Daily Keller

~ Wisdom from Tim Keller 365 Days a Year

Daily Keller

The Fear of the Lord

Tags

Tim Keller

When we go to the Old Testament, where the term ‘the fear of the Lord’ is very common, we come upon some very puzzling usages. Often the fear of the Lord is linked with great joy. Proverbs 28:14 tells us that ‘Happy is the one who feareth always.’ How can someone who is constantly in fear be filled with happiness? Perhaps most surprising is Psalm 130:4, where the Psalmist says, ‘Forgiveness comes from you — therefore you are feared.’ Forgiveness and grace increase the fear of the Lord. Other passages tell us that we can be instructed and grow in the fear of the Lord (2 Chronicles 26:5; Psalm 34:11), that it is characterized by praise, wonder, and delight (Psalm 40:3; Isaiah 11:3). How can that be? One commentator on Psalm 130 puts it like this: “Servile fear [being scared] would have been diminished, not increased, by forgiveness…The true sense of the ‘fear of the Lord’ in the Old Testament [then]…implies relationship.”

Obviously, to be in the fear of the Lord is not to be scared of the Lord, even though the Hebrew word has overtones of respect and awe. ‘Fear’ in the Bible means to be overwhelmed, to be controlled by something. To fear the Lord is to be overwhelmed with wonder before the greatness of God and his love. It means that, because of his bright holiness and magnificent love, you find him ‘fearfully beautiful.’ That is why the more we experience God’s grace and forgiveness, the more we experience a trembling awe and wonder before the greatness of all that he is and has done for us. Fearing him means bowing before him out of amazement at his glory and beauty. Paul speaks of the love of Christ ‘constraining’ us (2 Corinthians 5:14). What is it that most motivates and moves you? Is it the desire for success? The pursuit of some achievement? The need to prove yourself to your parents? The need for respect from your peers? Are you largely driven by anger against someone or some people who have wronged you? Paul says that if any of these things is a greater controlling influence on you than the reality of God’s love for you, you will not be in a position to serve others unselfishly. Only out of the fear of the Lord Jesus will we be liberated to serve one another.

– Tim Keller

Religion and The Gospel

Tags

Tim Keller

RELIGION: I obey-therefore I’m accepted.
THE GOSPEL: I’m accepted-therefore I obey.

RELIGION: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.
THE GOSPEL: Motivation is based on grateful joy.

RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God.
THE GOSPEL: I obey God to get to God-to delight and resemble Him.

RELIGION: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or my self, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.
THE GOSPEL: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.

RELIGION: When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ‘good person’. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs.
THE GOSPEL: When I am criticized I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person.’ My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism.

RELIGION: My prayer life consists largely of petition and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment.
THE GOSPEL: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with Him.

RELIGION: My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel insecure and inadequate. I’m not confident. I feel like a failure.
THE GOSPEL: My self-view is not based on a view of my self as a moral achiever. In Christ I am “simul iustus et peccator”—simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time. Neither swaggering nor sniveling.

RELIGION: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work. Or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to “the other.”
THE GOSPEL: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for His enemies, who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace. So I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. Only by grace I am what I am. I’ve no inner need to win arguments.

RELIGION: Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols. It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I may say I believe about God.
THE GOSPEL: I have many good things in my life—family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc. But none of these good things are ultimate things to me. None of them are things I absolutely have to have, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency they can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.

– Tim Keller

Participating in God’s Work

Tags

Tim Keller

All forms of work are participation in God’s work. God made the created world by his Spirit (Gen. 1:1-3) and continues to care for and sustain it by his Spirit (Ps. 104:30), watering and enriching it (Ps. 65:9–13) and feeding and meeting the needs of every living thing (Pss. 145:15–16 and 147:15–20). Indeed, the very purpose of redemption is to massively and finally restore the material creation (Rev. 21–22). God loves this created world so much that he sent his Son to redeem it. This world is a good in and of itself; it is not just a temporary theater for individual salvation. If the Holy Spirit is not only a preacher that convicts people of sin and grace (John 16:8–11; 1 Thess. 1:5) but also a gardener, an artist, and an investor in creation who renews the material world, it cannot be more spiritual and God-honoring to be a preacher than to be a farmer, artist, or banker. To give just one example, evangelism is temporary work, while musicianship is permanent work. In the new heavens and new earth, preachers will be out of a job! Ultimately the purpose of evangelism is to bring about a world in which musicians will be able to do their work perfectly.

– Tim Keller

All About Jesus

Tags

Tim Keller

Traditionally, the Old Testament is considered to have three parts — the Law (the five books of Moses), the Prophets, and the Wisdom Literature (here referred to by its chief book, the Psalms). Thus Jesus sees himself as the fulfillment of it all. Literally everything in the Bible is about him.

The Bible can only be understood if it is seen to be about him. So, Jesus fulfills the Prophets, who said the Messiah will be God (Isaiah 9), and will suffer and be killed (Isaiah 53). He fulfills all the ceremonial law since he is the sacrifice, the priest, and the temple to which all the ritual pointed. He fulfills the moral law for he alone lived it personally, exemplifying righteousness, and doing it all as our substitute, satisfying it for us. He even fulfills all the history of the Bible: he is the true prophet, the true priest, the true king to which all prophets, priests, and kings point. He is the seed of Abraham, David’s greater son, the true Jonah greater than Jonah, the true Solomon greater than Solomon.

In John 5 when Jesus is speaking to the Jewish leaders he tells them in verse 39: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me.” In other words, the Bible in its entirety is all about Jesus, and the basic message of the Bible is that the Messiah has to suffer in order to redeem everything.

So, the Bible is not primarily a set of rules or a philosophy of life. Rather, Jesus is telling us in Luke 24 and John 5 that the Bible is primarily an account of what’s wrong with us, of what God planned to do about it, and about what he has done about it in history through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

– Tim Keller

Spirit-Filled

Tags

Tim Keller

The first place in the New Testament that discusses the work of the spirit at length is in the gospel of John. Jesus considered the teaching so important that he devoted much time to it on the night before he died. When we hear of ‘spiritual filledness,’ we think of inner peace and power, and that may indeed be a result. Jesus, however, spoke of the Holy Spirit primarily as the ‘Spirit of Truth’ who will ‘remind you of everything I have said to you’ (John 14:17,26). The Holy Spirit ‘will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you’ (John 16:14). What does this mean?

‘Make known’ translates a Greek word meaning a momentous announcement that rivets attention. The Holy Spirit’s task, then, is to unfold the meaning of Jesus’s person and work to believers in such a way that the glory of it — its infinite importance and beauty — is brought home to the mind and heart. This is why earlier in the letter to the Ephesians, Paul can pray that ‘the eyes of your heart be enlightened’ (1:18), that they might ‘have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ…’ (3:17-18). The Holy Spirit’s ministry is to take truths about Jesus and make them clear to our minds and real to our hearts — so real that they console and empower and change us at our very center.

To be ‘filled with the Spirit,’ then, is to live a life of joy, sometimes quiet, sometimes towering. Truths about God’s glory and Jesus’s saving work are not just believed with the mind but create inner music (Ephesians 5:19) and an inner relish in the soul. ‘Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…’ (verses 19-20). And because the object of this song is not favorable life circumstances (which can change) but rather the truth and grace of Jesus (which cannot), this heart song does not weaken in times of difficulty.

-Tim Keller

Work

Tags

Tim Keller

As Christians we are stewards of the resources God gives us for serving the human community. Our vocations are one avenue for doing God’s work in the world. Stewardship is the cultivation of resources for God. The Bible tells us that one of the most important resources God has given us is our gifts, aptitudes, talents, and abilities.

One of the sacraments of the medieval church was the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which divided the world into the “religious” and the “secular.” Those who went into full-time church ministry as priests, monks, or nuns were on a completely different spiritual footing from those who did not. One of the Protestant Reformation’s main planks was to overturn this view with the biblical teaching of the priesthood of all believers (1 Peter 2:9). Martin Luther insisted that all forms of work are God-honoring callings. To be a farmer, a craftsman, or an artist was just as much a vocation, a calling from God, as to be a preacher.

– Tim Keller

Shalom — Harmonious Peace

Tags

Tim Keller

The Bible describes the making of the world not only as the building of a house, but also as the weaving of a garment. God turned a chaos into a cosmos, and also turned a tangle into a tapestry. Woven garments were long in the making and valuable in ancient times, and therefore they were an apt metaphor for the wonder and character of the material world. The sea (Psalms 104:6), the clouds (Job 38:9), the lights of the sky (Psalms 104:1), and all the forces of nature (Psalms 102:26) are called garments that God has woven and now wears.

As a result, the world is not like a lava cone, the product of powerful random eruptions, but rather like a fabric. Woven cloth consists of innumerable threads interlaced with one another. Even more than the architectural image, the fabric metaphor conveys the importance of relationship. If you throw thousands of pieces of thread onto a table, no fabric results. The threads must be rightly and intimately related to one another in literally a million ways. Each thread must go over, under, around, and through the others at thousands of points. Only then do you get a fabric that is beautiful and strong, that covers, fits, holds, shelters, and delights.

God created all things to be in a beautiful, harmonious, interdependent, knitted, webbed relationship to one another. Just as rightly related physical elements form a cosmos or a tapestry, so rightly related human being form a community. This interwovenness is what the Bible calls shalom, or harmonious peace.

– Tim Keller

The One Simple Gospel?

Tags

Tim Keller

What, then, is the one simple gospel?

Simon Gathercole distills a three-point outline that both Paul and the Synoptic writers held in common. (See “The Gospel of Paul and the Gospel of the Kingdom” in God’s Power to Save, ed. Chris Green Apollos/Inter-Varsity Press, UK, 2006.) He writes that Paul’s good news was, first, that Jesus was the promised Messianic King and Son of God come to earth as a servant, in human form. (Rom. 1:3-4; Phil. 2:4ff.)

Second, by his death and resurrection, Jesus atoned for our sin and secured our justification by grace, not by our works (1 Cor. 15:3ff.) Third, on the cross Jesus broke the dominion of sin and evil over us (Col. 2:13-15) and at his return he will complete what he began by the renewal of the entire material creation and the resurrection of our bodies (Rom 8:18ff.)

Gathercole then traces these same three aspects in the Synoptics’ teaching that Jesus, the Messiah, is the divine Son of God (Mark 1:1) who died as a substitutionary ransom for the many (Mark 10:45), who has conquered the demonic present age with its sin and evil (Mark 1:14-2:10) and will return to regenerate the material world (Matt. 19:28.)

If I had to put this outline in a single statement, I might do it like this: Through the person and work of Jesus Christ, God fully accomplishes salvation for us, rescuing us from judgment for sin into fellowship with him, and then restores the creation in which we can enjoy our new life together with him forever.

One of these elements was at the heart of the older gospel messages, namely, salvation is by grace not works. It was the last element that was usually missing, namely that grace restores nature, as the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck put it. When the third, ‘eschatological’ element is left out, Christians get the impression that nothing much about this world matters. Theoretically, grasping the full outline should make Christians interested in both evangelistic conversions as well as service to our neighbor and working for peace and justice in the world.

– Tim Keller

The Bible Offends Me

Tags

Tim Keller

To stay away from Christianity because part of the Bible’s teaching is offensive to you assumes that if there is a God he wouldn’t have any views that upset you. Does that belief make sense? If you don’t trust the Bible enough to let it challenge and correct your thinking, how could you ever have a personal relationship with God? In any truly personal relationship, the other person has to be able to contradict you.

– Tim Keller

The Trinity

Tags

Tim Keller

The Christian teaching of the Trinity is mysterious and cognitively challenging. The doctrine of the Trinity is that God is one God, eternally existent in three persons. That’s not tritheism, with three gods who work in harmony; neither is it unipersonalism, the notion that sometimes God takes one form and sometimes he takes another, but that these are simply different manifestations of one God. Instead, trinitarianism holds that there is one God in three persons who know and love one another. God is not more fundamentally one than he is three, and he is not more fundamentally three than he is one.

– Tim Keller