Romans 5:2; Ephesians 2:18, 3:12
(Delivered Sunday, July 15, 2001 at Bethany Bible Church. All scripture quotes, unless otherwise noted, are from the New King James Version.)
My goal this morning is to lift up Jesus. We can never talk enough about the Savior, or spend enough time thinking about Him. But this morning, I feel led to point you to something wonderful that He has done for you; and in doing so, my hope is that your love for Him will be greatly increased.
Suppose I told you about a marvelously wealthy and honorable man who - without your completely understanding why or how - dramatically benefited your life. I could just tell you the story of the man himself - of how he invested his money wisely and became a multi-millionaire; and if I only told you that much, I believe that you'd certainly be impressed with him. I could tell you about his character; about how he was kind and generous with his wealth, and how he always dealt honestly and fairly with people; and you might be even more impressed with him. I could then go on to tell you about how his own character was tried and proven by years of trials and hardship; and how he came to be a true man of honor; and you might be impressed with him even more. But I don't think we could say that you would love him - not, that is, until I told you about what this great man had done for you personally.
If I just told you the raw facts about the man, you may only be impressed with the facts and nothing more. But suppose I go on to I tell you about how he looked upon you when you were poor, and blind, and despised, and desperately needy; and that, without your being aware of it, or without your having tried to prove yourself worthy of it, this great man sought you out by name, and chose to sacrifice his time and energy on your behalf, in order to bring the riches of his vast wealth, and the influence of his righteous character to bear for your benefit. Suppose I told you that he extended himself for you to the point that he saved you from misery and poverty and death, and made you as wealthy as he. If I told you all that, your mere interest in the facts about the man would be transformed immediately into deep, deep love for the man himself! And the more you truly understood what it was that he did for you, the greater your love for him would be!
Well; that's very much like the story of Jesus' mercy to us; isn't it? He has looked upon our miserable condition in sin; and He blessed us with the the riches of His glory, and the righteousness of His character. If you heard the facts about what a glorious Person He is - about the greatness of His wisdom, or the majesty of His righteous character, or the vastness of His riches in glory - you'd certainly be impressed. And there are many people who know such truths about Him, but who don't love Him. But you're moved to a deep love for Jesus when you come to grips with what He has done for you! And so, this morning, I hope you'll let me draw your attention to something very particular and very wonderful that Jesus did for you, so that you'll grow to love our precious Savior even more.
The particular thing I'd like to share with you this morning - the particular thing that He has given us - can be summed up in the word "access".
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In the Garden of Eden, the first man and the first woman had complete "access" to all the blessings of fellowship with their Creator. They stood before Him in total acceptance and favor. They could talk freely to Him, and enjoyed perfect communion with Him. If they had any needs, they had no reason to be afraid of simply going to God and asking for it. They could freely talk to Him anytime; and they could rest with complete confidence in the fact that He loved them and delighted in them. They had "access".
But then, they were tempted in the Garden to disobey their Creator; and when they sinned, they lost the free "access" to the blessings of God that he had once enjoyed. Adam lost access to the "tree of life" that was in the Garden, from which he could have eaten and lived forever. As the Bible tells us, "... Therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim [that is, mighty angels] at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life" (Gen. 3:23-24). A holy God was forced to write the character of sinful man's new relationship with Him in large, bold letters: "ACCESS DENIED!"
And from then on, the loss of the access Adam once had is what characterized man's relationship to God. This was true even of God's chosen people, the Jews. When God delivered them from Egypt, and brought them to Himself around Mount Sinai as He prepared to give His laws to them, He told Moses, "Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their clothes. And let them be ready for the third day. For on the third day the LORD will come down upon Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people." God drew as close as He could to a fallen, sinful people. And yet, we read that He told Moses, "You shall set bounds for the people all around, saying, 'Take heed to yourselves that you do not go up to the mountain or touch its base. Whoever touches the mountain shall surely be put to death. Not a hand shall touch him, but he shall surely be stoned or shot with an arrow; whether man or beast, he shall not live'" (Exodus 19:10-13). God revealed Himself to them; but in spite of this remarkable act of grace on His part, the condition was still the same: "ACCESS DENIED."
Then, after God gave His commandments to His chosen people, He mercifully provided that they could approach Him in His holy tabernacle and make atonement for their sins. But even then, a sinner could only go so far in his or her approach to a holy God. The Bible says that if a man brought an offering to God in order to make atonement for himself, he was to bring it only to the door to the entrance of the tabernacle. There, he was to place his hands on the head of the offering, and personally kill it before God. He was to drain the animal's blood and skin it for sacrifice on the alter. But it was for the levitical priests - and not the man himself - to take that blood for sprinkling into the tabernacle, and to offer its flesh on the alter within the tabernacle courtyard as a pleasing aroma to the Lord (Lev. 1:1-9). The sinner himself, who made the offering, still couldn't come into the place where God was. The people of Israel had a holy fear of the tabernacle. As they grew to understand the awesome holiness of God, they once cried out to Moses, "Surely we die, we perish, we all perish! Whoever even comes near the tabernacle of the LORD must die. Shall we all utterly die?" (Num. 17:12-13). No matter how much they may have wanted to approach God, it was "ACCESS DENIED."
And of the sons of the tribe of Levi, it was only the sons of Aaron that were permitted to serve as the priests in the tabernacle. There were three lines of descendants in the tribe of Levi: the lineage of Gershon, the linage of Kohath, and the linage of Merari. All three were given separate task by God in the work of the temple. The linage of Gershon was responsible for the care of the tent and its coverings and hangings. The linage of Kohath was responsible for carrying the articles of furniture and the utensils that were to be kept and used in the tabernacle. And the linage of Merari was responsible for the care of the various boards, bars, sockets, pegs, cords and utensils of the tent (Num. 3:14-37). They all three handled the very house of God. They were given the privilege of carrying the very articles of God's meeting-place with man. But it was only one specific family - the direct descendants of Aaron, the son of Amram of the linage of Kohath - and for no one else in the family of Levi, to serve as the priests within the tabernacle. Only the sons of Aaron could serve within the meeting place of God (Num. 16:1-40; esp. v. 40). No one else was permitted to even enter into the sanctuary of the tabernacle. If anyone but the sons of Aaron dared approached the alter or the articles while they were within the sanctuary, that man or woman was put to death (Num. 18:1-7). Once again, "ACCESS DENIED."
There was one place in all the tabernacle that God most identified His presence; and that was above the Mercy Seat - which was the covering over the Ark of the Covenant - contained within the innermost section of the tabernacle, the Holy of Holies. Only one man was permitted to enter into that most holy place; and that was the high priest. And he could only come there once a year, on the Day of Atonement - the day when he was to offer the blood of atonement for his people, and for the sanctuary, and for the alter and for the priests who ministered there (Lev. 16:33). He was not to come into that most holy place except through much blood, sacrifice and cleansing. There was to be no other human being within the tabernacle complex when he entered into the Holy of Holies (v. 17); and he was to be sure that a thick cloud of incense covered the mercy seat when he entered, "lest he die" (v. 13). For anyone else, at any other time, and in any other way, it was "ACCESS DENIED."
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You can see, through all the requirements of worship and sacrifice in the law of Moses, that God is an unspeakably holy God. And God hasn't changed in all the time since. He is still the same dreadfully holy God now that He was then. He is still "the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see" (1 Tim. 6:16). He is still "of purer eyes than to behold evil," and is as much the God who "cannot look on wickedness" (Hab. 1:13) as He ever was. Sinful sons and daughters of Adam, on their own power and by their own righteousness, still can't stand before Him. The majesty holiness of God that made all of those sacrifices and offerings necessary has never been set aside ... and never will.
I think about that whenever I read of the Old Testament descriptions of the sacrifices and offerings in the tabernacle. I read of all the death that had to occur for sin; and of all the blood that had to be shed and sprinkled; and of all the flesh and fat of animals that had to be offered upon the alter. And as I read, I realize that the holiness of God that made all of that blood and death necessary before a sinner could even come close to approaching Him is still as much a reality as ever. It's not that, now, God no longer cares about such things. What has changed, in our circumstance, is that all of the sacrifice required by God's holiness has all been completely fulfilled by Jesus.
The Book of Hebrews tells us that "it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sin" (Heb. 10:4); but by contrast, it also tells us that "we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (v. 10). It says that "every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified" (vv. 11-14). He "sat down", because His sacrifice has forever satisfied God's holiness.
All of our sins have been placed on Jesus, and He died for every one of them on the cross. And all of Jesus' righteousness, and His perfect obedience to the commandments of God, have been credited to our account. And now, the most wonderful news of all to sinners like us is that, because of what Jesus has done, "access" has been restored! Man is no longer shut out from a close relationship with God. Fallen children of Adam can now be forgiven, and welcomed into a free and full relationship with the very same God whose holiness once meant "ACCESS DENIED".
And God gave us a very visible proof that access has been restored. The Bible tells us that something remarkable happened to the veil of the temple - that impenetrable veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the temple, making it the most inaccessible place on earth. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that, as Jesus, the Son of God, died - hanging on the cross and crying out with a loud voice as He yielded up His spirit - "Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom" (Matthew 27:51) - torn as if by some invisible hand; torn by the hand of God Himself to open up "access" to Himself, and so that pardoned sinners like us may now draw near.
The Book of Hebrews puts it beautifully when it says,
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water (Heb. 10:19-22).
In other words, "access" is "denied" no longer. The access to the very presence of God that had once been enjoyed by our ancient parents in the garden - the access that was once lost because of sin, and that had become denied to them and to us - has now been fully restored by the blood of Jesus. How we should love Him for this!! The closing chapter of the Bible even contains the description, in the New Jerusalem, of the Tree of Life once again being made available to people because of Jesus (Rev. 22:2, 14).
Access to God - and all the blessings of full fellowship with Him - has been restored to you and to me through Jesus Christ! Oh, how we should love Him for this!
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The Greek word used in the New Testament for "access" is a fascinating one. It's a word that's made from the combination of two Greek words: pros, which means "to"; and ago which means "to lead". When used as a verb, it means "to bring into someone's presence". It's the idea of someone taking someone else by the hand and taking them somewhere before some third party.
Perhaps you've had someone introduce you to someone important or famous. You were a little shy about barging right up to such a person and introducing yourself; but if you knew someone else that had already met them, you might feel more comfortable if they took you by the hand, as it were, and brought you up to them for an introduction. Or perhaps you've been out of sorts with someone, and you were afraid to go and meet them yourself to see if things could be patched up between you; and then, someone else came along and took you by the hand to meet that person with you and show you that things really were okay. That's the same idea behind this verb. The Bible uses this very same verb when it tells us that "Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God ..." (1 Peter 3:18). It's as if Jesus looked upon the separation our sins caused between ourselves and God; and then, having paid for those sins on the cross, He took us by the hand and introduce us to His Father - the One our sins had once separated us from, but to whom we've now been restored.
And when used as a noun, this Greek word means "a way of approach" or "access". It was used in ancient letters and nautical writings to describe an access point for ships as they drew near to a port; or it was sometimes used in military writings for a place by which enemy forces could be broken in upon. It appears only three times in the New Testament as a noun; and each time, it refers to the "access" Jesus has purchased for us into the very riches of open and free fellowship with God - the access that had once been denied us, but that has now been restored to us in Him.
Every man and woman, boy and girl, needs access to God. You need access to God. You were made for fellowship with Him; and you cannot be what you were made to be without it. So long as you're denied access to God, you are out of kilter with yourself and with everything else in the universe. "ACCESS DENIED" to God means spiritual death to us.
But I want to enlarge your love for Jesus today by showing you some of the things He has given you by restoring access to you before the throne of His Father. First, notice that Jesus has given us ...
1. ACCESS TO GOD'S GRACIOUS FAVOR.
While we were still in our sins, we stood guilty before God. We were the objects of His just wrath and anger. But by faith in Jesus' blood, we have been declared "justified" in God's sight - that is, we've been declared "no longer guilty" before Him. And more than that, we've been declared positively "righteous" by Him. When God the Father looks upon us, He no longer looks upon us as the objects of His wrath. Rather, He looks upon men and women who have, by faith, been declared as righteous in His sight as His own precious and beloved Son Jesus. And so, the Apostle Paul in Romans 5:1-2 writes;
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God (Rom. 5:1-2).
We stand in "this grace". That means, we stand in God's complete, unmerited favor. He is no longer angry with us. He fully accepts us in Jesus. We are now free to be the recipients of all the rich gifts and treasures that He wishes to bestow upon us as His own precious children. The Bible tells us that we stand in His grace in the "perfect" tense - that is, as a once-and-for-all, permanent reality. We will never be out of His favor again. We will always enjoy peace with Him through Jesus. It's a grace in which we will forever stand!
And it was Jesus who made this possible. It's through Him that we have "access" by faith into the riches of God's favor toward us. As the New American Standard Bible translates it, it's by Jesus that "we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace". Jesus, as it were, took us by the hand and brought us into it.
If you have placed your faith in Jesus Christ, that means that, right now, He has brought you into full access to all the riches of God's full acceptance and favor. It used to be that you had no right to even approach God at all; let alone approach Him with your needs and concerns and ask for anything. But here was the promise Jesus made before He went to the cross; "... The time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God" (John 16:25-27).
Those days have now come. Jesus has given us full access to the riches of God's favor. "He who did not spare His own Son," Paul says, "but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32). Jesus tells us not to worry about our needs any longer; "For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added to you. Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:30-32).
Let's be specific. Do you need peace? Because of Jesus, you now have access to the God of all comfort. Do you need forgiveness for sins you've committed? Because of Jesus, you now have God's full pardon for your sins, and are washed clean of all your shameful guilt. Do you need wisdom? Because of Jesus, you now have the freedom to ask for wisdom and guidance from the One who knows all things. Do you need strength? Because of Jesus, you now have free and open access to the Creator and Sustainer of all things; and may freely request all the strength you need. There are people who would pay great sums of money to have a relationship with a powerful, and wise, and influential person. But Jesus has given you, free of charge, full and complete access to the most powerful, most wise, most influential Person there is! What greater gift could He have given us than full access to the throne of God?
You may appear to be poor in the eyes of this world; but Jesus has brought you into an unspeakably great and eternal treasure that will never fade away. You now have the freedom to bring your needs and concerns to the almighty God; knowing that He loves you and is eager to pour the riches of His full favor out on you. How could we ever love Jesus enough for having given us access to such amazing grace?!!
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Another thing Jesus has given us is ...
2. ACCESS TO GOD'S COVENANT PROMISES.
It used to be that, when it came to the promises of God contained in the Scriptures, you and I would have been met with the words, "ACCESS DENIED". God's promises were for those who were born into the Jewish family only; but you and I are Gentiles by nature - excluded by birth from those glorious promises. Paul the apostle wrote,
Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh - who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands - that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world (Eph. 2:11-12).
Can you imagine a louder and clearer "ACCESS DENIED" than that one? The Jews alone were God's chosen people; and the rest of us where outside looking in. We had no title to the Messiah. We had no promises from God on which to rest our hopes. We had no bright hope in a Kingdom of God upon the earth. God's promises had divided the human race into two categories: those who were united to those promises through the law, and those who were excluded from those promises by birth. And we were in the latter group.
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity (vv. 13-16).
There were great advantages to having been born into the Jewish family. To them had been entrusted the very word of the living God (Rom. 3:2). To them, as Paul wrote, "pertained the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises; of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came ..." (Rom. 9:4-5). They are truly the most privileged and most blessed race on earth. But now, all that had been an advantage to the Jew has now been made accessible to us as well through Jesus Christ. You have as much access to God as was once the exclusive privilege of God's chosen, covenant people. We have "access".
And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.
Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit (Eph. 2:18-22).
Think of it, dear brothers and sisters in Christ! We now can claim the God of Israel as our own God! We're so used to this that we don't stop to think of what a tremendous privilege it is! Peter wrote of the things that you can now claim to be true of you, "... You are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy" (1 Peter 2:9-10). You now stand out uniquely in this world as one of God's own people. He claims you as His own in this world. You are His ambassadors on earth.
This is a privilege that you and I now have as a free gift of God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ. He has given us free and full access the very God of Israel; and to all the promises that pertain to those who are His own chosen people! How we should love our precious Savior for giving us such access to all this!!
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Finally, we see that Jesus has given us ...
3. ACCESS TO GOD'S FULL ACCEPTANCE.
I suppose that, for anyone that knows he or she is a sinner, and that feels the dreadful weight of guilt for his or her sins, this is the most joyful news of all. It was the greatest thrill of Paul's heart to be able to proclaim it. He loved to be able to declare the good news, "that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel" (Eph. 3:6). This, he said, was
according to the eternal purpose which [God] accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through faith in Him (vv. 11-12).
Do you remember the story in the Old Testament of Queen Esther? She was a Jewish girl; but she had become the bride of the most powerful monarch over the most powerful empire on earth. There came a time when it was necessary for her to go to her husband and appeal to him for the deliverance of her native people; but she was fearful to make this appeal, because she had not been summoned by her husband/king. It was the law that anyone who dared to approach the king on their own volition would be put to death, "except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter., that he may live" (Esth. 4:11). To dare to approach the king unsummoned was to risk death - even for the queen. Who would know if the king would hold out his scepter, and indicate his acceptance of the one who approached him?
As the story is told, she took the risk; and she found favor in the king's sight. When she approached his throne, he held out the golden scepter to her. She had been granted access to his throne; and was welcome to make her request for the life of her people.
If someone had to be so fearful and timid in their approach to the throne of an earthly king, how could we dare to think we could approach the throne of God?!! And yet, we "have boldness and access with confidence through faith" in Jesus. The almighty God has held out His golden scepter to us in Christ. We are absolutely, unconditionally welcomed to take our place before the throne of God.
The greatest thing you could have is the knowledge that you can now stand in complete confidence before God, and can boldly approach His throne because you have been made acceptable in His sight through Jesus Christ. And yet, there are so many people who live in fear, because they don't have a right to this confidence. They have never placed their trust in Jesus; and they stand as guilty sinners before God. They know that, one day, they must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, and receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10). And because of this, as the Bible says, they are subject to bondage their whole lives long because of the fear of death (Hebrews 2:15).
One of the most dreadful scenes in the Bible is that of Revelation 6. There we read of the impending day of God's judgment. It says,
And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?" (Rev. 6:15-17).
There is a sense in which every man and woman will be led to the throne of God; but many will be led to be judged and condemned for their sins. What a dreadful "access" that will be!! Many will be made to go through this "access" whether they want to or not. It's a particular gift of God's grace to be able to stand before that throne with boldness and confidence because you have been made acceptable in His sight. But this is the sole privilege of those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, and who have been redeemed by His blood. It's the privilege of those alone who have been forgiven of their sins, and who now have no reason to fear or tremble before the judgment seat of Christ. Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life" (John 5:24).
One of the richest blessings that Jesus gives to sinners like us is complete access to His Father's throne with complete boldness and confidence. We stand before God utterly confident of His love and acceptance of us; and this is something that Jesus has purchased for us with His own blood. Oh, how much we should eternally love Him and thank Him for it!
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Jesus has given all this "access" to us. It used to be "ACCESS DENIED!" But now, it's "access restored". What a wonderful Savior He is! Access to the throne of God is available to any one who will accept it. The Bible begins with the story of the loss of that access; but since Jesus has come, it closes with this invitation: "... Let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely" (Rev. 22:17). No one will now be denied access if they will come through Jesus. What a terrible thing it would be to hear that such access - the access we most need - has been purchased for us as a free gift at so great a cost; and then not take advantage of it!
I sincerely hope that, if you haven't done so already, you'll pray a prayer like this to God: "I am a sinner; and I don't deserve to stand before you. But now I see that Jesus has died for my sins, and has made it possible for me to have access to your throne to receive grace. And so, I come. Thank you for forgiving my sins because of the blood of Jesus; and thank You for welcoming me to Yourself." That's how you begin enjoying the access Christ has purchased for you.
And if you have prayed something similar to that prayer, then I hope that you'll grow increasingly to do two more things. I hope, first, that you'll grow to take full advantage of the marvelous access Jesus has purchased for you on His cross - that you'll take full advantage of your access to God's favor, and rejoice in the grace in which you now stand. I hope that you'll take full advantage of your access to the covenant promises of God, and anchor your hopes to them. And I hope that you'll take full advantage of your access to God's throne in full acceptance, and that you'll come to him boldly and confidently.
And I hope that, second, you'll grow increasingly to love the precious Savior Jesus, who made it all possible.
(copyright 2001 by Pastor Greg Allen and Bethany Bible Church. Reproduction without permission, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited.)
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