Daily Keller

~ Wisdom from Tim Keller 365 Days a Year

Daily Keller

The Gospel and Sexual Relationships

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Tim Keller

The moralist tends to see sex as dirty or at least a dangerous impulse that leads constantly to sin. There will be an approach-avoidance relationship with sex. The uneasy conscience of the moralist will lead to either complete avoidance OR to a very driven, breathless need for sexual experience. Both come from a glory-vacuum within, which makes sex into a way to fill the emptiness. On the other hand, the hedonist sees sex as merely biological and physical appetite. Thus the hedonist may be less convoluted and troubled about sex, yet they have also given up on the deep longing of their heart to have union with someone sexually that is completely, unconditionally, and permanently true to them.

But the gospel shows us that sexuality is to reflect the self-giving of Christ. He gave himself completely without conditions. So we are not to seek intimacy sexually but then hold back control of our lives. If we give ourselves sexually we are to give ourselves legally, socially, personally — utterly. Sex is only to happen in a totally committed, permanent relationship of marriage. Through Christ’s transformation of us, that ideal is somewhat realizable even between two sinners.

– Tim Keller

The Gospel and Family Relationships

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Tim Keller

Moralism can make you a slave to parental expectations. The two ways you become a slave under moralism is that either you are so bound to please your parents that you can’t live without continually thinking of them, or you are so mad at them for their control or neglect of your life that you cannot live without thinking of them. To be living either in action OR reaction to them all the time means that you are still a slave to their view of you. You are haunted by it either way. On the other hand, hedonism sees no need for family loyalty or the keeping of promises and covenants if they do not ‘meet my needs.’

The gospel frees you from making parental approval an absolute or psychological salvation, pointing out how God becomes the ultimate father. Then you will be neither too dependent or too hostile to your parents.

– Tim Keller

Hell and Heaven

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Tim Keller

Hell and heaven essentially are our freely chosen identities going on forever. In other words, Christianity believes that people have a soul that lives forever, and therefore, a process that begins in our soul now can go on forever.

For example, take self-centeredness. As we know, the more self-centered people get, the more miserable and the more in denial they become. That is to say they blame everybody else for their problems. And that is part of what self-centeredness is — you are wise in your own eyes, you can’t take the blame for anything, nothing is ever your fault. Hell is a self-centered ego going on for a billion years.

God, according to Romans 1, lets people have what they most want — and hell is simply serving yourself, going on forever. Hell is God giving you the life you want, on into eternity.

Therefore, in a sense, nobody ever goes to hell in the Christian understanding unless they want to. People go to heaven because they love God and want to submit to him. People go to hell because they want to be away from God, because they do not want somebody telling them how to live their life. They want to live their own lives their way. Hell is separation from God. And, therefore, nobody goes to hell except people who want to go there.

In some ways, the fairest understanding of the afterlife is the Christian one, which says God gives you what you want. If you want to live with God forever, that’s heaven, and you get it. If you want to be your own person, your own savior, your own lord, that’s hell, and you get that — and you stay wanting it; you do not suddenly change your mind.

In Ezekiel 18:30 God says, ‘I will judge you, each one according to his ways.’ But the verse goes on with God pleading with his people: ‘Repent! Turn away from all your offenses… Why will you die?… I take no pleasure in the death of anyone… Repent and live!’ (Ezekiel 18:30-32).

God’s justice is active, not passive, and when we violate it God will judge. But what these verses also show is that God wants people to repent and turn to him — that he does not want anyone to perish.

It sounds open-minded to say: I believe that any good person can find God, not just Christians. but the premise behind that statement is that good people find God and bad people do not. There are two problems with the premise. First, it holds out no hope for bad people, and lots of us know deep down that we have not lived up to even our own moral standards. Second, it misunderstands Christians’ beliefs. It assumes that Christians believe that they are going to heaven because they are good, and that is not true at all.

Christians believe that no one goes to heaven or hell by being compliant with Christian ethics — by being moral and good, or not. The essence of sin is loving anything more than the true God, and by essentially being our own ‘god’ — that is, trusting ultimately in our own wisdom and ability. Even if you believe in God and are very good and moral, you may be doing it as a way to earn your own salvation, so that God will be obligated to bless and help you, and take you to heaven. The fact is, all of us — religious and irreligious, moral and immoral — are trying to control our own lives rather than rely on God. Everyone is doing this and we will not ‘find God’ until we admit this spiritual condition and seek pardon and change through Jesus. Our eternal destiny is dependent not on being good but on our response to the grace of God and to Christ’s death on a cross in our place, and on our willingness to admit that we are cut off from God because of the pride and self-centeredness of our hearts.

– Tim Keller

Self-absorption

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Tim Keller

There’s nothing that makes you more miserable (or less interesting) than self-absorption.

– Tim Keller

Spiritual Gifts and Spiritual Fruit

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Tim Keller

Gifts are abilities God gives us to meet the needs of others in Christ’s name: speaking, encouraging, serving, evangelizing, teaching, leading, administering, counseling, discipling, organizing. Graces, often called spiritual fruit, are beauties of character: love, joy, peace, humility, gentleness, self-control. Spiritual gifts are what we do; spiritual fruit is what we are. Unless you understand the greater importance of grace and gospel-character for ministry effectiveness, the discernment and use of spiritual gifts may actually become a liability in your ministry. The terrible danger is that we can look to our ministry activity as evidence that God is with us or as a way to earn God’s favor and prove ourselves.

If our hearts remember the gospel and are rejoicing in our justification and adoption, then our ministry is done as a sacrifice of thanksgiving — and the result will be that our ministry is done in love, humility, patience, and tenderness. But if our hearts are seeking self-justification and desiring to control God and others by proving our worth through our ministry performance, we will identify too closely with our ministry and make it an extension of ourselves. The telltale signs of impatience, irritability, pride, hurt feelings, jealousy, and boasting will appear. We will be driven, scared, and either too timid or too brash. And perhaps, away from the public glare, we will indulge in secret sins. These signs reveal that ministry as a performance is exhausting us and serves as a cover for pride in either one of its two forms, self-aggrandizement or self-hatred.

Here’s how this danger can begin. Your prayer life may be nonexistent, or you may have an unforgiving spirit toward someone, or sexual desires may be out of control. But you get involved in some ministry activity, which draws out your spiritual gifts. You begin to serve and help others, and soon you are affirmed by others and told what great things you are doing. You see the effects of your ministry and conclude that God is with you. But actually God was helping someone through your gifts even though your heart was far from him. Eventually, if you don’t do something about your lack of spiritual fruit and instead build your identity on your spiritual gifts and ministry activity, there will be some kind of collapse. You will blow up at someone or lapse into some sin that destroys your credibility. And everyone, including you, will be surprised. But you should not be. Spiritual gifts without spiritual fruit is like a tire slowly losing air.

– Tim Keller

*Quote taken from the Redeemer Report March 2007 article, “Ministry Can Be Dangerous to Your Spiritual Health.”

The Sin Under Sin

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Tim Keller

The sin under all other sins is a lack of joy in Christ.

– Tim Keller

True Freedom

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Tim Keller

Reality is like a fabric. There is a pattern, a design to reality that must be honored or the fabric tears or unravels. The classic illustration is a fish. A fish has two things that make it perfect in water; gills that absorb oxygen from the water, not the air; and fins that move through water, but not on land. The fish must honor its design. It is designed for water, not for land. That is a restriction. If it’s in the wrong environment, if it’s not able to honor the way it fits into the fabric of things, it dies. If it does honor its design, it is free to do all it was designed to do.

What are human beings made for? The clue is to look at how human love works. If you are selfish and you are not married, that is hard. If you are selfish and you are married, it is a disaster. John Stott put it this way, ‘True freedom is to be one’s true self, but my true self is made for loving, and loving is self-giving. So in order to be myself, I have to deny myself and give myself. In order, then, to be free, I have to give up my freedom. In order, then, to live, I have to die to my self-centeredness. In order to find myself, I’ve got to lose it.’

Real freedom is not doing what we most want to do. Real freedom is knowing which of the things we most want to do is siding with what we were designed for. Real freedom is finding the right restrictions, and that is why Jesus says, ‘If you hold to my teaching…you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:31-32); ‘Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it’ (Matthew 10:39); ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matthew 11:28-30).

– Tim Keller