Living for Meaning

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…When suffering comes along, it takes the conditions for happiness away, and so suffering destroys all your reason to keep living. But to ‘live for meaning’ means not that you try to get something out of life but rather that life expects something from us. In other words, you have meaning only when there is something in life more important than your own personal freedom and happiness, something for which you are glad to sacrifice your happiness. 

- Tim Keller


Resources for Facing Evil, Suffering, and Death

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In ancient times, Christianity was widely recognized as having superior resources for facing evil, suffering, and death. In modern times – though it is not as publicly discussed – it continues to have assets for sufferers arguably far more powerful than anything secular culture can offer. Those assets, however, reside in robust, distinctive Christian beliefs. The first relevant Christian belief is in a personal, wise, infinite, and therefore inscrutable God who controls the affairs of the world – and that is far more comforting than the belief that our lives are in the hands of fickle fate or random chance. The second crucial tenet is that, in Jesus Christ, God came to earth and suffered with and for us sacrificially – and that is far more comforting than the idea that God is remote and uninvolved. The cross also proves that, despite all the inscrutability, God is for us. The third doctrine is that through faith in Christ’s work on the cross, we can have assurance of our 

salvation – that is far more comforting than the karmic systems of thought. We are assured that the difficulties of life are not payment for our past sins, since Jesus has paid for them. As Luther taught, suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you. Secularity cannot give you that, and religions that provide salvation through virtue and good works cannot give it, either. The fourth great doctrine is that of the bodily resurrection from the dead for all who believe. This completes the spectrum of our joys and consolations. One of the deepest desires of the human heart is for love without parting. Needless to say, the prospect of the resurrection is far more comforting than the beliefs that death takes you into nothingness or into an impersonal spiritual substance. The resurrection goes beyond the promise of an ethereal, disembodied afterlife. We get our bodies back, in a state of beauty and power that we cannot today imagine. Jesus’ resurrection body was corporeal – it could be touched and embraced, and he ate food. And yet he passed through closed doors and could disappear. This is a material existence, but one beyond the bounds of our imagination. The idea of heaven can be a consolation for suffering, a compensation for the life we have lost. But resurrection is not just consolation – it is restoration. We get it all back – the love, the loved ones, the goods, the beauties of this life – but in new, unimaginable degrees of glory and joy and strength.

- Tim Keller

 


Son Bought and Spirit Brought

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What that means is though the Son has bought it, the Spirit has actually brought it. The Son has bought it, and the Spirit has brought it. It says, for example, in John 16, Jesus says, ‘The Spirit will come and take of mine and show me to you. He will glorify me.’ The Spirit’s job is to melt you under the truth.

Back in the old days, before we had wonderful glued envelopes, do you know how you sealed an envelope if you wrote it? What you had to have is you had to have a little piece of wax, right? You had to have a seal (usually a signet ring), and you had to have a flame. So you softened the wax with the flame, and what the flame did to the wax was it made the wax susceptible to the seal.

If you tried to put the seal on the wax without the flame, there are only two things that could happen. What? It could break the wax, or it could just leave only a superficial outline on the surface. But if the wax is changed, it’s softened by the flame, then the wax is susceptible, and it’s changed in the image of the seal. Now that illustration, transform it. The wax is your heart. The seal is the Truth, the Word of God, and the flame is the Spirit.

When I go to the Truth of God, and the Spirit is giving me access, do you see what happens? You can read about the power of God. If you just read about the power of God, without the influence of Spirit, you say, ‘Oh, God is powerful.’ Without the influence of the Spirit, all that can do is make a superficial impression on the top of you, but when the Spirit of God is there, you read about the power, and there’s access. The truth begins to shine. It begins to change you, and what happens is your heart develops courage.

When you read about his goodness, it develops peace in you. When you read about his forgiveness, it develops relief in you. You shake off your guilty fears. When you read about his forgiveness, it develops generosity and mercy in you. When you read about his holiness, it develops conviction of sin and humility in you. Don’t you see? Only when the Spirit of God is doing that do you see real access happening. Only then.


– Tim Keller

*Words found in Tim Keller’s 1989 Sermon, “Christ Our House”

Every Person Worships

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Thus every person, religious or not, is worshipping something – idols, pseudo-saviors – to get their worth. But these things enslave us with guilt (if we fail to attain them), or anger (if someone blocks them from us), or fear (if they are threatened), or drivenness (since we must have them). Guilt, anger, fear, and drivenness are like fire that destroys us. Sin in worshipping anything but Jesus – and the wages of sin is slavery.

- Tim Keller

Answered Questions

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If you want to be sure you are developing sound, thoughtful answers to the fundamental questions, you need at the very least to become acquainted with the teachings of Christianity. The best way to do that is to see how Jesus explained himself and his purposes to people he met – and how their lives were changed by his answers to their questions.

- Tim Keller

The Gospel and Its Results

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The gospel is not about something we do but about what has been done for us, and yet the gospel results in a whole new way of life. This grace and the good deeds that result must be both distinguished and connected. The gospel, its results, and its implications must be carefully related to each other – neither confused nor separated. One of Martin Luther’s dicta was that we are saved by faith alone but not by a faith that remains alone. His point is that true gospel belief will always and necessarily lead to good works, but salvation in no way comes through or because of good works. Faith and works must never be confused for one another, nor may they be separated (Eph 2: 8–10; Jas 2: 14, 17–18, 20, 22, 24, 26).

- Tim Keller

God Saves Sinners

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Ever since reading J. I. Packer’s famous essay introducing John Owen’s Death of Death in the Death of Christ, I have liked ‘God saves sinners’ as a good summary of gospel:

God saves sinners. God – the Triune Jehovah, Father, Son and Spirit; three Persons working together in sovereign wisdom, power and love to achieve the salvation of a chosen people, the Father electing, the Son fulfilling the Father’s will by redeeming, the Spirit executing the purpose of Father and Son by renewing. Saves – does everything, first to last, that is involved in bringing man from death in sin to life in glory: plans, achieves and communicates redemption, calls and keeps, justifies, sanctifies, glorifies. Sinners –  men as God finds them, guilty, vile, helpless, powerless, unable to lift a finger to do God’s will or better their spiritual lot. 

- Tim Keller