Daily Keller

~ Wisdom from Tim Keller 365 Days a Year

Daily Keller

Discerning Your Calling

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Tim Keller

We can discern God’s calling when three factors come together for us: Affinity (What human needs do I ‘vibrate’ to? What interests me? What are my passions?); Ability (What am I good at? What do people say I am effective in?); and Opportunity (What doors for service are open? What needs to be done?). When all three factors come together, you can see God has equipped and called you to do something or to move in a certain direction.

This process can be applied to finding a job and making major life decisions, but how do we apply it to service in the church? I propose that in the church you start with the third aspect — Opportunity. In other words, find the jobs in the church that need to be done and then do them. Just serve. Don’t ask too much about whether it fulfills you.

Why? First, the only way you will ever really come to know the kind of ministry that you are best at is if you do a lot of different things; then you will know what God blesses. Don’t look first at your proven abilities — at your day job or natural talents — to determine what you do in the church, because as mentioned earlier, God may not use that. Likewise, don’t look first at your deepest affinities — the things that excite and interest you. If you gravitate too quickly to those areas, you may miss latent gifts that you aren’t aware you have. Just serve — plug the gaps in the church and help out. Go through the door of opportunity in the church, doing what needs to be done, and then as time goes on you can check your affinities and abilities and begin to specialize. If you are in a church with many opportunities, you may be able to specialize earlier on in the process.

– Tim Keller

*Quote taken from the Redeemer City to City article, “Discerning and Exercising Spiritual Gifts”

The Gift of Service

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Tim Keller

What, then, is service? Serving is putting the needs of others ahead of our own, or putting the needs of the community ahead of our individual needs. And the Bible says there are several reasons to do this. The first benefit is self-knowledge. Don’t think you know your real gifts and capacities until you do a lot of humble serving in many different capacities around the church. Only as you do that will you come to understand your own aptitudes.

The second benefit is community. When you approach the church as a consumer (that is, only to get your needs met), you are in a solitary mode of being, but when you reject the consumer mindset, serving will draw you out of yourself and into relationships.

The third benefit is the fulfillment and joy of seeing others touched through you, or seeing something great happen through the part you play in the body of Christ. Paradoxically, if you serve primarily for the benefits to yourself, then it isn’t really serving, and you won’t receive the benefits. The only workable dynamic for every-member ministry is Mark 10:45. Because Jesus served you in such a radical way, you have a joyful need to serve. It’s a form of praise that doesn’t fully enjoy what it admires until it expresses itself in service.

– Tim Keller

Hypocritical Leadership

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Tim Keller

Perhaps the greatest dilemma of the pastor — or any Christian leader — is the danger of hypocrisy. By this I mean that, unlike other professionals, we as ministers are expected to proclaim God’s goodness and to provide encouragement at all times. We are always pointing people toward God in one way or another, in order to show them his worth and beauty. That’s the essence of our ministry. But seldom will our hearts be in a condition to say such a thing with complete integrity, since our own hearts are often in need of encouragement, gospel centeredness, and genuine gladness. Thus, we have two choices: either we have to guard our hearts continually in order to practice what we are preaching, or we live bifurcated lives of outward ministry and inward gloominess.

In this way, the ministry will make you a far better or a far worse Christian than you would have been otherwise. But it will not leave you where you were! And it will put enormous pressure on your integrity and character. The key problem will be preaching the gospel while not believing the gospel. As ministers, we must be willing to admit that ministerial success often becomes the real basis for our joy and significance, much more so than the love and acceptance we have in Jesus Christ. Ministry success often becomes what we look to in order to measure our worth to others and our confidence before God. In other words, we look to ministry success to be for us what only Christ can be. All ministers who know themselves will be fighting this all their lives. It is the reason for jealousy, for comparing ourselves to other ministers, for needing to control people and programs in the church, and for feeling defensive toward criticism. At one level we believe the gospel that we are saved by grace not works, but at a deeper level we don’t believe it much at all. We are still trying to create our own righteousness through spiritual performance, albeit one that is sanctioned by our call to ministry.

– Tim Keller

Christian Hope is a Future of Love

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Tim Keller

Nobody who knows you completely can love you completely. There are people who think you’re great because they don’t really know you. There is nobody on the face of the earth who could know you to the bottom and love you to the skies. But we want that.

When someone likes you but doesn’t know you, it’s not that satisfying. And when someone knows you and doesn’t like you, that certainly isn’t satisfying. What we want is to be utterly known and utterly loved.

And on that day, at the coming of the Lord, we’ll finally get what we’ve longed for — from Jesus and one another. We’ll be utterly known and utterly loved. Yes, the future is a world of love, the kind of love you want, a personal love.

– Tim Keller

Humor

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Tim Keller

Your humor has a lot to do with how you regard yourself. Many people use humor to put down others, keep themselves in the driver’s seat in a conversation and setting, and to remind the hearers of their superior vantage point. They use humor not to defuse tension and put people at ease, but to deliberately belittle the opposing view. Rather than showing respect and doing the hard work of true disagreement, they mock others’ points of view and dismiss them without actually engaging the argument.

Ultimately, sarcastic put-down humor is self-righteous, a form of self-justification, and that is what the gospel demolishes. When we grasp that we are unworthy sinners saved by infinitely costly grace it destroys both our self-righteousness and our need to ridicule others. This is also true of self-directed ridicule. There are some people who constantly, bitterly, mock themselves. At first it looks like a form of humility, or realism, but really it is just as self-absorbed as the other version. It is a sign of an inner disease with one’s self, a profound spiritual restlessness.

There is another kind of self-righteousness, however, that produces a person with little or no sense of humor. Moralistic persons often have no sense of irony because they take themselves too seriously, or because they are too self-conscious and self-absorbed in their own struggles to be habitually joyful.

The gospel, however, creates a gentle sense of irony. Our doctrine of sin keeps us from being over-awed by anyone (especially ourselves) or shocked, shocked by any behavior. We find a lot to laugh at, starting with our own weaknesses. They don’t threaten us any more because our ultimate worth is not based on our record or performance. Our doctrine of grace and redemption also keeps us from seeing any situation as hopeless. This groundnote of joy and peace makes humor spontaneous and natural.

In gospel-shaped humor we don’t only poke fun at ourselves, we also can gently poke fun at others, especially our friends. But it is always humor that takes the other seriously and ultimately builds them up as a show of affection. ‘We are not to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.’ (C.S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory”)

– Tim Keller

Out of…

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Tim Keller

Out of the cross comes the resurrection. Out of weakness comes real strength. Out of repentance and admitting you are weak comes real power. Out of giving away and serving others comes real strength. Out of generosity and giving your money away comes real wealth. That’s the gospel story line.

– Tim Keller

Art and Imagination

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Tim Keller

The Church needs artists because without art we cannot reach the world. The simple fact is that the imagination ‘gets you,’ even when your reason is completely against the idea of God. ‘Imagination communicates,’ as Arthur Danto says, ‘indefinable but inescapable truth.’ Those who read a book or listen to music expose themselves to that inescapable truth. There is a sort of schizophrenia that occurs if you are listening to Bach and you hear the glory of God and yet your mind says there is no God and there is no meaning. You are committed to believing nothing means anything and yet the music comes in and takes you over with your imagination. When you listen to great music, you can’t believe life is meaningless. Your heart knows what your mind is denying. We need Christian artists because we are never going to reach the world without great Christian art to go with great Christian talk.

– Tim Keller

A Matter of Wonder

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Tim Keller

If you think you really understand the gospel — you don’t. If you think you haven’t even begun to truly understand the gospel — you do. As important as our ‘gospel theologizing’ is, it alone will not reach our world. People today are incredibly sensitive to inconsistency and phoniness. They hear what the gospel teaches and then look at our lives and see the gap. Why should they believe? We have to recognize that the gospel is a transforming thing, and we simply are not very transformed by it. It’s not enough to say to postmodern people: ‘You don’t like absolute truth? Well, then, we’re going to give you even more of it!’ But people who balk so much at absolute truth will need to see greater holiness of life, practical grace, gospel character, and virtue, if they are going to believe.

Traditionally, this process of ‘gospel-realizing,’ especially when done corporately, is called ‘revival.’ Religion operates on the principle:I obey; therefore I am accepted (by God). The gospel operates on the principle: I am accepted through the costly grace of God; therefore I obey. Two people operating on these two principles can sit beside each other in church on Sunday trying to do many of the same things — read the Bible, obey the Ten Commandments, be active in church, and pray — but out of two entirely different motivations. Religion moves you to do what you do out of fear, insecurity, and self-righteousness, but the gospel moves you to do what you do more and more out of grateful joy in who God is in himself. Times of revival are seasons in which many nominal and spiritually sleepy Christians, operating out of the semi-Pharisaism of religion, wake up to the wonder and ramifications of the gospel. Revivals are massive eruptions of new spiritual power in the church through a recovery of the gospel. In his sermon on Mark 9 Lloyd-Jones was calling the church to revival as its only hope. This is not a new program or something you can implement through a series of steps. It is a matter of wonder. Peter says that the angels always long to look into the gospel; they never tire of it (I Pet. 1:12). The gospel is amazing love. Amazing grace.

– Tim Keller

Grace and Race

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Tim Keller

Repeatedly the Bible calls the Christian church a new nation. We are ‘fellow citizens with God’s people’ (Eph. 2:19); we are a ‘holy nation’ (1 Peter 2:9), which literally means we are a new ethnicity. Our relationship to each other in Christ is to be stronger than our relationship to other members of our racial and national groups. When you become a Christian, you are not primarily from Ohio or Germany or Asia; you are not primarily Anglo, African-American, Asian, or Hispanic; you are not primarily white collar or blue collar. You are a citizen of God’s nation.

The Bible says some remarkable things about race when it states that the only true division in the human race is one of faith. There are only two ‘nations’ or ‘peoples’ on earth: those who belong to God and those who do not (1 Peter 2:9–10). God forbids marriage between these two groups of people, unbelievers and believers (2 Cor. 6:14–16), since this is the only way, in God’s view, to marry outside of one’s people. Numbers 12:1–16 presents a striking example of God’s view of interracial marriage: Moses’ wife was a Cushite, an African with dark skin—and a believer in the Lord. Miriam, Moses’ sister, opposed the interracial marriage, and God punished her by turning her leprous, ‘white as snow’ (v.10). God punished her prejudice by making her more white! Thus Christians have a special test for racism. If racial differences are more important to you than differences in belief, you are acting as a racist.

– Tim Keller

Quote taken from The Gospel and Our Prejudice.

A Better Life

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Tim Keller

Jesus Christ did not suffer so that you would not suffer. He suffered so that when you suffer, you’ll become more like him. The gospel does not promise you better life circumstances; it promises you a better life.

-Tim Keller