The Reason for God

Timothy Keller

Chapter 11: Religion and the Gospel

  • If Christianity teaches that the main problem is sin, what is the solution?
    • Why can’t there be other solutions than Jesus?
  • There is a profound difference in how Christianity tells us to seek salvation and how other religions do so.
    • All other religions have teachers. Only Christianity has The Way to salvation.
  • Keller defines religion as “salvation through moral effort”
    • This leads to self-centeredness in two forms.
      • Being bad and breaking all the rules.
      • Being good and keeping all the rules and becoming self-righteous.
    • It is just as possible to avoid Jesus by keeping all the rules as by breaking them.
      • The Pharisees built their sense of worth on their moral and spiritual performance.
      • They were creating a resume to present to God and the world.
      • This leads, inevitably it seems, to self-righteousness, exclusion, insecurity, anger and generally unattractive people.
    • Indeed, Pharisees and their unattractive lives have left many people confused about the true meaning of Christianity.
  • And he distinguishes it from the gospel which is “salvation through grace”

    The Difference of Grace

  • The difference is one of motivation.
    • In religion we obey divine standards out of fear, in the gospel out of gratitude.
    • In religion we say “I obey, therefore I am accepted by God.”
    • In the gospel we say “I am accepted by God through what Christ has done – therefore I obey.”
  • The Gospel sets us right.
    • I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me yet so loved and valued He was willing.
    • I cannot feel superior to anyone, but I don’t have anything to prove to anyone.
    • I do not think more or less of myself, I just think of myself less!
  • Religion suggests that the good should not suffer – so of course if they do, they are angry at God or at themselves.
    • But Jesus, who lived the perfect life, was no stranger to suffering.
  • Grace is open ended, which is not always appreciated as a good thing.
    • If our works saved us, presumably there would be a limit to our contribution.
    • But if we are saved by unmerited grace, the obligation is open-ended!
    • But to the Christian, this is fine, because the motivation is joy, not fear.
  • What a paradox: the most liberating act of free, unconditional grace demands that the recipient give up control of his or her life!
  • But remember, that we are all living for something, and that something is going to control us (wealth, popularity, social status, etc.)
  • But if what controls us is not God, it WILL oppress us.
  • So grace is only a threat to the illusion that we are free, autonomous selves, living life as we choose.
    • Whereas was are created to get our identity from something to which we will cede control. There is no escaping this aspect of life.



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