you think. Isn’t that wonderful? See, first thing, he has to get you alone. He has to get you one on one. He has to get you to start thinking about the big things. That almost always happens through screw-ups. How wonderful!

- Tim Keller

 Words found in Tim Keller’s 1999 Sermon, “The Living Water”