Tim Keller’s – Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism

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A “Must Have” Handbook for the Modern Preacher

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig

Tim Keller is as Bostonians say “Wicked Smart.” He has also demonstrated humility, wisdom, and faithfulness through much suffering and success in planting one of the most successful and model ministries for City Churches of the world – Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan, New York. He has also blessed Christians around the world with wonderful Christ centered and gospel centered resources.

I have read this book twice – in English and Spanish, I am also taking several bi-vocational pastors and elders in my church through this book. In my opinion it is the first go-to handbook for preachers in the 21st Century. Why? Let me give five reasons:

(1) Tim Keller practices what he preaches (a) Tim Keller preaches the Word – he has been preaching for over 45 years in both a semi-rural context and a large city context and knows how to preach to “blue-collar” and “white-collar” congregations; (b) He always preaches the gospel in every sermon; (c) He always preaches Christ whether he’s preaching from the Old or New Testaments; (d) He preaches culturally relevant messages without compromising biblical truth; (e) He preaches so as to help you love Christ with your mind; (f) He preaches so as to stir the soul/heart, which leads to real life change and Christ-like transformation; (g) He preaches with the unction or power of the Holy Spirit.

(2) Tim Keller gives examples, illustrations, principles, and theological reasons for why and how to do all of what he models in his own preaching (see #1 above).

(3) The extensive footnotes are worth gold. Make sure you don’t only read the book – read the footnotes! About 30% of the material in this book is in the notes. There is great stuff in the notes – you will feel like you are sitting with Tim over coffee with what he shares in the notes!

(4) Much of what Tim writes about you will not get in Bible college or Seminary. I didn’t get 80% of what he writes about in Bible college or seminary – I did get about 50% of what he talks about with a month sabbatical I spent taking preaching courses at Westminster Seminary. However, if you didn’t attend a seminary that is reformed you most likely missed how to get to Christ from all of the Scriptures.

(5) The last chapter of the book is also extremely helpful – he gives ample example, principles, and illustrations to help you write and preach an expository sermon.

Tim Keller knows what he’s talking about – when he’s pretty much talking about anything. However, what Keller is best at is preaching. You have the opportunity in reading and studying this book to learn from one of the best preacher’s of our time. 

Preaching Christ From the Ten Commandments

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By Dr. John Frame

If all Scripture testifies of Christ, the law of God surely cannot be an exception. As we study the law in a seminary context, then, nothing can be more important than to study its witness to Christ. Ministers of the gospel need to learn how to preach Christ from the law.

In fact, the law bears witness to Christ in a number of ways, some of which I shall discuss in the following points.

1. The Decalogue presents the righteousness of Christ. When we say that Christ was the perfect lamb of God and the perfect example for the Christian life, we are saying that he perfectly obeyed God’s law. He never put any god before his Father. He never worshipped idols or took God’s name in vain. The Pharisees arguments to the contrary notwithstanding, he never violated the Sabbath command. So, the Decalogue tells us what Jesus was like. It shows us his perfect character.

2. The Decalogue shows our need of Christ. God’s law convicts us of sin and drives us to Jesus. It shows us who we are apart from Christ. We are idolaters, blasphemers, Sabbath-breakers, and so on.

3. The Decalogue shows the righteousness of Christ imputed to us. In him we are holy. God sees us, in Christ, as law-keepers.

4. The Decalogue shows us how God wants us to give thanks for Christ. In the Decalogue, obedience follows redemption. God tells his people that he has brought them out of Egypt. The law is not something they must keep to merit redemption. God has> redeemed them. Keeping the law is the way they thank God for salvation freely given. So the Heidelberg Confession expounds the law under the category of gratefulness.

5. Christ is the substance of the law. This point is related to the first, but it is not quite the same. Here I wish to say that Jesus is not only a perfect law-keeper (according to his humanity), but that according to his deity he is the one we honor and worship when we keep the law:

(a) The first commandment teaches us to worship Jesus as the one and only Lord, Savior, and mediator (Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5).

(b) In the second commandment, Jesus is the one perfect image of God (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3). Our devotion to him precludes worship of any other image.

(c) In the third commandment, Jesus is the name of God, that name to which every knee shall bow (Phil. 2:10-11; cf. Is. 45:23).

(d) In the fourth commandment, Jesus is our Sabbath rest. In his presence, we cease our daily duties and hear his voice (Luke 10:38-42).

(e) In the fifth commandment, we honor Jesus who has brought us as his “sons” (Heb. 2:10) to glory.

(f) In the sixth commandment, we honor him as the life (John 10:10; 14:6; Gal. 2:20; Col. 3:4), Lord of life (Acts 3:15), the one who gave his life that we might live (Mk. 10:45).

(g) In the seventh commandment, we honor him as our bridegroom who gave himself to cleanse us, to make us his pure, spotless bride (Eph. 5:22-33). We love him as no other.

(h) In the eighth commandment, we honor Jesus as our inheritance (Eph. 1:11) and as the one who provides all the needs for his people in this world and beyond.

(i) In the ninth commandment, we honor him as God’s truth (John 1:17; 14:6), in whom all the promises of God are Yea and Amen (2 Cor. 1:20).

(j) In the tenth commandment, we honor him as our complete sufficiency (2 Cor. 3:5; 12:9) to meet both our external needs and the renewed desires of our hearts.

Book Review – Heralds of the King: Christ-Centered Sermons in the Tradition of Edmund P. Clowney, Edited by Dennis E. Johnson

Sermons that Manifest the Centrality of the Person, Work, and Presence of Christ

 One of my greatest concerns in the times in which we are living is seeing more pastors, theologians, and the rank and file Christian allowing cultural pressures to influence them more than the influence of Christ from the Scriptures. As I am currently looking for a church to become a part of I am astounded by how many “protestant” pastors can preach a sermon that neither begins or ends with Christ. As a matter of fact, most of the sermons I’m hearing could be preached by a non-Christian, and in what even passes for “church” God doesn’t even have to show up at all.

I would urge, plead, and even pay preachers to read this book. What people need – including Christians – is more of Jesus – His death, life, teachings, work as Prophet, Priest, and King – in short His person and work. Jesus said that all of the Scriptures pointed to Him (that means all of the Old Testament and New Testament, see John 5 and Luke 24).

In this book we have some excellent examples of former students of Dr. Edmund P. Clowney who preach in the Christ-centered mold. The book has a good balance in that it incorporates sermons from the Law, the Prophets, the Psalms, and Several New Covenant genres. Before each sermon begins there is a brief tribute to Edmund Clowney demonstrating how he influenced the preacher in his pursuit of personally loving Christ and preaching sermons that show us the Savior’s Person and work on our behalf.

In Part 1: “The Law” we have the following sermons –

“Living in the Gap” based on Genesis 17:1-14 by Joseph V. Novenson

“The Girl Nobody Wanted” based on Genesis 29:15-35 by Tim Keller (this is my favorite sermon in the book – it is a masterpiece on how to preach Christ from the Old Testament and how to apply it to our lives in the 21st century)

“Lord and Servant” from Genesis 43 by Brian Vos

“Rock of Ages” based on Exodus 17:1-7 by Julius J. Kim

In Part 2: “The Prophets” we have these sermons –

“Surprising Love:” on 2 Samuel 9 by Charles D. Drew

“Thorns and Fir Trees” based on Isaiah 55:13 by the late Harvie M. Conn

“No Condemnation” from Zechariah 3 by Iain M. Duguid

In Part 3: “The Psalms” we have only one sermon (I would have liked to have had at least two or three from this large section of Scripture including “Lament” and “Praise” genres) –

“Beauty in the Sand” by William Edgar based on Psalm 90

Part 4: “The New Covenant” we have the following sermons –

From Luke 1:5-25 “When God Promises the Impossible” by Dennis E. Johnson

“Soul-Ravishing Sightings” based on Luke 9:28-36 by Joseph F. Ryan

Arturo G. Azurdia III preaches the final sermon in the book based on Hebrews 1:1-3 entitled “The Greatness of God’s Ultimate Word.”

I highly recommend this book for all preachers, and for those who listen to preachers and love Jesus. I would encourage you if you are reading this review, to ask your pastor if he has read this book, and if not, to get him a copy – to encourage him in preaching in a more Christ-centered manner. Christ-centered preaching is hard work. However, when you hear it, or do it – you sense the presence of God in a powerful way. When I started preaching in Christ-centered manner it was as if a huge millstone was taken off my back. I think most preachers want to please God and help their flock from God’s Word – but they have not been well trained in Biblical Theology, or in Christo-centric preaching.

Edmund Clowney and all the preachers represented in this book are preaching to give glory to God and to let their hearers experience Jesus in worship. I think most preachers today are preaching to be liked, and meet felt needs – but no one can meet our needs like Jesus – and what we need more than anything is what these preachers do in this book – lead us to worshipping Jesus!

I constantly find myself when listening to modern preachers asking the question, “Where’s Jesus in this message?” Edmund Clowney always asked, “Where is my Savior?” His primary concern was always to reveal the presence of Christ in all of the Scriptures – since this is what Jesus mandated. I believe that if you ask these questions of yourself, or your preacher and Jesus is nowhere to be found, then it is not “Christian” preaching. What we desperately need today is to hear Jesus speaking to us from the Word of God by the voice of his heralds. All the preachers in this book do a wonderful job of leading us to the presence of Jesus and to worshipping Him.

Other Books that I would recommend to help you in Christo-centric preaching are:

Edmund P. Clowney’s: “Preaching Christ in All of Scripture;” “The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament;” and “How Jesus Transforms The Ten Commandments.”

Alec Motyer’s “Look to the Rock: An Old Testament Background to Our Understanding of Christ.”

All of Tim Keller’s books (e.g. “King’s Cross” based on his expositions on the Gospel of Mark). And anything by Sidney Greidanus (e.g., “Preaching Christ from the Old Testament”), or Graeme Goldsworthy (e.g.,“Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture”).

I hope that this movement of Christ-centered preaching continues to spread, and grow and bring about a new reformation of the gospel, and the desperately needed revival that is needed around the globe.

The Resurrection of Christ’s Centrality in Gospel Centered Preaching

“all of the sermons recorded in Acts focus on the resurrection of Jesus. It might initially seem like there is one exception in Acts 7, but in fact that sermon was interrupted when the risen Jesus himself opened heaven and appeared to Stephen while he was preaching! – Adrian Warnock in Raised with Christ, Kindle location 296-297.