Notes from Tim Keller’s "The Gospel and Your Self"

“The Gospel and Your Self”

The Vision of Redeemer Series by Tim Keller, from Isaiah 6

1.    If we’re going to be a community that cares that much about the city we’re going to have to get a new relationship to our needs.

a.    Robert Bella and Robert Putnam have revealed that American culture is becoming more and more self-absorbed.
b.    Lots of talk about volunteering and social consciousness. In our culture we help the poor to feel good about ourselves.
c.    Americans participate less, attend less, give less. Volunteerism in almost every age category is down.
d.    How can we be less absorbed by our own individual needs? An encounter with God.

2.    What does it mean to encounter God’s reality?
a.    A God quake
b.    A self quake
c.    A world quake

3.    A God quake
a.    Isaiah sees the glory of the LORD. The Hebrew word “glory” means “weight”
i.    The permanent vs. illusory, substantial vs. insubstantial, real vs. unreal
ii.    Compared to anything else God alone is permanent, real, matters.
iii.    If you drop an object heavier than water into water there is a water quake. The object has more glory than the water the water quakes.
iv.    When the reality of God comes down into Isaiah’s life everything is changed, everything moves around.
v.    There’s always an earthquake when God comes down in the Bible because God’s glory is ultimate. God’s reality shakes everything.
b.    The difference between God as a concept and God as a reality
i.    Isaiah did not say “Oh, there is a God”, Isaiah embraced God as a concept
ii.    Isaiah then knew God as a reality
iii.    God as a concept is lighter than you. You shape it. It fits in around your categories and ideas. A God concept can’t change your beliefs. It fits in with your existing beliefs. We don’t believe in him in such a way that he changes our beliefs.
iv.    In NYC people are always saying “I can’t believe in this or that in the Bible because it’s regressive.” Our beliefs come from our cultural moment and our great-grand kids will be embarrassed by them just like we’re embarrassed by many of the beliefs of our grandparents. In other words, we don’t have a real God, we just have a concept. Doesn’t change our agendas, our plans, our goals.
v.    People get religious because they want help in meeting their goals. They fit God into their existing belief because God as a concept is lighter than you, but God as a reality is heavier than you. When the real God comes into our life, things give way to his glory.
vi.    Instead of God being fit into your agenda he becomes your agenda. He radically changes your priorities.
vii.    Our agenda apart from God is to have a very safe, tidy little life. God says “sacrifice your individual needs for me and my glory!”
viii.    Every single person whose really met God knows of a time when God went from being a concept into being a reality.
(1)    Jeremiah 1
(2)    Isaiah 6, both are very different.
(3)    When God shows up to Jeremiah he says “stop trembling” when he shows up to Isaiah he says “start trembling”.
4.    A Self quake: how you know God has moved from concept to reality?
a.    Isaiah had an experience of radical beauty,
i.    He heard the seraphim call out “holy, holy, holy”, magnitude conveyed through repetition. “Pit pits” or “gold gold” Here only is any quality trebled.
ii.    Infinitely unique superlativeness
iii.    Brilliance and beauty, the seraphim are constantly singing the praises to one another. They’re fascinated by his holiness, constantly adoring his holiness, worshiping God in the beauty of his holyness
(1)    Imagine you have some family money and you get married and your spouse learns that they can’t get their hands on the family money and then they leave you. How do you feel? Violated? Used? A means to an end? Not loved for who they are in themselves? Do you not think God feels like that? “God didn’t come through for me.” in other words I wanted God for blessings, not himself. You married God for his money. He was an object. The seraphs are not doing this on a cost-benefit analysis. They are serving him because it is his due, for his beauty. His holiness is not USEFUL, it is BEAUTIFUL.
(2)    Jonathan Edwards noted
(a)    that the power of God is something you can get excited about selfishly. We want to use God for his power.
(b)    The wisdom of God is something we can get excited about selfishly because we can use it ourselves.
(c)    We can even get excited selfishly about the mercy of God.
(d)    Holiness is of no use at all. It’s of no benefit to you it’s nothing but a threat. Anyone who worships God’s holiness is loving him just for who he is in himself and it is of no use to us.
(3)    How could you get to that place?
b.    An experience of radical humility
i.    “Woe to me!” I am ruined, undone, dismantled. In the presence of human superlativeness you always find it traumatic because it crushes our self-image.
(1)    You go to NYC and realize that you find people with talents that are inaccessibly better than our own. You think you’re pretty, fast, smart and NYC is like moving into the presence of the holy and you’re traumatized by it. “I’m average! :(“
(2)    Isaiah was of the royal family. He was one of the elites. A man of artistic, intellectual and communicative genius. In an oral culture he was a man with a golden tongue. What power that was. Everything was falling apart and a guy like Isaiah probably one of the most brilliant of his generation and he was hoping he would get into power to straighten things out. You always think “those people” are the problem. He gets into the presence of the holiness of God and he realizes that HE is the problem. Even my lips, the best part of me is flawed, wrong twisted, distorted.
(3)    When people move into the presence of God they start to hate themselves. This happens over and over and over.
(4)    If even in the presence of human superlativeness you hate yourself, even if God were ONLY love even in the presence of THAT your self-esteem would collapse.
(5)    Here’s how you know that you’ve begun to move into the presence of the real God. You think you’re a sinner. You think you’re lost. You see you’re more capable of cruelty, selfishness, evil than you thought you were. If there is a real God it would have to feel like that.
ii.    As soon as he confesses his sin God begins to explode into his life. The angel has the fire of God in his hand. He would have thought that the fire of God would be God’s wrath against him, not cleansing or purification. He expected he was about to be wiped out. Instead here the fire cleansed him. Holiness did not destroy, it cleansed.
iii.    Who shall I send, who will go for us? Now he’s more affirmed, valued and wanted than he dared to hope.
iv.    Isaiah’s self image had been deconstructed and reconstructed on the spot. At the same moment he realized he was more wicked than he dared believed and more loved than he dared imagine by the grace of God.
v.    Before he thought he was good because of standards.
(1)    If you’re living up to your standards you’re bold and confident but not humble or sensitive to other people.
(2)    If you’re NOT living up to your standards you’re humble and kind of sensitive to other people but not confident.
(3)    But in the grace of God you’re BOTH bold AND humble at the same time giving you a new psychological ballast because nothing can shake you or move you.
c.    An experience of radical purity
i.    How is it possible that the fire of God could be an agent for cleansing?
ii.    Centuries later the temple was so shaken that the vale was ripped? Matthew crucifixion story. The earth shook and the rock split.
iii.    Jesus, before he went to the cross said “my soul is sorrowful unto death” but no angel showed up to say “you sin is atoned for”.
iv.    Jesus was shaken by the judgment of God. Came not to bring judgment but to bear judgment so that you and I could get the new self-image by the self-quake.
v.    Now the holiness of God is beautiful. You don’t serve God to get things.
5.    A world quake
a.    God is making a new heaven and a new earth
b.    Three things that come that make you useful. Instead of using him you let him use you.
i.    Availability: “here am I” God is more real than my needs.
(1)    In July 1970 a woman Bible teacher gave an illustration that changed Keller’s life. If the distance between the earth and the sun (93 million miles) was reduced to the distance between a sheet of paper, The distance btwn the earth and the nearest star would be a stake of paper 70 feet high. The diameter of the galaxy would be a stack of paper 310 miles high. Yet the galaxy is nothing but a speck of dust in a whole universe and the Bible says that Jesus Christ holds the universe in his hand or with his pinky. Then she asked this question. “Is this the kind of person that you ask into your life to be your assistant?” And then she said. “I want you to walk around in silence for an hour and think about the implication of this for your life.”
(2)    Keller notes that up until that point I wanted God to be available to me. But he began during that talk to sense God’s reality and to experience his glory. No matter what he let come into his life he needed to be available to him, period. Unconditionally.
(3)    When God becomes real that gets into your heart as an irreducible principle that you’ll never be able to escape.
ii.    Dependability
(1)    Isaiah volunteers before he hears about the job.
(2)    The people will be obstinate, they won’t want to listen so that at some point you’ll have to say to them what Romans 1 says, poetic justice, that God will give you what you want. The worst thing God can give anybody is what their unregenerated heart really wants. It’s that bad.
(3)    Isaiah is dependable. His needs are not as important as God. He doesn’t work his ministry around his needs or whether they’re fulfilled. There was no individual fulfilment here at all.
(4)    Why not do what isn’t fulfilling, jobs for which there will be no applause.
iii.    Expectancy
(1)    There’s a seed in the stump.
(2)    You will always work with the hope that eventually everything sad is going to come untrue.

About PaulVK

Husband, Father of 5, Pastor
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