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Archive for the ‘Tim Keller’ Category

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After reading through the Bible in a year, Bear Grylls made this statement – “What did I learn? I am a great sinner, Christ is a great redeemer.” Amen!

Reading through the Bible from cover-to-cover is something every Christian, and every person who wants to consider themselves educated, should do. It doesn’t matter if you do it in a year or not, just do it.

This year, I’ll be using the “5 Day Bible Reading Plan” from http://www.bibleclassmaterial.com. It’s “basically chronological” with readings from both the Old and New Testaments. It’s different in that there are only five days of reading per week, giving time to catch up if you need it. You can print out a copy of the reading plan here.

There are a number of other good plans, too. Ligonier has several here. All of the ESV’s reading plans are here. Whichever you choose, stick with it, and you’ll learn what bear Grylls did.

“Am I a Christian, Pastor Timothy Keller?” is a very interesting op-ed written by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. He asks Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, a series of questions. Keller answers his questions in what sounds like a conversation between the two. You should read it. Most of us have been asked questions like this before, and it’ll help us prepare and think through our answers. You can read it here.

We saw Rogue One last week, and thought it was very good.

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We’re called to make a defense for the faith as disciples of Jesus Christ. “Always be ready to give an answer” (1 Pet.3:15) is still our call and charge.

Being equipped and ready to explain what we believe and why (broadly called apologetics) is important, but the way we do it shouldn’t remain static. In other words, it doesn’t do us any good if we answer questions people aren’t asking (or the people with whom we’re talking). In generations past, the question of biblical authority was crucial. More recently, the issue of truth (and whether or not it even existed) was on the front-burner. Now, not so much.

What seems to be important today id freedom. Marvin Olasky, in the March 23rd issue of WORLD, wrote:

When many young Americans are primarily yearning for freedom, talk about objective truth may swim right by them. That’s why some of the most successful pastors with young people start out not by talking about truth but about freedom. Tim Keller in Manhattan, for example, tells his youthful audience: You may think you’re free, but you’re not. In shunning Christ you have made yourself a slave to money, or sex, or to a particular body image, or success, or…something.

Those who shun Christ embrace slavery of some kind. Those who embrace Christ gain freedom: As Jesus said to the Jews who believed Him, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” The University of Texas at Austin and many other institutions have carved onto administration buildings those words from John 8:32, but I have yet to see on the walls Christ’s follow-ups: “Everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin,” and “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34, 36).

We all need all those verses and we need to get the order right, because truth leads to freedom yet freedom does not necessarily lead to truth. Sadly, college professors these days typically advocate freedom and skip over the means by which we will gain it – so students often do the same. That leads to my apologetic question: Is it unproductive to talk about eternal life with young people who don’t yet care about it? Or to talk about Truth with those who don’t think it exists? Why not talk about our shackles and how Christ breaks them?

Very good questions and worth discussion.

 

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Here’s the scenario: You marry someone because their family has a lot of money. You’re convinced that you, as a new member of the family, will be able to enjoy all of the money and all of the benefits that come with it. Something happens along the way, though. It’s made very clear to you that you won’t get anything as an inheritance – not one cent. You think you’ve been the victim of false advertising, so you bail out. You were in it for the money and once the money wasn’t there, it was over as far as you’re concerned.

When it comes to believing in Jesus Christ (becoming a Christian), a lot of people do the same thing – they marry for money. They hear of the benefits of putting their faith and trust in Jesus and say “I do,” so to speak. Purpose in life, joy, a good marriage, companionship, healing, relief from suffering, answers to all of your prayers, and success in life all sound like things, so we go for it and believe in Jesus.

But what happens when we don’t get those things? We have no idea what our purpose is, we don’t have much joy, our marriage is worse than it was before, our old friends leave us, we’re still sick, God seems to say “no” to many of our prayers, and we’re not exactly having our “best life now.” What then? We decide that this “Jesus stuff” really isn’t so great after all and we leave. We say, I tried that but it didn’t work for me.”

If that’s our attitude, we married for money – we came to Jesus because of what we thought He could give us and what we wanted Him to do for us. When we knew the “money” wasn’t going to be there after all, we took off. 

“Come to Jesus and get blessed” is not the gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ. To be honest, that’s the message that many Christians have proclaimed and it’s seriously flawed. No wonder so many people drop out. I would, too, if that was the message I was “sold.”

We come to Jesus Christ because realize that we’re sinful and need a Saviour, and that Jesus is that Saviour. We put our faith and trust in Him because of who He is and what He’s done on our behalf. In the marriage analogy, we commit ourselves wholeheartedly to Him because we love Him – the same thing we do with our own beloved. Some, all, or none of the benefits we imagine may take place, but the vow “for better or for worse” is far more significant than “bennies.”

(I’m indebted to Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City for this idea.)

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What is the difference between “religion” and “the gospel”?

Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, gives nine areas of difference. A tip of the cyber-hat to Peter Cockrell for this good information.

Religion: “I obey, therefore I’m accepted.” Gospel: “I’m accepted, therefore I obey.”

Religion: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity. Gospel: Motivation is based on grateful joy.

Religion: I obey God in order to get things from God. Gospel: I obey God in order to delight and resemble Him.

Religion: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or myself, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life. Gospel: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while He may allow this for my training, He will exercise His Fatherly love within my trial.

Religion: When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a “good person.” Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs. Gospel: When I am criticized I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a “good person.” My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism. That’s how I became a Christian.

Religion: My prayer life consists largely of petition and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is to control of the environment. Gospel: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with Him.

Religion: My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel humble, but not confident – I feel like a faliure. Gospel: My self-view is not based on seeing myself as a moral achiever. In Christ I am simul iustus et peccator – simultaneously just and sinful. I am so bad He had to die for me and I am so loved He was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time. Neither swaggering nor sniveling.

Religion: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work. Or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to “the other.” Gospel: My identity and self-worth are centered on the One who died for His enemies, who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace. So I can’t look down on those who believe or practice or believe something different from me. Only by grace I am what I am. I have no inner need to win arguments.

Religion: Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols. It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I may say I believe about God. Gospel: I have many good things in my life – family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc. But none of these good things are ultimate things to me. None of them are things I absolutely have to have, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency they can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.

That’s a thorough and interesting list, to be sure. I agree with almost all of it, but there are a few quibbles here and there. I’m still ruminating on all of these statements, so I won’t attempt an in-depth analysis right now. What do you think? Is there a difference between religion and the gospel? If so, what is the difference (or, what are the differences)?

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Marvin Olasky from World Magazine interviewed Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City regarding his book “The Reason for God.”  Here is a question relating to the problem of evil. Enjoy!

World: When you’re told that meaningless suffering and pointless evil show that God is nonexistent or confused, how do you respond?

Keller: The problem with saying that suffering is meaningless is that it assumes that your vantage point is the ultimate vantage point. One of the problems is that from our vantage point most suffering looks meaningless. Sometimes when you get perspective and you look back, you realize that something was accomplished there.

You have to be very, very careful about this. It depends on what people mean by suffering. The world is broken by sin, so there are all kinds of things that God did not design the world to contain. The original world the way He created it did not have hunger or human death. Even from the perspective of eternity. we will look back and say, suffering did create meaningless in me because I am not meant to die.

In other words, we’re built for a love that we never depart from. Wherever you lose love because somebody dies or moves away or gets sick or something, God has explained that part of meaninglessness. He’s explained it as part of the fall. So we know why it’s happening if we accept the Christian narrative.

When you say God has allowed suffering to continue because He’s evil, that’s different. Just because you can’t think of a good reason why God hasn’t stopped it doesn’t mean there cannot be any. First you have to acknowledge that the meaninglessness you feel in the face of suffering is part of the fact that we are not created for these things and now we are facing them. Then we have to acknowledge that our vantage point is not everything.

Later in the interview, Keller says,

The existential answer is that only Christianity believes that God has entered the suffering world. We don’t know what the reason is that God allowed evil and suffering to continue, but we do know what the reason isn’t: It’s not that He doesn’t love us, because if He didn’t love us He wouldn’t have gotten involved. Whatever the reason is it’s mysterious but it’s not indifference. The cross proves that.

Good stuff, Tim! There’s a lot to think about there.

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