Archives For Tim Keller

Recently my family of 8 packed into our mini-van for an early Spring vacation. When I say “packed in” you may be thinking in terms of seats (i.e. a Honda Odessy only has 8 seats, therefore, we were packed in). This is not what I mean. We were packed in. The trunk was filled to the top, the floor had shoes, books, bags, and blankets. The front seat was full of distractions for the little kids as well as entertainment for adults and big kids. We were packed in. But then when we got closer to our destination (10 hours away from home), we went to Costco to buy food for the week. In this we were now officially fully packed in. Kids balanced cartons of eggs, coffee, vegetables, and milk while we finished our course.

The vacation ended and my normal duties resumed last week. I prepared a sermon and then delivered it on Sunday. After I was finished I was reflecting upon it and critiquing various elements of it and I was drawn back to our road-trip.

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Some books are too long and say too little. Other books seem too brief but still say quite a bit. Tim Keller’s book The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness falls into this latter category.

The book is small enough to read over your lunch hour but will need to be digested over a lifetime. Keller walks uses 1 Corinthians as lenses to understanding how the gospel had gripped and transformed the Apostle Paul. The result: gospel humility. Or, in other words: self-forgetfulness.

The book is more like a sermon that gets after you. With probing application that pulls the gospel-train into town, Keller helps show pride and chase it away with gospel.

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Atonement Grammars

Erik Raymond —  January 29, 2013

Christians are always working hard to faithfully communicate the gospel to the people around them. In a diverse community there are diverse people with diverse backgrounds. If you are like me then you have scratched your head mid conversation as you have wondered how to speak gospel truth to them in a way that compellingly and winsomely intersects with their worldview and value system.

In his book Center Church Tim Keller provides some “atonement grammars” or languages by which the work of Christ on the cross can be presented. I find them to be helpful for me in my own effort to be clear with the gospel and pass them on to you for the same purpose.

  1. The language of the battlefield. Christ fought against the powers of sin and death for us. He defeated the powers of evil for us.
  2. The language of the marketplace. Christ paid the ransom price, the purchase price, to buy us out of our indebtedness. He frees us from enslavement.
  3. The language of exile. Christ was exiled and cast out of the community so we who deserve to be banished could be brought in. He brings us home.
  4. The language of the temple. Christ is the sacrifice that purifies us and makes us acceptable to draw near to the holy God. He makes us clean and beautiful.
  5. The language of the law court. Christ stands before the judge and takes the punishment we deserve. He removes our guilt and makes us righteous.

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I am currently reading through Tim Keller’s masterful new book entitled Center Church. In so many ways it is a textbook for church leaders. Keller has spent many hours at the whiteboard planning and evaluating ministry. We are the beneficiaries of his prayerful and faithful ministry for these many decades.

He draws one particularly helpful contrast early on. He writes of how some church leaders simply evaluate their ministries by their faithfulness. Without discounting the priority of faithfulness he cautions that ministers might feel too much security to question ministries that are bearing little fruit.
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The common good requires some laws that limit personal freedom. This conversation between Tim Keller, Al Mohler, & Collin Hansen is very helpful.

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I had an interesting experience last week while studying for a sermon. It was like hearing a thought handed down from generation to generation. By God’s grace I found myself, at each turn, more sucked into the center of the biblical vortex.

On the first level I heard Tim Keller in a sermon make a profound point about justification. In the midst of it he referenced another teacher who articulated this same thing. A day or so later I was reading a sermon by Jonathan Edwards and he said the exact same thing with a bit more Edswardian symmetry and accent. Finally, I was reading a reference passage in Titus and found the same point made with clarity and power by the Apostle Paul.

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When Idols Attack

Erik Raymond —  October 2, 2012

Some years ago the show When Animals Attack enjoyed some popularity. Our intrigue over the title was surpassed by an admittedly morbid fascination with otherwise “peaceful” animals like deer turning into a forest brawler, pummeling their human “opponents.” In many of the cases there was something that set-off the animal causing them to react. However, there were other times when the animal was just flat out surly; they wanted to scrap.

The image of a deer on his hind legs throwing punches like Riddick Bowe reminds me of heart idolatry. Idolatry is simply anything that sits in God’s chair; specifically anything that you value, serve or build your life upon that is not God. Like the quiet, peaceful deer, our hearts seem quietly peaceful and safe. But when the idols of our heart are poked, prodded, questioned or threatened then they attack.

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Awhile back I heard a talk by Tim Keller on preaching. As is often the case, Keller’s thoughts multiply in my mind faster than a rabbit farm. In this instance he was talking about sermon application. I may not have the quotes or points just right, but the gist of it is here.

Sermon application will often focus on either the doctrinal, the pietistic, or the service of others (declaring and/or demonstrating the gospel by loving our neighbors).

Keller’s point was that preachers often have their own leanings to one of these three. As a result their sermon application will tend to accent a particular category. Over the long-haul this begins to lead a congregation to over pronate to one side at the exclusion of the others (not that any of these three are bad, they are just not complete).

The answer is to be aware of our blind spots and to work regularly and faithfully to apply the text. Some of the best sermons will include all three components.

I know where my leanings tend to be. I also know that I can get aggravated when other preachers may not emphasize my particular hobby-horse while riding their own. Keller’s call for thoughtful faithfulness is really a call for balance. Which is another way of saying ‘biblical’.

The more that I try to live the Christian life the more I am confronted with my need for Christ. I am graciously shown the person and work of Christ and this thrills my soul. As a result I want to remove idols that undermine my satisfied delight in Christ.

In recent years we have been helped to this end by various teachers pointing out ‘functional saviors’. For example, Jerry Bridges defines functional saviors in the following way:

Sometimes we look to other things to satisfy and fulfill us—to ‘save’ us. These ‘functional saviors’ can be any object of dependence we embrace that isn’t God. They become the source of our identity, security, and significance because we hold an idolatrous affection for them in our hearts. They preoccupy our minds and consume our time and resources. They make us feel good and somehow even make us feel righteous. Whether we realize it or not, they control us, and we worship them. (Bridges & Bevington, The Bookends of the Christian Life), p. 72

Likewise Tim Keller has done a terrific job in his recent book Counterfeit Gods identifying and dismantling these idols. One thing that I like about Keller is that he shows that these idols oftentimes are not bad things but rather good things that we have sinfully made ultimate things.
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Amid the continued chatter and debate about ‘hell’ and God’s ‘judgment’, I found Tim Keller’s thoughts insightful. The only variant here is that Keller is talking about how he approaches skeptics who stumble over a literal hell and a God of wrath. It’s a shame that more who say they are Christian and even teach at ‘Bible’ Churches look so very much like a skeptic. They should take Keller’s advice and ‘look to the Bible.’

Keller is right, to say that in the Bible we see that ‘The God of love is also a God of judgment who will put all things in the world to rights in the end.’ Without this judging God, Bell’s (and others’) view of restoration is Pollyanna at best. It’s a Potemkin Village of restoration; nobody is home and nobody is better.

It’s tragic to consider what that skeptics outside or guys like Rob Bell ‘inside’ do; in the name of acceptance they make such judgments upon the word of God and the God of the word.

Today many of the skeptics I talk to say, as I once did, they can’t believe in the God of the Bible, who punishes and judges people, because they “believe in a God of Love.” I now ask, what makes them think God is Love? Can they look at life in the world today and say, “This proves that the God of the world is a God of love”? Can they look at history and say, “This all shows that the God of history is a God of love”? Can they look at the religious texts of the world and conclude that God is a God of love? By no means is that the dominant, ruling attribute of God as understood in any of the major faiths. I must conclude that the source of the idea that God is Love is the Bible itself. And the Bible tells us that the God of love is also a God of judgment who will put all things in the world to rights in the end.

The belief in a God of pure love—who accepts everyone and judges no one—is a powerful act of faith. Not only is there no evidence for it in the natural order, but there is almost no historical, religious textual support for it outside of Christianity. The more one looks at it, the less justified it appears. –Tim Keller, The Reason for God

As a follow-up to my post yesterday on the need for private, secret prayer as a believer, I wanted to provide a very simple example.

I came across this post on Steve McCoy’s blog where he transcribed a portion of an interview with Tim Keller and Bryan Chapell. I am thankful that Steve took the time to transcribe this. It has been something that has been rattling around in my mind since I’ve read it. I have talked to numerous friends about this and they were likewise blessed. May Keller’s simplicity and transparency help you in your striving to be faithful in prayer.

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A couple of years ago a friend was repreaching several sermons to me from prominent pastor. He told me how he had listened to some of them several times and how they continued to speak to him. That preacher was Tim Keller and the sermon series was King’s Cross. I too began listening to them and dialoging with my friend. I had quietly hoped that Keller would get those audio files bound in a book format for a more broad circulation. Thankfully, he has.

King’s Cross is the book version of these messages. However, in reading the book you don’t have that sermon feel. This is not because of the absence of propositions, exhortations, or biblical depth. They are all there. However, Keller’s writing style, replete with a well of images and quotes, gives you that book feel. It works.

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Idols are as tricky as they are misunderstood. We think of them as distant from us and our culture. Too often we think of idols as the little figurines of the portly eastern man. But as Tim Keller writes in his very helpful book Counterfeit Gods, this is not typically the case. He shows that idols are often misunderstood and unidentified in our lives:

We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life. (p.xvii)

I have written quite a bit about this in the past, but here I want to zero in on something that Keller said that is so helpful.

He makes the point that we expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. This is dangerous.

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Tim Keller was interviewed by FoxNews about his new book The King’s Cross. I for one am really excited about Keller emerging as someone that the media turns to for answers about Christianity.

Here is the video (rss readers may need to click through).

As previously noted, King’s Cross is available for 60% off for a limited time through Westminster Books.

I saw today that Westminster Books is eagerly anticipating the release of Tim Keller’s book The King’s Cross tomorrow. The book is the collection and adaptation of Keller’s sermons on the gospel according to Mark. As someone who is currently preaching through Mark, I can attest that the sermons are very helpful. I am looking forward to having them bound and within arm’s reach.

Here is how the Westminster Sale works: the first copy for each customer at a 60% off of the retail price. Additional copies after that will be at 45% off. The hardcover retails for $25.95, so this means you can get the first copy for $10.38, and copies after that for $14.27. The sale happens automatically when you add the books to the cart. The extra discount ends February 28.

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I was listening to local sports talk radio the other day as I was driving home after a long day of meetings. The discussion centered around the impending NFL lockout. In case you haven’t heard the millionare players and the billionare owners are not exactly on the same page on what to do with the over $70 Billion of annual revenue that the league generates (yes, you read that number right).

Players and owners are not the only ones gripping. The fans are not happy.

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Labor Statue on Omaha's Riverfront

Here in the US we celebrated (or perhaps better observed) Labor Day yesterday. This is a day that recognizes the importance of the American workforce. Traditionally, it has been a chance to identify and honor the priority of trade and labor organizations and their impact on us as a country. Now it is one last chance to have a cookout, vacation, or take a rest before the autumn season. Further, it has come to mark the beginning of college and professional football.

As Christians I think that it’s incumbent upon us to be looking for the idols in the land and how to answer them with the gospel. As a pastor I am continually burdened and provoked with a desire to see my city and world transformed by a movement of the gospel. In order for this to happen idols have to be exposed and Christ’s value needs to be seen.

In Tim Keller’s book Counterfeit Gods he exhorts us to identify, destroy and replace these idols. I submit that labor is one of these idols. Even here in my city, Omaha, we have statues to labor as ornaments on our riverfront.

Labor, or work, is not in and of itself bad. Lest we forget, God instituted work in a pre-Fall Eden (Gen. 2.15). Work is a means of grace. It is a way for creation to rightly magnify and enjoy our Creator. In working with a mind and eye towards the goodness of God, his provision, and his rule over us, we are satisfied with the providence of God. We were to smile upon work because in it God is smiling upon his creation.

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This is a great video. Tim Keller is looking back over the Scriptures through the lenses of Luke 24.27 and articulates how it points to Jesus. I love the way it ends, “The Bible’s not about you!” Well said and well done. I trust this will be encouraging.

(Ht: Colin Hansen)

Tim Keller always says that you have got to know your city’s idols so that you can effectively expose and replace them. I live in Omaha, Nebraska. You don’t have to be a missiologist to know that one of the Big Idols for the people is the Big Red.

Case in point. The team is going through two-a-day practices this week. This basically means that there are innumerable media types swirling around the University like ants trying to make off with a crumb from a picnic. Every day it is the same old thing.

“Who has the edge in the QB race?”

“How does the Defense look?”

“Why did Bo make them run after practice?”

Whenever Pelini gets a redundant or especially stupid question he gives the reporters a glare and some curt answer that the causes the reporter to immediately drop into the journalistic fetal position. You have got to see it. Pelini is like the Dog Whisperer on these guys. Amazing.

Well, they (the media) crossed the line yesterday. The broke the etiquette. They thought they could run off from the picnic with a hamburger of a story instead they got whacked in the back of the head from an angry coach. Some reporters let folks know about an injury they saw through the windows. This was reported on message boards as well as reputable newspapers. As a result Pelini has turned the football practices into Ft. Knox. In essence the program has ‘gone dark’.

And you should hear the outcry.

Reporters are whining and crying. People are in a bad mood. Some folks have commented that they have nothing to talk about. Geesh.

Well, welcome to Nebraska in August.

I am sure the climate is similiar in your area for another program. As missionaries we need to think about these opportunities, examine them, and prayerfully make opportunities to talk about the heart’s desire for worship and glory. This is a great chance to show that we were wired for worship. We are, like Paul David Tripp has said, ‘glory junkies’. None of these things satisfy; they just leave you hungry and hurting (even if they go undefeated and win a BCS title). At the end of the day, they idols, as Keller says, can never satisfy. They cannot deliver.

But Christ can. And he does.

Book Review- Counterfeit Gods

Erik Raymond —  February 10, 2010

Tim Keller is one of those pastors/writers that has the unique ability to articulate central and crucial biblical themes in clear and practical terms. He has been a significant blessing in my life and ministry over the past several years. Until recently this impact was restricted to his online sermons and various journal articles. Now Keller is turning out books like Windows updates. And he is not loosing his ability to amplify substantial themes.

In his latest book Counterfeit Gods Keller endeavors to identify, expose and answer some of the more ‘famous’ idols in our culture.

What is an idol? Keller writes, “It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs you heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” (p.xvii)

Furthermore, Keller demonstrates that these idols are often misunderstood and unidentified in our lives:

We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life. (p.xvii)

Throughout the book Keller goes after the popular and pervasive idols in our lives (ie money, sex, power, success, etc). Many of these chapters hurt. They hurt in a good way. But that is not enough. Keller, ever the pastor, goes after the hidden idols in our lives. This is great. But still more, (thankfully), Keller provides the answer to the idols by showing the proper response to the only gift that truly satisfies the longings of the human soul. God provides Jesus Christ to be our chief joy and delight. It is Christ that is received with repentance and rejoicing.

One thing that I really appreciate about this book is the way in which Keller puts the various idols in a historical narrative. This is really where Keller is at his best. He takes a familiar ‘story’ and shows how the individuals in the account where stealing glory from God by their idolatry. This shows not only the timeless nature of idolatry but also the timeless answer. Our transcendent longings are answered by a transcendent God.

I highly recommend this book for Christians of all stages. It is book that is truly helpful. In true Keller style, he leads you through the narrative and teaches you before you even realize that you are being taught. You come out knowing yourself better, your Bible better, and treasuring Christ more.

>Discounted copies are available at Westminster Bookstore (bulk orders available).
>You’ll find discounts at Amazon as well if that is your preference.

Tim Keller talking about Counterfeit Gods