Ordinary moralistic religion operates on this principle: “I live a good and moral life; therefore God accepts me.” Gospel Christianity operates in the opposite way: “God accepts me unconditionally in Jesus Christ; therefore I live a good and moral life.” In the first case you live a good life out of the hope of a reward, with all the insecurity and self-doubts that go with it. Will you ever be good enough for the reward? How will you know if you are, and how will you keep it up even if you are? In the Christian approach the motivation is one not of fear but of grateful joy. You live to please and resemble the one who saved you at infinite cost to himself by going to the cross. You serve him not in order to coerce him to love you but because he already does.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, page 137.
And here we see the richness, complexity, and startling distinctiveness of the Christian approach to identity. Paul can say, “God judges me,” not with alarm but with confidence. Why? Because unlike either traditional or secular culture, a Christian’s identity is not achieved but received. When we ask God the Father to accept us, adopt us, unite with us, not on the basis of our performance and moral efforts but because of Christ’s, we receive a relationship with God that is a gift. It is not based on our past, present, or future attainments but on Christ’s spiritual attainments. In the Christian understanding, Jesus did not come primarily to teach or show us how to live (though he did that too) but to actually live the life we should have lived, and die in our place the death – the penalty for our moral failures – we should have died. When we rest in him alone for our salvation, he becomes a substitute and representative for us. On the cross Jesus was treated as we deserved, so that when we believe in him, we are treated as he deserves.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, page 136
Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.
Consider this: If you live a long life, it will tear you up to see the people who matter most to you put into the ground one by one. If your greatest source of contentment and love is your family, that will be intolerable. But if you learn to love God even more than them, your greatest source of consolation, hope, joy, and value will not be diminished by grief. Indeed, the sorrow will drive you to drink deeper from it. You will not find yourself empty, and you won’t always be hardening your heart in order to deal with how your losses tear you up. The love of God can never be taken from you, and in his love, the Bible says, you live with loved ones forever.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, p. 93.
Rather than unfairly asking only religious people to prove their views, we need to compare and contrast religious beliefs and their evidences with secular beliefs and theirs. We can and should argue about which beliefs account for what we see and experience in the world. We can and should debate the inner logical consistency of belief systems, asking whether they support or contradict one another. We can and should consult our deepest intuitions.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, page 53
These new [Christian] views of the importance of the body and the material world laid the foundation for the rise of modern science. The material world was no longer understood as an illusion or simply something to be spiritually transcended. Nor was it just an incomprehensible mystery but, according to the Bible, it was the creation of a personal, rational being. Therefore it could be studied and understood by other personal, rational beings.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, page 45
Charles Taylor explains why modern people are far more likely to lose their faith over suffering than those in times past. He says it is because, culturally, our belief and confidence in the powers of our own intellect have changed. Ancient people did not assume that the human mind had enough wisdom to sin in judgment on how an infinite God was disposing of things. In it only in modern times that we get “the certainty that we have all the elements we need to carry out a trial of God.” Only when this background belief in the sufficiency of our own reason shifted did the presence of evil in the world seem to be an argument against the existence of God.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, pages 37.
One writer in the Times of London … concluded that “secularism and milder forms of religion will win in the long run.”
Many people have a great investment in this account of things. Sociologists Peter Berger and Grace Davie report that “most sociologists of religion now agree that the secularization thesis–that religion declines as a society becomes more modern–”has been emphatically shown to be false.”
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, p.24
Nothing puts flesh and blood on Jesus in our world more than loving others for who they are, not just loving who we want them to be.
Isn’t that the plot of the gospel? God’s relentless love towards us is demonstrated by his sacrifice while we were still an absolute mess. The apostle Paul says that Christ died for us “while we were still sinners.” He freely gave his love for us even though we wanted nothing to do with him. There were no conditions to his love, no fine print. And even if there were never any change in our lives, not even an ounce of acknowledgment of his love, he would still love us the same way.
We need to ask ourselves a difficult question: Can we, will we, walk the same path as Jesus and love the people around us while they are still sinners? If we’re serious about following Jesus by loving others, it means loving the people around us for who they are today, not just loving who we want them to become someday.
Jason Mitchell, No Easy Jesus, p.172
We have been crowned with glory, created in God’s image, to create the future alongside him.
That’s why we feel a sense of fulfillment after we solve a complex problem at work, organize our homes, or type the final word on a manuscript. What comes to life at those times is our innate desire to rule and reign, to create good work, and to bring order to the world in the unique ways that we’ve been equipped by God. It’s the image of God showing through.
Jason Mitchell, No Easy Jesus, p.131