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January 11, 2015 Pastor: Don Green Series: Ephesians

Topic: Sunday Sermons Scripture: Ephesians 2:17-18

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Well, it is a joy now to turn to God's Word as we return to our teaching in the book of Ephesians, and I would invite you to turn to Ephesians, as we begin here this morning, as we open God's Word and continue our worship in the proclamation of God's Word. And that's what we most care about at Truth Community Church is we care about the proclamation of the Word of God. And last time what we looked at was we looked at Ephesians chapter 2 verse 16, and we saw God's way of reconciliation. And if you look at Ephesians 2 verse 16 with me, speaking of Christ, it says that He came so that He, "might reconcile them both," meaning Jews and Gentiles, "in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity."And we saw last time that God's way of reconciliation is found in the sacrifice of His own Son, that the Lord Jesus Christ laid down His life voluntarily as a payment for sin, so that sinners could be reconciled to Him. And if you ask most anybody in the Bible Belt portion of our country, people would probably say, "Christ." If you asked them why Christ died, they would be able to echo something, "That Christ died for my sins." They would say something like that even if it wasn't a true reality in their heart. We're grateful that the Lord has impressed that sense of atonement on the collective consciousness, even if it is receding from our national mindset.

But here for us today, what I want you to see is that so many things flow out of the cross. So many things flow out of the atonement. So many wonderful things come out of the work of Christ that we aren't necessarily as quick to associate with the cross. What we want to see today is that God reconciled us for a purpose. It wasn't simply so that you would not go to hell, but you would go to heaven instead. The purposes of God transcend that. They are broader than that. They are more multifaceted than that. And we see that here in our passage that is before us, Ephesians chapter 2 verses 17 and 18. Christ fulfilled divine justice at the cross. Christ fulfilled the law in receiving its punishment against sinners at the cross, but for those of us that know Christ now, those of us that God has done a work in our heart and brought us to saving faith in Christ, there is a magnificent reality that flows from that that impacts daily life and that totally transforms your perspective on why you live, why you exist and we see that laid out for us in these two rich verses.

Ephesians 2 verses 17 and 18. Look at them with me, if you would. I'll read them to set them in our minds. It says, "And He came," meaning Christ, of course, by context,

17 And Christ came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; 18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.

The sweet simplicity of the words that are there in that text, beloved, have a transforming reality. There is a transforming truth to how you walk through life as a result of the fact that Christ accomplished atonement for your sins. This changes the whole nature of reality for us. It changes the way that we think about our purpose in life, and it changes the way that we think when we approach God. Beloved, the death and resurrection of Christ was not a static event. It was not an isolated moment in time that we look back to, and we receive forgiveness, and then we go on as if nothing had changed. The death of Christ was designed to produce a result in your life that this text tells us about, that defines and helps us understand what the church does, and what happens when we preach the Gospel, and then, for us individually and corporately, it shows us what the ongoing result of salvation is.

The reconciliation that Christ accomplished at Calvary has ongoing effects today. We could frame the question this way, "What flows from the cross? What happens as a result of the crucifixion of Christ?" And stated differently, "How does that work come to us? How was it that we came to be Christians?" For those of us that have repented and put our faith in Christ, how did all of this happen? Well, it flows from the plan of God that the cross furthered and, now in light of the cross, these things carry forth.

First of all, we're going to see two aspects of this here today. What flows from the cross of Jesus Christ? Well, the first thing that we see is the triumphant announcement of the Gospel. The triumphant announcement of the Gospel is the first thing that Paul says flows from the cross. When Christ completed His earthly ministry, when He was crucified, when He was risen, when He ascended into heaven, now the stage was set for the proclamation of peace with God to go as far and wide as the four corners of the earth. That is what flows from the cross. That true Christians, and beginning with the apostles and in the generations of faithful men that followed, beginning with the apostles, we can now dogmatically proclaim that God is a peacemaking, reconciling God who will receive sinners gladly, if they come to Christ. And we are able to say that dogmatically. We say it with certainty. We say it without fear. We say it without qualification. God is favorably disposed to sinners in the Lord Jesus Christ, and if you are unsaved, if you are lost, if you are miserably still stuck in your sins, we can say dogmatically to you that God will receive you through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Look at verse 17 with me. It says, "And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near." This is very interesting, the reality of what this passage is talking about. It's referring to Christ, and it's saying that Christ came and preached peace to you, to you who were far away. Who were those who were far away? The Gentiles. The people that were not Jews. Basically, almost everyone in this room, including me. The death of Christ made it so that Gentiles like us could have peace preached to us on the basis of the finished work of Christ. And it's been a while since we looked at this, and so let me just remind you, who is it that was far away? It was the Gentiles.

Look at verse 11 with me, Ephesians chapter 2 verse 11, as we just remind ourselves of the context here and how desperately, darkly lost we Gentiles were apart from Christ. Verse 11, "Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called 'Uncircumcision' by the so-called 'Circumcision,' which is performed in the flesh by human hands," and then he tells these Gentiles what their condition was like, what their spiritual state was like. He said, "You remember this: remember that you were at that time, before you were a Christian, you were separate from Christ. You were excluded from the commonwealth of Israel. You were strangers to the covenants of promise. You had no hope, and you were without God in the world." We looked at this several weeks ago, and this is what Paul is saying, this is what he's calling to mind when he says, "You were far away." God had revealed Himself in the Old Testament to the Jews. God had made promises to the Jewish people that He would send a Deliverer to them, but if you were not a Jew, you were on the outside looking in. Your nose was pressed against the glass of the candy store with no ability to get inside and enjoy the fruit of it. You were separate from that. The promises were not made to your line. The promises were made to someone else, and as a result, you had no hope of deliverance from sin. You were without God, and all that lay ahead of you was continued deeper darkness that would one day culminate in the realities of an eternal judgment in hell. You were so far away, and you did not have the capacity to do anything to save yourself. You could not cry a river of tears of repentance that would somehow carry you into the throne room of God. There was nothing that you could do with your religious rituals, or by doing things, or giving money, or attending church that would reconcile you to God. The door was slammed shut on you. You were far away. There was no hope for you.

Look back at verse 17 with me, "Christ came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near." The same peace was preached to the Jews, who had the promises, but, in like manner, were still sinners themselves and needed to be reconciled to God. Whether you were Jew or Gentile, whether  you were on the north pole or the south pole, wherever you were at, anywhere in the world, now the Gospel of peace could be proclaimed to you, because Christ had removed the enmity that separated men from God.

This passage, this verse, Ephesians 2:17, echoes the prophecy of Isaiah. Turn back to Isaiah 57. I just want you to see this. This was part of what Isaiah prophesied would be the ministry of the Messiah 700 years before Christ came to earth. Isaiah 57:19. It says, beginning in verse 18, "I will lead him and restore comfort to him and to his mourners, creating the praise of the lips." Now watch this. "'Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near,' says the Lord, 'and I will heal him.'" Isaiah saw this aspect of the ministry of Christ 700 years before it came to pass, and Paul picks up on these words of Isaiah and says, "This is what Christ has done through His atoning work, through His death and resurrection, through His substitutionary atonement on behalf of sinners. Now we are able to triumphantly proclaim, 'God has done everything that is necessary for sinners to be reconciled to Christ.'" God has done everything that is necessary for you to be restored to harmony with Him, the harmony that you gladly forfeited with your sin. The harmony with which you in your stubbornness, which you in your deliberate pursuit of sin, which you in your suppression of the truth in unrighteousness, as Romans 1 says, that which you pushed away in your sin, that which you rejected in the hardness of your heart, and which some of you are continuing to do right now, this very moment. You're still doing that.

What the cross does, what the historical accomplishment of the cross does in part is it allows us to proclaim peace. God brings you peace, brings you terms of peace, and says, "Your sin has been dealt with at the cross, if you will repent and come to Christ." The cross enables us to say that triumphantly, certainly, and to all of mankind. Those who are near, those who are far away, those who are proud in their self-righteousness, but utterly devoid of the Spirit of God, those who are trapped in the worst of sins that man could describe from an external standpoint, whether you're a self-righteous sinner, or whether you're a vile, wicked wretch of a sinner, the same terms of peace are proclaimed to you today. God will receive you. God will cleanse you. God will forgive all of your sins. God will give power to you to overcome sin, if you will simply come to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, this leads us into something that is really magnificent, and that maybe you haven't really thought of too much and this helps us have a much better sense, and understanding, and theological perspective of what happens when the Gospel is proclaimed. What is it that happens when a man stands in a pulpit and preaches the Scriptures to sinners? What is it that is happening when you open a Bible with your neighbor or with your family member, and you share the Gospel with them and repeat to them the truths that we've just been rehearsing here over the past few moments in this message? Well, look at this. It so easy for us to rush through pronouns and not really contemplate exactly what it means. This elevates our view and our sense of what preaching is in a very magnificent way. In verse 17 it says, "He came and preached." Paul doesn't say, "I came and preached." Who is the "he"? What's the antecedent of the pronoun? Well, he's been talking about Christ. Verse 13. "Now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." Christ Jesus. Christ. Christ Himself is our peace. He made both groups into one. He might make the two into one new man. He might reconcile him. It's Christ, Christ, Christ, Christ, Christ that he's been talking about throughout this whole context.

Now watch this. Stay with me. "And He came and preached peace." Christ came and preached peace. You say, "Well, wait a second. These readers of Ephesians, these readers that Paul was writing to, most of them had never seen Christ. This was written 30 years after the resurrection. This was, Christ did not come to these people in His physical flesh and preach to them. And what's more, when it's talking about preaching peace to Gentiles, well, Scripture says that during His earthly life Christ focused on the lost sheep of Israel. So what's Paul saying here? How did Christ preach to them?" It says right there, "He came and preached peace to you." Well, what Paul is referring to, and I slow down, so that this can sink in in your mind because this will heighten or begin for some of you perhaps, your reverence for what happens when the Word of God is opened. What Paul is referring to here is the fact that Christ is present in the preaching of His Word. Christ Himself was preaching when the apostles did their ministry after the ascension. Whenever the Word of God is preached to sinners, Jesus Christ is working through that, preaching Himself to call men to Himself.

Look back at the Gospel of Matthew, the end of Matthew chapter 28. I want you to see this from a couple of different passages, and then we'll go back and try to tie this together in the context of Ephesians 2, so that you would be fully persuaded of what we're saying here. Beloved, when the Word of God is opened to you and preached to you, it is no mere human event that is taking place. Something supernatural happens when God's Word is preached by men who know Him. When the Gospel is shared by those who truly have the Spirit of God dwelling within them, there is something holy and magnificent that transcends the human element that is taking place.

Look at Matthew 28 verse 19. This is exactly what Paul is referring to. Jesus Christ is about to ascend into heaven. He has already been crucified at this point in Matthew's Gospel. He has already been resurrected, and He is giving what is known as the Great Commission to His disciples. He's sending out this small band of men to take the Gospel to the world and what does He say to them? He says, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you." Okay, so they're teaching. They're proclaiming the Word of God. They're making disciples. What is happening in that act? What is happening as they go and do that? Look at what Jesus said, "Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." The context of that is Christ saying, "When you are making disciples, when you are preaching the Word of God, when you are baptizing in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, when you are teaching them to observe what I commanded," Jesus says, "I'm with you as that's taking place." Christ Himself is working through the preaching of the Word to call men directly to Himself. The human speaker in his weakness, and in his flesh, and all of his imperfections is an instrument through which Christ speaks to those who hear. It's not that the speaker is speaking himself infallibly, but Christ is using that imperfect mind of the speaker in order, He uses that for His purposes to address people and proclaim peace to them, so that, sinner, when you hear the Word of God preached, you should realize that Christ Himself is calling you. It's not just a human instrument that is calling. It is Christ calling through that instrument to call you to Himself. The Lord Jesus Christ presents Himself to sinners through the preaching of His Word.

Look at 2 Corinthians chapter 5, if you would. 2 Corinthians chapter 5. You see this verse, and then we'll come back to Ephesians chapter 2 and work out the implications of it. Paul says in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, verse 20, "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ." We speak on behalf of another. We speak not for our own glory. We speak not in our own authority. We speak as an ambassador, as a representative of a sovereign, and he says, "It's as though God were making an appeal through us. We beg you on behalf of Christ be reconciled to God." The Apostle Paul says, "God is working through us. God is appealing through us, appealing to you to be reconciled to make peace with God on His terms in submission to the Lord Jesus Christ at the cross."

Now turn back to Ephesians chapter 2. The sequence of this passage shows us that this is what Paul is talking about. Look at the end of verse 16 with me again. It says, "That Christ might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross." Through the cross. When He died, He put to death the enmity and the sequence of the passage shows the sequence of what Paul is talking about. And He died, and then, "He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near." He's not talking about the earthly preaching of Christ before the cross. He's talking about how Christ was with the apostles and was with them as they preached after the ascension of Christ. So much is Christ identified with the proclamation of His Word and the proclamation of the Gospel, that it can be rightly and truly said, "As the Holy Spirit works through that speaker that Christ Himself is proclaiming peace to those who would hear."

This changes our view dramatically of what we think is going on in a time like this when the Word of God is opened. When the Word of God is taught, there is something holy and reverent that is taking place. Christ is there in the midst of that honoring His Word, affirming the truthfulness of it to the consciences of those who hear. Christ is with power taking His Word, and that is why Isaiah could say that God's Word never returns to Him without accomplishing what He desires. It's because it's not just a human act that is taking place. There is a divine work that takes place through the preaching of His Word. And so, that's why for those of you who are visiting, that's why for those of you who are members of Truth Community Church, that's why we take the Word of God seriously. That's why we don't joke around in the preaching of God's Word. It's too holy. There's too much at stake, and we have to realize that we are speaking as an ambassador of someone else, the holy crucified and resurrected Christ, and we must honor Him, even in the very manner in which we speak. It is a travesty for a man in the name of the Christian Gospel to stand in the pulpit and then proceed to tell a lot of stories about himself. Does that man not realize why he is there?

He's there as an ambassador. He's speaking on behalf of someone else. It's a treason. It's a usurpation of place and prerogative for man to say, "Let me tell you about me, and my week, and my family, and my kids." No. No. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:5, "We preach not ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord." And so somehow in a way that we can't fully understand, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself ministers when His Word is opened. Christ brought peace to these readers in Ephesians through His apostles as they preached. The Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Christ, works through the preacher and works in the hearts of those who hear. It is not merely a human act when God's Word is opened and taught and that's why we take a high view of the pulpit. It's why we take a high view of the Scriptures. It's that we recognize the presence of God when His Word is taught, not that, and again let me just quickly say this, it's not that the preacher is inerrant, but the Word of God is. It's not that the preacher is holy in and of himself, but the Spirit of God, who works through the preaching of the Word of God, he's holy. And so Paul could say, "We have this treasure in earthen vessels." We have this treasure in disposable clay pots that could be tossed aside, but the power and the purity of the proclamation proceeds with power, because Christ Himself works through the preaching of the Word and brings Himself to hearts in that way.

You would say, if you're a Christian, "I know the Lord Jesus Christ." And you would be right in saying that. Well, how did He come to you? Contrary to what our charismatic friends would say, some of them, Jesus didn't come to you personally. He didn't appear to you in the flesh, did he? He didn't sit down and have a conversation with Jesus Himself. He came to you through the Word. He came to you through the explanation of Scripture. He came to you as He worked in your conscience and so you can rightly say, "I came to Christ." Someone would say, "Well, how did He come to you?" "He came to me through the teaching of God's Word, and He preached peace to me, and now my sins are forgiven, and I'm reconciled to God."

So, we said that what flows from the cross, the triumphant announcement of the Gospel, Jesus Christ honors the preaching of His Word and announces to the consciences of men, "Peace is available through the cross." And that's why there is power in the preaching of the Word of God. It's not due to the eloquence of the human instrument. It's not because of any unique insights that the preacher has. The preacher doesn't have any unique insights, really. I mean, nothing in the sense of new revelation that hasn't already been laid out in the Word of God. The reason there's power when you hear God's Word preached is because of what God is doing through the Spirit in that act.

That's why preaching is different from any other form of public speaking. There is a persuasion that comes to bear on the conscience that goes beyond a lecture on engineering. There is an authority that takes place, because you understand, and the reason that sense of authority comes from the presence of the Sovereign when His word is announced. And so as I speak to you this morning, I can dogmatically say to you, based on the completed work of Christ and Christ appeals to you through His Word, "God is a peacemaking God." That God will forgive all of your sins right now, if you're not a Christian. God will instantaneously forgive you, if you come to Christ and put your faith in Him. We can say that dogmatically because of the cross. The enmity has been taken away. Christ put it away on the cross. The grounds for harmony, and reconciliation, and peace with God have all been fulfilled and now Christ presents Himself, as it were, to you and says, "Come and find this peace for yourself."

That's a triumphant announcement, but Paul goes on. Paul goes on, and he gives a second result that comes from the cross that is particularly true for Christians only. If you're not a Christian, you don't have this. No other way to say it. What we're about to see in verse 18, let's put it this way. Let me set it up here. Oh, let me give you the second point here first. I can't make up my mind which way I want to go. Second point, it's not only the triumphant announcement of the Gospel. The second thing is the Triune access to God. The Triune access to God. The cross purchased the triumphant announcement of the Gospel, and, for those of us who believe, it purchased for us Triune access to God. Isaiah 59:2 says that your sins have made a separation between you and your God, and His face is hidden from you, so that He does not hear. To be a non-Christian, to be an unreconciled sinner, is to be so far separated from God that you are on opposite sides of the Grand Canyon with no way to bridge the gulf in between. Psalm 66:18 says, "If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear." And so to be a sinner is to be horribly separated from your Creator. It's to be in hostility toward your ultimate Judge. It's to be lost and isolated in a black hole of nothingness that can only lead to eternal despair because there's only access through Christ, and if you haven't received Christ, then you haven't received access. You're in that condition of separation and alienation from God, having no hope and without Him in the world. I grieve for you who are like that.

But Paul is turning toward a climax here, in verse 18, speaking to us as Christians. And what does it mean to be a Christian? Well, here's one aspect of that. You see, we just have to develop a more mature, more fully biblical view of what Christ did for us on the cross. Yes, He took away our guilt. Yes, He erased the stain of our sin. Yes, He has fulfilled the law on our behalf, and we are now reconciled to Him. But that is, in one sense, it's a means to another end. It doesn't, let me put it this way, it doesn't stop there in this sense of only having paid for our guilt. The saving benefits of the work of Christ go so much further in a way that dramatically changes daily life for you.

Ah! I'm so glad to be able to share this with you. Look at verse 18 with me. This is another aspect of the surpassing greatness of the nobility of being a born-again Christian. Verse 18. The Apostle Paul says, "For through Him," through Christ, because that's who he's been talking about, "for through Christ we both," Jews and Gentiles alike who have believed in Christ, "for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father." Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all wrapped up in this one verse. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each bestowing, as it were, that person of the Trinity's unique blessing and contribution to the work of salvation on your behalf. This is saying that the fullness of God has been brought to bear so that you might have harmony with God, and not just harmony, not just the forgiveness of sin, but that you might be in a relationship of full unhindered privileged access to the holy throne of God Himself. "Through Him," it says, "we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father."

Beloved, Christian, brother and sister in Christ, what this is saying is this: as part of that reconciliation that Christ purchased for us, the work was so complete, the loving intentions of God upon you were so full, His interest in the totality of your life and soul here on earth and in eternity to come was so comprehensive that Christ, not only dealt with your legal guilt before God, he has brought you into a lasting, permanent, unchanging position of favor and access to the presence of a holy God. Whereas you once were separated from God, now the Godhead welcomes you into the presence of God with favor and approval, with favor and complete acceptance.

Notice the Trinitarian nature of this verse. The whole Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit were working in unison on your behalf to secure you in the favor of God. The Father before time began, appointed you to one day receive salvation in Christ. Before time began, Christ agreed to take on the work that would be necessary to reconcile sinners to Himself. He stepped into time. He went to the cross, and Christ Jesus Himself purchased redemption on your behalf. The Holy Spirit worked faith in your heart, so that you would believe. He gave you, imparted, new life to you, so that you could repent and believe in Christ. Now He indwells you. Now He intercedes for you with groanings too deep for words, Roman says. And just in that little thumbnail of theology, all of which we've covered in greater detail in times past from this pulpit, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each did their respective works in order to bring you into a position of lasting favor with God.

Now God freely, we pause because the grandeur of what we're about to see and hear requires our full attention. Now, based on this work that has been done on your behalf, which has been brought to you by Christ Himself and His proclamation of peace, now because the Holy Spirit has worked in your heart and brought you into the favor of God, now listen to this. Now this most holy God, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty. The whole earth is filled with His glory." This glory before which men fall on their face and say, "Woe is me. I'm ruined. I'm a man of unclean lips." The God who appeared to Moses in Shekinah glory and was so transforming in that moment that Moses came down from the mountain, and His face shone, and people hid themselves from His countenance, because the glory was so great. The God who sits on the throne of the universe ruling and ordering His providence, the God who will one day sit on the judgment throne, and judge nations, and judge peoples according to a perfect standard of righteousness. That holy, and majestic, and exalted God, that one, this passage teaches us, that God now freely admits us, who believe in Christ, into His presence without further condition. Through Christ we have access. We have a right of privilege, a right to appear, before the throne of that great God and we can come into His magnificent holy presence without fear of judgment, without fear of condemnation, because the work of peace that Christ has accomplished is so perfect.

Let's think about it from a different perspective. God did not save you to make you happy in an earthly circumstantial sense. God saved you for a much higher purpose than that. God saved you so that you might know Him in joy or in sorrow, so that you might have access to Him in Christ without any further condition. From the moment of your salvation until now, from now until you are in the presence of God in heaven, you have access. In other words, you may approach the living God with confidence, certain confidence that He will receive you favorably when you come.

Look at Ephesians chapter 3:11-12 where this same term is used. What did Christ do for us on the cross? What was God thinking before creation when He designed this salvation and included you by name in the plan? What did He intend to do? Verse 11, "This was in accordance with the eternal purpose," eternal outside of time. "This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him." That word for "boldness," we'll get to that in a few weeks, is a word that means "freedom of speech." It was used to speak of the right of freedom of speech that Greeks had in their society. They could speak without fear of retribution. They had the prerogative to speak when government was in session. Paul takes that word, and it is translated "boldness," but what we have in Christ, what it means to be a Christian, what God was doing was not simply changing the ledger on your account and making it so you went to heaven and not hell, and you wonder, "What's the point of life in between?" It's so much more than that! God saved you so that you would have this access to Him and walk in submission, and in confidence, and in trust, and in joy in Him, knowing Him, and being able, through the Lord Jesus Christ, to go to Him at any time, in any place, in any condition with utter confidence that He will receive you gladly. You, if you are a Christian, have been declared righteous before God, watch this, with such utter perfection, and there is such a certainty to the perfect work of Christ that nothing now hinders you from coming immediately to God. Because you go to God, and because you are reconciled to God on the merits in the shed blood of Christ, you have the same privilege to be before God that Christ Himself does, because you come on His merits, not on your own. Christ has covered your sin, so that you can come to God as freely as a little child approaches his earthly father with the certainty, with more certainty, that that father will receive you well.

And so Christian, you are not meant to be a shrinking, fearful person in the presence of God. God has given you an access that is meant to make you bold and confident before Him, not in a self-righteous, self-important way, but recognizing that the merit of Christ is your basis, is your passport, into His presence, and you're so confident in Christ that God says, "I accept you for the sake of my Son so now come. What's on your mind?"

Therefore Christian, let me set it up this way because this is really, really important, because I know that you're almost certainly like I am when you're thinking it's a little bit cluttered. If you've read your Bible, if you have been, you know, fairly good, whatever that means, you tend to come with a little more confidence to God than if you know that you've sinned and violated His holiness and so you say, "Well, I'll wait. Now, I need to let this storm pass over before God will receive me." And you're more confident coming to God when your Bible reading plan is current than if you've been straying. That is the remnants of a wrong view of God. It's a remnant of a wrong view of why you can approach God. You don't add to the basis on which you come to God by whether you're reading your Bible and being better obedient than you were last week. That doesn't improve your standing one bit. In the same way, as a Christian those times where you fall into sin, do not diminish your ability to come to God either, because, look at the verse with me, look at verse 18 with me again, verse 18, "For through Him," through Christ, in the name of Christ, based on the merit of Christ, based on the shed blood of Christ, trusting in Him and nothing of ourselves, not only for salvation, but for ongoing access because Christ is our King, because He is our Lord, because He is our Savior, in Him we can come, and your meager imperfect obedience doesn't improve on the merit of Christ one bit, and your sins as a Christian do not diminish the merit of His work one bit. He has fulfilled everything that is necessary for you to come boldly to God with a complete assurance. "God will receive me favorably. God will hear me. I can come to God morning, noon, or night. I can come to Him on my knees in the morning beside my bed. I can come to Him in prayer at my desk during the day. I can pray to Him when my kids are fussy. I can pray to Him when I'm tired. I can pray to Him when I'm weak, when I'm discouraged, and all the time. I have complete confidence always, no matter how I vacillate, that my access is as clear and pristine as it's ever been, because it's based completely on the merit of Christ, not on myself."

And so when you approach God in prayer, you can be certain that He hears you favorably. He is reconciled to you. You have peace with Him because of Christ. In Christ you have harmony with God, and so He hears you. When you come to confess sin, come boldly and say, "God, I come, not because I deserve this, but because of Christ. Outside myself, in Christ I bring my confession to you." And since those times of sin are where we most often seem to struggle with those feelings of separation and those feelings of unworthiness of coming, look, think about it this way, think about it from a completely different perspective: Christ commanded us to confess sin, and so in this total positional access of harmony we have, we come boldly, we come confessing sin, because Christ commanded us to. We don't hesitate with the sense that this is pleasing to God, this finds favor with Him when we approach Him in this way. We have access to the center of the Holy of Holies in Christ.

And so beloved, if you're thankful to God, go to Him boldly. Beloved, if you're profoundly discouraged, go to Him boldly. Are you in the weakness of physical despair? Go boldly. You see, this is what Christ did for us. This is the outworking of reconciliation. The reconciliation is perfect because the work of Christ was perfect. The ongoing access is perfect because it's purchased in Christ and mediated by the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. It's not about your performance. Do you see that?
And so we come to God clinging to Christ, and, as we cling to Christ, we speak freely. We speak confidently. We speak with an assurance of His favor because that is what Christ accomplished for us on the cross. We come boldly, not because we deserve it. "God, I've done the quiet time thing the past five days!" No, when you're thinking that way, you're not thinking right at all. Your access to God is always and only in Christ, and as we come and present ourselves to God in this way, beloved, here's what I want you to get. This and everything else I've said in the past 50 minutes. Get all of that too, but particularly get this: this access, it's a word that can also mean introduction, Christ has brought us into the presence of God, when you come to God, when you move your thoughts in the direction of Him, when you pray to Him, when you consider Him, oh beloved, get this point, so perfect was the harmony that Christ purchased at the cross on your behalf, so pleased was God with the work of His Son, that when you come, this changes everything. When you come, He receives you gladly, not reluctantly, not as a stern harsh taskmaster. The severity of God has been put away from Christians so that we have free access to Him. The penalty has been paid. He requires nothing more. Christ has done it all, and therefore, when you come in the name of Christ as a Christian, the arms of God, the throne room doors, are open wide and He doesn't hold your sins against you, because they were all satisfied at the cross. He isn't looking for something more out of you, because He got everything that He wanted out of the work of His Son. And so your mental conception of coming to God should be, as a Christian, you come to Him with the expectation, with the assurance, with the confidence that He receives you warmly, lovingly, graciously, gladly. Always! It says, "We have our access." The verb tense is it's an ongoing thing. This is a continual reality in the life of a Christian.

And so beloved, this is so liberating. The way that God receives you as a Christian when you come to Him is not grounded in your recent obedience or disobedience. Stop thinking about yourself and realize that the only reason you come to God is in Christ, and Christ was perfect, and is perfect, and will always be perfect, and His intercession, His atonement, His work for you has settled it all forever. And now God receives you with favor, not with reluctance. We don't have to jump up and down or go through hoops to get His attention. You already have it, and He's already gladly, fully giving it to you. This is how full our reconciliation to God is. Reconciliation with God yields into an ongoing relationship of access to God. John Stott put it this way, he said, "The highest and fullest achievement of the peacemaking Christ is this Trinitarian access of the people of God as, through Christ and by one Spirit, we come boldly to our Father."

If you're not a Christian this morning, this same access is offered to you today. Come to Christ, and that access to God will be granted to you as well. He holds nothing back. There is not a secret storage room where other blessings are contained. It's all in Christ. If you turn away, my unsaved friend, if you turn away, you will have only yourself to blame, because Christ has paid in full what is necessary. Christ has come to you through His Word. Christ has come and said, "I will receive even you. I will receive you. Just come!" All the barriers are down. If you walk out of this room unsaved today, the weight of judgment is on your head and your head alone because Christ will have you, just like He took me those years ago.

For you Christians, take great consolation from the truth that we've considered today. You have a willing, receptive audience in heaven. God is fully propitious toward you. He is favorably disposed to you. He is a God who knows the way of the righteous and guarantees their long-term blessing. Out with these unworthy thoughts that God is harsh and severe toward His children. No he's not. God is good and gracious to His children, and Hebrews 4:16 says this. It says, "Let us therefore draw near to the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." The writer of Hebrews could say that because the access is permanent. It's perfect. It's been provided for us.

Oh Christian, think worthy thoughts of your God. Oh Christian, think the highest most glorious thoughts of your God and realize that He saved you so that this access would be a reality in your life. We have a Father in heaven. We have an Advocate who is our Brother in the presence of God Himself advocating on our behalf. We have an indwelling Spirit, who intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. We have a great position in Christ.

Let's pray.

Father, we thank You for Your great love. We thank You that You are favorable toward us, and we pray that You would so work in our heart and affections that You would ever more become the singular delight of our soul and our refuge in times of distress. Help us as a people. Help the individuals who struggle with this, Father, to appropriate and see the greatness and the fullness of what Christ has done, the perfection of the reconciliation, and how that should yield into a trusting, loving, submissive walk with You that is ever confident of Your goodness being poured out upon us day-by-day. Whether life brings sorrow or joy, poverty or riches, through it all, Father, the account with You in heaven is settled, because Christ has settled it for us, and therefore, we can come to You with an assurance, a confidence, an unshakable persuasion that You receive us favorably, that You intend to bless, not trick us, that here now and forevermore You will be our God, and we will be Your people, Christ unashamed to call us brothers. Thank You our Lord, our Savior, our Master for accomplishing such a perfect intercession on our behalf. We rest in You. Our access to You, our Father, is in and through Your Son alone. By the power of Your Spirit You have provided all that we need, and now we rest in confidence as we go forth from this place. In the name of Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

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