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How does the gospel change everything?

For the past few months, I’ve mostly been stumped when trying to articulate what I mean by this claim: the gospel changes everything. In my head and heart, there is no better or more comprehensive way to describe why the Jesus makes so much sense to me and why living with Him energizes and motivates me.

I first heard this claim while a member of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, but they certainly didn’t coin it. However, in a newsletter article titled ” Covenant Renewal and Redeemer’s DNA,” Tim Keller does a good job of getting me closer to understanding what it means for the gospel to change everything.

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Tim Keller Article Notes — “Lloyd-Jones on the Problem of Preaching”

In a March blog post at Redeemer City to City titled, “Lloyd-Jones on the Problem of Preaching,” Tim Keller has begun a discussion on D. M. Lloyd Jones’ book of lectures Preaching and Preachers. If you are someone who admires Keller, you’ll be interested to note that he attributes this book as an influence and a help in shaping the preacher he is today. Several things stood out to me from Keller’s introductory comments on the book:

  • Lecturing in 1969, Lloyd-Jones addressed trends in Britain that have been visible in America over the past decade; in general, folks were concerned about the value of preaching. Could preaching God’s Word really reach modern people who had televisions and a general distrust for orators?
    • The internet has us asking and experimenting with the same question today.
    • As a public school teacher, I hear a question along the same vein being asking amongst my colleagues: how do we reach students in the internet age?
  • Lloyd-Jones then went on to discuss the various ways that churches were proposing to address this alleged fall in the primacy of the pulpit:
    • Modifying preaching by making it more showy (more appeal to the emotions, more story-telling) or adding new media to it (in Lloyd-Jones’ time, that was TV and radio; now it’s a slew of digital media).
    • Making artistic expression the centerpiece of worship, rather than preaching.
    • Greater emphasis on social justice.
    • Disbanding from centralized congregations and becoming smaller, multi-voice pockets of Christians.

Isn’t it amazing how these observations, made in 1969, could easily be made today? I’ve only been a Christian for half a decade, but I’ve seen or heard of examples of all of the above proposed changes L-J saw in the contemporary church in Europe.

There’s nothing new under the sun, right?

Tim Keller Article Notes — “Only Believers or Disciples?”

In an article for Redeemer’s January 2011 newsletter, Tim Keller discusses the importance of his church having “a broad base of the well-taught in the Word of God” in order to serve and love New York City (Derek Kidner, The Message of Jeremiah, p. 97). Some parts of the article that I found interesting and/or encouraging:

  1. The call for us to be not passive believers but active disciples: “Jesus called his apostles to go into all the world, to evangelize and baptize, and the ultimate goal was to produce not merely converts but disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). The word “disciple” is packed with meaning, but it is clear from the New Testament that it meant, first and foremost, students of Jesus. They followed him and learned from him (Luke 10:38-42). Second, it meant putting allegiance to Jesus first in your life (Mark 1:16-20). Lastly, it meant to be a man or woman in mission, sent into the world to minister both in word (Luke 10:1-20) and in deed (Luke 10:25-37), both sharing your faith and loving your neighbor (Tim Keller, January 2011 Newsletter).
  2. Some advantages and disadvantages to both large and small churches.
  3. An explanation of why the Presbyterian form of church government uses both ministry professionals and laymen as elders.
  4. Finally,  Keller references Redeemer’s current transition to a collegiate model of church organization — essentially, they are seeking to “de-megachurch” themselves into four distinct congregations throughout Manhattan. There are a multitude of benefits to this move, my favorite of which is the creation of a much greater need for leadership; instead of having one central office that oversees all of the work that Redeemer does (and that is primarily staffed with paid professionals), Redeemer’s four congregations will each need to be staffed according to the needs of their respective neighborhoods. This will create a greater need for lay leadership, which means more Redeemerites will be pulled into the essential work of the church out of sheer necessity.

Tim Keller Sermon Notes – 3 Traits of Spirit-Filled Life

In one of his excellent marriage series of sermons, Tim Keller reviews three qualities of someone who is filled with the Spirit of God. I don’t want to forget them:
–able to receive criticism without being crushed
–able to give criticism without crushing
–able to forgive with no residual anger

Tim Keller Sermon Notes — Series: “The Real Jesus” — Sermon #12: “With the Powerless” 1996-1997

The teaching is based on Luke 7:36-50, Story of woman washing Jesus’ feet with tears in Simon the Pharisee’s house.

Please note that these sermon notes are provided only to encourage, and that any or all parts of the notes may contain errors or omissions, due entirely to the note-taker. Full audio of the sermon may be found at the Redeemer Sermon Store.

In this excellent series of sermons, Keller seeks to give his congregation a biography of the life of Jesus. Prior to Christmas, the sermons focus on the incarnational stories. Following Christmas and leading up to spring, it focuses on the encounters and events of His life. Leading up to Easter, it focuses on the final week of Jesus’… well, I can’t say His life, because He’s still alive… but you know what I mean.

Tim Keller tends to relax and humble me in Christ, whereas Mark Driscoll tells to get me excited and bold in Him. Both preach the gospel and tend to teach through books of the Bible.

For me, a guy who tends to gravitate toward extremes, it is very good for me to listen to both of these men to combat my generally religious, I’ve-got-to-earn-Jesus tendencies.

I generally listen to sermons while running or driving, so these notes are far from complete–but since I try to jot down notes afterwards anyway, I might as well share. I heartily recommend purchasing Tim Keller’s sermons from his website, and heartily encourage you not to rationalize stealing them!

This sermon hit my religious bones good, hopefully crushing them a little more.

With the Powerless

(Luke 7:36-50, Story of woman washing Jesus’ feet with tears in Simon the Pharisee’s house)

  • The story is about two people–the woman and Simon
  • The story is about two seekers–Simon invited Jesus over (invitation to relationship) and the woman came to him
  • Simon had conditions: he wanted a discussion, a high-minded conversation; he didn’t want touching and weeping and letting down of hair!
  • The woman had no conditions–she came and gave her fear (letting her hair down in front of these men could have been dangerous), her money (the alabaster jar of perfume was expensive), her very livelihood and career (wearing an alabaster jar of perfume around your neck increased your sexual appeal; she was a prostitute; to pour out these jars required breaking them due to the narrow neck). Shecame to Jesus unconditionally; if He was who He said He was, she implied, He could have what little she had.
  • Aspects of Simon religion:
    • Jesus says, You don’t get it! You don’t see that you can’t make it!
    • Simon thinks he can pay the cost for the forgiveness of debt.
      • Whether a spider bite kills you are a lion rips you to shreds, you’re still dead–one person is pretty-looking dead, the other is ugly-looking dead, but both are dead. The same with our debt.
      • Forgiveness never happens without someone getting hurt–someone gets wronged, and either the person who owes it pays it or the person who deserves to get it has to absorb it. We can’t pay it, so God has to get hurt.
      • Some ppl bristle when Keller says, “If you don’t come to God through Jesus, you have an impersonal religion”
        • What did it cost your god to have that personal relationship with you. Where is the agony? Where are the thorns? Where are the nails?
          • Don’t believe all that is necessary? Well that’s exactly why you’re not weeping and letting your hair down and laying all you at the feet of Jesus! That’s the reason it’s impersonal! It cost nothing.
          • Your religion is more like Simon’s, not hers. You don’t see or know the cost.
          • If you get rid of the messenger and just have the message, there’s no weeping, no tears, no joy, no power.
    • Simon’s religion is academic.
  • Because of the two understandings:
    • Simon gets exactly what He wants–a seminar. An academic experience. And an insult, and a cold shoulder.
    • The woman gets an ability to love she didn’t have before. The reason she’s able to love now is because she sees that she’s forgiven.
      • Your ability to love people and life is completely due to how deeply you see your sin and your ability to be forgiven.
      • If you have too high a view of yourself, you’ll see yourself as undeserving of the hurt you receive, and if you have to low a view of yourself, you’ll see yourself as undeserving of forgiveness–and either way you won’t be able to forgive.
    • She didn’t just get the ability, she got a love that could fill her up.
    • She doesn’t care what anybody thinks. When everyone turns around, she lets her hair down (an outrageous action). In doing this, she showed courage. She didn’t run. By surrendering to Jesus, she got power. She found that she would never have to surrender to anyone else.
      • Your faith has saved you–past tense! In Simon religion, you never have a past tense! You’re always hoping you’re saved.
      • Jesus says, literally, “Go into peace.” The power you give to me, the more you’ll get back.
  • Do you have Simon religion?
    • Look at this woman. This is the gospel–it’s not the powerful, it’s the marginal who show you how to become a Christian.
  • Are you a believer?
    • Do you love like this woman? Do you have this kind of satisfaction in Jesus Christ? Are you having trouble loving life?
      • It’s in your power! You have forgotten your debt. You have forgotten His life.
      • Hymn: Take my love, my Lord, I pour / At Thy feet its treasure store; / Take myself, and I will be, / Ever, only, all for Thee. / Ever, only, all for Thee.