Tag Archives: Timothy Keller

Does Your Coat Have Two Pockets?

“We need a coat with two pockets.  In one pocket there is dust, and in the other pocket there is gold.  We need a coat with two pockets to remind us of who we are.” (Hasidic tale)

Does your coat have two pockets?  I ask because many of us wear a coat with only one.

If we only carry around dust, we will live with the crushing awareness that we are fragile, vulnerable, small, dependent, and broken.  Self-loathing will inevitably set in.

If we only carry around gold, we will live with the crushing delusion that we are grand, glorious, and precious without qualification.  Narcissistic self-aggrandizement will inevitably set in.

Where can we find a coat with both pockets?  The gospel.

Only the message of Jesus’ incarnation, atonement, and resurrection provides us with such a coat.  In the gospel’s simple message we discover, as Timothy Keller notes:

“We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

 

We are broken, unworthy, lost, fragile and feeble creatures.  Dust.

We are loved, dignified, justified, redeemed, beautified, and glorious in Christ.  Gold.

Does your coat have two pockets?
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“Does the Work I Do Matter?”

Labour day is the perfect time to be reminded that our work–be it accounting, construction, writing, housekeeping, farming, customer service, banking–can have eternal significance.

In his book Every Good Endeavor, pastor Timothy Keller makes the following claim:

“Everyone will be forgotten, nothing we do will make any difference, and all good endeavours, even the best, will come to naught…unless there is God. If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavour, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever.”

When I first became a Christian, my understanding of the gospel was little more than,  “Jesus died so you could be forgiven and go to heaven.”  Inside of that definition there’s hardly a compelling vision for our work beyond perhaps a (re)commit to basic ethics such as “don’t steal.”  But when we allow the full gospel to inform our understanding of life here and now; a gospel that holds together the key truths that God came to rescue us (incarnation), through a sacrificial death (atonement) and by his resurrection offers to empower us into a new kind of life, our everyday lives become massively interesting and unimaginably purposeful.   We’ve been ask to join God’s mission to bring his redeeming, restoring love to bear on every sphere of life.  This will mean seeing our jobs as arenas of influence through which we have the privilege to creatively, thoughtfully, prayerfully, purposefully seek to honor God and bless our neighbours through our work.

When the gospel transforms our understanding of work,  we are no longer held hostage by the two great temptations we face regarding our approach to work.

1. Work as the foundation of identity and meaning. Many people in the modern world look to their jobs for supreme self-worth and significance.  Work, functionally speaking, is their god; an idol that promises salvation from insignificance (as long as we can keep producing and achieving).

But the gospel gives us an entirely new foundation for our self-worth and significance. We are treasured by God,  and immensely valuable to Him.  Our worth and significance is revealed most strikingly at the cross: God self-sacrifices himself on our behalf in order to save us from the power and penalty of sin.  This good news allows us to put our work into a larger perspective, one that liberates us from the need to wed our identity and value to what we do and how successfully we do it.  Inside of God’s redeeming love, work can become a noble good without becoming a destructive idol.

2. Work as burdensome, pointless drudgery.  For as many people who idolize their work, just as many fall into the opposite temptation: to see work simply a (burdensome) means to an (self-serving) end.  This view sees work as something that must simply be endured.  Our jobs are necessary evils, and the goal becomes to work as little as possible in order to get on with the life we want.  Of course, for many people this means simply doing work in order to access more money in order to fulfill self-serving ends (more recreation, more stuff, etc.).

But the gospel compels us into a vision for our work that explodes the “working for the weekend” paradigm.   In the resurrection God has revealed his intention to “reconcile to himself all things” (Colossians 1:20).  Christianity boldly declares that part of the mission of the church is to equip people to go into their workplaces confident that God will use their efforts within his broader conspiracy to overthrow the world’s brokenness with his restorative grace and goodness.  Yes, every job remains difficult at times.  But no job is insufferably purposeless and burdensome when we go into it knowing God has placed us there in order to express love, grace, care, integrity, and excellence.

Labour Day marks a time of transition.  Some of us are preparing to head back to school tomorrow.  Many of us are preparing to go back to work (at least in earnest after a summer lull).  As we move back into our workplaces, what posture will characterize our efforts?

Anxious striving?  Apathy and resignation?

Another way is possible.  But only through the hope and power found in Christianity.

 

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Fire Made Flesh: Responding to Jesus’ Authority

I’ve been reading a lot of commentaries and teachings on Mark 2:23-3:6 over the last two weeks.  Here’s a snippet from a Timothy Keller sermon.  It begins with a powerful quote by NT Wright that Keller uses to offer a piercing reflecting on what it means to respond to Jesus’ authority:

“How can you live with the terrifying thought that the hurricane has become human, that fire has become flesh, that life itself … walked in our midst? Christianity either means that, or it means nothing. It is either the most devastating disclosure of the deepest reality in the world, or it’s a sham, a nonsense … Most of us, unable to cope with saying either of those things, condemn ourselves to live in the shallow world in between.” NT Wright

He’s right, because if you have a shred of personal integrity, you’ll know you can’t like anybody who makes claims like this. Either he’s a wicked or a lunatic person and you should have nothing to do with him, or he is who he says he is and your whole life has to revolve around him, and you ought to throw everything at his feet and say, “Command me.”

Not to put too fine a point on it, but do you live in that sort of misty world between that N.T. Wright is talking about, that he says no one with integrity can live in? Do you pray to Jesus sometimes, maybe not a lot, but sometimes? When you’re in trouble you pray to Jesus, and then sometimes you kind of ignore him because you get busy. Is that right for you?

Listen. Either he can’t hear you because he’s not who he says he is, or else how dare you check in occasionally with this person? You can’t just pray to Jesus occasionally. Either he can’t hear you, he’s not who he says he is, or else he has to be the still point in your turning world, he has to be the thing around which your entire life revolves.

Keller, T. J. (2013). The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

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One-Minute Review: “Preaching” by Timothy Keller

I just finished reading Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism.  Here’s my one-minute review:

Capture

“What’s ‘Preaching’ all about?”
Preaching is a book designed to help people “present the Christian message of grace in a more engaging, passionate, and compassionate way.”  Notice I wrote people and not pastors.  While Preaching will find a place of prominence in every thoughtful pastor’s bookshelf, Timothy Keller’s book is aimed at anyone who desires to learn how to communicate the Christian faith in a way that challenges and changes the hearer.  Therefore, it’s meant to be a resource for those who teach the Bible in a variety of contexts beyond the pulpit.

“Should I read it?”
Yes.  I can’t imagine a Christian who wouldn’t be deeply impacted by reading this book.  Ironically, Preaching isn’t simply focused on how to preach, but how to unleash the power of God’s Word in an age where skepticism reigns.  It’s an invaluable resource to pastors/teachers, but its discussion about how to get to the gospel from every biblical text is required reading for every Christian.  I especially appreciated Keller’s chapter on preaching to baseline cultural narratives that often keep people from fully embracing the Christian message.

More than a how-to manual on preaching (although it’s imminently practical in this regard!), Preaching is a book that challenges you to read and apply Scripture Christocentrically.  In the process, Preaching reveals how doing so will lead to lives being transformed, beginning with your own.

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