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Posts Tagged ‘tim keller’

This week: eroding continents, design in trees, grace in the gospel, and more on the twin reduction issue.

Continents Should Have Eroded Long Ago (by Brian Thomas, ICR)

A new study indicates that the earth’s overall erosion rate, although slow, would have leveled the continents at least 70 times over if they are as old as the evolutionary claim maintains!

13-Year-Old Makes Solar Breakthrough Based on the Fibonacci Sequence (by Molly Cotter)

“The tree design takes up less room than flat-panel arrays and works in spots that don’t have a full southern view. It collects more sunlight in winter. Shade and bad weather like snow don’t hurt it because the panels are not flat. It even looks nicer because it looks like a tree. A design like this may work better in urban areas where space and direct sunlight can be hard to find.”

Tim Keller Striking the Note of Grace, Grace, Grace (by David Zahl)

Non-Christians will always automatically hear gospel presentations as appeals to become moral and religious, unless in your preaching you use the good news of grace to deconstruct legalism. Only if you show them there’s a difference–that what they really rejected wasn’t real Christianity at all–will they even begin to consider Christianity.

Half-Aborted: Why do "reductions" of twin pregnancies trouble pro-choicers? (By William Saletan, Slate)

Reduction destroys this distinction. It combines, in a single pregnancy, a wanted and an unwanted fetus. In the case of identical twins, even their genomes are indistinguishable. You can’t pretend that one is precious and the other is just tissue. You’re killing the same creature to which you’re dedicating your life.

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Most people in the pew are simply not acquainted with the doctrine of justification. Often, it is not a part of the diet of preaching and church life, much less a dominant theme in the Christian subculture. With either stern rigor or happy tips for better living, “fundamentalists” and “progressives” alike smother the gospel in moralism, through constant exhortations to personal transformation that keep the sheep looking to themselves rather than looking outside of themselves to Christ… – Michael Horton, “Does Justification Still Matter?”

“First Things First” by Tullian Tchividjian is an immensely helpful article when it comes to the significance of our understanding of our justification. The article springs out of a friendly discussion between Tchividjian and Kevin DeYoung about the importance of justification in relation to making an effort to grow in godliness. DeYoung argues that justification is critical but that we still need to “make every effort” and work hard to grow spiritually. Tchividjian agrees that hard work is necessary but argues that understanding our justification is a key “effort” that needs to happen if we want to grow:

What is indisputable is the fact that unbelief is the force that gives birth to all of our bad behavior and every moral failure. It is the root. “The sin underneath all sins”, said Martin Luther, “is the lie that we cannot trust the love and grace of Jesus and that we must take matters into our own hands.” Therefore, since justification is where the guillotine for unbelief and self-salvation is located–declaring that we are already righteous for Christ’s sake–we dare not assume it, brush over it, or move past it. It must never become the backdrop. It must remain front and center–getting the most attention.

Justification: We Don’t Get It

Justification is much too often assumed and not enjoyed. I’ve seen this in my own life. I think I have always understood my forgiveness (though certainly not the depth of it!) in Christ but justification not half as well. I think I really started thinking about it more after I sat through a message by Tim Keller 2 years ago. Most of the time I think we act like convicted felons recently released from prison. Our slate has been wiped clean but now we better find a job and make a new life. We may have been exonerated but there’s always that mark on us. We better earn our way from this point forward.

Justification: We’d Rather Earn It

We may never say that out loud but we live that way. Our flesh, especially in a “Meritocracy” like America, is prone to be works and guilt driven rather than walking in grace and in our justification. We have more control that way. It’s more focused on us. It’s less messy. It feels safer. I’d much rather say, “Look at all that I’m doing for God! I am a beast in the kingdom!” than, “I am nothing but for the grace of God and I have everything through that grace, completely undeserved.” We accepted the gospel and turned to Christ but now we want rules and simple obedience. However, it doesn’t work.

The greatest danger facing the church is not that we take the commands of God lightly. To be sure, that is a bonafide danger but it’s a surface danger. The deep, under the surface danger (which produces the surface danger) is that we take the announcement of God in the gospel too lightly. The only people who take the commands of God lightly are those who take the gospel lightly–who don’t revel in and rejoice over what J. Gresham Machen called the “triumphant indicative.” Beholding necessarily leads to becoming. Or to put it another way, this wonderful and neglected view of justification by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ alone that I am championing does not deny the impulse toward holiness. Rather it produces it!

Justification: The Power to Rest is the Power to Grow

Later, Tchividjian goes on about the law versus the gospel…

The law now serves us by showing us how to love God and others and when we fail to keep it, the gospel brings comfort by reminding us that God’s infinite approval doesn’t depend on our keeping of the law but on Christ’s keeping of the law on our behalf. And guess what? This makes me want to obey him more, not less! As Spurgeon wrote, “When I thought God was hard, I found it easy to sin; but when I found God so kind, so good, so overflowing with compassion, I smote upon my breast to think that I could ever have rebelled against One who loved me so, and sought my good.”

Therefore, it’s the gospel (what Jesus has done) that alone can give God-honoring animation to our obedience. The power to obey comes from being moved and motivated by the completed work of Jesus for us. The fuel to do good flows from what’s already been done. So again, while the law directs us, only the gospel can drive us.

Don’t read those thoughts lightly. Motivation by works and by rules is motivation by fear and guilt. As a parent, I think about the limits of that motivation. Fear and guilt only go so far and I’d rather not have it that way. I’m convicted by how much I default to threats and the use of discipline but I don’t want it that way. I want my kids to be motivated to obey my wife and I out of a trust and love for us (and for God), understanding how much we care for them. I want my kids to believe that we have good for them and will provide it at the best time possible.

Fear gets us only to do just enough not to face wrath. Love empowers us to creativity and the second mile. This is what God desires in us. If God desired us to be primarily stirred up by fear of his wrath, Jesus would not have come to us as a humble, poor carpenter who consistently called attention not to his miracles but to his coming death and ransom for sin. He certainly would not be the one who told us that he plans to show us the extent of his kindness towards us for all of eternity.

When we start establishing our own justification, instead of trusting in our already completed justification in Christ, we dissolve into fear and away from love and grace. We also make it about ourselves and not God. At that point, what exactly are we growing in and why? Is life about our own perfection or knowing Jesus?

It’s very important to remember that the focus of the Bible is not the work of the redeemed but the work of the Redeemer. When the Christian faith becomes defined by who we are and what we do and not by who Christ is and what he did for us, we miss the gospel–and we, ironically, become more disobedient.

As Tim Keller has said, “The Bible is not fundamentally about us. It’s fundamentally about Jesus. The Bible’s purpose is not so much to show you how to live a good life. The Bible’s purpose is to consistently and constantly show you how God’s grace breaks into your life against your will and saves you from the sin and brokenness otherwise you would never be able to overcome.”

Read the whole discussion:

Make Every Effort (by Kevin DeYoung)

Work Hard! But in Which Direction? (by Tullian Tchividjian)

Gospel-Driven Effort (by Kevin DeYoung)

First Things First (by Tullian Tchividjian)

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This week: Mark Altrogge sharing some thoughts about depression from his wife’s 20 year battle with it, the failure of moral effort, being a resource to those you manage, and believing the reliability and accuracy of the Bible.

20 years of Depression (by Mark Altrogge)

My sweet wife, who was normally lighthearted and cheerful, sat there with a hopeless expression on her face.  Her eyes looked dark and empty to me.  She was unable to be around people.  She was completely incapacitated.  She was suffering pain I couldn’t fathom.

I didn’t know what was going on.  I thought it was a demonic attack.  I fasted and prayed and rebuked the enemy.  I thought it must somehow be my fault, that I wasn’t leading and caring for my wife somehow.  I thought I might have to step down from being a pastor.

The Absolute Failure of Moral Effort (by Zach Nielsen quoting Tim Keller)

Here is a great dialectical tension. Until you know your works are not any good, they are not any good. As soon as you realize that they are not any good there is at least a germ of something real, which is, you are doing it for God’s sake. You are doing it out of faith. You are not doing it out of fear that you are going to lose something or out of pride (now I know I am better than other people).

Be a Resource, Not a Limiter (by Matt Perman)

If you manage in a certain way (namely, with a command and control focus), you incentivize compliance. But if you realize that management is not about control, but rather about helping to unleash the talents of your people for the performance of the organization, and that this comes from trusting your people and granting them autonomy, then you see yourself not as the “boss,” but as a source of help.

Why I Believe the Bible (by Jim Hamilton)

Helped through the storm by the Schreiner-rock, I began to look more closely at what I thought were the hardest cases. I was not at all impressed with the actual argument against the historical accuracy and reliability of the Bible. In fact, I think you would have to know far more than any human being could ever know to be in position to declare definitively that the Bible is in error. Would it be harsh to summarize the argument against the Bible as the whining of rebels?

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This week: some encouraging and yet convicting thoughts on leading your family in worship, more devastating pictures of Japan, the importance of hell by Keller, and Tim Challies gives a solid review of “Love Wins,” the new book by Rob Bell that has caused not a little stir.

11 Reasons to Worship with Your Family (by Jason Helopoulus)

As a pastor I often have individuals approach me with a question about how to minister to their children or spouse in a specific area. Usually they are concerned about a particular sin or struggle in their family member’s life. In this way we serve as firefighters rushing to extinguish this issue or that. At times this is needed, but it should not be our regular course of action. Systematic discipleship is a much better approach and is aided by family worship. Daily family worship will provide a strong foundation that is built upon hearing the Word daily, praying daily, and giving thanks daily. It takes time to build a strong house. It is an unsteady house that is the result of the carpenter running from shaky wall to shaky wall to hammer a nail in here or there.

Japan: The Vast Devastation (from The Big Picture)

The vast devastation wrought by the earthquake and resulting tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, may only be matched by the destroyed lives left in their wake. Few survivors have been found, but families continue to search for their sons, daughters, wives, husbands and friends. Threats of a nuclear reactor meltdown and resulting disaster loom.

The Importance of Hell (by Tim Keller)

Some years ago I remember a man who said that talk about the fires of hell simply didn’t scare him, it seemed too far-fetched, even silly. So I read him lines from C.S. Lewis:

Hell begins with a grumbling mood, always complaining, always blaming others . . . but you are still distinct from it. You may even criticize it in yourself and wish you could stop it. But there may come a day when you can no longer. Then there will be no you left to criticize the mood or even to enjoy it, but just the grumble itself, going on forever like a machine. It is not a question of God ‘sending us’ to hell. In each of us there is something growing, which will BE Hell unless it is nipped in the bud.

To my surprise he got very quiet and said, “Now that scares me to death.” He almost immediately began to see that hell was a) perfectly fair and just, and b) something that he realized he might be headed for if he didn’t change. If we really want skeptics and non-believers to be properly frightened by hell, we cannot simply repeat over and over that ‘hell is a place of fire.’ We must go deeper into the realities that the Biblical images represent. When we do so, we will find that even secular people can be affected.

Love Wins

Love Wins: A Review of Rob Bell’s New Book (by Tim Challies)

Love does win, but not the kind of love that Bell talks about in this book. The love he describes is one that is founded solely on the idea that the primary object of God’s love is man; indeed, the whole story, he writes, can be summed up in these words: “For God so loved the world.” But this doesn’t hold a candle to the altogether amazing love of God as actually shown in the Bible. The God who “shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8), who acts on our behalf not so much because His love for us is great, but because He is great (Isaiah 48:9, Ezekiel 20:9,14,22,44, 36:22; John 17:1-5).

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I usually share out encouraging and worthwhile reads that I find during the week over Twitter or Google Reader. However, I thought it might be helpful to weed through those a bit and share my favorites of the week. This week: Piper on Jesus as mediator, Douthat on the abortion paradox of our culture, Baxter on fighting sin, Keller on Christians and culture, and Wilson on technology.

Don’t Make Jesus More of a Mediator Than He is (by John Piper)

This is astonishing. Jesus is warning us not to think of God Almighty as unwilling to receive us directly into his presence. By “directly” I mean what Jesus meant when he said, “I am not going to take your requests to God for you. You may take them directly. He loves you. He wants you to come. He is not angry at you.”

The Unborn Paradox (by Ross Douthat, NY Times)

This is the paradox of America’s unborn. No life is so desperately sought after, so hungrily desired, so carefully nurtured. And yet no life is so legally unprotected, and so frequently destroyed.

Directions for Hating Sin (by Richard Baxter)

Think well what pure and sweet delights a holy soul may enjoy from God, in his holy service; and then you will see what sin is, which robs him of these delights, and prefers fleshly lusts before them.

Work and Cultural Renewal (by Tim Keller)

The most powerful way to show people the truth of Christianity is to serve the common good. The monks in the Middle Ages moved out through pagan Europe, inventing and establishing academies, universities, and hospitals. They transformed local economies and cared for the weak through these new institutions. They didn’t set out to ‘get control’ of a pagan culture. They let the gospel change how they did their work and that meant they worked for others rather than for themselves. Christians today should be aiming for the same thing.

Calvinism, Eschatology, and the New Media (by Douglas Wilson)

The constant and ever present temptation in the Church is the gnostic temptation of locating sin in the stuff, sin in the matter, sin in the wealth, sin in the technology . . . instead of locating it where it belongs, in the heart of man.

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