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Book Review on Tim Keller’s The Insider and the Outcast

23 Jun

An Insider and and Outsider Encounter Jesus: Review By David P. Craig

TIATO Keller

This booklet is the second in a series of essays based on lectures to students given by Dr. Tim Keller in Oxford, England in 2012. This essay is based on an exposition of two stories in John chapters 3 and 4 where Keller addresses the question ‘What is wrong with the world the way it is?” The reason that Keller addresses this question is that the solutions to the worlds greatest problems cannot be solved, or solutions prescribed without a proper diagnosis at the outset.

In John chapter 3 the focus is on Nicodemus – a religious insider – a highly reputable and moral leader of the religious establishment. In John chapter 4 the focus is on the Samaritan woman – a religious outsider – socially and morally reprehensible in that culture. Instead of dealing with these individuals separately, Keller makes the point that it is a mistake to deal with these two individuals apart from one another. These two encounters were meant to be contrasted by Jesus in order to show what the insider and outcast have in common. All people (including us moderns) have differences, but in the greater scheme of the human dilemma – we are all alike.

In examining these two encounters with Jesus, Keller reveals how John’s stories are relevant about the world we live in today, and how both “insiders” and “outsiders” are the problem. The problem back then with the world is the same problem we have today. It all comes down to the fact that we are all sinners. We either have a tendency to be self-righteous and smug in our works (the insider), or think there are too many barriers to bridge the gap between ourselves and the holiness of God (the outcast). Both individuals are spiritually dead and spiritually lost.

Keller compellingly reveals that the greatest problem in the 1st century and now in the 21st century is still the same. He defines sin thus, “Sin is looking to something else besides God for your salvation. It is putting yourself in the place of God, becoming your own savior and lord.”  Both Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman are equal sinners in need of the grace of God. The good news is that the solution to mankind’s great problem is that satisfaction and peace that come from a relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus came to die on the cross to give eternal peace, satisfaction, and hope to anyone who comes to Him in faith and repentance.

The good news for all of us is summarized by Keller in this manner, “It is because Jesus Christ experienced cosmic thirst on the cross that you and I can have our spiritual thirst satisfied. It is because he died that we can be born again. And he did it gladly. Seeing what he did and why he did it will turn away our hearts from the things that enslave us and toward him in worship. That is the gospel, and it is the same for skeptics, believers, insiders, outcasts, and everyone in between.”

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