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Dr. Tim Keller On The Importance of Gospel Repentance

*Dr. Tim Keller: “All of Life is Repentance”

Martin Luther opened the Reformation by nailing “The Ninety-Five Theses” to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral. The very first of the theses was: “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ…willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” On the surface this looks a little bleak! Luther seems to be saying Christians will never be making much progress in the Christian life. Indeed, pervasive, all-of-life-repentance is the best sign that we are growing deeply into the character of Jesus.

The Transformation of Repentance:

It is important to consider how the gospel affects and transforms the act of repentance. In ‘religion’ the purpose of repentance is basically to keep God happy so he will continue to bless you and answer your prayers. This means that ‘religious repentance’ is a) selfish, b) self-righteous, c) and bitter all the way to the bottom. But in the gospel the purpose of repentance is to repeatedly tap into the joy of union with Christ in order to weaken our need to do anything contrary to God’s heart.

“Religious” repentance is selfish:

In religion we only are sorry for sin because of its consequences to us. It will bring us punishment – and we want to avoid that. So we repent. But the gospel tells us that sin can’t ultimately bring us into condemnation (Rom. 8:1) its heinousness is therefore what it does to God-it displeases and dishonors him. Thus in religion, repentance is self-centered; the gospel makes it God-centered. In religion we are mainly sorry for the consequences of sin, but in the gospel we are sorry for the sin itself.

Furthermore, ‘religious’ repentance is self-righteous. Repentance can easily become a form of ‘atoning’ for the sin. Religious repentance often becomes a form of self-flagellation in which we convince God (and ourselves) that we are truly miserable and regretful that we deserve to be forgiven. In the gospel, however, we know that Jesus suffered and was miserable for our sin. We do not have to make ourselves suffer in order to merit forgiveness. We simply receive the forgiveness earned by Christ. 1 John 1:8 says that God forgives us because he is ‘just.’ That is a remarkable statement. It would be unjust of God to ever deny us forgiveness, because Jesus earned our acceptance! In religion we earn forgiveness with our repentance, but in the gospel we just receive it.

Last, religious repentance is “bitter all the way down.” In religion our only hope is to live a good enough life for God to bless us. Therefore every instance of sin and repentance is traumatic, unnatural, and horribly threatening. Only under great duress does a religious person admit they have sinned-because their only hope is their moral goodness. But in the gospel the knowledge of our acceptance in Christ makes it easier to admit we are flawed (because we know we won’t be cast off if we confess the true depths of our sinfulness).

Our hope is in Christ’s righteousness, not our own-so it is not so traumatic to admit our weaknesses and lapses. In religion we repent less and less often. But the more accepted and loved in the gospel we feel the more and more often we will be repenting. And though of course there is always some bitterness in any repentance, in the gospel there is ultimately sweetness. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. The more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions of your sin. The sin under all other sins is a lack of joy in Christ.

The Disciplines of Gospel-Repentance:

If you clearly understood these two different ways to go about repentance, then (and only then!) you can profit greatly from a regular and exacting discipline of self-examination and repentance. I’ve found that the practices of the 18th century Methodist leaders George Whitefield and John Wesley have been helpful to me here. In January 9, 1738, in a letter to a friend, George Whitefield laid out an order for regular repentance. (He ordinarily did his inventory at night) He wrote: “God give me a deep humility and a burning love, a well-guided zeal and a single eye, and then let men and devils do their worst!” Here is one way to use this order in gospel-grounded repentance.

Deep Humility vs. Pride:

Have I looked down on anyone? Have I been too stung by criticism? Have I felt snubbed and ignored?

Repent like this: Consider the free grace of Jesus until I sense a) decreasing disdain (since I am a sinner too), b) decreasing pain over criticism (since I should not value human approval over God’s love). In light of his grace I can let go of the need to keep up a good image-it is too great a burden and now unnecessary. Consider free grace until I experience grateful, restful joy.

Burning love vs. Indifference:

Have I spoken or thought unkindly of anyone? Am I justifying myself by caricaturing (in my mind) someone else? Have I been impatient and irritable? Have I been self-absorbed and indifferent and inattentive to people?

Repent like this: Consider the free grace of Jesus until there is a) no coldness or unkindness (think of the sacrificial love of Christ for you), b) no impatience (think of his patience with you), and c) no indifference. Consider free grace until I show warmth and affection. God was infinitely patient and attentive to me, out of grace.

Wise Courage vs. Anxiety:

Have I avoided people or tasks that I know I should face? Have I been anxious and worried? Have I failed to be circumspect or have I been rash and impulsive?

Repent like this: Consider the free grace of Jesus until there is a) no cowardly avoidance of hard things (since Jesus faced evil for me), b) no anxious or rash behavior (since Jesus’ death proves God cares and will watch over me). It takes pride to be anxious – I am not wise enough to know how my life should go. Consider free grace until I experience calm thoughtfulness and strategic boldness.

Godly motivations (a ‘single eye’):

Am I doing what I am doing for God’s glory and the good of others or am I being driven by fears, need for approval, love of comfort and ease, need for control, hunger for acclaim and power, or the ‘fear of man?’ Am I looking at anyone with envy? Am I giving in to any of even the first motions of lust or gluttony? Am I spending my time on urgent things rather than important things because of these inordinate desires?

Repent like this: How does Jesus provide for me in what I am looking for in these other things? Pray: “O Lord Jesus, make me happy enough in you to avoid sin and wise enough in you to avoid danger, that I may always do what is right in your sight, in your name I pray, Amen.”

*Dr. Tim Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, New York, and the author of The Reason for God: Belief in an age of Skepticism (In my opinion the best book to date on apologetics for a postmodern culture—I think this book will do for post moderns what Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis did for moderns).

 

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Book Review – Heralds of the King: Christ-Centered Sermons in the Tradition of Edmund P. Clowney, Edited by Dennis E. Johnson

Sermons that Manifest the Centrality of the Person, Work, and Presence of Christ

 One of my greatest concerns in the times in which we are living is seeing more pastors, theologians, and the rank and file Christian allowing cultural pressures to influence them more than the influence of Christ from the Scriptures. As I am currently looking for a church to become a part of I am astounded by how many “protestant” pastors can preach a sermon that neither begins or ends with Christ. As a matter of fact, most of the sermons I’m hearing could be preached by a non-Christian, and in what even passes for “church” God doesn’t even have to show up at all.

I would urge, plead, and even pay preachers to read this book. What people need – including Christians – is more of Jesus – His death, life, teachings, work as Prophet, Priest, and King – in short His person and work. Jesus said that all of the Scriptures pointed to Him (that means all of the Old Testament and New Testament, see John 5 and Luke 24).

In this book we have some excellent examples of former students of Dr. Edmund P. Clowney who preach in the Christ-centered mold. The book has a good balance in that it incorporates sermons from the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms, and Several New Covenant genres. Before each sermon begins there is a brief tribute to Edmund Clowney demonstrating how he influenced the preacher in his pursuit of personally loving Christ and preaching sermons that show us the Savior’s Person and work on our behalf.

In Part 1: “The Law” we have the following sermons –

“Living in the Gap” based on Genesis 17:1-14 by Joseph V. Novenson

“The Girl Nobody Wanted” based on Genesis 29:15-35 by Tim Keller (this is my favorite sermon in the book – it is a masterpiece on how to preach Christ from the Old Testament and how to apply it to our lives in the 21st century)

“Lord and Servant” from Genesis 43 by Brian Vos

“Rock of Ages” based on Exodus 17:1-7 by Julius J. Kim

In Part 2: “The Prophets” we have these sermons –

“Surprising Love:” on 2 Samuel 9 by Charles D. Drew

“Thorns and Fir Trees” based on Isaiah 55:13 by the late Harvie M. Conn

“No Condemnation” from Zechariah 3 by Iain M. Duguid

In Part 3: “The Psalms” we have only one sermon (I would have liked to have had at least two or three from this large section of Scripture including “Lament” and “Praise” genres) –

“Beauty in the Sand” by William Edgar based on Psalm 90

Part 4: “The New Covenant” we have the following sermons –

From Luke 1:5-25 “When God Promises the Impossible” by Dennis E. Johnson

“Soul-Ravishing Sightings” based on Luke 9:28-36 by Joseph F. Ryan

Arturo G. Azurdia III preaches the final sermon in the book based on Hebrews 1:1-3 entitled “The Greatness of God’s Ultimate Word.”

I highly recommend this book for all preachers, and for those who listen to preachers and love Jesus. I would encourage you if you are reading this review, to ask your pastor if he has read this book, and if not, to get him a copy – to encourage him in preaching in a more Christ-centered manner. Christ-centered preaching is hard work. However, when you hear it, or do it – you sense the presence of God in a powerful way. When I started preaching in Christ-centered manner it was as if a huge millstone was taken off my back. I think most preachers want to please God and help their flock from God’s Word – but they have not been well trained in Biblical Theology, or in Christo-centric preaching.

Edmund Clowney and all the preachers represented in this book are preaching to give glory to God and to let their hearers experience Jesus in worship. I think most preachers today are preaching to be liked, and meet felt needs – but no one can meet our needs like Jesus – and what we need more than anything is what these preachers do in this book – lead us to worshipping Jesus!

I constantly find myself when listening to modern preachers asking the question, “Where’s Jesus in this message?” Edmund Clowney always asked, “Where is my Savior?” His primary concern was always to reveal the presence of Christ in all of the Scriptures – since this is what Jesus mandated. I believe that if you ask these questions of yourself, or your preacher and Jesus is nowhere to be found, then it is not “Christian” preaching. What we desperately need today is to hear Jesus speaking to us from the Word of God by the voice of his heralds. All the preachers in this book do a wonderful job of leading us to the presence of Jesus and to worshipping Him.

Other Books that I would recommend to help you in Christo-centric preaching are:

Edmund P. Clowney’s: “Preaching Christ in All of Scripture;” “The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament;” and “How Jesus Transforms The Ten Commandments.”

Alec Motyer’s “Look to the Rock: An Old Testament Background to Our Understanding of Christ.”

All of Tim Keller’s books (e.g. “King’s Cross” based on his expositions on the Gospel of Mark). And anything by Sidney Greidanus (e.g., “Preaching Christ from the Old Testament”), or Graeme Goldsworthy (e.g.,“Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture”).

I hope that this movement of Christ-centered preaching continues to spread, and grow and bring about a new reformation of the gospel, and the desperately needed revival that is needed around the globe.

 

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Book Review: Preaching and Preachers (40th Anniversary Edition) by *D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

A Preaching Classic Just Got Even Better

 In order to introduce a new generation of preachers to “the Doctor” this book published in 1972 has been reissued. All the material from a series of lectures the Doctor gave in 1969 at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia – and is still very relevant to the times in which we are living in the 21st century. The Doctor was one who knew his cultural climate and ministered in a setting in London, that (especially in comparison with big cities in America) was ahead of its time in terms of a naturalistic worldview and skepticism toward religion and the gospel. However, he never backed down from the primacy and centrality of preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ from the Scriptures.

It’s doubtful that very many preachers will agree with everything Lloyd-Jones has to say in this book, but it’s also very probable that you will gain profound insight, wisdom, and be encouraged in your preaching. You will most certainly be convinced of the importance of preaching, the relevance of preaching, and become a better gospel empowered preacher as a result of reading this book.

What’s different about the 40th edition? Well, the 1972 version has been left in tact, but there are several very welcome features:

Several new essays by modern preachers who share what they have learned and applied from the Doctor – Ligon Duncan writes an essay entitled, “Some things to Look For and Wrestle With;” Tim Keller writes an essay called “A Tract for the Times;” John Piper writes on “Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Preacher;” Kevin DeYoung writes an essay on “Preaching for Brand New and Tired Old Preachers;” Mark Dever writes on “What I’ve Learned about Preaching From Martyn Lloyd-Jones;” and lastly Bryan Chapell pens “Martyn Lloyd-Jones: An Uncommon Zeal.”

Another new feature is that each chapter contains several questions for study and discussion that can be useful for students, pastors, or church staffs to use in discussion or small group study. I am so glad that this new edition is finally here, and hope that it will inspire a new generation of preachers to proclaim the gospel from Genesis to Revelation with the unction of the Spirit, knowledge of the Scriptures, love for Christ, and passion of “the Doctor.”

 

*J.I. Packer first heard Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones preach when he was a 22-year-old student in London. Upon hearing Lloyd-Jones, Packer remarked that he had “never heard such preaching…[delivered] with the force of electric shock, bringing to at least one of his listeners more of a sense of God than any other man.” As Packer’s statement suggests, Lloyd-Jones’s life-long ministry had a profound impact not only on lay-people, but on the very leaders of the Christian church as well.

Although Lloyd-Jones was to become one of the great Christian thinkers of the twentieth century, his career began far removed from the Church. Born in Cardiff, Wales in 1899, Lloyd-Jones moved to London with his family at the age of 14. He was driven by a strong desire to be a doctor and attended medical school at St. Bartholomew’s Teaching Hospital in London. A remarkably bright student, Lloyd-Jones earned his M.D. at the age of 22 and immediately began working as the chief clinical assistant to Sir Thomas Horder, who referred to Lloyd-Jones as, “The most accurate thinker that I ever knew.”

However, at beginning his medical career, Lloyd-Jones began reading the Bible and was soon gripped by the logic of the Christian gospel. In his early twenties, he underwent a quiet but profound conversion to Christianity. Feeling propelled by a new desire to share his faith with others, Lloyd-Jones began to think that preaching would provide the best avenue for him to promote the gospel of Christ. But, at the same time, Lloyd-Jones had fallen in love with a young medical student named Bethan Phillips. He felt torn, knowing that if she were to marry him she would need to share his vision of abandoning medicine to pursue the ministry, and he prayed hard for God to work in her heart. Bethan did come to share Martyn’s vision for preaching and she married him in 1927. Together they shocked the press by making a dramatic move from the elite medical community of Harley Street to a small house in Lloyd-Jones’s native country. There, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd Jones began his preaching career at the Bethlehem Forward Movement Mission Church in Aberavon, Wales.

In 1938, G. Campbell Morgan, the Minister of Westminster Chapel, heard Lloyd-Jones preach and decided that he wanted to have him as his successor in London. In the following year, Lloyd-Jones, his wife, and two daughters, Elizabeth and Ann, moved to London. Although Lloyd-Jones began his ministry at Westminster on a temporary basis, his stay there would be anything but temporary. His preaching drew in thousands of people and the congregation responded enthusiastically to his sharp, analytical presentation of the Christian faith. He remained at Westminster for thirty years, faithfully preaching through even the bomb raids of the World War II, and retired from there in 1968. While in London, Lloyd-Jones also had a formative influence on the InterVarsity Fellowship of Evangelical Unions by serving as its President for many years. Even today InterVarsity is a thriving world-wide ministry and it owes a large portion of its success to the influential work of Lloyd-Jones.

After leaving the church at the age of 69, Lloyd-Jones was unwilling to simply relax in retirement and he continued to work as hard as he had while he was at Westminster. He published some of his best work during that time and he continued to travel and preach at various engagements. Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones worked until in 1981, weakened by illness, he died quietly in his sleep at the age of 82.

 

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My Top 10 Reads of 2011

I read over 100 books this past year, so I thought I would share my top ten books that were actually published in 2011. This next year I will be reading another 100 plus books (God willing) and one of the themes for the new year will be to read as many of the “Views” books as I possibly can (I have 70 of these books already at last count). The most important book I will be reading is the Bible. I will be using Robert Murray McCheyne’s Bible reading plan and the One Year Bible as well. Therefore, I hope to read through the Bible three times. I hope that God blesses your intake this next year and that His Spirit will illuminate your mind and saturate your thinking, emotions, and activity with a Christ centered and Holy Spirit empowering to live for His glory. All the books below (and more) were reviewed on Amazon.com and here on my blog.

10) Passages: How Reading the Bible in a Year Will Change Everything for You by Brian Hardin. He will really motivate you to get into the Word daily – which is arguably the most important discipline for you to maintain.

9) All In: From Refugee Camp to Poker Champ by Jerry Yang with Mark Tabb. This was one of the most spontaneous picks I ever read – I bought it because it was cheap! However, it was a gripping story of a Christian refugee coming to the USA and winning the biggest Poker prize in history and the astounding way he was and is a testimony for Christ in his lifestyle and giving. Jerry Yang is an amazing person who places Jesus first in every aspect of his life – even playing poker! I was surprised at how much God’s sovereignty and providence was brought into the story – not just the families escape from Cambodia, but also in the refugee camp in Thailand and then all the details that God worked out for him in the USA.

8) Salvation Accomplished by the Son: The Work of Christ by Robert A. Peterson. I always enjoy reading anything related to Jesus. This book was not easy reading, but very rewarding in that it mined the depths of the atonement and opened my eyes to riches to be found in Christ that I had never seen before.

7) The Essential Commandment: A Disciple’s Guide to Loving God and Others by Greg Ogden. This book is the third workbook in this series of outstanding discipleship workbooks. This one focuses on the application of the Ten Commandments. I highly recommend all of Ogden’s books on and for discipleship – He knows how to make and help you make multiplying disciples for Christ.

6) Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian. I loved this book perhaps mainly because I could so identify with “rediscovering” that beauty of the gospel after going through so many trials and tribulations in recent years. Tullian clearly articulates the doctrines of justification and sanctification and how they are both grace based and emphasizes the “nowness” of the gospel in your life.

5) Think Christianly: Looking at the Intersection of Faith and Culture by Jonathan Morrow. This is a fantastic book that combines the biggest ethical and cultural issues of our times, and interviews with Christians who are experts in these areas – who have thought deeply about the issues, and are actually penetrating culture with their Christian views and actions and making a difference for the glory of God.

4) Nearing Home: Life, Faith, and Finishing Well by Billy Graham. Actually this wasn’t that great of a book – but it was written by one of the most used vessels in God’s arsenal in world history. This may be Graham’s last book that he will write before he goes home to hear those words we all long to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.” I was brought to tears in reading this book because of this man’s integrity and faithfulness for the cause of Christ.

3) For Calvinism by Michael Horton. One of the most misunderstood doctrines so clearly and effectively articulated by one of the finest theologians of our times. A cogent and balanced defense of what the Scriptures teach about the doctrines of grace.

2) Gospel: Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary by J. D. Greear. Very Christ-centered book on applying the gospel daily.

1) Tie for 1st! Forever by Paul David Tripp and The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller. Essentially anything that Tripp or Keller writes on anything trumps just about everything outside the Bible itself! These two writers have a great grasp on the gospel, Biblical Theology, and how to communicate these two elements with great relavency in the 21st Century. I’m sure I would also be including Keller’s King’s Cross” here as well – but I haven’t read it yet!

Honorable Mentions (Most of these could have easily been in the top 10 too, but you gotta draw the line somewhere!):

Historical Theology by Greg Allison; Being George Washington by Glenn Beck; Reflections on Words of the New Testament by Vine and Benoit; Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism (Counterpoints: Bible and Theology – Various authors); Community: Taking Your Small Group off Life Support by Brad House; What is the Mission of the Church? by DeYoung and Gilbert; Preaching and Teaching the Last Things: Old Testament Eschatology for the Life of the Church by Walter C. Kaiser; More Than Ordinary: Enjoying Life with God by Doug Sherman.

 

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2011 in Book Reviews

 

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