If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you know where I was last Friday and Saturday. Along with the other elders from our church, I was in Memphis for an event hosted by Downline Ministries that was all about how we do what Jesus commanded all of us to do – make disciples.
The biggest reason I wanted to be there was to learn from the recently retired pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, Tim Keller. As my daughter said when she saw some of my tweets, “Dad is at his own Good Place right now with Tim Keller.” Indeed I was.
Keller talked about the challenge of making disciples (which I’ll remind you begins as we share the gospel with un-churched or de-churched people) in what he called a “Triple Post” culture – post Christendom, post modern and post Christian. While it’s particularly true for people who live on the east or west coast, we still feel the effects in our day of the move away from Christianity and a biblical world view no matter where we live.
Keller explained that living in a “post Christendom” culture means that we can’t assume that people today have any understanding of things we used to be able to take for granted. Children growing up in America may not know that Easter is about Jesus. Or what it means when we call someone a “good Samaritan.” Or who Adam and Eve were.
Through the influence of post-modern thought, we now live in a day when ultimate reality and truth are thought to come from inside of us, not from outside of us. What we think and feel deep down in our being is considered unimpeachable and fully reliable. This affects everything from how we view gender to whether we can be sure that it is wrong to lie or steal.
And while places like Little Rock may not be experiencing the effects of living in a post Christian culture the way people in Palo Alto or Burlington Vermont do, we are beginning to experience the effects on a culture when people uncouple themselves from any belief in God.
This triple post world has significant implications for how we communicate and how we engage with men and women in our day who are more shaped by modern secularism than by anything remotely biblical.
Here are just a few of the thoughts I captured from the time with Tim Keller.
He asked “What does it do for our identity when we learn that the most praiseworthy Being in the universe loves us?” Ponder that for just a moment. God, the Supreme One who alone in the universe is worthy of praise and adoration and glory and honor – this God who created everything that exists – He loves you. What does that say about your dignity, your value and your worth? It’s the question that King David marveled at when he said “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4).
“In our postmodern era,” Tim Keller told us, “people believe that the only thing we need to be redeemed of is thinking that we need to be redeemed. The only sin is to think you are guilty of any kind of sin.” And right on cue, the New York Times today quoted Yale historian Timothy Snyder who said “Sovereignty is the right to define yourself as innocent.” The problem is, we know we’re not innocent. We hope if we keep telling ourselves that we are it will somehow become true. But it doesn’t become true. We just become more deluded.
One final thought from Tim Keller. He said that when people today say “I’m spiritual but not religious,” what they’re really saying is “I believe there is a God. I just don’t want anyone telling me what to do.” And isn’t that exactly what Eve was declaring when she took the first bite of the forbidden fruit?
Our time in Memphis was helpful for all of us who were able to go. Good for us to think more carefully about how our church can do a better job of what we’re called to do – to spur one another on to deeper love for God and for each other, and to encourage each other to serve the Lord with gladness.
Remember what Jesus said – “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8).
I am grateful for how God has used Tim Keller in my life. And I am grateful for how God is using each of us in one another’s lives.
No Kids Small Group this week. Next Thursday, February 15 at 5:45 pm, it’s the winter Olympics edition of KSG.
I have no idea what that means. I just made it up.
If you have any questions about KSG, send an email to Matt Gurney at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And a week from Saturday, February 17, you’re invited to a Saturday morning get together with a few of our elders where we’ll be talking about our mission and vision as a church and about what it means to become a covenant member of Redeemer.
There is some pre-work necessary before the session. So if you’re interested, you can click here. Or contact email@example.com.
What does Paul mean when he writes that when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, then all Israel will be saved?
We’re wrap up our study of Romans 11 this Sunday.
See you in church!
Soli Deo Gloria!