Category Archives: Tim Keller

“Dr. Motyer concluded” by Timothy Keller

“Approximately forty years ago, during the summer between my undergraduate college years and seminary, I was working and living with my parents in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

One evening I drove over the mountains down into a long valley in the midst of the Laurel Highlands and came eventually to the Ligonier Valley Study Center, just outside the little Western Pennsylvania hamlet of Stahlstown, where R.C. Sproul was hosting at his regular weekly Question and Answer session a British Old Testament scholar, J. Alec Motyer.

As a still fairly new Christian, I found the Old Testament to be a confusing and off-putting part of the Bible. I will always remember his answer to a question about the relationship of Old Testament Israel to the church (I can’t remember if R.C. posed it to him or someone from the audience).

After saying something about the discontinuities, he insisted that we were all one people of God. Then he asked us to imagine how the Israelites under Moses would have given their ‘testimony’ to someone who asked for it. They would have said something like this:

We were in a foreign land, in bondage, under the sentence of death. But our mediator— the one who stands between us and God— came to us with the promise of deliverance. We trusted in the promises of God, took shelter under the blood of the lamb, and he led us out. Now we are on the way to the Promised Land. We are not there yet, of course, but we have the law to guide us, and through blood sacrifice we also have his presence in our midst. So he will stay with us until we get to our true country, our everlasting home.

Then Dr Motyer concluded: ‘Now think about it. A Christian today could say the same thing, almost word for word.’ My young self was thunderstruck.

I had held the vague, unexamined impression that in the Old Testament people were saved through obeying a host of detailed laws but that today we were freely forgiven and accepted by faith.

This little thought experiment showed me, in a stroke, not only that the Israelites had been saved by grace and that God’s salvation had been by costly atonement and grace all along, but also that the pursuit of holiness, pilgrimage, obedience, and deep community should characterize Christians as well.”

–Timothy Keller, “Foreward” in Alec Motyer, A Christian’s Pocket Guide to Loving the Old Testament (Geanies House, Fearn, Ross-shire, Scotland, Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2015), ix-x. Keller also alludes to this Motyer quote here.

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“Prayer before Sleep” by Timothy Keller

“O Lord God, now grant me the grace not only to rest my body this night, but to have my spiritual repose, in soul and conscience, in Your grace and love, that I may let go of all earthly cares so I might be comforted and eased in all my ways.

And because no day passes that I do not sin in so many ways, please bury all my offenses in Your mercy, that I might not lose your presence.

Forgive me, merciful Father, for Christ’s sake.

And as I lay down in sleep to safely wake again only by Your grace, keep me in a joyful, lively remembrance that whatever happens, I will someday know my final rising– the resurrection– because Jesus Christ lay down in death for me, and rose for my justification.

In His name I pray, Amen.”

–Tim Keller, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God (New York: Dutton, 2014), 266. This prayer was freely adapted from John Calvin’s prayer before sleep as quoted in John Calvin: Writings on Pastoral Piety, Ed. Elsie McKee (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2001), 214.

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“It is finished” by Timothy Keller

“Most of us work and work trying to prove ourselves, to convince God, others, and ourselves that we’re good people. That work is never over unless we rest in the gospel.

At the end of His great act of creation the Lord said, ‘It is finished,’ and He could rest. On the cross at the end of His great act of redemption Jesus said, ‘It is finished’– and we can rest.

On the cross Jesus was saying of the work underneath your work– the thing that makes you truly weary, this need to prove yourself because who you are and what you do are never good enough– that it is finished.

He has lived the life you should have lived, He has died the death you should have died. If you rely on Jesus’s finished work, you know that God is satisfied with you. You can be satisfied with life.”

–Timothy Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus (New York: Dutton, 2011), 43.

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“Absolutely different” by Timothy Keller

“A gospel is an announcement of something that has happened in history, something that’s been done for you that changes your status forever. Right there you can see the difference between Christianity and all other religions, including no religion.

The essence of other religions is advice; Christianity is essentially news. Other religions say, ‘This is what you have to do in order to connect to God forever; this is how you have to live in order to earn your way to God.’

But the gospel says, ‘This is what has been done in history. This is how Jesus lived and died to earn the way to God for you.’ Christianity is completely different. It’s joyful news.

How do you feel when you’re given good advice on how to live? Someone says, ‘Here’s the love you ought to have, or the integrity you ought to have,’ and maybe they illustrate high moral standards by telling a story of some great hero.

But when you hear it, how does it make you feel? Inspired, sure. But do you feel the way the listeners who heard those heralds felt when the victory was announced? Do you feel your burdens have fallen off? Do you feel as if something great has been done for you and you’re not a slave anymore?

Of course you don’t. It weighs you down: This is how I have to live. It’s not a gospel. The gospel is that God connects you not on the basis of what you’ve done (or haven’t done) but on the basis of what Jesus has done, in history, for you.

And that makes it absolutely different from every other religion or philosophy.”

–Timothy Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus (New York: Dutton, 2011), 16-17.

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“The blood of the lamb” by Timothy Keller

“Imagine you were in Egypt just after that first Passover. If you stopped Israelites in those days and said, ‘Who are you and what is happening here?’ they would say, ‘I was a slave, under a sentence of death, but I took shelter under the blood of the lamb and escaped that bondage, and now God lives in our midst and we are following Him to the Promised Land.’

That is exactly what Christians say today. If you trust in Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice, the greatest longings of your heart will be satisfied on the day you sit down for that eternal feast in the promised kingdom of God.”

–Timothy Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus (New York: Dutton, 2011), 172.

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“Resting in what Jesus has done” by Timothy Keller

“Idolatry is not just a failure to obey God, it is a setting of the whole heart on something besides God. This cannot be remedied only by repenting that you have an idol, or using willpower to try to live differently. Turning from idols is not less than those two things, but it is also far more.

‘Setting the mind and heart on things above’ where ‘ your life is hidden with Christ in God’ (Colossians 3:1-3) means appreciating, rejoicing, and resting in what Jesus has done for you. It entails joyful worship, a sense of God’s reality in prayer.

Jesus must become more beautiful to your imagination, more attractive to your heart, than your idol. That is what will replace your counterfeit gods. If you uproot the idol and fail to ‘plant’ the love of Christ in its place, the idol will grow back.”

–Timothy J. Keller, Counterfeit Gods (New York: Dutton, 2009), 171-172.

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“Rejoicing and repentance” by Timothy Keller

“Rejoicing and repentance must go together. Repentance without rejoicing will lead to despair. Rejoicing without repentance is shallow and will only provide passing inspiration instead of deep change.

Indeed, it is when we rejoice over Jesus’s sacrificial love for us most fully that, paradoxically, we are most truly convicted of our sin. When we repent out of fear of consequences, we are not really sorry for the sin, but for ourselves.

Fear-based repentance (‘I’d better change or God will get me’) is really self-pity. In fear-based repentance, we don’t learn to hate the sin for itself, and it doesn’t lose its attractive power. We learn only to refrain from it for our own sake.

But when we rejoice over God’s sacrificial, suffering love for us– seeing what it cost Him to save us from sin– we learn to hate the sin for what it is. We see what the sin cost God.

What most assures us of God’s unconditional love (Jesus’s costly death) is what most convicts us of the evil of sin. Fear-based repentance makes us hate ourselves. Joy-based repentance makes us hate the sin.”

–Timothy J. Keller, Counterfeit Gods (New York: Dutton, 2009), 172.

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