In memory of Tim Keller | A personal tribute
I never met Tim Keller. But if you had to ask me who I would like to sit down and have coffee with, he would be the one. Despite living on a completely different continent to me, his influence in my life - over many years - has had a significant impact on my Christian journey. So the news of his death caused me to pause and feel a deep sense of loss.
Were we chatting over coffee, his personal response to my sadness would go like this: “The world can only give us peace that says, ‘It probably won’t get that bad.’ Jesus’s peace is different. It says, ‘Even the worst that can happen—your death—is ultimately the best thing that can happen.’ We all long for a “place” that is truly home. Jesus says that it awaits you.”
He lived with that view and is now truly home; enjoying the eternal place that awaited him. I can only imagine his humble joy in hearing Jesus’ words “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
As I reflect on this faithful servant, I would categorise his earthly legacy into the following areas:
He was an avid reader
Every time I heard him speak or preach, there would be some author - classical and modern, fringe and mainstream - that he had read. His appetite for books and his aptitude for critical reading are not only inspiring, but are what contributed to the richness and depth of his wisdom and focused clarity that he willingly shared and made accessible to all his audiences.
“When you listen and read one thinker, you become a clone… two thinkers, you become confused… ten thinkers, you’ll begin developing your own voice… two or three hundred thinkers, you become wise and develop your voice.”
He was a deep thinker
His elegant thought processes always amazed me. (I can just imagine the animated discussions he must now be having with C.S. Lewis; a fellow reasoned and creative thinker). But his philosophical approach and intellectualism - which I would call optimistic logical realism - were always clearly rooted in a solid biblical worldview which he somehow had the ability to simply and practically articulate to his hearers in such a way that it changed the way you viewed the world.
He was a clear communicator
Tim Keller had the gift of storytelling; using a captivating example or narrative to explain a complex idea or biblical principle. He never waffled. He knew exactly how to contextualise biblical truths for his audience that pushed you out of your comfort zone of thinking. A thread of thought always progressed to a wonderful crescendo. And when it came to his illustrations, they were cleverly crafted and pointedly relevant; forever embedding themselves in your memory.
He was a profound preacher
This is the area I am most grateful to God for when I think of Tim Keller. Through his sermons, he gave me a big view of God, a beautiful picture of Jesus, a right view of humanity and a renewed theology of Grace. (It didn’t matter which passage he was preaching from). To him, being a Christian pilgrim was a glorious journey with the Holy Spirit empowering him to live a transformed, purposeful and counter-cultural life.
"To reach people, gospel preachers must challenge the culture’s story at points of confrontation and finally retell the culture’s story, as it were, revealing how its deepest aspirations for good can be fulfilled only in Christ.”
As I remember Tim Keller - a man of God who ran his race well on this earth and completed the work God gave for him to do - I too will hold onto his victorious view which he is now experiencing: “All death can now do to Christians is to make their lives infinitely better.”
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