Jesus, Proverbs and American idols: An appeal to be humble, open-minded, generous, obedient and patient

Tim Keller, digging through Proverbs 3, has come up with five guides to godly living that are useful to pray about for ourselves, our families and our church leaders. They are good checks to see if we are putting these things in our hearts.

1. Put your heart’s deepest trust in God and his grace. Every day remind yourself of his unconditioned, covenantal love for you. Do not instead put your hopes in idols or in your own performance.

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart (Prov 3:3-5a)

2. Submit your whole mind to the Scripture. Don’t think you know better than God’s word. Bring it to bear on every area of life. Become a person under authority.

Lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Prov 3:5b-6)

3. Be humble and teachable toward others. Be forgiving and understanding when you want to be critical of them; be ready to learn from others when they come to be critical of you.

Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. (Prov 3:7-8)

4. Be generous with all your possessions, and passionate about justice. Share your time, talent, and treasure with those who have less.

Honor the LORD with your wealth, with the first fruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. (Prov 3:9-10)

5. Accept and learn from difficulties and suffering. Through the gospel, recognize them as not punishment, but a way of refining you.

My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. (Prov 3:11-12)

Keller goes on to say that this wisdom is personified in the New Testament in Jesus, who did all this by 1) trusting God, 2) being saturated in and shaped by the Scripture, 3) being meek and lowly, 4) becoming poor for us, though he was rich, and 5) patiently enduring suffering on our behalf. These are good, solid truths to think on, pray about and ask God to put in your life and others’.

HT: The Gospel Coalition and Redeemer City to City

How do we help the poor?

There is a divide in this country, and you can almost discern it based on the question, “How do we help the

How do we help the poor?

How do we help the poor?

poor?” Politically, there is a divide for sure, but even within the church there is divergence on this question. To be sure, the Bible instructs us that we are to care for the poor, but even that point is debated as one group emphasizes responsibility and another justice.

Because faith without works is dead, we need to understand just how it is we should care for poor and downtrodden in our society. Tim Keller, writing at Thermelios, has written a thorough and helpful essay on the subject, “The Gospel and the Poor.” Keller is senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, N.Y., and an adjunct professor of practical theology at Westminsters Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Among the books he has written are “The Reason for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism” and “The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith.”

In his essay, Keller explores from the position that the church is commanded to help the poor, yet this is not the primacy of the gospel:

So what does it mean to be committed to the primacy of the gospel? It means first that the gospel must be proclaimed. Many today denigrate the importance of this. Instead, they say, the only true apologetic is a loving community; people cannot be reasoned into the kingdom, they can only be loved. “Preach the gospel. Use words if necessary.” But while Christian community is indeed a crucial and powerful witness to the truth of the gospel, it cannot replace preaching and proclamation. Nevertheless, the primacy of the gospel also means that it is the basis and mainspring for Christian practice, individually and corporately, inside the church and outside. Gospel ministry is not only proclaiming it to people so that they will embrace and believe it; it is also teaching and shepherding believers with it so that it shapes the entirety of their lives, so that they can “live it out.” And one of the most prominent areas that the gospel effects is our relationship to the poor.

It is a lengthy read, but well worth your time. For conservatives, it is a good reminder that merely proclamation of the gospel while failing to help the poor and needy shows a lack of understanding of the gospel. For liberals, it is a good reminder that giving aid is not an end in itself.

Christian or not, we are all believers

\We often use a special jargon that some of us, as Christians, are “believers” while others are not. While that is true, in a sense, when talking about a belief in Jesus Christ, the truth is that we all hold to some kind of beliefs. Tim Keller, in his excellent book “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism,” explains:

Some say [religion] is a form of belief in God. But that would not fit Zen Buddhism, which does not really believe in God at all. Some say it is belief in the supernatural. But that does not fit Hinduism, which does not believe in a supernatural realm beyond the material world, but only a spiritual reality within the empirical. What is religion then? It is a set of beliefs that explain what life is all about, who we are, and the most important things that human beings should spend their time doing. For example, some think that this material world is all there is, that we are here by accident and when we die we just rot, and therefore the important thing is to choose to do what makes you happy and not let others impose their beliefs on you. Notice that though this is not an explicit, “organized” religion, it contains a master narrative, an account about the meaning of life along with a recommendation for how to live based on that account of things.

Some call this a “worldview” while others call it a “narrative identity.” In either case it is a set of faith-assumptions about the nature of things. It is an implicit religion. Broadly understood, faith in some view of the world and human nature informs everyone’s life. Everyone lives and operates out of some narrative identity, whether it is thought out and reflected upon or not. All who say “You ought to do this” or “You shouldn’t do that” reason out of such an implicit moral and religious position. Pragmatists say that we should leave our deeper worldviews behind and find consensus about “what works”– but our view of what works is determined by (to use a Wendell Berry title) what we think people are for. Any picture of happy human life that “works” is necessarily informed by deep-seated beliefs about the purpose of human life. Even the most secular pragmatists come to the table with deep commitments and narrative accounts of what it means to be human (The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, 15,16).

Tim Keller explains why he wrote “The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism”

Go here to hear sermons related to Keller’s book