Posted tagged ‘Tim Keller’

Gospel-Centered Spiritual Formation: The Gospel Forms

April 26, 2012

At the conclusion of my last post about the triperspectival framework, I mentioned the role of gospel “forms” in the diagram I created to explain gospel-centered spiritual formation. Before I jump into the perspectives individually, I want to explain what I mean by gospel forms and how those forms overlap to give greater gospel focus to spiritual disciplines through the triperspectival framework.

Tim Keller and Gospel “Forms”

One of the most significant articles Tim Keller has written on the gospel can be found at Christianity Today, entitled “The Gospel in All Its Forms“.  In this article, Keller borrows from Simon Gathercole’s chapter in God’s Power to Save to explain the various “forms” of the gospel. Contrary to liberal theologians, Keller says there is not multiple gospels, but one gospel expressed in different forms.

For instance, when Jesus speaks of the gospel in the Synoptic Gospels, kingdom language is employed (“gospel of the kingdom”). In this case, the gospel speaks to the inauguration of Christ’s reign as King, and the focus is more communal and social.  When the Apostle John writes about the Gospel, there is no mention of kingdom language but rather “receiving eternal life,” and the focus is more individual and personal. When you get the writings of Paul, you hear little emphasis on “kingdom” or “eternal life” but instead the focus is on “justification by faith“. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Paul are all talking about one message, but that message is expressed in different forms. Through an analysis of these forms, what you find is that the gospel can be expressed as story-arc focused (creation, fall, redemption, restoration) as well as content-driven (God, man, sin, Christ). Not to be left out, Keller stresses the eschatological implications of the gospel with the in breaking of God’s kingdom and renewal of all things.

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Gospel-Shaped Humor

April 19, 2012

I found the excerpt below from Keller Quotes to be incredibly insightful. Not to be overly generic, but I think our culture has bought into a lot of humor, whether knowingly or unknowingly, that militates against the gospel and elevates self-righteousness, pride, and personal insecurity. Most of the men my age or younger than me (I’m 33) seem to have their personality and interpersonal communication profoundly shaped by sarcasm and insincerity. I know I am vulnerable to the charge of being self-righteous in making that assertion(!), but my overarching concern is the absence of genuine sincerity and need of generosity in affections for one another. We need the gospel to be applied to our humor and sarcasm, and once again, Keller nails it.

Below is the complete except from Keller Quotes. I don’t know what the original source is, but the quote is long enough to understand his point in immediate context. Check it out.

“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”)

The Canceling Power of a Divine Kiss

August 29, 2011

Yesterday I preached a message entitled “A Celebration of Grace”.  It was the conclusion of a 4-part series on grace from passages in the Gospel according to Luke.  My final text was a very familiar text to Christians, commonly called the “parable of the prodigal son.”  Two particular readings affected me greatly this past week.  One was reading Tim Keller’s book The Prodigal God.  I highly recommend it.  The other reading was a sermon by Charles Spurgeon called “Prodigal Love for a Prodigal Son” or “Many Kisses for Returning Sinners.”

Spurgeon’s sermon focuses on the father’s love for his prodigal son as communicated in his multiple kisses upon his son’s face.  At several points in his sermon I was wrecked by God’s love and pursuing grace, but one that I found particularly illustrative and encouraging was the portion below.  I referenced this portion in my message yesterday and thought it would be fitting to post it here as well.  Be encouraged in the kisses of the father for your past, for your present, and for your future!

Spurgeon:

This poor young man, in his hungry, faint, and wretched state, having come a very long way, had not much heart in him. His hunger had taken all energy out of him, and he was so conscious of his guilt that he had hardly the courage to face his father; so his father gives him a kiss, as much as to say, “Come, boy, do not be cast down; I love you.”

Oh, the past, the past, my father!” he might moan, as he thought of his wasted years; but he had no sooner said that than he received another kiss, as if his father said, “Never mind the past; I have forgotten all about that.” This is the Lord’s way with His saved ones. Their past lies hidden under the blood of atonement. The Lord saith by His servant Jeremiah, “The iniquity if Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found: for I will pardon them whom I reserve.”

But then, perhaps, the young man looked down on his foul garments, and said, “The present, my father, the present, what a dreadful state I am in!” And with another kiss would come the answer, “Never mind the present, my boy. I am content to have you as you are. I love you.” This, too, is God’s word to those who are “accepted in the Beloved.” In spite of all their vileness, they are pure and spotless in Christ, and God says of each one of them, “Since you were precious in My sight, you have been honourable, and I have loved you. Therefore, though in yourself you are unworthy, through My dear Son you are welcome to My home.”

“Oh, but,” the boy might have said, “the future, my father, the future! What would you think if I should ever go astray again?” Then would come another holy kiss, and his father would say, “I will see to the future, my boy; I will make home so bright for you that you will never want to go away again.” But God does more than that for us when we return to Him. He not only surrounds us with tokens of His love, but He says concerning us, “They shall be My people, and I will be their God: and I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear Me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: and I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me.” Furthermore, He says to each returning one, “A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them.”

Whatever there was to trouble the son, the father gave him a kiss to set it all right; and, in like manner, our God has a love-token for every time of doubt and dismay which may come to His reconciled sons. Perhaps one whom I am addressing says, “Even though I confess my sin, and seek God’s mercy, I shall still be in sore trouble, for through my sin, I have brought myself down to poverty.” “There is a kiss for you,” says the Lord: “Your bread shall be given to you, and your water shall be sure.” “But I have even brought disease upon myself by sin,” says another. “There is a kiss for you, for I am Jehovah-Rophi, the Lord that heals you, who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases.” “But I am dreadfully down at the heel,” says another. The Lord gives you also a kiss, and says, “I will lift you up, and provide for all your needs. No good thing will I withhold from them that walk uprightly.” All the promises in this Book belong to every repentant sinner, who returns to God believing in Jesus Christ, His Son.

The father of the prodigal kissed his son much, and thus made him feel happy there and then. Poor souls, when they come to Christ, are in a dreadful plight, and some of them hardly know where they are I have known them talk a lot of nonsense in their despair, and say hard and wicked things of God in their dreadful doubt. The Lord gives no answer to all that, except a kiss, and then another kiss. Nothings puts the penitent so much at rest as the Lord’s repeated assurance of His unchanging love. Such a one the Lord has often received, “and kissed him much,” that He might fetch him up even from the horrible pit, and set his feet upon a rock, and establish his goings.

Evangelize as Your Edify, Edify as You Evangelize

July 14, 2011

One of the biggest tensions regarding philosophy of gathered services is the issue of breadth and depth, or who should be the priority and focus of the ministry.  Obviously, everything we do should be first and foremost with a focus and passion for the honor and glory of God.   But the question we are usually asking is this: “Should our gathered services be evangelistic, focusing on unbelievers, or edifying, focusing on believers?”

Yesterday, Tim Keller answered the question by referencing Martyn Lloyd’Jones by saying “both.”  Keller concludes:

The lesson I eventually learned from him was—don’t preach to your congregation for spiritual growth thinking everyone there is a Christian—and don’t preach the gospel evangelistically thinking that Christians cannot grow from it. In other words—evangelize as you edify, and edify as you evangelize.

I agree with MLJ and Keller completely.

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Disagreeing Well

July 12, 2011

Tim Keller, Michael Horton, and Matt Chandler discuss how to be winsome and faithful while in disagreement with another person.  Watching this video reminds me of a great article Roger Nicole wrote for Founders Journal.  It’s a must read.

Covenant Marriage

June 7, 2011

John Piper, Tim Keller, and D.A. Carson share their thoughts on the importance of understanding covenant and promise (biblical theology) in marriage.  Good stuff.

[vimeo 24636925]

True and Better

May 30, 2011

I’ve already plugged this awesome excerpt of Tim Keller in the past, but it’s worth posting again.

[vimeo 23642755]

Getting Out by Tim Keller

May 2, 2011

From the 2011 Gospel Coalition National Conference. Tim Keller’s message on Exodus 14. EXCELLENT.

[vimeo 22669720]

Are All Religions Equally Right? Tim Keller Answers

March 12, 2011

Recently, Tim Keller spoke at The Veritas Forum at UC Berkeley and addressed the question of Christianity and other religions.  Check out this short video where he answers whether all religions are equally right.

King’s Cross by Tim Keller – 60% off this week only

February 21, 2011

Tim Keller’s new book, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus officially comes out tomorrow (Feb. 22), and Westminster Bookstore has some deep savings this week only where you can get it at 60% off the cover price.  The sale ends Feb. 28, so be sure to take advantage of this great sale on what looks to be a great book!

Here’s an excerpt from Keller in the preface:

“The whole story of the world—and of how we fit into it—is most clearly understood through a careful, direct look at the story of Jesus. My purpose here is to try to show, through his words and actions, how beautifully his life makes sense of ours.”

“[The Gospel of] Mark does not read like a dry history. It is written in the present tense, often using words like ‘immediately’ to pack the account full of action. You can’t help but notice the abruptness and breathless speed of the narrative. This Gospel conveys, then, something important about Jesus. He is not merely a historical figure, but a living reality, a person who addresses us today. In his very first sentences Mark tells us that God has broken into history. His style communicates a sense of crisis, that the status quo has been ruptured… Jesus has come; anything can happen now. Mark wants us to see that the coming of Jesus calls for decisive action… Therefore we need to respond actively. We can’t remain neutral. We may not sit and reflect and find excuses for not changing our lives now.”

Tim Keller on the Nature of a Missional Church

February 17, 2011

From his lecture “Contextual and Missional” at Urban Plant Life Conference in London, Tim Keller talks about the nature of a missional church:

A missional church gears absolutely every single part of its life–its worship, community, public discourse and preaching education–for the presence of non-believers from the culture surrounding it. A missional church’s congregation reflects the demographic make-up of the surrounding community–and therefore it gives non-Christian neighbors attractive and challenging glimpses of what they would look like as Christians.  A missional church’s worship is ‘evangelistic’ in the sense that it makes sense to non-believers in that culture, even while it challenges and shapes people with the gospel. A missional church’s people are outwardly focused, so involved in the local community, and so alert for every opportunity to point people toward Christ, that evangelism happens naturally through relationships.  Because of the attractiveness of its community, the contextual nature of its message, and humility of its people, a missional church will discover significant numbers of people always in the midst, ‘incubating’ and exploring Christianity.  It must welcome them in hundreds of ways.  It will do little to make them ‘comfortable’ but will do everything to make its gospel message understandable.

POTW :: Tim Keller Reader

December 19, 2010

Last week, we had around 55 folks sign up for the Tim Keller Reading Group.  This is a picture of my reader (roughly 250 pages) that I had bound at the local OfficeMax.  Not bad for $5. I’ll be wearing this out over the next four months. If you’re interested and haven’t joined, go here for more information.

NEW Tim Keller Reading Group in 2011!

December 14, 2010

This morning, I announced on PLNTD a training opportunity for missional leaders and church planters by reading through 20 of the most significant articles written by Tim Keller on church planting, gospel centrality, missional living, and cultural engagement.  These 20 articles are compiled as a “reader” and will be covered over an 18 week period including 8 video conferencing opportunities.

Those of you on Twitter last Fall may remember my first experiment with this when I created the first Tim Keller reading group exclusively through Twitter.  The result was 74 people joining in from 24 states and 11 denominations, all desiring to learn together over the course of 4 months.  It was an experiment that proved incredibly profitable, and since then several have asked if I would ever consider doing something like that again.

So obviously the answer is YES.  But why on PLNTD?  In our training relational community, I have been listening to church planters talk about the challenges they face with receiving adequate training.  Very few of them can afford to attend church planting conferences.  Many of them talk about how the theological education they received was divorced from reality on the ground.  What almost everyone of them said is that they wanted training that was personal,  inexpensive, contextual, and accessible.

The Tim Keller Reading Group is the first of what I hope to be several training opportunities for those in our network to take advantage of creative ways of bringing significant training that would be both challenging and encouraging to church planters and missional leaders.  This training is free (inexpensive!), suited for specific contexts and any season in the church planting journey (contextual), and available to anyone who is a part of our relational communities through Cobblestone (accessible).

All the details are spelled out in the training community of the PLNTD Network, including schedule, syllabus, downloadable PDFs, and even custom cover page for your own Tim Keller reader.  And all of this begins January 3, 2011, so you have just enough time to get on board, create your reader, and dive into the discussions which will begin shortly after the holiday break.

My hope is that dozens of folks will take advantage of this opportunity to dial into the thinking of the godfather of the missional church for the welfare of their church and the edification of their labors.

Religion by works vs. Salvation by grace

November 23, 2010

One of the most helpful ways of distinguishing between religion and the gospel is through this series of statements by Tim Keller.  You can find these words in his message “On Being the Church in the Culture” from the 2006 Reform & Resurgence Conference.

Religion (salvation by works) v. Gospel (salvation by grace)

[Acceptance]

“I obey-therefore I’m accepted”

“I’m accepted–therefore I obey”

[Motivation]

Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.

Motivation based on grateful joy.

[Obedience]

I obey God in order to get things from God.

I obey God to get God–to delight and resemble him.

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Tim Keller on Helping the Poor

November 21, 2010

I have not read Tim Keller’s new book Generous Justice yet, so I’m guessing that he addresses the question of helping the poor in greater detail than in his article, “The Gospel and the Poor.”  In any case, I have found his article to be really helpful, and I want to highlight what he calls “levels of wholistic ministry” (to the poor). This is a little follow up on last week’s post on how NOT to help the poor.  The three levels:

Relief

This is direct aid to meet physical/material/social needs. Common relief ministries are temporary shelter for the homeless, food and clothing services for people in dire need, medical services, crisis counseling, and so on. A more active form of relief is “advocacy,” in which people in need are given active assistance to get legal aid, help them find housing, and find other kinds of aid. Relief programs alone can create patterns of dependency.

Development

This is what is needed is to bring a person or community to self-sufficiency. In the OT, when a slave’s debt was erased and he was released, God directed that his former master send him out with grain, tools, and resources for a new, self-sufficient economic life (Deut 15:13–14). “Development” for an individual includes education, job creation, and training. But development for a neighborhood or community means reinvesting social and financial capital into a social system–housing development and home ownership, other capital investments, and so on.

Reform

Social reform moves beyond relief of immediate needs and dependency and seeks to change social conditions and structures that aggravate or cause that dependency. Job tells us that he not only clothed the naked, but he “broke the fangs of the wicked and made them drop their victims” (Job 29:17). The prophets denounced unfair wages (Jer 22:13), corrupt business practices (Amos 8:2, 6), legal systems weighted in favor of the rich and influential (Lev 19:15; Deut 24:17), and a system of lending capital that gouges the person of modest means (Exod 22:25–27; Lev 19:35–37; 25:37). Daniel calls a pagan government to account for its lack of mercy to the poor (Dan 4:27). This means that Christians should also work for a particular community to get better police protection, more just and fair banking practices, zoning practices, and better laws.

Keller goes on to make a very important distinction in the areas where the church should and should not be responsible.  He argues that the church should be involved in relief but not seeing development and social reform as part of the mission of the church.  Instead, organizations or associations of Christians should carry out this work.  I think this careful distinction is important to consider, especially in areas where development and reform is so badly needed, such as in Haiti.  But simply because they are not the mission of the church does not mean that Christians should not be involved in development and social reform(!).  They should help the poor in this manner, understanding however that this mission is carried out on an individual level primarily and in a corporate level through entities other than the local church.