The Affection of Christ Alone

Tim Keller: Luther says that if we obey God’s law without a belief that we are already accepted and loved in Christ, then in all our good deeds we are really looking to something more than Jesus to be the real source of our meaning and happiness. We may be trusting in our good parenting or moral uprightness or spiritual performance or acts of service to be our real and functional “saviors.” If we aren’t already sure God loves us in Christ, we will be looking to something else for our foundational significance and self-worth. This is why Luther says we are committing idolatry if we don’t trust in Christ alone for our approval. The first commandment is foundational to all the other commandments. We will not break commandments two through ten unless we are in some way breaking the first one by serving something or someone other than God. Every sin is rooted in the inordinate lust for something

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What We Need to Learn from the Early Church

Tim Keller: Many say that Christians who maintain the historic, traditional doctrines are behind the times, are too exclusive, and are “on the wrong side of history.” Two recent books that cast doubt on this view are from historian and biblical scholar Larry Hurtado: Destroyer of the Gods: Early Christian Distinctiveness in the Roman World and Why on Earth Did Anyone Become a Christian in the First Three Centuries?. The earliest Christians were widely ridiculed, especially by cultural elites, were excluded from circles of influence and business, and were often persecuted and put to death. Hurtado says Roman authorities were uniquely hostile to them, compared to other religious groups. Why? It was expected that people would have their own gods, but that they’d be willing to show honor to all other gods as well. Nearly every home, every city, every professional guild—including the empire itself—each had its own gods. You couldn’t even go to a meal in a large home or to a public event without being expected to

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Seven breathtaking privileges of being a child of God

Tim Keller: Feeling weary today? Distant from God? Anxious? Uncertain? In this article Tim Keller warms our hearts with seven breathtaking privileges of being a child of God set out by Paul in Romans 8:14-17: “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” 1. Security We are not to fear, but enjoy sonship (v 15a). An employee or a servant basically obeys out of fear of punishment, loss of job, etc. But a child-parent relationship is not characterized by a fear of losing the

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We are what we love

Tim Keller, Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism (releases June 9), pages 159–160: What the heart most wants the mind finds reasonable, the emotions find valuable, and the will finds doable. It is all-important, then, that preaching move the heart to stop trusting and loving other things more than God. What makes people into what they are is the order of their loves — what they love most, more, less, and least. That is more fundamental to who you are than even the beliefs to which you mentally subscribe. Your loves show what you actually believe in, not what you say you do. People, therefore, change not by merely changing their thinking but by changing what they love most. … So the goal of the sermon cannot be merely to make the truth clear and understandable to the mind, but must also be to make it gripping and real to the heart. Change happens not just by giving

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The Kingship of Jesus

Tim Keller: The power of Christ’s kingly rule is now present among gathered Christians (Luke 17:20-21), liberating people from false masters and enslaving idols. Among the disciples, the kingdom is a new human order in which power, money, recognition, and success are properly reordered in light of the registry of the kingdom. It is not that these things no longer matter but that they become transposed by the unleashing of Christ’s new creation – by service, generosity, and humility (Luke 6:17-29). Jesus’ kingship is not like human kingships, for it wins influence through suffering service, not coercive power. We enter it not through strength but through the weakness of repentance and the new birth (John 3) and becoming like a child (Matt 18:3-4). Christ’s liberating rule is not fully here. All his disciples are to pray for it to come, according to Matthew 6:10, and at the end of time we will receive it in completion (Matt 25:34). But finally

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The Affection of Christ Alone

Tim Keller: Luther says that if we obey God’s law without a belief that we are already accepted and loved in Christ, then in all our good deeds we are really looking to something more than Jesus to be the real source of our meaning and happiness. We may be trusting in our good parenting or moral uprightness or spiritual performance or acts of service to be our real and functional “saviors.” If we aren’t already sure God loves us in Christ, we will be looking to something else for our foundational significance and self-worth. This is why Luther says we are committing idolatry if we don’t trust in Christ alone for our approval. The first commandment is foundational to all the other commandments. We will not break commandments two through ten unless we are in some way breaking the first one by serving something or someone other than God. Every sin is rooted in the inordinate lust for something

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Christianity – Something Else Entirely

  Tim Keller: To most people in our society, Christianity is religion and moralism. The only alternative to it (besides some other world religion) is pluralistic secularism. But from the beginning it was not so. Christianity was recognized as atertium quid, something else entirely. The crucial point here is that, in general, religiously observant people were offended by Jesus, but those estranged from religious and moral observance were intrigued and attracted to him. We see this throughout the New Testament accounts of Jesus’s life. In every case where Jesus meets a religious person and a sexual outcast (as in Luke 7) or a religious person and a racial outcast (as in John 3-4) or a religious person and a political outcast (as in Luke 19), the outcast is the one who connects with Jesus and the elder-brother type does not. Jesus says to the respectable religious leaders ‘the tax collectors and the prostitutes enter the kingdom before you’ (Matthew 21:31).

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More Wicked But More Loved

  Tim Keller: The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope – at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin. This also creates a radical new dynamic for discipline and obedience. First, the knowledge of our acceptance in Christ makes it easier to admit we are flawed because

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The One Simple Gospel?

  Tim Keller: What, then, is the one simple gospel? Simon Gathercole distills a three-point outline that both Paul and the Synoptic writers held in common. (See “The Gospel of Paul and the Gospel of the Kingdom” in God’s Power to Save, ed. Chris Green Apollos/Inter-Varsity Press, UK, 2006.) He writes that Paul’s good news was, first, that Jesus was the promised Messianic King and Son of God come to earth as a servant, in human form. (Rom. 1:3-4; Phil. 2:4ff.) Second, by his death and resurrection, Jesus atoned for our sin and secured our justification by grace, not by our works (1 Cor. 15:3ff.) Third, on the cross Jesus broke the dominion of sin and evil over us (Col. 2:13-15) and at his return he will complete what he began by the renewal of the entire material creation and the resurrection of our bodies (Rom 8:18ff.) Gathercole then traces these same three aspects in the Synoptics’ teaching that Jesus,

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Authority

  Tim Keller: Many years ago as a young Christian my attention was arrested by an article on ‘Authority’ by John Stott. Stott asked, “Why should people believe that the Bible is God’s Word written, inspired by his Spirit and authoritative over their lives?” (The Authority of the Bible, IVP, 1974,p.6) This was a big question for me. I had decided that I believed in Jesus Christ, but I struggled with the idea that I had to believe everything in the Bible.  Stott answered that we do not believe it simply because we want to be dogmatic and certain about our own beliefs, nor because the church has consistently taught this (though it has), nor because we just ‘feel’ the Bible is true as we read it. “No. The overriding reason for accepting the divine inspiration and authority of Scripture is plain loyalty to Jesus…Our understanding of everything is conditioned by what Jesus taught. And that includes his teaching about

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Boss or father?

  How can the inner workings of the heart be changed from a dynamic of fear and anger to that of love, joy, and gratitude? Here is how. You need to be moved by the sight of what it cost to bring you home. The key difference between a Pharisee and a believer in Jesus is inner-heart motivation. Pharisees are being good but out of a fear-fueled need to control God. They don’t really trust him or love him. To them God is an exacting boss, not a loving father. Christians have seen something that has transformed their hearts toward God so they can finally love and rest in the Father. — Tim Keller The Prodigal God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 86 (HT: Of First Importance)

The Holy Spirit in Your Marriage

  Tim & Kathy Keller: Without the help of the Spirit, without a continual refilling of your soul’s tank with the glory and love of the Lord, such submission to the interests of the other is virtually impossible to accomplish for any length of time without becoming resentful. I call this “love economics.” You can only afford to be generous if you actually have some money in the bank to give. In the same way, if your only source of love and meaning is your spouse, then anytime he or she fails you, it will not just cause grief but a psychological cataclysm. If, however, you know something of the work of the Spirit in your life, you have enough love “in the bank” to be generous to your spouse even when you are not getting much affection or kindness at the moment. To have a marriage that sings requires a Spirit-created ability to serve, to take yourself out of

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Keller, Carson and Piper on the rising generation of church leaders

Matt Smethurst: What most encourages Tim Keller, John Piper, and Don Carson as they interact with the rising generation of church leaders? “There are so many younger men and women who love the Bible and are deeply committed to being followers of what it says—as opposed to jellyfish in the current of the culture,” Piper observes. “Such an allegiance to Scripture starts yielding commitments that I get excited about.” The sovereign grace of God and racial justice are just two examples that energize his heart. Carson likewise notes a “remarkable attitude that wants to be taught and mentored in the Bible, in historic Christian confessionalism, and in how to minister.” This humility and eagerness, he says, is thrilling to see. And while plenty of young leaders desire to be either “only attractive” or “only offensive,” Keller adds, he also sees many who are striving to embody the biblical tension of gospel ministry in which we are “both offensive and attractive”

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Carson and Keller on Revival

Though Keller and Carson could both be described as “pro-revival,” they are clear about unique dangers that have historically attended outpourings of God’s Spirit. “There is the danger of domesticating, of packaging, that can often end up making it feel phony,” Carson observes. As Keller adds, “Some are attracted to the glitz, others just want the attention.” He cites Jonathan Edwards’s little-known Thoughts on Revival for a sober-minded reflection on the false experiences that sometimes attend revival because of human sin. Keller and Carson on Revival from The Gospel Coalition on Vimeo.

Gospel Conviction

If you know what He has done at infinite cost to himself—He’s put you into a relationship so that you’ll never be rejected by Him—then your motivation when you sin is to go get Him. You want fellowship with Him. When the thing that most assures you is the thing that most convicts you, you’ll be okay because when you’re convicted of sin in a gospel way it drives you toward God. Without the gospel we hate ourselves instead of our sin. Without the gospel we’re motivated through all sorts of awful fear and pride to change and it doesn’t really change our hearts; it just restrains our hearts. — Tim Keller “How the Gospel Changes Us” (HT: Of First Importance)

The Hollowing Effect of Sin

Tim Keller on the banality of evil: Evil does not usually make people incredibly wicked and violent – that would be interesting, and tends to wake people up. Rather, sin tends to make us hollow – externally proper and even nice, but underneath everyone is scraping and clutching for power, in order to get ahead. We continually just step on each other… C. S. Lewis called these folk “men without chests” in The Abolition of Man. They may have reason (represented by the head) or visceral feelings and drives (represented by the gut), but they don’t have hearts. They are not really choosing, but rather are being driven by their desires for power and gain, by their fears and anger. We are all in danger of being just as banal and hollow and uninteresting, if we insist on making God “tame” and banal! Only by worshiping the real God can we escape this boring fate and know the blessing of

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Nobody Does Not Worship

Tim Keller shares this illustration in his new book, Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions (Dutton; 2013), 28–30: Everybody has got to live for something, but Jesus is arguing that, if he is not that thing, it will fail you. First, it will enslave you. Whatever that thing is, you will tell yourself that you have to have it or there is no tomorrow. That means that if anything threatens it, you will become inordinately scared; if anyone blocks it, you will become inordinately angry; and if you fail to achieve it, you will never be able to forgive yourself. But second, if you do achieve it, it will fail to deliver the fulfillment you expected. Let me give you an eloquent contemporary expression of what Jesus is saying. Nobody put this better than the American writer and intellectual David Foster Wallace. He got to the top of his profession. He was an award-winning, best-selling postmodern novelist known around

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Jesus’ Call Was to Plant Churches

Tim Keller: “Jesus’ essential call was to plant churches. Virtually all the great evangelistic challenges of the New Testament are basically calls to plant churches, not simply to share the faith. The ‘Great Commission’ (Matt. 28:18-20) is not just a call to ‘make disciples’ but to ‘baptize’. In Acts and elsewhere, it is clear that baptism means incorporation into a worshipping community with accountability and boundaries (cf. Acts 2:41-47). The only way to be truly sure you are increasing the number of Christians in a town is to increase the number of churches. Why? Much traditional evangelism aims to get a ‘decision’ for Christ. Experience, however, shows us that many of these ‘decisions’ disappear and never result in changed lives. Why? Many, many decisions are not really conversions, but often only the beginning of a journey of seeking God. (Other decisions are very definitely the moment of a ‘new birth,’ but this differs from person to person.) Only a person who

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Forgive Us These Faults

Tim Keller: For decades Kathy and I  have profited immensely from the pastoral wisdom of the converted slave trader John Newton. As an 18th-century Anglican minister, Newton was a good preacher, but it was as a pastor, counsellor, and adviser that he excelled. His pastoral letters are a treasure chest. In one of his letters (entitled “Some Blemishes on Christian Character”) Newton points out that while most Christians succeed in avoiding more gross sins, many do not actually experience much in the way of actual spiritual growth. Newton lays out a convicting and specific example of the kinds of Christian people who coast on their strengths but do nothing about their weaknesses and so rob themselves and others of joy and God of his glory. These blemishes are often seen by their bearers as mere “foibles.” Newton says they “may not seem to violate any express command of Scripture” and yet, they are “properly sinful” because they are the opposite

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