HE Is Good Enough

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The gospel is news about what has been done by Jesus Christ to put right our relationship with God. Becoming a Christian is about a change of status. First John 3:14 (emphasis added) states that ‘we have passed from death to life,’ not we are passing from death to life. You are either in Christ or you are not; you are either pardoned and accepted or you are not; you either have eternal life or you don’t. This is why Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones often used a diagnostic question to determine a person’s spiritual understanding and condition. He would ask, ‘Are you now ready to say that you are a Christian?’ He recounts that over the years, whenever he would ask the question, people would often hesitate and then say, ‘I do not feel that I am good enough.’ To that, he gives this response:

At once I know that… they are still thinking in terms of themselves; their idea still is that they have to make themselves good enough to be a Christian… It sounds very modest but it is the lie of the devil, it is a denial of the faith… you will never be good enough; nobody has ever been good enough. The essence of the Christian salvation is to say that He is good enough and that I am in Him!  

Lloyd-Jones’s point is that becoming a Christian is a change in our relationship with God. Jesus’ work, when it is believed and rested in, instantly changes our standing before God. We are ‘in him.’

– Tim Keller


Living Resurrection

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The resurrection of Christ is not just something to believe in; it’s something to be lived. Christ is not a dead teacher. If he was a dead teacher, then being a Christian would just be to believe what he said. Since he’s a risen Lord, he comes and interpenetrates our lives with a new order of being.

– Tim Keller

Words found in Tim Keller’s 1993 Sermon, “Forgiveness”

Rescued from God’s Wrath

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The gospel is good news announcing that we have been rescued or saved. And what are we rescued from? What peril are we saved from? A look at the gospel words in the New Testament shows that we are rescued from the ‘coming wrath’ at the end of history (1Thess 1:10). But this wrath is not an impersonal force – it is God’s wrath. We are out of fellowship with God; our relationship with him is broken.

In perhaps the most thoroughgoing exposition of the gospel in the Bible, Paul identifies God’s wrath as the great problem of the human condition (Rom 1:18–32). Here we see that the wrath of God has many ramifications. The background text is Genesis 3:17-19, in which God’s curse lies on the entire created order because of human sin. Because we are alienated from God, we are psychologically alienated within ourselves – we experience shame and fear (Gen 3:10). Because we are alienated from God, we are also socially alienated from one another (v. 7 describes how Adam and Eve must put on clothing, and v. 16 speaks of alienation between the genders; also notice the blame shifting in their dialogue with God in vv. 11-13). Because we are alienated from God, we are also physically alienated from nature itself. We now experience sorrow, painful toil, physical degeneration, and death (vv. 16-19). In fact, the ground itself is ‘cursed’ (v. 17; see Rom 8:18–25).

Since the garden, we live in a world filled with suffering, disease, poverty, racism, natural disasters, war, aging, and death – and it all stems from the wrath and curse of God on the world. The world is out of joint, and we need to be rescued. But the root of our problem is not these ‘horizontal’ relationships, though they are often the most obvious; it is our ‘vertical’ relationship with God. All human problems are ultimately symptoms, and our separation from God is the cause. The reason for all the misery – all the effects of the curse – is that we are not reconciled to God. We see this in such texts as Romans 5:8 and 2 Corinthians 5:20. Therefore, the first and primary focus of any real rescue of the human race – the main thing that will save us – is to have our relationship with God put right again.

– Tim Keller

 


Sacrifice

In the Old Testament, the sacrifice was an animal. Whenever an animal was slain, everybody laid hands on the animal, and that way the sins were passed to the animal, and then the animal was slain. It was very clear to everybody in the Old Testament time that the animal was being slain in their place as the atonement, as the way of paying the price necessary for ‘at-one-ment.’

The poor Old Testament people wondered, ‘Why in the world is this ram, is this dead lamb, is this dead bullock, how in the world is this being our sacrifice? How is this being our substitute?’ Of course the New Testament answer is it was just a picture of the real substitute, who is Jesus Christ. Jesus was the sacrifice. This is very basic. You will not understand the love of God unless you see that what he did was to be a substitutionary sacrifice.

There are many, many churches that hate the idea of a God who needs payment. They hate the idea of Jesus Christ having to come and take the wrath of God, to be an atoning sacrifice. My friends, suppose you deny the idea that you’re so wicked that Jesus Christ had to come and pay the atoning sacrifice to reconcile us. If you deny that, you have evacuated the cross of all of its eternal and endless profundities. You have made it something senseless…

Unless you believe you are lost unless Jesus died for you, unless you believe you’re a sinner, unless you believe you would be lost except Jesus died for you, the cross makes no sense. You have evacuated it of all meaning and you cannot understand the love. The love of Jesus Christ dying for us is the thing that’s supposed to move us to walk in love. What else would move you to walk in love? It was a sacrifice.

– Tim Keller

 Words found in Tim Keller’s 1991 Sermon, “The Sweetness of the Cross”

Good News, Not Good Advice

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The gospel is good news, not good advice. The gospel is not primarily a way of life. It is not something we do, but something that has been done for us and something that we must respond to. In the Greek translation of the Old Testament — the Septuagint — the word euangelizo (proclaim good news) occurs twenty-three times. As we see in Psalm 40: 9 (ESV) — ‘I have told the glad news of [your] deliverance in the great congregation’ — the term is generally used to declare the news of something that has happened to rescue and deliver people from peril. In the New Testament, the word group euangelion (good news), euangelizo (proclaim good news), and euangelistes (one who proclaims good news) occurs at least 133 times.

D. A. Carson draws this conclusion from a thorough study of gospel words: Because the gospel is news, good news… it is to be announced; that is what one does with news. The essential heraldic element in preaching is bound up with the fact that the core message is not a code of ethics to be debated, still less a list of aphorisms to be admired and pondered, and certainly not a systematic theology to be outlined and schematized. Though it properly grounds ethics, aphorisms, and systematics, it is none of these three: it is news, good news, and therefore must be publicly announced.

– Tim Keller

Community in the Presence of God

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Community exists to the degree people are saying to one another, ‘What’s mine is yours.’ We’re not just talking about money at all. As a matter of fact, you can have communism without any community at all, right?

You can have a forced redistribution of wealth without any community. Community has to do first of all with what is in the heart. For example, in the church if somebody comes to me and says, ‘Do you know what? I don’t like the way in which you are treating your children.’ What if I say, ‘That’s none of your business?’ I have no concept then of community, no concept of what the Bible says the church is. I’m a radical, American individualist, but I have no idea about this, because you see, my sins are your business.

The Bible says, ‘… confess your sins to one another …’ ‘Bear one another’s burdens …’ That means we don’t just share our bucks, though we do. We share our joys. We share our mistakes. We share our sorrows. Now this can be done in a very icky way, and you can very artificially press this kind of community on people. It grows, and it has to grow in an organic, natural way, but I tell you, we in America are absolutely against this. In his book, Habits of the Heart, Robert Bellah says the one thing Americans hold dear is the idea I am not accountable to anybody but myself for the meeting of my own needs.

That, my friends, is worldliness. I know many churches have said what worldliness means is, ‘We don’t smoke, and we don’t chew, and we don’t go with girls who do.’ That’s worldliness. My friends, that’s not worldliness. Worldliness is saying, ‘I don’t want to be accountable to anybody.’ The only thing that can really create community is the presence of God. I saw The Abyss the other night. It was pretty good. I’m just a frustrated film critic, so I won’t say anything about the movie.

That movie is a typical adventure movie in that you have a bunch of people who, for one reason or another, don’t like each other, but because they go through the same incredible experience that sets them apart from everybody else in the world, by the end they are lifelong pals. It’s like The Dirty Dozen. They all hated each other, but then they got on this great mission in the end. It had male bonding stuff. Oh, how great it is. Any two people, no matter how different they are in every other way, who through Jesus Christ have experienced the presence of God, there is community there.

The relationship between two Christians outweighs any other relationship you have on the basis of your race, on the basis of your gender, or on the basis of your social status. You are a Christian first and you’re white second. You’re a Christian first and you’re black second. You’re a Christian first and you’re wealthy or poor second. You’re a Christian first and you’re an American second. Do you see what I’m saying? Community can only be based on the presence of God.

 – Tim Keller

Words found in Tim Keller’s 1989 Sermon, “Signs of the King”

How to Love the Law

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Without the gospel, we may obey the law, but we will learn to hate it. We will use it, but we will not truly love it. Only if we obey the law because we are saved, rather than to be saved, will we do so ‘for God’ (Galatians 2:19). Once we understand salvation-by-promise, we do not obey God any longer for our sake, by using the law-salvation-system to get things from God. Rather, we now obey God for His sake, using the law’s content to please and delight our Father.

– Tim Keller