Facing Adversity

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For Christians, suffering was not to be dealt with primarily through the control and suppression of negative emotions with the use of reason or willpower. Ultimate reality was known not primarily through reason and contemplation but through relationship. Salvation was through humility, faith, and love rather than reason and control of emotions. And therefore, Christians don’t face adversity by stoically decreasing our love for the people and things of this world so much as by increasing our love and joy in God. Ferry says, ‘Augustine, having conducted a radical critique of love-as-attachment in general, does not banish it when its object is divine.’ What he means is that, while Christianity was able to agree with pagan writers that inordinate attachment to earthly goods can lead to unnecessary pain and grief, it also taught that the answer to this was not to love things less but to love God more than anything else. Only when our greatest love is God, a love that we cannot lose even in death, can we face all things with peace. Grief was not to be eliminated but seasoned and buoyed up with love and hope.

– Tim Keller

Do Justice and Love Mercy

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Micah 6:8 is a summary of how God wants us to live. To walk humbly with God is to know him intimately and to be attentive to what he desires and loves. And what does that consist of? The text says to ‘do justice and love mercy,’ which seem at first glance to be two different things, but they are not. The term for ‘mercy’ is the Hebrew word chesedh, God’s unconditional grace and compassion. The word for ‘justice’ is the Hebrew term mishpat. In Micah 6:8, ‘mishpat puts the emphasis on the action, chesedh puts it on the attitude [or motive] behind the action.’ To walk with God, then, we must do justice, out of merciful love.

– Tim Keller

Suffering Like Christ

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We must rest in the sufficiency of Christ’s sufferings for us before we can even begin to suffer like him. If we know he loves us unconditionally, despite our flaws, then we know he is present with us and working in our lives in times of pain and sorrow. And we can know that he is not merely close to us, but he is indwelling, and that since we are members of his body, he senses our sufferings as his own (cf. Acts 9: 4; Col 1: 24.)

– Tim Keller

Two Kinds of Doubts

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I would say there are two kinds of doubts: dishonest doubts and honest doubts. Dishonest doubts are both proud and cowardly; they show disdain and laziness. A dishonest doubt is to say, ‘What a crazy idea!’ and then just walk away. ‘That’s impossible’ (or its more contemporary version, ‘That’s stupid’) is an assertion, not an argument. It’s a way of getting out of the hard work of thinking. But by contrast, honest doubts are humble, because they lead you to ask questions, not just put up a wall. And when you ask a real question, it makes you somewhat vulnerable. Mary’s question to the angel actually asks for information and leaves her open to the possibility of a good answer that would cause her to shift her views. Honest doubts, then, are open to belief. If you are really asking for information and good arguments, you might get some.

And here’s what I find wonderful. If she had never expressed a doubt, the angel would never have spoken one of the great statements in the Bible: ‘Nothing will be impossible with God’ (Luke 1: 37 ESV). I’m so grateful for her doubt, because that statement has been comforting and guiding me for years. All kinds of people have been helped immensely by those words. And the only reason we get this extra revelation is because Mary doubted. The more you are willing to express doubt honestly and humbly, the more you bring up your honest questions, the further you, and the people around you, are going to get. I have seen plenty of people who refuse to ask questions and refuse to express their doubts. Some refuse out of hard-heartedness, while others refuse because they think somehow it is disrespectful. Please don’t dare not to raise your honest doubts and questions.

– Tim Keller

 

 

The Gospel in a Nutshell

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Christianity is a way that says if you come to Jesus Christ, even if you aren’t good and decent, even if you aren’t wonderful, and even if you don’t have a good record, anybody through Christ can find God. Somebody says, ‘How can that be?’ Let me just put the gospel in a nutshell: because Jesus Christ lived a perfect life and died a perfect death, now God treats you, when you believe in Christ, as if you have done everything Jesus has done and you have suffered everything Jesus has suffered. God treats believing sinners as if they had done everything Jesus has done and suffered everything Jesus has suffered.

That means when you believe in Christ you’re adopted not on the basis of your record, but on his record. You’re adopted into the family and treated as if you’d accomplished everything he’s accomplished. That’s the gospel. Somebody says, ‘It’s too easy.’ I don’t know how many times people have said, ‘That’s just too easy. You mean you just receive it?’ Yeah, but you have to receive it through repentance, and that’s what’s not easy at all. The only way to get to that peace is through paying the pain of repentance. In other words, all you need is nothing, but most people don’t have that.

– Tim Keller

 Words found in 1993 Sermon, “Peace Through Conflict” by Timothy Keller

When You Screw Up

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Some of you know what I mean. When you’re successful, you have a lot of people around you. When you feel like you’re doing very well, you’re busy. You don’t sit around and think about the meaning of life. You don’t sit around and say, ‘I wonder if there is a God. I wonder if Jesus is there. I wonder what I’m really living for.’ You don’t ask the big questions. You’re busy. You’re happy.

But when you screw up, it gets you alone with him, makes you think. Isn’t that wonderful? See, first thing, he has to get you alone. He has to get you one on one. He has to get you to start thinking about the big things. That almost always happens through screw-ups. How wonderful!

– Tim Keller

 Words found in Tim Keller’s 1999 Sermon, “The Living Water”

Money Worship

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Money can become a spiritual addiction, and like all addictions it hides its true proportions from its victims. We take more and greater risks to get an ever diminishing satisfaction from the thing we crave, until a breakdown occurs. When we begin to recover, we ask, ‘What were we thinking? How could we have been so blind?’ We wake up like people with a hangover who can hardly remember the night before. But why? Why did we act so irrationally? Why did we completely lose sight of what is right? The Bible’s answer is that the human heart is an ‘idol factory.’ When most people think of ‘idols’ they have in mind literal statues – or the next pop star anointed by Simon Cowell. Yet while traditional idol worship still occurs in many places of the world, internal idol worship, within the heart, is universal. In Ezekiel 14: 3, God says about elders of Israel, ‘These men have set up their idols in their hearts.’ Like us, the elders must have responded to this charge, ‘Idols? What idols? I don’t see any idols.’ God was saying that the human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them. 

– Tim Keller

Jesus and Doubts

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Kelly’s account recalls how, as a struggler with doubt and faith, the passage about Thomas in the New Testament was a comfort to her. There Jesus modeled a view of doubt more nuanced than those of either modern skeptics or modern believers. When Jesus confronted ‘doubting Thomas’ he challenged him not to acquiesce in doubt (‘believe!’) and yet responded to his request for more evidence. In another incident, Jesus meets a man who confesses that he is filled with doubts (Mark 9:24), who says to Jesus, ‘Help thou my unbelief’ – help me with my doubts! In response to this honest admission, Jesus blesses him and heals his son. Whether you consider yourself a believer or a skeptic, I invite you to seek the same kind of honesty and to grow in an understanding of the nature of your own doubts. The result will exceed anything you can imagine.

– Tim Keller