Sermons We Need: Tim Keller on Gospel Transformation

One of the most insightful preachers around is Manhattan’s Tim Keller. Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Keller specializes in communicating the gospel in a winsome, relevant, understandable, and perceptive way. The three sermons below will give you a good introduction to his preaching and to his understanding of the gospel. Don’t fear–though a member of the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America) denomination, Keller does not often preach for more than 40-45 minutes.

I found these sermons at the Monergism website and wanted to pass them along to you. One of the best points Keller makes–and one that not enough Christians recognize–is that the gospel is not about looking good and being acceptable to those around us. The gospel is about personal transformation such that we worship Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. This foundational concept is best expressed in Keller’s simple gospel formulation: “I am accepted, and therefore I obey,” which contradicts the formulation seemingly believed by so many professing Christians: “I obey, and therefore I am accepted.” Keller’s articulation of this simple but profound theological concept has changed the way I think about the gospel, and it will do the same for you if you mull it over and compare it with scriptural teaching.

We need this preaching because too many of us have grown up alternating between Christ-centered and man-centered theology. What do I mean by this? Simply this: we believe intellectually that we are saved by grace, but we live as if we were saved by works. Now, I am not an antinomian. There is a huge place in Christian doctrine for concerted effort and purposeful activity. With that said, though, too many of us deny by our lives what we know in our minds. We think that being a Christian is all about doing certain things, about avoiding the really heinous sins and doing the commonly considered righteous practices. We lose sight of the cross and the personal transformation it brings. We thus come to view our faith as an exercise in presentation. Rooted as we are in a community of Christians, we attempt to look good. Our faith has now become a matter of show, and thus our spiritual life consists of avoidance on the one hand and performance on the other.

This shift stifles true, humble, self-denying, appearance-killing Christianity. It causes parents to worry far more about how their children’s lives look to other adults than they do about how God views their children’s hearts. Such people are far more concerned with public relations than they are with humble orthodoxy. That is to say, where these adults might acknowledge the spiritual lostness of their children, ask others to pray for them, and work not to correct the signs of unbelief but to lovingly address the heart, they instead paste a smile on their faces, respond chirpily when asked earnestly how their family is doing, and try to pretend the problem doesn’t exist. Such a lifestyle, of course, inevitably results in moments of explosive tension between parents and child, because said lost child is making the parents look bad, and this, not the child’s unbelief, is somehow the worst possible scenario for these appearance-obsessed parents.

This is a very, very dangerous scenario. It is one that occurred and occurs in many Christian homes as the result of parents who are saved but who have lost sight of the true nature of sin and the power of Christ’s work. For such Christians, we must offer preaching like Keller’s, preaching that rightly diagnoses sin and rightly addresses it by holding out the love of Christ as contained in the cross and resurrection, a love given not to change appearances and cover flaws, but to altogether transform appearance-obsessed, sin-hungry men and women into worshipful, humble, honest followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • blake white

    Thanks Owen. I have learned much from Keller about communicating to postmodern people.

  • Dad

    Amen.

    I don’t know if I have ever listened to him, though I know a few people who have. Does that count?

    Al (Not Owen’s dad or that other “Al”.)

  • Josh Martin

    Keller has also changed the way I think about the gospel. I always saw it as simply evangelistic. Keller has really helped me see the implications of the gospel on all of life. Thanks for the mp3 links.

  • Reid S. Monaghan

    Owen,
    You must purchase the Harold Okenga preaching Series Keller did at Gordon Conwell in 2006. It is pure gold for aspiring historians and preachers ;) Worth the money – or ask Dr. Ware for it as a Christmas present :)

    Here is the link
    http://www.gordonconwell.edu/ockenga/store/product_info.php?products_id=253


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