Why Do We Need Keys?
Do you ever feel bound up with all kinds of negative emotions—with attitudes and feelings that you don’t like, don’t want and can’t very easily shake off? And you want to be set free quickly, right? Think of the strong hold that anxiety, jealousy, anger, worry, guilt and depression and fear can get on you at times—and how much you hate it when they do.
Wouldn’t being set free of these pesky problems once and for all be great? OK, that’s probably not possible in this life. Then, what about learning the secret of slipping out of their grip quickly and (fairly) easily? That’s highly doable!
I love the scriptures that say that it is “for freedom that Christ set us free” and that all of creation is eagerly awaiting the “glorious liberty” of God’s children. Entering into the promise of those scriptures has been one of my life-long passions.
The Inglorious Reality
Sadly, however, the Lord seems to have a lot of believers made old before their time by worry, bitterness and regret, but where are the children, enjoying their days in glorious freedom? We all get the same starter kit through genuine conversion: faith in Christ, the forgiveness of sins, the hope of heaven and the help of the indwelling Spirit. Why does it seem that so many are missing out?
Evidently, simply being born again is not enough. Perhaps, it should be (at least in theory), but considering the evidence of multitudes of believers without peace, freedom and joy, we need something more.
Set Free by Keys
Jesus would agree. It’s His truth that faith alone will get you to heaven (He said it), but do you really want to hold your spiritual breath until you get there? Wouldn’t it be great to breathe the sweet freedom of heaven now? He told the disciples in advance that He had “keys” that He wanted to give them, keys that they would need for entering His kingdom. Somehow their new life of faith wouldn’t be complete without them. He called them “the keys of the kingdom.”
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:19
Let’s note a few things about this “key” verse of scripture. First of all, why is it that so few Christians have any idea what the keys are and what they do? I’m not into Christian conspiracies at the church level, but I am at the spiritual level. It is definitely in the best interest of the Enemy to keep believers uninformed about what they need to set them free from his oppression.
Heavenly Keys for Earthly Use
Second, the keys of “the kingdom of heaven” are clearly for use down here, not up there. They are heavenly keys, but they weren’t being promised to Peter at Caesarea Philippi so that he could sit at the gates of heaven unlocking the doors for faithful souls. Maybe in jokes and Christian folklore, but not in real life. It’s true that the Catholic Church claimed the authority of “the keys” for the popes in Rome (as heirs of Peter who died there) for just this purpose, but the rest of us almost universally interpret the gift of the keys to Peter as a reward for his faith in Jesus as Messiah. Seen in this light, the keys will be given to all who believe as Peter did.
That’s all of us! We’ve been given the keys! Now you’re scratching your head thinking: “Well, if I have they keys, why don’t I know it?” Look, a LOT of things have been given to us by the Lord that we haven’t noticed or figured out yet. Consider, calling and destiny. You have to discover those as you go along, but they are given to us from before birth. So, let’s check our spiritual pockets and see if we can find the keys now that we’re looking for them.
What are the Keys?
Wait a minute. To find something we usually need to know what it looks like. In this case, our main clue is that what Jesus wants to give us are “keys of the kingdom of heaven.” Both parts of this are crucial to our search: “keys” and “kingdom of heaven.”
Keys provide entry and access. Now a random set of keys dropped on the road won’t do you a bit of good. But, with the right keys you can enter your house, start your car, open your safe deposit box, or start a nuclear war. Well, we don’t want anyone doing that last, so those keys are given out very carefully. The point is, however, that access and/or power are available to the one who has the knowledge and authority to use the right keys the right way.
The keys of Jesus provide access to something He calls the “kingdom of heaven.” Our word kingdom comes from the old English and signifies a king’s dominion (authority and power) or a king’s domain (the realm he rules over). Either way we are being given keys that will grant us entry to a domain and access to its power.
What Is the Kingdom?
That domain is the kingdom “of heaven.” Does Jesus mean by this the heaven we go to when we die. By no means! He told Peter that these keys would be used on earth, but that heaven’s power and authority would back up whatever we “bind or loose” with them down here. The plot thickens, doesn’t it? I hope you’re getting a heavenly whiff of something delicious in the air. But we need to clear the air of potential confusion.
Why did Jesus call it “heaven’s” kingdom? Normally, in the other gospels this domain is called “the kingdom of God.” That makes it clear that God’s reign and realm on earth is being described, not heaven itself. Matthew threw us a curve by calling it the “kingdom of heaven.” In this, He was doing a good and proper Jewish thing by “elevating” the mention of God’s kingdom on earth as “heaven’s” kingdom, but that has thrown many off course.
A Joyful Kingdom
Now that we are on track, let’s explore this kingdom of God on earth, so that we will better understand what the keys are for and how to use them. You will recall that Jesus taught a lot about the kingdom of God. Most of His parables and many of His direct messages had to do with the ways of the kingdom. Nevertheless, it is Paul who gives us our most concise working definition. Look carefully as what this kingdom offers:
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17
By these keys, Jesus desires to give us access to His right ways, His peace and His joy—and the power and presence of His Holy Spirit. That’s fantastic! How did we miss it? Never mind that. Where is it and how can we enter in now that we have the keys? Suppose someone ran up to you and said, “I know where ALL of the peace, joy and right ways of living are. Follow me!” You’d take off running after him. Where is this kingdom hiding?
A Hidden Kingdom
Jesus said that this kingdom is hidden in plain sight. It is all around us and right within us. We are already in this kingdom the way fish are in the sea and the sea water is in the fish. All the peace, joy and right ways of living that heaven has to offer are already right there inside of you and me. To top it off, experiencing the presence and power of the Holy Spirit is always right there with us too! No wonder we need the keys: Something is keeping us locked out!
When I first realized this, it really frosted my cookies. I craved a bigger experience of peace and joy. It seemed so far beyond my grasp. Yet, all along it had been right inside me. How could I get to this elusive kingdom? That spurred me to search for the keys.
Here they are: The BIG key is becoming childlike. Then there are four others: receiving forgiveness, releasing forgiveness, actively believing truth, and accurately knowing truth. With these keys, any believer can get free from all that negative emotional junk I described in the beginning of this article. Better yet, you become free to enter into the Lord’s right ways, peace, joy and new life in the Spirit.
One day Jesus, the master Teacher, came to that place with His disciples that us ordinary teachers know only too well: He looked out at a sea of puzzled faces. They weren’t getting it. So, He handled it in classic teaching style. He reached for an object lesson to bring the image home. Fortunately, there was the perfect person close at Hand.
And Jesus called a little child to Him and set him in their midst, and said, “Truly I say to you, Unless you are converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” Matthew 18:2-3
This is strong language indeed! “Unless” we become converted AND become like little children we SHALL NOT enter the kingdom of heaven. Don’t panic. As we saw before in Matthew, the kingdom of heaven being referred to here is the kingdom of God on earth. You can still be a thorough-going rascal, call on Jesus at the last minute to save you, and get into heaven by faith alone (see John 3:16). But why would you want to live like that? When you could become as a little child and live in the kingdom’s peace and joy all life long?
This further explains why I say that conversion alone is evidently not enough. Jesus says it isn’t, and He says it with supreme authority. As the God’s Word translation puts it: “I can guarantee this truth: Unless you…” Now we know. Being born again gets us into heaven above; becoming as a little child gets us into the kingdom of God on earth. What is it about little children?
The Wisdom of Little Children
We can safely assume that Jesus wasn’t holding up as an example a little child “in the flesh” but one that was in the right spirit. All such children show the life of the Kingdom (Matthew 19:14) better than most believers—regardless of the religion of their parents. They are humble, un-self-conscious, willingly dependent for all provision upon their parents and freely love the people they meet. They are also teachable, fearless explorers of their worlds, and live with openness and transparency in the present moment.
If anything troubles or hurts them they run to their parents, are quickly set right, and easily let go. In fact, once hurt begins to accumulate and they start carrying yesterday (and its pains) with them, they become self-protective, leave childhood behind and become like us! Jesus says that self-protectiveness robs us of life (Matthew 16:24-27). All of us in some way or another succumbed to that temptation.
Falling prey to self-protectiveness, we locked ourselves up in a dungeon of pain and bondage. Due to an accumulation of life’s hurts that we did not release, we left child likeness behind by binding the pains and injustices of the past to ourselves. Un-forgiveness is the number one block to the Kingdom’s peace and power. It leads to unanswered prayer, un-received mercy, hardness of heart, spiritual bondage and painful inner torment. It’s the kingdom key we will need first.
If you are like me, you might not want anyone else to know it, but you’ve got a deep suspicion that you’re really goofed up inside. There are all kinds of messed up emotions, ill-conceived ideas and unsavory desires competing for your attention. Don’t believe me? Would you really like your inner thought life displayed on a TV screen over your head for all to see? Or would you want even your best friend to carry the full load of your interior life inside of them for even one day?
I call this river of filth “the sewer.” The Bible calls it the sin nature. As long as we are alive, it is our unsought challenge to try to live free of it, by staying so surrendered to Jesus that His river of life flows through us instead. If you think you can do that perfectly, go right ahead. I had a young zealot tell me recently that he expected to be fully sanctified—entirely perfect—by age 30. He’s twenty now, so do the math. He’s giving God ten years to finish the job. Let’s all wish him well, but the only shortcut I know is dying early and going to heaven through no fault of your own.
Better than Perfection
Me? I can’t wait even ten years–I need something that works now. What works is growing a faith in God’s grace and Jesus’ Blood that is bigger than the sight of our sins. I’m certainly not recommending sinning, only saying that having to deal honestly with the ongoing problem of sins and sinfulness is part of being faithful. For that you and I need to learn how to turn the key of receiving God’s forgiveness frequently and fully. The Lord isn’t glorified by children walking around in guilt and condemnation over past sins or present sinfulness, only by His patience with us when we do. Far better is rejoicing with Him that we are so marvelously forgiven! That’s being set free God’s way.
For help with this see “How God Sees Us” at our website.
There’s no point, however, in rejoicing that we’re forgiven if we’re not willing to forgive others. To say that God forgives me beyond anything I could ever earn or deserve, and then turn around and throttle someone for what they have done, is sheer black-hearted hypocrisy. If you and I want to base our lives on mercy as a free gift, we have a moral obligation to pass it on to other undeserving sinners.
I started to write “other undeserving sinners like ourselves” but that’s the problem, isn’t it? We think we’re different. It’s easy to excuse why we did wrong. We understand the pain and pressures that prompted us. So, it’s easy to minimize our sinfulness. We even imagine that though we did sin some, we certainly would never sin the way that others have—the ones we won’t excuse. How little do we know ourselves! Must the Lord show us as He did Moses that what’s in our breast is leprous through and through?
The Secret of His Freedom
He has shown us what’s in His Heart. It’s mercy. Perhaps, the fundamental yearning that enters us when we are born again is to become like Jesus. I remember saying just that to Him: “Oh, I want to be like you! (and not like I have been).” Well, He has given me many opportunities to grow in His direction—by forgiving others the same way He forgives me. And let’s face it: A sea of sinful humanity surrounds you. You can either get bitter, go mad, or learn how to use this second kingdom key often and well.
For more help with this key see “How to Forgive the Unforgivable” on this blog site.
How this one gets over-looked! We think that because we agree with truth that we believe it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Charles Spurgeon, the great Victorian preacher, once said that for every ten men in his congregation who were willing to go to the stake proclaiming the Bible is true, he couldn’t find one man who lived as if he believed it. Truths and promises fill the pages of scripture. How many of them are we betting our life on when the chips are down?
In actual practice, there is usually a rather long progression to any truth. First, I have to be shown the truth. With some Bible truths (like the necessity of forgiving others) this can take ages. Then, I must become convinced that the truth really is true. Only then can I agree with it. But that just gets me out the gate. Then comes a long season of being tested by the truth. Will I choose to keep believing that it is true in one situation after another that seems to contradict it? Finally, am I willing to entrust myself (or my loved ones) fully to that truth?
A Magnificent Promise
For instance, practically everyone gives a head bob to the truth of Romans 8:28 that “all things work together for good” for those who love God. It’s an easy truth to believe when we are singing about it in church. But how many believe it when an unexpected bill comes in the mail, or a friend disappoints us, or we get caught in traffic? If we could believe that one promise with an active faith, then we would immediately be lifted above any circumstance. It takes work to learn how to actively believe the truths and promises of God, but Jesus said that the one work we are supposed to do is to “believe in Him whom He has sent” (John 6:29). What this kingdom key provides is entry into peace and joy in any moment and despite any situation. That’s well worth the work out!
For help with this key see “The Power of an Active Faith” at our website.
The first three keys in this list are ones that I “discovered” as I was groping in the dark room of my inner bondage and pain, seeking a way out. In truth, I didn’t really discover them. They are all in plain sight in the Word. Besides, the truth is I didn’t even find them. Jesus showed them to me. I was the one who kept dropping them hoping to find some other solution. He kept putting them back in my hand, until I finally realized their importance and got the hang of how to use them. This fourth key, however, is one that Jesus mentions directly in the scriptures.
“Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.” Luke 11:52
Obviously, the Lord got a little worked up over this one. The “lawyers” were people who specialized in studying God’s Law (not necessarily lawyers in our modern sense), but they were missing the point. Tucked away inside God’s Law is something He calls the “key of knowledge”—a true kingdom key, because their failure to use it was keeping them and their students hindered from “entering” the kingdom. They were shut out from its peace and joy, yet filled with arrogance over their “knowledge” at the same time. Know anybody like that?
The higher teaching of scripture is that mercy triumphs over justice and that loving others is far better than judging them. Yet, instead of teaching the scriptures in such a way that people’s burdens were lifted, just the opposite was happening. These students of the Law had “taken away” the key. This should alert us that this kingdom key of knowledge is not simply about gaining knowledge, but about gaining a true knowledge of God and His ways. That’s genuine spiritual discernment. It’s the key to “knowing the truth” in such a way that, as Jesus says, we will be set free by it again and again (John 8:32).
For more on this see “New Life by the Gospel of Grace” at our website.
Put the Keys to Work!
What we have then are four keys to set us free. There may be more, indeed, there are more, if what we are seeking are keys to the supernatural operations of God. But these are all I’ve ever needed in my quest to recover from an emotionally damaged life and then gain mastery over my inner state. In the past I only glimpsed the kingdom’s peace and joy from a distance. Now, I’m swimming in a river of peace every day!
That’s only because I keep using the keys. The first two involve forgiveness. If we who are still sinful want to live in joyful freedom, then we have to get really good at receiving God’s forgiveness (the 1st key). If we want to stay in that freedom, we will have to get really good at forgiving our fellow sinners (the 2nd key).
The next two keys concern truth. It’s on me to stay open in allowing the Holy Spirit to speak truth to me through anyone, not just the Bible. That way I will learn truths about myself, my God and the world that will set me free (the 4th key). That only will happen, if I believe them with an active faith (the 3rd key) when I most need to believe them—which, conversely, is usually when I don’t feel like believing them.
The Biggest Blessing of All
These four keys go a long way towards restoring us to the full operation of the biggest key: becoming childlike. According to Jesus, I should make it my goal to grow younger, not older or “more mature.” True maturity in the spiritual life is Christlikeness and the best exemplars of that are little children. You don’t get there by thinking you’ve arrived, or by super-seriousness, or a false front. So, keep a focus on becoming more open, honest and transparent—that’s being “HOT” for Jesus the right way. We want to be set free so that we can live “like little children”: trusting, lowly, loving.
So, let’s set our hearts on pilgrimage (Psalm 84:5) and get really, really good at using these five keys!
Don’t Go Just Yet…
Here are three exercises to help you get going:
Make a list of “locks” you may need the four keys to open. Be very honest—don’t gloss things over. Ask the Lord to begin helping you in each of these areas. Really go for it in prayer. Then, pay special attention to things coming up in future articles that will help you get victories over these obstacles.
I need to forgive myself for (1st key)
People I need to forgive (2nd key)
Areas of doubt and unbelief (3rd key)
Areas of low discernment (4th key)
Become a careful observer of little children. Following Jesus’ example, note well their positive characteristics and then pray for those good ways to be restored into your life (see list below). Take time out during the day to enjoy that moment the way a child would.
Perhaps it would be good to consider the ways of a child in the flesh. Make a list of some that come to mind. Following the example of Paul, have you put off these childish things (1 Corinthians 13:11)? Childish ways even block children from being childlike!
Childlike ways for me to grow into
Childish ways of mine to leave behind
Father, thank You for translating me out of darkness and into the glorious kingdom of Your Beloved Son! I repent of and renounce all false ideas about where the joy and peace are that I have been searching for—You have placed it all around me and within me! Thank You for showing me these four keys to the kingdom. Help me to get really good at using them to unlock my heart from un-forgiveness towards myself, You and others and from all the ways in which I have not really been believing in who You are and what You have promised. Help me exercise the gift of discernment that comes with the fourth key. Thank You that it is Your desire to lead me into this kingdom!
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