SUNDAY NT SERMON: “Access to the King” by Tim Keller
Series: The King and the Kingdom – Part 6
Preached in Manhattan, NY on August 27, 1989
We’ve actually been studying Ephesians 2 for a few weeks now because it tells us so much about the church:
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
What we want to focus in on tonight is the fact this passage tells us the church is a building. You see, in verse 19 it says we’re God’s household. In verses 21 and 22 it talks about us as stones that are being built into a temple, to a house. In other words, Christians are not just a loose aggregate of individuals, but rather we are parts of a larger whole. The Bible talks about this in a number of places. In 1 Peter 2, Peter writes, “… come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house …”
For the Bible says, “I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”The teaching is that we were not designed to live for ourselves or to stand by ourselves any more than a hewn stone is supposed to stand by itself on the grass. If you just see a boulder or a rock on the grass, it looks great, but if you ever come to see a brick or a stone or a couple of stones that obviously were supposed to be a part of a building that are just sitting, spread out on the grass, it looks so forlorn, doesn’t it?
The Bible says we were designed to fit, to be part of God and of his kingdom and of one another. Now this flies completely in the face of the spirit of the age. Recently, 81 percent of all Americans affirmed this statement. (I love saying things like this. It sounds so authoritative.) Eighty-one percent of Americans affirm, “An individual should arrive at his or her own religious beliefs independent of any church, any synagogue, or any religious tradition.” What do you think? Does that sound democratic? Does that sound healthy to you?
Think what you’re saying. This kind of religion (a religion you choose independent of what any church or synagogue or any religious tradition says) eliminates the possibility of obedience or self-denial or courage, because obedience, self-denial, and courage are an individual taking his or her needs or desires and submitting them to a larger call to a whole, saying, I am just a part, and I’m submitting to the whole. That’s the only way you can obey. That’s what self-denial is. That’s what courage is.
Up until 50 or 60 years ago, everybody understood this. Everybody. All nations understood this. They understood what obedience and self-denial and courage were. It was interesting. There is this musical, Les Miserables, and in the musical there are a bunch of college students who are ready to lead a revolt to overthrow the government, to liberate the poor. (Not a bad thing to do.) One of the college students, Marius, is in love, and the leader of the college students turns to Marius, and he says,
Marius, you’re no longer a child. I do not doubt you mean it well,
But now there is a higher call. Who cares about your lonely soul?
We strive toward a larger goal. Our little lives don’t count at all!
Now everybody claps, you know … New York audiences clap … but they have no idea what he’s talking about, because you see, 81 percent of Americans say you need to do what fulfills you in religion. You should not say, “My little life doesn’t count at all. I have to submit to a higher call. I have to become part of the whole.” Americans’ understanding of life and meaning and religion is really summed up in what Barbara Walters said while talking to Sam Donaldson.
She said a person has a right to live any way that makes him happy as long as he doesn’t interfere with others doing the same thing. Now that’s the essence of what we believe today. What she has said is very, very revealing. There is only one high call. What is the highest call? The only thing that’s wrong to do is to keep somebody else from doing what will make him happy.
That’s the only absolute. It’s the only thing that’s inviolate. It’s the only high call, and of course, that brings us to the place where we are with that young man who all the photographers snapped back when Jimmy Carter was trying to reinstitute the draft and there were protests. One guy held up a banner or placard that said, “Nothing is worth dying for,” which is true for 81 percent of all Americans, I believe, or more.
Because if you say the highest call is anything that fulfills me is right unless it keeps somebody else from doing the same thing (finding what makes them happy), there is no possibility of self-denial because there is no basis for it. There is no possibility of courage; there is no basis for it. There is no basis for ever dying for anything. There is no basis for ever saying no to yourself unless you hurt somebody else on that same quest for joy and fulfillment.
The Bible says something different, but you see it would be possible to argue against this on completely pragmatic grounds. I wouldn’t even have to go to the Bible, but I will. You can be pragmatic. You can say, “Do you realize up until 50 or 60 years ago, everybody understood what that man was saying in Les Miserables? Everybody understood the idea at certain points there are high calls and high causes. There are things that are right, and it doesn’t matter what you want because they are more important. We have to submit. We have to become a part of a whole. We have to be a building block in a building.”
Everybody understood. We might have disagreed on what those higher calls were. Every culture had different ones. Every religion had different ones. We all believed there were such, but now we’ve come to the place where everybody is saying, “No, no, no. What’s right is what fulfills me.” You can’t have a community, you can’t have a government, and you can’t have a nation like that. If you look at most of the political problems we have, it boils down to this. People are saying, “Yeah, this is necessary to do, but not in my neighborhood. Yeah, this is necessary to have done, but not out of my pocket.”
What that means is, “I refuse to be a part of the whole. I see I should sublimate myself for the good of the whole. There is a higher cause, a higher goal. Not on your life. I will not be a building block in a house. I am the house.” Now when you have that attitude, you can’t have a nation, and you can argue against that view on the basis of pragmatism, but I won’t do that, because the Bible says the reason it’s stupid, the reason it’s impractical is because it’s wicked. It’s not impractical just because it’s impractical; it’s impractical because it’s wicked.
God says, “Because of the way I designed you, you must lose yourself to find yourself. You must submit to me in order to be free. You must fit in to my house and to my kingdom or you will find you’ll be tyrannized to fit into somebody else or something else.” Now do you hear that? Bob Dylan put it this way: “You’re gonna have to serve somebody.” Do you remember that? What he meant by this is everyone is mastered by something, and Jesus Christ says, “You shall know the truth, you continue in the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
What he means at that point is, “… my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” He says, “It’s easier than any other yoke, because if you don’t fit in, if you don’t sublimate yourself to me, to my rules, to my agenda, to my kingdom, you will be mastered by something else. You’ll be mastered by your drives, or you’ll be mastered by the social circle or the group of people you have to fit in with,” because we all have to fit in with somebody, huh? You have to dress to fit in with the group of people you need to be in to find that happiness.
You need to speak in a certain way to fit in, don’t you? There are some of you out there saying, “Oh, no. I’m not that kind of person. I’m absolutely independent. I refuse to fit into anybody,” so you fit in to non-conformity. I know your type, and you know who you are, too. You are just as enslaved because you have to be an outsider. You won’t ever conform. You won’t ever fit in, even when you need to, even when you should out of love, you see. You have to serve somebody. Everybody has to fit into something. Nobody really is a freestanding stone, and God says, “Lose yourself to find yourself.”
That means, “Lose yourself in my service. Lose yourself in obedience to me. Come in and be part of my larger whole, or else somebody else will get you, and you’ll fit into something else.” When Jesus says, “… my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” he is saying, “I’m the only Master who won’t crush you. I’m the only One who won’t crush you. Every other master is a taskmaster. I’m the only Master who adopts. You won’t just be a slave; you’ll be my son, my daughter.”
Now you see, the Bible says if you are built into God’s house, first of all, you’ll experience freedom. Really, for the first time in your life, you’ll be able to be creative because you won’t need to fit into anybody else or anything else. You’ll also have a sense of purpose. You’ll know what you’re for. You’ll know where you fit. Are you experiencing that in your life? If you’re not at all, or if you’re not enough, then it’s because in some way you’re failing to let yourself be built into God’s house.
Now how can you be built into God’s house? There are five things this text suggests you have to do, and every one of them is not just another sermon … it’s a series … and I will get to them all, but not tonight. Now let me explain what this means. This text here tells us we are built into a house. We are, first of all, in verse 20, laid on a foundation. There is a depth dimension to building a house. There has to be a foundation. If you are to be a living stone in God’s house, you have to be laid on that foundation.
Secondly, there is a height dimension. It says the building “… rises to become a holy temple …” That means you don’t just stack stones any old way. The stones have to follow the blueprint of the architect. There is a design, and it has to rise according to the blueprint. Lastly, there is a breadth aspect, because it says in verse 22 we are built together to form a holy temple in the Lord. That means the blocks are built together.
Now let me draw some analogies here to help us see what it means to be a living stone in God’s house, because this gives us a tremendous inventory, a way for you to look at yourself tonight and say, “First, on the basis of this inventory I can see I am not in God’s house at all. I’m not a living stone. I’m not part of his kingdom. Or, you might say, I’m not experiencing the freedom I should. It’s because I am not doing as well in one of these areas as I should.” Now let’s take a look at these areas.
It says if you are to be a living stone, you have to built on the foundation. What is that foundation? Do you see? “… the foundation of the apostles and the prophets …” The prophets and the apostles were the people who brought revealed truth from God, and it’s written down in the Word of God. When we say there is a foundation, we mean stones have to be laid on the foundation. They can’t be laid on the plain earth, can they? They can’t be laid partly on the foundation and partly on the earth. They have to be laid on the foundation.
This means a Christian has to submit completely to the Word of God. I plan to preach on this next week, but I’ll just explain what it means real briefly here. If you look through the Word of God and you say, “I like what it says about integrity and honesty, and I like what it says about love and relationships,” but if you don’t like or if you just ignore what it says about sexuality or what it says about materialism and wealth and the use of your money, then you are a person who is setting your rock partly on the earth and partly on the foundation.
Everybody knows what will happen to a house built like that. When Jesus Christ says, “… my yoke is easy and my burden is light,” what he is saying is all other ground is sinking sand. “Build your life on what I say in my Word, on the foundation of the prophets and the apostles. There is no other foundation that will hold you up.” If you refuse to do that, you’re just not building yourself into God’s house. That is the first step, you might say, to being a stone.
2. The building rises
Now that means several things, frankly. First of all, for a building to rise that means stones are being cut out of the earth somewhere at a quarry, right? They used to be part of the earth. They are cut out of the earth, and they’re brought. It says in 1 Peter 2, “… come to him, the living Stone,” and become a living stone and be built up. Do you know what this means? You have to be added to the church. To be added to the church means you have to be converted. You have to be converted.
It says in Acts 2, daily God added to the church those who were being saved. When it talks about the fact you need to come to him, the living Stone, and become a living stone in the house of God, it means in order to be fit for the kingdom of God you have to be converted. Are you saying, “Okay. Let’s move on. Everybody knows that?” First of all, to be in the house of God, you have to be built on the prophets and the apostles (the Word of God). You also have to be converted.
Now before somebody says, “Come on. Move on. Everybody knows that.” Listen. Most of the people sitting in churches today in this city or anywhere in the country, if you went up to them and asked them, “Are you converted?” they would be angry and/or confused. Very angry and very confused. Why? Because they don’t know. That’s why they are angry or confused, or both. Now usually, and I think this is fair, if you don’t know if you’re converted or not, you’re not. Usually, you see. However, there is still some confusion because some people are awfully good at giving conversion stories that are incredibly dramatic.
Sometimes some of us say, “Well, that never really happened to me,” so let me just say if you are going to be a living stone in the house of the Lord, you have to be converted. How do you know if you’re converted? All conversions, whether they are dramatic or not, I think have two sides or aspects to them. They all have this in common. If you’re converted, first of all, you have a deeper sense of your sin. The Bible says the Spirit comes into the world to convict people of sin.
What I mean by that is there is a sense of sin that comes with conversion. There has been a time in your life in which you finally can’t run from your weaknesses, your limitations, your faults, and your flaws anymore (the things you’ve hidden from yourself for years, things you’ve blamed on other people, things you ran from and rationalized away). The Spirit opens you to the place where you finally say, “I’m helpless. I see it finally!” You know, some people say there are two selves in every person.
There is the higher self (the noble self) and there is the lower self (the animal self). That is based more on Plato and the Greeks than on the Bible. Frankly, my dear friends, there are three of you. Very, very confusing. Each one of you has three selves, and only Christians can see the three. In fact, it takes conversion and conviction of sin to see those three. The first self is the false self, the one we try to make ourselves and other people believe. A self that denies the pride that’s there, denies the hurt that’s there, denies the pain that’s there, and denies the wickedness that’s in there. That’s a false self, a false front.
Then there is the true self. The true self is so much more full of anger and so much more full of fear and so much more full of pride and self-centeredness than we ever dared believe, and only the Spirit of God in conversion can give us the courage to admit that self is there. The third self is the potential self, the incredible, beautiful person who you know in Christ you can become, that you are becoming. It’s far greater than anything you ever dared hope you could be. You see, before conversion you could only see the false self and none of the rest, but when you’re converted, when you’re convicted of sin, you see all three. Has that happened to you?
The second aspect of real conversion is besides the sense of sin there is a sense of the preciousness of Christ. Now I use that word carefully, because what I just read you in 1 Peter 2, where it says, “… come to him, the living Stone …” it says no one who ever believes in him will be put to shame. Then it says, “Now to you who believe, [he] is precious …”
You may believe in Jesus in the sense you believe he existed, you believe he did all the things the Bible says, but have you ever come to the place where he became precious to you? That means, did you ever get to the place where you began to look at him the way a very hungry person looks at great food, the way a very, very poor person looks at a pile of money? Have you ever gotten to the place where he began to be your hope, someone you really depended on? That is preciousness.
Conversion brings both of those things together: a sense of the preciousness of Christ so you depend on him and a sense of conviction of sin so you admit who you are. It is this experience that fits us for the household of God. The reason we fit together, friends, is because Christians have been cut out of the world by conversion. We never will be the same. We don’t fit there anymore. There is a place in 1 Corinthians that says the spiritual man judges all things but himself is judged of no one.
Do you know what that means? It means on the one hand, the spiritual man judges things, he can evaluate things, but nobody can figure him out, because, you see, a person from the world can’t figure it out. Conversion, on the one hand, because of the first thing (the conviction of sin) makes you much more realistic about yourself, much more willing to take criticism, but on the other hand, the second part of conversion (the preciousness of Christ) brings a kind of brimming confidence, but it’s a humble confidence. People can’t figure that out.
People who haven’t been through that can’t figure that out. You’ve been cut out of the world. You’ve been cut out of the quarry. You don’t fit there anymore. You fit in the temple. You fit in the house of God. So when we say the temple rises, that means God has added you to the temple. That’s not all. When we say the temple rises, we also mean you’ve been shaped. It says you’ve been fit together, in verse 21. You see, if I just go to the quarry and cut out a piece of rock and just bring all the pieces of rock and just try to build a building out of them, they don’t fit together. They have to be shaped.
In 1 Peter it says the living stones grow. What that means is God is shaping you. He is maturing you, and if you’re a living stone in the household of God, that is happening. Now let me ask you. Let me be very, very specific. Is it happening? Do you see yourself growing into the likeness of Christ? Do you see yourself growing in supernatural maturity? Do you see yourself growing in the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, patience, peace, kindness, humility? Have they grown deeper since last year? Have they grown deeper since last month?
Do you see him shaping you or not? You’re not a stone unless you’ve been shaped. In construction, the shaping of a stone to fit into a building is a mechanical process, but in the church, the way God shapes us to fit together is an organic process. He grows us. Here is the sermon series. There are three ways in which you can grow: the way of acceptance, the way of exchange, and the way of nourishment.
The way of acceptance means when God sends troubles into your life, instead of kicking and screaming and fighting like a wild horse fights the bridle, you say, “I admit your rights over me, Lord. I’m looking for my lessons. I am patient with the things you’ve given me, and I will grow.” Are you like that? When troubles come into your life, do you say, “Lord, I accept this as your teaching and your training; show me what you want me to learn?”
Then there is the way of exchange. That means Christians are supposed to support and confront each other. Did you hear that? Not everything I say you have to really, really listen to, but you have to listen to that one. Support and confront. There is no growth, there is not this hewing and shaping of your stone, in Christian relationships unless you have both: supporting and confronting. Not one or just the other. If you have a person who is only confronting you, you’re going to get rid of that relationship. If you have a person who is only supporting you, you’re not going to learn a thing.
Have you recently heard yourself on a tape recorder? Do you know why it sounds so awful? Do you know why you say, “Who is that? That sounds like my sister. That sounds like my brother. That sounds like my mother. That’s not me.” Do you know why it sounds so awful? Because you know it is exactly how you really sound. It really is. You don’t sound like what you sound to yourself because you don’t hear yourself. You hear yourself through the bones of your ears or something.
The point is … unless you have tape recorders, video cameras, and things like that, you don’t know what you look like, and it’s ghastly when you see it. Right? But that’s what you really look like. Without fellowship you’ll never know who you really are. You’ll never have perspective. You’ll never be sane. You’ll be out of touch with reality unless you have people through whom you’re growing through the way of exchange.
Then there is the way of nourishment. Do you know what the way of nourishment is? The way of nourishment means taking God’s truth in the Bible (his summons, his promises, his commands, everything he says) and not just saying, “Yep, I believe that,” but eating it. Now how do you eat the truth? Well, how do you eat food? You taste it. You get the sweetness out of it. You reflect on the truth. You meditate on the truth, and you get it into your heart and into your mind till it is saturating you so you think and look at everything through a biblical grid. Do you see?
It really becomes part of you. You digest it, you see, just like Erma Bombeck says. “Why eat spaghetti? Why don’t I just put it on my hips?” Food is something you digest; it becomes part of you. Food is something you taste, and when truth is something you’re tasting and it’s something you’re digesting and making part of you, that is the way of nourishment. That’s a process, not just reading the Bible but praying it in. Are you growing? If not, you are neglecting one or two or all three.
The way of acceptance means troubles in your life you’re refusing to learn from. The way of nourishment means you just don’t have the discipline to spend the time with the truth. The way of exchange means you’re too busy or too shortsighted or too scared to actually get into decent Christian friendships where you can grow.
One more thing about stones. Stones not only have to be added by taking out of the quarry, they not only have to be shaped, but then they have to be placed. You see, every stone has its own function in the building. Not every stone can be a capstone. Not every stone can be a keystone. Just try it; it doesn’t work. In the same way, in Ephesians 4 it says the church grows when every part is working properly.
This means for a Christian to be a part of the building, a Christian has to know and discover his or her spiritual gifts. What does that mean? The Bible teaches when Jesus Christ ascended to heaven, it says, “… he gave gifts to men.” It tells us this in Ephesians 4. Before he went to heaven, he said something very strange. He said to his disciples, “You will do greater deeds than me.” Do you believe that? You say, “Oh, that was just those apostles,” but if that’s all he meant (just those 12 apostles) how could they have done greater deeds than Jesus?
Here’s the answer. When Jesus went to heaven, he gave gifts to men, and that means he is determined to distribute his ministry powers out to his people so he can continue his ministry in the world through us. See, Jesus had the power to win people and the power to teach and the power to counsel and the power to do all things. What we get is a distribution, so some of us get some of his powers, and some of us get some of his powers, and some of us get some of his powers, but it’s really him. He died so we wouldn’t live for ourselves, but he could live his life through us.
His business in the world is to make new men and women, and our business in the world is to let him live his life through us to do the same thing. Now Paul is so committed to this truth he says something almost in passing, almost casually, that if you’re not thinking, you miss it. Right there in 2:17, he says to the Ephesians, “He came and preached peace …” Jesus Christ came and preached peace to you who are near and who are far away. Hey, I have a question for you. When did Jesus Christ ever go to Greece? When did Jesus Christ ever go to Ephesus and preach?
We know Jesus Christ never left Palestine. Then how could Paul talk like this? Paul is so, almost unconsciously, committed to this truth that he just goes on by. The fact is somebody, some Christian, went and used gifts of public communication to preach to the Ephesians, and as far as Paul is concerned, it wasn’t that person; it was Jesus Christ doing it. Jesus has distributed his ministry gifts to us all. Do you know what that means?
It’s a picture God is giving us of a stained glass window. Every one of us is a little piece of glass in that window, and as pretty as those little pieces of white and red and emerald glass are, it’s only when they’re put together and the sun hits them all at once you see the whole picture. Only as we pull together, coordinating our gifts, using our gifts, discovering our gifts and ministry abilities can we show the world Jesus Christ in all of his glory. Now coordination is critical. For example, there is no gift of counseling in the Bible. Do you know that? You can’t find the gift of counseling.
There is the gift of mercy. (Tender people.) There is the gift of confrontation. There is the gift of exhortation. There is the gift of teaching. Do you know why? I’ll tell you why. Everybody’s problems are different. As a counselor, I know that. Some people need to have their hand held. Some people need to have their mouth socked; they need a punch in the mouth. Some of you know this. You went to counselors until somebody finally said, “Cut it out,” and it was the best thing you ever got!
But that same counselor, who says, “Cut it out,” to everybody (because that’s the gift that counselor has) will crush other people, because you see, it’s only as all of our gifts are working that we can solve everybody’s problems. It’s only as we all have and use our ministry abilities that we can show Jesus Christ to the world. Now this is exciting, but it’s humbling. It’s exciting because it means Jesus is really in charge of the church. How do you know …? How do I know what kind of ministries this church is supposed to have in New York City?
I don’t know. Do you know why? Because this church is like a connect-the-dots picture. Until God surfaces people with their burdens and their gifts and their ministries and all that, we can’t know what God wants the church to be. Do you see that? Only as you come to understand what you’re supposed to be giving to the Lord (your ministry ability) do we find out what the church should be. Somebody says, “I don’t know what my gifts are. In fact, I’m not gifted at all.” Don’t be so proud. You are gifted.
What you do is you proceed to get active. You proceed to minister. It’s just like how you find you’re good at anything else. You do some things. You check out your desires. You check out your affectedness. It takes time, but you can’t be a consumer. You cannot come and sit and soak. Matthew 25 tells us about the day Jesus comes back and he has three servants. One of them was given five talents, one was given two, and one was given one. The one with five talents said, “Here, Master. I got your five talents. I invested them, and I have 10 back.”
Another person said, “Here, Master. I had two talents, and I invested them, and I give you four back.” The last one said, “Here, Master. I have one talent, and I knew you’d be scared if I lost it, so I buried it, and here it is.” That last guy said, “I was scared,” and a lot of you are going to say, “I don’t know what kind of ministry I could do. I’m scared. I don’t want to look foolish,” but do you know what? In that parable in Matthew 25, the king does not say to that last guy, “You wicked, scared servant.” He doesn’t say that. Do you know what he says?
He says, “You wicked, lazy servant!” He says, “I gave you something, and the only way to take care of it was to invest it.” I hate to say this in a room like this, in a city like this, but you’re stockbrokers for God. If somebody gave you, as a stockbroker, a huge amount of money to invest, with fear and trembling, you knew you could not sit on that because if you sat on it that person would be losing money. You had to invest it. You had to invest it well. You had to give a good return on it. This is far more valuable than a billion dollars.
This is far more powerful than a billion dollars. Do you understand that? We should be looking at New York saying, “All the power we have,” but who knows what it’s going to be? We have to get it out there. Now you see why Jesus can say, “You will do greater works than me,” because Jesus Christ, as powerful as he was, was in one body and one place, but now his ministry gifts and his kingdom powers are distributed in millions of cells that can go everywhere, and there are not enough of them in New York, but we need to penetrate.
If you want to be in the house of God as a living stone, you have to be built on the foundation. That means you have to be obeying his Word. You have to be converted. You have to be growing in supernatural maturity. You have to be finding and using your gifts, not a consumer, not just sitting and soaking, but doing things for him, using the gifts he’s given you. Lastly, it says we fit together into the church, and that just simply means just as a good stone in the walls here, you don’t want gaps in the masonry. You want the stones to be completely related to the other stones at every point.
We talked about this several weeks ago. If you want to be really built into the kingdom of God, you have to have intimate relationships with the people of God, and you have to work at it. It says bear one another’s burdens. It says confess your sins to each other. It says exhort one another daily lest you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. It says pray for one another. My friends, how many people do you have that you’re obeying those commandments with?
How many people do you know so well they’re exhorting you daily lest you be hardened by sin? How many people are you confessing your sins to? How many people are you bearing burdens with? Now we talked about this, but the fact is that kind of fellowship is a command, so here we are.
End of the service. Here is the inventory. Look at it. Are you converted? Are you obeying? Are you growing? Can you see yourself changing in character? Are you ministering? Have you discovered what your gifts are and what God wants you to be doing in the world? Are you really plugged into good fellowship? Five things.
If you are not experiencing the freedom in your life, the power in your life God wants you to have, you are weak somewhere. Some of you are definitely weak at the fellowship level; you’re too busy, or you’re too scared. Some of you are definitely weak at the gifts level; you’re just consumers. Some of you are definitely weak at the growth level, because for one reason or another you’re not being disciplined in the way of acceptance and the way of nourishment and the way of exchange.
Some of you are simply refusing to be obedient. There is an area of your life you’re not giving him obedience in. How do you expect to know the truth and have the truth set you free? How can you expect to find yourself when Jesus Christ says lose yourself to find yourself? Become part of the whole, the higher call. Submit. It’s a good inventory, but let me just warn you about something. You’ll never be the same again because of what you’ve read and what you’ve heard. You never will.
Do you realize, now that you have this very clear chart you either will obey what you’ve heard and act on it, and you’ll become far more a living stone, or else you won’t act on it and you’ll become harder in your heart and guiltier before God? You’re responsible, my friends. I should have warned you before you sat through this. Don’t you see? You have been polarized. You can either be pushed ahead or way behind in your relationship with God because of what you’ve heard tonight.
You’re responsible, but don’t be afraid. Go ahead. “… come to him, the living Stone,” and you can be living stones built up into a spiritual house, for God has said, “I am laying in Zion a cornerstone. No one who believes in him will ever be put to shame.” Let’s take a moment of silence (and I do mean a moment here), and I’m going to suggest some of you who know you need to work on obedience will promise him that obedience, things in your life you know you should be obeying and you’re not. Some of you, it’s a lack of discipline, just an unwillingness to give God the time and give ministry the time.
Some of you I hope realize you’ve never been converted, and if that’s true, what you need to do tonight is go to him and pray and say, “Lord, I see I’ve been trying to stand on my own. Build me into your house. I receive you as my Lord and Savior.” It needs to be said tonight. Let’s take time to ask God to apply this to our hearts.
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.
I am the Lead Pastor of Valley Baptist Church (Bay Area), born and raised in Huntington Beach, Ca., and currently living in Novato, California. I am married to my best friend of 29 years - Dana - and have five adult children; and seven grand children. I have been a Teaching Pastor for over thirty years. I was privileged to study at Multnomah University (B.S. - 1988); Talbot School of Theology (M.Div. - 1991); Westminster Theological Seminary & Northwest Graduate School (D. Min. - 2003). I founded Vertical Living Ministries in 2008 with the goal of encouraging Christian Disciples and Leaders to be more intentionally Christ-Centered in how they live by bringing glory to God in nine key areas of life: (1) Intimacy with God, (2) marriage, (3) family, (4) friendship, (5) vocationally/ministry , (6) emotional and physical health, (7) stewardship of resources, (8) discipleship, and (9) mentoring.
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