Believing & Experiencing the Resurrection

I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.

Phil 3:10 NLT

The resurrection of Jesus is an objective historical fact that Bible-believing Christians everywhere affirm. However, some of these same believers fail to experience the personal power of the resurrection which gives victory over sin’s hold, the flesh’s pull, and the devil’s temptations. For them, the resurrection is doctrinally true, but personally irrelevant.

In liberal circles, the resurrection is re-defined as a spiritual encounter with Christ. For so-called Progressives, the resurrection is a myth which proclaims God’s victory over the tragedies of this life. Liberals affirm the resurrection without necessarily believing that the event actually took place in space and time. For them, the resurrection is a spiritual experience, not as a true historical event.

For both, the conservative and the liberal, the resurrection of Christ is religion with outward appearance, but no personal reality. One knows the truth with no personal experience, the other relies on feeling with no substance. Both views fail for Christianity is a head and heart faith.

On one hand, the resurrection is a fact to be believed. On the other hand, it is an experience to connect with. If you have one without the other–if you believe in the resurrection as historical fact but never experience the resurrection personally, or if you think of the resurrection as a spiritual experience but don’t believe it was a fact–you come out with a form of religion with no power.

Christianity says that if you want to experience God, you have to believe the truth. You have to believe that he really lived, that he really died, that he was really raised. And if you see that truth and believe in it, it leads to an experience, which leads to more understanding of the truth, and the truth leads to more experience.

Tim Keller, “Knowing the Experience of His Resurrection,” Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross, ed., Nancy Guthrie (Crossway, 2009), 132-133.

 

 

The Logos of God

In the beginning was the Word (Greek: logos), and the Word (logos) was with God, and the Word (logos) was God. He was in the beginning with God.

John 1:1-2

Incarnation means enfleshment: Jesus Christ is God in human flesh. The great act of God: the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God, took upon himself our human nature. Incarnation means that God is with us, near us, transforming us. The incarnation means that God cared and came among us to deliver us from ourselves. The Apostle John describes the Son of God as the Divine Logos who came among us, not just to show us how to live, but to be life itself (John 1:15).

To the Greeks the ‘logos’ was the purpose or meaning of existence. To the Jews the ‘logos’ was God’s Word — the truth or moral absolutes at the foundation of all reality. In the beginning of his gospel John addresses both world-views when he speaks of a divine ‘Word’ that was the source and foundation of all creation.

But then he says something that floods the banks and bursts the boundaries of all human categories. He tells Jews that the truth and self-expression of God has become human. He tells Greeks that the meaning of life and all existence has become human.

Therefore, only if you know this human being will you find what you hoped to find in philosophy or even in the God of the Bible. The difference [between any other great figure and Jesus] is the difference between an example of living and one who is the life itself.

Charles Williams, quoted by Timothy Keller in Gospel Christianity, Course 1 (Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2003), 49-50.

HT: Of First Importance

The Tree of Life

Living in the Realm Where God Lives

On either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.

Revelation 22:2-3

Eternal life is life and life more abundantly—it is being alive in the realm where God lives (John 10:10). Life is walking with God in unending communion, enjoying his unlimited blessing, experiencing his unconditional love, and receiving his undeserved grace. The opposite of eternal life is not finite life, but eternal death. The eternal life that Christ offers is entire salvation of the whole being including conversion and new birth as well as final glorification (John 3:16).

Why can we have the tree of life? Because Jesus Christ climbed the cross, the tree of death. And because Jesus climbed the tree of death you can have the tree of life.

Tim Keller, “The Garden: City of God,” Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Manhattan, N.Y.

HT: Of First Importance

The Blessedness of the Kingdom

The Kingdom and the Church

Jesus answered, “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.

John 18:35-36

The Kingdom of God is the presence of the future–a foretaste of heaven. It is a foretaste–an advance sample–of what life will be like when dwelling in God’s exquisite presence in heaven. The kingdom is the inbreaking of heaven: the dynamic rule and reign of God has come and presently is touching the earth. All that heaven will be–freedom from sickness, deliverance from oppression, joy in forgiveness, etc.–experienced now in Christ Jesus. The Kingdom has come in Christ and is advancing throughout the world and the Kingdom will be fully established upon the return of Christ.

Presently, the kingdom of God spiritually reigns in the hearts of those who have made Christ Lord of their lives and is manifested in and through them by the Holy Spirit’s presence, preaching of the Gospel, healing of the sick, and release from demonic bondage, etc. (Luke 4:16-20, 43). The Kingdom of God advances by conquering men and women’s hearts through the power of the Cross: the Holy Spirit changes us from self-centered slobs to Christ-centered servants (John 3:3; 2 Cor. 5:14-15).

What is the relationship of the church to the kingdom? On the one hand, the church is a “pilot plant” of the kingdom of God. It is not simply a collection of individuals who are forgiven. It is a “royal nation” (1 Peter 2:9), in other words, a counterculture. The church is to be a new society in which the world can see what family dynamics, business practices, race relations, and all of life can be under the kingship of Jesus Christ. God is out to heal all the effects of sin: psychological, social, and physical.

On the other hand, the church is to be an agent of the kingdom. It is not only to model the healing of God’s rule but it is to spread it. “You are . . . a royal priesthood, a holy nation . . . that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). Christians go into the world as witnesses of the kingdom (Acts 1:6-8). To spread the kingdom of God is more than simply winning people to Christ. It is also working for the healing of persons, families, relationships, and nations; it is doing deeds of mercy and seeking justice. It is ordering lives and relationships and institutions and communities according to God’s authority to bring in the blessedness of the kingdom.

Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy: The Call of the Jericho Road, 2nd ed. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R), 54.

HT: Between Two Worlds

 

A Faith That Is Not Alone

Faith Overflowing

[Jesus] gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Titus 2:14

Good works is everything that a believer expresses, achieves, undertakes, performs, or accomplishes because Christ lives in them. Good works cannot achieve right standing before God. However, a faith-filled salvation will produce many good works. Good works are the fruit of salvation, not its cause or basis. Good works flow from Christ’s grace enabling us to pour out costly love for and on behalf of others.

Being right with God is by faith alone, but not by a faith that stands alone. No place exists in the Christian life for claiming a “born from above” experience while displaying no evidence of a changed life. A born-again life is a life that allows Christ to live in and through us dispensing the fruit of the Spirit openly and widely (1 John 4:9).

Good works are described as the fruit of faith. Good works are not produced by the Christian, but good works are borne in the life of the Christian by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). We are fruit-bearers not fruit-producers: enabling grace works out the life of Christ in us.

Good works, or deeds, display to the world the changed heart that Christ has created in us (Matt. 7:15-20). Faith in the finished work of Christ expresses itself in deeds done for God and others. Good works are the fruit of faith, they follow after justification, they are evidence of a changed heart, and therefore, flow from a heart transformed by the Cross.

In the end, Martin Luther’s old formula still sums things up nicely: “We are saved by faith alone [not our works], but not by a faith that remains alone.” Nothing we can do merit God’s grace and favor, we can only believe that he has given it to us in Jesus Christ and receive it by faith. But if we truly believe and trust in the one who sacrificially served us, it changes us into people who sacrificially serve God and our neighbors. If we say “I believe in Jesus” but it doesn’t affect the way we live, the answer is not that now we need to add hard work to our faith so much as that we haven’t truly understood or believed in Jesus at all.

Timothy Keller, The Prodigal God : Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith (New York: Dutton, 2008), 123.

Jesus is the True and Better

The Old Testament Points to Jesus

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.

John 5:39

A couple of months ago, I attended the 2011 Gospel Coalition Conference in Chicago: the theme, “Preaching Christ in the Old Testament.” I have heard many valiant and noble attempts at revealing Christ in the Old Testament text, but nothing quite like the quality of what Tim Keller did with his message, “Getting Out” (Exodus 14). Keller not only displayed Christ in all his atoning work, but Keller models how to interpret the text without allegorizing, stretching the meaning, or distorting the context. The quote below from an earlier Keller sermon illustrates how to point to Christ in the Old Testament.

Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden and whose obedience is imputed to us.

Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood now that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for acquittal.

Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go out into the void not knowing wither he went to create a new people of God.

Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us. And when God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son, your only son whom you love from me,” now we can look at God taking his son up the mountain and sacrificing him and say, “Now we know that you love us because you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love from us.”

Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserved, so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace to wake us up and discipline us.

Jesus is the true and better Joseph who, at the right hand of the king, forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his new power to save them.

Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people and the Lord and who mediates a new covenant.

Jesus is the true and better Rock of Moses who, struck with the rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert.

Jesus is the true and better Job, the truly innocent sufferer, who then intercedes for and saves his stupid friends.

Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes his people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves.

Jesus is the true and better Esther who didn’t just risk leaving an earthly palace but lost the ultimate and heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life, but gave his life to save his people.

Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so that we could be brought in.

Jesus is the real Rock of Moses, the real Passover Lamb, innocent, perfect, helpless, slain so the angel of death will pass over us. He’s the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread.

The Bible’s really not about you—it’s about him.

Tim Keller, “Gospel-Centered Ministry” sermon, 2007 Gospel Coalition Conference.

 

 

Idols of the Heart

Idols: Things That Capture Our Heart Other Than Christ

Though the nations around us follow their idols, we will follow the Lord our God forever and ever.

Micah 4:5 NLT

An idol is any person, place, or thing that has power and rule over us other than God and his love. What rules over us are the demands of people, tyranny of events, self-absorption and personal need. These distractions of the heart crowd out our knowledge of Christ’s loving acceptance found at the foot of the Cross.

Idolatry is looking to things, circumstances, and people to be our satisfaction instead of Christ. An idol cannot provide forgiveness, fulfillment, or freedom: they fail to bless by creating fleshly bondages, dependent relationships, and emotional problems. Money, sex, and power are the ultimate idols of our society—they promise happiness, love, and influence. However, idols make promises they cannot and will never keep. Idols by design cannot bring true fulfillment: only God’s blessing of intimacy in Christ can fill us with heart-satisfying joy.

The human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things. Our hearts deify them as the center of our lives, because, we think, they can give us significance and security, safety and fulfillment, if we attain them.

We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case. The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes. Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.

It [an idol] is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.

Between Death and Life

The Cross Between Us and the World

But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

Galatians 6:14

Spent the week in Chicago at The Gospel Coalition conference which focused on preaching Christ in the Old Testament. Tim Keller gave a wonderful message on Exodus fourteen, Israel’s passing through the Red Sea. I commend it very highly to you. Not only did the sermon reveal the exodus as a prefigurement to Christ’s work on the Cross, but it also displayed properly how to “connect the dots” to the great redemptive themes of the Bible. “When you go to Luke 9, the transfiguration, Jesus is talking to Moses and Elijah about His departure, about His death in Jerusalem, but the Greek word there is “Exodus,”—Jesus’ death on the cross is the greater exodus” (Tim Keller).

For the Jews, the Exodus was their defining moment. The crossing of the Red Sea displayed to the Hebrews God’s covenant faithfulness. God loved Israel, he would protect them, he would supernaturally intervene and provide for them.

For the Christian, the Cross is our defining moment. Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection displays to the world God’s love and grace. God loves the world, he died that they might have life, he supernaturally intervened, and provided salvation for us all.

For the Christian, the Cross is our exodus. We have crossed from the darkness of Egypt through the dangers of the Red Sea into the promise land of the kingdom. The enemies of our soul are defeated: the world, the flesh, sin, death, and the devil. The cross is between us and our sinful failures. The cross is between us and our guilt and shame. The cross is between our embarrassing past and our hope-filled future. For us, the cross lies between death and life.

This wonderful epistle [Galatians] speaks of the cross as between me and Egypt, between me and the wilderness, between me and my past, my wanderings; and now the cross is my Jordan by which I pass through death into the land where Joshua leads, the land that flows with milk and honey . . . .

You have not therefore got to worry about the death side; think about the life side. Do not live looking at the corpse, but looking to the Holy Ghost; as you breath in the Holy Ghost moment by moment as you breathe in air, in the depth of your heart He will draw you away from the flesh, the self, the world, the devil; and insensibly, unconsciously, exquisitely, He will bring you into life. And the more you live on the life side, the more, without knowing much of it, you will live on the death side; for while you are engrossed with the Holy Ghost, the Holy Ghost in the depth of your being is carrying the sentence of death deeper, deeper, deeper down, and things are being mortified of which you once had no conception.

F. B. Meyer, The Christ Life for Your Life (Chicago: Moody) , 46-47.

The World Upside Down

 

Christ Is All

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

Col 1:19-20 NLT

Love the work of Timothy Keller: wonderful Cross-saturated sermons and insightful God-glorifying books. As a writer, Keller is a late bloomer with all but one of his books published later in his ministry (it gives me hope). The Reason for God is an apologetic (not an apology) for an orthodox Christian faith that is being attacked on every side by a skeptical press, the new atheists, post-modern doubt, and the stresses of modern life. Keller skillfully and adeptly answers objections concerning suffering, Hell, Bible trustworthiness, Christ exclusivity, and Christian ethics. Not only does Keller engage the critics, but also, he affirms, defends, and proclaims the life-affirming truths of the Christian faith: sin, the gospel, the cross and resurrection, and heart relationship. In many ways, Keller’s book is a 21st century simplified version of C. S. Lewis’s famous work, Mere Christianity. Pick-up a copy of The Reason for God, you will not regret it.

The cross is not simply a lovely example of sacrificial love. Throwing your life away needlessly is not admirable — it is wrong. Jesus’ death was only a good example if it was more than an example, if it was something absolutely necessary to rescue us. And it was. Why did Jesus have to die in order to forgive us? There was a debt to be paid — God himself paid it. There was a penalty to be born — God himself bore it. Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.

Timothy Keller, The Reason For God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 193.

The pattern of the Cross means that the world’s glorification of power, might, and status is exposed and defeated. On the Cross Christ wins through losing, triumphs through defeat, achieves power through weakness and service, comes to wealth via giving all away. Jesus Christ turns the values of the world upside down.

Timothy Keller, The Reason for God (New York, NY: Dutton, 2008), 196.

PS: For members of Lamb of God Church, our Young Adult Home Group will be studying the companion DVD starting next week.

 

A Love That Delivers What It Promises

Loving Us Out of the World & Its Influences

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Rom. 5:7-8

Recently, I listened to Timothy Keller’s Counterfeit Gods:The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, ad Power and the Only Hope That Matters on audiobook. Pastor Keller deals with the abuse of money, sex, and power as false forms of fulfillment, empty substitutes for genuine love, and deceptive promises for real joy. Money, sex, and power are idols that promise a satisfaction that they can never deliver (1 John 5:21).

The world is a system that values money, sex, and power over and against God and his kingdom. The world believes that true spirituality is a waste of time, sacrifice is repugnant, and faith is naiveté (1 John 2:15-17). The world says that only unlimited sources of wealth, unbridled sex, and a power that dictates can bring us happiness.

However, Christ died so that we might be free from the delusions and deceptions of this world. The grip that money, sex, and power has over our lives can be broken. Our love and fulfillment needs can only be met in Christ. “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14). Only the Cross of Christ displays, gives, and releases the love of God that can bring true joy John 3:16).

God saw Abraham’s sacrifice and said, ‘Now I know that you love me, because you did not withhold your only son from me’ [Gen. 22:12]. But how much more can we look at his sacrifice on the Cross, and say to God, ‘Now, we know that you love us. For you did not withhold your son, your only son, whom you love, from us.’ When the magnitude of what he did dawns on us, it makes it possible finally to rest our hearts in him rather than in anything else.

Timothy Keller, Counterfeit Gods (New York, NY: Dutton, 2009), 18.