I’ve had the privilege for many years to work out with Tim Keller.
Well, actually, Tim and I never met in person. But I’ve listened to countless of his "Gospel in Life" podcasts while training at the gym.
If you’re like me, you probably have a rotation of trusted Christian teachers you use to increase your knowledge of God. Currently, I have four, with Keller leading the pack.
Like many of you, I was deeply grieved to learn about Tim being ushered into the presence of the Lord He has served so faithfully. It’s no exaggeration to say our world is a bit darker now with one of God’s brightest “lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15) being absent.
The online journal I use to document meaningful quotes and links to impactful articles and videos about Christianity is brimming over with Keller material, and for good reason. The man is a master of communication with brainpower that far exceeds my own in every direction, especially when it’s aimed upward as his always is.
It’s difficult for me to pluck out the top three things Keller has implanted in my soul about God, but I’m going to take a swing at it nonetheless.
#1 Good religion, philosophy, and science all arrive at the same place
We’ve all heard the line “All truth is God’s truth”. If you’ve ever listened to or read Tim’s books, you know he is a maestro with few equals when it comes to bringing together diverse and vast amounts of intellectual firepower to make his point.
Tugging at the thinking of the ancient Greek and contemporary philosophers while at the same time summoning the thoughts of leading scientists and theologians, Keller will lead you back to God, one way or the other, with every word that comes out of their mouths.
And when he does that, he shows you that right thinking – whether it’s purely philosophical, scientific, or theological – all end up at the same destination: right in the Creator’s lap.
Our problem with that fact, and with God in general, isn’t so much intellectual, Tim said – it’s usually either pride or a too-good-to-be-true attitude. “Grace is insulting,” says Keller, “One side says they don’t need forgiveness whereas the other side says that’s too easy.”
#2 It’s OK (even good) to be real about your faith
I remember laughing out loud during one of Keller’s messages about faith where he stated, “People think that faith is something others naturally possess like good looks, athletic ability, etc., and think I’ll never have that. When they get into a situation that’s bad, they think that faith is like your furnace and thermostat where your heat just automatically kicks on. WHOOSH.”
Except that’s rarely how faith works, he said. Most times, we’re crippled by life’s body blows and can barely speak the words, “I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).
Tim admitted his own struggles with understanding both the difficult sayings of Scripture and events that seemed to not make sense in life. And that, he said, is normal so we shouldn’t be embarrassed to feel that way sometimes or experience guilt when we cry out like Habakkuk in anger to God.
#3 It’s all about Jesus
He does it in every message. Every. Single. One.
Just today, I listened to Tim’s sermon "Abraham and the Torch." Keller, like always, masterfully worked through the Old Testament text of God making a covenant with Abraham.
He got to the part where the Scripture says, “When the sun had set and darkness had fallen, a smoking firepot with a blazing torch appeared and passed between the pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram” (Gen. 15:17-18).
Tim discussed how God Himself passed through the sacrifices Abraham had prepared to ratify the covenant in the deep darkness that had fallen. He then made a sharp right turn to the New Testament and read an account of the crucifixion of Jesus: “From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land” (Matt. 27:45).
In his typical undramatic style, Keller then joined the two accounts together to show how Jesus became our sacrifice in the darkness to sign, in His own blood, God’s covenant with us. Had I ever made that connection before?
But that’s what Tim does every single time – he makes a beeline at the end of each message to Jesus to show us that the Bible is, ultimately, all about Him.
And now he’s with the One he has pointed us to for decades. Our loss. His gain.
Tim’s cancer may have finally overcome his body, but the man himself is now where every oncologist is out of a job. When, by the grace of God, I get to where Keller is right now, he can count on me looking him up to thank him for being such a source of knowledge, help, and inspiration to me.
And if there are gyms in Heaven, who knows, maybe he and I can work out together in person. Now that would be something.
Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.