Today Timothy Keller went home to glory, to be with his Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. I’m sad for us here still in this world – as we’ve lost a good man and a faithful and gifted preacher and writer – and of course I’m mostly sad for his family.
I’m certainly not an expert on Tim Keller but I have read several of his books, all of which I would recommend. Ten years ago Mike and I visited his church and heard him preach a sermon on Acts 8 – all about how it’s good to preach the gospel in the city. (The only other time I heard him preach it was also Acts 8, but a different section!) Incidentally he had a way of preaching to a crowd as if it was just a one-to-one chat. Watch him on Youtube and you’ll find him leaning on the lectern as if it’s a 6 person seminar.
I’m grateful to God for giving Tim a heart for city mission. Time and again we’ve been blessed, reassured and strengthened listening to his talk entitled, ‘It takes a city to raise a child.’ I trust that, without Keller’s influence, we’d still be living here doing this, but I’m sure that the Lord used him to give us courage and a passion for the city.
Over the years I’ve recommended Keller books to you many times. I’ve quoted him, reviewed him, and implored you to read him. If you’re not a believer, I beg you to read ‘The Prodigal God‘ or ‘King’s Cross‘ or anything else by him! Listen to it on audio if you don’t like reading! I’ve definitely referred to ‘Counterfeit Gods‘ after that one blew my mind and his book on prayer filled me with joy at the privilege we have of praying to the God of the universe. Here’s a quote from it:
Prayer is the only entryway into genuine self-knowledge. It is also the main way we experience deep change – the reordering of our loves. Prayer is how God gives us so many of the unimaginable things he has for us. Indeed, prayer makes it safe for God to give us many of the things we most desire. It is the way we know God, the way we finally treat God as God. Prayer is simply the key to everything we need to do and be in life.
We must learn to pray. We have to. ‘Prayer‘ p. 18.
Here was an extraordinarily gifted man. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve encouraged a preacher on a sermon point or illustration, only to be told that it was ‘stolen from Keller.’ And more importantly, here was a good man. I never met him personally but people I trust did know him and said he was kind and good.
He remained humble in talking to unbelievers and believers alike. He lived his life in the service of his Lord and the gospel. My unbelieving cousin who works for his book distributer told me he’d only ever heard good things about him. What a witness. He was a good man and a good leader. How this world needs those.
“Sovereign Lord, giver of gifts, I thank you for all you’ve given your people through your child Tim Keller. I thank you for his life faithfully lived, and how it’s a life that points us to the Lord Jesus, our perfect leader and ultimate servant. We pray for his family today and in the coming weeks, that you would comfort them with your love and with the hope of the resurrection. In Christ’s name, Amen.”
As for me, I’m looking forward to catching up with Tim at the feast in the New City. I expect there’ll be a queue, but we’ll have all the time in the world.
In ‘King’s Cross,’ Tim wrote about a time when he was going into surgery to treat his thyroid cancer. He said that what came to mind as he was going in was a passage from Lord of the Rings: ‘Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach.’ Keller continued:
‘I remember thinking at that moment: It’s really true. Because of Jesus’s death evil is a passing thing – a shadow. There is light and high beauty forever beyond its reach because evil fell into the heart of Jesus. The only darkness that could have destroyed us forever fell into his heart. It didn’t matter what happened in my surgery – it was going to be all right. And it is going to be all right.’ King’s Cross, p. 211.