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The Gospel Transformed Life by Tim Keller

A while back, I listened to Tim Keller give a fantastic talk. Thought I’d share my notes here.

Are there only two ways to live? Are our options only either secularism/irreligion, or being good/religion? No. There is a third way to live – the life lived with a gospel transformed heart.

Many people might not realize this, but there’s a difference between the gospel and religion. Pause and think about it.

The basic operating principle of religion is: I obey, therefore I’m accepted. The basic operating principle of the gospel is: I’m accepted, therefore I obey. They are diametrically opposite. Because their motives are utterly different, their fruit are utterly different. Martin Luther said that the basic default mode of the human heart is to go back to self salvation, self justification. You might pass a written test about justification by faith alone by grace alone, but your heart may functionally work on the basis of self salvation. Growing in christ is to apply head knowledge into your heart and life. Therefore, it is common for chrisitians to think that there are two ways to relate to God. Follow him and obey, or reject God. There are two ways to reject Christ as God and Savior. They are to be irreligious, or to be incredibly good as your own savior and lord. They’re both wrong. Once you know that there’s not two ways… once you realize that there’s three ways… how do you present the gospel to somebody?

There is a sharper distinction between religion and the gospel than there is between irreligion and the gospel. Biblical sources: Romans 1 is all about the fact that the pagan gentiles are lost. Romans 2 is about the fact that bible believing, god fearing, religious jews are also lost. Romans 3:9 – Paul concludes that jew and gentile are all under sin. There’s no one who seeks God. It is possible to be obeying the rules to seek things from God, not God. You’re seeking your own glory.

Sermon on the Mount – there’s two paths, there’s two trees, there’s two houses etc… so choose the right tree etc. What do those two ways represent? Living God’s way and abandoning God’s law? No. there’s two paths in summary. But you have to find those two paths back in the sermon. Go through the sermon. Not people who pray and don’t pray, or people who give to the poor and those who don’t. Both groups pray etc. But one group is pharaseeical. The other group is regenerate.. Keller suddenly realized those two paths are religion and the gospel.

Two prodigals. What’s so shocking is that there’s a younger brother and an older brother. The elder brother is lost, because the feast signifies salvation. In the end, the bad person is saved and the good person is lost. The good person is not lost in spite of his goodness, but because he depends on his goodness. There’s two kinds of lostness. So many people who think they’re christians are basically pharisees.

Kiekegaard understands this idea of three ways. There’s the aesthetic, ethical and spiritual approach.. irreligion, self denial and self righteousness and the gospel. If he were sharing the gospel to smart, hostile, artistic types. He would sit down and watch babette’s feast. There were these two young women, and in the early days, one is beautiful, one is an incredible singer and they flirt with the aesthetic, and their father draws them back into the ethical. At the end of the movie, there’s this incredible feast, where the women realized that the aesthetic wouldn’t have fulfilled them, but they realized that the ethical life wouldn’t have fulfilled them. The moviemaker was influenced by Kierkegaard.

C.S. Lewis has an essay called “three kinds of men” – he basically says the same thing. Religion versus the gospel. Religion’s motivation is based on fear or insecurity. Gospel is “I obey out of grateful joy.” Religion – I obey to get things from God. Gospel – I obey to get God. To delight him and to resemble him. Religion – when situations in my life go wrong, I’m angry with God, or angry at myself for not living up to a standard. Gospel – I struggle, but I know this isn’t the wrath of God, and this is for my good and God’s glory.

Religion – when I’m criticized, I’m furious and devastated. Gospel – criticism doesn’t get at my foundation. Prayer life – in religion, mainly petition, which mainly heats up in time of need. Gospel – adoration and thanksgiving. God is not a god to be controlled – the purpose of praying is adoration and fellowship with him. My self view in religion swings between two poles – confident when living up to my standards and critical. when not, I feel like a failure. Gospel – in christ I am simultaneously lost and loved, this leads me to a humility that is not accompanied by a sense of failure, at the same time, it gives me a confidence that is not accompanied by a sense of superiority. Neither swaggering nor sniveling.

Using this three fold scheme to communicate the gospel –

First, there are many people who are professing christians, and pure elder brothers. You can’t be sure that they are regenerate, but you can know that there are plenty of people who are baptised and unregenerate. However, in a sense, you can’t go to somebody and tell them that. How do you know? You have to be bringing the gospel out like this, so that they will be convicted. Second, many genuine christians are incredibly elder brotherish, because the gospel hasn’t been applied in their lives.

But the main reason is: the average non christian thinks they understand christianity well. Unless you show them, even as you’re speaking, the difference between religion and the gospel, when you call them to belief in Jesus Christ, they’ll think that you are asking them to become religious. They also won’t understand what it is about the church that turns them off. The biggest problem as leaders is that a lot of people will say they find the gospel fascinating, then continue living the same way. Self righteouesness, insecurity, fear of man, inability of take criticism etc.

Everyday, for your quiet time and at least two other times a day, use the gospel in your heart. When you make presentations, make sure that you are always reinforcing this distinction.


September 29, 2010 at 9:21 pm Leave a comment

Sing It Sister

My sister, “su the bandit,” has a myspace band page. She juggles too! Thanks for sharing the music, leen.

August 17, 2007 at 12:13 pm Leave a comment

Georgia Aquarium

It’s summer! Time to make memories with the kids.

A couple of weeks ago, we made a quick trip to the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. Named “the world’s largest and most engaging aquarium,” this place is slick, and the aquarium logo is absolutely brilliant. We ooohed and aahed as we drove into the city at 11:00pm, and I saw the biggest Borders bookstore, which looked like a castle with it’s own turret.

After the best breakfast buffet I’ve had in an American hotel, we walked to the aquarium and were among the first of hundreds of visitors that day. The first tank we saw was the largest one, and we were awestruck. There were whale sharks swimming with other sharks, giant groupers, and an endless number of smaller fish – a symphony of natural movement, and very peaceful.

June 27, 2007 at 7:15 pm 1 comment


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